Little Tony is going to the Big House.
Tony, aka Anthony Ferrari, was convicted Friday of the 2001 murder of Gus Boulis, former owner of the Miami Subs chain and SunCruz, a $147-million line of casino cruise ships.
A Broward sheriff’s deputy clicked Ferrari’s hands with cuffs just seconds after the verdict was read. Boulis’ family members, who attended every day of the three-week trial, burst into tears.
More than 12 years after Boulis was gunned down, and more than eight years after Ferrari and two others were arrested for orchestrating the hit, Boulis’ family has found some semblance of justice.
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Boulis’ sister, Mersina, was assisted outside the courtroom as she wailed uncontrollably.
Spiro Naos, Boulis’ nephew, said the family was relieved.
“Twelve and half years is a long time, but we never lost faith because we talked a lot with the detectives and the state attorney’s office and they just never let it go,’’ he said.
The 12-member jury will now consider whether Ferrari will serve a life sentence or whether he should be put to death. Broward County Circuit Court Judge Ilona Holmes set the penalty phase of the trial to begin Dec. 16.
The jury, which was sequestered for the duration of the trial, reached its verdict after seven hours of deliberations.
“Justice has been done,’’ said lead prosecutor Brian Cavanagh, who tried the case with Assistant State Attorney Gregg Rossman.
Ferrari, 56 — who took the witness stand against his attorney’s advice — appeared resigned, in stark contrast to his combative appearance two days earlier, when he called prosecutors “pimps.’’
Ferrari’s new accommodations will be a long way from the lavish Miami Beach life that he once led. Prosecutors allege he was head of the Gambino crime family’s South Florida operation.
Ferrari and his boss, Anthony “Big Tony” Moscatiello, 75, a reputed mob captain, were accused of orchestrating the Feb. 6, 2001, murder — one of the most sensational crimes in Broward history.
At one time, the broader list of possible culprits included a professional hit man who was gunned down two years later, crime boss John Gotti’s former bookkeeper, a Mafia mistress, a Dial-a-Mattress pitchman and a smooth-talking Washington lobbyist.
Ferrari, Moscatiello and James “Pudgy” Fiorillo were arrested in 2005 on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation to commit murder. Fiorillo later copped a plea in exchange for testifying against his cohorts. Moscatiello will be tried separately.
Boulis, a Greek immigrant who came to this country as a 16-year-old stowaway, sailed his way to fortune on a submarine sandwich, founding a string of eateries across South Florida, including the Miami Subs chain, Stan’s in Fort Lauderdale, Martha’s in Hollywood and the Italian Fisherman in the Keys. His empire later included interests in resorts, waterfront properties and marinas throughout Broward.
In 1994, Boulis took some Miami Subs executives on a “cruise to nowhere’’ out of Port Everglades, and the very next day he began negotiating to buy a $2 million dinner boat that he transformed into a floating casino. The enterprise was so successful that it grew to include 10 additional ships. He eventually moved the business to Hollywood.
But he ran into trouble with the federal government and was forced to sell the fleet in 2000 after he was investigated for violating an obscure 82-year-old maritime law that prohibited foreigners from owning ships. Boulis was not a U.S. citizen.
In September 2000, a group of investors, led by powerful Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the owner of the Washington-based Dial-a-Mattress franchise, Adam Kidan, purchased the company for $147 million. At the time, the business was grossing $20 million annually.
The deal quickly fell apart, running aground after investors began suspecting the two partners had swindled them out of $60 million. The brilliant-but-difficult Boulis threatened to expose Kidan and made plans to regain control of the company.
Kidan testified during trial that he hired Moscatiello and Ferrari for two reasons: to protect the company from Boulis — and to scare Boulis into believing he was connected with the Gambinos.
At the time, he was paying the gangsters tens of thousands of dollars for “security,’’ Kidan said, adding that he feared Boulis would harm him or the fleet.
Prosecutors alleged that Moscatiello and Ferrari, concerned that the purchase would crumble, decided to execute Boulis to protect Gambino interests in the deal.
On Feb. 6, 2001, Boulis was driving his green BMW along dimly lit Miami Avenue after an evening meeting at his Fort Lauderdale office. Suddenly, a Mazda Miata cut him off, blocking his path. Then a black Mustang pulled up beside him in the opposite direction and opened fire. Boulis died a short time later at the hospital. A motorist behind Boulis said he saw a red Volkswagen Jetta speed past. Ferrari owned a red Jetta.
In the weeks and months that followed, Moscatiello and Ferrari worked to cover their tracks. Witnesses testified that Ferrari made several attempts to hire hit men to kill others involved in the plot, including his own mistress, Pina Diminno, who is suspected of driving the Miata. He also wanted to rub out the lookout that evening, Fiorillo, and Dwayne Nicholson, a mob wannabe who knew about the hit.
Diminno fled to Canada while Nicholson went into the witness protection program. Fiorillo remains in jail awaiting trial.
Abramoff later got tangled in a vast Washington political scandal. Kidan and Abramoff eventually pleaded guilty to an array of corruption and fraud charges in exchange for a reduced sentence. As part of the deal, they helped authorities with both the Washington scandal and the Boulis murder. Cavanagh maintained throughout that there was no evidence that Kidan or Abramoff had any knowledge of the murder until after it happened.
Both of them served shortened prison terms for their cooperation.