Tuesday, June 02, 2009

"Nothing But Money" - How the Mob Infiltrated Wall Street

Over the years, Wall Street has seen its share of miscreants, from Jay Gould to Bernie Madoff. During the high-tech bubble of the late 1990s, New York's five Mafia families realized they could steal just as easily from investors as they could from the carting industry or the Fulton Fish Market. Utilizing a time-honored "pump and dump" scam, the mob came to Wall Street and walked away with millions. In "Nothing But Money," Daily News I-Team editor Greg B. Smith (author of "Made Men (Seven Brothers)" and "Mob Cops") takes us inside DMN Securities, a mob front that was 100% scam. Here informant Jeffrey Pokross talks with corrupt stock promoter Cary Cimino about eliminating a broker named Warrington Gillet 3rd. Cimino was arrested; the hit never took place.

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 14 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 white long 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' 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 3rd, 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 3rd. 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 to 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 39 in a month. Pokross sipped his vodka and asked Cary what he was up to.

Cary said, "Disappearing to L.A. for six months, then I'm going to move off to London, then I'll disappear into an Eastern European country like Prague or Hungary for a year or two, let it all blow over. I'm not fleeing the law because I'm not under indictment. There's no warrant for my arrest, so if I'm in a different country, I'm not on the lam."

"What do you expect a problem from?" Jeffrey asked.

Cary replied, "Anything we've done in the past. It's going to come up and bite us in the ass."

Pokross asked Cary if he'd approached any of his friends to see if they'd been questioned.

"What do you mean?" Cary asked.

"Well Warrington has vanished," Jeffrey said. "Where's Warrington? Down at his folks' farm?"

"Yeah. Why don't you call him?"

"Why don't you call him?"

"I don't speak with him anymore," Cary said. "We had a huge fight."

Jeffrey knew all about Cary and Warrington. He'd heard the original tape, which he'd turned over to the FBI, and he also suspected (but did not know for sure) that Warrington was, like him, cooperating. He'd heard all kinds of things. Warrington had fled New York after his arrest, even while his case was still pending. He'd moved back to his mother's horse farm in Maryland, and despite his rich upbringing, he was actually desperate for money. Pokross pointed to his glass and ordered another Absolut, this time with tonic. Cary ordered a Diet Coke.

"Do you think it's better to let sleeping dogs lie with him or what do you wanna do?" Jeffrey asked.

"Why don't you call him?"

"And ask him what?"

"Has he been approached by the feds? He got arrested. It was sealed."

Pokross: "What happens when something gets sealed?"

Cimino leaned forward and answered, "'Cause he's cooperating."

"Then why would you want to call him?"

"Right."

Pokross handed Cary two recent news releases from the Dow Jones newswire, about two stock promoters who'd been convicted of securities fraud in the Spaceplex deal. They discussed what Pokross called "our mutual exposure points." This was another name for anybody involved in their schemes who might now be talking to the FBI. Warrington was a "mutual exposure point."

"Let's go over Warrington for a minute."

"There's nothing to go over," Cary said. "He's about to turn state's evidence. He's untouchable. Unless you want to whack him."

"I think you broached that issue at one point before," Jeffrey said, recalling Cary's reference to a "dirt lunch" some months before. "I really don't think that's the way to do it."

"Why?" Cary persisted. "If you whack him, you, um, his testimony is no good in court. Because you can't cross-examine the witness."

Jeffrey couldn't resist: "As they say, dead men tell no tales."

"Right. So the bottom line is..."

"What do you suppose I do with him?" Jeffrey asked. This appeared to be a carefully worded question. He was not suggesting that he himself should do anything regarding Warrington. He was just exploring what Cary might think to do with the guy.

"Have Jimmy take care of him," Cary said, obligingly. "I don't care how it's done, just take care of him. He's not married anymore," he added, as if this might seal the case. "His wife left him."

"She did?"

"She lives in New York now."

"Who lives in New York?"

"She does," Cary said. "He can't even feed his family. He's been living in the same cottage without electricity. Go down there, have them put a gun in his mouth."

"No," Jeffrey said. "You never pull a gun unless you're willing to use it."

"No, no, no," Cary said. "You miss the point."

"What's the point?"

"Put the gun in his hand, put the gun in his mouth, pull the trigger, make it look like suicide. It's not hard to believe he committed suicide, he's so down and out."

"Oh, I mean, I think that's a little involved, don't you?"

"What's it going to cost us, ten Gs?" Cary asked. "You got to get rid of him."

"Why don't you put the whole ten grand up? I don't want any part of it."

"What, are you afraid to kill someone now?"

"It's not the first thing on my wish list, no."

"But you don't want to go to jail. What would you rather have, five years in jail or whack Warrington? They are going to use the majority of his testimony against us. Do you want to destroy the case against us?"

Jeffrey asked, "Do you think he's a credible witness?"

"Yeah."

"You do?"

"He has checks," Cary said.

"Did you ever give him checks?"

"No," Cary said. He paused. "Yes. As a matter of fact, I did. He cashed a check that had a fictitious name, but it doesn't matter. He's a credible witness. The core of the case against you is Warrington. The core of the case against us requires testimony. If you eliminate the testimony, you eliminate the case."

When they finished, Pokross left Sparks and walked around the corner. He got into a leased car parked on the street, pulled up his shirt and pulled off the wires taped to his chest. He handed the wires and the tiny recorder tucked in his waistband to Special Agent Kevin Barrows of the FBI. Jeffrey Pokross, after all, was a reliable cooperating informant, skilled at coaxing out culpability. With Cary Cimino, they were learning, you didn't need much coaxing.

Thanks to Greg B. Smith

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