Philadelphia disc jockey Gerald “Jerry” Blavat is an organized crime sycophant who, despite his nefarious associations, has been able to get and keep a liquor license in Margate, Atlantic County. In his disc jockey patter, Blavat calls himself “the Geator with the heater” and “the boss with the hot sauce.”
Blavat has openly associated with members of the Bruno/Scarfo family for two decades and, in fact, even served as a driver for Philadelphia crime boss Angelo Bruno on occasion. According to former mob capo Thomas DelGiorno, Blavat is a close friend of whoever happens to be the boss of the Bruno/Scarfo family at any given time.
Although he is generally unknown outside the Delaware Valley area, Blavat has wide contacts in the entertainment world. Because of these contacts, as well as his friends in organized crime, he can open many doors in various walks of life.
Since 1974, Blavat has been the owner of record of a restaurant and night club in Margate called Memories where he frequently performs his disc jockey show playing “oldies” records. He also appears at other clubs in southern New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The financial arrangements for his appearances at the three other New Jersey clubs violated ABC regulations because he received all or a portion of cover charges in cash as well as a percentage of liquor sales. Such funds were not recorded on the books of the licensees either as income or payments. While the licensees were disciplined by the ABC, Blavat himself was never cited because its regulations do not apply to entertainers.
Blavat has allowed Memories to be used as a regular meeting place and hangout for the Scarfo family, contrary to ABC regulations. According to Thomas DelGiorno, in 1984 he had been assigned by boss Nicodemo Scarfo to murder crime family member Salvatore Testa but was having trouble setting him up for the kill. DelGiorno testified that because Memories was the only place Testa visited regularly and appeared to be relaxed, he asked Scarfo if he could commit the murder there. But he said Scarfo told him not to do it. Scarfo told him, “ ‘I use that. I go in there all the time. I meet guys in there. I don’t want to ruin the joint.’ ”
In a statement submitted to the Commission at the public hearing, New Jersey State Police Superintendent Justin J. Dintino, a nationally recognized expert on organized crime, said of Blavat:
Blavat was an associate to, and a chauffeur for, the late Philadelphia crime boss Angelo Bruno. He has also been identified as an associate to Nicodemo Scarfo. Throughout has professional career, Blavat has openly associated with members and associates of the Bruno/Scarfo family, including John Martorano, the late Frankie “Flowers” D’Alfonso, Joseph Merlino, Salvatore Merlino and Tyrone DeNittis.
Although Blavat has no criminal record, Commission Special Agent Grant F. Cuzzupe cited in detail his long association with organized crime figures, which has been extensively documented by surveillances of numerous law enforcement agencies over many years. This documentation leaves the Commission with no doubt that Blavat truly is connected to the Bruno/Scarfo crime family.
When subpoenaed to appear at a private Commission hearing, Blavat answered questions pertaining to his show business career and his licensed premises, Memories, but he invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege on questions regarding his organized crime affiliations. And when he appeared under subpoena at the public hearing, Blavat refused to answer all questions.
The testimony of Agent Cuzzupe established that Memories has been frequented by members and associates of the Bruno/Scarfo organized crime group, including Nicodemo Scarfo, Larry Merlino and Phillip Leonetti, and that the sons of Scarfo and Merlino were arrested on the premises “after a violent altercation.” DelGiorno confirmed that testimony:
Q. Did you ever go [to Memories]?
A. Yes, I did.
Q. Did you ever meet other members or associates of the Philadelphia family there?
A. We all hanged out there in the summer. We always went there, everybody, you know, everybody that had a place down the shore or everybody came down the shore. At one time during the weekend we’d stop over there to have a drink.
Q. Did you ever pay for your meals or drinks there?
A. No, not very often.
DelGiorno also described Blavat’s longstanding affiliation with the Bruno/Scarfo family and his close ties to its leaders:
Q. How long have you known [Blavat]?
A. I’ve known him a lot of years, off and on.
Q. Is Blavat an associate in the Philadelphia family?
A. Blavat was a friend of — started out from what I know of him — I met him when I was a kid. Then he surfaced again as a friend of Angelo Bruno’s, yes.
Q. Was he also a friend of Nicky Scarfo’s?
A. Later on, yeah, not at the — well he — he made — Blavat made friends as they came along. Like, if Angelo Bruno was the boss, he was Blavat’s friend. Scarfo was the boss, Phil Testa was the boss, he was Blavat’sfriend. Scarfo became the boss, he was Blavat’s friend. If one of these guys [pointing to the members of the Commission] becomes the boss, he’ll be Blavat’s friend.
