Paul Monea originally struck gold with celebrity fitness trainer Billy Blanks with the 1990’s Tae Bo workout fad
Tae-Bo Workout became the best-selling video of 1999, overtaking A Bug’s Life, The Matrix, and Saving Private Ryan.
The ad man had also been involved in a failed attempt to market electric grill lighters, as pain relievers on TV and a toilet-seat spray that supposedly killed the AIDS virus.
History’s shown that if Paul Monea‘s part of any deal, there’s a good chance someone will eventually go to prison. His old lawyer, Ed Davila did time after Monea‘s scam was the Stimulator, pitched as a miracle pain-relief device for everything from migraines to menstrual cramps, but in reality it was nothing more than a gas-grill igniter with finger grips. Monea would provide the illusion, an endorsement by Evel Knievel and a white-coated chiropractor for authenticity. Paul made $64 million from that venture.
Monea met Billy Blanks in Atlantic City while the martial arts expert was working as boxer Sugar Ray Leonard‘s trainer. The infomercial Monea created played 2,000 times a day on cable systems across the country. Blanks got world fame and a week-long gig on Oprah, and Monea took the lion’s share of the profits from the almost $300 million in sales.
Tae-Bo made Monea a rich man. Monea was a flamboyant playboy whose Beverly Hills-style mansion and exotic cars stood out among the farmhouses and tractors of cow-country Marlboro Township. When former boxer Mike Tyson‘s country-club-like mansion in Trumbull County went on the market, complete with tiger cages and a pool. Monea picked it up for $1.3 million, just to have. The home sat vacant.
Growing up a crane operator’s son, selling overpriced knife sets door-to-door and getting rejection slammed in your face, then striking out on your own with nothing but an idea and a book of restaurant coupons — that happened to catch on and make Monea a mint.
Monea always carried the “Golden Eye” diamond in a velvet bag in his pocket, according to court documents.
He reportedly told others that he owned a diamond mine in Africa and that he received the diamond from a friend.
Monea was unwittingly snared in an FBI sting, beginning in 2004, by federal agents investigating Michael Miller, the owner of an auto sales business in Canton, Ohio.
FBI agent John Tanza posed as “John Rizzo,” a front man for a South American coke cartel looking to launder big bucks, according to court documents.
In March 2006, Miller introduced G-Man Rizzo to Monea, who invited the two to invest in an on-line voyeur website tracking the exploits of a cadre of hotties living in the Tyson mansion. The site was going to be called “Tyson’s House Party.”
Nothing came of that proposal, but, over meetings held from California to Las Vegas, Monea pitched a second money-laundering idea: He would sell Rizzo “his stone.”
“In October 2006, Monea and Rizzo had lunch. They talked about Monea‘s efforts to sell the diamond, and Rizzo mentioned that he had a ‘guy down South’ who might want to buy it,” court documents state.
On Nov. 2, 2006, Monea and Rizzo met another undercover G-Man posing as “Geraldo,” or the South American coke kingpin’s rep. At the meeting, “Geraldo” agreed to buy “Golden Eye” and the Tyson estate from Monea for $19.5 million, plus a boat.
But instead of the cash, Monea was busted, convicted at trial and sent to federal lock-up for 150 months on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He is currently appealing the conviction.
The same year the diamond was confiscated by a district court judge.
Legal claims delayed the process until March this year, when the final forfeiture was ordered and the U.S. Marshals Service acquired it.
The U.S. Marshals Service is responsible for selling ill gotten gains seized from criminals.
Proceeds from the auction are used to compensate victims, pay for law enforcement initiatives and support community programs.
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