Showing posts with label Lefty Rosenthal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lefty Rosenthal. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Most Dangerous Casino Mafia In History

Bugsy Siegel is one of America’s most notorious mobsters that was single handedly responsible for several murders, illegal gambling operations, bootlegging operations and even prostitution rings. Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel was born in 1906 in Brooklyn, New York and he died at the age of 47 when he was shot at the Beverly Hills residence of his then girlfriend, Virginia Hill.

Siegel was known to be a bit of a good-looking philanderer who wasn’t only easy on the eyes, but also had a charismatic personality. Siegel has his hands everywhere, not only was he a key figure in Jewish mobs, but was also had connections within the Italian – American mafia and even the Italian – Jewish National Crime Syndicate.

During the prohibition, Siegel operated mostly as a big shot bootlegger and dealt illegal booze among other things. However, Siegel stepped into illegal gambling and casinos only after the prohibition was lifted and his boot legging was no more as profitable. Even though he was a mastermind behind many operations and crime rings, Siegel was mostly a hit man who knew his way around guns and did not shy away from violence. In the year 1936, Siegel moved away from New York to California.

He frequented Las Vegas, Nevada where he then took his illegal gambling business to the next level. He invested in and managed many of the original casinos. In fact, the Las Vegas strip as we know it today, was shaped and initially sparked by Siegel and his associates.

During his early days, Siegel’s introduction to crime started off simultaneously as his friendship with Meyer Lansky, also known as Meyer Mob, started to blossom. Meyer Mob was the kingpin of a small group of mobsters who were mainly into grand theft auto, larceny and all sorts of illegal gambling operations. Meyer Mob began this gang when he identified that there was no Jewish gang in his neighborhood like how there was an Italian gang and an Irish Gang.

Siegel became one of Meyer Mob’s very first recruits and he served as the hit man and muscle of the group for the most part. It was this exposure to illegal gambling and other criminal operations which gave Siegel the experience and the knowledge which later manifested into he-himself becoming a big shot kingpin and casino owner who was known and feared all across the country.

Siegel loved the lavish life, loved to be a womanizer, loved the nightlife, flashy clothes, swanky houses and flashy cars. However, he also had a reputation for being downright fearless. In an interview with biographers, one of his fellow mobsters, Joseph “Doc” Stacher, had told biographers that Siegel was one of the most fearless men he knew and on one occasion had even saved the lives of his gang members. While everyone was wondering how to cope with an attack, Siegel supposedly would already be all guns blazing.

It was in the late 30’s that Siegel’s life was really under threat and he moved to the east coast. This is when his involvement with casinos really got some traction. His objective during his Californian years was to develop and strengthen syndicate – sanctioned gambling rackets along with Jack Dragna, a Los Angeles family boss.

In the early forties, Siegel and his bookmaking efforts were said to be pulling in a staggering amount of money in the order of nearly half a million a day, which for the forties is really a ludicrous amount. Seigel also had connections with politicians, businessmen, industrial tycoons, attorneys, accountants and lobbyists. In December 1946 Siegel opened The Pink Flamingo Hotel & Casino at a cost of $6 million, which was once again, more than an absurd sum in those days.

It was on 20th June, 1947 that Siegel breathed his last breath. He was in his girlfriend’s residence in Beverley Hills and was accompanied by his associate Allen Smith when an assailant shot him multiple times with a .30 caliber. He took two bullets to the head and several more elsewhere in his body and pretty much died on the spot. To this day, nobody has been charged with his murder and the killing remains an unsolved mystery.

Frank Lawrence Rosenthal lived a life so eventful that his life was depicted in Martin Scorsese’s film Casino. Rosenthal was many things, a husband, a father, a professional gambler, an entrepreneur, and when required – a ruthless mobster.

Rosenthal spent his early years learning sports betting in the west side of Chicago. It is said that he would frequently cut class to go partake in sports betting and witness sporting events. From his younger days itself, Rosenthal had a knack for being able to seek out excellent sports bets and make good money in the process. His eye for detail and talent landed him a job with the Chicago outfit. Fast forward a few years and Rosenthal was running the biggest illegal bookmaking operation in the country and worked for the American Mafia.

Even though he was charged and tried on many occasions for illegal gambling and several other charges, it was only once that he was actually convicted. Rosenthal could not care for licenses and regulations and was discovered to have been running multiple casinos without holding a single license.

Rosenthal was the first person to bring sports betting to the US. He was also the one who created the concept of female blackjack dealers which saw the incorporating casino almost double its blackjack driven profits.

Rosenthal survived a murder attempt in 1981 when he sat in his Cadillac Eldorado and it blew up. He is said to have survived the attack because of a manufacturing defect in his car.

In 2008, Rosenthal passed away after suffering a heart attack at the age of 79.

Thanks to Legal Gambling and the Law.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Book Reveals the Inside Story of the Law's Battle to Remove the Influence and Corruption of Organized Crime from Sin City's Streets and Casinos

In 1971The Battle for Las Vegas, the Chicago mob, known as the Outfit, sent an enforcer to Las Vegas to keep an eye on its casino interests. When he wasn’t busy taking action against threats to their cash-skimming activities, he ran lucrative street rackets that included loan sharking, robbery, burglary, and fencing stolen goods. For the next 15 years nothing happened in the Las Vegas underworld without his knowledge and approval. His name was Tony Spilotro. In the 1995 movie Casino, Joe Pesci played a character based on Spilotro.

This book tells the real story of Tony’s time in Sin City and the law’s efforts to remove him. It was compiled from many sources, including books, public records, and newspaper archives. But in large part it is told by the former Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department detectives and FBI agents themselves; the men that actually conducted the investigations, and the current and former reporters who covered the organized crime beat.

In the pages of this book, the commander of Metro’s Intelligence Bureau tells what strategies were put in place to combat Spilotro and his ruthless gang. The reader rides along with a pair of Metro detectives as an evening of routine surveillance turns violent and deadly, and joins FBI agents as they track bags full of unreported cash from mob-controlled casinos in Vegas to the crime families in Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Kansas City. It contains the inside details of the night Spilotro’s burglary crew broke into a business expecting a $1 million score, but instead walked into a joint Metro and FBI ambush. It also explains why one of Tony’s once-trusted lieutenants switched sides, sending shockwaves through organized crime families nationwide.

The adulterous relationship between Spilotro and the wife of his long-time pal and mob associate, Lefty Rosenthal is delved into. Rosenthal was considered to be a sports betting genius, and had been a major power in the Vegas gaming business until Tony arrived in town. After that, what could have been a panacea for both men turned into a nightmare. The affair between Tony and Geri Rosenthal was more than likely a contributing factor in the Outfit’s decision that Tony was expendable, resulting in his being beaten to death and buried in an Indiana cornfield in 1986.

An intriguing mix of people are unveiled as the author takes his readers back in time to the mob days in Vegas : Lawmen that were heroes, and other cops that were rogues. There are gangsters who robbed and murdered; rats and informants who played both sides, crooked hotel and casino employees, dedicated prosecutors, and journalists that had to walk a fine line to maintain credibility with both the lawmen and the mobsters.

The Battle for Las Vegas: The Law vs. The Mob, contains many photos and insights that won’t be found elsewhere.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Dennis Griffin's The Battle for Las Vegas (The Law vs. The Mob)

The inside story of the law's battle to remove the influence and corruption of organized crime from Sin City's streets and casinos.

