By Seth Daniel
With all the drama and intrigue of what has been typical of the state’s foray into casino gaming, the federal trial of three alleged former property owners of the Wynn Boston Harbor site has played out over the last week with numerous twists and turns – and some heated testimony between attorneys and one Wynn official.
The trial got underway last Monday, April 11, before Judge Nathanial Gorton in Boston Federal Court, and after a full day, a panel of 14 jurors were sworn in to try to make heads or tails of who knew what, when they knew it and just what all of it meant. Most of the jury, interestingly, seemed to trend to a younger demographic and was predominately white – with two minorities observed.
The trial is on a track for 14 days, but some sources indicated it could be cut far short as the long witness list was growing shorter as the days went by – with one of the witness casualties being Wynn executive Matt Maddox, who was suddenly sent home on Friday morning.
Dustin DeNunzio of Cambridge, Charlie Lightbody of Revere and Anthony Gattinieri of Winchester were all associated with FBT Everett – the former company that owned the Wynn site. All three men were indicted in the fall of 2014 and charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and aiding and abetting. A state Grand Jury also returned indictments of the three men on charges of impeding a gaming investigation, conspiracy and tampering with evidence.
One other property owner in the partnership, Paul Lohnes, was not charged.
The long and short of the matter is whether Lightbody – who is a convicted felon – was out of the ownership by the time the December 2012 option agreement with Wynn was signed. It is also alleged that he may have had a secret interest afterward that was allegedly revealed in jailhouse conversations with his friend, Darin Bufalino, who was convicted in unrelated organized crime violations.
However, a larger issue that has surfaced was whether or not he actually had to be out of the deal, and whether the gaming law specifies a felon cannot sell land. In sworn testimony, one Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) official indicated there is nothing in the law to prohibit such things.
After opening statements on Tuesday, the fun began on Wednesday with witnesses such as Karen Wells, the former chief of the MGC’s Investigation and Enforcement Bureau (IEB). During that testimony, according to several media outlets – including Commonwealth Magazine, Wells said there was nothing in the gaming law to prevent a convicted felon from selling land.
She indicated that she became suspicious about Wynn being involved in the cover-up of Lightbody’s ownership and investigated the matter, eventually concluding that Wynn had no knowledge of Lightbody. The matter was brought to light for Wells after a story appeared in the Boston Business Journal regarding Gary DiCiccio and, later, in the Boston Herald, about Charlie Lightbody.
During cross-examination, Wells admitted that there isn’t anything in the law that would really have prevented Lightbody from being part of the selling group.
“Historically, there is a known association between organized crime and the gaming industry,” Wells said, according to Commonwealth. “Confidence in the licensing process is the paramount policy objective of the statute. There were conversations that, when I heard them, there was a concern there was an attempt to conceal Charles Lightbody’s ownership of the land… My concern was if Wynn Resorts was given the license, these folks would obtain a casino premium for the property and it would be profiting folks that were engaged in such questionable conduct.”
Later, on Thursday, Gaming Commissioner Gayle Cameron was called to the stand. Additional witnesses included public relations expert Nancy Sterling of ML Strategies and Real Estate Attorney Daniel Gaquin.
On Friday, the highlight in the early going of the trail came when it was expected that Wynn’s Maddox and Wynn Legal Counsel Kim Sinatra would testify.
However, at the outset, Maddox was waved off and, potentially, sent home. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said it didn’t plan to call Maddox, throwing the defense for a loop – with one defense lawyer indicating he might call Maddox back later in the trial.
Instead, Sinatra was called to the stand, where she was peppered with questions for nearly three hours.
It had been alleged by a cooperating witness in the case that DeNunzio, the cooperating witness, Maddox and Sinatra took a walk-through of the property in November 2012. During that visit, in a construction trailer, DeNunzio was alleged to have mentioned Lightbody’s ownership interest – saying it was all taken care of.
That was at the heart of the dispute in Sinatra’s questioning, especially by DeNunzio’s attorney, Joshua Levy.
Sinatra told prosecutor Ted Merritt that she had never heard DeNunzio tell her of Lightbody in the trailer, and that the issue first surfaced in December 2012 when the Boston Business Journal asked for a comment on whether Gary DiCiccio – a Winthrop developer associated with DeNunzio – was an owner of the land.
“The name asked about was Gary DiCiccio,” she said. “I had not heard that name. I called Dustin. I told him someone had called for comment about the owners of the land and asked if Gary DiCiccio was part of the ownership. He said ‘no.’”
She indicated she was first informed of Lightbody by the IEB in July 2013 when its investigation was being conducted.
“They asked me if I knew who he was,” she said. “I didn’t. They made it clear during the conversation…they had concerns about the ownership of the land.”
She said she had her corporate investigator run a simple background check on Lightbody after that conversation.
Things got more interesting under cross-examination by Levy.
Sinatra was careful with her words as Levy questioned her.
“Am I reading that right?” Levy said to her under questioning regarding an e-mail.
“You read what you read right,” she said, indicating nothing more could be “read” into the words.
At one point, Levy got to the heart of the matter and pressed Sinatra on whether she knew Lightbody was in the deal, and whether she had asked DeNunzio who the owners were.
To get to that one answer, which never actually came, took more than 30 minutes and required the judge to compel her to answer or say she didn’t know.
“Was he still in the deal on Dec. 14?” Levy asked.
“I don’t know,” Sinatra said.
As Levy looked for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, Sinatra was determined not to give that answer, saying it was much too complicated for a simple answer.
“Yes or no, answer the question,” he said.
“I don’t know,” she said.
“She’s a highly trained lawyer and knows the substance of the question,” Levy pleaded with the judge.
That led to more “I don’t knows.”
“I clearly asked about something because we had the question about DiCiccio,” she said.
“You’re really fighting this,” Levy said.
“I asked a portion of that question (who owned the property), if not the entire question,” she said. “Unfortunately, the universe is not 100 percent…There were a lot of conversations.”
In the end, Sinatra seemed to be indicating that it was a highly complex transaction and she expected and thought she was getting the truth from DeNunzio. She said she never expected him to be misleading her.
“I had a denial from my contact with the ownership that this guy (Lightbody) wasn’t involved,” she said.
“Not involved or never involved?” asked Levy.
“This is a big transaction in a very sophisticated business and if I ask a question, I expect to get the truth,” she said. “As I sit here today, I don’t know.”
The trial took the day off on Monday, April 18, and resumed with more witnesses on Tuesday and today, Wednesday.
On Monday, interestingly, the U.S. Attorney filed a sealed motion regarding the defendants with two exhibits. It was uncertain what that motion might regard and it was not public information.
Lightbody’s attorney, Charlie Rankin, was not immediately available for comment after a request from the Independent.