Mayor Al's Shady Pal

When you're a politician helping out a felon, it's better not to ask questions.

"Sam was the go-guy," Sanzone says. "And the money was coming from Berkowitz out of Chicago."

Berkowitz, however, sold out of the land deal this past December for $600,000, according to land records. One month before that, Wolf paid a visit to Club Cinema from Chicago to check on his investment, club sources say. Efforts to reach both Berkowitz and Wolf were unsuccessful, but Chicago lawyer Michael Kralovec phoned New Times after getting wind that this article was going to be published. Kralovec is a longtime attorney for Wolf, but he said the phone call was solely on behalf of Berkowitz.

"Mr. Berkowitz has never had anything to do with any kind of drug operation at all, and if you are going to write that kind of article, you better have some real good sources," Kralovec said.

Sam Frontera and Alex DeCubas (following image) at one time ran one of the largest cocaine distribution operations in the country.
Sam Frontera and Alex DeCubas (following image) at one time ran one of the largest cocaine distribution operations in the country.

There is, indeed, no evidence that Berkowitz ever had anything to do with the drug trade. When asked about Wolf's involvement in the club, the lawyer refused to answer any questions.

"I'm only addressing allegations involving drugs," he said.

Attempts to interview Frontera, including numerous phone messages, were also unsuccessful. But attorney Andrew Schwartz, who made an unsuccessful run for city commissioner in Boca Raton in 2001, called on Frontera's behalf.

"This is a warning," Schwartz began. "If you publish anything false about Mr. Frontera or about Club Cinema, we will take aggressive legal action. Thank you, sir."

Ignoring the beginning of a question, the lawyer then immediately hung up the phone.

Although Mastriana handled the club's state licensure, Frontera needed more help to get construction permits from Pompano City Hall.

That's where Mayor Capellini enters the picture.

Capellini confirmed that he worked for Sam Frontera when New Times questioned him about Club Cinema recently. But he said he wasn't very close to Frontera and, other than for work-related matters, had been to the club only a couple of times to socialize, including once during last year's grand opening.

During an interview before the June 20 commission meeting, the mayor also admitted that the relationship went deeper than Club Cinema and extended to the land deal with Wexler.

"[Frontera] brought Bruce Wexler into the deal," the mayor said as he sat at the dais in Deerfield City Hall, gavel in hand. "He was looking for some property, and Sam told me about it. I didn't even know Bruce Wexler's name before Sam brought him in."

Frontera certainly owed Capellini. The mayor's influence in helping him get construction permits and Club Cinema's certificate of occupancy appears to have been priceless.

Pompano Beach Building Department records show that Capellini was working for Frontera as early as 2001. But even with the mayor's help, the club was violating numerous codes and doing unlicensed work. Sanzone says that after he took the job as the city's chief building inspector in 2002, he quickly became aware of the problematic Club Cinema project.

"It was in a shambles," he says. "They were bringing in unlicensed workers, there were lots of code violations, problems with landscaping, walls, everything. The city filed liens on the property."

Not only had the city filed liens against the property but several subcontractors did as well, alleging nonpayment for services. Sanzone says that because Deerfield Beach's mayor was working on the club, it made his job more difficult. For one, Sanzone says, he considered Capellini a personal friend. The building official socialized with the mayor at All-American Cities conferences hosted by the National Civic League. And Capellini's firm had worked on several projects in Delray Beach, where Sanzone spent 13 years as building director.

So Sanzone, who says he had no knowledge of Frontera's criminal past, had a talk with Capellini.

"I told him to get out of the Cinema project because they were bringing in people who were unlicensed," the building official says. "He told me that he didn't know about that.

"I asked him, 'Are you managing the project or aren't you?'

"He said, 'I'm trying to. '

"I told him that he better get out of there. I didn't want anything published in the newspaper saying that the Deerfield mayor's place was being shut down by Pompano Beach."

On February 13, 2003, Capellini did withdraw from the job, according to records. In an official form notifying the city of the change, Sam Frontera signed as owner of the club. The city file, in fact, shows that Frontera signed numerous documents and permits listing himself as the club's owner.

But Capellini wasn't gone for long. Sanzone says the mayor later sat down with Frontera and Berkowitz and "set conditions on the job." And soon, Capellini was again working for Frontera.

"I thought that was a good thing because then the job started moving again," the building official says.

And the mayor was personally involved. The Pompano Beach building file shows that both Capellini and his partner and former campaign manager, Marty Lamia, wrote several letters on Frontera's behalf directly to building chief Sanzone. The mayor also personally signed company checks to pay the city for overtime inspection fees conducted at Club Cinema.

As Frontera made progress toward opening his nightclub, his former drug partner, Alex DeCubas, was nabbed by police in Medellin, Colombia. Captured on September 2, 2003, DeCubas was soon extradited to the United States, where he pleaded guilty to drug-trafficking and money-laundering. The following year, he was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison, where he remains today.

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