Later in his testimony, DelGiorno elaborated on Blavat’s lengthy history with the family:
Q. How far back does Blavat’s association with the Philadelphia mob go?
A. Like I said I — I know of it going back to when Angelo was living. He used to hang out with Angelo.
Q. Was Blavat Bruno’s driver at times?
A. Oh, yeah, drove him around a lot, you know.
Q. During when?
A. During the early and middle 70s and late 70s.
Sworn testimony in other forums from ex-Bruno/ Scarfo members Philip Leonetti and Larry Merlino help substantiate Blavat’s relationship with this group. Leonetti, who was the family underboss prior to his incarceration, stated that Blavat paid $500 per week to Scarfo from the proceeds of Memories in exchange for protection from unionization. And Merlino confirmed that Local 54 of the bartenders union was kept out of Memories at Scarfo’s behest. DelGiorno corroborated Leonetti’s statements regarding the $500 tribute that Blavat paid to Scarfo.
In 1987, the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice filed a civil lawsuit against Blavat, alleging that he acted as a “front” in the purchase of the mentioned yacht for Nicodemo Scarfo. The suit alleged that proceeds generated by the Scarfo crime group’s criminal enterprises were used to purchase the vessel. During the public hearing, DelGiorno testified regarding the yacht purchase as well as Blavat’s bogus rental of Scarfo’s Florida home:
Q. Did Blavat assist Nicky Scarfo by acting as a front for him in the purchase of a yacht?
A. Yes, he did. He had —
Q. Let me ask you first, why did Scarfo select Blavat for that?
A. Well, he was the most legitimate-looking guy at the time from — you know, from a banker’s point of view and for that — you know, for the purpose of the loan he seemed the most legitimate-looking guy….
Q. And would you explain exactly how Blavat asisted Scarfo in the purchase?
A. Well, from the — from the understanding that I got from Scarfo, he just put the — went out and bought the boat and Scarfo gave him whatever down money that he needed and I think there was a mortgage on — mortgage of 800 or 850 a month and Jerry would write a check every month and pay that and Scarfo would reimburse him the money. I also think
and I’m not positive about this, but I think that he had told me one time that [Blavat] wrote that off on Memories as a — as a business deal….
Q. Did Blavat also assist Scarfo in a similar fashion with Scarfo’s purchase of a vacation home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida?
A. Yes…. This was explained to me by Scarfo and his attorney, Bob Simone, that Scarfo had purchased this home in Fort Lauderdale and the way that he did it was to put so much money down and then form a corporation that was supposed to be leasing this home to individuals as a vacation spot, and he had around three or four guys — that he had them sign a lease for like three or four months a year. I think that they were pretending that they were paying 3500 a month rent, and what they would do is come down to give Scarfo the 30 — well, they would give Scarfo a check for 3500 and he would reimburse them by giving them the cash and Blavat was part of it.
Q. Do you recall who any of the others were?
A. One was Bobby Stone and two other guys. I think — I really don’t remember the other two names. I think he had four of them that were doing three months apiece.
Q. Did Blavat ever actually visit the Fort Lauderdale home to make it appear as though he was renting it?
A. Oh, yes, That’s — that’s why it’s — that’s how the story came about of how he explained it to me that — I had been — it had been explained to me how he purchased the home but never with — who was actually, you know, pretending they were leasing it but one— one weekend we went down there and it was on a Sunday and we had — we were all in his house and Spiker or one of them was making spaghetti and meatballs, and he said that Blavat was coming and Blavat came into the place around ten o’clock or something, ten-thirty that morning, eleven o’clock. He came in, said hello to everybody. He went over — he went, sat down with Scarfo for a little bit talking to him. He went and he ate a meatball sandwich, came back to the table and said good-bye, so when he was leaving I asked Nicky, I said, “Where is he going?” He said, “Back to Philly,” so I said, “Wait a minute. You mean to tell me this guy flew to Florida to eat a meatball sandwich?” He said, “No, no, no. He comes here because he’s one of the guys that leases the house and he thinks that because he shows up that the surveillance will pick him up and if they ever ask him if he’s really leasing he could say ‘yeah’.”
