Abramoff's influence-buying schemes are likely to entangle prominent
politicians in bribery cases in Washington, the Fort Lauderdale
murder-corruption case surrounding the SunCruz casino stands out as
possibly the biggest embarrassment for the Republican power structure,
since it may feature appearances by Abramoff and his onetime aide
homicide detectives are interested in questioning Abramoff about the
2001 murder of SunCruz casino owner Konstantinos “Gus” Boulis.
Prosecutor Brian Cavanaugh told me he most certainly “will be spending
time with Mr. Scanlon.”
was gunned down in his car on Feb. 6, 2001, amid a feud with an Abramoff
business group that had purchased Boulis’s SunCruz casino cruise line in
Sept. 27, 2005, Fort Lauderdale police charged three men, including
reputed Gambino crime family bookkeeper Anthony Moscatiello, with
As part of the
murder probe, police are investigating payments that SunCruz made to
Moscatiello, his daughter and Anthony Ferrari, another defendant in the
Boulis murder case. Moscatiello and Ferrari allegedly collaborated with
a third man, James Fiorillo, in the slaying.
The SunCruz deal
also led to the August 2005 indictment of Abramoff and his partner, Adam
Kidan, on charges of conspiracy and wire fraud over a $60 million loan
for buying the casino company in 2000. Prosecutors allege that Abramoff
and Kidan made a phony $23 million wire transfer as a fake down payment.
In pursuing the
casino deal, the Abramoff-Kidan group got help, too, from then-House
Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and Rep. Robert W. Ney, R-Ohio, the
Washington Post reported. Abramoff impressed one lender by putting him
together with DeLay in Abramoff’s skybox at FedEx Field during a
football game between the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys.
comments in the Congressional Record criticizing Boulis and later
praising the new Abramoff-Kidan ownership team. [Washington Post, Sept.
After the SunCruz
sale, when tensions boiled over, Boulis and Kidan got into a fistfight.
Kidan claimed that Boulis threatened his life. Two months later,
however, Boulis was the one who was shot to death when a car pulled up
next to him and a gunman opened fire. Lawyers for Abramoff and Kidan say
their clients know nothing about the murder.
are investigating financial ties between the Abramoff-Kidan group and
Moscatiello and Ferrari.
In a 2001 civil
case, Kidan testified that he had paid $145,000 to Moscatiello and his
daughter, Jennifer, for catering and other services, although court
records show no evidence that quantities of food or drink were provided.
SunCruz also paid Ferrari’s company, Moon Over Miami, $95,000 for
Kidan told the
Miami Herald that the payments had no connection to the Boulis murder.
“If I’m going to pay to have Gus killed, am I going to be writing checks
to the killers?” Kidan asked. “I don’t think so. Why would I leave a
Kidan also said he
was ignorant of Moscatiello’s past. In 1983, Moscatiello was indicted on
heroin-trafficking charges along with Gene Gotti, brother of Gambino
crime boss John Gotti. Though Gene Gotti and others were convicted, the
charges against Moscatiello – identified by federal authorities as a
former Gambino bookkeeper – were dropped.
influence reached into George W. Bush’s White House, too, where chief
procurement officer David H. Safavian resigned in September and then was
arrested on charges of lying to authorities and obstructing a criminal
investigation into Abramoff’s lobbying activities.
Rep. Ney and
former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed were among influential
Republicans who joined Safavian and Abramoff on an infamous golf trip to
Scotland in 2002. Safavian is a former lobbying partner of anti-tax
activist Grover Norquist, another pillar of right-wing politics in
Washington and another longtime Abramoff friend. [Washington Post, Sept.
Abramoff also has
boasted of his influence with Bush’s top political adviser Karl Rove.
[For more background on Abramoff, see Consortiumnews.com's "How
Rotten Are These Guys?"]
latest wrinkle in this melodrama appears to be the race to the
courthouse between Abramoff and his casino co-owner Kidan, who is in the
soup with Abramoff for the SunCruz money-laundering and wire-fraud
charges. This is a classic race in that he who cuts the first deal wins.
Kidan can offer up Abramoff and a few congressmen before Abramoff can
rat out his congressional minions before Kidan inks a deal, he wins. Or,
in the alternative, if they can collectively offer up a bevy of
congressmen, Capitol Hill aides and fat-cat contributors, then they both
can minimize possible jail time.
The New York Times reported on Dec. 22 that Abramoff was close to
completing a plea agreement in the
Florida fraud case, setting the stage for him becoming a witness in a
broad federal corruption investigation. One participant in the case said
a deal could be completed by next week. [NYT,
Dec. 22, 2005]
police and prosecutor Cavanaugh need only wait. If Scanlon, Abramoff and
Kidan all agree to “cooperate” with the government in plea-bargaining on
white-collar crimes, Cavanaugh will still get his shot at the
wheeler-dealers because murder trumps fraud in the prosecutorial world.
Investigators have tried to interview Abramoff about the Boulis case,
but those efforts were blocked by his attorneys who refused to volunteer
Abramoff's testimony. Cavanaugh has declined to subpoena Abramoff
because it might muddy the legal waters should it be decided the GOP
fundraiser had some direct knowledge of the Boulis slaying.
meanwhile, is rumored to be ready to make his own plea deal and start
naming names of politicos who gave, took, hustled funds. Should that
happen Congressman Ney can expect more questions about his insertion of
comments in the Congressional Record criticizing Boulis for his
management of SunCruz when Abramoff and Kidan were trying to buy the
Boulis murder trial is set for mid-January, but a postponement is likely
as both sides take depositions of witnesses.
Meanwhile, DeLay awaits trial on alleged laundering of corporate
campaign funds into Texas political races that were central to DeLay's
efforts to redistrict Texas and give Republicans additional seats in the
DeLay’s problems may just be beginning as new revelations show he
received special favors including use of private jets and money from
sources connected to other bribery allegations.
all, the legal entanglements of Abramoff and his friends may make for
something less than a very Happy New Year.