By JOSH RESNEK
Mayor Carlo DeMaria has a passion for backdoor deals or pressuring someone to do his bidding.
This becomes apparent in the book “Encore” or “Steve Wynn’s Last Casino,” which will be coming out in the summer.
In 2009, FBT Everett Realty (a partnership with Paul Lohnes, Anthony Gattineri, Charlie Lightbody, and Gary DeCicco) did an end run around multimillionaire-trash man Billy Thibeault to gain control of 36 acres that was the Monsanto site in Everett.
Thibeault has gone on to become a major businessman and is a hugely successful developer.
The casino and hotel, built at a cost of $2.6 billion, stands largely empty today.
Gattineri and Lightbody were indicted by the federal court and later exonerated when the contrived government case against them fell apart with a jury finding them innocent.
DeCicco, the original landowner who put the land deal together, became the fall guy in all of this mess.
The FBI chased him and hasn’t stopped chasing him or portraying him as a gangster.
He is many things. He is no gangster.
He is still wearing an electronic bracelet on his ankle and is restricted in his movements as a result of an FBI wild goose chase to take the heat off the real culprits – the consortium that ended up buying the casino land and building there.
For better or worse, this is how it happened.
The land was good for nothing but a trash heap, a midway station between Boston and some landfill that Thibeault owned around New England.
The land was polluted, soaked with sulfuric acid and mercury. It stank and was listed as a superfund site but the DeMaria saw an out with Wynn. He could conceivably line his own pockets with cash, bring some jobs by way of a casino and develop Lower Broadway. Did it happen this way?
I very likely think it did and two years of investigative reporting proves DeMaria was talking with the FBI and being investigated by the FBI.
FBT’s partners were going to do pretty well also. Wynn agreed to pay the partnership $75 million, about $67 million more than they paid for it.
In July 2013, the Investigation and Enforcement Bureau of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission started chasing around a lead they received from the Chelsea Office of the FBI. It seemed that FBT was trying to hide the ownership of Lightbody, someone the feds believed was involved in organized crime. Lightbody, a colorful character and successful entrepreneur who has a body shop in Revere along with a number of real estate developments, did nothing but invest in the property. He had no idea what would transpire. In addition, he didn’t care. He wanted to be repaid for his investment.
In 2012, he was caught on jailhouse tapes speaking to an inmate about his “triple blinding” (hiding) his interest in the land so as not to come under the scrupulous eye of the MGC.
As fall of 2013 approached, MGC’s investigators found reason to believe that Lightbody was taking part of hiding his ownership.
Such a disclosure would derail Wynn’s hopes of putting its casino in Everett and, likely, cost it the license because any casino had to have the approval of the local community. Since Wynn had DeMaria in the bag, there was no other place for Wynn to turn that late in the bidding process.
MGC decided that the proper remedy was not to punish Wynn and offered a solution, which was to discount the land price by appraising it as if it were a big box retailer, like Walmart, and not a casino.
The estimated price dropped to $35 million and the FBT partners had to make a decision; either take the lower price or reject it, having to deal with an unhappy Everett mayor who could make the partners’ lives miserable.
In December 2013, the remaining FBT partners (Lohnes, Gattineri, and Dustin DeNunzio (manager of FBT)) dumped Light- body and DeCicco like rocks thrown into the sea. MGC pushed for the option agreement for Wynn to purchase the land and asked the three remaining partners to agree to the discounted price and also sign a certificate that stated that there was no other hidden partner. Lohnes and DeNunzio signed immediately but Gattineri held out. DeNunzio signed the option agreement, expressing concern that he was receiving pressure from DeMaria and Wynn that if they did not sign that Everett would take the land by eminent domain.
Last year, the Leader Herald heard an audiotape of former Governor Bill Weld leaving a message for one of Gattineri’s attorneys. We were amazed that Weld would leave such a message with a veiled threat that Gattineri should sign the certificate or DeMaria was going to “take the land.” In addition, Weld had information from the Boston Globe’s top investigative reporter, Andrea Estes, that she was hot on the trail of Gattineri. Here is Weld’s message:
Dan, it’s Bill Weld at Mintz Levin. I’ve learned some things in the last 24-hours that might be of interest to you. Um, the dollar figure that the City of Everett seems to be arriving at for their taking [Eminent Domain], is $15 million, one-five-million. So. And number two, I understand from the Mass Gaming Commission that, um, Andrea Estes from the Boston Globe has served a FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] on them for the three certifications of the FBT principles, and, ahhh, the Mass Gaming Commission is going to respond next week and turn over those docs along with some other exhibits. So they’ll be turning over the Lohnes and DeNunzio certifications. I’ll send you an email to let you know that I’ve left this message and, umm, make sure you don’t miss it. I’m in my Washington office.”
That’s how the power brokers in Boston play the game.This federal case of Gattineri’s appears to be moving faster than the others. There are two other cases related to FBT’s land deal with Wynn, both in Massachusetts Superior Court. One is FBT v Massachusetts Gaming Commission on the discounted price of the land. In that one, MGC has also filed suit against Wynn Resorts in the event that they lose, they can get Wynn to pick up the tab. The other involves the legal advice given to FBT’s partners when MGC’s investigators came asking questions. The Leader Herald would like to see more information come out in court to see how the casino deal really happened. We are certain that there is more to the story and that DeMaria was in the middle of it.
Josh Resnek, publisher of the Leader Herald, has written an investigative book titled: Encore – Steve Wynn’s Last Casino, scheduled for publication in the summer of 2021. It is co-authored by the investigative reporter Walter Pavlo. Pavlo writes for Forbes Magazine.