The Chicago Syndicate: Lucky Luciano
Showing posts with label Lucky Luciano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lucky Luciano. Show all posts

Friday, June 26, 2015

National Geographic Channel Infiltrates Centuries of Deadly Secrets INSIDE THE MAFIA

Four-Hour Series Pierces Inner Workings and Violent History of the Criminal Corporation With Global Reach

Through a pop culture lens, the notorious and mysterious Mafia is typically seen as entertainment: The Godfather; The Sopranos; Goodfellas; Donnie Brasco. Now the National Geographic Channel (NGC) exposes the dramatic history and infiltrates the legendary secrecy of one of the world's most powerful criminal organizations in the four-hour world premiere event, INSIDE THE MAFIA.

Narrated by Ray Liotta -- star of the film Goodfellas -- INSIDE THE MAFIA will premiere Monday, June 13 and Tuesday, June 14, 2005 from 9 to 11 pm. ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel (encore Sunday, June 19 from 7 to 11 p.m. ET). Four programs -- Mafia? What Mafia?, Going Global, The Great Betrayal and The Godfathers -- chronologically trace the growth of the U.S. and Sicilian Mafias, as well as the determined American and Italian efforts to stop it.

"It's not personal; it's just business" is a popular catchphrase attributed to the Mafia's code of honor. And big business it is -- its global assets were on par with some of the richest corporations in the world, bursting for a time with billions in annual profits derived from much of the world's drug trade.

With remarkable access to FBI and DEA agents as well as members of crime families, INSIDE THE MAFIA provides the complete behind-the-scenes story of this powerful enterprise known for its ruthlessness and brutality.

Featured are new and original interviews with influential mobsters like Henry Hill, portrayed by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, and Gambino family soldier Dominick Montiglio, and, on the law enforcement side, Joseph Pistone, the fearless real-life FBI agent who infiltrated the Mafia as "Donnie Brasco," and DEA undercover agent Frank Panessa, among many others.

Cutthroat deals, gangland assassinations and secret rituals within the infamous global mob are described by these insiders in intimate detail. "The bathroom door was slightly open and there were two bodies hanging with their throats cut," said Montiglio. "Everyone had butcher's kits and they sawed off everything ... chopped off the head, arms, etcetera. Then put them in a box and took 'em to the dumpster. Suffice to say, none of them were ever found."

In addition to inside access to important characters and events, the special uses contemporary and archival news footage, FBI and Italian police surveillance, telephone intercepts, transcriptions from major Mafia trials and dramatic reenactments of clandestine meetings and violent confrontations.

INSIDE THE MAFIA interweaves two parallel stories. The first is the emergence of a "new Mafia" after a historic deal between American and Italian mob families to control the international heroin trade. The second is the tale of the strong anti-Mafia campaign, spearheaded by a small group of law officers determined to permanently undermine the culture and infrastructure of the Cosa Nostra.

Over the course of the series, viewers will become familiar with a core group of warring protagonists. In the Mafia are men like Charles "Lucky" Luciano, a Sicilian immigrant who by 1931 murdered his way to the top of the American Mafia; famous mob leader Joe Bonnano; Salvatore "Toto" Riina, who emerged in the 1980s as perhaps the most ruthless and violent Mafia boss ever; Tomasso Buscetta, whose decision to break the Mafia's strict code of silence set in motion a series of events giving U.S. and Italian authorities the upper hand in identifying and tracking key mobsters; reputed Mafia godfather John Gotti; and soldiers like Hill and Montiglio, whose tales of living and working inside the Mafia are gruesome and often shocking.

Fighting the Mafia are Giovanni Falcone, Italy's legendary prosecutor who challenged the Mafia's power and paid the ultimate price; Pistone ("Donnie Brasco") who still has a mob contract out on his life ("Once folks found out about my cover, there was a contract on me," he says in the program. "It's not something I think about all the time ... if it happens, it happens ... and may the best man win."); Giovanni Falcone's sister, Maria, who was privy to much of her brother's strategy and key events in his life; and lesser-known law officers with colorful and suspenseful inside stories, like Panessa and Carmine Russo, who shadowed the Bonnano crime family.

The rise of the modern Mafia is a gripping and often tragic tale of corruption, crime, murder and betrayal by two distinct operations -- the Sicilian Mafia, running multinational efforts from Palermo, and the American Mafia, controlling one of the biggest marketplaces in the world. Their separate but symbiotic relationship is one that perpetually eluded and confounded U.S. and Italian authorities.

In 1957, a police raid on a Mafia summit in upstate New York revealed to the nation evidence of "organized crime." However, the Cold War took priority at the time, and mob activity continued to thrive. Major breakthroughs in the 1980s cracked open the Mafia's highly lucrative drug trade, and exposed the global reach and immense profits of its dealings.

In the U.S. today, the mob's activities have been scaled back, particularly now that narcotics are distributed via different mobs from the Far East and South America. John Gotti's prosecution created a domino effect, crippling all five of the crime families of New York. They are now a shadow of an organization that once claimed politicians as their friends; however, as recent arrests have indicated, the Mafia continues to operate in some capacity in the U.S. In the past few months, New York authorities indicted 32 people after a two-and-half year "Donnie Brasco style" undercover sting, and 14 Chicago Mafia members were indicted in April, a move authorities claim shed light on 18 previously unsolved murders dating back to 1970.

In Sicily, the situation is very different. The Mafia has largely abandoned its policy of violence in order to avoid attracting the attention of the authorities; however, according to the chief prosecutor of Palermo, they are even more dangerous now that many people believe that the problem is in some way over.

The days of the Mafia's massive, unchecked drug-dealing have gone, but INSIDE THE MAFIA shows that the organization -- particularly its blueprint for how national and ethnic groups can operate on a global scale -- continues to be a thriving and insidious role model for racketeering everywhere.

INSIDE THE MAFIA is produced for NGC by Wall to Wall Media. Jonathan Hewes is executive in charge of production; Alex West is executive producer; Charlie Smith is producer. For NGC, CarolAnne Dolan is supervising producer; Michael Cascio is executive producer; John Ford is executive in charge of production.

Tracing the Roots of the American Mafia

The inchoate beginnings of the Mafia in the United States at the turn of the century cannot be nailed down to one moment, but the incident that Mike Dash uses to demonstrate its public arrival is an apt one: the "Barrel Murder" of April 14, 1903. Giuseppe Morello - nicknamed the "Clutch" or "the Clutch Hand" for the maimed right arm and one-fingered hand with which he wreaked terrible violence - and his henchmen stabbed and sliced a rival to death, stuffed him into a barrel and left him on the street to be found.

That incident catches most of the elements that were to become associated with Mafia activity in subsequent years: rivalry over illegal activityAmerican Mafia: A History of Its Rise to Power, extortion, intimidation, protection and other rackets (such as kidnapping) and vendettas. And, most of all, murder. Rarely was there any middle ground; the way to deal with competition was to kill its operators.

In the earliest days, gangs (or "families") were concentrated in New York City. At first they preyed, as in Sicily, on their own, demanding "protection" money from Italian merchants or controlling Italian-run businesses such as ice and coal distribution.

Crime paid. By 1908, the Clutch Hand's influence had spread through New York's five boroughs. Three years later, he was considered the boss of bosses of the entire fledgling American Mafia. But there are always hammers waiting to whack the nail that sticks up. Dash covers in great, and sometimes gruesome, detail the rival Mafiosi who rose up to challenge Morello. Most of the names are obscure, though as we get closer to the 1930s familiar ones appear, such as Joe Bonanno, Joe Valachi and Charles "Lucky" Luciano.

Hammers were wielded by the good guys, too, the most prominent among them being William Flynn, chief of the New York office of the Secret Service, and Joseph Petrosino, a member of the police Italian Squad. Both had success in investigating, prosecuting and imprisoning Morello and others.

Slowly, crime that had been "Italian" became more "Americanized" as Mafiosi such as Luciano chose to work with non-Sicilians and even non-Italians. Luciano, an equal-opportunity murderer, hired two Jewish hoods to kill a rival, Salvatore Maranzano, in 1931. But until the 1920s, organized crime was relatively small potatoes. With Prohibition came gang wars worthy of the name and gangsters whose reputations still resound, like Dutch Schultz and Al Capone, the latter of whom made so much money in the Midwest "that his influence could be felt in Manhattan." And the "industry" was, in a sense, a gift from the U.S. government.

Thanks to Roger K. Miller

Legendary Don: Mysterious and powerful, Joe Bonanno Retreated to Tucson, but Violence Followed

Salvatore "Bill" Bonanno sits in a backyard tree at his father's Tucson home, a shotgun cradled in his arm, watching for assassins. The family's German shepherd, Rebel, paces the patio, toenails clicking on flagstone. The digs are hardly ostentatious for a family of such repute; just a modest stucco dwelling on a quiet residential street.

Inside, the old man, Joe Sr., recovering from his third heart attack, watches TV in the living room with a friend. Bill's mom, Fay, is in bed, sick. Security, already tightened in recent weeks, is now locked down like one of bodyguard Pete Notaro's lumpy fists.

This is the so-called life of America's infamous crime family on July 22, 1968.

The Bonannos have retreated from a Mafia war in New York to their residential sanctuary at 1847 E. Elm St. But violence follows like an unwanted shadow.

A few weeks back, someone hurled a rock through the front window. Death threats arrived by mail and phone. And, one night earlier, dynamite tore apart a shed outside the home of longtime friend Peter "Horseface" Licavoli Sr., a retired godfather from Detroit.

Arizona just isn't safe anymore. Which is why Bill Bonanno, in dark pants and a black polo shirt, stands guard and wonders what the hell will come next.


In the history of America's Mafia, no name looms larger than that of the late Joseph Bonanno Sr. He became the youngest don in a world of tradition. He endured nearly a century while peers succumbed to bullets and prison. He was among the most powerful, yet mysterious, figures in a secret society.

