In 1991, the trafficker was shot dead in front of the Amsterdam Hilton. The next year, U.S. Customs seized von Houtman's Bruinsma-funded Boca house because it had been purchased with proceeds from drug trafficking. "We are alleging that the narcotics transactions occurred in Europe," customs counsel Peter Quinter told reporters at the time, "in violation of foreign drug laws."
The baron denies "absolutely" that he ever trafficked hashish with Bruinsma or funneled drug money into his partnerships with Wade. But the confiscation isn't von Houtman's only run-in with authorities. In 1997, his fifth wife, Cheng, filed a restraining order against him. On September 8 of the next year, three Palm Beach County sheriff's deputies confronted him with Cheng at the Boca Raton Nautilus. When they tried to arrest him for violating the order, he did not go gracefully. According to a police report, he shoved the cops and fought back when they tried to cuff him, yelling, "I'll break your arm!" One of the deputies came away with an injured finger.
He was charged with resisting arrest with violence, a felony that would have spelled deportation. Though Cheng wrote in a letter to the judge that her husband had "lived a life of bullying and deceiving," von Houtman escaped with a misdemeanor battery conviction and probation.
The baron is more boastful than apologetic when he recalls that night of violence. After a police officer reached for his pepper spray, says von Houtman, "I told him, 'I eat that stuff for breakfast.' I left the cops lying in a pool of blood. They would later say that if they knew who I was, they would've brought ten officers."
These days, von Houtman says he dates a 23-year-old model who is a former fling of actor Colin Farrell. And the roots of his wealth remain opaque. He claims he has inherited a fortune from his family: His mother, Dorothy, was heiress to the Blue Bonnet margarine company (New Times was unable to verify that claim with ConAgra Foods, the conglomerate that now owns the brand). Von Houtman's claim of a military career, which he says included "jumping out of planes into deserts and jungles" for Britain and Israel, was lucrative — but, naturally, top-secret.
Von Houtman's registered Florida enterprises include only sponsorship of a low-level dirt biker, according to state files, and ownership of two active companies: Baron Global Industries LLC and Royal Global LLC. Both are "commodity trading enterprises" whose addresses are listed as von Houtman's 4,000-square-foot Isle of Venice town home in Fort Lauderdale. "I broker jet fuel and oil deals with foreign countries," he explains, without giving any associates' names. "The government contacts I made through my military work have been very useful."
Despite his diamond jewelry and multiple exotic vehicles, public records show he is not without financial trouble. American Express is suing him for $440,514.96 that the company claims he owes on a black, or no-limit, card issued to him in 2006. And the Isle of Venice crib, which he purchased in 2007 for $1.85 million, is in foreclosure.
In short, the baron is perhaps not unique in flash-is-everything South Florida. But people like him don't often land partnerships with top-tier sports stars.
When Wade met von Houtman in 2007, it would have been hard to name a sports superstar with a cleaner image. The lithe and aggressive six-foot-four-inch shooting guard had beaten a hard-knocks childhood on Chicago's South Side. His father had raised him while his drug-addicted mother bounced in and out of jail on petty charges.
The young baller married his longtime girlfriend, Siohvaughn, in 2002, and they had two boys, Zion and Zaire. He was picked fifth by the Heat in the 2003 draft, before his senior year at Marquette University. Even as his national stock rose in 2006, when he helped lead the Heat to a championship, Wade's earnest and humble interviews never revealed a trace of prima donna.
In 2007, Wade was named Father of the Year by the National Father's Day Committee, which honored those dads who showed "high accomplishment in their chosen fields... and enormous achievement as parents." Perhaps the committee has had better classes: Among Wade's co-honorees were infidelity icons Hulk Hogan and John Edwards.
Wade founded a children's charity, Wade's World Foundation, and partnered with a similar group run by then-teammate Alonzo Mourning. He focused on mentoring poor inner-city children. "I always said that if I got the opportunity to do something for kids that wasn't done for me, I would do that," he told New Times at a June charity event at the Overtown Youth Center. "Our whole focus is to deal with kids like me growing up — kids from broken homes, kids that can't see no further than the dirt outside of their house — and give them an opportunity to see the world and understand that there's a bigger picture."