Prominent developer Alfred Lenoci Jr. killed by train
Updated 5:12 am, Thursday, February 22, 2018
There was a time when Alfred Lenoci Jr. appeared to have it all — a real estate empire, a loyal wife and a mayor in his pocket.
That all came to a crashing end early Wednesday when Lenoci’s body was found on the Metro North train tracks — less than a mile from his company’s Kings Highway headquarters.
Lenoci once served 18 months in federal prison for bribing Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim — all part of the FBI case that led to the mayor’s lost years in federal prison on a corruption conviction. His father, Alfred “Sonny” Lenoci Sr., also went to prison on bribery charges in the probe.
But before being caught up in that scandal, Lenoci was a millionaire developer, a player who rubbed shoulders with the famous and powerful, golfing with the likes of Donald Trump long before he became president.
Lenoci, 55, was struck and killed just west of the Fairfield Metro station by a train bound for Grand Central. Fairfield police Lt. James Perez said witnesses reported seeing a man run out in front of the oncoming engine just before 5:15 a.m.
Authorities said his death on the tracks did not appear to be an accident and foul play was not suspected.
Wednesday’s news was heartbreaking for Christian Young, a Bridgeport lawyer who represented Lenoci in a much-publicized civil case brought by a former Steel Pointe developer who claimed he was being muscled out.
“I immediately reached out to the father and expressed my condolences,” said Young, who occasionally rode with Lenoci on their Suzuki Hayabusa motorcyles. “I saw him riding in late fall and we promised to get together for lunch. ... I’m just so sad that will never happen. What I would not do to have lunch with him and go for a ride again. ...”
“Some people will remember him as very aggressive, very successful, very hard-working and very capable at his trade,” Young continued. “I saw him as so much more. He was always so full of life and considerate. He was always asking how I was doing, what was going on in my life.”
John Robert Gulash, who represented Lenoci in the corruption case, said he has known Lenoci for years and held “him in the highest regard.”
Lenoci was vice president of what was once a $30 million real estate empire stretching from Bristol to Fairfield, founded by his father 40 years ago.
Chief among their portfolio was the 265-acre Great River Estates in north Milford. There, the Lenocis engineered the development of 157 luxury houses built in Milford and Orange, a country club and a PGA-style golf course.
The course was so well known that during the summer of 2001, Trump, then best known as a real estate magnate, played a round with the Lenocis.
Don Imus, once considered radio’s top shock jock, appeared at the golf course too, and the Lenocis even dined with Sumner Redstone, the controlling shareholder of CBS, Viacom and the National Amusement Theater chain.
But recent days have not been good ones for the United Properties heir.
“I don’t know what darkness clouded his life on those final days,” Young said.
Recent state Superior Court documents show the onetime millionaire was $44,890 in debt.
His wife, Kimberly Lenoci, said on July 21, 2003, that the prison term imposed on her husband for bribing Ganim, evading taxes and committing mail fraud “will make us stronger. ... We’ll be OK. ... This is the husband I love so much.”
But her assessment would change 14 years later.
On July 22, 2017, Kimberly and Lenoci were arrested by Fairfield police on charges of breach of peace following a bizarre dispute outside the Stone Ridge condominiums in Fairfield.
Police said Kimberly went looking for her husband after not seeing him for three days and learning about a $15,000 condominium furniture purchase.
Inside Lenoci’s car that day were two women, 21 and 23 years old from Slovakia, who he told Fairfield police he was trying to adopt. The Lenocis have three children of their own about the same ages.
On Oct. 6, Kimberly Lenoci filed for divorce and sought ownership of the couple’s sprawling Tuckahoe Road home in Easton. A hearing on the divorce was scheduled for March 21.
But for Lenoci, times were different in 1990s Bridgeport.
That’s when FBI agents listening on wiretaps and bugs heard the Lenocis deemed “the chosen people” for Bridgeport development.
It was a time when Lenoci seemingly turned vacant properties into real estate gold.
The Dewhurst Dairy became a Stop & Shop. A vacant factory, a 12-screen theater. A former Days Inn, a Bob’s Discount Furniture store, and Reservoir Avenue became the location for Home Depot and Shaw’s supermarket.
But it was the Dewhurst Dairy project — with rumors alleging a payoff to push it through Bridgeport’s Planning and Zoning Commission — that sparked the FBI probe using wiretaps and bugs.
What agents heard “appalled and disheartened” them as the Lenocis discussed various plans “to rip off the city,” former Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald S. Apter told U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton.
Their schemes included overbilling Bridgeport for demolition and asbestos removal at derelict buildings, and for soil removal work; agreeing to raise $500,000 for a 2002 Ganim gubernatorial run in exchange for city contracts; and paying Ganim and Paul Pinto, who admitted being Ganim’s bagman, $1 per square foot for every Bridgeport development they did.
There were plans to push Steel Point, the Loew’s Poli Palace and the Majestic theaters into the Lenocis’ portfolio.
Even the heralded Milford Golf Estates development was tainted, according to Apter. The prosecutor said a $10,000 payment was made to the Milford city planner to shepherd the project through the required zone changes.
The golf course and its country club/restaurant are now owned by Sacred Heart University as part of a golf course and hospitality management programs.
On June 13, 2001, Pinto became the first of 12 defendants to be convicted in the probe. Lenoci and his father pleaded guilty that October.
The following July, Lenoci stood before Arterton. The embarrassment of the past and the prospect for his future kept him from addressing the judge as he grabbed tissue after tissue to dab tears and muffle a sob.
But the judge had little pity.
“Your conduct in this case was not even close to the line constituting a mistake,” Arterton told Alfred Lenoci Jr. “It was not even in the same ZIP code. ... The time has come not to pay Pinto or Ganim, but the piper.”
She sentenced him to 18 months in federal prison for bribery, mail fraud and tax evasion.
She also ordered him to pay a $556,700 fine and forfeit another $211,631 to Bridgeport Energy, then a local power company, and the city of Bridgeport, for overbilling them on asbestos removal. Lenoci also paid $246,803 in taxes, interest and penalties.
He served his sentence at the Schuylkill federal prison camp in Minersville, Pa.
Family members, including the elder Lenoci, now 82, could not be reached for comment.