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A man identified by federal authorities as one of Florida’s most infamous organized crime figures has won a $13 million verdict from a Miami federal jury in a civil racketeering case against his former business partners — one of them a Palm Beach socialite and former husband of Roxanne Pulitzer. Lawyers familiar with the case were stunned by the jury’s decision and hopeful that U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks will set it aside or deliver a directed verdict for the defense. “The jury verdict was contrary to the evidence,” said Aldo Beltrano, the West Palm Beach lawyer who represented defendant Harald Dude. “The judge reserved ruling on a motion for directed verdict. The judge invited a motion and brief to set aside the jury verdict. The judge ordered the parties to mediation. If mediation is unsuccessful, I am confident the judge will set aside this outrageous jury verdict.” The lawsuit was brought by Thomas R. Farese, 62, of Fort Lauderdale, a man federal authorities have described as a captain in the powerful Colombo crime family of New York. Farese was released from federal prison March 22 after serving six years in a federal prison for a money laundering conspiracy. In 1994, Drug Enforcement Administration agents had targeted Farese in a sting operation in 1994. In 1998, he pleaded guilty to charges that he agreed to launder $1.1 million through three strip clubs he held interests in: Club Pink Pussycat in Miami, Goldfinger in Sunrise and Club Diamonds in West Palm Beach. Farese was a partner with Dude in Club Diamonds and the shopping center where it is located. Dude was married to Pulitzer for four years, until 1999. Farese had previously served 14 1/2 years in prison for drug smuggling and, according to a report in the Miami Herald, was one of Broward’s leading drug smugglers in the 1980s. Farese spent much of his time in prison as a jailhouse lawyer. In 2000, he filed a pro se lawsuit in federal court against a list of defendants that included Dude and Dude’s many lawyers. He also filed numerous state lawsuits against the same defendants. The lawyers all settled, but Dude did not, according to Barry Roderman, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., solo practitioner who represents Farese. Farese alleged that Dude, with his lawyers’ assistance, fraudulently transferred assets and ownership of Club Diamonds and the strip shopping center to himself. Farese also filed a suit in 2003 against the U.S. government and Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Ray, along with Dude and a handful of holding companies. Farese alleged that Ray and the government entered a protective order in 1996 that barred the sale of Club Diamonds, but that the government “stood by in silence” as Dude sold off the club. That litigation is pending before U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas in Fort Lauderdale. Roderman said he is confident that all the smaller related lawsuits will be resolved now that “the big one” is over. Farese brought all the suits pro se, conducting depositions in jail, talking through a speaker in the ceiling. In April, just one month before trial, Farese hired Roderman and co-counsel David Goldstein, a Miami solo attorney. After a two-week trial, an eight-person jury found that Dude acquired an interest in Palm Beach Ventures, Mobile Management Corp. and Florida Ventures Inc., the companies that owned Club Diamonds and the shopping center, through “a pattern of racketeering activity, which included bankruptcy fraud and obstruction of justice.” They also found that Dude was associated with an enterprise “to conduct or participate indirectly in such enterprise through a pattern of criminal activity.” They awarded Farese $83,000 for violation of federal RICO statutes, $912,000 for loss of income and $3.46 million for loss of value of property. Under federal law, because the case is a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act case, the damages are trebled. “I have tremendous respect for the jury system, as the jurors were able to distinguish facts from a complicated set of circumstances,” Roderman said.

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