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Porn War

Peter Pasch is locked in a family battle over control of a mini porn empire.
Colby Katz

Peter Pasch's large gray eyes almost well up with tears as he recollects what was possibly his mother's greatest act of love.

"My mother, like any other good mother, wanted to see her son make a good living," he explains in a growly, Brooklyn accent, now thick with emotion. Back then, in 1998, the aging Blanche Pasch envisioned a family united in the pursuit of commerce. Son Peter clearly needed a helping hand, so Momma Pasch coaxed her daughter and son-in-law, Jackie and Jack Titolo, to help her only son build a retail company from the ground up.

"That's what her dream was," Pasch says. "So she went ahead on my 50th birthday and gave me a present: enough money to go into this business."

From that $50,000 of maternal munificence, along with additional money and some managerial guidance from the Titolos, was born Megasex Superstore, 12,000 square feet of simmering porn videos and DVDs, vibrators, blow-up sex dolls, bondage leather, and skimpy negligees with openings in all the right places. Located on gritty Highway 441 in Fort Lauderdale, the shop was immediately profitable -- so profitable, in fact, that Pasch and his brother-in-law opened a second store, University Video, in Lauderhill.

Momma Pasch has since passed away, but if she could see what's happened between her offspring during the past three years, Pasch declares, she'd be heartbroken. Pasch and Titolo are locked in a bloody, knockdown-dragout lawsuit over ownership of the mini porn empire. The disagreement went so far in 2002 that, amid allegations of armed threats and shots fired, each party felt compelled to get a restraining order against the other. A jury trial has been set for March.

For the moment, Pasch is making a quiet living from his own little porn corner, Ultimate Adult Video store on Broward Boulevard, nestled in the retail wasteland between the Broward sheriff's headquarters and the I-95 exit ramp. Jack Titolo has no share in this ample collection of tapes, all helpfully divided in racks by categories, such as "Older Women," "SheMales," and "Big Tits."

On the afternoon of New Year's Eve, Pasch sits in his claustrophobic, bathtub-sized office, equipped with a phone, fax, video player, and small television, which monitors the store. The air is hazy from the Kools he puffs. He's South Florida casual, in shorts and a half-buttoned-up shirt. His head is fleshy and round, with bulging, bloodshot eyeballs, and his eyebrows remain black, though his hair is vanishing and gray. Pasch possesses the gregarious manner of a businessman who relies on personality to win customers. He's not hard to like.

Selling is in Pasch's blood, and he's proud of his business acumen. A self-described "marketeer," Pasch spent most of his adult life buying cheap and selling, well, slightly above cheap. Before moving to South Florida in 1986, he sold salvaged goods in the New York City area, everything from cosmetics to coffee. Once he bought a truckload of flawed women's nightgowns from a material manufacturer for 10 cents apiece. They had "holes in them the size of the Lincoln Tunnel," Pasch says.

"I took them to a flea market and sold them $2 each, three for $5," Pasch recalls. "I called them Sweety Petey Nightgowns, and I wore them in the flea markets. My pitch was: Ladies, there's no reason not to buy these because if you're going to sleep alone, no one's going to see them, and if you're with someone, you'll take them off." He sold them all in two weeks, he says.

But the flush years of the junk market passed. It became tougher to make money in salvaged goods as manufacturers started donating leftovers to food banks and using the Internet to help bid up prices. Pasch's troubles mounted in 1992 when he pleaded guilty to buying a trailer load of merchandise that had been stolen in New York and brought to Florida. He admits buying the stuff but suggests it was a bum rap. "If I'd known this merchandise was stolen from a company in New York, do you think I would have tried to sell it back to them?" he barks. He was sentenced to 11 months in federal jail, released after serving five.

Meanwhile, Jackie and Jack Titolo, proud owners of three sex video stores on Long Island, were prospering. They did well enough to move to South Florida in semiretirement in 1996. It was then that Blanche Pasch began urging her son-in-law to help her son set up a sex shop business of his own in South Florida. According to court documents, Titolo says he told her: "I don't want to get involved with Peter Pasch because he's a crook, a thief, and a conniver."

