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Nothing but Money_ How the Mob Infiltrated Wall Street Part 12

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Jeffrey Pokross welcomed the couple into the room. Detective Gardell shook his hand and introduced his beloved. There were smiles all around. Jimmy Labate strolled in and embraced Gardell like a lost brother.

"If this fund works out right and you can open up doors for more funds, you won't have to work as long as you live," Jimmy said.

"I know," said Gardell.

"This is a h.e.l.l of a parachute," Pokross said.

"I know that," Gardell said. "What they h.e.l.l you think I'm going out there for? I'm not a traveler. Jimmy thinks I'm going out there for a vacation. I'm not. I don't like to travel. She does. I don't."

Pokross was a pragmatist. Some of the gangsters at DMN hated the idea of involving a cop in all of this, but Pokross had an intuitive sense that this particular cop wasn't really a cop. He was a crook with a badge, which had certain advantages. Such as the fact that Stephen Gardell was at the top of the union pension fund for New York City's detectives. One of his jobs was to invest all that money. Jeffrey Pokross and the gangsters at DMN were going to help him with this.

Gardell said he was supposed to fly out to San Francisco to meet with a new money manager who was going to handle some deal he was trying to set up. As Jeffrey Pokross saw it, the deal was going to be the future of DMN and the Bonanno crime family's piece of Wall Street.

The idea was to tap into the huge pool of money in union pension funds. Gardell was treasurer of the Detectives Endowment a.s.sociation, one of the union officers responsible for deciding how to invest the DEA's $175 million pension fund. Frankie Persico was bringing in another union the Colombo family was controlling, Production Workers Local 400. They had maybe $120 million sitting in various funds and accounts. The Mafia had used unions for their own benefit at construction sites and on the waterfront, why not use them in pump and dump schemes as well? Union pension funds were the wave of the future. They were going to make them all rich-the cop, the fiancee and all the gangsters in the conference room at DMN.

It was strange to have a cop hanging around the office with all those members of the Bonanno crime family coming and going, but Gardell had adopted an odd interpretation of the thin blue line. Gardell didn't really see the need for a thin blue line. He believed that it was every man for himself. You took care of your own and you worried about the rest later. Anybody who was a victim was really just a sucker. He had a sticker attached to his phone to remind him: "RATS TALK ON PHONES." That way he could remember to say nothing important over the phone, because with phones you never knew for sure who you were talking to.

Jimmy Labate had brought Gardell to DMN. He'd met the detective through his neighbor in Staten Island, Tom Scotto, the head of the detectives union. Gardell viewed the DEA's pension fund as his ticket to the good life. He'd worked hard his entire life. Sure he'd been dubbed a hero by the papers, but what did that contribute to the bottom line? He'd risked his life for the civilian world and what did he have to show for it? The union had been his road to opportunity. He'd locked up a good job with the DEA that let him kick back as he wound up his twenty years. He was going to get the pension, then settle into semiretirement and the good life in Boca. He had it all planned out.

Jimmy Labate was going to make it happen. He'd known Jimmy for years. He was in construction on Staten Island just like his father. He was possibly connected. Possibly. Jimmy never said and Detective Gardell didn't ask. It was better not to know. When Jimmy introduced him to Jeffrey and Jeffrey started talking about all the opportunities that were available to him because of his influence in the union, Detective Gardell had promised he could steer the union pension fund's board toward hiring a brokerage controlled by DMN to manage the fund's bounteous a.s.sets.

Detective Gardell was a regular guy, for a detective.

In order for this to work, DMN needed to stay out of the picture. They needed a legitimate-looking money manager up front to set up a plan of investment for the DEA fund. It would be mostly prudent, conservative investments, but it would also involve setting aside a little to buy DMN house stocks. That was where Gardell would benefit. Jeffrey had arranged to get Gardell some private shares. Detective Gardell, after all, wasn't doing this for his health.

None of this arrangement was ever discussed out in the open. Jeffrey would say only, "We may be able to do something." Instead of saying that DMN was out and out bribing Gardell, Jeffrey would say, "We would do the right thing with him, if we got a piece of that money-putting him into some things like house stock. Some of our stuff."

The day's meeting at DMN was to make it all happen. There were issues. Getting Gardell "some of our stuff" wasn't turning out to be quite so simple. The first brokerage they tried to use was First Liberty. First Liberty planned to invest $10 million of the DEA pension fund. The investment strategy seemed reasonable: mostly conservative, a few modest risks. It promised big returns in Wall Street's best run-up ever, and promised those returns fast. There was only one problem: First Liberty was under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Gardell the detective had found out all about the investigation and that was the end of First Liberty.

Now they had a new front firm in San Francisco and were hoping to be back on track for big bucks.

