Hot Bods, Hotter Odds

Shooters owner John Wile is known for suits -- both the bathing and legal sorts

According to BSO documents, Dipierro was the local coordinator of the gambling operation, taking bets in South Florida and placing them in Atlantic City. The BSO recorded hundreds of phone conversations from his cell phone. On at least half a dozen occasions in the phone-tap transcripts, Dipierro suggested meeting at Shooters to conduct some form of business related to the alleged criminal enterprise, whether it was a cash exchange or just kicking back to watch Sunday football outcomes that could potentially net the operation hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Wile contends that he had nothing to do with illegal gambling. "Just because they watch football games in my restaurant," he says, "doesn't mean that I've committed a crime."

But in a November 2003 wiretap recording, Wile appears to demand that Dipierro pay him a commission on losses incurred by a gambler named Tommy Billante, another South Florida restaurateur who owned South Beach's former mainstay, Mezzanotte, and today operates Bella Luna, Carpaccio, and Sugo. (Billante has not been charged with wrongdoing, and he did not respond to calls from New Times.)

"I don't think you've been shooting 100 percent with me according to Tom Billante...," Wile says on a transcript from the BSO's investigative file.

"He won two weeks in a row, John," Dipierro replies. "Then he lost Monday night a ton. Soon as I get paid this week, you're going to get your commission..."

Wile: "What he told me is he's down fifty grand, and he'd have no reason to make that number up, Rocky."

Dipierro: "Well, I gave you the commission on that much the first time."

Wile: "You gave me a commission on twenty..."

Dipierro: "Well, John, as soon as I get paid $24,000 this week, I'm going to give you your five percent. You understand what I'm saying? I had to get paid before I could give you a commission..."

Dipierro later signs off with "I love you, buddy," and Wile sends his regards to Barbara, Rocco's wife -- who is also under indictment in the state's RICO prosecution of the gambling ring.

This conversation led to Wile's being charged with bookmaking and conspiracy to commit bookmaking, according to Carlos Rebollo, the state attorney who is prosecuting the case. Wile denies having done anything wrong or having ever bought so much as a lottery ticket, much less serving as a middleman for a gambling operation.

Rebollo says that given the evidence, Wile's role in the gambling operation was minor. But a conviction on the charges could bring him as much as five years in prison for each charge.

Encountered at Shooters on a recent Sunday, Wile seemed relaxed. With a double-wide personality and shoulders to match, he appears to know most of his customers by name, and if he doesn't, he introduces himself with plainspoken Midwestern charm. He claims to never have had a drink in his life, though the customers who come by to greet him with hugs and handshakes have clearly had more than a few.

After being asked about his legal troubles, he offered a not-so-subtle warning to New Times. "I'm not going to tell you what to do or not do. All I'm going to tell you is that if you do write an article about me, be very careful, because the last group that did that about me, it cost them. Big time."

Gulp.

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