Every now and again Gang Land learns of a scam that makes it tough to decide whether to cheer for the perp or the victim. This one's a prime example: A Harvard graduate who is an heir to the Vanderbilt and Whitney fortunes got taken to the cleaners for more than $800,000 by a wannabe wiseguy from Brooklyn who never made it out of grammar school.
It turns out that for all his book learning and upper crust upbringing, John LeBoutillier was the perfect mark for longtime Colombo family associate and convicted murderer, Frank (Frankie Blue Eyes) Sparaco.
The Boot, as he called himself when he was swept into Congress on the coattails of Ronald Reagan in 1980 as a 28-year-old hotshot from Nassau County, always knew it all. Voters quickly saw their mistake, and bounced him two years later. But the conservative pundit, who still calls himself the Boot, has never looked back, or doubted himself, even when he should have.
Sources say that Sparaco was able to fleece LeBoutillier out of so much cash because the Boot knew he was right about a conspiracy theory that virtually everyone else believes to be wrong: That American POWs from the Vietnam War were and are still being held captive in the former Soviet Union and Southeast Asia decades after the conflict has ended.
Frankie Blue Eyes, whose decision to cooperate with the FBI after serving 17 years behind bars was disclosed by Gang Land early this year, has admitted that he conned LeBoutillier by pretending to use bogus contacts he claimed to have with imprisoned Russian gangsters to obtain information about American POWs.
"It was a scam from day one," said one source.
Sparaco, 55, has been imprisoned since 1993, when he was arrested and charged with being a murderous loyalist for imprisoned-for-life mob boss Carmine (Junior) Persico during the bloody Colombo war that left 12 dead and numerous others wounded from 1991-to-1993.
Sources say that since Sparaco began cooperating, the FBI has recovered about $40,000 in cash and another $100,000 in other valuables from safe deposit boxes that were controlled by Frankie Blue Eyes.
The LeBoutillier scam was first disclosed in January when Charles Giuga, a Brooklyn florist, was arrested and charged with helping Sparaco rip off $18,500 from LeBoutillier last fall for supposed information that 70 to 75 American POWs were being held in Belarus, a small Eastern European country that borders Russia. But the $18,500 was just a slice of the cake, Gang Land has learned.
Contacted in January, LeBoutillier declined to say how much money he had spent in his quest over the years, but confirmed that for about ten years he had been using Sparaco as a go-between in an effort to obtain information about missing American military personnel.
Back then, he was convinced he got quality for his dough: "I know I never paid any money to Frank," he told Gang Land. "I paid the money to try and get information from the Russian mob about the POWs."
Actually, to keep the scam going, Sparaco supplied LeBoutillier over the years with a steady stream of "information" in letters from Russian gangsters. The letters, however, were composed by Frankie Blue Eyes and mailed to "Congressman John," sometimes by Sparaco and other times by Giuga.
Giuga pleaded guilty to fraud charges and was sentenced to probation in July. Court records show that Giuga's role in the scheme was to re-type draft letters that Frankie Blue Eyes sent to him, making sure to correct Sparaco's misspellings and punctuation.
Giuga, who all told, made less than $10,000 for his efforts, was ordered to pay $91,000 in restitution. That rubs his attorney Mathew Mari the wrong way, but the lawyer remains optimistic that Brooklyn Federal Judge Carol Amon will rectify that injustice when - and if - Sparaco is ever charged with the LeBoutillier ripoff.
"It seems patently unfair to have the errand boy on the hook for $91,000 when Frank Sparaco took down 98.5 per cent of the money," said Mari. "But Judge Amon indicated that if Sparaco were indicted, she would revisit the situation and adjust the restitution."
Meanwhile, LeBoutillier, who opined about the national debt in his latest post on his blog, "Boot's Blasts," has apparently gotten the message that Frankie Blue Eyes owes him big time for playing him for the fool, and he would like to get his money back.
Gang Land could not reach the Boot, but he's gone typically top-shelf in his choice of a lawyer. Ex-organized crime-buster and defense lawyer to the stars Thomas Puccio told Gang Land that he has "made an application to the U.S. Attorney's office to have my client's money returned to him."