“What do I have to hide?” Jason scoffed. “I’m not doing anything illegal.”
Much of this self-deluding assessment was based on the contract Jason, utilizing his best Nova U. legalese, worked up between himself and the NY Confidential escorts. The document, signed by all the girls, stated they were “specifically forbidden” to have sex with the clients. Itzler showed the contract to Mel Sachs, the floridly attired defender of Sante Kimes, Mike Tyson, and, more recently, the pint-size exhibitionist-rapper Lil’ Kim. Sachs made a couple of adjustments and said the contract passed muster, which was just what Jason wanted to hear.
“I’m bulletproof. Rich people don’t go to jail,” Jason proclaimed. He was certain that if anything came up, Sachs and Bergrin, a former Army major, could handle it. “Mel’s my personal Winston Churchill, and Paul’s the tough Marine general,” Jason rhapsodized, either unaware or not caring that Bergrin is currently under federal investigation for his alleged part in the death of a police informer slated to testify against one of his drug-dealer clients.
“Mel became my best friend,” says Jason, always impressed by a man in a fancy suit. “He was always in my place. We all loved Mel.” Asked about these visits, Sachs, after some deliberation, said, “Well, Jason is a personable guy. I liked talking to him. It was an interesting place, full of fascinating conversation. A lot of business people, financial people, professional people.”
Amid this gathering train wreck, one incident in November 2004 stands out as the beginning of the end. That evening, accompanied by a mutual friend, two mobsters, members of the Genovese family, according to Jason, stopped by the loft.
“I never did any business with them. I just thought it might open a new line of high-priced clients,” says Jason, who bought a $3,500 Dior suit for the occasion, with a matching one for his bodyguard, a former Secret Service agent. The meeting had barely begun when a girl named Genevieve burst through the door. A tall blonde, she was returning from her first NY Confidential date, reputedly stoned out of her mind, and was demanding to be paid immediately. Told to wait, Genevieve started yelling, threatening to call the police to adjudicate the matter.
“What’s wrong with that girl?” one of the mobsters asked. Itzler asked the bodyguard to quiet Genevieve down. But as the bodyguard approached, Genevieve pulled a can of pepper spray from her handbag and blinded him. With the bodyguard writhing on the floor, Genevieve locked herself in a room and called 911. A dozen cops and an engine company of firemen arrived.
There was some debate about whether to open the door, but the mobsters said, “It’s the cops, you got to let them in.”
“I’m looking at the security-camera monitors,” remembers one witness. “In one is the cops, another the gangsters, the third the screaming girl, the fourth the Secret Service guy rubbing his eyes. That’s when I thought I’d take a vacation from this place.”
The encounter would end relatively harmlessly. “It looked like one of the cops recognized one of the gangsters,” says the witness. “They started talking, everyone exchanged business cards and left.”
After that, the cops started coming to the loft almost every day. “They’d knock on the door, come in, look around, and leave,” remembers Hulbert Waldroup. Almost always, they took a stack of Jason’s distinctive metal ROCKET FUEL FOR WINNERS business cards. The card had become something of a collector’s item at headquarters, one cop says. “Everyone wanted one.” Rumor has it that one ended up on Mayor Bloomberg’s desk, to the mayor’s amusement.
When the big bust inevitably came down on January 7, the loft was nearly empty. Krimer and Waldroup were at an art gallery when someone’s cell phone rang. The caller said no one was picking up at NY Confidential. That was a bad sign, Waldroup said.
Frantically, Krimer and Waldroup attempted to connect to the Webcam security system Itzler had installed so he could watch the activities at 79 Worth Street from his Hoboken apartment. The cam was available from any wired-up computer. But no one could remember the password. “Fuck!” screamed Krimer. Eventually the connection was made.
“The place is being raided, and we’re watching it on the Internet,” says Waldroup. “The cops were like ants, over everything, taking all the files, ledgers, computers. On the couch were these people I’d worked with for months, in handcuffs. It was very weird.”
Jason wouldn’t find out about the bust until sometime later. “I was shopping for rugs with Ed Feldman, who is kind of a legend in the fashion business,” Jason says. It was Feldman who, years before, had given the young Jason Itzler a copy of Budd Schulberg’s all-time delineation of the Hebrew hustler, What Makes Sammy Run?