The Bad Bet

Gangland-style murder.

That's how the 2001 slaying of gambling mogul Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis is remembered, and for good reason. That night, February 6, while driving in his black BMW on Miami Road near downtown Fort Lauderdale, Boulis pressed the brakes to avoid hitting another car traveling slowly on the two-lane street. Just then, witnesses told police, a black Mustang drove up in the opposite lane. One of its passengers opened fire, shooting five or six bullets into Boulis' vehicle.

Boulis screamed. The other two cars sped away.

For more than four years, this made-for-potboiler-fiction murder of one of South Florida's most prominent businessmen was an unsolved case. But now, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department has three suspects in custody: Anthony Moscatiello, Anthony Ferrari, and James Fiorillo. All three men have alleged ties to organized crime. Two of them — Moscatiello and Ferrari — are associates of Adam Kidan, the man who, along with influential Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, purchased Sun Cruz Casinos from Boulis three months before his murder. Federal prosecutors in Miami have since filed criminal charges against Kidan and Abramoff, alleging that they committed bank fraud in the purchase of Boulis' company.

A 51-year-old Greek-born business genius who was as fearless as he was Machiavellian, Boulis had long been thought of as a victim of organized crime figures who wanted control of the lucrative gambling empire he'd so painstakingly built.

But with the arrest of suspects in his death, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) has released records of its investigations of Boulis himself, which began as early as 1988 and suggest that Boulis was an even more complicated figure than has been portrayed.

Boulis was a man of duality.

He was charming, winning the love and affection of many of his employees. He was also violent, once beating his longtime girlfriend as two of his children watched.

He was sophisticated, a businessman who dressed well and negotiated deals over a fine meal and a finer bottle of wine. He was also known to associate with criminals, including a well-known bookmaker and an associate member of the Bonanno crime family.

He was a man steeped in the traditions of his homeland, believing that men should support their families no matter how difficult the circumstances. He was also a man who wanted total freedom, sending his children and wife to Greece so he could live the life of a tycoon in the Florida Keys.

He was a philanthropist in the Greek community, always known to give a hand or lend a dollar to any fellow countryman in need. He was also ruthless, a man who, according to one of his former attorneys, would exploit the trust of fellow Greeks to win unfair business deals.

Even a decade before Boulis was killed in Fort Lauderdale, he'd flirted with the type of high-stakes double-crossing that can lead to murder. So maybe, on that night in 2001, the arrival of two cars in the night caught Boulis less by surprise than previously thought.

Boulis was born in 1949 in Kavala, a small port town on Greece's western Mediterranean coast. A hard-working kid, Boulis knew that Kavala wasn't big enough to contain his ambition, and at age 16, with dreams of striking it rich in North America, he joined the Merchant Marines. Four years later, Boulis saw his life-changing opportunity: a freighter in Kavala bound for Nova Scotia. The young Greek, whose English was limited to yesterday and I love you, hid aboard the ship as it sailed across the Atlantic Ocean.

After making his way to Toronto, Boulis took a job as a cook at Mr. Submarine, a small chain of four sandwich stores. A five-foot-seven blond man with a thick accent, Boulis devoted himself to the job, memorizing the menu and learning how to do every job in the restaurant. Impressed, the owners promoted Boulis and eventually gave him his own restaurant to manage.

At the same time, Boulis was getting closer to a young Greek girl from Kavala named Efronsini. The 16-year-old, who went by the name Frances, worked as a receptionist at a dry cleaner in Toronto. Three years after landing in Canada, the 22-year-old Boulis married Frances. Since his wife was a Canadian citizen, Boulis also gained his citizenship. The next year, in 1972, they had their first child, Christos. Another boy, Panagiotis, followed in 1975.

Like Boulis' family, Mr. Submarine was also growing. The Greek immigrant was partially responsible for the rapid expansion, his wife would later say during court testimony in Broward. "When [the kids] were small, we had to ride with him at night in the car, checking the store or doing things like that," she later remembered in court testimony.

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Trevor Aaronson
Contact: Trevor Aaronson