More than a dozen years after Miami Subs founder Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis was gunned down in his car on a Fort Lauderdale street, a Broward jury began listening Monday to the case against two men accused of arranging the execution.
Prosecutor Gregg Rossman, in opening statements that lasted one hour, described a scenario that sounded like something out of a Hollywood movie — shady financial deals, powerful Washington D.C. interests, mob figures, convicted felons and a terrifying end to the life of one of South Florida's most prominent businessmen.
In fact, the story has already been given the Hollywood treatment. It was a key subplot in the 2010 film "Casino Jack," starring Kevin Spacey as Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Jon Lovitz as business partner Adam Kidan, and featuring character actor Daniel Kash as Boulis.
The movie went unmentioned in court Monday, but the plot figured heavily.
Abramoff and Kidan brokered a deal in 2000 to buy the SunCruz Casino boat fleet from Boulis in a deal that would later be deemed fraudulent, and relations with Boulis went from bad to worse as the year came to a close.
Fearful of Boulis, Kidan hired Anthony "Big Tony" Moscatiello, a man with reputed ties to the Gambino crime family in New York, to protect him, the prosecutor said. Moscatiello brought several associates along, including Anthony "Little Tony" Ferrari.
According to Rossman, Moscatiello saw an opportunity to draw a steady stream of income from Kidan, and Boulis was a threat to that income stream.
It was Moscatiello, Rossman said, who decided that Boulis had to be "taken care of."
Ferrari, who was president of a security company called Moon Over Miami Beach, tried to hire one of his bodyguards to kill Boulis in late 2000, Rossman said. But the bodyguard, Dwayne Nicholson, refused to participate.
A short time later, Rossman said, Moscatiello gave Nicholson orders to kill Boulis, and Nicholson pretended to agree because he was afraid of what would happen if he said no.
"If he said no, he'd be a loose end," Rossman said. "He knew he was disposable. He knew he was screwed."
But Nicholson never went through with it.
The murder took place Feb. 6, 2001, when Moscatiello was out of the state and Kidan was out of the country. Boulis had just left his Fort Lauderdale office in a car he borrowed from his nephew. The only way anyone could know Boulis was in that car, Rossman said, was if he was being watched.
The person watching Boulis was James "Pudgy" Fiorillo, who at the time enjoyed a close relationship with Ferrari.
As Boulis drove away from his office, a vehicle stopped in front of him, and another car going in the opposite direction pulled up next to him, Rossman said. Boulis' injuries show that he saw what was coming and held up his right hand in a futile attempt to block or deflect the bullet.
"His hand was very close to that weapon when it was fired," Rossman said.
After the shooting, the car drove off — but not before another driver, who was behind Boulis, got a look at the make, model and part of the temporary license tag number.
Fiorillo would later admit that the car was his, but said he was not the gunman.
Boulis did not die immediately. He drove his car about one block west to Federal Highway and Southeast 18th Street, a few blocks away from Broward General Medical Center. It stopped after hitting a tree on the west side of Federal Highway.
The murder brought unwanted scrutiny to the SunCruz deal and resulted in federal charges against Kidan and Abramoff. Killing Boulis was against Kidan's interest, Rossman said. With Boulis alive, his challenge to the SunCruz deal could have been tied up in litigation for years.
Moscatiello, Ferrari and Fiorillo were charged with murder and conspiracy in 2005. Fiorillo reached a deal with prosecutors in 2011 and pleaded guilty as an accessory in the murder. He was sentenced to time served and agreed to testify against his former co-defendants, who face the death penalty if convicted.
Defense lawyer Christopher Grillo, representing Ferrari, told jurors they shouldn't trust the word of convicted criminals such as Kidan, Nicholson and Fiorillo. He also said Ferrari could benefit financially from Kidan only while Boulis was still alive.
Moscatiello's lawyer, David Bogenschutz, did not present an opening statement Monday. He will have an opportunity to lay out his theory of the case after the prosecution rests.
Prosecutors think the triggerman in the Boulis murder was a man named John Gurino, who was killed in an unrelated incident in 2003 in Boca Raton.
The 13 members of the jury, including one alternate, will remain sequestered for the duration of the trial, which lawyers say could last a month.
The trial resumes Tuesday before Broward Circuit Judge Ilona Holmes.
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