Tom Lehmann and a few buddies had been partying for nearly a week without sleep. They had started the binge long before the new year — a lot of meth, a bit of coke, some hits of X, a couple of snorts of ketamine, and, of course, a steady supply of joints and strippers. It included a December 31 bash at Opium Garden in South Beach, then an afterparty downtown at Club Space.
Now, on January 4, 2002, it was time to get to work.
A guy named Steve Citranglo owed Lehmann money — $80,000 to be exact — for a shipment of ketamine, the PCP-like horse tranquilizer that makes people hallucinate and trip for hours. Citranglo had accepted the drugs long ago. His payment was way overdue.
The man needed an incentive, Lehmann thought. His meth-addled plan: Invite Citranglo to his Coral Gables condo and beat him. This would serve a dual purpose. Citranglo would also be discouraged from taking over the $10,000-per-week ketamine-dealing business.
Although he was a tan, six-foot, 228-pound guy pumped up on 'roids and human growth hormone, Lehmann alone might not be able to pound Citranglo. So he invited along two others: Ahed Hbaiu, a 21-year-old Columbia University student and drug dealer who was trying to collect $60,000 from Citranglo, and a Michigan kid named Kevin Keneuker.
Lehmann also asked his buddy Paul Brandreth to come over. Brandreth was one of Lehmann's foot soldiers in the drug trade, a big lug who liked to brag about his bar-fighting and New York Mafia connections. He stood six feet tall, weighed 240 pounds, and sported a tattoo that read "Death Before Dishonor" on his back. Between his size and his steely blue-eyed gaze, he'd be helpful in the beatdown, Lehmann thought.
Shortly before noon, everyone was in place at Lehmann's two-bedroom condo on Majorca Avenue.
But seconds after the first punch was thrown, something went wrong. One of the guys had brought a gun, and Citranglo ended up wrapped in a tarp with a bullet hole — maybe several — in his body.
Once everyone realized Citranglo was dead, they rolled his body under a coffee table and covered it with a red Christmas tablecloth. "We shit our pants for a half an hour waiting to see if the police showed up or if anyone came knocking on our door," Lehmann would later say.
Someone did knock. It was a guy named Brandon who wanted to purchase two eightballs of coke. While the buyer waited, Lehmann tidily readjusted the red tablecloth so the corpse was invisible. "You couldn't really see it, in my opinion," Lehmann recalls. "And then again, I'm using crystal meth, so what works in a normal mind is not working in my mind at that point."
After Brandon left, they all agreed to dump Citranglo in the Everglades. As they loaded the body into the back of a black Mercedes SUV, Lehmann was both angry and scared. He remembers standing in the parking lot and saying out loud: "You fuckin' killed him."
Eventually Lehmann, Brandreth, Hbaiu, and Keneuker would be charged with first-degree murder. Their testimony in court papers reveals clues to South Florida's biggest mob murder, the background of a bust that crippled South Beach's club-drug world, and teases of information about the persistent wiseguy culture that many people think disappeared from these parts long ago.
Paul Brandreth was born May 29, 1968, in Parkchester, a hardscrabble neighborhood in the East Bronx. The area is best known for its sprawling baseball fields and giant, fortresslike, red-brick high-rises that once housed some 42,000 people. His family was a typical blue-collar Bronx pastiche: Dad was a New York City cop, Mom a nurse. Brandreth's brother, Keith, was born in 1973, and the two were inseparable. Both boys were handsome. They looked and talked alike, except Paul was more hyper; he was a blond, blue-eyed bruiser who loved rough sports.
Addiction and anger ran deep in the family. Brandreth's father beat everyone in the house, and both parents were drunks. When Paul reached 10th grade, he excelled at football and lacrosse and also took on some of his parents' habits. He began drinking, fighting, and doing drugs. He remembers visiting his friend Brian's house one day; the boy's mom sold coke. She offered him a line. "That was it," Brandreth recalls. "From there, downhill."
These days Brandreth is 39 years old and a prisoner in the Miami-Dade County lockup. He often speaks about his life as a descent — like when he describes his first arrest, a burglary, two weeks before his senior prom and graduation: "From there, downhill." Or when, at age 18, he tried his first crack rock: "From there, downhill."