Felons talked on tape about how to profit from Everett casino plan
Charles Lightbody (above) stood to gain from a land purchase by Steve Wynn for a casino in Everett.
Weeks before Steve Wynn signed a deal to pay Everett landowners $75 million to build a casino on their land, Charles A. Lightbody bragged to his friend, jailed mob enforcer Darin Bufalino, that he was about to make a fortune.
“It’s gonna be a real home run if we can get the permits through,” said Lightbody to Bufalino, who was serving time in state prison for attempted extortion and conspiracy. ”You’ll own half the [expletive] city,” Lightbody said in Aug. 2012, hinting that Bufalino might be part of the deal, too.
On Friday, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted unanimously to approve a land deal designed to make sure Lightbody — a convicted felon himself — and other potential secret partners don’t make a fortune if Wynn receives the sole license to operate a casino in Eastern Massachusetts.
Wynn’s purchase price for the 29-acre parcel was reduced from $75 million to $35 million and the principal owners will be required to swear that no one else will make money off the sale. The owners — a group that originally included Lightbody though his name does not appear on documents — paid $8 million for the land just four years ago.
Lightbody has bought an option to buy the nearby King Arthur’s strip club on Beacham Street if the casino is built, according to two Everett property owners.
“The other thing around the corner that goes with a casino I own,” Lightbody boasted in one of his conversations with Bufalino. “It’s the best thing you can have with a casino. There’s only two things, women and booze, right around the corner. [Expletive] locked it up. Locked up tight as a drum.”
Commission investigators could not determine whether Bufalino was in on the Everett land deal, too, but confirmed the two men are “close” and that Lightbody had deposited money in Bufalino’s prison canteen account
Before Lightbody’s ownership of the proposed Everett casino site was disclosed by the Globe last month, he was best known for opposing the casino project at Suffolk Downs; he was charged with punching a supporter.
The commission OK’d the new land deal agreement even after its investigators found that the owners of the land, FBT Everett Realty principals Dustin DeNunzio, Paul Lohnes, and Anthony Gattineri, deceived the commission by not disclosing Lightbody’s 12.5 percent ownership in the land — and by backdating documents to make it look as if Lightbody was out of the deal sooner than he actually was.
The board chairman, Stephen Crosby, was not present for Friday’s hearing. He announced he was recusing himself from any discussions of the land earlier this month after the Globe reported that he was once a business partner of Lohnes, who owns a 50 percent interest in the land.
Lightbody had claimed he disposed of his interest before Wynn signed an option to buy the land in December 2012. But gaming commission investigators found that was untrue.
In fact, after the option was signed, Lightbody boasted to Bufalino: “We signed the deal yesterday,” according to a report prepared by the gaming commission’s investigators.
And later in December 2012, when he applied for a loan to buy the Revere Sons of Italy club, he said that he had a 13.5 percent interest in the Everett parcel worth $10 million in one year “due to Wynn’s purchase,” according to the investigators’ report.
As recently as October 2013, Everett’s mayor, Carlo DeMaria, told investigators he believed Lightbody, a friend of his, still owned a piece of the land and would profit if a casino were built on the site.
Last month, the Globe reported a US grand jury was investigating if Lightbody has a hidden ownership in the land. Lightbody, who has served prison time for assault with a dangerous weapon, also pleaded guilty in an identity theft ring in New York.
During the past year, Lightbody regularly updated the imprisoned Bufalino about Wynn’s efforts to win a license and build a casino on the land.
“We’ve got Steve Wynn in our corner,” Lightbody told Bufalino on December 5, 2012. “Wynn is supposed to start paying $100,000 a month starting December 14.”
Lightbody told his friend he was “kind of excited” as the deal came closer to reality.
“What’s the good word?” asks Bufalino on December 11, 2012. And Lightbody replied, “Waiting for Friday, Buddy . . . Friday is the day that they sign or don’t sign.”
Lightbody told Bufalino that he could not publicly be part of the land deal because the gaming commission would not allow Wynn to do business with a felon.
In fact, no convicted felon can make money from a casino, something Lightbody called “quite a shame truthfully.”
Said Bufalino, “Yeah, really, real rehabilitative . . . It certainly sounds like it’s unconstitutional.”
State gambling panel OKs revised casino land deal
Posted: Saturday, December 14, 2013
BOSTON — Four members of the state gambling commission signed off on a revised real estate deal for a proposed resort casino in Everett that would substantially reduce the price Wynn Resorts paid for the land and prevent anyone that might have a hidden ownership interest — including a convicted felon — from profiting off the sale of the property.
The panel’s chairman and fifth member, Stephen Crosby, recused himself from Friday’s discussion and vote after revealing that he was a friend and one-time business partner of Paul Lohnes, one of the principal owners of the land.
The new deal negotiated between Wynn and FBT Realty, which bought the former Monsanto Co. chemical plant site for $8 million in 2009, would lower the price Wynn would pay from $75 million to $35 million if the company is awarded the sole eastern Massachusetts casino license. An additional $10 million would be subtracted and placed in an escrow account to cover the costs of cleaning up the contaminated site along the Mystic River.
The $35 million was determined by an independent appraiser to be the fair market value for the land if it were sold for non-gambling purposes, such as a retail store.
The commission also required that Lohnes and two other sellers, Dustin DeNunzio and Anthony Gattineri, sign under oath a guarantee that no one with a concealed interest in the property would receive a financial benefit.
The commissioners made clear, however, that there was no evidence Wynn was aware of any hidden investors at the time of the original deal in December and that company executives acted promptly when investigators brought concerns to their attention in July.
The evidence was uncovered during a background check required of all potential casino operators in Massachusetts.
“What at first appeared to be a relatively direct transaction was revealed to be a complex web of questionable conduct by the sellers that required even deeper scrutiny as each layer of the transaction was penetrated,” said Karen Wells, director of the commission’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement.
According to excerpts of the investigative report made public by the commission on Friday, Charles Lightbody, a convicted felon, was one of two men who possibly had an undisclosed ownership interest in the Everett land.
The report included transcripts of recorded telephone conversations that Lightbody was said to have had with a Massachusetts prison inmate, identified as Darin Bufalino, during which Lightbody appeared to boast of his ability to quietly profit if the land was sold to Wynn for a casino.