Club Owner, Short on bail, is accused anew - Gary Ostrow
Posted in the New York Forum
#1 Dec 27, 2012
A wealthy Miami nightclub impresario, already accused of murder and running with a vicious New York Mafia crew, also skimmed profits from one of his own trendy dance spots and burned down another to collect the insurance, federal prosecutors said yesterday.
The new allegations against the club owner, Chris Paciello, were raised at a hearing in Federal District Court in Brooklyn to discuss why he has not been able to raise his $15 million bail, despite the financial support friends and relatives had promised.
In January, Mr. Paciello was set to be released from custody after being charged in an indictment with murdering a Staten Island woman in 1993 while running with what the government has called a ruthless robbery squad connected to the Bonnano crime family. In the same indictment, returned in November, he was also accused of smashing his way into a Staten Island bank and making off with more than $300,000 in cash.
Yesterday, the government said that some of his supporters had backed out of helping Mr. Paciello raise bail, leaving him millions of dollars short. On Jan. 7, several people pledged money, including Sofia Vergara, a Colombian model and Spanish-language television show host he used to date, and his business partner, Ingrid Casares, a Cuban heiress who is friends with celebrities like Madonna.
Jim Walden, an assistant United States attorney, said yesterday that the equity Ms. Vergera offered in her south Florida home amounted to only $11,500 and added that Ms. Casares had not yet contributed the $50,000 she had agreed to give.
But Roy Black, Mr. Paciello's lawyer, said Ms. Casares had put up the money, and he told Magistrate Joan M. Azrack that Mr. Paciello's brother, George, would offer his house in place of those who had backed out. Mr. Black argued that his client should be released despite the problems, saying,''I imagine that the closing on the World Trade Center was easier than agreeing on this bail.''
Mr. Walden did not accept the offer from George Paciello and explained his refusal in a private meeting with Magistrate Azrack. At the hearing, Mr. Walden said there was ''a shifting sand of suretors'' backing Mr. Paciello's bail and argued that the original agreement should remain unchanged.
Seeking to bolster that claim, Mr. Walden filed court papers yesterday accusing Mr. Paciello of additional crimes, including hiring arsonists to destroy his South Beach nightclub, Risk, in 1995 and using the insurance money to open a club with Ms. Casares, Liquid, from which they allege he then stole hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The papers also said Mr. Paciello lied in connection with a lawsuit brought against him by Michael Quinn, a bodybuilder, who claims that Mr. Paciello struck him on the head with a beer bottle during a dispute at Liquid in 1996. And in the papers, the government said Florida prosecutors are expected to charge Mr. Paciello with trying to bribe an undercover police officer last year.
Mr. Black denied all the charges. He said prosecutors have accused Mr. Paciello because he had escaped from the working-class streets of Staten Island to become successful in glamorous Miami Beach.
Both sides are expected to return to court on Feb. 28 to determine whether Mr. Paciello's bail should be changed. Meanwhile, Mr. Paciello remains in federal custody.
Gary Ostrow Criminal Defense Attorney
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