FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Anthony "Little Tony" Ferrari was convicted Friday of first-degree murder and murder conspiracy in the 2001 gangland-style slaying of a well-known South Florida businessman in a case that featured professional hit men, a bitter fight over lucrative casino gambling ships and a corrupt Washington lobbyist.
The jury returned the verdict after just over seven hours of deliberation in the death penalty case. They had been sequestered since testimony began Sept. 30.
Ferrari, 56, was accused along with Anthony "Big Tony" Moscatiello of orchestrating the slaying of former SunCruz Casinos owner Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis. Trial testimony showed that Boulis, 51, was fatally shot by a mob hit man Feb. 6, 2001, after the car he was driving was blocked in by another vehicle on a Fort Lauderdale street.
Jurors will return Dec. 16 for the penalty phase of the trial. Circuit Judge Ilona Holmes is not bound by the jury's recommendation on the death penalty but must give it great legal weight, said Assistant State Attorney Brian Cavanagh.
"We are grateful that justice has been done. At least his family has some substantial measure of justice," he said after the verdict.
Ferrari showed no reaction and his attorney did not comment to reporters. Some members of the Boulis family broke down in tears as the long-running case neared its end. Boulis' nephew, Spiro Naos, said the family was "full of emotion."
"We've all been waiting 12½ for this," Naos said. "But we never lost faith."
The murder occurred during an increasingly acrimonious dispute over SunCruz, which Boulis had sold a few months earlier to businessman Adam Kidan and his partner, once-powerhouse lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Boulis had kept a 10 percent stake in the lucrative 11-ship fleet and wanted to regain control.
Kidan testified he contacted Moscatiello, whom he said was a member of New York's Gambino crime family, for protection and for his mob connections. Ferrari, witnesses said, was Moscatiello's main operative in South Florida and even claimed to be related to the infamous Gambino "Teflon Don," John Gotti.
Both Ferrari and Moscatiello had well-paying SunCruz contracts with Kidan in charge, arrangements that Cavanagh said they were willing to kill Boulis to keep.
"This is a case about greed. Muscling in to get their piece of the pie," Cavanagh said in a closing argument. "It's also about no regard for human life."
Moscatiello, 75, is also charged with murder but got a mistrial when his attorney became ill. Prosecutors said they will retry Moscatiello at a later date. A third defendant, James "Pudgy" Fiorillo, pleaded guilty to murder conspiracy charges and testified against both Ferrari and Moscatiello. He will likely be sentenced to the six years he has already spent in jail.
The cast of witnesses included convicted felons, admitted mob enforcers and professional killers. One of them, Peter "Bud" Zuccaro, is in the witness protection program after turning on his Gambino confederates; he testified under the false name "Nick DiMaggio." Zuccaro said he had committed numerous violent acts over a long mob career and that Moscatiello had offered him $100,000 to kill Boulis, which he refused.
The actual Boulis hit man, John "J.J." Gurino, was later shot and killed in a dispute with a Boca Raton deli owner. Before that, witnesses said he had bragged about being the "SunCruz Kid" and that he had gotten "the work" from Moscatiello.
Ferrari's attorney, Christopher Grillo, urged jurors to consider the checkered pasts of many witnesses and what they had to gain by testifying for the state, such as reduced prison terms.
"The state wants you to believe a bunch of drug dealers, killers and thieves," Grillo told jurors.
But Cavanagh had a ready reply: "Plots hatched in hell don't have angels for witnesses."
Ferrari testified in his own defense — against Grillo's advice — and claimed that Fiorillo had confessed to Boulis' murder and that Kidan was the one behind the plot. Fiorillo testified that his main role was surveillance and getting rid of the murder weapon, and Kidan said Ferrari and Moscatiello confessed the plot to him.
Kidan and Abramoff both did federal prison time after pleading guilty to fraud in the $147.5 million purchase of SunCruz from Boulis. Abramoff, who did not testify in the Boulis case, was the main figure in a separate Washington influence-peddling case that resulted in charges against 21 people on corruption charges.
SunCruz went bankrupt in the wake of the slaying of Boulis, a Greek immigrant who worked his way up from dishwasher to founding the successful Miami Subs restaurant chain.
Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt