Saturday, May 11, 2019

Fast Boats & German Cars [2]

Gus Boulis, cruising to nowhere: February 6, 2001

Like Don Aronow, Gus Boulis exemplified the ‘American Dream’ but, as with Aronow, the dream ended in a nightmare. Both men were self-made millionaires, both built fortunes in the boats and on the waters off the coast of Florida, and both met their bullet- riddled fate, sitting in expensive German cars in the mean streets of Miami.

Born in a small Greek fishing village, Boulis dropped out of school and emigrated to Canada where he took a job as a dish-washer in a sandwich shop. Within a few years he had taken over the shop and expanded it to a chain of over 200 stores which he eventually sold. When he moved to Miami at the age of 25, he was already a multimillionaire.

 Upon his arrival he purchased Miami’s most famous Mafia hangout, the Gold Coast Restaurant and Lounge. The Gold Coast was a favorite place for everyone to meet, from John Gotti and Meyer Lansky to Frank Sinatra and Cary Grant; it was mentioned in the Kefauver Committee hearings into Organized Crime and in the JFK Assassination files, as well as being featured in Elmore Leonard’s novel Gold Coast. In May 1994, Boulis turned it into Miami Subs and five years later he sold the expanded chain to Nathan’s Famous hot dog chain for $4.2 million. 

Boulis had also purchased a small shipping company which he operated out of Key Largo. His ‘cruises to nowhere’ would sail three-miles out to sea, where Florida’s gambling prohibitions did not apply. His floating casino empire was extremely successful but unfortunately attracted opposition from various Federal, State and local authorities. Eventually Boulis was forced to withdraw from the gambling business and he sold SunCruz Casinos to a couple of Washington lobbyists for $147.5 million. But the deal was more complex than it appeared on the surface. Firstly, Boulis maintained a secret ten-percent interest in the company and secondly, the lobbyists were Jack Abramoff and Adam Kidan, two of the slimiest denizens of the DC Swamp. Relationships swiftly soured, accusations of double dealing and non-payments at one point even led to fistfights. Within just a couple of months, just two days before he was due to appear in Federal court to face questions about his finances and the sale of SunCruz Casinos, Gus Boulis was murdered.

As with the murder of Aronow, the details and precise motivations for the murder are murky. What is known is that there was extreme bad blood between Boulis and the Abramoff/ Kidan partnership. It is also known that Kidan had a business relationship with Anthony ‘Big Tony’ Moscatiello who was also a bookkeeper for the Gambino crime family. Moscatiello in turn had a close working relationship with Anthony ‘Little Tony’ Ferrari, and James "Pudgy" Fiorillo.

Late in the after-noon of February 6, 2001, Boulis was driving home from the office in his green BMW when the road was blocked by a Mazda Miata forcing him to a stop. Seconds later, a black Mustang pulled up to the driver’s side of the BMW and fired several shots. The Mustang then calmly drove away, followed by the Mazda and a red Volkswagen Jetta driven by ‘Pudgy’ Fiorillo. Badly wounded and bleeding profusely, Boulis continued driving a few more blocks until his car hit a tree and he died shortly after.

Big Tony, Little Tony and Pudgy were eventually charged, tried and convicted of the Boulis contract killing but Kidan and Abramoff were never charged with ordering it. On August 11, 2005, Abramoff and Kidan were indicted by a federal grand jury in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on fraud charges relating to the disputed $23 million bank transfer used as down payment for the purchase of SunCruz Casinos. Kidan pleaded guilty on December 15, 2005, Abramoff pleaded guilty on January 3, 2006.

The actual murder trial dragged-on for years, but eventually ‘Pudgy’ Fiorillo pleaded guilty to conspiracy in 2012, and ‘Little Tony’ Ferrari was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. On July 1, 2015, ‘Big Tony’ Moscatiello was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. He was sentenced to life in prison following the sentencing recommendation of the jury that convicted him. However, as recently as June 2018, ‘Big Tony’ was awarded a new trial by the Fourth District Court of Appeals.
Abramoff of course, famously had his own problems to worry about. At the time of the SunCruz purchase he was one of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington. A senior member of the Republican Party, he was the DC ‘go-to man’ if you wanted anything done. He was however notoriously corrupt and involved in all sorts of major Federal swindles, particularly involving the Native American Tribes. But it was SunCruz and the feud with Gus Boulis however that marked the precipitous beginning of his downfall. After pleading guilty in 2006 to the SunCruz fraud and various other scandals, Abramoff was sentenced to six years in Federal prison. But he did not go down alone. His corruption trial resulted in convictions and jail sentences for twenty-one other prominent Washington politicians, attorneys, lobbyists, White House officials and members of Congress including Tom Delay and Bob Ney.

Gus Boulis would no doubt find comfort from the fact that the brutal murder in Miami of a humble Greek fisherman’s son caused unparalleled turmoil and scandal at the highest levels of the American government.

Excerpt from "Miami Murders Most Foul" by Patrick Alexander