The Bad Bet

It turns out murdered gambling boss Gus Boulis had plenty to hide

It's the stuff of Edna Buchanan stories: Kidan's mother was killed by mobsters in Miami Beach during a botched 1993 robbery. Despite the murder, Kidan befriended Moscatiello, who had an association with organized crime figures. Moscatiello worked as a caterer for Sun Cruz after Kidan took control of the company.

Kidan paid Moscatiello's daughter, Jennifer, $30,000 around the time of Boulis' murder. Boulis' attorneys have questioned the purpose of the payment.

Local media have focused on the Mob implications of Boulis' murder. FDLE reports, however, suggest that Boulis was playing with fire long before. In fact, having previously documented that Boulis was friendly with a well-known gambler and Bonanno associate, FDLE targeted the Mafia in its investigation of Boulis' murder. The recently released FDLE reports provide a remarkable look at the leads law enforcement pursued and the people who claimed to have information about Boulis' murder. They also provide a theory for one of the case's most infamous questions: Whose black Mustang was on Miami Road the night of February 6, 2001?

Gambling tycoon Gus Boulis was loved by some and hated by others.
Miami Herald
Gambling tycoon Gus Boulis was loved by some and hated by others.
Anthony Ferrari and James Fiorillo (following picture) have been charged with killing him.
Anthony Ferrari and James Fiorillo (following picture) have been charged with killing him.

Five weeks after Boulis' murder, on March 14, 2001, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department received an anonymous Crime Stoppers tip that detectives forwarded to FDLE. The tipster claimed that a man named Ilia Scott Nicholas, a 26-year-old who FBI records indicated had ties to the Russian Mafia, had killed Boulis. Giving the information credibility was the fact that state records indicated that Nicholas owned a black 1989 Ford Mustang GT, the type of car reportedly used in the shooting. What's more, Nicholas had sold the car several days after the shooting to an unsuspecting South Bay man named Ozelle Merritt Jr.

FDLE agents in Palm Beach County traced the car registration to a migrant camp 60 miles west of West Palm Beach but could not locate the Mustang. Agents later located Merritt, and on March 20, 2001, he brought them to a body shop in Okeechobee where he was having work done on the car.

Although investigators could not find any evidence linking the Mustang to the murder, the condition of the car itself was suspicious. "The vehicle appeared to be wiped clean of any latent prints," the FDLE report states. And because more than a month had passed since Boulis' shooting, any leftover gunshot residue would have been undetectable.

Whether this was the car used in the shooting is unknown. Even today, four years after Boulis' murder, police have not identified another Mustang as the automobile used in the crime. They claim that Fiorillo once owned a black Mustang but so far have not recovered the vehicle.

In spring 2001, leads continued to trickle in to FDLE, records show. One tip came from a confidential source who alleged that a Greek man who purchased one of Boulis' restaurants in Key West had reason to kill him. The confidential informant told FDLE that Boulis acted like a Mob boss, using bloody knuckles to collect gambling debts.

"He stated that the restaurant owner was a big gambler and owed Boulis a substantial amount of money," the report states. "The CS stated that the restaurant owner and Boulis had recently argued about the debt owed to Boulis."

Among other tips that FDLE agents pursued was one from a Tampa Bay-area woman named Maria Castellano, whom FDLE contacted regarding secondhand information about Boulis' killer.

Castellano told investigators that a 70-year-old mechanic she and her husband knew told them that a man named Bruce Jones was a Bonanno associate who wanted Boulis dead in hopes of acquiring parts of the Sun Cruz empire. In fact, Castellano claimed, Jones registered a company, G.B.D. Holdings, to acquire Sun Cruz assets. It stood for "Gus Boulis Dead," she said.

"Castellano related that the mechanic told her that Jones had indicated to numerous individuals that he was responsible for having Gus Boulis killed and that Jones often bragged about his connections with the Bonanno crime family," the report states. Numerous attempts to reach Castellano were unsuccessful.

In correspondence with New Times, Jones denies the allegations in the FDLE report. Jones says his company's name, G.B.D. Holdings, stands for the first names of its founders: Glen, Bruce, and Dutch. "Neither my company nor I have any direct or indirect connections with the Bonanno crime family," he adds.

What relationship the people FDLE investigated and interviewed might have with the three alleged mobsters that the Fort Lauderdale police recently arrested is unknown. Lt. Bill Schwartz, a spokesman for the department, said he could not comment on what roles, if any, FDLE's information played in closing the murder case.

In the end, the reports might tell more about Boulis' secret life than they do about his murder. He was a man of two sides: the sharp businessman who appeared before the Hollywood City Commission and the cunning huckster who reportedly ripped off fellow Greeks and befriended Mafia associates to expand his gambling empire.

If indeed Boulis was killed by the Mafia, it clearly wasn't his first run-in with organized crime.

Walking through the lush lobby of the Fort Lauderdale Embassy Suites, on the 17th Street Causeway in Fort Lauderdale, John Lundin is still shell-shocked by the recent news of arrests in Boulis' murder case.

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