By Albert Samaha
By Darwin BondGraham
By Keegan Hamilton
By Anna Merlan
By Anna Merlan
By Tessa Stuart
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
For years Kidan's told anyone who would lis ten that he wasn't disbarred for this. Instead, as he told Newsday last year, he only surrendered his law license as a "business tactic" (no further explanation given). In fact, records show that Kidan was not only disbarred in New York, but also in New Jersey, for this ethical breach. In Washington, Kidan became something of a minor celebrity through the "leave the last S off for savings" radio and television commercials he did for Dial-a-Mattress. His company expanded to six stores before shrinking back to two, and then went into bankruptcy. In 1999, the assets of the company were sold off, and he walked away with nothing, according to court records. As 2000 approached, Kidan was broke. Court documents later showed that he was paying a mortgage on a $175,000 condo in Floral Park, Queens; driving a 1995 Dodge; and tens of thousands of dollars in arrears.
Yet as 2000 closed out, Kidan had managed to become one of two majority partners in SunCruz, a $147.5 million company, and was living the attendant opulent lifestyle. And all with no money down. To understand how he made that happen you have to know a few things.
First, Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, the bombastic SunCruz owner who later figured in Kidan's downfall, was under a secret court order to sell the business.
The "cruise to nowhere"as SunCruz was dubbed because its ships ventured out to international waters then backwas targeted by Florida politicians who thought Boulis was flouting anti-gambling laws. Boulis, who wasn't a U.S. citizen when he bought his first SunCruz ship, agreed to sell in three years, and the government agreed to keep it a secret so he could recoup fair market value. That fall, Boulis called one of his attorneys and asked him to find a buyer. That attorney turned to one of his firm's lobbyists, Jack Abramoff, who took one look and realized he knew the perfect buyerhimself. Too busy to run things alone, he recruited two friends, Waldman and Kidan, then passing himself off as a wunderkind with $26 million from Dial-a-Mattress in his pocket.
But Kidan and Abramoff didn't have the down payment to secure a loan, so they committed bank fraud to achieve their ambitious ends.
Instead of demanding the $23 million down payment in cash, a stipulation of the loan, Boulis agreed to allow Kidan and Abramoff to sign promissory notes for the money. In return, he secretly (and illegally) kept 10 percent of SunCruz through a shell company. The three forged a wire transfer purporting that Abramoff and Kidan had paid the millions to Boulis and faxed a copy of it to the financing company. The loan went through.
As long as the men kept in step, the fraud was impossible to detect.
Right away, Abramoff and Kidan, who was running the day-to-day operations, began spending prodigious amounts of the company's money to buy a Washington Redskins luxury box (where they entertained some of the country's most powerful politicians), a 34-foot boat, Kidan's luxury condo, and so on. The company's comptroller later told authorities that in short order "somewhere close to a million dollars" was paid out for expenses that appeared "personal in nature."
Still, as one federal law enforcement official explained, "This was a privately owned business. They could do whatever the hell they wanted as long as they paid the interest on the loans."
Which they didn't. Three months into the deal, the cash flow had dried up. They defaulted on their loans and hadn't even attempted to repay the promissory notes to Boulis. What could Boulis do? He'd broken the law too. They then began firing some of Boulis's most trusted employees, including several girlfriends. Threats were followed by lawsuits followed by more threats. The litigation didn't bother Kidan; after all, he controlled the company until a judge ruled otherwise. But when confronted, the first thing that Kidan did was reach out to known mob associates. Abramoff's attorney, Abbe Lowell, said that Abramoff asserts he had nothing to do with that decision, a contention that sources close to Kidan confirmed.
Kidan had met Anthony "Big Tony" Moscatiello through a mobster Kidan had once done legal work for. He later told authorities that bringing in Big Tony, a onetime associate of John Gotti, was an effort to "neutralize" any threats from Boulis, whom Kidan incorrectly suspected of having organized-crime ties.
Instead, Boulis was permanently neutralized. On February 6, 2001, he was murdered in an ambush as he drove his BMW home after a long day at his Fort Lauderdale office.
Thus began a domino effect. The subsequent investigation first uncovered the bank fraud. Kidan, who lost control of the company to Boulis's heirs, soon agreed to cooperate with federal authorities. This opened the door for prosecutors to apply pressure on Abramoff to cooperate in the congressional-bribery and influence-peddling case, which he eventually did. In the meantime, Moscatiello and two cohorts were arrested and charged in Boulis's murder. Moscatiello told detectives that Kidan had ordered the hit. Prosecutors apparently don't believe him. Instead, Kidan, who told police Moscatiello freelanced the murder, is going to testify against Moscatiello in the Boulis murder case, his attorney, Joseph Conway, says, in the hopes of reducing his sentence. That trial is expected to start early next year.