“There’s a secret world all around us. You just don’t see it unless you know where to look”
When Donald Trump’s campaign manager Steve Bannon was recently exposed for using a vacant house in Miami as his legal residence, he hastily changed his legal address to a beach house in Sarasota, Florida owned by a writer at his Breitbart.com website.
His hurried move— made more urgent by Trump’s adoption of ‘voter fraud’ as one of his signature issues— has unexpectedly given a gift that keeps on giving to investigators probing the financing of the newly-emergent “Alt-Right.”
America’s “most dangerous political operative”
Bannon, who Bloomberg recently called The Most Dangerous Political Operative in America, had repaired to a beach house owned by Andy Badolato, who claims on his website to be an “entrepreneur, senior level executive, venture capitalist and seed stage investor” who has founded companies with a market cap of $26 billion dollars.”
However an investigation reveals that Bannon’s buddy and roommate Badolato has long-time links to a nest of financial fraudsters that raise questions of whether money taken from investors through Badolato’s series of stock scams — which operated on an almost industrial scale—had been pocketed by financiers of the Breitbart.com-led “alt-right.”
Does anyone remember disgraced Republican Congressman Randy “Duke ” Cunningham?
Fleecing Haitian immigrants for fun and profit
Andy Badolato was involved in a stock fraud cum Ponzi scheme at a Palm Beach Gardens, Florida company, Industrial Business Ventures Group, (IBVG), where he was Senior Vice President of Corporate Finance.
Two of his partners in the scheme —Jonathan Curshen and Michael Muzio— are currently in federal prison. Both men were also involved, oddly enough, in the drug trafficking ring in St. Petersburg, Florida responsible for the ill-fated ‘drug move’ resulting in the biggest drug seizure on an airplane in Mexican history, 5.5 tons of cocaine, found on an American-registered DC-9 busted in the Yucatan in April of 2006.
Alt-right Sarasota beachcomber Badolato’s fellow Sarasota resident Jonathan Curshen was profiled in a story here last week.
“Curshen is the most intriguing. He is a dual citizen of England and the United States,” reported Off-shore Alert. “He resides in Sarasota, Fla., and Costa Rica. In Costa Rica, he serves as honorary consul for St. Kitts & Nevis. He also serves as honorary consul for “New Utopia,” a sham country that exists only in cyberspace. It publicly offers ‘citizenships,’ ‘national flags,’ ID cards and currency.”
A look at Badolato’s second partner in the scheme, Tampa resident Michael Muzio, exposes a checkered past and criminal curriculum vitae every bit as colorful as Curshen.
Muzio and Badolato’s company was involved in what was called “a classic Ponzi scheme,” made even more despicable because it targeted poor Haitian immigrants.
According to an FBI press release announcing Muzio’s conviction, the scheme “stripped $14.3 million from more than 600 gullible investors, most of them Haitian-Americans in South Florida and New Jersey.”
“Muzio issued false and misleading press releases,” said the FBI, claiming International Business Ventures Group had deals to offer pre-paid debit cards and pre-paid calling cards in Haiti, where the company also had exclusive rights to market pre-paid electric meters.
Muzio once complained to “colleagues” about how costly it was to run a stock scam, Palm Beach Business magazine reported. “He’s about to find out exactly how expensive it can be when you get caught.”
For his part in the fraud Muzio was sentenced to 163 months in prison.
Muzio may have been a little preoccupied
In what authorities like to think is a relatively unusual situation for a corporate officer, Michael Muzio also found himself the target of a Mob hit. Testimony in an extortion trial in Tampa named Muzio as the intended victim of a Mafia hit ordered by a business associate, Joseph Forlizzo of Queens, and Clearwater, Florida.
The Forlizzo brothers contracted Muzio’s murder, court testimony revealed, with Anthony “Pee Wee” Lanza, a captain in New York’s Genovese Mafia crime family.
“Pee Wee” was involved, according to the NY Daily News, in everything from prostitution, where he was running “a high heel-clicking stream of hookers reporting to the upper East Side headquarters of a mob-controlled prostitution ring,” to extortion, for threatening to beat a man to death if he didn’t pay up a Genovese crime family loan.”
Forlizzo, a chiropractor, had been partners with Muzio in a magnetic resonance imaging company in Clearwater. Deciding the partnership was unsatisfactory, Forlizzo took certain ‘measures,’ which became the center focus during his trial, which was filled with accusations of Mafia ties, hit men and extortion.
Testimony showed that Forlizzo and the “boys from New York” decided to kill Muzio and have another man, Philip ‘Philly’ Bova, of Largo, Florida, pose as Muzio to empty his bank accounts.
Court transcripts offered little explanation for why Muzio ‘needed killing,’ or ‘had it coming,’ two often-cited reasons for contract hits.
But when officers of public companies need key man insurance against the prospect of being rubbed out, business almost invariably suffers.
In a cautionary note, Tampa Mob expert Scott Deitche, author of Cigar Store Mafia reports that Pee Wee, after being convicted of extortion, died in prison.
“A troubled existence”
Andy Badolato’s companies have all floundered like unwanted babies flung off a cliff. But Industrial Business Ventures Group had a particularly troubled business life, facing problems most new concerns never encounter, like attrition, which became an issue when Muzio and three of the company’s officers went to prison at the same time.
Muzio, called “a Tampa businessman” in news accounts, was at the time on probation for a 2006 grand larceny conviction in New York.
“The Saga Ends In Jail” was the headline on an article by one stock analyst:
“The fact that the company has been involved in suspicious schemes should be of no surprise to people who have spent time to review the biography of the company’s management team. All three of them: Brian Taglieri, Abner Alable, and Ronnie Bass, are currently in jail facing their sentences.”
Initially, the trio started its business as an investment club called HomePals, based in North Miami Beach. In the spring of 2008, HomePals managed to strip almost $14.5 million from hundreds of Haitians living in Florida and New Jersey by means of a Ponzi-like scheme.
Then in July 2008, HomePals bought International Business Ventures Group, which until then was a public shell company. The larceny…involved pumping up IBVR stock price as much as possible and then dumping it on the public.
As his trial was about to start, Ronnie Bass, 36, of Delray Beach, pleaded no contest to 14 charges in connection with the Homepals Investment Club. He faced 20 years in prison.
Multi-tasking “hyena pack” big in stock fraud, drug trafficking
The real question is the one asked in “Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid:” Who are these guys?
In addition to Mob links, we will see hints of U.S. intelligence involvement. Does Steve Bannon have national security ties?
According to Bloomberg News, Bannon joined the Navy right after college, and then spent four years at sea, including working as a navigator in the north Arabian Sea during the Iranian hostage crisis. He left the Persian Gulf just as the ill-fated U.S. mission to rescue the hostages in Tehran, Desert One, died in the sands of the Iranian desert.
Bannon became an assistant to the chief of Naval operations at the Pentagon, earned a master’s degree in national security studies at Georgetown University at night, then headed to Wall Street, where he went to work at Goldman Sachs. There he worked on a series of leveraged buyouts, including a deal involving Bain Capital and Mitt Romney.
“The camaraderie was amazing,” he told reporter Jeff Goldberg “It was like being in the Navy, in the wardroom of a ship.”
The subject of rogue U.S. intel assets joining the Mob in widespread stock fraud warrants careful consideration. According to L.J. Kolb’s “Overworld,” an eye-opening account of growing up as the son of an American spy: “There’s a secret world all around us. You just don’t see it unless you know where to look.”