"If they've got the numbers, if they can produce, then we've got a done deal," Gardell said, trying to sound like he knew a spreadsheet from a rap sheet.

"They got 'em," Pokross promised. "If we've got a done deal, then we all do wonderfully."

"Okay," Gardell said. "I won't have to work Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday."

"Will I have to work?" the fiancee chimed in. "I don't want to work."

"All right," said her betrothed.

"We'll all do wonderfully," Pokross enthused.

"We need a new car," said the bride-to-be.

"Well if this one gets pulled off, should we start looking for a convertible?" Pokross said.

"I know what I want," said the bride. "I want a Mercedes truck."

"She wants Jimmy's Mercedes," Gardell said.

"Whose name are we putting this under?" Pokross asked.

"We can put this under not the same name as mine," Gardell said, laughing.

"I got a different last name," said the bride.

"I'll use it for a parachute then," Gardell said.

"If this gets done, go get a vacation house," Pokross said.

"I got to take care of my mother," Gardell said. "She's poor."

"Your mother's got plenty," said the bride-to-be.

Jimmy Labate was explaining why having a cop hanging around was a good idea. He was in the conference room at DMN with CNBC on in the background, talking to Jeffrey Pokross and John Black, an a.s.sociate of the Lucchese crime family. Black was a registered stockbroker who'd been working with DMN to pump up certain house stocks, and Jimmy was mentioning that his good friend and neighbor Detective Stephen Gardell of the New York City Police Department had access to these parking permits that were very useful.

"You want one?" Labate asked Black.

"I could have used one this morning going out of the Holland Tunnel," Black said.

The permits come from the Detectives Endowment a.s.sociation and offer many opportunities besides free parking wherever you want on the streets of New York. If you get pulled over, the permits are a sign that you're a friend of law enforcement.

"If I give it to you, you can't abuse it," Labate said.

"You put it on your dashboard. And when they see it, just salute, and if they ask where you got it, just say you work with the Endowment a.s.sociation. Every year we donate $8, $9, $10,000 a year at Christmas for all the widows and orphans, yadda, yadda, yadda."

"All right," Black said. "Okay."

"If you get pulled over, you have to keep my phone number with you in case something happens. You're drunk and you get pulled over with it, they're gonna bring you in the station house, you're gonna call me and I'm gonna have you taken out of the station house."

Black laughed at that one.

"I'm serious. How do you think we got Mikey help? Mike was going to jail."

Mikey had hit a stock promoter in the head with a pool cue. It was a big mess and he was charged with a.s.sault, which with his previous record of many other a.s.saults would mean that Mikey would go directly to jail.

"Do you understand that Mikey's on probation, that he would have did the eighteen months plus three years for a second felony offense," Jimmy said.

"He's crazy," Black said. "I told him, 'What the h.e.l.l are you doing, punching a guy?' "

When Black left, Labate was alone with Pokross. Labate said he'd just spent more than four hours with Detective Gardell, and that the experienced officer of the law seemed to know something about other gangster families and their increasing involvement in Wall Street stock schemes.

"How does he know that type of business?" Pokross asked.

"Every cop's feedin' him information, every detective's feedin' him information. You're out of your mind and if you think there's not half a dozen wiseguy rats talking to him."

The way Jimmy saw it, Gardell had been nothing but positive for DMN. He'd scared up city parking permits and he'd let them know that First Security was under investigation. Once, he warned them about an upcoming bust of Bonanno family gangsters, and the very next day there was an arrest. He was always hearing about ongoing investigations and was happy to let them know what was up.

So far all Jimmy and Sal and Jeffrey had to do in return was arrange to comp the guy and his girlfriend at the Paris hotel in Vegas. They picked up some swag fur coat for the girlfriend, and arranged to have an aboveground swimming pool built for the guy. They'd promised him secret insider shares on some house stock deals once the union hired DMN's front firm. Sometimes when Jimmy looked at how much time it was taking to set up this union deal, he wasn't sure Gardell was worth all the ha.s.sle.

"I didn't say I don't like him, I just keep saying the same thing. I think that we give, give, give, give and get very little back. It's an observation," he'd told Sal Piazza. But on most days, Jimmy believed Gardell had proved to be a valuable a.s.set to DMN.

"He asked me a funny question," Labate said. "Am I a gangster? I said, 'Do I know people? I know a lot of people.' "

"Why does he want to know if you're a gangster?" Pokross asked.

"So I won't jeopardize him," Labate said.

