When Vicki Met Syl

Fate introduced Miami lobbyist Sylvester Lukis to a rising political star named Vicki Lopez-Wolfe. Twenty-two felony charges later, South Florida is still reeling.

Beginning in April 1992, Rubin says, "I recall a two-to-three-month period when I would come home from work and find Syl, that is, Mr. Lukis, lying on the couch staring at the ceiling. Very quickly it became apparent that he just felt empty. He couldn't do anything. We couldn't get him to go out with another woman.

"One night I came home and found him sitting in a chair reading one of these self-help books -- I think it was The Road Less Traveled -- and I think that's when I called him pathetic. He was as miserable as any man I've ever seen. He was crazy in love with her."

Lukis still had contacts in Lee County, and in June he began hearing rumors that Lopez-Wolfe was once again dating lobbyist Bruce Strayhorn.

"I was hurt. I was angry. I wanted to see if it was true, so I started calling around," Lukis says. "I think I might have even made some anonymous phone calls to the News-Press."

Frustrated, Lukis opened his black address book and called Alan Solowitz, a former police major in Miami Beach. Solowitz referred him to Ernest Prather, a private detective then based in Miami.

"I asked [Prather] to follow Vicki, and I asked him to determine whether she was seeing another man," Lukis says.

Never one for sloppy operations, Lukis paid Prather $11,000 for three days of 24-hour surveillance in Fort Myers and Orlando during June and July. In the end he got more than he bargained for.

Prather was having trouble tailing Lopez-Wolfe because of her erratic driving habits, so Lukis instructed him to follow Bruce Strayhorn instead. "He called me and said he had observed Mr. Strayhorn with another woman," Lukis says. "I was happy about that. Since he was already there, I thought, 'Let's see if Vicki's seeing anyone else.'

"The very next night I was at a dinner party in Washington. He called and said he did in fact see Vicki with Strayhorn, that they were at [Strayhorn's] ranch."

So Strayhorn was seeing two women at once, one of them Lopez-Wolfe. But who was the other woman?

Lukis says he had no idea until Prather showed him a grainy, soundless surveillance videotape. The woman turned out to be Susan Anthony, a married mother and an anti-incinerator candidate for the Lee County Commission.

The videotape shows Strayhorn and Anthony seeming to kiss across a table at the Players Sports Emporium in downtown Fort Myers at 11:12 p.m. on July 24, and later disappearing into Anthony's darkened campaign headquarters between 2:16 and 3:17 a.m. the following morning. Lukis says he decided he had gotten sufficient emotional "closure" for his $11,000, and tried to stop thinking about Lopez-Wolfe.

But in mid-August, a chance occurrence brought the two together again. The child of mutual friends died by falling into a swimming pool in Los Angeles. Lukis heard about the accident first and decided he should call Lopez-Wolfe to break the news. They kept talking, then talked some more. Lopez-Wolfe admitted to dating Strayhorn, and told Lukis she suspected Strayhorn of seeing another woman at the same time. Lukis didn't mention Prather's videotape. They hung up, agreeing to see one another in Florida soon.

When they spoke again, Lukis told Lopez-Wolfe about the surveillance video without taking credit for its creation. "I was ashamed of what I did," he says.

On the morning after Hurricane Andrew, August 24, 1992, Strayhorn called Lopez-Wolfe at her home in Fort Myers to make sure she had weathered the storm and was in good health. Instead of thanks for his solicitousness, he got a shock.

Strayhorn later recalled the conversation in court testimony: "She told me she was in possession of tapes that were revealing of myself, herself, Ms. Anthony, and that it was -- I don't believe she used the word 'scandalous,' but the impression was that they were very bad tapes, if you will. She said that I should tell Ms. Anthony about them and have Ms. Anthony withdraw from the county commission race, or else the tapes would be revealed, disclosed, made public."

Q: Would you describe her as very angry?
A: Yes, sir. She said she would destroy my reputation, my family, my clients.

Q: Did she talk about how she felt about Ms. Anthony sitting with her on the commission, or the possibility of that?

A: Yes, sir.
Q: What did she say?
A: She said, "I'll not sit on the commission with that woman," or words to that effect.

Q: When you say "words to that effect," did she say 'that woman?'
A: She might have said a word other than "woman."
Q: And what was that?
A: She might have said a word such as "slut" or "whore."

Susan Anthony decided not to drop out of the commission race. For her trouble she was trounced two-to-one in an October 1 runoff with John Manning, a candidate more favorably disposed to construction of Lee County's $200 million garbage incinerator. A seemingly indisputable factor in her defeat was the release of the surveillance videotape by Lopez-Wolfe and Lukis to the News-Press and other media.

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