The Chicago Syndicate: Oscar Goodman
The Mission Impossible Backpack

Showing posts with label Oscar Goodman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Oscar Goodman. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Jane Ann Morrison.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"Being Oscar" Bash at the Mob Museum #OscarsMemories

From Thursday, May 23 through Saturday, May 25,The Mob Museum will celebrate Oscar Goodman’s newly released autobiography Being Oscar: From Mob Lawyer to Mayor of Las Vegas.

Former mayor and current spokesperson for the host committee of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor AuthorityBeing Oscar: From Mob Lawyer to Mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar returns to the historic courtroom where he tried his first case. The Museum will be his debut appearance in Las Vegas and the premiere opportunity for locals to engage with Oscar while enjoying a variety of Oscar-inspired activities.

The Museum has planned an unparalleled three-day extravaganza to commemorate Oscar, his book launch, and our great city which is the backdrop for his story and acclaim.

Thursday, May 23

The Mob Museum’s lineup of “Being Oscar” events begins with a party on Thursday, May 23, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at The Mob Museum. Admission is $10 for the general public; Museum members are free. Each attendee will receive a complimentary cocktail, and a signature “Being Oscar” face fan, live entertainment, and a free photo opportunity. Goodman will address guests in the Museum’s courtroom at 7:30 p.m. and will be available to sign copies of his book for attendees afterward. Books will be available for purchase at the Museum and food and drink will be available for purchase.

For tickets for the book launch party on 5/23, click here

Friday, May 24

The Mob Museum will host the first official Las Vegas book signing with Goodman. Special programming throughout the day will include three 30-minute presentations by Goodman in the courtroom followed by book signings. These events will take place at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. “Being Oscar” face fans and photo opportunities will be available to all Museum guests that day.

Click here for your ticket which includes a copy of the book Being Oscar and free museum admission. click here.

For ticket which includes a copy of the book Being Oscar, free museum admission, and your choice of one 30 minute presentation featuring Oscar Goodman, click here.

Saturday, May 25

At 10:30 a.m., Goodman will make a grand entrance at The Mob Museum, where he will gather with members of the public—all holding “Being Oscar” face fans—for a photograph on the Museum’s front steps. All guests on this day will receive FREE admission to the Museum with the purchase of a book from our retail store and will have the chance to compete in a “Being Oscar” look-a-like contest to be judged by Goodman himself, as well as a trivia contest; raffle prizes will be given out all day. Goodman will sign copies of his book for Museum attendees from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For free admission with the purchase of a book for May 25, click here.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Las Vegas Mob Museum Covers American Jewish History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Daniel Brook

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mob Museum Now The National Museum of Organized Crime & Law Enforcement

Nothing personal, Las Vegas. It's just business.

When the Mob Ran Vegas: Stories of Money, Mayhem and MurderThe Battle for Las Vegas: The Law vs. The Mob

The Mob Museum is now known as the National Museum of Organized Crime & Law Enforcement -- swapping its original Las Vegas title for one more reflective of its content, museum officials said.

The museum, which is scheduled to open Feb. 14, 2012, to coincide with the 83rd anniversary of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, will tell the story of organized crime as it affected the entire country, not just Las Vegas.

That isn't to say Sin City's mob stories are lessened in any way, said Jonathan Ullman, the museum's executive director. Prominent mob figures had a higher profile in other cities nationwide, including Chicago and New York.

"You really cannot tell this story without addressing larger national content," Ullman said. "We cover Prohibition, immigration and the evolution of the criminal justice system. We believe our name should reflect our status as a world-class museum and a foremost venue for an informal education on this subject matter."

The name change is showcased on the museum's website, The decision was finalized in August and "embraced by representatives at the city, the museum board and other key stakeholders," Ullman added.

"We hope it's not perceived as a slight on anyone in the local community," he said. "There's a great deal of community pride in this venue."

Former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who used to work as an attorney representing reputed organized crime figures and was involved in bringing the museum to the area, said he welcomed the change. "It should be more expansive," Goodman said. "I think it should be called the international museum. As we got into this whole project, we saw this is an international story of folks coming from foreign lands into the United States as immigrants and becoming a part of what was referred to as organized crime."

Goodman added that no one should consider the change negatively. "This is a great thing," he said.

The $42 million Mob Museum will be dedicated to the history of organized crime and the law enforcement that hunted mobsters for decades. It is expected to draw 600,000 visitors annually once it opens at 300 Stewart Ave.

The Depression-era building is a historic former federal courthouse and post office included on both the Nevada and National Registers of Historic Places.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mafia Memorabilia War Heats Up

There is a Chicago mob war underway, but it is unlikely to result in bloodshed. But the fight is actually 1,800 miles away from Chicago.