Scarfo’s house and boat both have been repossessed by the bank. * * *
As an entertainer Blavat has used a variety of locations to generate cash through his corporation called “Celebrity Showcase.” In private hearing testimony, Blavat described this entity as the one “that handles Jerry Blavat, the entertainer. Celebrity Showcase is the corporation that books Jerry Blavat, and is paid, and then Celebrity Showcase pays Jerry Blavat a salary for his performance.”
But the benefits from these arrangements go beyond the simple collection of a paycheck. Blavat and his employees literally take over an establishment when he is there. To a large degree, he has been able to violate ABC regulations with impunity. For example, Blavat used now deceased Bruno/Scarfo soldier Samuel Scafidi as an overseer or floor manager during his shows at various locations. He also employed Scafidi’s son-in-law, John Hansen, as his head doorman. Because both men have criminal records, they are disqualified from working in licensed premises.
The Commission’s investigation determined that Blavat was booked on a continuing basis in some southern New Jersey licensed establishments, including the Ivystone Inn, later called the Betsy Ross Inn in Pennsauken during the late 1970s and much of the 1980s; Bubba’s in Pennsville in January, 1986; and Degenhardt Caterers in Mt. Ephraim from 1987 through 1989. Blavat’s performances at the Betsy Ross Inn were purportedly arranged through Bruno/ Scarfo associates Tyrone DiNittis and Carl Botzenhardt.
At some of these locations, the program was billed as “Jerry Blavat’s Memories West.” The lounge area at Degenhardt’s was even remodeled after Memories in Margate. Blavat testified in private hearing that he was paid “X amount of dollars plus the door” for the use of his name, likeness and performance at these various establishments. Confirming this, William Degenhardt, president of Degenhardt Caterers, testified that Blavat was paid $650 per night plus all proceeds from customer admission fees.
According to ABC Senior Inspector John Schmidt, who participated in surveillances as part of an Enforcement Bureau investigation of Degenhardt’s from January, 1988, to March, 1989, Blavat and his employees ran the lounge portion of Degenhardt’s and collected the proceeds from the cover charge. That revenue was not tallied in a cash register; nor was there any accounting for the amount of cash being collected. This money was turned over directly to Blavat, a practice that also violates ABC regulations. When Schmidt interviewed Blavat and Degenhardt, he asked what was done with these funds. Schmidt related their responses to the Commission:
Q. What statements did each of them make with respect to what was done with the moneys collected as the cover charge?
A. They both stated that the money collected as a cover charge was to go to Jerry Blavat, the entire amount. Mr. Blavat stated that he used that money to purchase advertising time from two Philadelphia radio stations and that was also what Bill Degenhardt stated that was told to him by Blavat.
Q. Do ABC regulations allow for money to be taken on licensed premises and not be processed through the licensee?
A. No, they don’t.
Schmidt verified through his investigation that Degenhardt’s was not maintaining true books of account pertaining to the cover charges. Blavat and Degenhardt admitted to Inspector Schmidt that they had agreed that Blavat would receive a percentage of liquor sales on nights that he appeared at the lounge, in violation of ABC regulations. He said:
It would make Jerry Blavat basically holding a beneficial interest in that license and that his compensation was based on the amount of sales conducted. It was over and above any reasonable salary paid to an entertainer.
Blavat had a similar agreement in 1986 with Bubba’s, which is no longer open. The owner and licensee of Bubba’s, Joseph Rappa, Jr., testified before the Commission regarding Blavat’s appearances at the bar and the collection of a cover charge as well as the payment of a percentage of liquor sales.
These cash transactions enabled Blavat to underreport his earnings. At the public hearing, former Bruno/Scarfo capo Thomas DelGiorno asserted that Blavat boasted to him that this was exactly the case:
Q. Blavat charges an admission fee at the various lounges where he appeared in New Jersey and he also had a cover charge at Memories. Did he ever tell you what he did with that money?
A. Oh, one time I had — let me put it in perspective. One time we had talked to him about not just the admission fee at the door but the conversation was about his whole business in general, meaning these disc jockey shows, and he had told me that that’s where he makes most of his money. He sometimes or most of the time gives the door so much money, a little bit of money, and the door has this fee and that he only reported a very small portion of that — of that door at these
when he was the disc jockey and at Memories and at wherever he had the door. That’s how he made his money; that, you know, the money they didn’t have to show.
Did he tell you what he did with a salary that he would receive from one of the lounges when he received part by check and part by cash?
