FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - A man who worked security for one of two suspects in the 2001 mob-style slaying of high-profile businessman Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis testified Thursday that he was approached by his boss and a reputed New York gangster about killing Boulis, but that he never carried it out.
Dwayne Nicholson testified that in November he was riding in the back seat of a Mercedes-Benz with Anthony "Big Tony" Moscatiello and Anthony "Little Tony" Ferrari when the subject of Boulis came up. Moscatiello, allegedly a member of the Gambino crime family, had flown to South Florida on a private jet to discuss problems they were having with the SunCruz Casinos gambling fleet formerly owned by Boulis.
"I need Gus killed," Nicholson quoted Moscatiello as saying. Later, Nicholson said Moscatiello told him, "If this conversation goes anywhere else, we're going to come after you."
Nicholson, a convicted felon who worked security for Ferrari, insisted that he never intended to kill Boulis but that for several weeks he did help conduct surveillance. Eventually, Nicholson told Ferrari he was sick and then dropped out of sight after going to a family reunion in Baltimore. Investigators say Boulis was killed on Feb. 6, 2001, by a hit man who ambushed him in a car on a downtown Fort Lauderdale street.
When Moscatiello made the comments about killing Boulis, Nicholson said he assumed the two meant he was supposed to do it. But instead of refusing right away, he said nothing.
"If I say no, then I'm a liability. I know now what they wanted to do. I could not say no, I'm not going to do it. I'm stuck. So, I didn't say nothing," Nicholson said.
Nicholson said he called an FBI agent he knew in Baltimore and left messages, but they were never able to connect.
"I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to get out of this," he said.
After Boulis was slain, Nicholson called a police crimestoppers number from a pay phone and eventually collected a reward of more than $100,000. He also agreed to wear a listening device and set up meetings with Ferrari at detectives' request. All the while, Nicholson said he feared he would be killed because of what he knew.
"I wasn't sure who I could talk to, who I could trust," he testified. "I was scared."
Moscatiello and Ferrari could get the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder. Prosecutors say they decided to get rid of Boulis because he was attempting to regain control over SunCruz, threatening lucrative contracts the two Tonys had with the new owners.
Boulis, who had previously founded the Miami Subs restaurant chain, sold SunCruz in late 2000 to New York businessman Adam Kidan and his partner Jack Abramoff, then a powerful Washington lobbyist. They both later pleaded guilty to fraud in the $147.5 million transaction and did time in federal prison. Kidan is expected to testify later in the murder trial.
Abramoff was also the key figure in a Washington influence-peddling scandal that resulted in 21 other people convicted of various corruption crimes. It's not clear if Abramoff will testify in the Boulis case.
The alleged hit man, John Gurino, was himself shot to death in a dispute with a Boca Raton delicatessen owner.
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