From 1955, when the reign of Mayor Richard J. Daley began, through today with his son, Mayor Richard M. Daley, Chicago has shunned any official recognition of the city's gangland past. But Las Vegas -- for decades controlled by the Chicago Outfit -- is embracing its rich organized crime history.

With not one but two Mob museums planning to open this year, a fight for Chicago Mob memorabilia is now on.

On one end of the famous Las Vegas strip will be the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, also known as the Mob museum. It is Mayor Oscar Goodman's $50 million pet project in a former federal building, much of it funded by tax money. After countless delays, the official Mob museum is set to open late this year.

At the other end of the strip -- and in direct competition -- is the privately owned and operated Mob Experience. It will fire the first shot with preview parties next week and a grand opening in early March, with interactive holograms of Hollywood Mob figures leading tourists through the exhibits.

"We are not setting out to glorify the Mob by any mean, and nobody in Las Vegas is looking to glorify the mob. But at the same time we are not looking to vilify these people either. I think in the process of collecting these artifacts and being exposed to the stories of the family members, we've been given the greatest Mob story never told," said Jay Bloom, Mob Experience partner.

The late Chicago Outfit boss Sam "Momo" Giancana is among those depicted in exhibits. His daughter Antoniette is among the family members of major Mob figures hired as paid contributors to the Mob Experience. And she is happy to deliver her father's glory days in Vegas.

"It was glorious. I wished he were here now. We were treated like kings, queens and princesses and princes. There was nothing that Sam needed or wanted in this town, it was given to him gladly with love and respect," said Antionette Giancana, Mafia princess.

The Mob Experience will feature memorabilia from the Giancana family along with personal mementos from Bugsy Seigel, Meyer Lansky and others, including Chicago's long-time Mob emissary to Las Vegas Anthony "Tony Ant" Spilotro.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime Enforcement on Schedule

One of the most controversial sightseeing experiences in Las Vegas is moving along on schedule. Plans have been drawn and approved, and construction is underway on the $42 million Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime Enforcement. It’s set to open next spring and has already been nicknamed The Mob Museum.

It’s a throwback to the Mafia days of the 1940s all the way up to the 1980s before organized crime was kicked out of the Strip and Wall Street bankers moved in to provide investment dollars for savvy hotel operators. Dennis Barrie, who created Washington, D.C.’s Spy Museum and Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum, is the brains behind our new 41,000-square-foot Mob Museum.

Dennis has just announced three major 16,400-square-foot exhibit components: the Mob Mayhem, complete with the bullet-ridden wall of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago that took out Las Vegas gangsters; the Skimming Exhibit that shows how the Mob took their profits illegally off the top; and Bringing Down the Mob, which features federal wiretapping tricks that ended Mafia control of our gaming city.

It’s not just about Las Vegas organized crime because the spotlight also is turned onto today’s Russian organized crime figures and the Mexican drug cartels that also affect Las Vegas. It cost the City of Las Vegas only $1 to acquire the unused Federal Services Administration building for the museum, and Mayor Oscar Goodman hopes the attraction will welcome 500,000 visitors each year.

Thanks to Robin Leach

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Crime and Corruption in Present day Las Vegas: An Interview with Steve Miller

John L. Smith, a columnist at the Las Vegas Review Journal, once described Rick Rizzolo, the former owner of Las Vegas strip club the Crazy Horse Too, as an “affable wiseguy, high-rolling gambler, and former soft touch for politicians.” The one-time strip club owner has been described as a friend of Las Vegas’ current mayor, Oscar Goodman, as well as other authorities in Sin City. Steve Miller, a prolific journalist and well known figure in Las Vegas began investigating Rizzolo in 1999, when the strip club owner managed to obtain approval for the expansion for his business, even when he’d already implemented the changes and opened to the public. Casino Online spoke to the journalist about crime, corruption and celebrity status in Sin City.

Miller first began investigating Rizzolo when the strip club owner opened a new, extended bar “without a building permit; additional parking spaces; traffic plan; or certificate of occupancy from the fire department”. To still be legally allowed to open any sort of public entertainment venue without any of these requirements would usually be impossible and Miller became interested about just how Rizzolo had obtained the permission of officials such as former Las Vegas Councilman Michael McDonald. For the past eleven years, Miller has documented the exploits of Rizzolo and his council cohorts (McDonald wasn’t re-elected in 2003 and it has since been discovered he was receiving kickbacks of $5,000 a month from Rizzolo) and has collected his findings on In 2000, Rizzolo attempted to sue Miller for libel, but undaunted, Miller knew that the truth would prevail. However, as he told us, Rizzolo hasn’t left him alone: Over the past few years, the journalist has “received several written death threats and shared them with the police and FBI”.