In the 1970s and thru the mid-1980s, the Chicago Outfit was the dominant organized crime family in Las Vegas, with business interests in several casinos. During those years the Outfit and its colleagues in Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Cleveland were using Sin City as a cash cow. Commonly referred to as the "skim," unreported revenue from Outfit-controlled casinos was making its way out of Vegas by the bag full and ending up in the coffers of the crime bosses in those four locations.

The skim involved large amounts of money. The operation had to be properly set up and well managed to ensure a smooth cash flow. To accomplish that goal, the gangsters brought in a front man with no criminal record to purchase several casinos. Allen R. Glick, doing business as the Argent Corporation (Allen R. Glick Enterprises) purchased the Stardust, Fremont, Hacienda, and Marina. They next installed Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal as their inside man, and the real boss of the casino operations. Rosenthal was a Chicago native and considered to be a genius when it came to oddsmaking and sports betting. Under Lefty's supervision the casino count rooms were accessible to mob couriers.

But even with the competent Rosenthal in charge, there remained room for problems. What if an outsider tried to muscle in on the operation? Or just as bad, suppose one of their own decided to skim the skim? To guard against such possibilities the Chicago bosses decided to send someone to Vegas to give Rosenthal a hand should trouble arise. The successful applicant had to be a person with the kind of reputation that would deter interlopers from horning in, and make internal theft too risky to try. But the mob's outside man had to be capable of action as well as threats. In other words, he had to be a man who would do whatever it took to protect the Outfit's interests. So, in 1971, 33-year-old Tony Spilotro, considered by many to be the "ultimate enforcer," was sent to the burgeoning gambling and entertainment oasis in the desert. Spilotro, sometimes called "tough Tony," or "the Ant," was a made man of the Outfit and a childhood friend of Rosenthal. He was known as a man who could be counted on to get the job done.

Being an ambitious sort, Tony quickly recognized that there were other criminal opportunities in his new hometown besides skimming from the casinos. Street crimes ranging from loan sharking to burglary, robbery, and fencing stolen property were all in play. It wasn't very long before Tony had his hands into every one of these areas. As the scope of his criminal endeavors grew, Tony brought in other heavies from Chicago to fill out his gang. The five-foot-six-inch gangster was soon being called the "King of the Strip."

Federal and local law enforcement recognized the need to rid the casinos of the hidden ownership and control of the mob, and shut down Spilotro's street rackets. They declared war on organized crime and the battle was on. It was a hard fight, with plenty of tough guys on both sides. But it was a confrontation the law knew it had to win.

The Battle for Las Vegas: The Law Vs. the Mob relates the story of that conflict, told in large part by the agents and detectives who lived it.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Was Lefty Rosenthal a Double Agent for the FBI and the Chicago Mob?

Retired FBI agent and author Gary Magnesen has changed his mind.

He no longer believes the late U.S. District Judge Harry Claiborne was leaking materials from FBI search warrant affidavits to the mob in the early 1980s, as he wrote in his 2010 book, "Straw Men: A Former Agent Recounts how the FBI Crushed the Mob in Las Vegas."

He thinks Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal was a double agent, providing information to the FBI, then turning around and telling the Chicago mob what agents would be doing.

That way the good guys and the bad guys ended up protecting him while he played them.

In Magnesen's opinion, "Oscar Goodman, The Outfit and the FBI were all duped by the master oddsmaker and manipulator, Frank 'Lefty' Rosenthal." Goodman was Rosenthal's attorney.

One example of Rosenthal's double agent role came to be known as "the Cookie Caper" and proved to be a huge embarrassment to the FBI in January 1982 during an investigation into skimming at the Stardust.

Rosenthal, as a top echelon informant, provided information to the FBI about how millions of dollars were skimmed and transported from the Stardust when businessman Allen Glick owned four Las Vegas hotels between 1974 and 1979, but Rosenthal actually ran them. The ownership changed, but the skimming continued until the Boyd Gaming Group bought the hotels in 1985. Glick was just a front, a straw man, for the mob. But he testified against the mob in the Kansas City trials in 1985, portraying himself as an unwitting victim.

Rosenthal neither testified against the mob nor was indicted in the skimming investigations.

Rosenthal told the FBI how the money was moved from the Stardust to the Chicago mob.

Magnesen detailed how agents watched as Stardust casino manager Bobby Stella carried a grocery bag from the casino on Tuesday afternoons and met Phil Ponto, another Stardust employee, and gave him the paper bag, which he took to his apartment. On Sundays, agents watched as Ponto would put the bag in his car trunk and drive to church. Afterward, he traveled to another store parking lot and met Joe Talerico, a Teamster, who put the bag in his trunk.

Talerico then flew to Chicago via Los Angeles and met with mob boss Joseph Aiuppa in a restaurant. After dinner, the much traveled bag landed in Aiuppa's trunk.

Mob money on the move wasn't enough to build a case. The FBI applied for a search warrant for Talerico's car, and Claiborne gave his approval. Magnesen now believes Rosenthal tipped the mobsters about the upcoming search. In January 1982, agents moved in, only to find cookies and a bottle of wine. No cash. Plenty of embarrassment.

In "Straw Men," Magnesen suspected that the judge, who committed suicide in 2004, was leaking information from FBI search warrant affidavits.

Another time, based on Rosenthal's information, agents decided to bug the executive booth at a Stardust restaurant, Aku Aku, hoping to catch Stella talking about the skim. Again, they sought approval from Judge Claiborne. Once the listening device was installed, the executives talked about innocuous subjects. Women. Weather. Golf. Almost as if they were taunting the FBI, Magnesen said.

Who leaked the information about the Aku Aku bug and Talerico's travels is akin to the other never-answered question: Who planted the bomb under Rosenthal's car in October 1982?

Theories are rampant. It's almost a trivial pursuit question for locals to theorize on who did it. Was it Spilotro, who had an affair with Rosenthal's wife, Geri? Was it the Chicago Outfit? Once again, Magnesen has a theory.

He believes it was ordered by Nick Civella, the Kansas City mob boss, who was tired of all the trouble Rosenthal had been creating in Las Vegas with his TV show and his seemingly endless quest for a gaming license. "Civella was dying of cancer and didn't care what Chicago thought about Lefty," Magnesen wrote in an email summary of his views. The bombing was 1982, Civella died in 1983.

Magnesen said he interviewed mob figure Joe Agosto a few weeks before he died in August 1983. Agosto said he had told Civella in 1977, "That Lefty. He's getting out of hand. He's stirring up dirt all over Vegas. He's dangerous. He could cause big problems with his big mouth and his TV show."

My favorite story of the bombing was from retired UPI Correspondent Myram Borders, who was driving home from the UPI office and passed Tony Roma's restaurant on Sahara Avenue. She heard a boom and saw Rosenthal's car blow up. She quickly turned into the parking lot.

"He scrambled out of the car and was jumping up and down patting his clothes. His hair was standing straight up … I didn't know if it was because of his recent hair transplant or the explosion that made it stand up so straight," she wrote in an email. "When I ran up and asked him what was going on, Lefty said 'They are trying to kill me.' When I asked who, he shut up."

Rosenthal died a natural death in 2008 in Florida. He was 79.

Magnesen said he wouldn't have said these things publicly about Rosenthal, but now it is widely known that Rosenthal was an informant. (I was the first to report it after his death.)

Of course, when Rosenthal cooperated with author Nick Pileggi for the book "Casino," he didn't reveal his informant status. Nor did that make it into the 1995 movie.

When the movie came out, Rosenthal said, "The way you saw it in the movie is just the way it happened."

Well, not exactly. He left a few historical holes.

