Pulp Nonfiction, Act 2

A good, upstanding American family gets mixed up with the mob

Violence dogs the family. The only daughter, 30-year-old Little Angie, filed an injunction in 2000 requesting protection from a boyfriend who, she claimed, assaulted her in front of her mother's Parkland house. "I am in fear for my life, my mother's life, my brother and his wife, my dog, all of whom I love," she complained.

Throw in a handful of civil lawsuits -- one of them filed by a Deerfield Beach strip-mall owner claiming that the family wrenched an air-conditioning duct from an office roof -- and an amazing number of traffic tickets (Joe Rubbo alone has collected 20 in the past three years), and it's a wonder the family had time to do any business at all.

But they did plenty. State records show they have been involved in about 20 companies since 1990. Big Angie ran a beauty shop for years (and Patsy, before he became a Mafia wannabe, was a hairdresser). It wasn't barbering, however, that landed the family in hot water; it was four telemarketing operations -- with names like International Fortune Inc. and New World Exchange -- that they ran from 1998 to 2000. The boiler rooms, located in Broward and Palm Beach counties, took in a total of $11.7 million, according to the federal indictment.

Patsy Rubbo: In constant communication with the Mafia
Broward Sheriff's Office
Patsy Rubbo: In constant communication with the Mafia

Nearly $5 million of it was purportedly raised by a reputed Trafficante mob family soldier named David Cavallo, a telemarketing specialist whose group of salespeople, affectionately known in the underworld as "Little Dave's Group," worked for the Rubbos. Though the salespeople told investors that the money would be put into the foreign currency market, the FBI contends it was circulated through fraudulent overseas companies and returned to the Rubbos. Not a single investor turned a profit, according to prosecutors.

At the same time, Patsy was in what the FBI describes as "constant" communication with a man named Israel Torres, who allegedly supervised the Bonanno crime family's operations in South Florida. The feds say Torres, identified in court papers as a "non-member associate" of the Mafia, answered to Anthony "The Little Guy" Graziano, the reputed high-ranking consigliere of the Bonanno group. Patsy and Torres met with Graziano on occasion -- and there are FBI surveillance photos in the court file to prove it. Patsy allegedly told Torres that he thought Graziano was "nice," though Big Angie's son did complain about having to pick up a $500 dinner tab for the visiting Mafioso. At the same time, federal agents in New York were investigating Graziano and associates for some not-so-nice things: murder and torture, including the blowtorching of one unlucky fellow's face.

In recorded phone calls, Patsy spoke of paying "tribute" to Torres and expressed his desire to "move up the ladder within the Bonanno Family," the FBI alleges. For his part, Torres often boasted in recorded phone calls of stabbing and beating people. The Mafia wanted to copy the Rubbos' "boiler-room method," the feds allege.

Big Angie swears that she tried to resist the mobsters but that they kept muscling in on her telemarketing businesses, which she insisted were originally legitimate enterprises. She said mobsters took advantage of the aptly nicknamed Patsy. "Patsy has a coke problem, and that was the weak link for them to get to my family," she explained. "These [mob] people ruin your life, and when they can't find an in, they find someone who is weak and break in. The mob came in with their people and bullied us."

Here she began to cry.

"All the lies. We've never had anything to do with those kind of people before. We did things by the book."

Big Angie also had law enforcement to worry about. In 1999, the Rubbos decided to try something new, according to the indictment. They wanted to forgo the bogus overseas trading houses and "create their own paper trail to make their businesses appear legitimate."

One of Big Angie's cousins, Geno Parisi, allegedly helped them in this pursuit. The 50-year-old Parisi had recently left prison after serving seven years on federal counterfeiting and drug-trafficking convictions. Parisi introduced the Rubbos to Jim Brock, who operated a company in Tampa called Orissa Trading. Brock supposedly specialized in laundering cash and hiding it in Bahamian bank accounts. The Rubbos embraced Brock and ultimately sent him some $1.7 million. Their allegiance to the money launderer seems to have been blind.

"When Geno comes to me with a good feeling of somebody, like with you, I can go to sleep," Big Angie once told Brock.

"Trust the instinct," Brock replied.

"I never had a second thought."

Big Angie should have done more thinking. Brock, in one of Pulp Nonfiction's stunning plot twists, turned out to be an undercover Tampa police detective. (His real name hasn't been disclosed.) The exchange was one of many he caught on wiretaps during meetings with members of the Rubbo family. Brock set the hook in Parisi's mouth during a discussion in March 2000. "You got those people convinced they're... investing," Brock said to Parisi.

"Yeah," Parisi replied, laughing.

"And we're just sending it to my account, and it's just sitting over there," Brock said.

"Yeah, it's going great," Parisi remarked.

"We both know I'm not investing."

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