Weeks before Steve Wynn signed a deal to pay Everett landowners $75 million to build a casino on their land, Charles A. Lightbody bragged to his friend, jailed mob enforcer Darin Bufalino, that he was about to make a fortune.
“It’s gonna be a real home run if we can get the permits through,” said Lightbody to Bufalino, who was serving time in state prison for attempted extortion and conspiracy. ”You’ll own half the [expletive] city,” Lightbody said in Aug. 2012, hinting that Bufalino might be part of the deal, too.
On Friday, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted unanimously to approve a land deal designed to make sure Lightbody — a convicted felon himself — and other potential secret partners don’t make a fortune if Wynn receives the sole license to operate a casino in Eastern Massachusetts.
Wynn’s purchase price for the 29-acre parcel was reduced from $75 million to $35 million and the principal owners will be required to swear that no one else will make money off the sale. The owners — a group that originally included Lightbody though his name does not appear on documents — paid $8 million for the land just four years ago.
But Lightbody made clear in a conversation with Bufalino, whose taped phone conversations were subpoenaed by gaming commission investigators, that he would still profit from Wynn's casino — even if he got squeezed out of the land deal. He also detailed his plans to conceal his ownership from regulators.
Lightbody has bought an option to buy the nearby King Arthur’s strip club on Beacham Street if the casino is built, according to two Everett property owners.
“The other thing around the corner that goes with a casino I own,” Lightbody boasted in one of his conversations with Bufalino. “It’s the best thing you can have with a casino. There’s only two things, women and booze, right around the corner. [Expletive] locked it up. Locked up tight as a drum.”
Commission investigators could not determine whether Bufalino was in on the Everett land deal, too, but confirmed the two men are “close” and that Lightbody had deposited money in Bufalino’s prison canteen account
Before Lightbody’s ownership of the proposed Everett casino site was disclosed by the Globe last month, he was best known for opposing the casino project at Suffolk Downs; he was charged with punching a supporter.
The commission OK’d the new land deal agreement even after its investigators found that the owners of the land, FBT Everett Realty principals Dustin DeNunzio, Paul Lohnes, and Anthony Gattineri, deceived the commission by not disclosing Lightbody’s 12.5 percent ownership in the land — and by backdating documents to make it look as if Lightbody was out of the deal sooner than he actually was.
The board chairman, Stephen Crosby, was not present for Friday’s hearing. He announced he was recusing himself from any discussions of the land earlier this month after the Globe reported that he was once a business partner of Lohnes, who owns a 50 percent interest in the land.
Lightbody had claimed he disposed of his interest before Wynn signed an option to buy the land in December 2012. But gaming commission investigators found that was untrue.
In fact, after the option was signed, Lightbody boasted to Bufalino: “We signed the deal yesterday,” according to a report prepared by the gaming commission’s investigators.
And later in December 2012, when he applied for a loan to buy the Revere Sons of Italy club, he said that he had a 13.5 percent interest in the Everett parcel worth $10 million in one year “due to Wynn’s purchase,” according to the investigators’ report.
As recently as October 2013, Everett’s mayor, Carlo DeMaria, told investigators he believed Lightbody, a friend of his, still owned a piece of the land and would profit if a casino were built on the site.
Last month, the Globe reported a US grand jury was investigating if Lightbody has a hidden ownership in the land. Lightbody, who has served prison time for assault with a dangerous weapon, also pleaded guilty in an identity theft ring in New York.
During the past year, Lightbody regularly updated the imprisoned Bufalino about Wynn’s efforts to win a license and build a casino on the land.
“We’ve got Steve Wynn in our corner,” Lightbody told Bufalino on December 5, 2012. “Wynn is supposed to start paying $100,000 a month starting December 14.”
Lightbody told his friend he was “kind of excited” as the deal came closer to reality.
“What’s the good word?” asks Bufalino on December 11, 2012. And Lightbody replied, “Waiting for Friday, Buddy . . . Friday is the day that they sign or don’t sign.”
Lightbody told Bufalino that he could not publicly be part of the land deal because the gaming commission would not allow Wynn to do business with a felon.
In fact, no convicted felon can make money from a casino, something Lightbody called “quite a shame truthfully.”
Said Bufalino, “Yeah, really, real rehabilitative . . . It certainly sounds like it’s unconstitutional.”Andrea Estes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.