Thursday, July 24, 2008

Whatever Floats Your Boat

I’ve been wondering…

How much would we be reading about Domenic Rabuffo’s development on Big Ridge in Jackson County had it not been for his alleged mob connections?

And I’ve been wondering if the Village of Penland fiasco would have gotten more news coverage if Tony Porter and the Amelungs had been linked to the mafia?

I guess criminal activity gains more attention if you look like the Godfather and talk like Tony Soprano.

And that’s too bad.

Because there are plenty of dirty rotten scoundrels on the loose right now who should be doing hard labor for what they’ve inflicted on these mountains over the past decade. As time goes on, I see how mega-development mania would not have been so manic except for the fraudulent, unethical and criminal behavior enabled by the bankers and their cronies.

With banking regulation a thing of the past thanks to Washington goons like Phil Gramm, we’ve seen what the financiers are made of. The sub-prime mortgage mess gets a fair amount of press. Poor folks who couldn’t afford legitimate mortgages got screwed over, taken for a ride.

We’ve witnessed a somewhat different scheme play out at the Village of Penland and, it would appear, on Big Ridge. Likewise, as soon as I heard the grandiose plans for Cataloochee Wilderness Resort in Haywood County, I figured that the money to be made was from selling a mirage to the lenders, rather than selling real homes to real people.

It’s gotten way past tiresome to watch the shysters bulldoze and clearcut and kiss up to local officials and unveil their artist renderings and their blueprints and their site maps while babbling the latest catch-phrases about environmental sensitivity.

But that’s the kind of thing you expect from developers. If you go crawling around with rattlesnakes, don’t be surprised when one bites you. You can't fault a rattlesnake for being a rattlesnake.

I know. It’s naïve and unrealistic for me to think that bankers might be held to a slightly higher standard than developers. "Fiduciary responsibility" is a quaint and outmoded concept, isn’t it? On the other hand, bankers have always been suspect, which is why they needed to be protect them (and us) from themselves. Even so, I'm becoming more contemptuous of the bankers than the developers (as if there’s much difference), because I did expect them to be a little more scrupulous. (You can laugh now.)

Things might have turned out differently if not for bankers willing to loan $325,000 on half-acre lots (sight unseen). And when an episode like Village of Penland exposes the whole system for what it is, do the banks step forward, clean house and raise their standards?

Hell, no.

What we get is a circle-the-wagons response and more of the same. And, oh yeah, taxpayer bailouts of the banks.

One of reasons I followed the unfolding of events at the Village of Penland was because I knew it would be an instructive example of what we could expect here in Jackson County. That's what fascinates me about the Big Ridge revelations. Fulfillment of prophecy.

Mafia, schmafia. It’s not the Corleone, Gotti, and Genovese families we need to worry about. It’s the SunTrust and First Charter and Wachovia gangsters that are really dangerous.

Nevertheless, I will share a couple of tidbits about Mr. Rabuffo’s alleged mob connections. As mentioned earlier the Big Ridge developer was linked to Irwin "Fat Man" Schiff. If you’re so inclined, you can indulge your curiosity with these old news accounts from the New York Times:

Juicy stuff, if that’s what you want. Or how about this true-life drama from

Irwin Schiff was big 350 pounds and six-foot three. A 50-year-old con man and loan shark, he was connected to the Gambinos. He was involved in the talent agency business, boxing promotion field and investment business. He was also robbing the Genovese family by skimming money off the top of a money-laundering operation that was run by the family, through him, out of Atlantic City.

On August 8, 1987, he went to dinner with the wife of a friend. She was a beautiful blonde model called Judy Galip. They were dining at a very exclusive place, Sergio Bravo Ristorante at 1452 Second Avenue, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Just as Irwin was about to dive into the desert of his $90 dinner, a man walked up behind him in the crowded restaurant and shot him with a .25 calibre revolver at point blank range, in the head, twice. The killer was allegedly identified as Tony Rotolo, a 46-year-old Italian immigrant.

Finally, to get all this mafia nonsense behind us so we can focus on the actual bad guys in this case, I’ll share one more. maintains a database of boat registration information. According to their records, a 29.7 foot recreational boat with a gross weight of 9 tons goes by the name of IRWIN SCHIFF.

The owner listed for that vessel?

None other than DOMENICO RABUFFO!


Anonymous said...

this report leaves me speechless!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

and remember WCU has it's own HomeLand Security,,,
and Jackson County Sheriff Department has the swat team....
where is the protection for the home folks who live at Big Ridge before the invasion?

thank you for your work,,,,,,

GULAHIYI said...

Thank you for the feedback.

"Stay tuned" for more on this. We have some astounding stories in the pipeline.

Given time, I believe we'll be hearing a lot more about what has happened at Big Ridge.

I'm cautiously optimistic that the right people are asking the right questions. But time will tell.