Miller soon found that Rizzolo’s influence and danger to Las Vegas citizens extended far beyond his ability to wine and dine councilmen though. In October 2001, Kirk Henry had his neck broken by a bouncer at Rizzolo’s strip club, over an $80 bar tab. Henry, who has been paralysed since the attack, sued Rizzolo for attempted murder. Rizzolo denied that Henry had suffered a beating from one of his employees, suggesting in a letter to the Las Vegas Tribune that Henry merely “tripped”. Five years later, the Las Vegas Attorney’s Office revoked Rizzolo’s liquor license and, as part of a plea deal, Rizzolo and his employees “admitted to tax fraud, conspiracy to participate in racketeering and seeking to extort payment from club patrons”. The Las Vegas City Council also issued Rizzolo with a $2.192 million fine and, as part of his plea agreement, Rizzolo vowed to pay the Henry's $10 million in compensation. In 2007, Rizzolo was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, but since being released, the Henry’s have received just $1 million from Rizzolo's insurance company (not from Rizzolo personally) and are still waiting on the remaining millions owed to them. When asked why Rizzolo has managed to avoid paying the couple what he owes them (some would argue he owes them a lot, lot more) Miller suggested that he has “long believed Rizzolo has bought protection over the years and that Mr. Henry's case is being stalled by those subservient to Rizzolo until Henry either dies or settles for pennies on the dollar”.

Critics have suggested that Rizzolo’s connections have meant that the former club owner has managed to steer clear of major punishment. When you consider that Mayor Oscar Goodman used to be employed as his legal representative, it could be suggested that Rizzolo’s influence is far-reaching. Miller alleges that Goodman still has links to Rizzolo, suggesting that “Goodman, through his son's and business partner's law firms, is still representing mob figures including Rizzolo.” It may seem odd that voters would elect a man who’s been heavily involved with mob figures such as Tony “The Ant” Spilotro and Frank Cullotta, as well as Rick Rizzolo, but Miller believes Las Vegas residents just aren’t taking their politics seriously. Miller proposes that Vegas citizens “often vote for those with the highest name recognition like Goodman”. Miller, clearly jaded by the dirty politics of his city, suggests he has witnessed “time and again the stupidity of the average Las Vegas voter with who they continue to elect to public office, then treat the politician like a rock star afterwards, no matter how crooked the elected official may become.” It should be made clear that while Miller has his doubts about Goodman, the mayor has been credited with regenerating the city and has been described by Ed Koch, a journalist at The Las Vegas Sun, as a “stickler for parliamentary procedure”.

When asked about Mayor Oscar Goodman’s plans to open the “Mob Museum”, a forthcoming attraction in Las Vegas which will document “organized crime and law enforcement as each confronted the other”, it’s obvious that Miller sees the exhibition as merely a vanity project for the mayor. The journalist proposes that he’s ashamed “of having to live in a town (Miller makes it clear that Las Vegas hasn’t matured enough to be called a city) that would take public funds to glamorize the former (and current) clients of a mob lawyer-turned-mayor. The Mob Museum will do nothing to attract new, clean, high tech industry to Las Vegas, and will serve to further embarrass local residents who have long tried to show a better face for our town.”

While those of us outside of Las Vegas may see the mob as part of the city’s dark past, for Miller and others campaigning to clean up corruption, it’s still a daily part of their lives. Perhaps what’s most disturbing is Miller’s admission that casinos in Las Vegas now “mainly serve as drug money laundries for the mob” and “condone the use of massage parlors and escort services because such enterprises discourage gamblers from leaving the tables for more than an hour or so.” While the term, “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” may seem to most of us a reference to losses in a casino and perhaps over-indulgence when it comes to alcoholic refreshments, for Miller, the phrase holds much darker connotations.

Courtesy of

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mob Museum Gets $2 Million More in Funding

The Las Vegas City Council quietly approved spending nearly $2 million more today for the mob museum project, which is on track to open in 2011 in the city's downtown. But City Councilman Stavros Anthony made it clear he still doesn't like the project, which will be officially known as the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement.

Las Vegas Mob Museum Gets $2 Million More in Funding

Anthony didn't speak out today about the project, which is estimated to cost about $50 million. But his actions were fairly loud and consistent with his past votes.

He asked to have the item pulled from the council's routine consent agenda so it could be voted on separately. Then he was the lone vote against the extra funding among the seven council members.

Anthony had also voted against additional funding for the retrofit project back in November. At that time, he had explained he could not justify spending money on such a museum.

The extra money approved today, amounting to $1,958,908, is needed to take care of some structural retrofit work on the historic 1933 federal office building and post office building at 300 Stewart, which will house the museum.

The work includes modifying the beams on the second and third floors, removing more hazardous material from the building, doing more work on the exterior plaster and courtroom ceilings and installing a new remote fire pump assembly that's needed because of failing water pressure in the downtown area, according to the city's finance and business services department.