Thanks to Jane Ann Morrison.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Frank Cullotta is At Peace with His Past

Frank Cullotta keeps reaching toward his face, trying to adjust something no longer there. His glasses.

Cullotta just finished a series of Lasik surgeries to right his vision. Gone are his recognizable, oversized frames. He now sees clearly but continues to focus his memory in the long-ago past.

Cullotta was a famous hit man for the Chicago Outfit, a self-described former “gangster, burglar, murderer, extortionist, arsonist” who admitted to the 1979 killing of con man Sherwin “Jerry” Lisner in Las Vegas. As was customary in those days, Cullotta acted on the order of Chicago Outfit overlord Tony Spilotro. The murder scene was depicted in the film “Casino.”

Cullotta was a consultant on the film, as he edged his way back into society while living under an assumed name. He spent two years in the federal witness-protection program after cutting a deal with the federal government in exchange for information about his former associates.

Today, the 76-year-old Cullotta earns a legal living as an expert in the culture that led him underground. He works as a guide for the Mob Museum, leading “Casino” tours of the primary points of interest featured in the 20-year-old mob movie, most of which was set in Las Vegas. The tours begin at the Mob Museum with a private walk-around hosted by mob historian Robert George Allen and include a bus tour of the city’s famous mob locations. The five-hour tours run monthly and cost $180, including a champagne toast and pizza dinner.

Guests visit such locations as the Casino House, where Cullotta carried out the Lisner murder; the setting for the Frankie “Blue” death scene in the film; the Las Vegas Country Club clubhouse where Spilotro and Moe Dalitz used to play cards; and the site of the Hole in the Wall Gang’s botched Bertha’s Household Products robbery on July 4, 1981, which led to Cullotta’s arrest. The bus also pulls into Piero’s Italian Cuisine, also used in “Casino.”

You see, too, the spot at Tony Roma’s on Sahara Avenue where in 1982, Lefty Rosenthal was nearly killed in a car-bomb explosion, spared by the hard-metal plate under the driver’s seat of his ’81 Cadillac Eldorado.

“I tell people that Lefty was a creature of habit,” Culotta said. “He always liked to have his ribs at Roma’s, once a week. He was an easy target.”

Cullotta is introduced to those on the tour by “Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas” book author Nicholas Pileggi. “He brags about me, saying there would have been no book or movie ‘Casino’ if it was not for me,” Cullotta said.

Cullotta considers the obvious: He is the rare (hopefully) person taking these tours who actually has committed a murder.

How does it feel to be walking around with that experience, even more than 35 years later?

“Honestly, it never wakes me up,” Cullotta said. “If you do think about it, it’ll put you in the (effing) nuthouse. When I do these tours, then everything pops up into my head; people want to know if it bothers me. Of course. But if I thought about it 24 hours a day, I’d wind up in my car with a gun in my mouth.”

Cullotta says he compares his experience to that of a serviceman carrying out an order for his government.

“It’s like fighting a war,” he said. “I hate to use the military as a comparison, but that’s how it felt; I was carrying out an order.

“People are fascinated by me, and I understand that, but there’s a big difference in me today than there used to be. I mean, I used to be surrounded by celebrities, showgirls, politicians, a lot of money, people wanting to attach themselves to you. But it came at a price.”

Which was?

“I lost my freedom,” Cullotta said. “I had to change my life completely. But I have paid my debt to society. I’m under no pressure. I used to have headaches all the time, from tension, and I don’t have headaches anymore. I’m clean today. I’m very clean.”

Thanks to John Katsilometes.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Revisiting the Mob Career of Tony Spilotro

Tony Spilotro, who would eventually be portrayed by Joe Pesci in the Martin Scorcese film "Casino," was born and raised in “The Patch,” a near west side Chicago neighborhood that was a haven for Italian immigrants in the 1940s and 50sTony Spilotro. Spilotro entered high school at Steinmetz, but when his father had a stroke and died the next year, he dropped out and started a full-time life of crime. All but one of his five brothers, along with a number of neighbors, became members of the Chicago mob, and a few played starring roles.

During the 1970s, Tony Spilotro was fronted in Las Vegas by childhood friend Frank Rosenthal (portrayed by Robert DeNiro in "Casino"), who ran numerous mob-backed gambling operations, to become the enforcer for Chicago. Spilotro was already known for his brutality and quickly established an embezzling scheme that took a cut for mob families in Kansas City, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Los Angeles.

Leo Foreman was the first brutal murder that Spilotro was accused of, supposedly in retribution because the loan shark (Foreman) had disrespected Chicago mob boss Sam DeStefano. Spilotro also is thought to have murdered Tamara Rand, a California real estate broker, in 1975, because she was suing over an unpaid $2 million loan to Spilotro’s Las Vegas associate Allen Glick.

When Tony was blacklisted by the Nevada Gaming Commission in 1979, which barred him from being physically present in a casino, Spilotro’s role of enforcer was curtailed. By that time, he had branched out into other activities like fencing stolen property and conducting a burglary operation with his brother Michael. The first Chicago mob informants flipped by the FBI named Spilotro in the murder of Leo Foreman, and a half dozen other close associates who accused Spilotro of ordering or carrying out mob murders.

By the early 1980s, Spilotro had already broke with Rosenthal after he had an affair with Rosenthal’s wife. When Frank Cullotta, a childhood friend who had remained an insider, began to fear that Spilotro was going to kill him, Cullotta began talking to the FBI.

Spilotro was acquitted in Chicago on a murder charge stemming in part from Cullotta’s testimony, but by 1986 the mobster had been implicated in about 22 murders and had lots of enemies in and out of jail.  Among other high-profile killings, Spilotro was suspected of being involved in the murder of his mentor Sam DeStefano and mob kingpin Sam Giancana.

There are several theories about how Tony and his brother Michael were lured to a summit meeting likely in Bensenville or North Riverside, Ill., and subsequently beaten and killed on June, 14, 1986.

About 10 days after the murders, the partially decomposed bodies of Tony and Michael Spilotro were found buried in a cornfield within the 12,000-acre Willow Slough preserve, in Newton County, Indiana. The farmer who spotted the site of the burial investigated at first because he thought a poacher had buried a deer killed out of season. The coroner noted that the bodies appeared to have been beaten to death by several people, and numerous people were eventually convicted. Of the 7-8 suspects in the Spilotro killings, several were convicted, others flipped and received lighter sentences in later cases, but everyone who was known to be at the meeting where the brothers were murdered, went to jail or died.

Thanks to Pat Collander.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Las Vegas Mob Museum Covers American Jewish History

In the mid-20th century, a cadre of tough Jews, shedding the bookish bearing of exile, went forth to create a new society in a forbidding desert. Armed to the teeth, they lived outside the law and built their outpost by any means necessary. Against all odds, despite implacable enemies, the desert bloomed.

Think you already know this history? Think again. This is an American tale told by the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, in downtown Las Vegas. Open since February, and already better known as “The Mob Museum,” it is essentially an American Jewish history museum by another name.

The museum tells the story of American organized crime, from its birth in the ethnic slums of established cities like Boston, New York and Chicago to the city the mafia itself begot, the Mojave metropolis of Las Vegas. The institution is the brainchild of Oscar Goodman, the flamboyant Philadelphia-born mafia attorney whose clients included Meyer Lansky, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal and Herbert “Fat Herbie” Blitzstein. Goodman went on to serve as mayor of Las Vegas from 1999 until 2011.

While the exhibit only breaks the code of omertà about Jewishness at the beginning of its chronological display — noting the Jewish immigration wave alongside the Irish and Italian — as visitors move through the 20th century they see a pantheon of mosaic Murder Inc. veterans, including Moe Dalitz, Gus Greenbaum and Moe Sedway, on a progression from street toughs to casino magnates to pillars of the community. The museum doesn’t pussyfoot around the brutality of Jewish mobsters’ methods; indeed, one 1930s photo shows the brutalized body of a Catskills resort slot machine operator on a gurney after he had been caught skimming profits. But it treats the mafia as an institution of immigrant social mobility, a shortcut to the American Dream.

The presentation makes it hard not to sympathize with Prohibition-era “Boys From Brooklyn” (as the Jewish goodfellas called themselves) as they are hounded by bigoted G-men and hard-drinking hypocrites in Congress. A 1939 FBI “Wanted” poster seeking fugitive Murder Inc. boss Louis Buchalter notes his “Jewish characteristics — nose large… eyes alert and shifty — has habit of passing change from one hand to another.”

Bootlegger Dalitz is celebrated for getting the best of a congressional anti-mafia probe with zingers like, “If you people wouldn’t have drunk it, I wouldn’t have bootlegged it.” And when asked about his illicit moonshine fortune, he said, “Well, I didn’t inherit any money, Senator.”

By the end of the exhibit, having built a world-famous city from scratch with their underworld capital, Sedway is receiving letters from Jewish establishment figures saluting his fundraising efforts for United Jewish Appeal, Dalitz is being presented with the key to the City of Las Vegas and Lansky is living the life of a retired real estate magnate in Miami Beach. Buchalter, for his part, has been sent to the electric chair at Sing Sing (an object that is also part of the collection). But even his death has a Horatio Alger twist: He set the record for the richest man ever executed in America.

The museum’s official slogan is, “There are two sides to every story,” and the feds are given their due. The former special agent in charge of the Las Vegas office of the FBI, Ellen Knowlton, outranks even Goodman on the museum’s board of directors. As in real life, though, it is the glamour of gangster glitter — like Benjamin Siegel’s glitzy watch, labeled “Bugsy’s Bling” — that catches the eye. Beyond a reasonable doubt, the goodfellas steal the show.

Not everyone is thrilled with such laudatory portrayals of the Jewish criminals the museum dubs “the other people who built America.” Jenna Weissman Joselit, Forward columnist, director of the program in Judaic studies at George Washington University and author of “Our Gang : Jewish Crime and the New York Jewish Community, 1900-1940,” (Indiana University Press, 1983) thinks the temptation to glamorize the mob ought to be resisted. Museum curators, she said via email, should “attend to America’s abiding fascination with crime with the same rigor and discernment that’s applied to other cultural and historical phenomena.” But Rich Cohen, author of “Tough Jews : Fathers, Sons, and Gangster Dreams” (Simon & Schuster, 1998), understands the appeal of Jewish mobsters — especially when contrasted with the loathsome, privileged Jewish criminals of today, like Bernard Madoff. “These were people who grew up in certain neighborhoods where [the mob] was one way to get ahead,” Cohen said via telephone from Hollywood, where he’s advising “Magic City,” a new TV drama about 1950s Miami mobsters. “These were very tough guys in a very tough world, in a time when Jews were being beaten up and even killed — and they weren’t taking s–t from anybody.”

Cohen is unperturbed by the museum’s family-friendly marketing efforts, which include offering discounted admission to children as young as 5. “I have little kids, and I try to teach them right from wrong,” Cohen said. “I don’t think there’s a danger of people coming out of a museum and it making them gangsters.”

As a whole, American Jews are probably more conflicted than Cohen about the community’s historic mob ties. When Cohen told his grandmother he was working on a book about Murder Inc., her response bespoke this communal schizophrenia. “A Jew should never be a gangster. It’s a shande,” she told him, using the Yiddish word for “a disgrace.” “But, if a Jew should be a gangster, let him be the best gangster!”

For his part, booster-in-chief Goodman, who bequeathed to the museum his “gelt bag”— a large briefcase in which his clients, wary of having their bank accounts frozen by the Feds, paid him in cash — zealously defends the institution’s unconventional take on the history of his city and his people. “These are our founding fathers,” Goodman said of Meyer, Bugsy and the gang. “We [Las Vegans] come from the mob.”

But even Goodman recalls that when he first proposed the museum a decade ago, he faced some pushback from constituents who complained that it would stereotype a particular ethnic group. “Apparently they meant the Italians,” Goodman offered, with his perennial grin and Borscht Belt timing. “I thought they were talking about the Jews!”

Thanks to Daniel Brook

Friday, March 30, 2012

5 West Coast Mob Travel Spots

With a roster of names like Jimmy the Weasel, Tony the Ant, and Flipper Milano, you might think of characters from a kids cartoon. Well, fuhgeddaboudit. They're all West Coast mobsters. And, while cement shoes and "made men" are typically associated with New Jersey, New York and Chicago, plenty of Cosa Nostra action went down in the West. Here are five hideouts where you can get a piece of the "family" business.

1. The Mob Museum, Las Vegas
Located in the former federal courthouse where mobsters such as Tony Spilotro and Lefty Rosenthal were prosecuted, this museum tells the story of organized crime and the authorities who tried to shut it down. Listen to wire-taps of mobsters, join a police lineup and wince at graphic photos of mob hits. 300 Stewart Ave., (702) 229-2734, www.themobmuseum.org.

2. Romolo's Cannoli, San Mateo
After icing Paulie in "The Godfather," Peter Clemenza turns to Rocco and says, "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli." Drop in and bump off a couple of these rich Sicilian pastries. Filled with bourbon vanilla bean ice cream, or ricotta cream blended with sugar and spice, this is an offer you can't refuse. Closed Monday and Tuesday. 81 37th Ave., (650) 574-0625, www.romolosfactory.com.

3. Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood
When Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel was suspected of skimming money from the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, his East Coast pals gave him the Moe Green Special - death by bullet in the eye - at his girlfriend's Beverly Hills home. Come pay your respects at the tomb where Bugsy is taking a permanent "dirt nap"; the inscription reads "In loving memory from the family." 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., (323) 469-1181, www.hollywoodforever.com.

4. Capo's, Las Vegas
Knock on the door; a peephole pops open, and a heavy Italian accent asks if "You gotta reservashun?" With blood-red booths, chandeliers dripping crystals, and live Sinatra music daily, this "luxury mafia-chic" restaurant is the perfect spot for a couple of goodfellas and their molls to grab a bite. 5675 W. Sahara Ave., (702) 364-2276, www.caposrestaurant.com.

5. Cal Neva Resort, Crystal Bay, Nevada
Looking to hide out? Head for the tunnels below Cal Neva, the first legal casino in the United States. When Frank Sinatra owned this pad in the '60s, he dug tunnels from the casino to private cottages, so he and his favorite guys and dolls - including Marilyn Monroe, Joe Kennedy and Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana - could move about discreetly. Tour the tunnels Tue.-Sun. 2 Stateline Road, (800) 233-5551, www.calnevaresort.com.

Thanks to Diane Susan Petty

Monday, November 03, 2008

Was Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal a Snitch?

Back before he was mayor of Las Vegas, when he was the city's leading mob attorney, Oscar Goodman insisted he didn't represent snitches.

He represented Frank Rosenthal. Now that Rosenthal is dead, three former law enforcement sources with first-hand knowledge confirmed what was long suspected. Lefty Rosenthal was an FBI informant, whether his attorney knew it or not.

While Rosenthal was alive, no one would confirm it. Nobody wanted to be the one who got Lefty whacked. After he died of a heart attack in his Florida home Oct. 13 at the age of 79, it is confirmed Rosenthal was a "top echelon" informant, someone with firsthand knowledge of the top ranking mob bosses.

Rosenthal's code name was "Achilles," one source said. Was it a sly reference to the handsome Greek warrior who was invincible except for his heel? Or was he simply a heel? Sure beat the code name his mob buddies used when discussing him -- "Crazy."

I couldn't confirm exactly when he started informing to the FBI, but the relationship was lengthy and useful. His information helped the FBI develop a lot of organized crime and casino skimming cases.

Rosenthal was an informant even before the 1982 bombing of his Cadillac outside Tony Roma's restaurant on Sahara Avenue, one source said. After the bombing, the FBI tried to convince Rosenthal to enter the Witness Protection Program, but he refused.

Later, he told the Chicago Tribune he rebuffed the offer to become a federal witness. "It's just not my style. It doesn't fit into my principles." Instead, in 1983 he left Las Vegas, which had been his home since 1968, moving first to California, then Florida.

"He talked about everything and everyone, whether he had first-hand knowledge, like he did at the Stardust, or second- and third-hand knowledge like at the Tropicana," one source said.

Nobody had a definitive answer as to why Rosenthal would become a Chatty Cathy.

One source said Rosenthal was an expert handicapper. "He was a smart guy, he could see people were going down. As an oddsmaker, this was his chance to bet both sides of the game."

A second source said it was speculation, but "he may have felt he needed a way out at some point, and he knew cooperation was one way to get out."

Rosenthal was from Chicago, but since he was Jewish, he wasn't a made member of the Chicago Outfit, but he was a close mob associate. From childhood, he was friends with another mob watchdog, Anthony Spilotro, which ended with Spilotro's affair with Rosenthal's wife, Geri, the tale fictionalized in the movie "Casino."

When the mob needed someone to watch over its Las Vegas casino interests, Lefty was the man. From 1974 until 1979, San Diego businessman Allen Glick was the casino owner, but Rosenthal, despite his ever-changing titles, was the smooth operator.

Although federal officials claimed millions were skimmed from Glick's casinos, Rosenthal was never indicted. Nor did he testify against Midwest mob leaders as Glick did during the trial in Kansas City, which ended with mob boss convictions in 1986.

Las Vegas was an open city for the mob. No one organized crime family controlled all the casinos; different families shared the booty. The Chicago mob through the Argent Corp. had a foothold in the Stardust, Fremont, Hacienda and Marina.

The Tropicana was the playground of the Kansas City mob.

The boys in Detroit staked out the Aladdin.

The Dunes had ties with St. Louis mobsters.

Milwaukee bosses arranged for Glick's $62 million in loans from the Teamsters Union pension funds to buy Las Vegas hotels, then insisted Glick hire Rosenthal.

The indictments were many, so were the convictions. Despite the extensive wiretapping, Rosenthal was never charged, even though authorities described him as the man who "orchestrated the skim at the Stardust."

Inevitably, some of his buddies figured he wasn't charged because he was informing on them to the FBI. The late Joe Agosto -- entertainment director at the Tropicana and the Kansas City mob's guy on the scene -- was wiretapped in 1978 telling a Missouri mobster Rosenthal was "a snitch" who would "bite the hand that feeds him."

In John L. Smith's book "Of Rats and Men," Goodman said Kansas City mobster Nick Civella thought Rosenthal had become too friendly with the FBI. Civella called Goodman, his own attorney, and asked whether Rosenthal was crazy, apparently a code term for untrustworthy. "No, I don't think he's crazy," Goodman answered. "If I had agreed with Civella, Rosenthal would have been killed. I didn't know it at the time, but I apparently saved his life," Goodman told Smith.

Goodman started representing Rosenthal in 1971 after Rosenthal was indicted on illegal betting charges. In 1975, a Las Vegas federal judge dismissed the indictment against him, saying the wiretap was illegal and should have been an investigative tool of last resort.

That same year, Sheriff Ralph Lamb submitted an affidavit to help Rosenthal restore the rights he lost after pleading no contest in North Carolina to trying to change the point spread for a college basketball game with a bribe in 1960. The sheriff said he had known Rosenthal for five years and "he has evidenced the highest integrity and his reputation for truth and veracity in the Las Vegas community is unexcelled. Mr. Rosenthal is among the most respected persons in the Las Vegas gaming community."

Contrast that with Glick's Kansas City trial testimony 10 years later about a 1974 meeting with Rosenthal in the Stardust coffee shop. Glick said Rosenthal told him: "You're not my boss. And when I say you're not my boss, I'm talking not just from an administrative position, but your health. If you interfere with what's going on here, you will never leave this corporation alive."

As one of the recipients of the Rosenthal Glare, I can vividly imagine how those words were delivered.

Goodman represented Rosenthal for decades, fighting to keep him licensed to operate the Argent casinos. Higher courts ultimately overturned Rosenthal's victories in lower courts. Gaming regulators put him in the Black Book.

Throughout his life, Rosenthal denied being an FBI informant, but said it wasn't for want of trying by the FBI.

In 1976, Rosenthal told gaming officials that in 1960, when he was working in horse racing in Miami, J. Edgar Hoover sent an agent who asked him to provide information about gambling throughout the country. He said the agent promised him "near total immunity, except murder."

In 1977, he claimed he was the victim of harassment because he refused to supply information to the FBI.

As recently as 2006, when asked why he never snitched, Rosenthal said, "It all comes down to style and doing what you feel comfortable with. I never talked about or testified against anyone and never will."

He may not have testified, but he definitely talked.

As far as Goodman not representing snitches, one knowledgeable source said, "I think he represented more than one, whether he was aware of it or not."

Thanks to Jane Ann Morrison

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal - Las Vegas Casino Czar for the Chicago Outfit - Dies in Miami Beach

Bookmaker and former casino boss Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal died in Florida on Monday at age 79, according to family members and a source at his high-rise condominium complex in Miami Beach, Fla.

Rosenthal was a minor celebrity confined to the world of gambling, organized crime and Las Vegas society until the 1995 movie "Casino," which was based on his life story, propelled him to a much higher level of fame — and notoriety.

Rosenthal's passing marks the close of yet another chapter in the transformation of Las Vegas from a gambling destination of ill-repute to a global destination celebrated by everyday tourists, politicians and corporate leaders who invest billions of dollars in resorts.

"He was the innovator and creator of what we know today as the race and sports book in Las Vegas with all the modern accoutrements," said Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, a former attorney who represented Rosenthal in high-profile scrapes with Nevada regulators, including now-Sen. Harry Reid. "He was an uncanny bettor and won a lot more than he lost."

Goodman painted Rosenthal as the type of boss who represented the best of Las Vegas, in terms of how to run a good casino. "He was the kind of guy who, when working in the casino industry, would see a cigarette butt on the floor, pick it up himself and dispose of it," Goodman said. "And then he'd fire the employee whose job was to have picked it up in the first place."

Rosenthal was also a controversial figure whose life story was entwined with the emergence of Las Vegas as a destination for money mobsters sought to launder through legal casinos.

His childhood was spent learning the gambling trade through illegal bookmaking operations run by organized crime figures from the Midwest. He made connections that fueled his rise and instigated his downfall later in Las Vegas.

Rosenthal was born June 12, 1929, in Chicago and spent the 1930s in Chicago. When he arrived in Nevada in 1968, he discovered that gambling could not only be profitable but a ticket to prominence in a place where his occupation was the subject of reverence, not scorn.

