lawyer, Rusty Wing, said his
client is not guilty and had
gotten legal advice 'all the
way along' insisting that the
porno Web sites were
New York, Monday, April 28, 2003
hid dirty deals
say Hamptons honcho tied to porn & the
By GREG B. SMITH
Daily News staff writer
Norman Chanes has a $4
million Central Park West duplex and an
$11 million beachfront house in the
Hamptons. Chanes has produced a
movie starring Rita Moreno, Ben
Gazzara and a member of the "Sopranos"
One good thing about being a
'hater'," editorialises the
Dissent website (USA) from
which this Daily News item
is re-copied, "is you never have
to agonize over how best to put a
Jewish criminal in soft focus
lighting. A straight reading of
the facts here sez that
Chanes is a lifelong --
lifelong!! -- thief and swindler,
a survival-obsessed predator
feeding upon an easily-gulled
host, and a duplicitous coward
with no loyalty thicker than the
width of a dollar bill -- a man
who'd "give up his mother, his
father. He has no problem with
There are dark
allusions made to the Mafia being
the real bad guys in the story
(triggering the embedded memories
of a thousand TV dramas where
brutish Vito dragoons
honest-but-vulnerable Ira into
crime with threats of violence
and vendetta), yet -- assuming
"Richard Martino" is not being
sold out right now, and the
'Mafia' angle a convenient
invention of Chanes' -- this
fearsome, hydra-headed underworld
shadow-army skimmed a mere $8
million off a $230-million
That's not even tip
money in the shark-tank of Jewish
'finance', but never mind reality
-- we can't simply focus on the
Jew who initiated, funded, ran
and pocketed the proceeds from
Might send The
Wrong Signals. As for Chanes, my
guess is the El Al reservations
in his name were at the boarding
gate desk at JFK when they
grabbed him. I can't help but
think of Norman Chanes as Hymie
Prime:the high-tech, 21st century
khazar made flesh."
dossier on the origins of
He has donated heavily to the
prestigious Jewish Center of the Hamptons
comment: -- Which is the standard
newspaper-trade way of identifying a
criminal as Jewish without actually saying
And he has been proudly listed as a
client of a Hamptons celebrity caterer -
right next to Phoebe Cates and
Kevin Kline. It is hard to picture
Norman Chanes as a Mafia associate.
But that was the charge that emerged
last month, when U.S. Postal Service
inspectors slapped the cuffs on the
Bridgehampton multimillionaire in the
lobby of his Manhattan duplex
charged with running porno Web sites
for the mob, sites that stole thousands
of credit card numbers from dumb and
dumber Web surfers.
Chanes -- philanthropist and budding
movie producer -- was named as partner of
Richard Martino, reputed Gambino
family soldier, according to an indictment
handed up by Brooklyn U.S. Attorney
comment: where do they get these
"This is not something I would have
predicted," said Philip Goutell, a
former partner of Chanes from his early
days, back in the early 1980s.
Chanes' lawyer, Rusty Wing
comment: where do they get these
names?], said his client is not
guilty and had gotten legal advice "all
the way along" insisting that the porno
Web sites were legitimate.
"He has every intention of going to
trial and establishing his innocence,"
Wing said. "We were quite surprised that
an indictment had been returned. Very
But a look at Norman Chanes' past makes
clear that something like this was not
In certain law enforcement circles,
Chanes is a legend, a King of Scams cited
repeatedly for blatantly false
They say Chanes' shtick was to sell you
nothing for something, to make the
worthless seem priceless -- just as he
shaped his image in life, cloaking himself
in the trappings of legitimacy.
"With Norman," said another former
business partner who asked not to be
named, "it all sounds legit -- on the
It started with the Free Gifts packages
of the 1970s. He and his partners blitzed
major media with ads for free gift
packets: Pay a $2, $5 or $10 "enrollment
fee" and get free samples of brand names
such as Revlon, Colgate and Palmolive.
Consumers wound up with nothing, or a
booklet offering off-brand goods for more
money. Chanes' companies were referred to
as frauds by the Better Business Bureau in
"When I met
him, I was in my late 20s, working as a
freelance writer, and these guys were
maybe four years younger than me. They
were already making their first
millions," said former partner Goutell.
"You say, 'What do these guys know that
I don't?' When you find out, you
realize maybe you're better off not
By 1982, at age 35, Chanes had bought a
home in the Hamptons, playing host to the
society wedding of a prominent editor and
The New York Times noted that
the wedding took place "at the home of Mr.
and Mrs. Norman Chanes in East
to betray pal
That same year, he was arrested by
postal inspectors on charges of selling
what he called Marine surplus binoculars
that were really plastic junk from
He pleaded guilty and immediately
offered to cooperate against his close
friend and partner in crime, Monroe
"He was one of the few people I've
dealt with who'd do anything to stay out
of jail," one law enforcement agent
"He'd give up his mother, his father.
Caine was a good friend [but
Chanes] had no problem with that."
He was sentenced to two years in jail
but got a judge to trim that to three
months' jail, 21 months' probation. He and
Caine each paid $175,000 in fines. His
probation ended in 1987, officials
Prosecutors say Chanes then moved on to
the next big thing -- phone sex.
During the early 1990s, he met a man
who would not fit in around the Hamptons -
alleged gangster Martino.
Together through Chanes' company,
Harvest Advertising, they marketed 900
numbers and raked in the cash.Say
money went to mob
Prosecutors say some of that cash went
straight up the ladder to the Gambino
leadership, during the time when John
Gotti was alive and running the family
through his son John A. (Junior)
Gotti and brother Peter.
"I knew that Norman was running phone
sex," said another business partner.
"He went under the radar. The whole
industry changed. There were not that many
people in the mail-order business. Maybe
80% were legit, 20% were notorious. But
the whole country was different. The whole
industry was different. All of a sudden,
it became scammier and scammier."
At the same time, Chanes was becoming
wealthier and wealthier.
He bought his oceanfront house on Dune
Road in Bridgehampton and acquired not one
but two apartments on Central Park West.
One was a duplex filled with art.
In 1996, Chanes, Martino and David
Chew, publisher of the skin magazine
High Society, jumped into the porno
Web site business, according to the
Dupes who visited highsociety.com,
ygal.com and climax.com were told they
could take a free tour of the site. They
had to enter credit card numbers to prove
their age and were assured they would not
Hidden within the sexually explicit
images on the site was text admitting that
viewers indeed would be charged. This text
was supposed to make the scam legitimate,
The money poured
in. Billing at $90 per month, they
pocketed more than $230 million -- at
least $8 million of which went to the
Gambinos, prosecutors charged.
Meanwhile, in the Hamptons, Norman
Chanes was listed as a celebrity client by
caterer Francesca Events, next to Cates
& Kline, Joe Lieberman, Al
Gore and Bill Clinton.
By 2000, he had become executive
pro-ducer of "Blue Moon," starring Ben
Gazzara, Rita Moreno and "Sopranos" cast
member Vincent Pastore. The flick's
reviews were mixed.
By 2002, he was a member of the Jewish
Center of the Hamptons, listed as a major
contributor to the High Holy Day Appeal.
But behind the scenes, things were falling
The FTC sent a warning letter to High
Society about the "free tours" in 1999.
Furious customers were discovering $90
charges on their cards.
In September 2001, High Society agreed
to pay $30 million to settle charges of
illegally billing customers. Chanes' name
was nowhere in sight.
Then, at 5:45 a.m. on March 18, Postal
Service inspectors showed up to put him in
One of the first things the U.S.
attorney did was to put liens on one of
Chanes' Central Park West apartments, as
well as the Dune Road mansion in the