The more time they spent thinking about the potential money involved in these unions, the more excited they got. Besides the detectives union and Production Local 400, Labate was now bringing up yet another union, this one representing the officers who maintain order and decorum in New York City's courts. Pokross claimed to know the union's president and thought that pension fund would be fertile ground for upcoming scams. The more he thought about it, the less he was sure who was worse-the criminals like himself trying to skim cash from the pensions of hardworking civil servants, or the hardworking civil servants like Detective Stephen Gardell who were put in charge of the pension fund.

"When Mr. Gardell gets his three hundred thousand dollars at the cage in the Palace Casino in Na.s.sau under his girlfriend's name, let him run amok," Pokross laughed. "Even though a lot of these union guys are f.u.c.king gangsters and sitting there and making tons of money running these unions, it is protocol that they gotta put these things out in advance."

Labate agreed.

Pokross said, "They won't pretenderize, meaning they're not going to go for the hard sell. They're pre-sold."

Then it was time for Jimmy to go, and Jeffrey waited a bit before punching a beeper number into his phone. When the beeper picked up, he put in a special number code and left the office. He took the elevator downstairs and walked down the block to a diner. There he sat in a booth until another man walked in without speaking and sat down across from him. The two men leaned toward each other and spoke quietly. Frequently Jeffrey looked around to see if anyone he knew was walking by. He was pretty sure none of his gangster business partners would recognize the guy he was sitting with, but he was still a bit rattled during these meetings. He fully understood the consequences if they figured out he was sipping coffee with the FBI.

Since Jeffrey Pokross had decided to secretly cooperate with the U.S. government against all his friends, the FBI had come up with a little system to keep track of their new star informant. When he arrived at work in the morning, he'd beep his agent with a code-the number one. If he left the office for a sandwich at lunch, he'd put in a different number, and do it again when he returned. He had another number for when he left for the day. Sometimes agents listening in would want to get in touch with Jeffrey to get him to bring up specific subjects or press for answers on something they believed they'd heard. They would call a cell phone Jeffrey had that was always turned off. He would check his messages repeatedly during the day, and if there was a message he would create a reason to leave the office. Then he'd call the agents from his cell phone. Every night he'd write up e-mails for the FBI summarizing the day's activities, including who was likely to visit the next day. Once a week he'd meet the agents at a diner somewhere near the office. It was risky. Somebody could have seen. But Jeffrey seemed to like it that way. It was real James Bond stuff.

"I was posing as a corrupt investment banker and as best as possible without blowing that cover. [I was to make] sure it was clear to the partic.i.p.ants that we were engaged in illegal activity as best I could under the circ.u.mstances."

He was supposed to try and prevent violence before it happened, but he was also supposed to stay in character, like any good liar or actor, and not appear to behave in any law-abiding way.

He was now working undercover twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. He couldn't take time off. There was no vacation for Secret Agent Pokross. He had to keep the story line going. So far he'd done pump and dump with the Bonanno family and the Colombo family. He was constantly trying to invent new schemes that wouldn't end up with Jimmy Labate putting some broker's head in a vise. At the end of the 1990s there was the Globus deal, then Innovative Medical.

"We manipulated the stock upward and brokers put it out to their retail clients and they made undisclosed commissions that were never reported to the clients," he said.

DMN set the size of the chop. Investors in Globus lost $3 million. Pokross personally made $100,000. Pokross made $150,000 on Innovative Medical. He estimated that by 2000, he'd done fifteen corrupt deals at DMN that cost investors $20 million in losses and put $1.6 million in his pocket strictly from stock fraud. That was on top of the $1 million he made legitimately from non-manipulated stocks. He did not file income tax returns, despite his pledge to the United States government that he was on their team. He was aware of certain inconsistencies in his logic.

"Under my agreement with the government, it says that I'm not supposed to commit any illegal activity. So by not filing those tax returns, it was an illegal activity not filing those on time." It added up. By 2000, he owed $900,000 in state, local and federal taxes, plus another $500,000 in penalties.

Always he was watching his back. The gangsters constantly believed somebody was following them or listening in on the phone. Everybody around was a potential rat. n.o.body could be trusted. If you hadn't committed an actual crime in front of their eyes, you were suspect. Even if you had, you might still have a secret arrangement. Pokross walked a narrow line.

"If I was talking about Frank Persico or Steve Gardell from the detectives union or any mob activity on the phone, they'd go wild," Pokross said. "Labate, Lino, to an extent Piazza, would look at me like I was crazy. Because those things in that world are not mentioned on the telephone. Because I know Lino and Labate. They are very surveillance conscious. They were always checking for bugs and tails and people following them. They would turn up the radio. They thought everything was wiretapped . . . Once, I'm sitting in the conference room with Labate and Frank Persico discussing the union activities," he recalled. "And then it starts to get a little more serious and detailed into the conversation and Labate says, 'Let's turn up the TV.' "

April 11, 2000

In the conference room, Jimmy Labate was telling Jeffrey Pokross something he'd learned from his friend and neighbor Detective Gardell that indicated DMN might have a little problem.