Over the past half-century, the drama and intrigue have spilled into books, movies and news articles. Pieces of his life are littered in more than 1,700 pages of FBI intelligence obtained for this story, along with a box of confidential files from Arizona strike forces. His autobiography is part of the record, along with books written by family members. Bonanno is even considered by many to be the figure upon whom Mario Puzo based his lead character, Vito Corleone, in The Godfather series of books and films.

Yet his image, tangled with fictional mobsters like Tony Soprano, remains cloudy, if not contradictory: He is portrayed as a lawless hood, yet a man of principles; an uncommon crook, yet a venerable philosopher.

Although Bonanno's crime family was based in New York, his home for most of the last 50 years of his life was in Arizona. They say he retired here, but the history is clear that "Mr. B" oversaw an underworld empire from the Old Pueblo.

Crime came with him, and so did violence.

The June night drags on, hot and silent except for the chirping of crickets. Bill lights up a cigar and tries to relax.

At 36, the mobster's son is no stranger to combat. As a Tucson teenager, he got into a gunfight running firearms across the Mexican border. Much later, as third in command of the Bonanno crime family, he shot his way out of a New York ambush. But this guard duty . . .

Nobody likes waiting for an unknown enemy.

Around 9:30, Bill decides to go inside for a drink. As he opens the back door, Rebel snarls and bolts toward the gate. An object sizzles through the night sky, landing in the barbecue pit with a thud. Bill races to the stone steps against the tree, climbing so he can see over the wall. A silhouette runs toward the street. Bill levels his shotgun and fires once. The shadow stumbles, then disappears into a car that peels away.

As Bill watches - Boom! - an explosion knocks him to the ground and showers the yard with bricks and mortar. He rises, stunned, ears ringing. Joe Sr. appears at the door in shorts, bewildered. A second blast detonates atop the garage, slamming Bill against a lemon tree. Shattered windows and debris cascade to the ground. Faces and voices swirl in the smoke, yelling, "Are you OK?"

Fay is the last to appear, screaming in terror, her hair aglitter with shards of glass from a bedroom window.

Giuseppe Charles Bonanno Sr. was born in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, in 1905. The family moved to New York when he was 3, then returned to the homeland. His father, an Italian soldier, died of war wounds in 1915. His mother passed away five years later, leaving Peppino a 15-year-old orphan. He attended a nautical school in Palermo and then fled Italy because he despised Benito Mussolini's fascism or because he was wanted as a Mafioso, depending on which account you believe.

At 19, Bonanno caught a boat from Cuba to Florida and headed straight to New York, where he joined the mob and worked at a funeral parlor. During Sicilian gang wars of 1929-30, Bonanno rose to second in command of a crime family headed by his mentor, Salvatore Maranzano. He explained the promotion with sardonic humor, noting, "I didn't attain that position by being a spectator."

Within months, Maranzano was killed by rival boss Lucky Luciano. Bonanno made peace with Luciano and, at 26, became the youngest Mafia don. For more than three decades, Bonanno ruled mob crews in New York, Canada, Colorado, Wisconsin and Arizona. He helped found a nine-member Commission that regulated the 24 families of La Cosa Nostra. By his own account, the criminal enterprises included bookmaking, black-marketing, racketeering and political corruption.

The villainy often led to violence. If a Mafia underling defied or betrayed a boss, the code called for death. If one crime family leader plotted against another, it meant war.

Blood streams from Bill's face. Joe Sr. has cuts on his mouth and hand.

The wounds are nothing. The two men tell Fay to leave them so they can figure out what's going on and what to do. Still hysterical, she protests, but they send her to her room, telling her to have a cognac and calm down.

There is no time for hand wringing. Sirens echo in the night. It will be a matter of seconds before the squad cars arrive, joined by TV crews. Already, neighbors are gathering on the street out front.

Bill Bonanno, with a criminal history, doesn't hang around to answer questions about a shotgun and a wounded bomber. He hoofs it down a side street, dodging behind oleanders for cover, then heads to the nearby University of Arizona campus, his alma mater, a familiar haven where he can blend in with strolling students.

At the house, Joe Sr. puts on a pair of pants and hurries out back to the demolished barbecue pit. He hunches over and digs frantically through rubble. After a moment, he retrieves a pair of canvas bags, each about 20 inches long and 8 inches wide, then scurries inside the house.


Fay and Joseph Bonanno first visited Arizona in 1942. Their eldest son, Salvatore, was in agony from chronic ear infections. A physician said he would recover in a hot, dry climate. So the 10-year-old, nicknamed Bill, was brought to Tucson where he could turn his aching ear to the desert sun for relief.

Each summer, the Bonannos withdrew to New York, leaving the family scion behind in boarding school. A similar pattern evolved with the other offspring: Catherine attended a convent in upstate New York, and Joe Jr. was educated mostly in Arizona. Each winter, Joe and Fay returned to their sons in the land of saguaros.

Bonanno told neighbors he was a retired clothing manufacturer, a cotton farmer, a cheese baron. He invested in bakeries, parking lots, barbershops and real estate, usually through blind trusts. He befriended the bishop, a congressman, a state Supreme Court justice. He joined the Old Pueblo Country Club. "I had always rejected any attempt to include Tucson in my world," Bonanno explained years later. "Tucson was a place to get away from it all."

Mobsters and law officers familiar with "Joe Bananas" of New York were not buying the story. This was a guy who Time magazine described as "one of the bloodiest killers in Cosa Nostra's history." This was a guy who explained in coldblooded terms how to take out a rival: "Don't let the other guy know how you feel. Just keep patting him on the shoulder. . . . Be a diplomat. Make the guy think you're his friend until the right time comes, the right setup, and then you make your move like a tiger."

His life was a chain of intrigue, corruption and crime. How could he be legit in Arizona? Still, the early '40s were peaceful years in Tucson. Folks didn't worry about the debonair family man with the silk suits, Sicilian accent and pinky rings. They didn't appreciate his history.

Police arrive to gather evidence: a shotgun shell, bloodstains, dynamite fuses.

They ask about Joe Sr.'s injuries, but the old man dodges every question with his thick accent and sarcasm. His demeanor flits like a nervous bird from humor to anger. He talks about the beautiful Catalina Mountains. He bemoans the loss of his barbecue pit. He has nothing to say about a shotgun being fired.

A detective asks about the perpetrators. Joe Sr. shrugs: "You know how it is. . . . . Whoever did this has a demented mind. There's no such thing as a gangland war going on."

He looks the cop in the eye and adds, "If they want to kill me, they should do it on a man-to-man basis and not involve innocent children and women."

The place is crawling with cops, firefighters and reporters. A TV cameraman slips into the back yard, and Joe Sr. goes ballistic until the guy is escorted out.

An urgent teletype skips across America to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover: "Instant date double dynamiting occurred at subject's Tucson residence. . . . No injuries reported. Tucson P.D. still investigating."

The swift response: "If not already done, advise military intelligence and Secret Service."


Bonanno always maintained that Arizona was a sanctuary, but mob business followed inevitably. As far back as 1946, Tucson Police Chief Don Hays warned about underworld figures of Bonanno's ilk. "We have their records, their rogue's gallery photographs," Hays said in a speech. "We know they have unlimited finances. We know they are determined to take over Tucson."

For the next two decades, cops and politicians nationwide pursued him to little avail. Bonanno flourished until 1964, when mob politics and federal prosecutors threatened his life and freedom. On a rainy night in New York, Bonanno stepped out of a taxi and vanished.

The disappearance captured a nation's imagination and remains a mystery. Many believed the mobster was dead. Some figured he arranged a sham kidnapping to avoid prosecutors and assassins. Bonanno claimed later that he was abducted by Mafia rivals, held captive for weeks, then inexplicably released, whereupon he spent nearly a year hiding out in disguises and safe houses.

On May 17, 1966, Bonanno showed up in New York City's federal courthouse, surrendering to stunned U.S. marshals. It was typical of the Bonanno style. He spoke seven languages, was a prolific reader and regaled fellow mobsters with witty stories as they downed wine and pasta. But he also was a survivor who usually outsmarted enemies and the law. Ultimately, Bonanno even recast his own legend in his 1983 autobiography, A Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno: "I have tried to be a good Father," he wrote. "I've led a productive life, not a parasitic one. I've had to protect myself and my people, but I've never been bloodthirsty."

The morning headline says it all: "Bonanno brings N.Y. mob war to Tucson."

FBI informers claim a rival crime boss hired a hit man who bungled the job. Justice Department lawyers churn out a memo: "The Cosa Nostra warfare concerning the Joe Bonanno Family in New York has now spread to Bonanno's home in Tucson, Arizona."

But it doesn't make sense; these attacks are being carried out by amateurs, not by hit men.

Two weeks go by. A bomb explodes at the home of Notaro, the bodyguard. Another blast detonates outside the residence of Evo DeConcini, former Arizona Supreme Court justice and erstwhile Bonanno friend.

Journalists and politicians launch a campaign to get Joe Bananas out of the Old Pueblo. Mayor James Corbett invites underworld figures to "live elsewhere." U.S. Rep. Morris Udall calls upon Hoover to send FBI reinforcements. Sen. Barry Goldwater declares that "the reign of the princes of La Cosa Nostra must end."

Publicly and privately, the Bonannos are mystified. Who would attack them or Licavoli or DeConcini? Why? What the hell is going on?


The Banana Wars erupted in 1965 with mayhem unseen since Al Capone. Bonanno henchmen riddled three enemy "soldiers" with machine-gun bullets as they ate spaghetti in Brooklyn. Another rival was shot in the throat while parking a car. An elderly capo was seated at a soda fountain when bullets tore his face apart.

After a year of fighting, the New York Times declared a victor: "Bonanno regains power in Mafia gang." But the situation remained precarious, and in 1968, Joe Bonanno Sr. withdrew to Arizona full time with his wife and a core of followers. That move has never been clearly explained. FBI reports suggest that Bonanno failed in a final power grab and was given a choice between death and retirement.

Bonanno offered a more honorable explanation: After winning the war, he realized that La Cosa Nostra was doomed; the Sicilian guard was dying out along with old loyalties and rules. Plagued by health problems (he suffered his third heart attack that year) and worried about his sons' future, Bonanno washed his hands of the whole mess.