That’s what I meant; that the door would be part of the salary and — whatever he received by check was not — was a small percentage of what he made that night, is what I’m trying to get across. Let’s say it was 25 percent and the other 75 percent had come from the door or from whatever else the guy gave him under the table.
The ABC Enforcement Bureau investigation of Degenhardt’s Caterers resulted in charges against the license, some of which were related to the business arrangement with Blavat. Degenhardt’s was also cited for Blavat’s employment of Bruno/Scarfo soldier Sam Scafidi and John Hansen, both of whom were criminally disqualified. Commission surveillances at Degenhardt’s corroborated that both Scafidi and Hansen worked on the premises during Blavat’s appearances. According to testimony by Joseph Trymbiski, who worked at the Betsy Ross Inn during part of the time period Blavat had his show there, Blavat told him that Sam Scafidi was his “eyes and ears.” Blavat himself admitted during the private hearing that he was friendly with and employed Scafidi. Blavat described Scafidi’s role as follows:
He just was there — Sam Scafidi was an old guy that had — just an old nice guy that hung around. I got guys that come to the clubs and hang and follow Jerry Blavat for 25 years that just like to be a part of that, and Sam was one of those guys that was — he was like a second father.
Q. What work did he do for Celebrity Showcase?
A. Really, just watched out for my interest to make sure that nobody was doing anything, cheating or anything like that.
Q. Can you give me some concrete examples of that?
A. He just was around me, that’s all.
Q. Was he on the payroll of Celebrity Showcase?
A. I think he was, yes.
Q. Specifically, what were his duties?
A. He’d be at the club to watch, see what I was doing, and watch to see that there was no problems at the club.
Q. How much was he paid?
A. That you’d have to check with the bookkeeper. I don’t want to give you the right price because I may be wrong. Celebrity Showcase, they would have that.
Q. Can you give us an example of a problem that he handled for you?
A. Well, he made sure that nobody was cheating, you know.
Q. Such as who?
A. Well, he’d watch out, he’d say to me — let me give you an example. If a club is in my name, Jerry Blavat’s Memories, even though I don’t own it, it’s got my name, and I want to make sure that because it’s my name, the people who come there are not — somebody is not cheating them with drinks and things like that, so he was almost like a friend and manager type who watched — he traveled with me. It was that simple.
Degenhardt’s made no attempt to obtain background information on Blavat’s employees, according to Inspector Schmidt.
DelGiorno verified Sam Scafidi’s membership in the Bruno/Scarfo LCN. However, according to DelGiorno, Scafidi’s employment with Blavat as a doorman was at Scarfo’s direction rather than as a result of any lifelong friendship with Blavat.
Q. Do you know whether Blavat ever employed any family members at either Memories or any of the lounges where he appeared?
A. He had Sam Scafidi working for him awhile.
Q. And Scafidi was a made member?
A. Yes, he was. I think he was from the Vineland area.
Q. How did it come about that Blavat employed Scafidi?
A. Scarfo told him to employ him, give him a job, you know.
Q. What was Scafidi’s function for Blavat?
A. I think he was a doorman more or less, you know, collecting money at the door and,you know — they had a lot of kids that went into that bar, you know. If there way any trouble he’d break the fights up and stuff like that.
The strength of the ABC Enforcement Bureau’s case against Degenhardt’s resulted in a non vultplea and a $1,000 fine, a penalty Inspector Schmid said he considered light.
Just as a comparative example, another establishment in the area, that business was— I would say it was considerably smaller and did considerably less business that Degenhardt, was charged with one count of employing a disqualified person along with a couple of other minor charges and they were fined approximately $8,000 eventually.
During the public hearing, Commissioner Barry
H. Evenchick asked Agent Cuzzupe if action had been taken by any governmental agency to revoke Jerry Blavat’s liquor license.
Q. Agent Cuzzupe, are you aware of whether any governmental agencies of our State have made efforts to revoke Mr. Blavat’s license as a result of the information about which you have testified today?
A. There has not been an effort at the local level. There have been investigations of Mr. Blavat in the past that resulted in penalties; however, the complete — the complete affiliation that he has had with organized crime had not been addressed by any agency.
Subsequent to the ABC investigation, Blavat and Degenhardt’s terminated their business relationship by mutual agreement. Blavat, however, continues to own and operate Memories in Margate and perform his oldies show throughout the region. In fact, although the Commission’s public hearing was in February and Margate officials were sent detailed information about the hearing, the city nevertheless renewed Blavat’s liquor license on July 1.