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.

Today Lopez-Wolfe and Lukis call their actions reprehensible, the product of jealousy and rage. To government investigators, the release of the Strayhorn-Anthony videotape was just the opposite, a calculated effort at maximizing the use of a valuable artifact: Anthony, a potential threat to Lukis's clients, was kept off the county commission dais; Lopez-Wolfe got revenge on her two-timing boyfriend; and Lukis got his lover back.

That, anyway, became the theory beginning in the autumn of 1992. Strayhorn and Anthony went to the Lee County State Attorney's Office and told what they knew about the videotape; the resulting investigation focused on Lopez-Wolfe as a blackmail suspect. Then the investigation widened, finally including the whole scope of Lukis and Lopez-Wolfe's relationship.

On February 2, 1993, state prosecutors turned the matter over to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office, remaining as partners in a joint investigation. Two weeks later Lopez-Wolfe moved with Lukis to Chevy Chase, Maryland, having resigned her commission seat in an eloquent and tearful farewell address.

Nearly four years to the day since they met, Lopez-Wolfe and Lukis were indicted by a federal grand jury in Fort Myers on March 10, 1995. Each was charged with eleven felony counts of bribery, extortion, influence peddling, and mail fraud.

There is another significant date in the years leading up to trial last month: On August 24, 1994, Lukis and Lopez-Wolfe were married.

This is the first installment of a two-part story. Next week: An appointment in court, featuring wild-man prosecutor Douglas Molloy; Florida's only snowbird judge; and defense attorney Tom Green, the meanest, toughest white-collar lawyer in Washington. And ultimate justice.

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