Nagler 5: Jimmy Dawson: ‘Follow the money’

In the fifth book in the series, a WIP, Detective Frank Nagler is investigating a long-running real estate scam that has led to several deaths in Ironton, N.J, Here us part of how scam worked. Reporter Jimmy Dawson presents a video.

“One thing we love in Ironton is our food,” Dawson’s voiceover continued.  “We have Grgeek food, Italian food in  endless variety, Brazilian, Cuban, Chinese, steaks, subs, chow Mein, empanadas, fried chicken, Irish stew, hot dogs fancy and plain, and what about the pizza? So what makes Pete’s Pizza so special? Not the name, for sure. Maybe it’s the location, on the state highway across from the middle school. Kids eat a lot of pizza. But four times as much pizza as a larger place a half-mile away?

That’s what bank records show. Sizeable deposits twice a week, then  smaller withdrawals the following week – makes it look like cash flow, payroll, supplies, taxes, things regular businesses pay. One name stood out. Dragon Wholesalers. Supposed to be a grocery supply  outfit, except  none of the larger  companies that make or import restaurant supplies —  flour, oil, olives, pepperoni, cheese, pizza boxes — have any record of selling anything to Dragon Wholesalers.”

Three photos overlaid filled the computer screen.

“These buildings, according to tax records, are owned by Dragon Wholesalers. The corporation is licensed in Delaware. The address is a law office where no one answers the phone. According to the records of incorporation, the owner is one Taylor Mangot I. They’re empty.”

A new photo entered the screen. It was a gray, old newspaper photo showing a brick building with a crowd of people in front. Four of them, three men and a woman, were in handcuffs.

“The is one of the Dragon Wholesalers buildings, the one on Dubin Place. It was in the news fifteen years ago because authorities made four arrests there.  Inside was a drug processing operation, which police determined was selling millions of dollars of drugs across the region. Police also found four bodies in the warehouse.”

A photo of several newspaper headlines filled the screen.

“Eventually state and federal cops tracked down the suppliers in two states and overseas. Fifty arrests were made, including a few customs inspectors and cops. One person who escaped apprehension was the building owner, Taylor Mangot I. Some police even wondered if he existed. Anyone can create a signature, right?”

Then a series of photos of buildings flowed across the screen.

“These are the properties of a series of companies that share some version  of the name Dragon.  They are scattered throughout Ironton and North Jersey.  A few, like these three small offices building in Morristown, have rent-paying tenants.

A few other, somewhat larger warehouses, have a single tenants occupying a tiny office. Many –many – other are vacant, yet income has been reported for each of them.”

All  of those buildings matter because of this.”

Four new photos filled the screen. The first was the block on Warren Street that housed apartments and businesses. Next was the same block collapsed into a dusty and burning pile of rubble. Then there was the same block stripped back to naked walls, some supported by a series of wooden cross beams. The last photo was the same block hidden behind a large billboard draped with a black plastic sheet.

“All those other buildings matter because of this one. Twelve weeks ago it blew up and the Ironton community was worried about the fates of perhaps a hundred people who it was thought lived there.  That’s according to city and utility company records which indicated the upper floors of those four buildings were fully occupied. Actually, only three apartments were filled.  Records listed the names of  tenants  for all the thirty-five apartments. They were ghosts. Yet company records, the company being one of those entities with a Dragon name, showed rental income for all the units.

That only matters because in a couple, days,  Ironton Mayor Jesus Ollivar will announce a  huge tax break for the  owner of the site, Dragon Associates, to build a new giant glass-faced complex on the site of the explosion and neighboring properties that will be suddenly deemed in need or redevelopment. A plan on file the city planning department indicates that everything from Warren Street to the old theater will be demolished. The theater is a registered historic site, and apparently the developers are in too much of a hurry to try to change that.”

A new video filled the screen. Mayor Ollivar and a tall man in black  suit and dark glasses walked along the edge of the site, stopping at the billboard. They turned, apparently in response to a voice, and then  took up positions at the side of the billboard and smiled.

“The person behind this plan is Taylor Mangot II, the gentlemen on the right. At least, he seems to exist.”

Dawson struck a key and froze that photo on the screen.

“So that’s the Dragon,” he said.

About michaelstephendaigle

I have been writing most of my life. I am the author of the award-winning Frank Nagler Mystery series. "The Swamps of Jersey (2014); "A Game Called Dead" (2016) -- a Runner-Up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Indie Author Contest; and "The Weight of Living" (2017) -- First Place winner for Mysteries in the Royal Dragonfly Book Awards Contest.
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