Pasch says that at the time, he and his sister weren't on speaking terms. "My mother wanted to die knowing that her son and daughter were talking and had become friends," he contends. "To tell you the truth, at that time, I wasn't too keen on the adult business because it wasn't my bag. But my mother kept insisting that I'd make a lot of money."

Who can ignore an old lady's pleas? Titolo, an imposing six-foot-six and 300 pounds, relented and agreed to pitch in. He put up cash to help establish the business and provided business expertise. Here's where the dispute begins. Pasch claims that his brother-in-law put money in only long enough to get his investment back, saying he would then play a minor role in the company. Titolo, however, wanted control as long as his money was involved, an arrangement that Pasch agreed to in writing. Titolo claims he's a majority owner, according to court documents.

What's undisputed is that, despite the financial success of Megasex and University Video, the two men grated on each other like contending sheets of sandpaper. They had much to argue over. Despite the business' low-rent image, there are big bucks in selling films the likes of The Bare Bitch Project and Sexorcist and novelties such as glow-in-the-dark dildos, penis enlargers, fuzzy handcuffs, and Real Feel Vibrating Butts. The two stores gross about $50,000 a week, or about $2.5 million a year, Pasch says, which equates to roughly $1.6 million in profits a year.

By the fall of 2001, both men had had enough of each other, and they entered into a "handshake deal" in which Titolo was to buy Pasch out of Megasex in exchange for $877,000 and Titolo's one-third interest in University Video. Titolo gave Pasch a $50,000 down payment. Pasch quit working at Megasex and took over operation of the University store. But in early January 2002, Titolo backed away from the deal, and Pasch says his brother-in-law then locked him out of both stores.

Titolo declined to be interviewed for this story, but his attorney, Alvin Entin, maintains that Pasch was a minority owner of the company and became too disruptive to keep around. Entin says Pasch simply has no proof to support his version of events. "He was never a 50-percent owner," Entin says. "There's no document that supports his position. No distribution of profits in the history of the company supports his position, other than his own belief in his own entitlement."

After his removal, Pasch demanded to review the financial records for Megasex, and Titolo then sued him in Broward Circuit Court to get his $50,000 back. Pasch countersued.

By the fall of 2002, the legal dispute threatened to escalate into a shoot-'em-up. Both men sought restraining orders. In court documents, Titolo claimed that Pasch had "threatened my life" and "shot a bullet through my store." Titolo claims also that Pasch "left several messages on my answer machine that my life would end if I didn't agree to a business deal."

On the other hand, Pasch claimed in court papers that Titolo stuck a pearl-handled pistol in his face at the University store and "told me if I don't leave the University store or [if I continue to] pursue a case against him, he will blow my brains out." More recently, Pasch claims, the mirror on his car was smashed, after which he received an anonymous call saying that his face would look like the mirror if he kept going with the lawsuit.

The Titolos' case wasn't exactly bolstered by Jackie Titolo, who until recently was the bookkeeper for Megasex. During her deposition, she cited her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself in response to several hundred questions, including, "Did you steal cash?" She was never formally educated in the field, and judging by Jack Titolo's deposition, her role in the company was certainly not clear.

"Who supervises the bookkeeper if not you?" Pasch's lawyer, Keith Grumer, asked him.

"I don't know," Titolo replied. "She's talking to a lot of people. I don't know who's supervising her."

Grumer then asked Titolo to explain the chain of command at the Megasex store, to which the porn merchant said he didn't understand the question. To give him an example, Grumer asked if he'd ever served in the military. No, he answered.

"Did you ever play football?" Grumer asked.

"No, too dangerous."

"Any athletic activities?"

"Pocket pool -- no, sorry."

In his porn office, Pasch rolls those bulbous eyes. He's not amused. "I want it over with," he says.


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