By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org
It was Fort Lauderdale’s murder of the decade: the 2001 gangland-style slaying of day-cruise casino cruise ship kingpin Konstantinos “Gus” Boulis.
On Oct. 1, it’s coming to a movie theater near you.
The three men charged in 2005 with conspiring to kill Boulis have yet to go to trial in Broward Circuit Court. The one who’s out on bond – Anthony “Big Tony” Moscatiello – will have the opportunity of watching both the murder and himself portrayed on the silver screen.
Bagman is about hotshot Republican super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the nation’s biggest political scandal since Watergate. Actor Kevin Spacey plays Abramoff.
Filmed partly in Broward – Hallandale Beach’s Mardi Gras Casino was one location, according to the Internet Movie Database – Bagman is also the tale of former mattress salesman Adam Kidan.
Kidan was partners with Abramoff in a $147.5 million deal to buy Boulis’s SunCruz Casinos in September 2000. Nearly five years after the murder, both men pleaded guilty in federal court of conspiring to defraud lenders in the contentious SunCruz deal.
Kidan was released from prison last year after serving 31 months.
Abramoff, also convicted of fraud and conspiracy to bribe public officials, spent 3 ½ behind bars before his release to an undisclosed halfway house last week. He will finish his sentence on Dec. 4, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Jail time for both was reduced significantly because they cooperated with federal prosecutors.
Kidan is also to be the state’s star witness in the Boulis murder trial, if and when it takes place. He’s played in the movie by former Saturday Night Live cast member Jon Lovitz.
You can watch the Bagman trailer here. A documentary about Abramoff called Casino Jack and the United States of Money debuted in theaters last month to scant attention. It also includes a reenactment of the Boulis slaying.
Abramoff, employed by the big Miami-based law firm Greenberg Traurig, was a fast-talking con man who built a lobbying group that peddled influence in the nation’s capital in exchange for fat fees from clients, including casino-rich Indian tribes.
Abramoff bought influence with campaign contributions, tickets to sporting events, payoffs, lavish golf trips and free meals and booze at his popular Washington restaurant, Signatures. In return, public officials and their staffs helped Abramoff’s clients secure millions of dollars in federal funding and favorable decisions regarding legislation.
Two of the biggest players were disgraced Congressman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).
Ney resigned in 2006 after admitting he put his office up for sale. He helped Abramoff pressure Boulis to sell SunCruz by inserting comments in the Congressional Record in 2000 critical of SunCruz and Boulis.
Another Broward connection
Ney also offered to help an aviation sales company get around a U.S. embargo on sales to Iran after accepting a luxurious, three-day casino junket to London in 2003 paid for by FN Aviation Systems. The company was co-owned by Broward’s Nigel Winfield, a three-time felon and occasional FBI informant who served time in prison in the 1980s for swindling Elvis Presley in an airplane leasing deal.
Ney served 17 months of a 30-month fraud sentence and was released in August 2008.
DeLay, who once called Abramoff his “dearest” friend, accepted tens of thousands of dollars in contributions from Abramoff and his wife, Pam.
He also took free gifts and trips, including a golf outing to Scotland. DeLay was never charged in the Abramoff case, but was indicted in Texas in 2005 for money laundering. That charge has yet to go to trial. DeLay’s former chief of staff, Tony Rudy, pleaded guilty to using his influence to benefit Abramoff’s clients, but has not been sentenced.
In the film, Kelly Preston plays Pam Abramoff. Barry Pepper is Abramoff’s crooked pal and spokesman, Michael Scanlon.
The film, by director George Hickenlooper, uses less well known character actors to play Boulis, Moscatiello and Anthony “Little Tony”
Ferrari, another of the alleged killers who continues to be held at the Broward County Jail.
James “Pudgy” Fiorillo, who’s been jailed longer than anyone else for Boulis’s murder, didn’t make the movie.
Boulis, a savvy Greek immigrant who founded the Miami Subs restaurant chain, was 51 when he was shot dead the night of Feb. 6, 2001 while driving in his BMW along Miami Road near Port Everglades.
Police said Boulis, 51, was caught in an ambush. One car cut him off, then two men in a Ford Mustang pulled alongside and the triggerman opened fire. The movie trailer shows the murder in an explosion of gunshots and shattered glass.
In the weeks leading up to the murder, Boulis sued Abramoff and Kidan claiming they were trying to cheat him out of tens of millions of dollars owed in the SunCruz sale.
Federal court records show Kidan made about $250,000 in payments to Moscatiello, identified by authorities as a bookkeeper for the Gambino crime family, and Ferrari that began before the murder and ended after it. Kidan has said the money was for catering and security services, not for a hit on Boulis.
Prosecutors believe Kidan
Broward prosecutors Brian Cavanaugh and Gregg Rossman believe Kidan. Moscatiello and Ferrari, with Fiorillo’s help, killed Boulis because they feared his efforts to retake control of SunCruz might interfere with that stream of payments, authorities have said.
Not surprisingly, the defense sees things differently. They hope to hammer at Kidan’s credibility on the witness stand in an attempt to implicate him in the murder and plant doubt in the minds of jurors.
For ammo, the defense is now looking to depose Abramoff, said Fort Lauderdale lawyer J. David Bogenschutz, who represents Moscatiello.
“I don’t think Jack had anything to do with this,” said Bogenschutz. “I want to talk about Adam Kidan. We think the person who had the most to gain or lose by Gus Boulis’s death was not among the people who have been charged.”
Records indicate the Boulis case has moved like molasses because of scheduling and other delays. For example, Broward Circuit Judge Ilona Holmes has yet to rule on a 2008 defense motion to suppress certain evidence in the case.
So five years after the arrests of Moscatiello, Ferrari and Fiorillo, no trial date has been set.