Jeweller helped cover up grisly murder: lawsuit
JEWELLER to the stars Jeffrey Rackover tried to help a young man he called his "son" cover up a grisly slaying in the swanky New York City apartment he was renting for him, a new lawsuit filed by the victim's dad alleges.
The 57-year-old diamond middleman gave paper towels and other cleaning supplies to James Rackover - with whom he allegedly shared a drug-fuelled "intimate relationship" while claiming to be his "parent" - to sanitise the crime scene where Joseph Comunale was stabbed to death, the suit says, reports The New York Post .
Comunale, known as Joey, wound up at 26-year-old James Rackover's apartment early on November 13, 2016, after clubbing at the Gilded Lily in Chelsea, where he told a friend he was going off to party with three women.
Surveillance video captured Comunale, 26, and Lawrence Dilione, 28, escorting the girls out of the Grand Sutton co-op tower shortly before 7am (local time) that morning, then returning and heading back up to James' pad.
During a subsequent fight over cigarettes, Dilione knocked out Comunale, leading James to pommel him further - then strangle him and stab him in the head, and attempt to dismember him with a serrated knife, according to a confession Dilione allegedly made to police.
The new lawsuit says surveillance video shows Jeffrey - who lives on the 32nd floor - visiting James later that day in his fourth-floor apartment, which police said was splattered with blood and which court papers say "smelled from cleaning chemicals and the stench of death" from Comunale's "decomposing body."
In addition, Jeffrey - whose A-list clients have included Oprah Winfrey, Diana Ross and President Trump - allegedly let James use his black 2015 Mercedes-Benz to haul Comunale's corpse to Oceanport, New Jersey, where authorities say James and Dilione burned it and buried the remains in a shallow ditch.
The suit, filed on Sunday by Comunale's father, Pat, alleges the elder Rackover was involved in an "intimate relationship" with James, who legally changed his last name from Beaudoin to Rackover in March 2015 after claiming to have learned Jeffrey was "my real father."
Pat Comunale said he sued Jeffery Rackover to "get justice for my son" and "hold everybody involved accountable for this horrific crime."
"These guys need to go away for a long time. All of them - and whoever else," he told The New York Post.
Comunale's lawyer, Bob Abrams of Abrams Fensterman, said he was "very confident that once we're done prosecuting this civil action," there will be "sufficient evidence" to bring criminal charges against Jeffrey.
The Manhattan Supreme Court filing says Jeffrey Rackover gave James, an ex-con from Florida, "drugs, money and other benefits" in exchange for "sexual pleasure" while they lived together in Jeffrey's high-rise for about two years.
The jetsetting jeweller later rented apartment 4C for James, court papers say.
The suit demands unspecified damages on grounds of "violation of the right of sepulchre," or preventing the dead man's kin from taking immediate possession of his body for preservation and burial.
The same legal claim is being pressed against killer real estate heir Robert Durst in the unsolved 1982 disappearance of his first wife, Kathie Durst, whose family is represented by Abrams.
Pat Comunale's suit also accuses Jeffrey Rackover of "intentional infliction of emotional distress," claiming his alleged role in covering up Joey's slaying caused his family "mental and physical anguish" over the three days before his body was found.
Reached on Sunday at the Grand Sutton, Jeffrey Rackover declined to comment on the suit.
Pat Comunale, who remains president and CEO of a nationwide security products distributorship that he and other investors sold for $US420 million ($554 million) in 2014, noted that the suit "is clearly not about the money."
"I don't need the money - anything that comes from this goes to charity," he said.
"But these people should rot in hell."
Joey Comunale, a Hofstra grad who worked as a salesman for his dad's company, was repeatedly stabbed inside James Rackover's apartment following an all-night party there, authorities allege.
Jeffrey had been paying for the place - where the rent was listed at $US3600 ($4755) a month in February 2016 - in addition to a $US10,000 ($13,000) monthly "allowance" he gave James, the suit alleges.
According to a criminal complaint, surveillance video shows Joey and several others arriving at the Grand Sutton in the early morning hours of November 13.
Joey then briefly left with Dilione and three women before returning at 6.50am (local time) with just Dilione, the complaint says.
Video also shows Joey and Dilione riding an elevator back to James' apartment, marking the last time Joey was seen alive, according to the complaint.
The suit notes that celebrity private eye Bo Dietl, who has served as Jeffrey Rackover's spokesman, has said Jeffrey went to James' apartment to walk his dog the morning of November 13 - but didn't notice anything awry.
Dietl made the claim, the suit says, "notwithstanding the fact that Joey's decomposing body was in the apartment at that time."
Dietl, a New York City mayoral candidate, did not return a call seeking comment.
Jeffrey allegedly authorised his garage in the building next door to release his Mercedes to James, whose driver's license was suspended at the time. James called the building staff for a luggage cart sometime after 6pm.
Video shows James later wheeling four duffel bags and a backpack out of the building, with cops having said they suspect he and Dilione dumped Joey's body out a window in James' apartment.
"I've been involved in some really vicious, heinous cases," Abrams said. "This is the worst."
Sometime in the late evening, a police informant saw James "place a large duffel bag into the trunk of a black vehicle with tinted windows which was parked outside of the building," the criminal complaint says.
An NYPD investigation revealed the car - allegedly carrying James, Dilione and Comunale's body - travelled through the Holland Tunnel at 9:45pm (local time) that night.
It returned to the city at 3am (local time) the next day, with video showing James dropping it off at Jeffrey's garage 15 minutes later, according to the complaint.
The suit also alleges that Jeffrey and James "further discussed the cover-up as they watched the Dallas Cowboys football game inside of [Jeffrey's] 32nd-floor apartment ... just hours after [James] and Dilione killed Joey."
James Rackover's lawyers, Maurice Sercarz and Robert Caliendo, declined to comment.
This article was first published in The New York Post and has been republished here with permission.