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Friday, November 22, 2013

THE FLAMBOYANT JAMOOK

I gotta' tell you, this David Friendland was a real jamook, an empty suit with a very big motor mouth. He could sell life insurance to your dead grandmother, he never shuts up. He's  flamboyant. He's a lawyer for Johnny Dee, that’s Johnny Digilo over in Jersey.   Now, the Genovese have been running the north Jersey unions since forever, and they make Johnny Dee Treasurer of the Longshoreman’s Local 1588 in Bayonne. Johnny is a little crazy sometimes, but he's a big earner, and between the pension skim and the protection, not to mention the loansharking, its a cash cow for the Genovese.  This Friendland is brought in by his old man when the kid graduates law school, back in 1961. Father and son are both Teamster suitcases, so it seems like the perfect deal, one hand watches the other - you know? But Friedland, first he's oobatz – he's crazy – and then he decides to become a politician. VORRE! Ucciderlo ma non voglio il problema
See, in 1966 Johnny Dee approves a one 'G' loan to this car wash goomba named Pereria. The vig is fifty small a week, until Pereria pays the principal. Of course he never pays the principal. And then a year later he borrows another 'G', same terms. Well, when the hundred a week reaches seven “G's', Pereria decides he's paid enough. Hearing this, Johnny Dee calls Pereria and says to pay up or he'll come down there and chop his fucking head off. This goomba Pereria panics and calls the cops. Now he's really in trouble. And when four of Johnny Dee's associates visit the Du-Rite Car wash, Pereria won't come out of the toilet. So the boys leave him a few messages. Pereria must have got them because, he suddenly develops amnesia in court. Case closed, right? Wrong.
The local D.A. has a hard on for Johnny Dee, and calls the goomba in front of a Grand Jury. Safe behind closed doors the goomba remembers again, and Johnny Dee gets indicted for racketeering. This is a problem. And that's where this jamook Freidland comes in. Its 1968 by now, and Friedland is still a suitcase for the Teamsters, but now he's also a state representative from Hudson County and the “quintessential New Jersey politician”. Flamboyant.  He approaches the goomba's suit and tells him, if Pereria doesn't take a $6,500 cash gift from Johnny Dee and drop the whole thing, then Johnny Dee is going to sue him, Pereria, for slander or liable or false arrest or something. Well, the problem is not that Pereria can't be intimidated. He signs the deal. The problem is, he has a record of not staying intimidated. So Friedland shows the cash to Pereria but then he puts it in his desk. He holds onto it until the goomba suffers another memory lapse in front of the new jury, and the charges against Johnny Dee are dropped.
Of course Friedland takes a fee for holding the cash. And the goomba's lawyer takes his cut. By the time the cash gets to Pereria, there's only like $2,500 left. You gotta love suits. What Johnny Dee did was extortion. What Friedland did was an out-of-court settlement. Anyway, the D.A. is so pissed, he brings ethics charges against Fried land and the Jersey Supreme Court suspends Friendland's law license for six months. He doesn't lose his seat in the Jersey House, of course. In Jersey, “Il diavolo protegge idioti e politici”. But Friedland is now on the Fed's radar.
All this is ancient history, before RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, named after some ancient movie gangster. Anyway, After RICO, in 1971,  the feds start prosecuting the family bosses. And knocking them off.   By 1979 they are down to smaller fish, indicting Friedland and his old man for taking a 360 “G” kickback for setting up a $4 million loan from their Teamster's local 701 pension fund. On Wall Street they call that a “finders fee”, business as usual. Across the river in Jersey, that's a RICO violation. In 1980 Friedland and his papa are convicted and the jamook has to resign his Senate Seat. Did I mention that he won a State Senate seat in 1978? Always, a Democrat, of course. This is New Jersey, after all.
Well, this jamook Friedland doesn't want to go to prison. So in 1982 he turns CW, a cooperating witness. He wears a wire. Now this could be a problem, a connected suit with a hard-on wearing a wire? Except everybody knows Friedland is a jamook, and he's facing serious jail time. Nobody is going to talk to him;. What strunz prosecutor signed that deal? So Friedland tells the feds a long and colorful story that leads pretty much no where, while disappearing into witness protection. And they ship him off to Miami, new name, new girl friend, new job. Now he's working for a mortgage company. Like nothing illegal ever happened in that business. Except six months later the same jamook sets up another loan with local 701 Pension fund, back in Jersey. Like he thinks the feds aren't going to be watching it anymore. Two years later he gets indicted again. And in 1986 he gets convicted again. And this time the feds are not interested in a deal. Friedland is going to have to do something really flamboyant to get out of this one.
