Recap of Part II -1982, Dentist and cocaine entrepreneur Larry Lavin settles into a quiet Philadelphia suburb in the Main Line, one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the United States, while recording artist Frankie Smith enjoys the meteoric rise of his hit record Double Dutch Bus. But Smith receives no royalties from record sales. Though Lavin and Smith have never met, they are connected through record label, WMOT, which has been hijacked as a money laundering operation for Lavin’s cocaine empire. WMOT executive, and Lavin co-conspirator, Mark Stewart offers a payment of twenty thousand dollars when Smith complains about missing royalties.
I suppose we had a good run though. We moved a lot of good product and I made a good deal of money, much more than I would’ve seen just filling cavities and capping teeth. A solid dental practice is nothing to scoff at…until you know how much money you can make numbing people in other ways.–Larry Lavin*(Journal entry)
Sometimes he would laugh about it, but not in front of Marcia. She got pissed at stuff like that. Sometimes, though, he couldn’t help it. “What’s so funny?” she would ask. “Oh nothing,” he would say and then he’d make something up about their son or one of their friends.
But she knew…Yeah…She knew him all too well.
It wasn’t that he hated cops. Not at all. They were just doing their jobs. Besides, he actually liked Pat. Still…
No. It was the irony of it. The balls out audaciousness of it. Sometimes he felt like he was going to bust a gut because he couldn’t tell anyone. Sometimes he had an insane impulse to yell, “I’m Larry Lavin. The Yuppie Conspiracy guy. The mastermind. The cocaine kingpin.”
He could imagine the looks on his neighbors faces. The Millers. The Paynes. And the guys at the marina. Roy and Pat. Especially Pat. That would be rich.
How many times had he been on Pat’s boat? And Pat on his? How many beers had they shared? Fish had they caught?
Yes sir…Pat O’Donnell†…The semi retired FBI agent extraordinaire.
I’m here Pat…Right under your nose…
Still, whenever I reflect on everything… I always begin with the same question: Who would’ve thought that a multi-million dollar business would fold because of a song called Double Dutch Bus?.. It is just unfortunate Frankie (Smith)‡ didn’t come directly to me for the money. I would’ve given him double, triple, even quadruple what he claimed we owed him.–Larry Lavin (Journal entry)
Frankie Smith was insulted. He could do math. In fact he was pretty good at it. This was a simple, fundamental equation. Double Dutch Bus had sold over a million copies. His contract with WMOT Records§ had his royalty cut at twenty percent. That was a lot more than the twenty thousand dollar check from WMOT that he deposited in Leumi Le Israel, where record executive Mark Stewart had told him to bank when he signed on with the label.
What’s more, when he asked to speak to a banking manager he was directed into an office where a teller handed him five hundred dollars. “This is your weekly allowance Mr. Stewart has set aside for you,” she informed him. When he asked for a balance and a deposit slip, she told him that was not necessary. The money had nothing to do with his account.
Smith was stunned and confused. Something was obviously wrong. Sketchy. He decided to get a bite to eat at a nearby deli and think things over. While he was waiting in line he recognized another teller from the bank. He joked with her about his big financial windfall, producing the five one hundred dollar bills from his pocket. “The WMOT account?” she asked. He nodded. She laughed. “That’s nothing. People withdraw hundreds of thousands of dollars from that account everyday,” she told him.
Then, to add insult to injury, he got a notice from the IRS. His million selling record and the income he declared did not compute; he was being audited. Smith was flummoxed. He had always earned an honest living and paid his taxes. He didn’t drink or drug, kept a low profile, took care of his mother and, when he wan’t on tour, was pretty much of a homebody. At the same time he honored many of the laws of the hard Philadelphia streets he grew up on. He was no slouch and no snitch.
For several nights Smith tossed and turned, lying between a rock and a hard place. He wanted to be a stand up guy–he really did–but WMOT was giving him a royal screwing. Now he had the Federal Government breathing down his neck–the IRS, no less.
Ultimately he took the bus down to 11501 Roosevelt Avenue. Now the address is part of a huge industrial park. Then it was the Philadelphia IRS processing center.
Some might say it was cowardly, running like that. But I was never afraid of being caught. I knew what I was doing. I knew the consequences. That’s what made it all so much fun, so addicting.–Larry Lavin (Journal entry)
For several weeks in the early spring of 1984, Dental Assistant and Office Manager, Elizabeth Graziani, was having trouble with the phones. There was this clicking…A weird static on the line…Not enough to interrupt phone calls, but irritating nonetheless. She really didn’t think anything of it; she had heard similar static on her own line from time to time.
Months later Elizabeth heard a commotion of screeching tires and yelling outside the dental office. Thinking that there must have been a terrible accident she ran to the window. There she saw a shocking, horrifying sight: Her boss, (Yes, she considered him her friend and why not? He was so kind and generous, especially with children.) Dr. Lavin, was sprawled across the hood of his BMW with a host of armed FBI agents in tactical vests surrounding him. One of the agents had a huge, ugly gun–a pump shotgun, actually–pointed only inches from Dr. Lavin’s face!…
It’s funny how yesterday’s problem can become today’s asset. And vice versa. Just like with his cash.
At one time piles of cash lying around the house caused him to loose sleep. Now his freedom depended on the bundles that he was frantically shoving into cavernous duffel bags.
One point six million dollars. A drop in the bucket, really, of what he had made over the years. But, still, he was grateful that he had stashed it away–just in case. He had also lucked out on the bail. The judge had set it at a very reasonable 150,000.00 despite the prosecutor’s objections.
