Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Scotland Yard's Baffling Case of the Playboy Killer

VitalLuxury—members only

It did not take long for Papalexis to begin development of an exclusive private club known as VitalLuxury. Papalexis had previously attempted to purchase the historic Helen Wilkes hotel for a similar venture, but the venture failed when he could not raise enough cash to close the deal despite the backing of Mayor Frankel, according to The Daily Telegraph. VitalLuxury attracted wealthy investors almost immediately by the prospect of a high-end resorts pampering guests with the use of executive jets, yachts, and hotel suites typically utilized by celebrities and heads of state. VitalLuxury's promotional material included promises such as the use of a "fleet of limousines that will gracefully allow you to explore every destination or travel between destinations and ensure your schedules are always adhered to." One brochure promised to provide "a range of luxuries previously only known to billionaires and royalty." The cars that were promised in the advertisements were to have been Bentley Flying Spurs, or 4x4s for travel to mountain retreats. Papalexis also promised members that guests could fly in executive jets for the members-only price of $1,500 per hour. It turned out that the venture was "a scam," as described by a former employee.

Thanos Papalexis
Thanos Papalexis

"We were all manipulated; we were all suckered," the former employee told the London Evening Standard. "He had multi-millionaires coming in. We had people investing three, four, five million dollars. Thanos was paying himself $350,000 a year minimum."

The former employee told the newspaper said that he realized the venture was a scam when Papalexis wrote a $15,000 bad check for the rental of the Versace mansion.

"As Thanos left the party, he said, 'Bye. Tell them we'll take care of the bill. Someone will call,'" the former employee recalled. "But every check he wrote bounced."

One of the executive aircraft for VitalLuxury turned out to be the only aircraft, and it was not a jet. Instead, it was a 1983 eight-passenger Cessna and was, at the time of VitalLuxury, grounded at a remote landing strip most of the time because of engine and other mechanical problems. When it was in the air, passengers could hear wind "whistling" through holes in the seal around the aircraft's door, and the interior was described as "shabby." It did not take long for investors to begin demanding their money back, and soon Papalexis was being chased by creditors who claimed he owed them more than $2 million. One of the creditors pursuing him was the owner of the beachfront mansion where Papalexis lived: the owner claimed that Papalexis was not paying the mortgage.

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