Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Wealthy magnate linked to the Colombo crime family bought site for future strip club

A company managed by car and yacht magnate John Staluppi, once described by the FBI as a member of the Colombo crime family, bought the Double D Ranch and Saloon site in 2013 and later transferred it to his son-in-law’s firm, an investigation by The Palm Beach Post has found. Staluppi’s company bought the site for $1.9 million and sold it in May to a firm owned by Scott Lizza. The purchase was at least the second time Staluppi has ventured into the world of adult entertainment in Palm Beach County in recent years.

In 2012, Staluppi’s S&J Property Holdings bought what was once known as Club Diamonds from a company managed by Thomas Farese of Delray Beach. Farese was described as the consigliere of the Colombo crime family in a 2012 affidavit from an FBI agent filed in a New York court. He was convicted in 1998 of hiding his interest in and laundering money through strip clubs, including Club Diamonds, and sentenced to 87 months in federal prison. Diamonds is now Monroe’s of Palm Beach at Congress Avenue and Okeechobee Boulevard, and it’s managed by Lizza. Gerald Richman, Staluppi’s attorney, said Staluppi has no interest in Monroe’s. The construction of the Double D has generated intense opposition from nearby residents, who argue that it will depress property values and serve as a magnet for crime. Some of those residents have pressed Palm Beach County commissioners to stop the project, but county staff members say it is properly permitted and that moving to block it could expose the county to legal challenges.

Seeking to serve food
Commissioners, who had no vote on whether to permit the project, are contemplating a zoning change that would allow the 20,000-square-foot Double D to serve food. Last month, they voted 5-2 to move forward with a proposed change that would allow strip clubs in industrial areas to serve food. On Thursday, they are scheduled to take up that issue again. Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, who lives near the Double D site and has been hearing from angry residents about it, said Staluppi’s connection to the project and previous descriptions of him as an organized crime figure are worrisome.
“I don’t want to tie somebody to their past, but that kind of link to a crime family is concerning,” she said. “My opinion of the (Double D) project hasn’t changed. I’m still opposed to it.” Currently, only clubs in commercial areas, such as Monroe’s, can serve food. The change could be lucrative for Double D, increasing a the club’s property value as customers stay longer and spend more money.
Before Staluppi’s company bought the Double D site, several people wanted to buy it but lost interest because the club couldn’t serve food, a county official wrote in an email last year.

No stake in Double D
Richman confirmed that Staluppi purchased the Double D site, but he said the Brooklyn, N.Y., native will have no stake in the strip club being built there. “That’s the business his son-in-law has chosen to get into,” Richman said. “(Staluppi) will have no involvement whatsoever.” Multiple efforts to reach Lizza were unsuccessful. Organized crime and strip clubs have a long history. In addition to Farese’s case, strip clubs from South Florida to Las Vegas to New England and New York have been involved in federal Mafia court cases. To reveal the people and firms connected to the Double D, which is being built on Southern Boulevard just west of Florida’s Turnpike, The Post sorted through stacks of documents detailing the corporate trail. At first blush, it wasn’t clear that either Lizza or Staluppi owned the Double D site. Records show that it is owned by 8162 Southern Blvd. LLC. That company shares a registered agent, Haile Shaw and Pfaffenberger P.A., with S&J Crazy Lizards, which lists its address as 1000 N. Congress Ave., West Palm Beach — the same address as Monroe’s of Palm Beach. Lizza is the only officer listed for Crazy Lizards.

In February 2014, three months before Staluppi’s S&J Property Holdings transferred the land to Lizza’s firm, Lizza signed a zoning document as “managing member” of S&J. He left blank a form to disclose all ownership interests of 5 percent or more in the property, prompting a county reviewer to note that the disclosure needed to be filled out. County officials say they never pressed Lizza for the names, because later on, officials determined the form was not required. Staluppi himself signed the deed transferring the Double D property to Lizza’s company three months later, land records show. Staluppi’s involvement in the Double D project had long been rumored. The Post asked Richman whether Staluppi, who in 1972 pleaded guilty to a felony charge of receiving stolen car parts, was using his son-in-law as a front because of Staluppi’s guilty plea and because of allegations that he is a member of the Colombo crime family. Richman said Staluppi “unequivocally” denies that he is using his son-in-law as a front, and he said allegations that Staluppi is in the mob are false. “He was not and is not” a member of the mob, Richman said. “He’s not involved in a crime family.”

A chance on Honda
Staluppi built his billion-dollar fortune on cars, taking a chance in the 1970s on a little-known Japanese firm called Honda, his official biography says. Soon after, he owned 20 dealerships in New York, and it grew from there, including another bet on Hyundai. His Atlantic Automotive Group grew to sit among the top 15 dealer groups in the country. In the 1980s, he added yachting to his portfolio. He founded Millenium Super Yachts, a luxury yacht builder in Riviera Beach, and he’s owned a pack of super yachts, many named after James Bond movies and most among the fastest in the world. In Palm Beach County, Staluppi has established himself as a force in philanthropy and politics. He donated $1.5 million to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palm Beach Gardens for a center that now bears his name. And since 2008, Staluppi, his relatives, associates and firms have donated at least $17,000 to Palm Beach County office-seekers. Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has received the most: $7,500 during his 2008 campaign, records show. Staluppi also has hosted fundraisers for Bradshaw’s “Shop with a Cop” program at the site of Staluppi’s former rare car collection in North Palm Beach. In 2009, Bradshaw spent taxpayer dollars taking Staluppi out to lunch as a “thank you” for the donations, the sheriff later told a state ethics prosecutor. The Florida Commission on Ethics dropped the case because Bradshaw followed department policy, which was subsequently changed.

Staluppi has long wrestled with allegations that he is tied to the mob. He grew up with and has acknowledged friendships with people who have been identified by law enforcement as mobsters and convicted of crimes. In 1992, a helicopter charter service owned by Staluppi and seeking to fly into Atlantic City was denied a non-gaming casino service industry license by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. The New Jersey State Division of Gaming Enforcement wrote a letter opposing the application. “A check with law enforcement authorities by the Division revealed that the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have identified John Staluppi, 100 percent owner of the applicant, as a member of the Colombo family, a career offender cartel,” a November 1991 memo from the division states. The division also sought to have Staluppi excluded from casinos for life, dubbing him a “career offender” because of alleged ties to the Colombo family. An FBI supervisor and a criminal investigator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York testified that Staluppi was a member of the Colombo crime family. The investigator said Staluppi’s personal phone directory contained the names and phone numbers of “several members” including the acting head of the Colombo family.

The FBI supervisor said his information came from an FBI agent who worked for him. That agent in turn got the information from a confidential informant. He said he could not reveal any more to corroborate his testimony because of FBI policy to protect the identity of confidential informants. As a result, a hearing examiner, in an initial decision, wrote that the law enforcement allegations against Staluppi were largely unsupported. “I conclude that the division has failed to establish by a preponderance of the credible evidence that (Staluppi) is a career offender,” the examiner wrote. The commission agreed.



Post a Comment