"He told me unequivocally the phones are tapped," Labate said.

"What would lead him to that conclusion?" Pokross asked.

"I haven't the slightest idea. He says, 'Have you ever had the phones swept?' I says, 'For what? We only do legitimate business.' "

"It's true."

The way Jimmy saw it, Detective Gardell's warning was all the proof he needed to become a full-time paranoid. A few months back the U.S. government had filed misde- meanor charges against him for not reporting income from his construction business. He owed more than $180,000 in back taxes, but so did a lot of guys like him. Why had they singled him out for such pathetic charges? Now there was this business about bugs at DMN. Of course, a bug in DMN's office meant there was an active investigation under way, which probably meant there was an informant floating around and it could be just about anybody. Then the preppy stockbroker, Francis Warrington Gillet III, had shown up at DMN with a tape of the stock promoter Cary Cimino making threats. He claimed he hadn't made any other tapes, but who knew if he made that one and if there were any more? Then two of the executives at s.p.a.ceplex had pleaded guilty a few months earlier and were probably cooperating. Until now DMN Capital hadn't surfaced on any radar screen. Now everybody had good reason to be paranoid. It was the only healthy thing to do.

"I says, 'Listen to me, Steve, my family doesn't want me to have nothing to do with organized crime,' " Labate was saying. "Matter of fact, when my name comes up, my cousin jumps in anybody's face that asked about me because I don't have nothing to do with street s.h.i.t. So whoever's telling you this, get that delusion outta your f.u.c.kin' head. I don't go to no coffee clubs. I don't go to no sit-downs. I don't go to no meetings, no nothing. It gets nipped in the bud before it ever comes to me.' He says, 'Yeah, I heard that.' I says, 'So then, why do you ask?' "

"Why was he asking?" Pokross wanted to know.

"How do I know?" Jimmy replied, clearly agitated. "I can't have Steve up here no more."

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT.

August 3, 1999

At 4:20 p.m. Jeffrey Pokross stepped out of a yellow cab into the summer heat of Midtown Manhattan. From there he crossed the most famous piece of sidewalk in the city and entered the air-conditioned bar of Sparks Steakhouse, a restaurant known the world over for the gangster who'd died where Jeffrey had just tread.

Pokross was supposed to be meeting Cary Cimino, and Cary had picked the locale. He certainly had a crude sense of humor. Nearly fourteen years earlier, around Christmas 1985, the then boss of the Gambino crime family, Paul Castellano, had had a dinner reservation at Sparks. He didn't quite make it. On the sidewalk in front, four men wearing long white coats and black Russian hats shot down Big Paulie and his driver while shoppers with bags of Christmas gifts in hand dove for cover. There lay Big Paulie on the cold ground in his expensive winter coat, blood oozing, his reign finished and Sparks's reputation sealed. Guides on tourist buses pointed it out. Effete restaurant guides described it as a "macho bastion" with "too much testosterone," but Cary loved the place. It was real New York, not Tribeca or Soho or all those other precious neighborhoods where people like his former best friend, Francis Warrington Gillet III, hung out. This was where real men ate red meat and drank red wine and reveled in the success they had achieved on their own terms-not because Daddy gave them a trust fund.

Pokross was vaguely aware of his mission. Cary had asked for the meeting because of certain concerns he had about being arrested at any minute. As usual, all the concerns involved Francis Warrington Gillet III. Cary was convinced that Warrington was a cooperating witness. Cary barely spoke on the phone anymore and never to Warrington. He had recently become convinced somebody was following him on the street. After Cary requested the meeting, the FBI wired up Pokross and tasked him with exploring Cary's Warrington-phobia.

At the Sparks bar, Pokross ordered Absolut on the rocks with a twist of lime. This was a Tuesday in August and Manhattan wasn't its usual bustling self. The people who could afford it were already out in the Hamptons. The rest were waiting for the weekend to do the same. Still the bar was unusually crowded and Cary was late. Pokross chatted with the bartender and checked his cell phone voice mail. There he discovered a message from Cary saying he was sitting at the bar at Sparks. Pokross looked down the bar.

"Hey, Cary," he said, pushing his way through the crowd to the other end of the bar.

"How long you been sitting there?" Cary asked, startled.

"Five minutes," Pokross said. "You got to be kidding. You were sitting over there?"

They both laughed, and Cary lied about how he was turning thirty-nine in a month.

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Nothing but Money_ How the Mob Infiltrated Wall Street Part 12 summary

You're reading Nothing but Money_ How the Mob Infiltrated Wall Street. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): Greg B. Smith. Already has 939 views.

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