By Francisco Alvarado
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By Chris Joseph
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"Then the Miniacis got to come up with $2500, $3000 between the the phone and the cigarette machine," Cerella told Romano.
"Uh-huh," Romano uttered.
"All this here, it, it, it works," Cerrella said.
Fever was one of several clubs in which John Cerrella and Vinnie Romano were suspected to have hidden interests. Another was a strip club in Pompano Beach called the Crazy Horse Too. Cerrella, according to the MIU, had one of the Miniaci-owned ATMs placed in that club.
While the MIU reports indicate Cerrella had his hands in all kinds of enterprises and spoke of beatings and shakedowns on several occasions, his involvement with the Crazy Horse Too (which was sold and is now under new ownership), gives a colorful illustration of his business methods.
The Crazy Horse had a champagne room that, according to MIU reports and witnesses, pulled in thousands of dollars on many nights as wealthy patrons spent $300 and more on single bottles of champagne. Cerrella's nephew, Anthony Cerrella, also worked in the Crazy Horse champagne room. He appears in wiretap transcripts talking about "kickbacks" and thefts from patrons in the room. But John Cerrella complained that his nephew didn't show Vinnie Romano enough respect. Anthony had told John Cerrella that Romano wouldn't surrender his credit card -- which the club supposedly used as a form of collateral -- before walking into the champagne room.
The uncle warned his nephew in one tape-recorded conversation that if he didn't start respecting "friends from New York," they would "stick ya, they'll put you on a fuckin' hook in the bathroom and leave you there."
Later, according to more taped conversations, Cerella began to suspect his nephew was an informant for MIU lead investigator Tom Anderson. Cerrella eventually had him fired from his job at the Crazy Horse Too. While talking to his girlfriend on May 28, 1997, Cerrella said this about Anthony:
"If he goes back to work at the Crazy Horse, it's only a matter a' time you're gonna find him in front a' his house with a bullet in his head in the car. It's only a matter a' time."
Maureen Mulqueen, the woman identified as John Cerrella's girlfriend by the MIU, was often tape-recorded in conversations with the man called Sideburns. She always seemed eager to hear about Cerrella's thuggish exploits and, in the case of the nephew, she urged Cerrella to "give him a beating... just slap the shit out of him."
John Cerrella declined Mulqueen's suggestion, saying, "Why? So Tom Anderson comes and pinches me?"
While Anthony Cerrella, who couldn't be reached by New Times, escaped physical harm, another Crazy Horse employee wasn't so lucky, according to the MIU and prosecutors.
On May 12, 1997, a man named Richard Kenyon was beaten in front of the Theater nightclub in Oakland Park. Kenyon, who worked at the Crazy Horse, was bloodied up but refused medical treatment.
The day after the beating, Cerrella received a phone call from Robert Getchell, who owned a company called G & B Construction and often frequented the Crazy Horse.
"I got ridda' the rodent problem last night," said Getchell, according to MIU reports. Then he went on to discuss the injuries inflicted during the beating. Cerrella ended the conversation by telling Getchell not to talk about it any more.
A witness to the beating took down the license tag number of a vehicle fleeing the Theater that night. The tag number matched a rental Mercury Mountaineer leased to Getchell.
The beating became part of the racketeering indictment as Getchell and Cerrella were charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. It is the only violent crime listed in the indictment.
The beating, according to MIU accounts, was ordered because it was found out that Kenyon was about to tell the owner of the Crazy Horse that a woman associated with Cerrella was bringing her own champagne into the Crazy Horse and selling it for a profit.
Whether or not Dominick and Albert Miniaci saw this dark side of Cerrella's nature isn't known. They won't talk about it.
But when it came time for detectives to figure out exactly what the Miniaci family was doing with Cerrella, the MIU began with a subpoena sent to Miniaci's law firm asking for records involving the sale of Fever to Cerrella's daughter and Charles Morretto, her first partner.
On October 23, 1997, Dominick Miniaci, after he was subpoenaed to do so, hand-delivered copies of the $20,000 Miniaci Enterprises check, which was used as up-front money for the purchase of Fever, to the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. He also gave agents copies of the promissory notes for both that loan and the $25,000 the Miniaci company loaned to Cerrella personally.
In a bid to get more information, Miniaci's secretary, Donna Hughes, was subpoenaed to talk about her boss' involvement with Cerrella. Two statewide prosecutors in the organized-crime division and an MIU agent interviewed Hughes, who was flanked by her own lawyer. Questions pertaining to Miniaci Enterprises, Paramount Vending, and John Cerrella "were not answered because of attorney-client privilege," the MIU agent reported.
Marcus said he "believes" that Miniaci was indeed representing Cerrella as his attorney in "certain instances," but didn't say which ones.