Thursday, January 11, 2024

Roberto Denofrio Kelly (Part 2 of 2 Parts) blog post #635

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don’t know about you, but I’m curious about what lies behind Roberto Denofrio Kelly’s lucrative offer to Bryce. Put up nothing but your name and reputation and receive a lucrative remuneration. Sounds like the deal I’m always hunting for.


I know the post is long, but stay with me to see what happens.




After telling Bobo I’d mull over his proposition, I did some digging around and learned what he’d told me was essentially correct. While a new license would cost no more than five grand or so, very few were issued each year, and likely only to those with political clout. Once issued, that little piece of paper was instantly worth around half a mil. And they were leasable. For a pretty good price. Since my alimony payments were fixed, not based on income, I could pocket the entire proceeds, after sharing them with the IRS and the New Mexico tax authority.

The more I looked, the more attractive the deal became. Of course, there was one little problem. It wasn’t my funds that would pay for the license. And under the law, you usually couldn’t do indirectly what you couldn’t do directly. So if Bobo couldn’t legally buy the license, how could his funds be used to purchase one? And I certainly wasn’t about to obligate myself to him or anyone else for that kind of money.

Or would I? More and more, I found myself reviewing the assets that remained after the plundering my ex-wife’s lawyer had given them. Could I raise the money? I had some stock and bonds. I had a good reputation and credit rating. Maybe I could leverage them and borrow enough to handle the deal.

But did I know Roberto Denofrio Kelly well enough to take that kind of risk? We were friends, but I’d been in Albuquerque less than a year, so it was still a shallow relationship.

With that thought in mind, I set about sticking my nose into his business, asking question of friends and business associates. I checked police records, tax records, Better Business Bureau, other bar owners, the Alcohol and Gaming Division, and even managed to meet his pastor at a function and discretely mention I knew a member of his flock.

What emerged was the picture of an upstanding citizen anyone should be proud to be associated with. But—and there was a but—everyone I talked to, except his pastor, left a “but” hanging in the air. Nothing said. Only an attitude. When pressed, they stuck to their stated facts.

At the end of it, I was still undecided. So I started dropping by Roberto’s more frequently. Bobo always came over to say hello and stay for a chat. He mentioned his proposition occasionally but didn’t push. He probably knew what I was doing… background work. I met the kid he intended to make the manager of his new place, a stunningly handsome and aggressively macho Peruvian immigrant named Tonio Malvan. I wasn’t sure he was appropriate for such a position until I watched him work the room. He was welcomed at every table and booth whether occupied by beer-swilling sports fans or prim Long Island Tea-sipping ladies.

Bobo slipped onto the stool beside me. “You here to accept my offer?”

“Getting closer, but not there.”

“Need an answer. Costing me money to hold onto the North Valley location.”

“Pretty well answered my technical questions,” I said. “But one thing’s bothering me.”

“And that is?”

“Why me? You know Joe and Brimley a lot longer than me. Why not one of them? Or did you go to them and get turned down?”

“Came to you first. And for one reason. I know you went through a divorce a year back that cleaned you out. Still, you’ve got a good reputation and a sterling credit rating. You’re well regarded in law circles.” He poked a thumb at me. “You’re the ideal candidate.”

“Checked me out, have you?”

“About as thoroughly as you’ve checked me out. How do I stack up?”

I paused a moment. “A-Okay.”

Bobo was a sharp cookie. “I sense a little hesitation there? Let me tell you what you found. Nobody had a bad word to say about me, not even my competition. But they left you with a question in the air. Am I right?”

“Right on point.”

He nodded. “Okay, let’s reason this out. I’m in the liquor business. The liquor business gets a bum rap in this state. Still carries an odor around with it from the old days when the mob was deep in it. Carryover from prohibition. As for my competition, they can’t find a damned thing to say bad about me, so they just let a facial expression or a question mark hanging in the air do the job for them.”

“Okay. Fair enough. So clear something else up for me. Who’s putting up the money for the license, and how do they get paid?”

“I’m springing for it. You’ve got no obligation at all.” He grinned at me. “And in the normal world, I’d cut your lease fee in half and consider I was doing you a favor. But this is the highly regulated liquor world we’re talking about here, so you get the full ride.”

