Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) members voted to allow the Wynn Resort casino to move forward on its site in Everett, but not before MGC investigators said they believe Revere businessman Charlie Lightbody and Winthrop developer Gary DeCicco (Atlantis Marina in Winthrop and Fowler Marina in Revere) – both convicted felons – have a hidden interest in the proceeds from any sale of the property.
MGC investigators detailed that allegation at the Friday afternoon hearing, hanging their hats on a series of recorded jailhouse phone conversations between Lightbody and Darin Bufalino, an incarcerated and purported syndicate enforcer from Winthrop.
“We believe that Charles Lightbody and perhaps Gary DeCicco had an unspoken ownership in the property at and/or when the option sale was made to the applicant,” said MGC Investigator Karen Wells.
It has long been rumored that Lightbody – who formerly owned the property with a handful of business partners that tried to develop a Wal-Mart there several years ago – has an interest in the property despite not being on the paper trail.
Lightbody, for his part, has refuted those rumors in person and in print repeatedly – and has even testified as such to the MGC.
However, just this past month the validity of those rumors were confirmed when MGC Chair Steve Crosby indicated that the land deal in Everett was troubling to MGC investigators. Crosby followed that up by recusing himself from the Everett vote last Friday due to a conflict of interest with one of the land owners – Paul Lohnes, a former business partner of his some 23 years ago.
The remaining four MGC Commissioners voted unanimously to allow the Wynn project to proceed, however, after finding that despite a lot of alleged chicanery, the Wynn folks had no knowledge of the alleged underhanded deals.
“One important aspect of the…investigation was to conclusively determine if the applicant had any complicity or knowledge in the misconduct described above,” read the MGC report on the matter. “As noted, no evidence whatsoever was developed that suggested any involvement or knowledge of the applicant or any of its qualifiers, principals, or key representatives in the cited misconduct.”
As part of the hearing, Wynn officials noted that they had re-opened the option sale contract on the 35-acre Everett parcel and have re-negotiated the price from $70 million down to $35 million – so as to make sure that no unspoken interests will be compensated.
Commissioners, however, wanted to make a strong statement as to the alleged goings-on between the property owners and the inconsistencies found and encountered during the investigation.
Commissioner Jim McHugh called for the proceeds of the MGC investigation to be turned over to the U.S. Attorney, the state Attorney General and the Middlesex County District Attorney for further investigation and possible charges.
“This Commission cannot succeed in doing its work if people are not going to be candid with us,” he said. “It is intolerable to have people tell us things that aren’t true. It’s intolerable for people to hide things from us. It’s intolerable to have people behave in a way that requires us to chase them around to get the answers to simple facts. We’ve got to demonstrate that point early. We’ve got to demonstrate that point often.”
Additionally, McHugh said he wanted the owners of record to sign an affidavit under oath saying they are the only ones who will benefit from the proceeds of any sale of the property for a potential casino.
Lightbody and his attorney, Tim Flaherty, have told the Journal repeatedly that Lightbody was out of Everett prior to the Wynn option. They have said they got out of the partnership as early as August 2012, when another casino operator came knocking, but later backed out. Lightbody has said by the time Wynn came knocking, he was long gone.
That is backed up by a document drafted by the owners of the property – a document that the MGC believes was falsified – showing that owner Anthony Gattineri bought out Lightbody for $1.7 million given on a Promissory Note at 7.5 percent interest (a note that comes due in 2017).
MGC investigators, however, said that property owner Dustin DeNunzio admitted this past October that there was no date on that piece of paperwork, and that he went in and added the date this past July after being questioned about it by the MGC.
They believe Lightbody and DeCicco had an interest in the land long after Wynn had the option, and perhaps continued to have an off-paper interest up to the present. That idea was bolstered with statements made to the MGC investigators in October by Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria – a long-time friend of Lightbody.
“During the interview with [investigators], Mayor DeMaria indicated in response to…questions that Lightbody expressed that he was excited about the recent overwhelming approval of the Wynn Ma, LLC public proposal by the Everett voters and confirmed that in his opinion (DeMaria) it appeared he (Lightbody) was still involved and would financially benefit from the [land] transaction,” read the MGC report.
Meanwhile, the juiciest part of the allegations came in jailhouse phone conversations recorded for more than a year between Lightbody and Bufalino at a state prison. MGC investigators said, often, those conversations would move towards the Everett casino project – conversations that started as early as August 2012 and continued through December 2012. One excerpt from a December 2012 conversation included the following:
“So what they’re saying is any proceeds that come from a sale of a casino or a casino cannot go to a felon,” Lightbody said.
“Ahh,” said Bufalino.
“But the only good thing is, nobody knows who’s involved which makes it good because now I can just move on, you know what I mean? So basically they’re gonna buy me out and…,” said Lightbody.
“You need to move on, you need to double blind it. You need to triple blind it actually,” said Bufalino.
“Well, that’s what we’re doing,” said Lightbody. “We’ll see what happens. Staying clear of it, working on it now. But like I said at least we got a heads up on it. You know what I mean?”
“Ah huh,” said Bufalino.
“I’m sitting like a..” said Lightbody.
“You should be alright though, right?” asked Bufalino.
“Yeah,” said Lightbody.
“F(expletive deleted) ‘em,” concluded Bufalino.
MGC Commissioners said Lightbody had only been partially cooperative with them. Reached by telephone, Lightbody’s attorney said they couldn’t make a definitive comment about the allegations until fully reviewing them and looking at the context around the statements.
DeCicco appeared before the MGC in September, but asserted his 5th Amendment rights. In October, Gattineri appeared before the MGC and also asserted his 5th Amendment rights.