The Whistler

The Whistler

Book - 2016
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j
jimg2000
Apr 25, 2018

St. Augustine was billed as the oldest city in America, the very spot where Ponce de León landed and began exploring. Long on history and heavy on tourism, it was a lovely town with historic buildings and thick Spanish moss dripping from ancient oaks.
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As lawyers, they valued their time. As investigators, they had learned patience. The two roles were often in conflict.
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I’m legit, or as legit an any ex-con can be, and every word I’m saying is true.”
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And the story I can tell you involves more dirty cash than all the others combined. It also involves bribery, extortion, intimidation, rigged trials, at least two murders, and one wrongful conviction. There’s a man rotting away on death row an hour from here who was framed. The man responsible for the crime is probably sitting on his boat right now, a boat much nicer than mine.
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“Ever hear of the Catfish Mafia?”

j
jimg2000
Apr 25, 2018

“When do we get his name?” Hugo asked. “You’re assuming it’s a male.” “We’re not assuming anything.” “That’s a good way to start.”
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“So, your story involves organized criminals, Indians who own casinos, and a crooked judge, all in bed together?” “That’s a fair summary.”
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He needed more staff but there was no money. His six investigators—four in Tallahassee and two in Fort Lauderdale—were working an average of fifty hours a week, and almost all were secretly looking for other jobs.
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Once a heavy smoker—a good portion of the smoke-stained windows and ceilings could be blamed on her—she had been battling lung cancer for the past three years but had yet to miss a full week of work.
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“So this guy’s a crook?” Geismar asked. Hugo said, “He’s certainly a convicted felon, but he’s served his time, paid his dues, and is now an upstanding member of our bar, same as the three of us.”

j
jimg2000
Apr 25, 2018

There was once a Dixie Mafia, a Redneck Mafia, a Texas Mafia, all similar gangs of thugs. It looks like most of them were long on legend and short on criminal efficiency. Just a bunch of Bubbas who liked to sell whiskey and break legs. Not one word anywhere of a so-called Catfish Mafia, or a Coast Mafia. Not to say it doesn’t exist, but I found nothing.
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At thirty-six, she wondered every day if she would ever hold a child of her own. She didn’t have the answer, but as the clock ticked she worried that her chances were getting slimmer.
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The tribe was violently split over the issue of casino gambling. The opponents were led by an agitator named Son Razko, who was a Christian and opposed gambling on moral grounds. He organized his followers and they seemed to be in the majority. The proponents of the casino promised riches for all—new homes, lifetime pensions, better schools, free college tuition, health care, the list went on and on.

j
jimg2000
Apr 25, 2018

“Where’s the corruption?” Lacy asked. “Everywhere…”
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We are dealing with sophisticated crooks who have excellent lawyers.
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Xxyyzz sold her soul to the devil to get elected and she’s been getting paid ever since.
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In America, Indians don’t pay taxes on casino profits. The Tappacola didn’t want to share. The county felt jilted, especially after going to all the trouble of building a spanking-new four-lane highway that runs for over seven miles. So the county pulled a fast one and convinced the state legislature to allow it to collect tolls on the new road.
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“So to summarize the case so far, our target, Judge Claudia McDover, takes bribes from thugs, skims casino cash from the Indians, and somehow launders the money with the help of a very close friend who happens to be an estate lawyer.

j
jimg2000
Apr 25, 2018

Only California had more men on death row than Florida. Texas was a close third, but since it was more focused on keeping its numbers down its population was around 330, give or take. California, with little interest in executing people, had 650. Florida longed to be another Texas, but its appellate courts kept getting in the way. Last year, 2010, only one man was lethally injected at Starke.
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Each prisoner was kept in solitary confinement for twenty-three hours a day. The other hour was for “recreation,” a chance to walk around a small, grassy area and look at the sun. Each cell was six feet by nine, with a nine-foot ceiling. Each bed was smaller than a twin-size and just inches away from a stainless steel toilet. There was no air-conditioning, no cellmate, almost no human contact except for the usual chatter from the guards at feeding time.
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Imagine being a kid and your mother gets murdered. Everybody says your father did it and they send him to death row.

j
jimg2000
Apr 25, 2018

When a Tappacola turns eighteen, he or she qualifies for a lifetime pension of $5,000 a month, and that might go up. It’s called the dividend. Even me, sitting here on death row, I’m collecting the dividends.
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Every Tappacola gets free health care, free education, and college expenses if he or she wants it.
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His hesitancy suggested he was struggling not with the truth but with which version of it.
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“Depends on how hard you dig.”
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Over the years they had settled into a civilized relationship of mutual distrust, with each playing a well-defined role.
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Diamonds and jewelry are especially easy to smuggle out of the country. Cash can also be shipped by regular overnight parcel delivery to anywhere in the world, especially the Caribbean.

j
jimg2000
Apr 25, 2018

Bribes really weren’t necessary in their part of the country. Take any form of growth, from high-end gated communities to low-end shopping centers, fix up a slick brochure filled with half-truths, label it “economic development” with the promise of tax revenue and jobs, and elected officials reached for their rubber stamps. If anyone mentioned environmental issues, or traffic or crowded schools, they were dismissed as liberals or tree huggers or, much worse, “northerners.”
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The idea of an extra unit had been perfected by a legendary Florida developer nicknamed Condo Conroy. In the rush and fury of throwing up an ocean-side tower, plans were modified on the fly, walls moved here and there, and the result was an extra condo the zoning board knew nothing about.
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I’d rather steal money than earn it. You, on the other hand, were pure, but the ease of your conversion to the dark side was astonishing.

j
jimg2000
Apr 25, 2018

The truth was that, at the age of thirty-six, Lacy was content to live alone, to sleep in the center of the bed, to clean up only after herself, to make and spend her own money, to come and go as she pleased, to pursue her career without worrying about his, to plan her evenings with input from no one else, to cook or not to cook, and to have sole possession of the remote control. About a third of her girlfriends were young divorcées, all scarred and wounded and wanting no part of another man, not for the moment anyway. Another third were stuck in bad marriages with little hope of getting out. And the rest of her girlfriends were content with their relationships and either pursuing careers or having children.
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In Florida, we have entered into treaties with all casino operators, and this allows us to collect a small tax on their profits. Very small, but it adds up. There are now nine casinos and they are all doing quite well.

j
jimg2000
Apr 25, 2018

“Native American” is a politically correct creation of clueless white people who feel better using it, when in reality the Native Americans refer to themselves as Indians and snicker at those of us who don’t, but I digress).
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BJC was down to its last six investigators. Seven, in a state of twenty million people, with a thousand judges sitting in six hundred courtrooms and processing a half a million cases a year.
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As a sovereign nation, the Tappacola make and enforce their own laws, with no real regard for outside interference. The tribe has a constable who operates much like a county sheriff, and a full force of cops, all apparently well trained and equipped.
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The casino has lifted us out of poverty and given us nice things, so that’s a positive, a big one. We are healthier, happier, secure. There’s a certain satisfaction in watching outsiders flock in here and hand us their cash. We feel like we’re finally getting something back, perhaps a bit of revenge.

j
jimg2000
Apr 25, 2018

“If life is more prosperous, why aren’t there more children?” “Stupidity. The council is dominated by idiots and they make bad rules. When a woman turns eighteen, she is entitled to the monthly check, which has been $5,000 for many years now. But if she marries, then it’s cut in half. I get $5,000; my wife gets $2,500. So, more and more of our young women frown on marriage.
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This is Indian land, Ms. Stoltz, and all the rules that govern an orderly society, all the things you believe in, simply don’t apply here. We govern ourselves. We make the laws. Neither the State of Florida nor the federal government has much say in what we do, especially when it comes to running the casino.
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A formal complaint has been filed alleging some bad behavior by a circuit court judge. It involves a developer who’s apparently in bed with a tribe and its casino and a judge who’s sharing in the profits.

j
jimg2000
Apr 25, 2018

In case you don’t know, there’s virtually no security with private jet travel. No scanners for bags or body searches. I guess the smart guys at Homeland Security figure rich people have little interest in blowing up their own jets en route.
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In her world, every phone could be tapped, every stranger could be watching, every letter could be violated, every e-mail could be hacked. But she wasn’t paranoid and did not live in fear. She was only cautious, and after years of practice her caution was second nature.
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Two and a half hours after leaving Florida, the jet touched down at Teterboro, New Jersey, home to more private aircraft than any other airport in the world.
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When times were good and money was cheap, he borrowed heavily, built like a maniac, and burned through cash like it would never end. When the market turned against him, he hid from the banks and unloaded assets at fire-sale prices.

j
jimg2000
Apr 25, 2018

When he was down he never stopped betting on a brighter future, and when he was up he choked on the money and forgot about the bad times.
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“Why? Hugo wouldn’t know if you showed up or not. Funerals are such a waste of time. Nothing but a show for the living. The dead don’t care. The trend now is not to have a funeral, but a ‘celebration.’ To celebrate what? The dead guy damned sure ain’t celebrating.”
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With her slick head, stitches, bruises, and puffy eyes and cheeks, she felt like an extra in a cheap monster flick.
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The vicious blow to her face as the air bag a foot away detonated and shot forward at two hundred miles per hour, saving her life but doing its share of damage.
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“Have you had dinner? The cafeteria has some frozen sandwiches that were made at least two years ago and taste like roofing shingles. They’re hard to recommend but I’ve eaten three and I’m still alive.”
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“His father raised him, not me.”

j
jimg2000
Apr 25, 2018

I don’t want to be your partner, but in many respects we are joined at the hip. If there’s a leak in the dike, I need to know it.
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He’s got a wife and three kids and his life is pretty good, even without his cute little constable’s uniform. There’s too much at stake for him to find religion at this point.
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When a vehicle is stolen like that, the policy becomes void, at least as far as liability.
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Our world revolves around judges who’ve cracked up and done stupid things. They violate ethics, but rarely break laws.
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Right now he’s not thinking about a little graft at an Indian casino. He’s probably not going to be too impressed with a car wreck that could’ve been something else. No, these days we’re fighting terror. We spend our time tracking sleeper cells and American teenagers who are chatting with jihadists and homegrown idiots who are trying to assemble the ingredients to make bombs.

j
jimg2000
Apr 25, 2018

He’d been around, had long hair, hard features, and a full collection of cheap prison tattoos.
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A murderer, yes, but a small fish as far as we’re concerned.
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We never forget that we were twenty-four hours late at 9/11.
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“There are a lot of secrets. I just don’t know them yet.”
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You have my word and that’s all I can control.
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According to an article on a science site, forensic technicians are now able to test a suspect’s DNA in two hours, quick enough for the police to ram it through their crime databases and determine if the man in custody has committed the crime in question, as well as others. As recently as five years earlier, the testing took between twenty-four and seventy-two hours, enough time for the suspect to post bail and walk out of jail.

j
jimg2000
Apr 25, 2018

“That’s incredible.” “Indeed it is. The technology is changing rapidly, and we think that within two years detectives at the crime scene will be able to check blood and semen with a handheld device. It’s called DNA testing on a chip.”
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“Stand up. You’re under arrest for capital murder.” “You gotta be kidding.” “Oh sure, this is just a comedy routine. Stand up and put your hands behind your back.”
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We’ll place you in witness protection, set you up in a nice apartment far away, some place like California, give you a new name, new papers, new job, new life. Your past will be forgotten and you’ll be as free as a bird. Otherwise, you’re headed for death row, where you’ll rot away for ten, maybe fifteen years until your appeals run out and you get the needle.
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He carried two cell phones and used two landlines, one at his office and one at home. Three hours after Zeke left Florida, FBI agents were listening to all four phones.