There was no peace out West, however, as life spiraled through criminal investigations, bombings and family scandals. Bonanno's sons, operating at various times in Tucson, Flagstaff, Phoenix and San Jose, danced through a comic opera of crimes. And agents in dark sedans continued dogging the old man.

"I would have been content, after 1968, to lead a quiet, uneventful life," Bonanno said years later. "My retirement to Tucson, however, turned out to be a retreat into an inferno."

After dozens of bombings, Tucson is fed up. A Citizens Crime Commission forms. FBI agents and cops create anti-mob strike forces. Newspaper editorials call for Bonanno to leave.

Months elapse with no answer.

Then, exactly one year after the dynamite attack on Elm Street, police arrest two men: Paul Mills Stevens and William J. Dunbar Jr. Both suspects admit guilt but claim they were hired by FBI Special Agent David Hale, the bureau's Mafia expert in Tucson, who they claim was trying to foment a mob war.

Other witnesses back up that story.The FBI declines to comment.Hale resigns without facing charges.

Dunbar and Stevens, who was wounded by Bill Bonanno's shotgun blast, plead guilty. They pay $300 fines each but get no jail time.

Bonanno, once a feared crime lord, laments his plight as a victim. "This was a cover-up. . . . He (Hale) almost got away with murder. How come there was no public outcry of indignation?"

Years later, Hale tells a Tucson newspaper he was framed and had nothing to do with the bombings.

Either way, the Tucson bombing spree ends with a whimper, not a bang.


In 1976, the mob-style slaying of Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles brought more heat from cops, plus a statewide media swarm. Bonanno called it the "Grand Inquisition."

Investigators watched his house, planted a beeper in his car, conducted illegal wiretaps and spied on him from aircraft. An Arizona strike force raided his garbage every week for 3 1/2 years.

Why? Intelligence reports from all over the nation asserted that Bonanno was planning a comeback, trying to take over the West. A 1976 FBI affidavit claimed he was even smuggling Sicilians into the country as "shooting men."

The Bonanno boys, meanwhile, stumbled through arrests and prison terms for fraud, extortion and other crimes. In fact, it was paternal loyalty that finally landed the old man behind bars with his only felony conviction. The charge: obstructing a 1980 grand-jury investigation of Bill and Joe Jr. by telling witnesses to lie and conceal evidence. Joe Sr. served eight months in prison.

Three years later, A Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno. Bonanno refused to testify about the mob before a New York grand jury and spent 14 more months in jail for contempt.

That, for all practical purposes, was the end. The octogenarian retreated into his home, his family, his thoughts.

On May 11, 2002, after a lifetime defying the law and the gun, Bonanno died peacefully in Tucson. Hundreds attended the funeral while agents took snapshots from a dark van outside the church.

In a eulogy, Bill said, "If there is one word that identifies Joseph Bonanno, that word is tradition. . . . Tradition gave us a way of life."

His father's introduction to A Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno contained an equally poignant epitaph: "Whatever your opinion of me, the truth is I am the last survivor of an extinct species of a bygone way of life."

Thanks to Dennis Wagner and Charles Kelly

Monday, June 22, 2015

Dark Harbor - The War for the New York Waterfront

For most of us, knowledge of the crime-ridden New York docks in the years following World War II comes largely from Elia Kazan's film On the Waterfront, with its violence, murders, beatings, graft, and kickbacks.

In the movie, we saw how the rampant lawlessness made a few people very rich and very powerful while providing those willing to serve their crooked aims with comfortable, if precarious, lives. But for most working the piers, forced to make daily kickbacks even to get a job, existence was a succession of hardships, barely allowing them to scrape by from one uncertain payday to the next.

According to Dark Harbor: The War for the New York Waterfront, none of this was cinematic exaggeration, and in fact, according to one newspaper reporter of the day, "the waterfront of New York produces more murders per square foot than does any other one section of the country."

Nathan Ward, a former editor at American Heritage and Library Journal, begins his account of these urban badlands with the 1939 disappearance and murder of Peter Panto, a worker on the Brooklyn waterfront who had run afoul of Emil Camarda, the mob-connected boss of the International Longshoremen's Association local that ruled the Brooklyn docks.

The Panto killing and its aftermath begins a grim narrative of the dark side. The menace of such union bosses as Camarda in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn and, most especially, Joseph P. Ryan, the outwardly charming "President for Life" of the ILA's New York local, fought to keep challengers to their rule at bay through intimidation, payoffs, and, if those failed, disappearances.

Their clout was achieved through threats, but it was maintained by the "shape-up" system, "the main source of the outlaws' power over the men who worked the docks." Whenever there was a ship to be loaded or unloaded, a crowd of potential workers would show up, their ultimate selection determined by who they knew or who they paid and, probably most especially, by how few questions they asked.

The crookedness of the "shape" led to a pattern in which, as Panto himself explained to a labor lawyer friend shortly before his murder, dockworkers "had to . . . have all [their] haircuts at a certain barber shop . . . [and] buy their wine grapes from a designated dealer at lush prices, whether they planned to make wine or not."

Panto also said that that "many longshoremen paid out almost half their wages in kickbacks to qualify for work." So pervasive was the mob coercion in the port of New York that, during World War II, the Office of Naval Intelligence enlisted Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and other gangsters to guard the harbor against sabotage and enforce a labor peace that allowed convoys to sail to Europe, threatened only by German submarines.

Some workers protested from time to time and some even talked to investigators, but mostly the real situation on the docks remained only a suspicion until a reporter on a dying newspaper, acting on an editor's hunch, began looking for facts behind the rumors.

The New York Sun, which had begun life in a blaze of glory in 1833 as the city's first successful penny newspaper, had fallen on hard times by 1948 and was then eighth in circulation among Manhattan's nine dailies. Still, it had editors who were curious and reporters who were talented, and when one of the former heard of the murder of a hiring boss in northern Manhattan, he was reminded of a similar event in Greenwich Village the previous year and dispatched one of his star reporters to investigate.

What Mike Johnson uncovered after many months of digging both on the docks and through the files of frustrated prosecutor William Keating was a whole host of similar events and a culture of crime and intimidation that stretched far beyond the waterfront to the highest reaches of the political and commercial establishments.

The investigation was aided most of all by a few heroic dockworkers fed up with the corruption they saw around them, but also by Keating's records, and by Father John Corridan, "the waterfront priest," who, in his righteous fury, called the struggle for the soul of the harbor "a fight with no holds barred, and sometimes you've got to knee and gouge and elbow in the clinches."

When they appeared in the Sun, the stories (which earned Mike Johnson a Pulitzer Prize in 1949) set off a firestorm of investigation and accusation, for until the series put names and dates to it, criminal activity around the port had been long assumed but rarely challenged. Suddenly, politicians from the state and city of New York to the U.S. Senate began their own probes, all eager to take credit for cleaning up the waterfront mess.

The reaction of the dock bosses to all this activity was to accuse the reporter and his allies of being Communists, a strategy that had succeeded in keeping Harry Bridges and his radical West Coast longshoremen's union from Atlantic ports.

This time, though, the red-baiting didn't work quite so well and the investigations continued, with the ultimate result of breaking much of the stranglehold of mob influence and causing the ILA to be temporarily expelled from the American Federation of Labor in 1953.

The long, bumpy road that brought the New York waterfront toward the light is one well traveled by Ward. Although written in a sometimes repetitive style that suggests a series of loosely connected articles rather than a seamlessly flowing narrative, Dark Harbor captures the troubling essence of a particularly bleak chapter in the history of both organized crime and organized labor.

Thanks to James Polk

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Chris Cippolini, author of #LuckyLuciano: Mysterious Tales of a Gangster Legend, appears on Crime Beat Radio Tonight

Chris Cippolini, author of Lucky Luciano: Mysterious Tales of a Gangster Legend (Gangland Mysteries), appears on Crime Beat Radio Tonight.

Lucky  Luciano: Mysterious Tales of a Gangster LegendCharles Lucky Luciano is one of the most researched, discussed and dissected American mobsters of all time. His name has become synonymous with NY City's high drama gangland days of prohibition bootlegging, the information of the infamous five families, and controversy over his alleged Last Testament. However, there exists many fascinating and lurid tales and theories regarding Lucky's rise and fall from the mobs top spot. Some of these stories are known, but still incited debate, such as the origins of his nickname and menacing facial scars. Other legends are not so well known to the general public

With information culled from rare news articles, government documents and numerous books written on the subject, this book will give readers a chance to discover Luciano in a way that engages the mystery of his pop culture status, while encouraging further debate over the facts that fallacies that exist about his true role in the history of the American mafia structure.

Crime Beat is a weekly hour-long radio program that airs every Thursday at 8 p.m. EST. Crime Beat presents fascinating topics that bring listeners closer to the dynamic underbelly of the world of crime. Guests have included ex-mobsters, undercover law enforcement agents, sports officials, informants, prisoners, drug dealers and investigative journalists, who have provided insights and fresh information about the world’s most fascinating subject: crime.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Reputed Mob Associate Tapped to Build FBI Headquarters


He is the man who helped build a greater part of Las Vegas with millions of dollars from Jimmy Hoffa’s mobbed-up Teamsters’ pension fund. Along with his close friend and business partner, the legendary Moe Dalitz, an early associate of Detroit’s notorious Purple Gang — high school dropouts who built their fortune on murder, hijacking, and rum-running during Prohibition — he built Paradise Development, a firm that prospered mightly during the heyday of the Vegas mob. Now he is working for the FBI. His name is Irwin Molasky.

“Dalitz was one of the most illustrious figures in the annals of crime,” wrote attorney Roy Grutman in his 1990 memoir, Lawyers and Thieves. “Able to trace his mob ties back to such underworld icons as Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Siegel, he even had the distinction of having been chased out of Cleveland in the 1940s by the city’s celebrated public safety director, Elliot Ness.”

