Scandal-ridden BCCI Reportedly Linked To Atlantic City Real Estate Deal
NEW YORK (AP) _ Organized crime figures in New Jersey and Pennsylvania planned to finance a multimillion-dollar Atlantic City real estate deal using money from the scandal-tainted Bank of Credit and Commerce International, a published report said Sunday.
FBI papers show that connections between organized crime and the bank began as early as 1982, when two mob families planned to use BCCI money to transfer a huge downtown parking lot between them, the New York Daily News reported.
The Atlantic City deal is the first known link between the mob and the Pakistan-based bank, which has become the target of four separate federal grand jury investigations involving charges of fraud, bribery, illegal arms sales and money laundering, the paper said.
FBI records cited by the paper show that Thomas (Corky) Vastola, a reputed leader of New Jersey’s DeCavalcante family, joined forces with a Jordanian businessman linked to BCCI in an unsuccessful attempt to buy the property from a front man for Philadelphia mob boss Nicodemo (Little Nick) Scarfo.
The Jordanian, Munther Bilbeisi, has been linked to money laundering and smuggling in connection with BCCI, and was indicted Friday by a federal grand jury in Miami on charges of conspiracy and tax evasion. Bilbeisi’s brother headed the Amman, Jordan, branch of BCCI.
According to the FBI documents, an informant tipped off agents that Vastola and Kenneth Shapiro, the man believed to be Scarfo’s agent, planned to meet in December 1982 to discuss the sale of a 3.5-acre parcel in downtown Atlantic City.
The parcel, then seen as a valuable piece of land for casinos jockeying for parking space, was owned by MMRT Associates, and the meeting was to take place at Sea-Tex Ltd. Shapiro was a partner in both companies.
According to the FBI records, Bilbeisi offered to buy the land for $18 million with money from his brother’s bank and three other foreign lenders.
FBI agents photographed Bilbeisi and Vastola entering Shaprio’s office and observed the meeting, said the paper, citing an unidentified source.
The attemped sale was never completed to Bilbeisi and Vastola, the Daily News reported.
Bilbeisi and BCCI were not targeted for investigation because the FBI was focusing at that time on mob dealings in Atlantic City, the paper said. But after the Justice Department began probing the bank, BCCI and Bilbeisi’s involvement in the deal reportedly took on new dimensions.
The lot was eventually sold in January 1983 to a partnership that included Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione, MMRT and other partners to be used for parking for a casino hotel Guccione planned nearby, the paper reported. The hotel was never completed.