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Death Is a Minor Setback

Tailpipe was surprised to learn that the dearly departed cannot only vote but can actually run a business. Take the case of David Bethell, a Nassau attorney who met his maker in October 1998. Bethell has continued to serve from the grave as sole director of a string of low-profile Broward County porn shops, Video Outlet I, II, and III.

Bethell's cross-dimensional management trick would probably have continued unnoticed were it not for a feud among the porn shop's owners, Martin Mazza, George J. Santoni, and Robert Wollman. Four years ago, Mazza sued his partners, contending they had stopped distributing monthly checks to him. The case dragged on as Santoni and Wollman filed a mountain of motions and stalled discovery.

But recently, Mazza's attorney, Ross Gampel, filed a civil fraud complaint. "The dead Mr. Bethell," Gampel dryly wrote, "served without interruption as president, secretary, treasurer and sole director of each of the video outlet corporations after the date of his death and continuing up to and including the present time." According to Gampel, Bethell has endorsed more than 20 official reports submitted to the Florida Secretary of State's Office -- some as recently as January. He has also "signed" checks and established a new partnership, Gampel said.

Dead corporate directors are apparently no more reliable than live ones. An accounting expert recently hired by Mazza looked over the books for Video Outlet I and found "unexplained disbursements" of more than $2.2 million. Neither Wollman nor Santoni could be reached.

The three got together in 1996 to build a porn shop on Powerline Road in Fort Lauderdale. Wollman had been in the smut business since the 1970s. According to a deposition from one of his former employees, Wollman created a company in the Bahamas to hide his interests in the adult business "so the government would not be able to track ownership and to avoid having to pay taxes and the like."

Santoni, who lives in Boca Raton, was apparently new to the porn trade in 1996, but he had a colorful background. A member of Maryland's House of Delegates from 1974 to 1977, he left office to serve four years in federal prison for extortion and conspiracy. Once released, he introduced local drug dealers in Baltimore to New Jersey mobsters he'd met in jail, for which he was indicted in 1986. He was also indicted for a money-laundering scam that involved credit card payments for Las Vegas prostitutes. He was sentenced in federal court to eight years.

The attorneys involved didn't want to talk about the case. Bethell wasn't available for comment.

Tainted Money -- It's Still Green

The moralizing hicks of the Florida Panhandle wouldn't touch them with a ten-foot neon crucifix. The G-rated Mickey clique of Central Florida turned up its whiskered noses. Even the boob-enhanced divas of Miami-Dade County, who seemed to have welcomed slots, chickened out after George W's pencil-necked little bro wagged his finger. Broward was the only county in the state to go whole hog for the one-armed bandits. Go, slots! The details of the measure -- including how the money will be shared -- will be decided during the current state legislative session. Those lo-o-o-o-osers wouldn't stoop to accept the tainted tax dollars, would they?

Mary Preaches

Pine Crest Preparatory School alumna Mary Ellen Cook, class of '98, is best-known by her stage moniker, Mary Carey. The busty, blond porn star, whose recent celluloid romps include Tit Happens and Big Breasted Beauties, made headlines in 2003 when she ran unsuccessfully for governor of California on a platform that included taxing boob jobs and making lap dances tax-deductible business expenses.

A taste of the political circuit has apparently inspired Carey -- who told New Times in October 2003 that she was looking forward to turning 35 in 2015 so she could run for president -- to become an activist. On March 26, she will launch her nationwide "Safe Sex Tour." The Boca Raton native will visit venues in college towns to promote condom use.

Tailpipe is impressed by the chesty babe's public spiritedness. But wait a minute: Isn't Carey under contract with Los Angeles-based Kick Ass Pictures? Carey's employer is one of dozens of adult-film studios that have refused to institute onscreen condom use even after the HIV outbreak last year that forced the porn industry to stop filming for 60 days.

Thus, like acorns planted in fertile soil, are future presidential campaign issues born. Good luck with all your campaigns, Mary.

Fare Game

Tailpipe has seen the van spinning its wheels around town. The markings on the side read: "FortLauderdaleShuttle.com." Visit the website, then give operator Mace Triestman a ring. You'll discover that you can get a ride for two from downtown Fort Lauderdale to Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport for $35 or to Miami International Airport for $75. It's door-to-door service.

It's also illegal. Triestman is among about a dozen unlicensed operators working in Fort Lauderdale. To pick up fares inside the city limits, shuttle-bus operators need a municipal license. Triestman and his unlicensed cohorts, however, will be happy to pick you up mere blocks from City Hall. Just call 'em up. Some even operate directly out of hotels by offering kickbacks to concierges. Armand Beatriz's unlicensed Silver Fox Car Service, for instance, runs in and out of the Holiday Inn at 999 Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd.

Why so many illegal operators? Because Fort Lauderdale police aren't actively enforcing the law. Licensed shuttle services estimate that these rogue operators have pinched business by about 20 percent in the past year.

"We play by the rules," says Robert Hassop, owner of the licensed B.C.'s Express. "Is it too much to ask that Fort Lauderdale enforce those rules?"

-- As told to Edmund Newton

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