"When I was a kid growing up in Chicago, if you walked around with a ... card in your hand, you were subject to be arrested or harassed, at least," Rosenthal said in 1997 during an interview with the PBS program "Nightline." "On the other hand, if you want to go to Las Vegas, Nevada, you can do the same thing and be quite respectable."

The word "respectable" was a loaded phrase when it came to Rosenthal.

When he moved to Las Vegas, he had already gained some level of notoriety for an appearance in 1961 before a Senate hearing on gambling and organized crime during which he invoked Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination 38 times.

An indictment in California in 1971 for conspiracy in interstate transportation in aid of racketeering helped prevent the bookmaker Rosenthal from getting a Nevada gaming license, a situation that angered him for years after he left Las Vegas. A 1963 conviction stemming from an attempt to bribe college basketball players later landed him on a short list of people excluded from Nevada casinos. But lack of a license didn't stop him from holding sway over operations at the Stardust, Hacienda, Fremont and Marina casinos when they were owned or controlled by the Argent Corp., and financier Allen Glick. Glick was the purported front man for Midwestern mob bosses who controlled the casinos through Argent, which was funded in part through loans from the Teamsters union.

During an interview with a magazine reporter in 1975, the unlicensed Rosenthal landed himself in hot water with regulators when he said, "Glick is the financial end, but the policy comes from my office."

Rosenthal's problems were exacerbated by personal and business connections to reputed mobster Tony Spilotro.

Spilotro wound up being indicted in a skimming scheme, along with about 14 others, which also sealed Rosenthal's fate with gaming regulators, who ended up putting both men in Nevada's Black Book of persons excluded from casinos.

Spilotro also wound up having an affair with Rosenthal's estranged wife, Geri, a situation law enforcement authorities later claimed as evidence Spilotro tried to kill Rosenthal.

"Obviously there were things going on," Rosenthal told the Fort Lauderdale (Fla) Sun-Sentinel in 1995. "There are more tricks in the trade than I can ever describe to you. But I think some of it (the federal inquiry) was exaggerated."

Later in the Sun-Sentinel story, Rosenthal acknowledged there was little chance he could escape the notorious shadow of Spilotro. "In retrospect, his reputation and the fact that we were boyhood friends — there was no way for me to overcome it," Rosenthal told the newspaper.

Others' suggested that Rosenthal was more than just boyhood friends with rough characters.

The Sun-Sentinel story included claims by Glick that Rosenthal made lethal threats when he didn't get his way.

Glick paraphrased Rosenthal's approach as, "If you interfere with any of the casino operations or try to undermine anything I want to do here ... you will never leave this corporation alive."

But in the end, it was Rosenthal who was on the wrong end of lethal threats.

On Oct. 4, 1982, in a parking lot outside a Marie Callendar's restaurant on East Sahara Avenue, Rosenthal turned the key in his Cadillac and ignited a fiery explosion that ruined the car but didn't kill him.

Rosenthal left Las Vegas after the bombing but remained in the headlines throughout the 1980s as the government sorted through the dirty laundry of the Las Vegas gambling industry in myriad court proceedings.

Rosenthal also sought to appeal his spot in the Black Book, an effort that was denied in 1990. At the time then-Gaming Control Board member Gerald Cunningham said allowing Rosenthal back into the business would represent, "a threat to Nevada's gaming industry."

The 1995 movie, "Casino," directed by Martin Scorcese and starring Robert DeNiro as a Sam "Ace" Rothstein, was essentially an idealized version of Rosenthal and boosted Rosenthal's fame later in life.

He also maintained a Web site that offered gambling "tips and tricks."

On Tuesday, Goodman said there was a side to Rosenthal that was largely unknown to moviegoers, gambling regulators and business associates. "What I saw through representing him since 1972 until I was elected a mayor was a different side, a loyal friend and a loving parent who doted over his kids," Goodman said.

Rosenthal himself told the Sun-Sentinel his Las Vegas story was poorly told, especially by those in law enforcement. "Rumors and bull(expletive)," he told the paper. "That's the No. 1 industry in Nevada."

Thanks to Benjamin Spillman

Monday, February 11, 2008

Lefty Rosenthal is Enjoying South Beach

Game theorist Frank ''Lefty'' Rosenthal is the man Sports Illustrated crowned as the greatest living expert on sports handicapping.

But he's probably better known as the man actor Robert De Niro portrayed in the 1995 Martin Scorsese epic Casino, that also starred Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci.

Rosenthal ran four Las Vegas casinos owned by the Chicago mob back in the 1970s -- and is one of the few men ever to survive a car bombing.

Rosenthal, 78, now lives a quiet life of semi-retirement in South Beach, serving as a consultant for offshore online casinos. We asked him about Casino and the South Florida gambling scene.

Q: Actor Robert De Niro portrayed you in Casino as a character named Sam ''Ace'' Rothstein. Was there anything De Niro got wrong?

Bob De Niro studied the script and his character quite well. On execution, he was flawless. His director, imperfect.

Q: In one scene, there's a scene where your character orders security to crush the hand of a guy cheating at blackjack. How realistic is that?

A: Pretty much on target. The two bandits, using electronic signals, were not your ordinary thieves. They belonged to a rough and organized band of highly trained and professional pickpockets. They had raped the strip casinos over a period of time. . . . Hence, we played hardball, sending their entire crew a message.

Q: You've spent time at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Hollywood, which will debut baccarat and blackjack this summer. If you ran the casino, what would you do?

A: That's simple. Loose as a goose slots, returning at least 95 percent on every buck. They could go a shade higher, which would guarantee them a terrific handle.

Q: What are your favorite things to do as a South Beach resident?

A: Study and admire the Latina lovelies, with curves galore.

Thanks to Roberto Santiago

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Forensic Pathologist Details Spilotro's Autopsies

Friends of ours: Tony Spilotro, James Marcello, Nick Calabrese
Friends of mine: Michale Spilotro, Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal

A forensic pathologist who took part in the autopsies of mobsters Anthony and Michael Spilotro gave testimony on Wednesday that upended the Hollywood version of their deaths, which had the men beaten to death with bats and buried alive in an Indiana cornfield.

Dr. John Pless said at the Family Secrets trial that there was no evidence that the men had been buried alive. The grisly detail was popularized in the 1995 mob movie, “Casino.” Pless said the injuries the men received were more likely from fists than bats.

Pless riveted jurors with a detailed list of the injuries both men received. The Spilotros both died from multiple blunt trauma injuries and from having their lungs or airways so filled with blood from their wounds that they couldn't breathe, according to Pless’ testimony.

The men had been lured to the basement of a Bensenville area home in June 1986 after a mob hit squad had unsuccessfully tried to kill Anthony Spilotro in Las Vegas, according to earlier trial testimony.

Spilotro had tried to blow up a mob associate (Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal) without Outfit permission, had slept with that associate's wife and had committed unauthorized murders, according to evidence at trial.

Mob officials lured the men to the basement on the promise that Tony Spilotro was to be promoted to a capo position in the mob, and Michael Spilotro was to be a “made” member of the Outfit. Instead, a dozen killers were waiting for the men in the basement and jumped them as they came down.

Earlier in the trial, Outfit killer Nicholas Calabrese, who is testifying for the government, described his own role in the murders. Calabrese testified he held Michael Spilotro while another man strangled him. Calabrese said he did not get a good look at how Anthony Spilotro was killed.

