Wilmington Woman's Club Ch. 63byParis Waterman©
Late May, 1990
It was a warm, sunny afternoon, Hines Wadsworth; a noted realtor was showing Conrad several properties on Wrightsville Beach.
"Wrightsville Beach is not your typical beach resort town. It's quite unlike Myrtle Beach, for instance. There is no carnival atmosphere — no Ferris wheels, no arcade, no mini golf or bumper boats, and only a few gaudy displays of beach merchandise. It's first and foremost an affluent residential community that has its roots in Wilmington. For more than a century, the 5-mile-long island has been a retreat from the summer heat for Wilmington residents whose families have maintained ownership of beach homes there for generations.
"The first large structure was the Carolina Yacht Club, built in 1856, which today is the second oldest in the country, after the New York Yacht Club."
Wadsworth pulled the convertible off onto the shoulder of the road to give Gentner the opportunity to gaze at the magnificent view of the ocean.
"It's something, isn't it?" he said.
Conrad nodded his agreement.
"You know, until 1935 a trolley system from downtown Wilmington to the beach provided the only land access to the island. Oh, up ahead... you can see we're coming to the northernmost end of the Island... that large building is Shell Island Resort. Some people consider it controversial because of its proximity to Mason Inlet.
"Since the 1970s development has increased at a rapid rate. As you've seen, many of the homes along the beach are considered to be prime examples of contemporary beach architecture. The choice lots are going fast and I'd say you really have two choices: build on the lot of your choosing, or buy a spacious condo in the Shell Island Resort."
"I've heard that there might be problems over time with the inlet. Erosion, that kind of stuff," Conrad said.
"We can't control Mother Nature, Mr. Gentner. But I can tell you this: there are enough prestigious owners in the Resort that whatever funds are necessary to cover dredging or the like to keep the ocean at bay will always be available. Several County Commissioners, two former mayors and a U. S. Senator all own units there. It has its own private restaurant and a lovely stretch of beach. All in all, it's a bargain at the price they're asking."
"Anyone in particular I might talk to about financing the deal?"
"There are plenty of sources, but I'd recommend Joe Marcolina local banker."
"Marcolina, you say, huh?"
"Yes, very reliable and capable."
"Well, let's have a look at one or two units, and then break for lunch."
"Yes, sir, Mr. Gentner, I know the perfect spot for that too."
The following day, Gentner held a meeting in Wilmington with the leaders of his drug cartel. The principal subject was Marty Piatkowski, and his bold attacks on their counting houses.
"Why can't we find the mother-fucker, Boss? Someone must know where he's holding up?" Chang Clobey said as he ground out a cigarette.
Vic, well tanned and looking good for someone in their late sixties said, "He stays under the radar. From what we can tell, he doesn't spread himself around. The last anyone reportedly saw him was at the card game in Jersey City the night he was released from prison. My guess is anyone he happens to meet with keeps it to themselves."
"Why?" asked Rowles a recently added henchman.
"You gotta ask why? Vic smiled. "It's because of who we are. We have a certain rep. A hard, well earned rep. People don't want to get involved with us." He turned toward Gentner. "Conrad, you know, it might be worth our while to salt some money out on the street. You know, no questions asked, just cash for the right services rendered."
"Do it," Gentner said immediately.
"Who do we know of might be a friend of his?" The Thin Man asked softly.
"Toughey," Clobey answered. "But I should also say he's being watched and so far ain't showed us nothing."
"We might ask him a little more forcibly," the Thin Man suggested.
"Do that too," Gentner spat out. "I want that Pollock's balls strung up on a barbed wire fence in Bayonne, where everyone knows him can see 'em."
A week later, Marty heard through the grapevine that Roger Toughey's body had been picked out of the Hudson River. It was evident that he had been tortured to the point of decapitation before dying. The police admitted they were puzzled and had no solid clues from which to develop a case.
"That's going to cost him," he fumed to Tuskegee Wilson and the others.