j
jimg2000
Apr 25, 2018

“There’s no such thing as complete trust, Judge. And it’s often the one you trust the most who’ll cut your throat for the right price.” “You should know about these things.” “Damned right I do. Keep an eye on her, okay? Trust no one.” “I don’t trust anyone, Vonn, especially you.” “Attagirl. I wouldn’t trust me either.”
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“I’m not sure I believe that anymore. At any rate, gotta run. Be careful, Lacy.” The call ended and Lacy stared at the cheap phone, expecting more.
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He breathed deeply and looked into the eyes of the agents, desperate for help. An innocent man might have already protested.
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His billboard image was that of a well-dressed young lawyer with a thin waist and plenty of hair, obviously Photoshopped for advertising and ego purposes. In the flesh, he wore a wrinkled suit that stretched around a belly, and wild hair that was both graying and thinning.
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“He’ll need ten lawyers.” “True, but he can’t hire them. All of his accounts will be frozen.”

j
jimg2000
Apr 25, 2018

He was a good lawyer who could have been much better if he had stayed away from the dark side. He loved to handle sleazy divorces and criminal cases that involved drug dealers and bikers. He hung out with shadier men who ran strip clubs and bars along the Panhandle.
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…a few of the rules were laid out. They were basic and amounted to (1) do what you’re told; (2) keep your mouth shut; (3) trust no one but us; (4) keep your eyes open and don’t ever forget that you’re breaking the law; and (5) never snitch because snitching can be fatal for you and your family. Loyalty was demanded, and in return Clyde would make a lot of money. He had no problem with the rules.
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Clyde left the Surfbreaker a free man, free in the sense that he wore no handcuffs nor ankle chains. But he had left his soul up there in the Dolphin Suite, all duly recorded on film and filed away to torment him later.

j
jimg2000
Apr 25, 2018

“So you shoot first and ask questions later,” Lacy said. “Something like that. And keep in mind, we can always amend an indictment. We can always add or dismiss defendants. It’s a massive investigation and it’ll take a long time to sort through it, but we plan to hit hard and get everybody locked up before they can tamper with evidence. I’m starving.”
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Dunes clubhouse for breakfast and Bloody Marys. The mood was always lighthearted, free-spirited, even boisterous. For men in their sixties and seventies, it was playtime with no women around. They were about to spend five hours on a beautiful course, drinking beer, smoking fine cigars, gambling on every hole, cheating when possible, cursing at will, telling raunchy jokes, and doing it all without the interference of caddies or other golfers.

j
jimg2000
Apr 25, 2018

The conspiracy was destroyed.
The syndicate was busted.
The corruption was exposed.
The criminals were in jail.
The notion of justice was alive.
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He would reach back to the beginning of each business and company and reconstruct accurate accounting records. With the aid of forensic accountants, he would attempt to weave together the money trails that tied the enterprises together and track them to the syndicate. Working with the FBI, he would attempt to penetrate the maze of offshore companies set up by Dubose and discover the assets of each. Most important, the receiver would handle the forfeiture, or sale, of all of the properties linked to the Dubose syndicate.
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“So I get to meet the Whistler?” he asked. “Live and in person.” “I can’t wait.”

j
jimg2000
Apr 25, 2018

The casino never closed, not even on Christmas Day, and its slowest hour was 5:00 a.m. At that time every day, armed guards collected the cash boxes, put them on a cart, and replaced them with empty boxes. They were taken to a fortified room—the official “count room”—where a team of four professional counters—the “count team”—went through each box. Each counter had a security guard standing behind him or her, and a camera directly above. Each box was counted four times. There were usually around sixty cash boxes. Prince’s mission each morning was to remove box number BJ-17 from the highest-grossing blackjack table.
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In a prepared text, he lashed out at her “astonishing greed,” her “sickening dishonesty,” her “cowardly betrayal” of the trust given to her by the voters. A stable society is built on notions of fairness and justice, and it’s left to “judges like you and me” to make sure all citizens are protected from the corrupt, the violent, and the forces of evil.


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