So, he drowns. While scuba diving, 12 miles off Grand Bahama . And his good friend, skipper Jack Wynn, tells the Coast Guard he saw the jamook take pain killers just before he disappeared beneath the waves, with half an hour of air in his tanks. Of course Wynn does not radio the Coast Guard until the next morning. Il basterd doveva restare morto. You know what I'm saying? The feds are suspicious and don't think Friedland can hold his breath for long. And sure enough, a month after his demise the flamboyant David Friedland, jamook extraordinaire, reappears healthy enough to call his lawyer from beyond his watery grave and insist he is innocent. Which nobody believes that anymore, not even the jamook.
It turns out his timing was really good. Back in Jersey in April of 1988, Friedland's old boss, Johnny Dee, beats a racketeering rap. But his people in charge of the Teamsters local 701 are convicted. Not that the management goes clean, but the Genevese people, like Friedland, are forced out, and replaced by Gambino people. This is a problem for the Genevese bosses because of the loss of income, and they blame Johnny Dee. A month later, in May, they take Johnny Dee for a ride in a Lincoln Continental, where they put five .38 rounds into the back of his head. It made such a mess they had to scrap the freaking car.
Meanwhile, the jamook has picked up a hitch hiker, a smoldering brunette named Colette Golightly, who had previously dumped her cold Indiana optometrist husband for optimistic and sunny Boca Rotan, Florida. She becomes an underwater photographer, which is how she meets David Friedland. She now followed him from Miami, to Bermuda, to Kenya, to Switzerland to France to Venice, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Sri Lanka, with the cops half a step behind. And then for a year, the jamook and Colette disappear almost completely. Clean getaway. Almost because Friedland keeps popping up in various countries, like a whack a mole, just long enough to access bank accounts, before vanishing again. And then the feds get a phone call from a string of coral atolls out in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
The cops in the Republic of the Maldive islands had gotten curious about a flamboyant American resident named Richard Smith Harley. He was an avid scuba diver, and had even bought a half dozen local diving schools. He liked to have his picture taken with his students, feeding sharks, with fish held in his teeth. Flamboyant. He had even started a clinic on tiny Bondos Island, and everybody there called him “Pappa”. But what peaked the Maldive cops interest was that every couple of months Harley would get his American passport stamped when he flew out of the Maldives. But when he flew back a few days later, it was never stamped to show entry into any other country. It was like he was traveling into the Twight Zone. So the cops started comparing Harley's passport photo with the pictures on their alert sheets. And early in December of 1988, they found a match - David Freidland. Same jamook. A couple of days later Frieland was arrested, and at the end of December the feds brought him back to the states.
“Tanned and smiling”, the jamook tells the press, “I had a good time, but I'll tell you it's good to be back in the United States.” Apparently it was not good because he was coming home to his wife Carol, and their daughter, but because the smoldering Colette came back to be with him, if only on visiting days. Awaiting sentencing the jamook announced he had converted to Christianity, and tried to cut another deal with the feds. But nobody was impressed anymore. That's the problem with flamboyant. Over time the bilge tends to fill with water, until its not so buoyant anymore  It's just flam.
In 1989 the bars of the Correcitonal Complex in Coleman, Florida finally slammed shut behind the jamook. And they did not open again until July of 1997, when David Friedland was released from a West Palm Beach halfway house. The jamook told a reporter, “''I can't tell you the nights that I lay awake just crying, because I realize the opportunity I had to do so much good, and how I blew it.”'  He never stopped selling this stuff. He was by then about 60, and after working for a Florida advertising firm, he retired to Boca Roton, with Colette. And he finally learned to shut up.
Maybe the final word on the jamook belongs to Thomas Kean, who became the Republican governor of New Jersey, thanks in part to the deals he cut with the Democrat David Friedland. Kean described him as “He was one of the most brilliant people I ever worked with. He just was a bit crooked.” Just a bit, do you think? Another jamook.
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