"Who else you think they might know about, Marty?" Wilson asked.
"I know it sounds foolish, but I can't think of anyone else they might think of. Roger and I went back a few years. The rest of you are new."
Marty turned to face the men seated at the table and asked, "Anyone here recall mentioning anything about me to anyone. And I mean anyone. I bet Gentner has money out for any information or leads on us."
The men were quiet and thoughtful, for they were no fools. They knew what Toughey had undergone before he died and none of them wanted a similar fate.
Big George Burns spoke up after a while, "We should go after one or two of his men."
"I know of two," Marty offered. "Chang Clobey and a guy named Vic.
"That the older guy? Spends most of the time in Florida?" Burns asked.
"That would be him," Marty said.
They realized that none of them had heard about him in recent months.
"Gone to ground, or just out there on the fringes?" Teddy Kunz wondered aloud.
"You know, Teddy," Burns said, "You may have something there. He may be semi-retired. Just does the odd job for Gentner."
"He may also be the number two in his organization," Marty offered. "We should be able to find Clobey. Let's concentrate on that. Maybe he'll tell us something before we throw him into the fucking Hudson."
It took a week and a half to locate Clobey. Harry Carson got a lead on his whereabouts. Wilson and Kunz subdued and brought him to Marty's hideout in a van.
Chang Clobey knew what was in store for him, and to his credit, didn't give up easily. But after three days of torture, he decided he was ready to die and told them what they wanted to know. Marty confirmed Vic's location and more about the heretofore unknown organization man, and only then did they put Clobey down.
They captured Vic in the garage of his Miami Beach front home. He was a man who lived alone, and they kept him prisoner in his home for nine days, extracting every piece of information they could from him then garroted him, leaving him with his head in the toilet.
Gentner learned about Clobey the day his body was fished out of the Hudson. When he couldn't contact Vic, he knew Clobey had talked. He also reasoned that Clobey didn't know all that much about the organization, but that Vic did, having been instrumental in setting it up along with Conrad.
His first action was to reinforce his immediate crew both in New Jersey, New York and of course his Wilmington base. His second was to request Klass Bruinsma's help. Bruinsma sent eight heavy-hitters to Wilmington that night. They all spoke English and were experts in their field, which was disposing of 'people problems.' Gentner assigned two of them to Sosnowski, Klouse, Mangin, and Rowles in order to maintain cohesiveness within his newly expanded organization.
Conrad Meets Joe, All Business
Four days later, Conrad sat down in a very comfortable leather chair and took in Joe Marcolina's features. He prided himself on being able to evaluate another man on first meeting them. He liked what he saw: a successful banker, confident and reassuring, but decided to test him before they got too far into Conrad's real purpose in coming to this particular bank.
"I understand we may have a mutual acquaintance in Barney Shapiro, (a very expensive lawyer in Miami, Florida) and Senator Barton, the Senator from West Virginia."
Joe Marcolina felt a surge of danger signals in his brain. "Yes, I'm acquainted with Barney and the Senator. Although I must say I haven't heard from them in some time now. Gee, it must be at least six months since I saw either of them."
The term 'six months,' was a code established with the men Conrad did his shady business with. It was Gentner's turn to provide the second part of the code.
"Six months, eh," Conrad said smiling and stubbing a cigarette out in the ashtray on Joe's highly polished mahogany desk. "Well they're just fine, Mr. Marcolina. I saw the two of them while golfing up at Greenbrier only three days ago."
Joe leaned back in his chair. Conrad had supplied the last part of the introductory code first established after meeting with John Gaudiouso.
"So, you have the good kind of money problems, Mr. Gentner?"
"It would seem so, Mr. Marcolina."
"Please, call me Joe."
"Fine, you must call me Conrad, then. Joe, I have some off-shore accounts. What I need is a means of laundering cash needed for my various businesses. I know I can buy a business and feed extra monies into them and thereby legitimize it. But I want to do it here in New Hanover County, not Miami or New York, understand?"