In 1962, Dalitz, Molasky, Paradise, and two partners, Merv Adelson and Allard Roen, would snap up a total of 5000 acres outside the tiny San Diego County beach town of Carlsbad. There, with funds loaned by the Teamsters and C. Arnholt Smith’s US National Bank, they built Rancho La Costa, the posh resort that became synonymous with America’s mid-century wave of organized crime, murder, and political corruption.

Today, at the age of 84, according to a signed declaration filed under penalty of perjury, Molasky is sick and infirm, requiring a cane to move about a room. He is in the painful last stages of a rare form of incurable bone-marrow cancer and is in urgent need of taking care of business now rather than later.

Once worshipped as the financial genius of the Las Vegas Strip, he has been forced to watch as his trusted elder son Steven declared bankruptcy, with $55.4 million of unsecured debts during the financial meltdown of 2008.

His son-in-law, Kenneth Collin Cornell, who pled guilty to fraud charges resulting from a telemarketing boiler-room swindle in 1994, is being sued for breach of contract in a case arising from a Mission Beach condominium project he developed with his wife, Molasky’s daughter Beth. But despite the maelstrom of his later years, Molasky has vowed to complete one project above all: a new San Diego headquarters for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Incredible as it seems to some old bureau hands, Molasky, loyal friend and associate of Moe Dalitz and a litany of other gamblers and bookies, has won a 20-year, $223.4-million lease from the U.S. General Services Administration to construct a 248,882-square-foot field office and campus overlooking Interstate 805 on Vista Sorrento Parkway in Sorrento Mesa.

The financing method the government is using to construct the project is itself controversial. By agreeing to lease the building from Molasky at $11.2 million a year, rather than paying $100 million up front to build it, critics say taxpayers will end up paying more than double.

The project was announced to the public this January as a fait accompli. But since then, a major complication has arisen. Molasky does not yet actually own the property, and he can’t obtain a loan with which to buy or build on it. A neighboring landowner filed suit against him in March, charging that the old Las Vegas hand, true to form, is trying to strong-arm his way to the capstone of a legendary career.

In a May 4 filing, lawyers for SN Investment Properties LLC, a Portland, Oregon–based development firm that owns the property adjoining the FBI site, charged that Molasky and his companies “are some of the largest real-estate developers in Las Vegas, Nevada” that “believe they can utilize their significant wealth and power to do whatever they want, wherever they want.”

At issue is a vehicle-access easement, granted in 1984, that runs across the land Molasky wants to use for the project. Molasky and his fellow defendants allegedly “knew months before the contract was awarded by the GSA, and even while they were bidding the contract and seeking approvals from the City of San Diego to develop the project, that the proposed FBI Building was to be built directly on top of an express deeded easement owned by SNI and running over the site of the FBI Building.”

“The current effort to expedite the trial date, despite the fact that Defendants have known since August 2010 of SNl’s easement,” the May filing says, “is just one further part of their strong-arm tactics.”

For their part, Molasky and his lawyers insist that the Portland firm is trying to waylay the FBI building for selfish financial gain at the expense of the public. “Upon learning that the tenant would be the FBI, Plaintiff began protesting that the development and construction of the FBI project would allegedly ‘diminish the value’ of Plaintiff’s property,” according to a response by Molasky and company filed May 4.

The filing added that Molasky had obtained documents showing that the strategy of its foe was “simply to stall and thereby obstruct the development of the FBI project in its entirety or receive a large payment from the Molasky Defendants.”

Any delay in San Diego would be costly, Molasky’s attorneys say. “The Molasky Defendants are currently developing three other FBI office projects for the GSA in Minneapolis, Portland, and Cincinnati, and this existing relationship could be damaged solely because the adjacent property owner claims it would like a different tenant, when in fact Plaintiff simply wants a huge payday for a long abandoned and never used 1984 easement. In addition, the Molasky Defendants have built up goodwill and a relationship of trust with the GSA, the FBI, builders and lenders, all of which is likewise threatened by Plaintiff’s attempt to belatedly assert rights that remained dormant for 26 years.”

Molasky himself filed a personal declaration, dated April 29, implying that, because his days were numbered, the court should hasten to hear the easement case: “I have…Waldenström’s Disease. This disease is a rare form of cancer that affects the bone marrow space in the human body. That disease is treated by chemotherapy and a drug called Rituxan. This disease was diagnosed approximately 15 years ago and I have been treated since that time.

“There is no cure for Waldenström’s Disease. I am in stage 4 of this disease, which is the last stage of the disease. I have received numerous chemotherapy treatments over the years and I am being treated by Dr. Allan Saven at Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California. Because of my age and health issues, the importance of this case being quickly tried, and the importance of this new FBI project to the City of San Diego, I request that this Court set the earliest possible trial date.”

Molasky’s lawyers have argued that he has the public interest at heart, claiming that the fight over the easement threatens “to thwart years of work by the federal government to create a new FBI building in San Diego. In such an event, the federal government will likely have to start the process all over again — resulting in the delay of much needed space to the FBI and much needed economic stimulus to the City of San Diego and its citizens. The City of San Diego will lose the immediate value of 700 new construction jobs and 500 permanent jobs, new revenue from property taxes, additional protection and security from the FBI facility and a new office development in Mira Mesa/Sorrento Valley area.” They add that “prominent members of the City Council of San Diego are fully behind the project as it directly impacts the citizens in this City.”

In order to build that support, Molasky — no stranger to the uses of politics and politicians — has launched an all-out blitz on San Diego’s city hall, quietly retaining Paul Robinson, the high-priced dean of the city’s lobbying corps, a former aide to GOP mayor Pete Wilson, informal advisor and fundraiser for current mayor Jerry Sanders, and a member of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority board. Robinson has deep ties to some of the city’s most sacred institutions, including county Republicans and San Diego State University. Through the first quarter of this year, Molasky has paid Robinson’s law firm a total of $63,000 for its services, according to disclosure documents on file at city hall.

An appointment calendar on the website of city councilwoman Marti Emerald shows that Robinson sat down with her on April 15 to lobby the FBI project with Molasky executive Rich Worthington. Campaign records show that Robinson contributed $270 to Democrat Emerald in January 2009, having previously backed April Boling, Emerald’s failed Republican foe, the year before. On April 25, Robinson and Worthington also paid a visit to first district councilwoman Sherri Lightner, according to her official calendar posted online.

According to his disclosure filings, last year Robinson and associate Neil Hyytinen lobbied city councilman Carl DeMaio; Sanders assistant Phil Rath; city development services division director Kelly Broughton; assistant director of development services Cecilia Gallardo; and assistant city attorney Donald Worley about the Molasky project, and the Robinson law firm was paid a total of $9000. During the first quarter of this year, his firm received $54,000 from Molasky; it lobbied Worley, DeMaio, Broughton, Sanders chief of staff Julie Dubick, and deputy city attorney Debra Bevier, among other city staffers.

According to a source familiar with the project, the Molasky forces want the city to condemn the disputed easement, claiming that public safety demands that the FBI field office be expedited.

On Monday of this week, a source in the office of Councilman DeMaio said that an internal memo from Mayor Jerry Sanders was expected to be sent to City Attorney Jan Goldsmith requesting that condemnation be undertaken by the city.

Will it happen? Molasky’s alliance with the government is astonishing to many who know his history. But to others, it is not unsurprising, given the rise of the national power and influence of Las Vegas over the last 30 years. One of Molasky’s favored politicians, Democrat Harry Reid — once city attorney of dusty Henderson, Nevada, and ex-chairman of the state’s Gaming Control Board — is now majority leader of the United States Senate, where he controls a vast network of campaign contributions and federal patronage.

“In an America so widely dominated by corporate and individual wealth, the Strip’s once disreputable Mob ethic of exploitation and greed has become in large measure a national ethic,” wrote Sally Denton and Roger Morris in The Money and the Power, their 2001 history of post-war Las Vegas. “To chart its rise is far less a walk on the dark and aberrant side of American life than a way to see the larger history of the nation more completely, and without illusion.”

The Molasky File

Irwin Molasky was born in St. Louis in 1927 and grew up Dayton, Ohio. He put in a year at Ohio State University before heading to Los Angeles, where, according to testimony he gave in January 1982, he helped his parents build and run a small hotel on Wilshire Boulevard’s Miracle Mile. At the age of 20, he said, he built a five-unit apartment house in Westwood. He later moved to Las Vegas and started building small houses, as well as the 18-room Pyramids Motel on the Vegas Strip.

His uncle, William Molasky, of St. Louis, had been indicted by a federal grand jury for tax fraud in August 1939, along with millionaire Moses “Moe” Annenberg, publisher of the Philadelphia Enquirer and owner of Consensus Publishing Company, tied to Pioneer News, a racing wire primarily patronized by St. Louis bookies. In November 1940, William, president of Consensus, pled guilty to a single charge of evading $57,800 in personal income taxes. He was sentenced to 18 months behind bars.

When William testified before the organized-crime investigating committee of Senator Estes Kefauver in June 1950, he issued a statement: “I have never engaged in bookmaking or in any commercial gambling. I have never had a financial interest in any gaming establishment; and my personal and business associates do not include bookmakers or professional gamblers…There are no gangsters, mobsters, racketeers, or other persons of questionable character connected with, interested in, or employed by Pioneer News.” William was represented before the committee by St. Louis attorney Morris Shenker, once referred to by Life Magazine as the “foremost lawyer for the mob in the U.S.,” whose most prominent client was to be Jimmy Hoffa.

Irwin Molasky ended up in Las Vegas in the early 1950s, he later recalled, where he met future business partner Merv Adelson, a Beverly Hills grocer’s son who was then-owner of Market Town, a 24-hour-a-day supermarket on Las Vegas Boulevard. Among their other ventures was the Colonial House, a bistro that enjoyed an edgy reputation as a haunt for high-class hookers, recounted Ovid Demaris and Ed Reid in 1965’s The Green Felt Jungle.

