In light of Scott Rothstein's Mob turn, I started putting together a little history on Mafia action in Broward (and Palm Beach) County yesterday, and it was such a big hit, I'm going to give you some more today and try to highlight a new one each day this week.
Boca Raton, where Mafia scion Christopher Gambino has opened -- what else? -- an Italian restaurant called Vesuvio II. Gambino is the son of former crime family capo John Gambino and recently, he's been trying to cash in on his name and family past.
Click here to see a March 30, 2009, CBS-Channel 4 report on the opening of Vesuvio. It's hilarious, especially when CBS reporter Lisa Petrillo laughs heartily at the implied threat that the owners will murder anyone who complains about the food. It might not seem so humorous when one considers that the owner's father is a convicted murderer and heroin trafficker. John Gambino, who was arrested in Fort Lauderdale back in 1992, is now allegedly helping to run what's left of the Gambino family. His son, Christopher, is trying like hell to make a buck off his family's criminal past -- and don't kid yourself, he really is still connected to the boys in New York.
Speaking of Mob associations, did you hear about Ponzi schemer Joel Steinger's former right-hand man, lobbyist Russ Klenet, signing on to represent
the victims of Bernie Madoff before Congress?
That's right, the Sentinel is reporting that Klenet, husband of Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter, is trying to enact legislation to force the financial industry to repay Madoff's victims.
Well, you know, they say it takes a crook to know a crook, and Klenet was about as close to the crook Steinger, who in some ways makes Scott Rothstein look like a mensch, as anyone for a stretch of several months. He worked to pass state legislation (that his wife voted on) to benefit Steinger's fraudulent viatical company, Mutual Benefits. He worked hard to prevent state regulators and the Ponzi victims from going after Steinger as well. Not only that but Klenet started his own viatical company that court documents indicate was little more than a front for Steinger, who is awaiting a fraud trial scheduled for 2011. In return, Steinger paid Klenet handsomely ($20,000 a month) and renovated Ritter and Klenet's Parkland home to the tune of more than $100,000.
The Steinger mess also is expected to play a role in the heated County Commission race between incumbent Sue Gunzburger and former state Sen. Steve Geller. Geller, after all, was also close to Steinger and actually hooked up his old friend Klenet with the Ponzi schemer. He says he was hoodwinked by Steinger and actually thought he was a good guy, despite the fact that Steinger was already a felon and a chronic SEC violator and had hundreds of complaints filed against him from victims before Geller met him.
Forget Broward. We should just call this place Ponzi Place.