A moment later, he added, "Of course I'll want to do the same in New Jersey and upstate New York, maybe Delaware too."
"I understand perfectly, Conrad, and here's what I suggest. I assume you're talking fairly substantial sums here, is that correct?"
"Yes I am."
"Let's confine this conversation to the local area. I'm not familiar with the other areas you brought up. But New Hanover − I can manage that very easily." Joe's mind was racing. He knew of at least two viable businesses that would lend themselves to Gentner's needs.
"I should tell you I ask 20% of the total price involved in each transaction. So that, if say, you purchase a business for $500,000, I receive $100,000."
"You're certainly not cheap."
"No, but I am effective. You get what you pay for Mr. Gentner."
"Let me understand. I buy a business . . . ."
"Not just a business, Mr. Gentner. A viable business in which you can place a certain amount of money each week, pay taxes on it, as well as the actual profit the business generates. It has to be a business whose cash inflow cannot be monitored; or if it can, monitoring it should not be easy. You do not want to be caught trying to circumvent the normal reporting requirements."
"I suspect you already have something in mind for me," Conrad said with a flat smile.
"I happen to know of a bar and grill that's about to go on the market."
"That's yet to be determined. I think if I approach them, or have an intermediary do that, we can lower the asking price substantially. You know, make the deal quick and easy all around."
"There's a small scale amusement park already on the market in Myrtle Beach. It may or may not be what you want."
"Why is that?"
"It affords you many opportunities to launder money. But there is also some product that has to be accounted for. I mean a paper trail, and while the laundering could work well, there's the reporting ... that requires a bookkeeper, or an accountant you can trust. So while possible, there is a down side to it."
"I take your point. What about potential lawsuits from someone getting hurt on one of rides ... shit like that?"
"Part and parcel of the down side," Joe said and started feeling better about the meeting. He thought he could make a considerable amount of money with this Gentner fellow.
"Tell you what, Mr. Marcolina, why don't you put a list of recommended businesses together? I'll look at them and make my mind up on whether I want them or not."
Marcolina responded with alacrity, "Very good, Mr. Gentner."
"And while we're at it let's talk about an off-shore account or two."
Marcolina beamed, and replied, "VERY GOOD, Mr. Gentner!" He had been hoping Gentner was bluffing about already having bank accounts in the Cayman's.
Over the next twenty minutes, Marcolina outlined the steps required in order to transfer monies from the United States to the friendly banks in the Cayman Islands. Basically a dummy corporation would be established for Gentner, one with a history of activity. Joe had several such accounts and would have no problem establishing several more if need be.
"Again my portion of each transaction is 20%," Joe said confidently.
"That's too fucking high," Conrad spat out softly, but the menace in his voice took Joe by surprise.
"I assure you, Mr. Gentner it's the customary figure in such transactions."
"Don't Mr. Gentner me, you son-of-a-bitch! I'm talking big money. I won't be letting you siphon off 20% by hitting a couple keys on your computer. What's the bank charging on the other end?"
"I believe you'll find its 5% per month. There is no bargaining with them. It's a take it or leave it proposition."
"I notice you didn't put it that way for your end."
Beads of sweat appeared on Marcolina's forehead. He knew the man sitting across from him could have him killed should he so desire.
"No, I'm more flexible than the Cayman's."
"Good, how's ten percent sound? And before you answer, I'll tell you I'll be sending the Cayman's roughly $600,000 a week. That gives you a neat $60,000 a week. I'd call that good money any way you look at it."
"Ten percent it is, Mr. Gentner. When can we expect the first deposit?"
"Tomorrow afternoon, Mr. Marcolina; and may I say it's been a pleasure doing business with you. Oh, when can I expect those potential businesses?"
"Tomorrow afternoon okay?"
Gentner stood up and offered his hand, which Marcolina accepted and shook. "Tomorrow then, Mister banker man."