They soon linked up with Moe Dalitz, who had become one of the richest and most powerful denizens of the underworld after expanding the base of his hometown Detroit empire of gambling and other assorted rackets to Cleveland. Dalitz, it’s been said by some, first arrived in Las Vegas in the late 1940s, on a mission for the East Coast mob to keep track of Bugsy Siegel and the construction of his over-budget Flamingo hotel.

An example of how Dalitz did business is recounted by Michael Newton in his 2009 Dalitz biography, Mr. Mob. In September 1947, four men carrying submachine guns held up the Mounds Club casino outside of Cleveland, fleeing with between $250,000 and $500,000 in cash and jewelry. Another heist followed at the Continental Club. Cops took no action, but, according to Newton, “Moe Dalitz used his influence to learn the bandits’ names. A trial of sorts was held, sentence was passed, and manhunters hit the ground running. By March 1948, it is said, every one of the robbers was tracked down and killed.”

Molasky testified in January 1982 that he was introduced to Dalitz by Allard Roen, a Dalitz protégé, general manager of the Desert Inn, and convicted stock manipulator who was the son of notorious Cleveland gambler and bookie Frank Rosen. Molasky said Dalitz wanted him to build houses on the new golf course at the Desert Inn, which Dalitz controlled.

Shortly after that, according to Molasky, he and Adelson began building the for-profit Sunrise Hospital on Maryland Parkway. Its construction had been financed by loans from a savings and loan, but “we ran out of money and had to take in some investors,” Newton quoted Molasky as saying. When the deal was finally worked out, Molasky later testified, he and Adelson owned 45 percent of the stock, another 45 percent was held by Dalitz and Roen, and the remaining 10 percent by a doctor who put up the original $40,000 to help get Molasky and Adelson off the ground.

The first 62 beds of the hospital opened on December 15, 1958. Senator-elect Howard Cannon, cozy with Dalitz and his friends, cut the ribbon. Another prominent financier of the project remained low profile: Jimmy Hoffa’s Teamsters Union pension fund, which had advanced a million dollars at 6 percent interest in a complicated deal that obscured the origin of the money.

The loan was just the beginning of an exceedingly profitable relationship between the Teamsters, Dalitz, Molasky, and their partners. To guarantee patients, Hoffa ordered that all members of the Teamsters’ and Culinary Unions’ medical plan be forced to use Sunrise if they required hospitalization. It was “an early form of managed care,” Molasky later said.

The Teamsters also loaned $1.2 million to Dalitz, Roen, Adelson, and Molasky, along with fifth partner, Bernie Rothkopf, to build the Stardust Golf Course and Country Club and the nearby Paradise Palms housing development. “If Moe told them to make a loan,” said one observer quoted by Sally Denton and Roger Morris, authors of 2001’s The Money and the Power, “they made the loan.”

All along the way, FBI agents dogged virtually every movement of Dalitz, Molasky, and their associates, taking copious notes and filing voluminous reports. According to Newton, in February 1961 G-men wanted to charge Dalitz with “bribery, labor racketeering, and Mann Act violations (transporting women across state lines for ‘immoral purposes’),” but bureau director J. Edgar Hoover killed the idea.

In February 1962, writes Newton, the FBI followed Dalitz and his friend, entertainer Phil Harris, to San Diego, where they had “quite a party” with unidentified women before heading for Mexico in Dalitz’s yacht. The same month, Dalitz and New York mob kingpin Meyer Lansky were listed by FBI agents as being among ten mobsters “marked for ‘intensified investigations.’”

Somehow, though, charges were never filed. Then along came the flamboyant publisher of a glossy skin magazine to do what federal authorities never had. Bob Guccione, the owner of Penthouse, was in the midst of taking on Hugh Hefner’s Playboy for the pinnacle of the nation’s men’s publishing business, and the Brooklyn-born Guccione was ready to get down to some serious muckraking.

“I first met Bob Guccione at the London Penthouse Club in 1970,” wrote attorney Roy Grutman. “Dressed in a white suit and an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt and sporting an array of gold chains, he looked like a psychedelic Beau Brummel.”

“After years of selling soft-focus crotch shots, Guccione wanted to do something more important, something Hugh Hefner would never try,” added Grutman. “If the Washington Post could bring down Richard Nixon, he would go after something even bigger.” The target was La Costa.

Headlined “La Costa: The Hundred-Million-Dollar Resort with Criminal Clientele,” the story ran in March 1975. “The primary founders of La Costa were syndicate ‘bluebloods,’” Penthouse charged. “La Costa has been controlled by the Moe Dalitz mob, which includes Dalitz, Allard Roen, Merv Adelson, and Irwin Molasky.… It was Dalitz who persuaded then-president of the Teamsters Union, James Riddle Hoffa, to finance Las Vegas casinos, starting with [Dalitz’s] Desert Inn and related properties, with Teamsters retirement cash.”

That May, Dalitz and his partners filed a $630 million libel suit against Guccione and his magazine.

By coincidence, Grutman, who handled the case for Guccione, had earlier been a guest at La Costa: “A vast complex of white motel buildings and a golf course that looked like a semi-arid cemetery, it reminded me of Las Vegas. There were fountains, doormen who looked like ex-boxers, and many peculiar guests. I realized how peculiar when the tennis pro arranged a doubles match for me, and one member of the foursome was a recently convicted recipient of bribes, former New York state senator Bert Podell.”

The libel case dragged on for seven years before it finally reached a jury. By then, “Roen and Dalitz dropped out as plaintiffs when it was decided they were public figures and could not prove malice against Penthouse,” wrote Grutman.

“In my opening statement, I told the jury we would prove La Costa was built and maintained for the benefit of the mob,” he recalled. “I explained how the resort was designed as a safe haven for criminals on working vacations. Since Mafia members prefer to conduct their business in person rather than over the telephone or by mail, La Costa, far from the cops and other cares of the world, was the perfect place to relax and make deals.

“‘People who are the heads of rackets not only go [to La Costa] but are given the run of the place,’ I said.

“The resort provided complimentary accommodations to mobsters of all persuasions, from Louis ‘the Tailor’ Rosanova...to the legendary Meyer Lansky, who explained in a deposition that he had gone to La Costa only twice to take walks and visit a sick acquaintance.”

Of Penthouse’s publisher, Lansky opined, “I’d rather be counted a pal of Moe Dalitz than that fucking Guccione, who peddles slime and pornography to the youth of the country.”

“In court,” said Grutman, “both Molasky and Adelson denied that Dalitz had opened the door to the Teamsters’ pension fund. The evidence showed otherwise. Since the two had begun a business relationship with Dalitz and Roen, the fourway partnership had been one of the pension fund’s best customers, accounting for millions of dollars in loans and additional millions in equity deals. As part of its loan agreement with La Costa, the Teamsters bought 15 percent of the resort at a bargain price, and later sold the same shares for a profit of millions.

“Not surprisingly, the Teamsters’ loan came with strings attached. The union demanded the right to appoint three members to the La Costa board of directors. One of them was Teamsters’ consultant Allen Dorfman, later indicted for accepting kickbacks. Adelson testified that all he really knew about Dorfman was that he was a decorated war veteran. Dorfman was murdered in Chicago in a gangland-style execution in 1983.”

The trial featured a sworn affidavit on behalf of Molasky and his partners by their friend, San Diego sheriff John Duffy, who maintained that “no evidence of criminal activity by La Costa or the management of La Costa…has ever been detected.” It later came to light that Duffy had privately expressed his own doubts about Dalitz and company and had received campaign contributions from La Costa and three of its principals, including Molasky, but not Dalitz.

There was also testimony on behalf of Penthouse by Mafia hit man Aladena “Jimmy the Weasel” Fratianno, who was barred by the judge from telling the jury about a meeting Fratianno claimed he’d had at La Costa with Chicago mob boss Sam “Momo” Giancana and San Diego hit man Frank “the Bomp” Bompensiero to plot the murder of TV star Desi Arnaz. To discredit Fratianno, La Costa’s attorneys dug up a deposition from six years earlier in which he said he’d never been to the resort. Fratianno responded that he’d lied “maybe 100 times” in the sworn affidavit, of which he said 90 percent “are [sic] lies.”

In May 1982, after 15 days of deliberation, the jury decided in favor of Penthouse, but Judge Kenneth Gale quickly overturned the verdict, ordering a new trial. Grutman discovered that Gale had once been Fratianno’s lawyer and eventually got the judge removed from the case. More than three years later, in December 1985, just as a second trial was to finally begin, the exhausted litigants announced a settlement. Only words, not money, changed hands.

Guccione and his magazine were praised by Molasky and partners for their “many personal and professional awards and distinctions.” For his part, Guccione said, “Penthouse…did not mean to imply nor did it intend for its readers to believe that Messrs. Adelson and Molasky are or were members of organized crime or criminals.

“Penthouse acknowledges that all of the individual plaintiffs, including Messrs. Dalitz and Roen, have been extremely active in commendable civic and philanthropic activities which have earned them recognition from many estimable people. Furthermore, Penthouse acknowledges that among plaintiffs’ successful business activities is the La Costa resort itself, one of the outstanding resort complexes of the world.”

Molasky — who did not respond to a request for an interview for this story relayed through Richard Worthington, president and chief operating officer of Molasky’s Paradise Development Company — survived and prospered. Today he remains one of only two La Costa case principals still standing. Moe Dalitz died in August 1989 at 89. Allard Roen died in 2008, age 87. Guccione succumbed last year at 79. Besides Molasky, only Merv Adelson, who was once married to TV news personality Barbara Walters, lives on at 81.

“Shored up by the Teamster underwriting at Sunrise and eased by governmental concessions and favorable contracts at every turn, the trio’s Paradise Development Company shaped the emerging commercial and residential map of the city,” Denton and Morris wrote of Molasky, Dalitz, and Adelson in 2001.

As the years went by Molasky built Nevada’s first enclosed shopping mall, the first high-rise office building in Las Vegas, and its first high-rise luxury condominium complex. He was hailed as one of the town’s biggest philanthropists, with gifts of acreage for the University of Nevada and construction of the Nathan Adelson Hospice, named in honor of Merv Adelson’s father.

