First published on Friday, August 10, 2001 In the months surrounding the Feb. 6 murder of millionaire businessman Gus Boulis, SunCruz Casinos made $250,000 in payments to a mysterious Miami Beach company and an associate of former Gambino family crime boss John Gotti, sources close to the Boulis investigation said Thursday.
Under the ownership of Boulis' rival, Adam Kidan, SunCruz issued a total of $145,000 in checks to the daughter of Anthony Moscatiello and to one of his companies. Moscatiello, who is a friend of Kidan's, is also a friend of the Gotti family. Moscatiello was once indicted -- but not convicted -- in a racketeering case with John Gotti's brother, Gene.
SunCruz also paid $95,000 to Moon Over Miami Beach, a company whose business remains unclear. Another $10,000 was paid in casino chips to four men including Thomas Pepper, a principal of that company, according to the sources. One of the check stubs from a check written to Moon Over Miami Beach said the payment was for "surveillance."
Company records and court papers previously reviewed by the Sun-Sentinel had revealed a total of $60,000 in payments -- $30,000 to Jennifer Moscatiello and $30,000 to Moon Over Miami Beach. Boulis' attorneys have said the Moscatiello payments had "no legitimate purpose," and no one, including Kidan, has offered an explanation for the Moon Over Miami Beach checks.
Kidan has defended the $30,000 in checks to Jennifer Moscatiello as consulting fees. Anthony Moscatiello is a caterer who reportedly catered weddings for the Gottis. The money was intended for Moscatiello but was directed to his daughter as an officer of Moscatiello's new company, Gran-Sons Inc., Kidan has said.
Kidan could not be reached Thursday for comment on an additional $115,000 in checks written to Gran-Sons Inc. between Feb. 26 and June 8.
SALE FALLS APART
Reports of unexplained payments from SunCruz first appeared in court documents in May in one of the eight lawsuits that sprang up in the failed $147 million sale of SunCruz by Boulis to Kidan and his partners in September.
The sale fell apart within three months, with Kidan stopping payments on $90 million in financing to Boulis and Boulis accusing Kidan of stealing his company. Kidan secured a restraining order against Boulis in December, accusing Boulis of attacking him during a business meeting and threatening to kill him.
Boulis, who retained a 10 percent interest in the company, was trying to regain control of SunCruz through the courts when he was shot and killed while driving home from his Fort Lauderdale office.
The battle for control of SunCruz included an all-out assault on Kidan's reputation by the Boulis camp, which revealed the Moscatiello payments and focused on Moscatiello's 1983 indictment. Moscatiello was accused of aiding fugitive drug dealer Salvatore Ruggiero as part of a larger criminal conspiracy. Charges against Moscatiello were dropped after a mistrial.
At the time of the allegations, Boulis' attorneys said in court documents that the Moscatiello payments and other payments made to Kidan himself were probably the "tip of the iceberg." Kidan told the Sun-Sentinel that Boulis' lawyers were insinuating that he had Boulis killed.
Moscatiello, whom Kidan said he met 10 years ago, could not be reached for comment Thursday. His attorney previously said Moscatiello grew up with the Gottis in Howard Beach, Queens, and remained a friend to the family. Moscatiello was once on the receiving end of a John Gotti tirade caught on federal wiretaps.
Kidan, struggling under the strain of the lawsuits, put SunCruz into bankruptcy on June 22. One of his partners, Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, signed over his voting rights to the Boulis camp that day, and his other partner, Ben Waldman, also supported an effort to force Kidan out as company chairman.
On July 9, Kidan accepted a $200,000 buyout for his 35 percent interest from the Boulis estate. He has since left the state, and his home number had been temporarily disconnected. The Boulis estate now owns 55 percent of SunCruz.
Fort Lauderdale police refused to comment on the latest revelations.
Previously, investigators have questioned the payments made to Moon Over Miami Beach, said they couldn't figure out what the company did and announced they wanted to talk to a man associated with the company. That man, they said, liked to brag that he was John Gotti's nephew. Police have refused to identify him.
Frank J. Pepper Jr., 77, of Coral Springs, was listed as the president of Moon Over Miami Beach in incorporation documents filed in January 1999. Thomas L. Pepper, 44, a licensed real estate broker who lives at the same address, was listed as secretary and treasurer. Anthony Ferrari, 44, of Miami, was added in March 1999 as president of the board of directors.
Thomas Pepper was one of four men who each received $2,500 in chips aboard a SunCruz ship on July 5, less than two weeks after SunCruz was placed in bankruptcy, according to vouchers signed by the men and viewed by the sources. Neither Thomas Pepper nor Frank Pepper Jr. returned four telephone calls seeking comment this week.
The new revelations come as the Boulis investigation is going national. America's Most Wanted will air a 10-minute segment on the Boulis investigation at 9 p.m. Saturday.
Stephen Stallings, an attorney for the Boulis estate, also declined to comment on the payments.
"SunCruz is focusing on a successful reorganization in bankruptcy and on satisfying its customers," Stallings said.
SunCruz continues to operate its gambling ships, including SunCruz VI out of Hollywood, while in reorganization.
Lisa Schiller, an attorney representing SunCruz in the bankruptcy proceedings, said the company could pursue recovery of any payments considered fraudulent under the authority of the bankruptcy court.
TRANSACTIONS IN QUESTION
These payments by SunCruz Casinos have come into question in the Gus Boulis murder investigation. The recipients include Jennifer Moscatiello and Gran-Sons Inc. Former SunCruz owner Adam Kidan has said they were for consulting work by Anthony Moscatiello, Jennifer's father. Other payments went to Moon Over Miami Beach, a South Beach-based company, and $2,500 in casino chips was given to one of the company's principals, Thomas Pepper. Kidan has refused to explain some of the payments. Police say they don't know what the company does.
Dec. 7: $5,000 to Moon Over Miami Beach
Dec. 12: $25,000 to Moon Over Miami Beach
Dec. 13: $10,000 to Jennifer Moscatiello
Jan. 22: $10,000 to Jennifer Moscatiello
Jan. 31: $10,000 to Jennifer Moscatiello
Feb. 16: $25,000 to Moon Over Miami Beach
Feb. 26: $25,000 to Gran-Sons Inc.
March 20: $25,000 to Moon Over Miami Beach
March 22: $25,000 to Gran-Sons Inc.
March 29: $15,000 to Moon Over Miami Beach
April 16: $25,000 to Gran-Sons Inc.
May 1: $10,000 to Gran-Sons Inc.
May 17: $5,000 to Gran-Sons Inc.
May 31: $15,000 to Gran-Sons Inc.
June 8: $10,000 to Gran-Sons Inc.
July 5: $10,000 in casino chips to Thomas Pepper and three other men ($2,500 each).Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun