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Top Building Official Once A Thug

This here is a most interesting story in the Broward Times by Elgin Jones about a a top South Florida building official with criminal past. And not just any crime -- like violent shit involving bomb threats and hired muscle.

That's James E. Sennello, the chief building official for the City of Deerfield Beach. Here's something almost even weirder: Sennello was hired in 1995 as a part-time electrical inspector and two weeks later he was promoted to chief building inspector. TWO WEEKS LATER. What the hell was that about? Any idea, Mayor Capellini?

I'm not one to automatically dig 20 years back into a man's past -- unless it's a serious crime that should disqualify the thug from ever working for the public. I think that applies in this case (it reminds me a little of that Woody Allen movie where the old woman hilariously learns that her retired, mild-mannered husband was a murderous cannibal who killed and ate his first family). Here's what I think is the key passage from Jones' most excellent report:

The case involved victim John Robinson, who in 1985 was the new owner of the Gambler Lounge, located at 2777 E. Oakland Park Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale.

Sennello was the owner of a company called Ace Electric, and claimed he had $45,000 tied up in the club somehow, before it was sold, and he wanted to be paid. Robinson demanded proof of the debt. When he received none, he refused to pay.

Sennello then hired Robert Dykes, who was accompanied by Norman Peyton, to deliver a note threatening to bomb Robinson’s home and business, and cause him physical harm if he did not pay up.

According to Dykes, it was Sennello who devised the ploy in which he and Peyton coaxed Robinson out of the club.

They forced Robinson up against the truck Dykes was driving and began threatening him, saying four bombs had been placed at his

home and the bar, which they could detonate at any time.

Peyton, who was sitting inside the truck, pulled a .44 magnum (which was later recovered by police) and told Robinson, “we mean business” and “we will cut your balls off.”

A threatening letter was also displayed, which is also in evidence. When Robinson saw three customers exiting his bar, he began screaming for help. Dykes and Peyton fled in the truck.

For Lauderdale police were called, and bomb squads were dispatched to Robinson’s home and the bar, but no explosives were found.

An all-points bulletin was issued in several counties for the truck and suspects. All suspects were eventually arrested.

Dykes was charged with extortion, aggravated assault, making bomb threats and weapons charges. Charges were also filed against Peyton, and both men agreed to cooperate with police. They said Sennello hired Dykes to scare Robinson. Broward Sheriff’s Office detectives became involved in the case and convinced Peyton to wear a wire during a meeting with Sennello.

It was during that wire-tapped meeting that Fort Lauderdale police and BSO detectives witnessed, and recorded, Sennello explaining that it was he who had hired Dykes and how he would not be connected to the case, because he had no contact with Robinson for more than a year.

Sennello gave Peyton $320 to help bond Dykes out of jail.

Later, police arrested Sennello at his home and charged him with felony extortion. He hired the powerful law firm of J. David Bogenschutz and Michael E. Dutko to represent him in the case.

Read the complete article here.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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