He became a close friend of Jerry Tarkanian, whom he helped recruit from Long Beach State with a big-money contract to become head basketball coach at UNLV in 1973. “It would have taken 50 years for the university to become the Harvard of the West,” Molasky told the New York Times in July 1991. “We felt it would be a lot easier to achieve it by getting a renowned basketball program and then gradually going into the academics.”

The first chairman of the UNLV Foundation, Molasky skirted controversy in May 1990, when the Washington Post reported he had bet on college football, pro football, and baseball games in the 1980s in partnership with Las Vegas physician and bookie Ivan Mindlin, leader of a national sports betting operation.

Mindlin was indicted in January 1990 after the FBI shut down his computerized betting operation in a nationwide raid on the eve of the Super Bowl, January 19, 1985. Molasky testified before the federal grand jury that indicted Mindlin and avoided being charged in the case. In 1992, in a major embarrassment for the FBI and U.S. prosecutors, the defendants were acquitted in federal court in Las Vegas.

Later, in April of 2002, federal prosecutors in Chicago accused Mindlin of attempting to hire a lieutenant in the Chicago mob’s Elmwood Park street crew to wipe out a former gambling partner. Defense attorneys for a Chicago cop, alleged to have been the go-between in the plot, denied that it had happened, according to an Associated Press report.

As his power over Las Vegas grew, Molasky and his wife Susan became heavy donors to Democratic causes, including, in the 1990s, the Searchlight Leadership Fund of Senator Harry Reid, which Reid used to distribute campaign contributions to curry favor among Reid’s Senate allies, with the aim of ultimately electing him majority leader.

In May 2007, Molasky was an honored guest at a lavish tribute to Reid; that November Molasky was named to the Nevada Business Leadership Council of then–presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. (Molasky’s most recent federal contribution was $500 this May 12 to Democratic congressional candidate Kate Marshall.)

During the same period, Molasky began an aggressive push into the financing, construction, and leasing of office buildings for the federal government. The deficit was growing out of control, and officials wanted to push capital expenditures into future years in the form of lease payments, rather than pay for buildings up front, a much cheaper alternative in the long run.

With close ties to Reid and other Democratic and Republican power brokers, Molasky was well positioned to take advantage of the trend. Ironically, sources say, Molasky’s many contacts with federal law enforcement agencies over the years also may have put him on the inside track to build a series of FBI and IRS regional headquarters.

“The competitive landscape was changing. The returns from our traditional line of work were less, so there was a conscious decision to diversify our focus,” Richard Worthington, Molasky’s right-hand man, told the Las Vegas Business Press in June 2005.

Molasky has also successfully leveraged his political relationships with local governments; in Las Vegas, the redevelopment agency gave him a bargain on downtown land. “Three years ago, Molasky responded to a request-for-proposal for a new Internal Revenue Service headquarters in the region,” the Business Press reported. “He beat out six competitors by securing a five-acre parcel of city-owned land in downtown Las Vegas for $2,000. The property has been valued at $2 million.”

“It’s outrageous,” an anonymous Las Vegas developer told the paper. “I can fully understand the need for economic development and the need to generate jobs and redevelopment for downtown. But when you’re doing a build-to-suit and the land is donated, it eliminates all the risk. How can anyone else compete?”

“Public-private partnerships make-up 10 to 15 percent of our overall portfolio, but it’s growing. And we want it to play a larger role,” Worthington was quoted as saying at the time. “These projects are all about the economics. But whenever there is a leap of faith, there is an advantage if you’re a proven commodity. And when you’ve been in town for as long as we have, there’s credibility.”

Today Molasky is counting on many of the same factors to give him an edge in the fight over San Diego’s FBI project. As Molasky’s legal battle with his Sorrento Valley neighbor approaches an early trial next month, Worthington said in a telephone interview last week, ongoing settlement negotiations have proved fruitless.

Worthington wouldn’t provide any further details, saying the case was still being litigated, but other sources say that Molasky has been vigorously lobbying both the FBI and the city of San Diego to condemn the disputed easement and turn it over to Molasky on the grounds that prompt completion of the new FBI building is vital to public safety. That would require hearings by the city council, which might shed new light on Molasky’s operations here.

What the FBI’s options are if its deal with Molasky unravels aren’t known. Neither the General Services Administration nor the FBI responded to requests for comment regarding the situation. What is almost certain, based on his sworn declaration last month, is that the FBI project, just a few miles down I-5 from the legendary La Costa resort where the Mafia came to play, is Irwin Molasky’s last hurrah.

Thanks to Matt Potter

Monday, April 04, 2011

Entertainment and Family History Mixed at Las Vegas Mob Experience

Mobster Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, infamous for his brutality, once reportedly squeezed a man's head in a vice until his eyes popped out of their sockets.But when he wasn't carrying out brutal interrogations or fulfilling contract killings -- duties required of him as a made man for the mob -- he was playing the role of dutiful father.

Spilotro and other mobsters with a Las Vegas connection all had softer, gentler sides that have rarely been acknowledged, says Jay Bloom, founder and managing partner of the Las Vegas Mob Experience at the Tropicana.

Bloom hopes the new attraction changes that by showing publicly the soft guy side that Spilotro, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, Sam Giancana, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky possessed.

The Las Vegas Mob Experience celebrated its grand opening Wednesday. It is not to be confused with the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, popularly known as the Mob Museum, which is scheduled to open later this year in downtown Las Vegas.

The Mob Museum will concentrate more on the law enforcement perspective, says Michael Unger, chief executive officer of Eagle Group Holdings, the parent company of the Mob Experience, while "we will focus on the bad guys."

The "show-seum is a little bit entertainment, a little bit excitement and a little bit history all rolled together," Unger says. "We expose the human side of these men, if you will. Siegel was a great father. Same thing with Spilotro. They were good family men."

Several family members of the infamous men, including Millicent Siegel Rosen, daughter of Siegel; Spilotro's son, Vincent, and his widow, Nancy; Meyer Lansky II and Cythina Duncan, grandchildren of Lansky; and Giancana's grandson, Carl Manno, donated or loaned more than 1,500 artifacts to be displayed. Among them are Spilotro's baby shoes and his handguns; Siegel's home movies, furniture and love letters; and Lansky's golf clubs and personal diaries.

"It's quite a showcase," says 80-year-old Rosen. "People have been after me for years to do something about my father, but I never wanted to get involved in anything. But when I met Jay, his ideas were different. I was very impressed with the way he treated my father."

Visitors to the attraction will get to watch home movies shot by Siegel while learning about how he built the Flamingo and helped popularize Las Vegas as a vacation destination. He wouldn't like today's Vegas, Rosen adds. It would be much too corporate for his tastes.

Don't go in expecting to hear the whole story of the mob, though. The Mob Experience covers prohibition and gaming apart from the family history.

"The narrative they're telling seems to have some problems," says David Schwartz, director of University of Nevada, Las Vegas' gaming studies. "It seems to skip over some of the stuff organized crime did in America."

And though the artifacts may have historical value, it may be difficult to understand why, because many of them are out of context, Schwartz adds.

Attraction organizers chose to focus strictly on mob figures who played a role in the rise and spread of casinos, Unger says.

In addition to the artifacts, the Mob Experience offers a pseudo-mob "experience" in which guests can become a made man, a snitch, get whacked or have a shootout. At the ticket counter, guests give their names and some personal information in exchange for a mob nickname and a badge embedded with radio frequency identification, or RFID.

The Mob Experience is divided into three acts: the immigration of the mob figures, the rise of the mob, and the decline and fall of the mob. A three-dimensional guide accompanies visitors through, offering facts and helping to navigate the mob. As a guest enters each area, computers sense the RFID badge and greet each person by his or her mob nickname.

Actors portraying various mob characters are situated throughout the 26,000-square-foot attraction and interact with guests. Your response to each character plays a role in your fate at the end, Bloom says.

Thanks to Sonya Padgett

Friday, January 07, 2011

Book Claims That Lucky Luciano, the Inspiration for The Godfather's Don Corleone, Was a Fake Gangster

The gangster who inspired 1970s blockbuster The Godfather was a "fake", a historian has claimed.

Experts believed Charles "Lucky" Luciano was the father of organised crime and hailed him as the model for legendary mafia boss Don CorleoneLucky Luciano: Mafia Murderer and Secret Agent, played by Marlon Brando in the Francis Ford Coppola movie based on the Mario Puzo book.

Luciano was widely credited for running New York's notorious underworld, and was linked to extortion rackets, punishment attacks and gangland murders. But according to new research, his reputation was largely fabricated by the US government to justify the expense of tracking him down.

The revelations emerge in a new book, Lucky Luciano: Mafia Murderer and Secret Agent - 74 years after his imprisonment, and 48 years after his death. US author Tim Newark said the claims will shock other biographers who had painted Lucky as the archetypal gangster.

Mr Newark said: "The myth of Lucky Luciano is incredible. For decades, he has been portrayed as the father of modern organised crime, no less. "But after delving into the archives, I realised the real Lucky was in some respects, a fake."

Luciano was born in Sicily, in 1897 but moved to New York at the age of ten to dabble in crime. But Mr Newark said: "The sad truth is Lucky was a has-been without the money or power to pull off what he was said to. Even if he had, the Mafia wouldn't have worked with him because of his very public reputation."

Thanks to Raanan Geberer


Monday, January 03, 2011

Las Vegas Mob Moss, Davie Berman, Started in North Dakota

The mob boss of the Las Vegas syndicate, who built the city into the gambling capital of the U.S., grew up in North Dakota.

Davie Berman learned how to be tough and enterprising at his father’s farm near Ashley when he reasoned that he would need to become the primary breadwinner for the family because his father’s farming venture failed.

Berman ran the Las Vegas gambling enterprises for the mob from 1947 until his death in 1957. Most of the people who knew him at the casinos liked him and thought of Berman as a very successful businessman. After Berman died, it was said that he had “the largest funeral Las Vegas had ever seen.”

