Anthony "Little Tony" Ferrari was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without parole for helping orchestrate the 2001 mob-style murder of businessman Gus Boulis, who ran a fleet of gambling ships and founded the Miami Subs restaurant chain.
Boulis, 51 when he was killed in 2001, founded the SunCruz Casinos gambling-boat fleet in Key Largo in 1994. That grew into gambling boats in Dania, Jacksonville, Port Canaveral and Myrtle Beach, S.C. It ceased operations in Key Largo in October 2009 and in the other places two months later.
He also was the father of Miami Subs, the chain out of which grew a sub shop he opened in Key West in 1980. He also owned plenty of Upper Keys real estate.
Boulis was gunned down as he drove his BMW away from a business meeting in Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 6, 2001. On Miami Road, a car cut him off, a black Mustang pulled alongside, blocking him in, and shots rang out.
Boulis was hit three times but his car kept moving a few blocks before crashing into a tree. He was declared dead an hour later at a hospital.
Trial testimony showed that Ferrari, 56, and Anthony "Big Tony" Moscatiello plotted to have Boulis killed by a mob hit man in a battle for control of the SunCruz fleet. Witnesses testified that Moscatiello had ties to New York's Gambino crime family.
Moscatiello, 75, was on trial with Ferrari but was granted a mistrial when his attorney became ill. He will be retried at some point in 2014, and prosecutors, as they tried with Ferrari, will seek the death penalty.
A third man charged in the killing, James "Pudgy" Fiorillo, pleaded guilty to murder conspiracy and testified for the prosecution in exchange for a lenient sentence. Fiorillo admitted conducting surveillance on Boulis and getting rid of the murder weapon, but insisted he was not directly involved.
Ferrari, who testified in his own defense that he did not plot to kill Boulis, said very little at Thursday's sentencing hearing.
The murder plot unfolded a few months after Boulis sold the SunCruz fleet to New York businessman Adam Kidan and Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Kidan brought in Moscatiello and Ferrari, giving them lucrative contracts with the gambling ships that were threatened when Boulis made it clear he wanted to regain control.
Witnesses said the triggerman in Boulis' death, John "J.J." Gurino, was later killed in a dispute with a Boca Raton delicatessen owner.
Boulis, a native of Greece, sold the SunCruz fleet in 2000 for a reported $147 million. The buyers, Abramoff and Kidan, had obtained a $60 million loan by telling lenders they had paid Boulis $23 million of their own money.
But they hadn't. Rather, Boulis accepted a promise of payment in return for a share of future revenue from the gambling fleet. Abramoff was sentenced in 2006 to nearly six years for the fraudulent casino deal. He also got a four-year sentence in 2008 for conspiring to defraud the U.S., corrupting public officials and defrauding his clients in a separate case.
Kidan testified that both Moscatiello and Ferrari confessed to him that they plotted the slaying. Kidan and Abramoff pleaded guilty to fraud in their $147.5 million purchase of SunCruz and served federal prison time, but they were never implicated in Boulis' killing.
Abramoff was also the key figure in a Washington influence-peddling case that resulted in charges against 21 people on corruption charges, including former U.S. Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio). The saga was made into a 2010 movie, "Casino Jack," starring Kevin Spacey as Abramoff, part of which focused on the Boulis killing.