“And now we’re at the nub of it. I’m a lawyer, Roberto, schooled in the proposition you can’t do indirectly what you can’t do directly.”

He frowned. “Are you kidding me? Happens every day in and out of the law profession.”

I thought for a moment. “You separately incorporating the North Valley operation?”

Bobo nodded. “Yeah.”

“Give me the papers so I can look them over.”

“I’ll send you the info. Okay?”

“Sounds fine.”


The first wrinkle came when I received the incorporating papers he sent me. Papi’s Inc. didn’t mention Roberto Denofrio Kelly anywhere. I recognized Tonio Malvan’s name as president, but not any of the others. Nor did Bob’s wife show up anywhere. Off putting to say the least.

Then there was that name. Papi’s. I didn’t speak a lot of Spanish, but I’d heard the word used as a term of affection for men. Was this going to be a gay bar? Did I care? Not really. Just because it wasn’t my cup of tea wasn’t any reason to go ballistic over it.

But that plus the absence of Bobo’s fingerprint on the deal put the pause on my enthusiasm. The next time I was in Roberto’s  I swiped the shot glass Tonio placed on the coaster in front of me at the bar. A friend at Albuquerque PD came back to me with some interesting information.

Tonio Malvan wasn’t Tonio Malvan at all. He was a character named Antonio Galveis y Humberto, a forty-year-old with good genes and a bad record. Convicted of burglary, assault, and indecent exposure in Lima. Worse yet, manslaughter in Cusco. He’d spent a good part of his life in one prison or the other.

Did that bother me? Well, yeah, both as a lawyer and as a human being. Was Bobo aware of his protégé’s background? If so, what did that say about him? Nah, he couldn’t know. He wouldn’t make a half a million dollar bet on such a shady character.

So that evening, I stopped by Roberto’s after work. Tonio looked—I dunno—somehow more sinister. Still, as I watched him work the room, I couldn’t help but admire the way he interfaced with his customers. I mentally shook my head. That was surface. What lay beneath was what counted.

Therefore, when Bobo plopped down at my side, I confided what I knew.

His steady gaze right into my eyes before he spoke disconcerted me somewhat. “Is that right?”

What did that mean. Had he known? I took a guess. “Take it you knew all about Tonio’s background. You wouldn’t gamble on him unless you checked him out from top to bottom.”

The green eyes fell away. “Yeah, I know all about him. Don’t you believe in giving a guy a second chance?”

“Looks to me like this one’s been given several.”

Bobo shrugged. “He’s clean up here. And he’s good with the customers.”

“Until he assaults one of them.”

“Been plenty of times somebody’s got rowdy, and Tonio’s handled it okay.”

“Bobo, you may be willing to take a risk on him, but I’m not. I’m gonna pass.”

He shook his head. “You need to think about that. This deal will put a lot of green on your plate.”

That comment made my mind up for me. “No thanks, It’s not for me.”


Roberto Denofrio Kelly dropped off my radar after that. He stopped coming to our rat pack get togethers, and I stopped going to his bar. In a weird sort of way, it bothered me. I knew he still saw the other guys, but in time I recognized it would have remained awkward between us and accepted the situation.

Papi’s opened within three months of my last meeting with Bobo. I avoided the opening, although the other went. I couldn’t help but wonder who fronted for the license, but wasn’t interested enough to probe into it.

A year to the day of my last meeting with Roberto Denofrio Kelly, I opened the Albuquerque Journal to devour with my coffee and bagel to find headlines screaming at me.

Prominent local lounge owner arrested.

Local attorney apparently involved in scheme.

According to the article, Papi’s was a front for moving large quantities of liquor to a couple of shady outlets. Apparently, under New Mexico liquor control laws, it was illegal to resell large quantities of alcohol to parties at a fixed price. I didn’t understand the mechanics of the thing, but somehow it involved avoiding taxes on alcohol.

What really hit me between the eyes was that my buddy, Joe, had apparently fronted for the Papi license, and was now ensnared—innocently or otherwise—in the case.

Damn Roberto Denofrio Kelly to Hell and back twenty times!



Well there it is. That fishy smell can sometimes save a guy a lot of headaches if he pays attention to it. Hope you enjoyed the story.

Until we meet next week, stay safe and stay strong.

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See you next Thursday.


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