The forensic pathologist testified that he found abrasions around the neck of Michael Spilotro that could have come from a rope, but noted that the corpses had decomposed after being buried for at least a week in the cornfield, and it was difficult to find markings.

The attorney for reputed mob boss James Marcello jumped on the lack of clear strangulation marks. Defense lawyer Thomas Breen hammered home that point to the jury and will likely use it to bolster his argument that Nicholas Calabrese wasn’t even at the Spilotro murders and made up his account of them.

Calabrese’s testimony is important to Marcello because Calabrese contends Marcello took part in the murders by driving him and other killers to the Bensenville area home.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bribes to A Top Chicago Cop Detailed

Friends of ours: Angelo Volpe, Frank "The Calico Kid" Teutonico, Turk Torello
Friends of mine: William Hanhardt, Robert "Bobby the Beak" Siegel, Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal

A master thief and killer for the Outfit testified today that his mob boss gave a top Chicago cop, William Hanhardt, $1,000 to $1,200 a month in bribes and a new car every two years.

Robert "Bobby the Beak" Siegel took the witness stand Wednesday morning in the Family Secrets case and recounted to jurors in a gravelly baritone how he came up through organized crime in Chicago in the 1950s and 1960s.

Siegel told jurors how his one-time boss, Angelo Volpe, who oversaw the numbers racket on the South Side, paid off Chicago Police, including Hanhardt in the 1960s. Volpe also allegedly paid off Hanhardt's long-time partner, the late Jack Hinchy. Siegel said Volpe told Hanhardt and Hinchy to leave Siegel alone because Siegel was working for him.

Hanhardt, 78, was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison in 2002 for running a nationwide jewelry theft ring that stole millions of dollars in diamonds and other fine gems.

Siegel, who is 71 and in witness protection, told jurors he grew up on the West Side and began stealing when he was 13 or 14, "anything we could make a buck with."

He graduated to armed robberies and worked for Frank "The Calico Kid" Teutonico as a juice loan collector. Under Teutonico, Siegel learned who was who in the Outfit. After Teutonico went to prison, Siegel went to work for Volpe, Siegel testified.

Siegel also said he was sent by mobster Turk Torello in the late 1960s to Las Vegas to help collect $87,000 from an associate of Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, a subject of the book and movie "Casino."

Siegel said he got the job done. "You know, we threatened him and told him he would get hurt if he didn't pay it, and we straightened it out," Siegel said.

Siegel also said he killed three people for the mob, including one person believed to be an informant, but offered no details early on during his testimony Wednesday.

Siegel began working with investigators in the mid-1990s after he was arrested for a series of jewelry store robberies and five of his codefendants in the case cooperated against him.

"I felt I didn't owe loyalty to anybody after that," Siegel said.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Battle of Thieves?

Friends of ours: Frank Cullotta, Tony Spilotro
Friends of mine: William "Slick" Hanner, Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal

Since 1995, George Knapp has been the chief reporter on the Las Vegas Channel 8's I-Team investigative unit. In that capacity, he has earned two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a national Edward R. Murrow award for his investigative stories on the voter registration fraud in the Clark County election of 2004. Knapp has won eleven Emmy Awards. Seven were for his "Street Talk" commentaries and one was for an investigative story. Seven times, he has won the Mark Twain Award for best news writing from the Associated Press. Recently Knapp ran a series (Part 1 and Part 2) that covered his interview with Frank Cullotta, a former thief/mob hitman who turned government informant.

Slick Hanner has shared with me an email that he has sent to Knapp in which he challenges the credibility of Cullotta. In addition to providing examples, Hanner proposes a sitdown in which Knapp moderates a discussion between the Cullotta and Hanner as a "Battle of Thieves". It is a compelling idea and one that I hope that Knapp embraces. Below you will find Hanner's email to Knapp. Feel free to pass along your thoughts on this to both myself and directly to Knapp.

Dear Mr. Knapp,

The last couple of nights I watched your show on Frank Cullotta with my mouth open in disbelief. This guy is trying to whitewash every lousy thing he did. I admit to being a thief all my life. But I was an honorable thief, meaning I never snitched on my friends or turned states evidence against anyone. You will see that I'm telling the truth when you read my life story in my newly released non-fiction book, Thief! The Gutsy, True Story of an Ex-Con Artist (Barricade Books.) In the book, I reveal my life of crime with the mob, prostitution and gambling when I lived in Chicago (Outfit headquarters,) Miami and Las Vegas. And I hold nothing back about what kind of a guy I was. I wrote THIEF to straighten out the public on Cullotta and Rosenthal's lies (Pileggi's main informants) in the book Casino.

Cullotta was the worst kind of thief. He thought nothing of betraying his friends and even turned on his brother in order to save his own neck. Now he's on your program telling so many lies, which I will be happy to refute.

For instance, Cullotta said Tony Spilotro brought him to Las Vegas to be in his Hole in the Wall Gang. But the truth is that Cullotta came to town as a pimp for his girlfriend, Debbie, who worked at the Dunes. Then Cullotta hooked up with his boyhood friend, Tony Spilotro, and asked Tony if he could bring his own burglary crew to Las Vegas. Tony said yes as long as he got a piece of Cullotta's action.

Mr. Knapp, this is only one example but there's much more. I can recite chapter and verse on the truth about Frank Cullotta. I also have a friend who is willing to step forward with more evidence of Cullotta's lies, and he was in a position to know. Together, we have an arsenal of information that has never come out previously. Should you want more information from me or care to have me on your show, I will be happy to give names, places, dates, etc., as would my friend.

Why would I even bother to do this? Cullotta makes the Hole in the Wall Gang seem like Robin and his merry men, just a bunch of innocent pranksters. What a joke! Let's get some facts on the table. Maybe you could have me and Cullotta on your show together in a "battle of the thieves?"

William "Slick" Hanner

Is a Mob Hitman Revealing Family Secrets?

Friends of ours: Frank Cullotta, Tony Spilotro, Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo
Friends of mine: Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal

The Mafia bosses who once controlled Las Vegas are long gone, but their ghosts are about to be resurrected. Federal prosecutors in Chicago are working on one of the largest, and perhaps last, trials of organized crime kingpins in America, targeting some of the men who pulled the strings in Las Vegas during the darkest days of mob influence in the city.

At least 18 unsolved gangland murders could finally be solved. One former Las Vegas mobster says he's ready to tell the court what he knows about those crimes. Frank Cullotta has been in hiding for 25 years but he surfaced long enough to give an exclusive interview to the I-Team's George Knapp. (Part 1)

George Knapp: "Do you think of yourself as a hitman?"

Frank Cullotta: "Not really. I guess if you kill one person you're a hitman. I don't think of myself as a hitman."

But hitman or not, Frank Cullotta did kill people on orders from the mob. He murdered a man named Jerry Lisner in this house on Rawhide and left the body in the swimming pool. Cullotta won't say how many others he may have killed, but it's more than just Lisner.

When things began to unravel for the mob in Las Vegas, everyone was expendable, even the other members of the Hole in the Wall Gang, like Ernie Devino and Joe Blasko, both of who were slated for death. And the boss himself, tough Tony Spilotro, who was beaten to death in front of his brother Michael and then both were dumped in a cornfield. Even though Spilotro okayed a hit on his pal Cullotta, Cullotta still winces when he thinks of the brutal way Spilotro died.

Frank Cullotta said, "I know that Tony was a violent person himself and that he killed a lot of people and hurt a lot of people, but I grew up with this guy. I just don't think if I had to kill him, I could kill him that way. I'da just shot him."

