POMPANO BEACH, Fla. - Former cocaine kingpin turned Broward nightclub owner Sam Frontera is under fire for underage patrons and after-hours alcohol sales at his Pompano Beach club.
But now he has an unlikely champion: political candidate David Baumwald, who is running to unseat Pompano Beach Mayor Lamar Fisher.
Baumwald admitted meeting with Frontera, who was convicted of dealing in tons of cocaine in the early 1990s while running a dance club in Chicago, and said he believes the ex-con has turned over a new leaf.
"He's just trying to run a business," said Baumwald. "I don't think he's involved in any of that anymore. In my heart, I believe he's recuperated the way I did."
Baumwald is referring to his own criminal record, which includes convictions for crack cocaine, dealing in stolen property, and other crimes. He was sentenced to a year in prison in 1999 and had his civil rights restored in 2002.
Broward Sheriff's Office deputies arrested Frontera, 57, for selling alcohol after 2 a.m. following a show by hip-hop recording artist Young Jeezy at Club Cinema. Twelve other arrests were made there that night involving drugs, trespassing, disorderly conduct, and driving under the influence.
Frontera resisted officers, called them obscenities, and said he would "have their jobs," according to an arrest report.
In July, deputies arrested Frontera on a marijuana possession charge in the parking lot. When he resisted, a deputy used a leg sweep to take him to the ground before punching him in the face in an attempt to control him, according to arrest reports.
When they found four joints in his pocket, deputies reported that Frontera told them, "Five grams of weed ain't s—t. I've been to prison for 200,000 kilos of cocaine."
Baumwald claimed in his February 8 interview with Local 10's Bob Norman that he had received no money from Frontera or Club Cinema other than a $500 check that came from a long-time friend of his who works at the club.
"He hasn't given me a cent," said Baumwald.
But city records show that four days before that interview, he accepted a $500 check from MAS Maintenance, which is run by Frontera (MAS is Sam backward) and lists the Club Cinema address.
The Broward Sheriff's Office has been cracking down on Frontera and Club Cinema after complaints of drug sales, underage drug use, overdoses, and after-hours alcohol sales at the club. The current mayor, Fisher, said he's aware of numerous complaints from parents about underage activity at the club.
"I've seen that there have been incidents where minors have been strung out on drugs and taken to the hospital," said Fisher.
When asked if he was aware of those complaints, which have received some media attention in the past, Baumwald defended the club, saying it wasn't responsible for what patrons did inside.
"I've seen the news reports and I think it's despicable, but you know what, I went to Led Zeppelin concert and, man, there were drugs everywhere," he said. "Did they go after Led Zeppelin? Did they go after AC/DC?"
Baumwald said he believed Frontera personally promised him that minors weren't going to be allowed in the club anymore.
"[Frontera] looked me in the eye and said, ‘Dave, I'm just trying to run a good business, clean, operable. City didn't like me having little kids here. We got rid of them and now we're 18 and up,'" said Baumwald.
But during a recent visit to the club, Local 10 shot video of barely dressed underage girls running to the back of the club. When they emerged at closing time, they were detained by deputies until their parents came to pick them up. When I made an attempt to interview Frontera at the club, a spokesman said Frontera had no comment.
Frontera could have been sentenced to life in prison for the cocaine trafficking charges he faced but ultimately cooperated with authorities to reduce his sentence.
Frontera is no stranger to politics. Back in 2006, he hired then-Deerfield Mayor Al Capellini to help his club deal with regulatory issues in Pompano Beach. Capellini has since been arrested himself on a corruption charge.
Baumwald said he backs Frontera's push to allow clubs to stay open until 4 a.m.
"He believes there should be change in Pompano Beach," Baumwald added.
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