V. Reuben Sturman

Part: 
Four
Chapter: 
4

Reuben Sturman, also known as Robert Stern, Roy C. English, Robert Butler, Paul Shuster, and Paul Bekker, of Clevelaned, Ohio, Los Angeles, California, and elsewhere, is widely believed to be the largest distributor of pornography in the world.[1222] Law enforcement authorities believe that the Sturman  empire has financial control of nearly two hundred businesses in nineteen states, one Canadian province and six foreign countries.[1223] Sturman is closely associated with known organized crime family members.

James Fratianno described Sturman's connection with Robert DiBernardo, a member of the LCN Gambino (and/or de Cavalcante) Family:"... if he has a problem he goes to Debe.[1214] Sturman and DiBernardo have had a long term business relationship, "... they were partners, plus ... if Debe wanted [Sturman] to do something, he [Sturman] would do it."[1225]

More than twenty years ago Sturman was a small time candy, tobacco and comic book distributor who moved slowly into pornographic magazines.[1226] Avoiding any serious legal problems, he built the business into a mammoth operation encompassing all phases from production to retail sales with a myriad of corporate identities.

One account describes his organization as follows:

[Sturman] structured his many companies from retail stores to video production firms, in a honeycomb of nominees, false names and dead associates to avoid local obscenity prosecutions. [A 1985 tax case] reveals that the corporate structure has grown hydraheaded over the years, apparently with the more serious intent of avoiding taxes.[1227]

Sturman's influence on the pornography industry is so great because his enterprise produces a very wide range of items and distributes them to retailers through countless disguised channels.[1228] According to Los Angeles police, 580 of the 765 adult video arcade machines there are owned by companies controlled by Sturman.[1229] Police report that Sturman typically installs equipment worth $22,000 to $60,000 at no cost to the store owner.[1230] In exchange, he reaps fifty percent of the income from the peepshows.[1231] A store owner in San Diego, California, described Sturman's hold on the industry there by saying, "People are afraid of him because of his power. He could just cut people off. You could just die out there. Paranoia sets in and I'm sure he uses it to his advantage."[1232]

Over the past few years, a number of Sturman's associates and corporations have been convicted on obscenity charges and other violations of law.[1233]   Sturman, himself however, has evaded any serious consequences for his acts.[1234]

An indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Cleveland in 1985 alleged Sturman conspired to evade millions of dollars in taxes by laundering seven million dollars through foreign bank accounts and also charges that he destroyed records subpoenaed by the grand jury.[1235] One of his co-defendants, Scott Dormen, pled guilty in late 1985 to his part in the conspiracy, admitting that he skimmed money from Sturman's income and delivered at least $450,000 in cash, to Sturman that went unreported.[1236] When Sturman is the subject of prosecution,

[he] professes indignity when legally attacked-as he always is-and fights back savagely. He also covers legal fees and fines of associates and gives them bonuses when they face the consequences of arrest.[1237]

Reuben Sturman controls General Video of America (GVA), one of the largest distributors of sexually explicit video tape cassettes in the United States.[1238] GVA recently released and distributed a "White Paper" to video cassette retailers giving them notice of government action to prosecute obscenity violations. The "White Paper" also announced the creation of a legal defense fund for GVA and others involved in the distribution of such video cassettes. In addition, they offer a toll-free number for retailers to call an attorney provided by GVA to advise them on legal matters.[1239]

Notes

 

  1. New York Hearing, Vol. I, Marilyn Sommers, p. 199; E. Whalen, Prince of Porn, Cleveland Magazine, (Aug. 1985), p. 143.
  2. New York Hearing, Vol. I, Marilyn Sommers, p. 200.
  3. New York Hearing, Vol. I, Interview with Jimmy  Fratianno, Edward Chapman, p. 115.
  4. Id.
  5. E. Whalen, Prince of Porn, Cleveland Magazine, (Aug. 1985), p. 82
  6. Id.
  7. The Porn Peddlers, San Diego Reader, Vol. 15, No. 10, Mar. 13, 1986, p. 17.
  8. Id.
  9. Id.
  10. Id.
  11. Id.
  12. See, e.g., United States v. Sovereign News Co., et. al, United States District Court, Western District of Kentucky.
  13. In 1980 Sturman  was charged in the MIPORN investigation. The charges were ultimately dismissed.  Sturman was also charged with a prior obscenity violation in Cleveland in 1976. He was acquitted.
  14. New York Testimony, Vol. I, Marilyn B. Sommers, pp. 1-15.
  15. Id.
  16. E. Whalen, Prince of Porn, Cleveland, (Aug. 1985), p. 82.
  17. New York Hearing, Vol. I, Marilyn Sommers, p. 209.
  18. The "White Paper" fails to disclose that some of the video cassettes sold by GVA have been found to be obscene by state and federal courts and that individuals and corporations have been convicted of felonies for their distribution. See, New York Hearing, Vol. II, William Johnson, p. 79.