Donald “Davie” Berman was born Jan. 16, 1903, to David and Clara Berman in Odessa, Russia. In 1905, David Berman was threatened with conscription into the Russian army and fled to America. After working at a laundry in Manhattan, he learned that a special fund had been set up to help young Jews get land grants in North Dakota. He sent for his wife and three young children.

In the winter of 1907, the family arrived at Ashley. for? It looks like Siberia.” On Dec. 26, 1907, the Bermans took possession of their 160 acres between Ashley and Wishek. David Berman knew nothing about farming, and it seemed like everything he tried had failed.

Davie Berman excelled in school but was frequently in trouble because of fights. In January 1910, their house burned down, and the Bermans sold their farm for one dollar and moved to Ashley. David Berman got a job at the creamery, but the family continued to live in poverty. Davie Berman said they should move to Sioux City, Iowa, because he had learned that young boys could sell newspapers. In 1912, the family packed their belongings into a buggy and moved to Iowa where they hoped to make a new beginning.

Davie Berman got a job as a newsboy and, to increase his earnings, slept in the print shop of the Sioux City Journal so that he could get an early start hawking newspapers. He organized the Jewish boys selling papers so that they could keep other boys from selling papers in their territory.

At the time, Sioux City was called Little Chicago because “gangsters from Chicago used to move there when the heat was on at home.” Davie Berman soon noticed that gamblers had a lot of money, and he became friendly with them. He helped talk people into participating in card games and learned how to cheat with marked cards and loaded dice. By the age of 14, he organized a group of young people to beat up individuals who did not cover their losses at gambling.

With Prohibition, Berman got into bootlegging. He drove his car north on Highway 75, now I-75, to Winnipeg, Manitoba, and loaded up with whiskey. On his return south, Berman would make deliveries in Minnesota and the Dakotas. By the age of 16, “he was the biggest bootlegger in all of Iowa.” He also hired people to make home brew on which he slapped fake labels for resale.

While still a teen, Berman turned to robbing banks. He moved his operation from Sioux City to Chicago and then to New York City. In 1927, Berman was arrested for a post office robbery in Wisconsin. He refused to name any of those involved in plotting the heist and was sentenced to 7 ½ years in Sing Sing Prison.

When he was released from prison, Berman was called to a meeting with gangsters Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello, Moe Sedway and Lucky Luciano. In appreciation for keeping quiet, Berman was offered $1 million. He turned the offer down and instead said he wanted permission “to run Minneapolis.” His request was granted.

By the mid-1930s, Prohibition was abolished, and Berman focused his attention on bookmaking and other forms of gambling. The top mob boss of Minneapolis, when Berman arrived, was Kid Cann. As his operation grew, Berman eclipsed Cann. When World War II broke out, Berman tried to enlist but was turned down because of his criminal background. He then traveled to Winnipeg and enlisted with the 12th Manitoba Dragoons regiment. At the conclusion of the war, Berman returned to Minneapolis to resume his gambling operation.

In 1945, Hubert Humphrey was elected mayor with a pledge to break up the rackets. Berman knew where he wanted to move next. In 1940, he had made a trip to Las Vegas and saw that it held great potential for gambling. In 1945, Berman purchased three downtown clubs — the El Cortez, the Las Vegas Club, and the El Dorado (later called the Horseshoe).

He was also working with Bugsy Siegel to build the new, elegant Flamingo. After the Flamingo opened, the mob suspected that Siegel was skimming off the top. On June 20, 1947, Siegel was assassinated at the Beverly Hills home of his mistress, Virginia Hill. The murder was never solved. The next day, Berman and his associates walked into the Flamingo and took over operation of the club. Later, Berman sold the Flamingo and purchased the Riviera.

On June 18, 1957, while on the operating table at a Las Vegas hospital for a glandular operation, Berman suffered a heart attack and died.

Thanks to Curt Eriksmoen

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Gangsters of Harlem

For the first time ever, author Ron Chepesiuk chronicles the little known history of organized crime in Harlem. African American organized crime has had as significant an impact on its constituent community as Italian, Jewish, and Irish organized crime has had on theirs. Gangsters are every bit as colorful, intriguing, and powerful as Al Capone and Lucky Luciano, and have a fascinating history in gambling, prostitution, and drug dealing. In this riveting, vivid documentation, Chepesiuk tells the little-known story of organized crime in Harlem through in-depth profiles of the major gangs and motley gangsters whose exploits have made them legends.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Junior Gotti Visits Father's Grave After Released from Fourth Mistrial

Freshly free after his fourth mistrial, the Teflon Son went to pay his respects to the original Dapper Don on Sunday.

John A. (Junior) Gotti arrived at the gangster-packed St. John's Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens, at 1:15 p.m. and spent about a half-hour alone with his departed dad.

The elder Gotti, who headed the Gambino crime family before his son, was sentenced to life behind bars after skating on three previous trials. He died in a Missouri prison in 2002. Junior, a 45-year-old father of six, spent the past 16 months behind bars until last Tuesday, when his own fourth racketeering trial ended in a hung jury.

Gotti made a point last week of saying he looked forward to visiting the graves of his father and brother. Junior's little brother, Frank, who was accidentally run over at age 12 by a neighbor who soon vanished without a trace, is also interred at the cemetery's five-story mausoleum.

Wearing a striped black track suit and white sneakers, Junior first went to noon Mass at the Church of St. Dominic in Oyster Bay, L.I., with two of his daughters.

He told reporters he planned to spend the rest of the day enjoying family time. "I'm going to cook. I always cook on Sundays," he said.

Junior made similar pilgrimages to his dad's grave after previous mistrials.

During his most recent murder and racketeering trial, Gotti said he felt his father communicated with him through specific songs that played on the radio at 10:27 p.m.

"1-0/27 is my father's birthday," he explained last week. "To me it's like a message."

Others buried at St. John's include such storied mobsters as Carlo Gambino, Carmine Galante, Vito Genovese, Joe Profaci, Joe Colombo and Lucky Luciano.

Thanks to Helen Kennedy

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mob Mug Shot Collection Exceeds 10,000 Photos

When mobster Lucky Luciano was being photographed by New York City police in 1936, he probably had no idea his mug shot would one day be sought after like a Babe Ruth baseball card. But to collectors like John Binder of River Forest, that's a valuable piece of... art?

These unglamorous shots and lineup photos are being accepted as art with more than just collectors seeking them. Binder said when the photos were taken, there was some consideration of composition and lighting, and the pictures were developed on photographic paper before police departments started using Polaroids and later digital cameras. Thus, he said, the art world has become more accepting of these photos as art, and there have been exhibitions in Los Angeles and New York.

"The art world has expanded dramatically in the last few years," Binder said. "The early ones used much better photography."

Binder, author of The Chicago Outfit, has amassed more than 10,000 mug shots and lineup photos of a range of crooks, from everyday petty criminals to mob bosses. Some get displayed in galleries, some get sold or traded, some never leave his collection, which includes some of the most infamous organized crime figures in history: Charles "Lucky" Luciano, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegal, Sam Giancana, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, John "No Nose" DiFronzo, Tony "Big Tuna" Accardo, and Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti.

His interest in mug shots and lineup photos began in the 1990s, when he started researching who the other people were in a photograph of Al Capone. It led to more research into the world of organized crime in Chicago and New York, which led to him purchasing crime photos.

"It's just a general interest in history," he said. "The photographs are interesting in their own right."

He started his collection with the purchase of 10,000 photos from a collectibles dealer, who bought them from a retired police officer's family. Binder has added to the collection with one or two photos at a time from various sources. He has one of the biggest collections of its kind in the United States.

He admits it's an esoteric collection. It's not like someone can just walk into a shop and say, "I'm looking for a mug shot of a ruthless criminal."

Binder said collectors of crime photos rely on word of mouth and, if they're lucky, someone will let them dig through their old photos. Sometimes police departments will have stored old mug shots and lineup photos, and put them up for sale on Ebay.

Binder sold an original 1927 Bugsy Siegal mug shot for well over $1,000, and has sold several photos of lesser-known criminals to cops and attorneys who want to use them to decorate their bars or offices.

"There is a price for most of what I have," he said. "But, some of the good stuff I keep for my own private collection."

But, he doesn't have everybody.

Wanted: An original Al Capone mug shot.

Thanks to J.T. Morand

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Video Clip Reveals the Real Story of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre

The American Mob began at the turn of the 20th Century as immigrants from Europe began pouring into cities along the East Coast, particularly New York City. Poor and isolated, these immigrant Jews, Irish and Italians banded together to develop their own version of the American Dream. A unique form of business called organized crime.

Through newspapers and film, the leaders of organized crime became household names, often lionized in the mold of true American heroes, the rugged frontier individualists of the past. These names included Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky.

This series, Hollywood vs. The Mob - Fact vs. Fiction, will reveal the truth behind the myth of the American Mob and its godfathers.

The following video clip will reveal The Real Story of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (2/14/1929) was Al Capone's attempt to dispose of organized crime rival 'Bugs' Moran. Five of Bugsy men were killed, but the one man Capone wanted dead wasn't there.

Mafia Names You Should Know and Remember

No conversation about the history of baseball is complete without mentioning the last names Ruth, Mantle and Bonds, just as no conversation about American politics is complete without saying the names Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. The Mafia is no different; it’s got its legends, its hall-of-famers, if you will. I know there are a lot of my readers who love to learn about the history of the Mafia. So, for those of you who love Mafia history, pay attention (and the rest of yous, shut your traps and just read the article). So here’s a history of Mafia names you should know and remember if you think you’re a true Mafioso.