The murder of the Spilotro brothers is one of the charges now facing 14 Mafia figures in Chicago, including longtime mob kingpin Joey The Clown Lombardo, the boss to whom Spilotro reported. Cullotta thinks Lombardo had to okay the Spilotro murders, as well as the murder of the mobster who botched the burial of the bodies. He's pretty sure a Mafia soldier named Al Tocco was also in on the hit and that the upcoming trial just might be the end of the line for the Chicago mob.

Frank Cullotta said, "I would think it's the end. I don't think it will ever be as strong or as organized as it was."

What about certain Las Vegas mysteries? Who tried to kill Frank Lefty Rosenthal by planting a bomb under his car on Sahara Avenue?

Contrary to law enforcement suspicions, Cullotta says it wasn't Spilotro for the simple reason that if Tough Tony had done it, Lefty wouldn't have escaped. What about their former lawyer, now Mayor Oscar Goodman? Might he have anything to fear from a tell-all book by Cullotta? Did he ever cross the line?

Cullotta said, "Nah, he's just got a big mouth. I got nothing to say about him. He's got the right job. He likes everyone to see him and hear him."

For the record, the mayor is no fan of Cullotta's either and says the former gangster is a notorious liar. Former strike force prosecutor Don Campbell who helped turn Cullotta from killer to witness says Cullotta's testimony was critical in the conviction of numerous mob figures, but he scoffs at Cullotta's suggestion that the Hole in the Wall members were modern Robin Hoods who only stole from other crooks.

Don Campbell, former federal prosecutor, said, "Like hell. They were absolute scum of the earth. They would turn on anyone. Themselves. They would rob their own mother. They were despicable human beings."

Cullotta says he's a much different person since going straight. He owns a business in an undisclosed town and says some of his new neighbors have figured out who he is from seeing old TV footage.

Cullotta said, "They know I'm a changed guy. I live a legitimate life. I don't harm nobody. They don't feel uncomfortable around me. As a matter of fact, they feel protected. Don't ask me why."

Cullotta's tell-all book is slated for release in late April. The Chicago mob trial is expected to begin in May.

Thanks to George Knapp

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Las Vegas Godfathers to Get Mob Museum

Friends of ours: Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro, Jimmy Chagra, Nick Civella, Vinny Ferrara, Meyer Lansky, Natale Richichi, Nicky Scarfo
Friends of mine: Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal

Las Vegas' mayor gained fame and fortune defending mob titans. Now he wants a museum celebrating their role in building Sin City.

flamboyant, gin-sipping, sports-gambling, showgirl-squiring Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman gives a thumbs up to a Mob MuseumMayor Oscar Goodman, the flamboyant, gin-sipping, sports-gambling, showgirl-squiring executive of Sin City, is caught in a contradiction. For years he had told the world, "There is no mob." That was when he was a defense lawyer who represented mobsters and even had a cameo playing himself in Martin Scorsese's "Casino." Goodman said there were no mobsters--just alleged mobsters. Now, as mayor, he wants to take a National Historic Landmark, the old federal courthouse where he tried his first case, and turn it into a mob museum--and there's no alleged about it.

Many of Goodman's constituents and some former FBI agents are appalled by the idea, but Goodman insists he's just recognizing Vegas' founding fathers. Or godfathers. "The mob founded us, and I never apologized for them because I represented them, and they made me a rich man," he said.

Goodman, 67, who recalled representing an alleged mobster at Chicago's criminal courts complex known as "26th and Cal," is winning all verdicts in the political arena these days. He was re-elected in 2003 to a second term as mayor of Las Vegas with more than 85 percent of the vote.

If Goodman wants it, he gets it. And he wants a mob museum. "As long as I'm mayor," Goodman asserted, "we're going to keep on smiling at ourselves at how the mob founded us."

One of the most prominent founders was Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, a maverick underworld mastermind who was the boss of West Coast gambling for the crime syndicate and who opened the Flamingo hotel in 1946 on a forlorn patch of highway that eventually became known famously as the Strip.

Some wonder whether the museum will end up as a monument to Goodman's legal career and his extensive list of old clients: Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro of Chicago, Jimmy Chagra, Nick Civella, Vinny Ferrara, Frank Rosenthal, Meyer Lansky, Natale Richichi and Nicky Scarfo.

That compilation was made by author and Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith, who wrote a book about Goodman, including how he despised mob snitches, in "Of Rats and Men: Oscar Goodman's Life from Mob Mouthpiece to Mayor of Las Vegas."

"Oscar's client list would fill any mob museum," said Smith, 46. "You know, he has represented members of various organized crime families literally from coast to coast. He's most known locally and in Chicago, of course, for his representation of Tony Spilotro."

Spilotro allegedly crushed the skull of one victim in a vise and later turned up dead in an Indiana cornfield in 1986. "Most locals here know him as a killer, but [Goodman] says he was a gentleman. . . . Of course Oscar never went on any long rides with Tony Spilotro, or he wouldn't have come back," Smith said.

The notion of a mob museum annoys the FBI agents who were Goodman's legal adversaries. "In my estimation, his purpose would be to glorify them," said Joe Yablonsky, 77, who retired as agent in charge of the FBI's Las Vegas office in 1984. "The only reason that he gets away with this is that he's in Vegas. If he was in some normal American city, he'd never make it."

Yablonsky, who spent the last four years of his FBI career in Las Vegas and now lives in Lady Lake, Fla., said many Vegas residents don't remember the violent days of mob-influenced casinos because most of them weren't living there then. The population of Las Vegas and surrounding Clark County is 1.8million, four times what it was in 1980. "If it were told truthfully, it would be OK, how we ridded the place of them and what they were really like," Yablonsky said. "They milked the place for all these dollars they took in the skim and . . . Spilotro was a hit guy, and we figured him for 22 whacks and that was supposed to be his role as enforcer. How is [Goodman] going to make him look good?"

The museum, which doesn't have a formal name yet, would be housed downtown across the street from City Hall in the old federal courthouse and post office, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, said Deputy City Manager Betsy Fretwell.

The city awarded a $7.5 million contract this month for an architect to design temporary and permanent galleries. The museum and cultural center is expected to cost $30 million.

City officials have yet to decide how the museum, which would open in 2008, will depict the Mafia, but Fretwell said it will be entertaining enough to hold its own against the stiff competition for which Vegas attractions are renowned.

Logo125x125buttonCity officials now refer to the building as the POST Modern, a word play on how they want a modern use for the old post office, which opened in 1933. The building's sole courtroom is perhaps best known as one of the sites used in 1950 for the U.S. Senate's televised Kefauver hearings, in which suspected crime figures were interrogated.

Because the museum is to address the history of organized crime in Las Vegas, exhibits could very well bear upon the mayor's career as a defense lawyer. "The mayor has a rich history as an attorney and may have things to contribute in terms of collections or oral history," Fretwell said.

An advisory board including local media members, a former chief of the Las Vegas FBI office and tourism officials has been formed, and a panel of historians also is being assembled, Fretwell said.

While a recent city-commissioned survey showed that out-of-town visitors preferred a mob museum in the old courthouse, locals more often preferred a museum devoted to "vintage Vegas," its architecture and entertainment evolution.

One resident, Wayne Haag, 45, a garbage collection driver, thought the mayor's idea cast a negative light on Las Vegas. "A Mafia museum--in a way, he's related to it. It's an old post office. Why [a Mafia museum]? To me, it's m-o-n-e-y," Haag said.

Thanks to Michael Martinez

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Crime Family Index