CSI: K Street

Why is the White Houserequests to release information about Jack Abramoff's White House comings and goings? I mean, it's not like he's been implicated in murder, right? Oh, wait a minute, he.
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Why is the White House so desperate to downplay any contact between the president and Jack Abramoff -- even though the photos of Bush making nice with Abramoff are bound to surface sooner or later? And why is the White house refusing requests to release information about Abramoff's White House meetings -- what today's Washington Post described as "a legitimate inquiry about what an admitted felon might have been seeking at the highest levels of government"?

I mean, sure, the former uber-lobbyist has become the poster boy for the GOP's culture of corruption -- famously guilty of mail fraud, tax evasion, bribery, federal conspiracy, and taking in $80 million from Indian tribes he subsequently disparaged as "morons" and "troglodytes." But it's not like he's been implicated in murder, right?

Oh, wait a minute... he has!

But amidst all the stories about pricy golf junkets with members of Congress, $230,000 skyboxes, the funding of sniper schools and yeshivas, bilked Indian tribes, donations to 210 members of Congress, and friends (like Grover and the Hammer) in very high places, scant national attention has been paid to Abramoff's connection to the 2001 gangland-style murder of Gus Boulis, a Florida businessman involved in a disputed business deal with Abramoff and two of Abramoff's buddies from his College Republican days.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel has done some terrific reporting on the case, and Weekly Standard reporter Matthew Continetti's detailed takedown of the story reads like a well-written crime novel. Be sure and check it out -- both for a good read and for chapter and verse on just how dirty Abramoff's dirty dealings got.

Here are the basics:

Boulis was gunned down four months after agreeing to sell SunCruz, his fleet of 11 casino ships, to Abramoff and his pals for $145 million -- a deal made possible by a series of illegal financial transactions for which Abramoff has since pled guilty. The business relationship soon soured, devolving into heated disagreements and a flurry of lawsuits. Boulis was murdered just days before he was scheduled to testify in his divorce case -- testimony that could have uncovered Abramoff's fraudulent activities.

Three men with ties to organized crime -- Anthony "Big Tony" Moscatiello, Anthony "Little Tony" Ferrari, and James "Pudgy" Fiorillo -- have been charged in Boulis' murder. Earlier this month, prosecutors decided to seek the death penalty against all three.

Here's where it gets interesting: in the months leading up to and immediately following Boulis' murder, "Big Tony" (who has admitted ties to the Gambino family) and "Little Tony" (who has claimed to be John Gotti's cousin) each received hefty checks authorized by Abramoff's SunCruz partner, Adam Kidan. The two Tonys pocketed more than $200,000 between them. Kidan has claimed that the money was for catering and security services -- although, according to Continetti, "there is no evidence any such services were provided." What's more, the state's star witness, "Little Tony's" bodyguard, has implicated Kidan in Boulis' murder.

Kidan is quite a piece of work. A graduate of George Washington University and Brooklyn Law School, he worked on George H.W. Bush's '88 presidential campaign before starting a series of ill-fated businesses including a chain of bagel stores and a Washington D.C. Dial-A-Mattress franchise that left him awash in lawsuits, and eventually caused him to file for bankruptcy. It was during his days as a bagel peddler that he got to know "Big Tony" Moscatiello.

And lest you think it unfair to tar Abramoff with the Kidan brush, keep in mind that Abramoff is the one who brought Kidan into the SunCruz deal, who joined him in conning lenders into giving them a $60 million loan, whose clout was such that said lenders were willing to overlook Kidan's checkered financial past, and who sealed the fraudulent $60 million loan deal by inviting the vice president of the loan company to join him and his dear friend Tom DeLay in Abramoff's luxury FedEx Field skybox to watch a Redskins game.

What's more, after Boulis and Kidan had come to blows during a contentious SunCruz meeting, Joan Wagner, one of Boulis' associates, sent Abramoff an email asking him to intervene. Instead, Abramoff forwarded the email to Kidan, who replied: "We need to shut her down." He then added: "Jack, you need to act above all of this."

And so he has. Indeed both Abramoff and Kidan have denied any involvement in Boulis' murder, and expressed a willingness to cooperate with prosecutors in the case. But something sure smells fishy in Florida. And with the three accused killers now facing the death penalty, does anyone doubt they'll spill the beans -- perhaps on Abramoff's partner -- rather than face the electric chair?

Writers looking into the myriad Abramoff scandals have drawn comparisons between his shady activities and "The Sopranos" and "The Godfather." But given the many unanswered questions that surround the Boulis case, I think a different fictional comparison is called for. It's time to call in the "Crime Scene Investigation" crew and let them have a go at uncovering whether more than just traces of Abramoff's DNA can be linked to Boulis' murder.

Am I the only one who smells a spin-off? "CSI: K Street," anyone?

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