Colombo
The Colombo family is one of the five families of New York. Before it was called the Colombo family, it was known as the Profaci family. The name changed in 1963 when Joseph Colombo became the capo. Joseph Colombo was unlike any capo before… or since. He didn’t shun the spotlight one bit. When the FBI began scrutinizing his activities, Colombo responded by calling it harassment against Italian-Americans. He even went so far as to organize the Italian-American Civil Rights League. His group began doing demonstrations such as picketing outside of the New York FBI building. He attracted the likes of government officials, as well as prominent entertainers like Frank Sinatra, to help his cause, and he received a lot of national attention. It was at one such Italian-American rally that Joe Colombo approached the podium and was shot three times in the head by a man named Jerome Johnson. A second gunman appeared and shot Johnson and disappeared into the crowd. To this day, nobody knows for sure who was really behind Colombo’s death. Many argue that is was Joey Gallo, a member of the Colombo family and critic of Joe Colombo’s. Others argue Carlo Gambino set it up.

"The Attorney General hates our guts. I think the President is behind it. I want to make the League the greatest organization in the country, the greatest organization in the world, so that people will be proud of us no matter what we do, where we are -- even if we are in prison."
- Joe Colombo

Gambino

Gambino is the name of one of the five crime families in La Cosa Nostra in New York. Gambino has become synonymous with Mafia life since the 1950s. At times, the Gambino family has been the most powerful of the five families of New York, and there was one man that made that happen: Carlo "Don Carlo" Gambino. To this day, the family still calls itself by the name of its greatest boss. Don Carlo ruled the outfit from 1957 to 1976, and eventually became the boss of bosses. During this time, his outfit was the most profitable it had ever been; he had at his command over 1,000 Soldatis and is said to have had rackets worth $500,000,000 per year. Gambino is most remembered for his ability to keep himself out of the press and out of jail -- he never spent a day behind bars.

“Judges, lawyers and politicians have a license to steal. We don’t need one.”
- Carlo Gambino

Capone
No list of famous gangsters would be complete without talking about Alphonse Gabriel "Al" Capone. He was known as “Scarface.” In his youth in New York, he insulted a sister of a Mafioso named Frank Gallucio. Capone apologized and said it was a misunderstanding, but Gallucio slashed him three times across the face, and that’s how he got his nickname. In 1921, Capone moved to Chicago and joined the Chicago Outfit. The rest is history, as they say. Capone became famous for the way that he completely took over the city of Chicago, including its police officers, judges and city officials. They were all on his payroll, and they all took orders from Capone. He lived in the Lexington Hotel, which the Chicagoans called Capone’s Castle. He didn’t need to shy away from the spotlight because he controlled just about everything in Chicago. Because of his power in Chicago, he caught the eye of the FBI. They called him a public enemy and began looking for ways to take him down. It was in 1931 that they got Capone for income-tax evasion, and Capone’s empire fell once and for all.

“This American system of ours -- call it Americanism, call it capitalism, call it what you will -- gives each and every one of us a great opportunity if we only seize it with both hands and make the most of it.”
- Al Capone

Luciano
Charles “Lucky” Luciano is one of the most famous and best-remembered of all gangsters. He is like the Joe DiMaggio of the Mafia. He got his name “Lucky” when he was kidnapped and attacked by three assassins in 1929; they beat him and stabbed him multiple times and left him to die on the beach in New York. He survived the ordeal, which is why they called him “lucky,” but he received the scar and droopy eye that he became famous for. What Luciano did from there is what makes him famous: he plotted to kill his capo, Joe Masseria, with Salvatore Maranzano on the condition that Maranzano make Luciano an equal capo when Masseria was gone. After he took out Masseria, Maranzano went back on his word; he declared himself the capo di tutti capi (the boss of bosses) and demanded payments from Luciano. Luciano tolerated this until he found out that Maranzano was plotting to whack him. When Luciano heard this, he sent his men to Maranzano’s office dressed as FBI agents, so they wouldn’t receive any resistance, and they mowed Maranzano and his closest men down, including the man that was supposed to assassinate Luciano. From this point on, Luciano ruled as the capo of the Genovese family. He is remembered by some to be the father of organized crime.

"I learned too late that you need just as good a brain to make a crooked million as an honest million.”
- Charles “Lucky” Luciano (born Salvatore Lucania)

Thanks to Mr. Mafioso

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Will Chicago's Mob History and Clout Mentality Follow Obama to the White House?

The city of Chicago is one of the few major metropolitan areas that runs away from its past at every opportunity. Yet, indeed, the very construction of the city led to the term “underworld.” And with rampant corruption controlled by infamous individuals like “Big Jim” Colosimo, Al Capone, Paul “The Waiter” Ricca, Murray “The Camel” Humphrey and Tony “Joe Batters” Accardo, Chicago can hardly bury its past — no pun intended.

Since the turn of the 20th century, what Carl Sandburg referred to as the “City of Big Shoulders” was perhaps the center of organized crime in the United States. Though New York had its Syndicate and Detroit had the Purple Gang, many believe true power in America’s underworld was concentrated in something called the Outfit.

With the election of Barack Obama will come a great deal of history-laden baggage, which will make the movie “The Godfather” seem like a Walt Disney cartoon.

From David Axelrod, who was nurtured on the Daley Machine, to the political organizing, which Barack Obama so proudly claims a lineage, Chicago’s brand of one Party politics may be a model for the Obama administration in Washington, D.C.

It is no mistake the president-elect joined Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s South Side Chicago church. Obama wanted to learn the ropes of power politics and how it was played in the Windy City. There were no better teachers than Mayor Daley and his cadre of obliging aldermen who responded to the cracking of the political whip. A failure to do so would quickly leave them on the outside looking in — without protection from the media, the law and any other threat which loomed on the horizon.

The question is not whether Obama will use the lessons he learned in Chicago as president. The question is: How much of that lesson will become the modus operandi for the Obama adminstration? Some say it might become Chicago on the Potomac, when referring to the political mechanism Obama may surround himself with. If so, it will be our nation’s darkest nightmare come true. And combined with the Clinton-brand of Arkansas politics, there may truly be a new day in our nation’s Capitol.

But how did the Daley Machine take root in Chicago? A book titled, The Outfit: The Role of Chicago’s Underworld in the Shaping of Modern Americawritten by Gus Russo and published in 2001 gave Americans a frigthening glimpse into the Daley Machine and how it got its start.

After Capone left power, due to his conviction on tax evasion charges in the early 1930s, it was Ricca, Humphrey and Accardo who truly called the shots in what many refer to as the Mafia. Even “Lucky” Luciano and Meyer Lansky, originators of organized crime in New York, would not make a move without consulting the Chicago Triumvirate whose innovation and power criminologists say was matched by none.

Since the hay-days of mob activity in Chicago, the city has done everything possible to shed its dark past. But its reputation lives on — despite the efforts of the current mayor, Richard M. Daley. In the early century, individuals like “Big Jim” Colismo controlled gambling and prostitution in the city. With the advent of Prohibition, organized crime found its true calling through the sale of bootleg alcohol, combined with the pandering trade. Added profits were topped off by a very lucrative illegal gambling racket.

After Capone’s departure, the mob moved into the numbers game — which had made millions for underworld entrepreneurs in the African-American community. Union corruption — which was master-minded by Murray “The Camel” Humphrey — brought great fortune to the Outfit as well. Eventually, the mob moved into the illicit drug trade. Until the early 1960s, the Chicago Outfit was ruled with an iron hand by Ricca, Humphrey and Accardo.

Though in later years, more flamboyant underworld figures, such as Sam “Mooney” Giancano and lesser players, including Joseph “Joey Doves” Aiuppa, and the Spilotro Brothers of the movie “Casino” fame, controlled organized crime in Chicago, the FBI virtually wiped out mob activity in the city — although remnants of the Outfit still exist today.

Chop shops and vending machines (poker, cigarettes, etc.) are still reported to be controlled by criminal entities. But the glory days of the Chicago Outfit are said to be long gone. Yet, the public doesn’t have to look far to find reminders of those wild times gone by.

Indeed, Chicago’s current mayor may not hold that office if not for the influence the Outfit had when it came to the election of his father, Richard J. Daley. Perhaps the Daley link with organized crime is one of the reasons why the city does all it can to obscure Chicago’s dark and corrupt history. You will not find city-sponsored tours of famous gangland hang-outs. Even historical landmarks, like the site of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre at 2122 N. Clark St., though an empty lot, are nagging reminders of a bygone era which City Fathers would rather forget.

The Outfit played a significant role in Richard J. Daley’s coming to power. Hizzoner "The Boss" was the protégé of 11th Ward Committeeman, Hugh “Babe” Connelly whose ties to the mob go way back to the days of the “Moustache Pete’s” who included prominent underworld figures like Johnny Torrio who first brought Capone to Chicago. Daley took over Connelly’s 11th Ward seat in 1947. In league with people like 11th Ward Ald. “Big Joe” McDonough, by 1955 the Mob was grooming Daley to be Mayor and, with the help of the Outfit, his election became a reality.

For example, in the very mobbed-up 1st Ward, Daley won a plurality of votes by a staggering margin of 13,275 to 1,961. After his election, Daley moved to solidify the Outfit’s power in the city. In 1956, Daley disbanded “Scotland Yard” an intelligence unit which had compiled reams of detailed records about Chicago crime figures. All this was to the grief of the Chicago Crime Commission who believed Daley’s election had set the city back a decade -- as far as the prosecution of organized crime.

Perhaps Richard M. Daley received much of his education from his father whose political coffers were stuffed with mob cash, according to the FBI. And perhaps the free rein given to organized crime by the Father implanted ideas in the mind of the son regarding possible revenue expansion through alternative sources. It’s possible today’s Chicago mayor learned a very important lesson from Tony “Joe Batters” Accardo, who secretly financed the Rivera Hotel in Las Vegas in 1955, the same year Richard J. Daley was elected mayor. For nearly a quarter of a century afterward, the Chicago mob skimmed literally hundreds of millions of dollars out of Las Vegas casinos while operating with near impunity in Chicago, their home base.

Richie Daley had to see the unlimited amounts of cash that could be directed into city coffers through the expansion of gambling in Chicago. And though most of what used to be underworld crime has been incorporated into white collar America, gambling becomes even more seductive, no matter what memories of Chicago’s past may be dredged up in the process.

Forensic Psychology programs can give you a great insight into the minds of the mob and also lead to a great career.

Thanks to Daniel T. Zanoza

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