From His Big House to the Big House

Chop-shop king built his dream mansion. Then an interior decorator took him down.

In any event, the forfeiture case is still going on against some of Pescatore's corporations. Not so his house, which the government insisted, before any deal was struck, that he hand over to be sold at public auction.

"The government demanded the house as part of the forfeiture," says his attorney Joel Winograd, "and Mike gave them a pound of his flesh."

Exterior Pescatore mansion in Brookville
photo: Ofer Wolberger
Exterior Pescatore mansion in Brookville

The array of luxury vehicles amassed in front of 34 Chestnut Hill Drive on March 22 would have made the Astra guys drool. The Mercedeses, Range Rovers, BMWs, plus a Rolls Royce—all brand new—had ferried the super-rich to Upper Brookville to bid on Michael Pescatore's dream house.

But the cars were safe because the Astra crew was off the streets. And after only a couple of minutes, the auction turned into a two-man contest in which Manhattan real estate developer Frederick Rudd outbid Lasik surgery king Dr. Ken Moadel.

Rudd, 52, bought the mansion for $8.3 million. "To buy a house for 8.3 that is worth, at least in my view, 12, is a great bargain," he says. An official at the company hired to sell Pescatore's mansion had said that the house's nefarious backstory might actually be a selling point, making for a good tale for cocktail parties. Rudd says that wasn't a factor for him, adding, "I was actually a little bit nervous about that." In any case, he says he'll hang on to his Manhattan condo and use the Upper Brookville house for weekends and whenever he can get away.

The 52-year-old Rudd says he can tell from the details that the house had been the previous owner's passion. But there's still work to do. Part of the basement is still unfinished, he says, and the house needs a new lighting system, a new sound system, and, of course, furniture. (Pescatore got to keep his furnishings.) Rudd estimates it'll cost him at least $1 million before the mansion is where he wants it.

"One shouldn't think at 8.3 it's done. It's not done," Rudd says. "There's quite a bit of deferred maintenance on the house that needs to be repaired and upgraded. So it will become my obsession, I guess to some extent, to restore the house to what it was supposed to be."

Whatever that is. The real question is what Michael Pescatore was supposed to be. His ex-girlfriend, the self-described "Iraqi beauty," contends that Pescatore didn't know about the stolen cars, having long ago turned over the day-to-day operation to his partners to concentrate on his real estate interests. (Prosecutors and cops strongly refute that assertion.) If he were a crook, she says, would Governor George Pataki have attended a fundraiser at Pescatore's home during his 2002 re-election campaign? (Police found pictures of Pataki with Pescatore and many of his co-defendants at that party during one search warrant, Petro confirms.)

Instead, she thinks Pescatore was brought down by others' jealousy of his money, his lifestyle, and his house, which, she adds, is not a "19th-century French-style mansion," as some "morons" in the media have referred to it. Clearly, it's modeled after the work of influential 16th-century Italian architect Andrea Palladio. How does she know? "I was the artistic visionary behind the whole damn thing," she says via e-mail. "MP couldn't design his way out of a paper bag."

Turned out he didn't know much about interior decorators, either.

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