And then there was the matter of his friends. Marcia was always on his case about them. She called them scum. But they weren’t. Most of them were just like him. Dentists. Lawyers. Friends from the University of Pennsylvania.
Sure, there were a few colorful characters that he had used mostly as couriers, guys that were willing to take huge risks for big rewards. (The big difference between them and him? He was a huge risk/ huge reward kind of guy.) You had to have people like that in an operation like his. Without them he wouldn’t have access to dozens of false identities, credit cards and social security numbers that ensured his family’s new start in Virginia Beach, only three hundred miles away.
Hide in plain sight. That was his motto.
Of course he understood why Marcia was so upset. They were parents, after all. Plus she was pregnant again.
Yeah he could take off and leave most of the money, but the feds would just strip her of everything and they would probably end up indicting her anyway. There was a very real possibility that she would go to prison. He just couldn’t abide that. Especially since he had promised her–all those years ago–that he would quit the business once he could walk away with fifty grand clear.
Did he ever believe that? That he would actually walk away? He wasn’t sure. It was hard to leave with so much money on the table. Nobody could know how hard unless they’d been there themselves.
It didn’t matter now. What was done was done. He would make it up to her. This time he really would go straight…
After the first year, I relaxed and let go. But lately the fear’s been creeping up again. There’s a glance on the docks or at a restaurant that looks accusatory, a knowing smile from a waiter or a neighbor that seems to say they’re waiting for the sirens, the copters, and the cigarette boats to swarm. Somehow, I can’t help but think it’s only a matter of time…I saw Pat just as I was getting on and waved to him. He gave me a strange look at first, and then smiled as if something suddenly dawned on him. Maybe he knows something. I wouldn’t be surprised. This friendship with Pat will probably be the end somewhere down the line.–Larry Lavin (Journal entry)
FBI ARRESTS ALLEGED HEAD OF ’YUPPIE’ COCAINE RING (May 16, 1986 Philadelphia Inquirer)
Lawrence W. Lavin, the former Northeast Philadelphia dentist who allegedly masterminded a major cocaine-distribution ring, was arrested without incident yesterday as he disembarked from a fishing boat in Virginia Beach, Va., the FBI said. Lavin, 31, had been a fugitive since November 1984, a few months after he was charged with heading a $5-million-a-month cocaine ring involving many other young professionals.
He was free on $150,000 bail when he and his then-pregnant wife fled their Devon home. An FBI spokesman in Philadelphia said agents arrested Lavin about 5:20 p.m. as he and another dentist—who did not know Lavin’s true identity—were docking the other man’s 25-foot sport fishing boat at a marina. He was wearing blue jeans and a rugby shirt. He had been using an alias but had made no effort to disguise his appearance, the FBI said.
At the same time agents were arresting Lavin, other agents were arresting his wife, Marcia, at the couple’s home in an exclusive Virginia Beach development known as Middle Plantation, the FBI said. She was charged with harboring a fugitive. Both were being held in Virginia last night pending an arraignment before a federal magistrate. The couple’s two children, including a baby, had been living with them, according to the FBI.
Lavin faces drug charges in U.S. District Court here that could bring him a life sentence if he is convicted. In addition to a 40-count indictment on drug offenses, he is also charged with evading $545,000 in federal income taxes. Federal authorities said the cocaine ring—which they dubbed the “Yuppie Conspiracy”—was one of the largest ever uncovered here, handling up to 175 pounds of cocaine a month. The drug in turn was distributed to others in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New England and the Southwest, according to federal prosecutors.
More than 50 people, including three graduates of the University of Pennsylvania dental school, two lawyers and two stockbrokers, along with many other professionals, have been charged with being part of the drug conspiracy that Lavin allegedly headed.
Best Double Dutch Bus sample:
- Gossip Folks by Missy Elliot (2002), ft. Ludacris; Goldmind – Elecktra
Best WMOT Records original recordings; singles:
- Double Dutch Bus by Frankie Smith (1981) Funk/R&B/ Rap/Hip Hop
- I Really Love You by Heaven and Earth (1981) R&B/Soul
- Watch Out by Brandi Wells (1981) R&B/Dance/Electronica
- Act Like You Know by Fat Larry’s Band (1982) Funk/Hip Hop/ R&B
∗Larry Lavin served eighteen years in prison. He and Marcia are divorced. She reared their three children in Wisconsin where she still lives. Lavin can no longer practice dentistry. He currently resides in Tampa, Florida where he is Director of Services for the marketing company One Touch Direct.
†The FBI intercepted a portion of a phone conversation in which Lavin bragged to an associate about being “friends” with a semi-retired FBI agent and about being invited onto his boat. Agents were able to track the phone call to the Virginia/Maryland Coastal area and then distributed wanted posters to all retired agents within that swath living close to marinas. Semi-retired FBI agent Pat O’Donnell of Virginia Beach occupied a boat slip next to fugitive Larry Lavin who was going by the alias of Brian O’Neil.
‡Frankie Smith never recovered his portion of the 1,440,000.00 dollars that was diverted from WMOT Records by Mark Stewart in a money laundering scheme in conjunction with Larry Lavin and The Yuppie Cocaine Conspiracy. Smith still lives in Philadelphia, in the same house that he shared with his now deceased mother.
§ WMOT Records was forced into bankruptcy, was restructured, and bought by CBS/Sony.