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By contrast, the Rubins insist their dealings with Siskind amounted to "strictly a lessee-lessor relationship" that turned sour almost as soon as it began. Siskind approached them, they say, with plans to turn the languishing Playboy Club property into a restaurant, a nightclub, a flea market, a newsstand, and a paid-parking lot, and Mark Rubin says he gave Siskind a set of keys "in order to get estimates from various contractors. There was never a formal lease." The brothers say they broke off their relationship with Siskind when they discovered he had moved large amounts of merchandise into the club without their permission, and was obviously failing to follow through on any development plans.
Both Mark and Guy Rubin strongly deny they ever witnessed Siskind moving furnishings or any other property into the Playboy Club, and claim that the statements of three former Siskind employees are simply wrong on that score. Mark Rubin acknowledges that he may have threatened to sue police when they showed up to arrest Siskind at the April 21 estate sale, but says it was because he feared officers were wrongly removing family belongings stored in the Playboy Club. He never told Sergeant Jezierski he owned the merchandise in the parking lot, he says, and was only vaguely aware of Siskind's plans to hold the sale. "At no time did I think that any of that property was stolen," says Mark Rubin. "Categorically I did not participate, supervise, or otherwise engage in moving any of those things."
In the latest chapter of a protracted legal feud, Mark Rubin has won an emergency restraining order against the most energetic member of the Bayshore coterie, a self-described ex-CIA operative and former tennis star named John Lowther, who Rubin says is obsessed with destroying him. Besides filing a "scandalous" complaint against him with the Florida Bar and frivolously suing under the state's 1977 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, Mark Rubin says Lowther has run around town badmouthing the Rubins to reporters and leaving cryptic gifts affixed to his automobile windshield - including a hollow-point rifle bullet.
Guy Rubin describes Lowther as "probably psychotic" and blames him for trying to taint his family with the appearance of participation in illegal criminal activity. He points out that no Rubin is known to be the target of police investigation as a result of the April 21 estate sale. "I have never known that anything that was in our building was stolen," he emphasizes.
While acknowledging his presence at the sale, Guy Rubin says he only went there after being summoned by a panicked Siskind employee. As for the cash box, grabbing it was an instinctive reaction: "There was a box with, I believe, eight one-dollar bills," Rubin says. "I would not call that `proceeds from the sale.' I think they were using it to make change. All I did, and believe me it was not a fun task, was to put everything back in the building and secure it. I put the box in my car for safekeeping."
Summing up his relationship with Siskind, Mark Rubin interrogates himself: "Why are there all these ties between me and Siskind? It's a good question. You know what the answer is? It's because I was too nice a guy. If you want to paint me and my family as suckers, then we would plead guilty. But I can assure you we would not risk everything we have to be involved in any criminal enterprise, especially one as contrived and minuscule as the one alleged by Lowther and his cohorts."
Guy Rubin has this to say about Siskind: "We rightfully or wrongfully believed he would follow through on some of the things he said he planned to do. We want to make that piece of property a cornerstone for the redevelopment of the neighborhood. We are disappointed that things didn't work out better. But it's not in our inclination or interest to say anything bad about anyone unless we have to."
From Coral Springs to Coconut Grove, dozens of people from Siskind's past are considerably less kind in their criticism.
By the time he moved into the crime-plagued Bayshore neighborhood in northeast Miami, Martin Siskind had already developed quite a name in South Florida. Unfortunately for his new and unwitting friends, it was a name that did not precede him.
Since he appeared in Coconut Grove in 1985 and took up residence in the Mutiny Hotel, the New York-born Siskind spelled his name variously as Martin Siskind, Martyn Siskin, and Martin Susskind. Sometimes he spoke with an English accent, sometimes with the thick patois of Brooklyn. But if his accent and his name changed often, his message was always the same. By turns dapper and bedraggled, bombastically eloquent and gruffly profane, the swarthy, 280-pound Siskind talked energetically and often about his visions of commercial renaissance, hinting he had the investment capital to make a host of giddy business dreams come true.
To some the 50-year-old Siskind mentioned his large and elegantly appointed yacht anchored at Dinner Key Marina, a vessel no one ever actually seemed to see. Others say Siskind claimed to own a castle in England, and a stable of thoroughbreds. (Siskind did live in England for more than a decade before coming to Miami. In November 1984, a court there sentenced him to two and a half years in prison on six counts of "obtaining services by deception," "obtaining property by deception," and "evading liability by deception." The court also recommended he be deported.) Like a busy bombardier, Siskind dropped the names of powerful and celebrated men whom he called his closest friends: Miami Commissioner Victor DeYurre, former Miami Police Chief Perry Anderson, millionaire developer Manny Medina, actor Philip Michael Thomas, and former U.S. secretary of state and current Knight-Ridder board member Clark Clifford.