The museum, which is expected to open in the first quarter of 2011, would tell the tale of how federal and local law enforcement officers fought the mob and eventually drove it out of Las Vegas' casinos.

The exhibits would features items from the FBI, plus artifacts from mob life, including many donated from the children and grandchildren of top members of organized crime and their underlings.

The museum has been pushed by the city's mayor, former high-profile mob lawyer Oscar Goodman, and by the FBI.

Councilman Ricki Y. Barlow, who made the motion to approve the extra funding today, has said in the past he supports it as an additional tourist attraction for the downtown.

Thanks to Dave Toplikar.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mob War Ready to Erupt in Las Vegas?

In one corner is the 74-year old daughter of legendary Chicago Outfit boss Sam "Momo" Giancana whose turf once included Sin City.

In the other corner is the beefy mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman, who was once the defense lawyer for the Chicago Mob's top emissary in Vegas.

At stake are future tourist dollars once Goodman and Antoinette "Mafia Princess" Giancana open competing crime syndicate museums.

According to "Vegas Confidential" columnist Norm Clarke, Ms. Giancana "was in Las Vegas over the weekend for meetings with backers of the museum, which is planned for a Strip location. It would compete with a $50 million downtown mob museum being pushed by Mayor Oscar Goodman. She's partnering with local investors Jay Bloom and Charlie Sandefur, who reportedly are in negotiations with Strip properties for their venue."

The quirky Giancana, who wrote a book about growing up as the daughter of a Chicago Outfit boss, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that "There would be tremendous foot traffic. I think it's going to be dynamite" she said. Her father was cut down by mob bullets in 1975 as he cooked a late-night snack in his Oak Park basement apartment.

Ms. Giancana claims to be moving to Las Vegas this summer to personally oversee the project. Clarke reports that "Giancana arrived with two beefy bodyguards for a business dinner Saturday at Capo's on West Sahara Avenue. She has asked Capo's owner Nico Santucci, a Chicago native, to design the Giancana room for the exhibit, which will include the same furniture that was in the family home the night her father was killed while frying Italian sausage and peppers."

The exhibit is "going to be a first," Giancana said. Bloom, she said, is "bringing in millions of dollars (worth of stuff) from various different (crime) families that have never, ever been seen" by the public.

Mobologists believe that Chicagoan Anthony "Ant" Spilotro whacked her father in the June twilight 34-years ago. Spilotro became the Outfit's top guy in Las Vegas. The Ant's numerous criminal cases were deftly handled by smooth-talking defense lawyer Oscar Goodman. Long after Spilotro himself was murdered and buried in an Indiana cornfield with his slain brother, Mr. Goodman was elected mayor of Las Vegas.

One of Mayor Goodman's top priorities has been a mob museum, now under construction near his city hall office. The $50 million tourist attraction could open as early as next year.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Friday, February 20, 2009

Mob Informant Supports Las Vegas Mob Museum

Yesterday started and ended with the mob. It’s just like living in a Scorsese movie sometimes.

In the morning, mob-turned-informant Frank Cullotta, focus of crime author Denny Griffin’s gripping biography “Cullotta,” said in a phone interview from an undisclosed location (me, I was in my kitchen) that he thought the proposed Mob Museum in Las Vegas is a “great idea.” The former “Hole In The Wall Gang” member, friend and bodyguard/muscle guy of Tony “The Ant” Spilotro and admitted double-murderer also says he has been approached by someone who is involved in the development of the mob museum to help add some authenticity. Cullotta refuses to say who has contacted him, but that he has been asked to provide some personal items and personal, inside information and anecdotes about his days helping the “Chicago Outfit” skim profits from their Vegas casinos through abject violence, theft and intimidation.

I asked if that overture included audio narration for some of the displays, and Cullotta thought for a moment. “That could be. I haven’t thought of that, but I’ve got a distinctive voice,” he said in a thick Italian-type accent. “Maybe I should try to trademark my voice. It’s really recognizable. That’s why I was never good with a wiretap.”

You and me both, brother.

Later in the day, I got word that Cullotta, also famous as a technical advisor and bit actor in the film “Casino” (the Frank Vincent character was based on him) would appear on ABC’s “Nightline,” having been interviewed recently by reporter Neal Karlinsky for the piece. It was the third in a series of reports, the first being about repo men and the second about the chimp in L.A. that got free from a residence and nearly killed a woman. Click here for the report.

Karlinsky’s report treaded familiar territory. He spoke with Cullotta, a product of the Witness Protection Program who still uses a secret name. “I was a gangster, burglar, murderer, extortionist, arsonist,” he said to a dutifully impressed Karlinsky. “I was all the things you don’t want to be. But I'm not like that no more. I’m a different man now.”

Mayor Oscar Goodman was interviewed in his City Hall office, and took Karlinsky on a tour of the old downtown courthouse, which would be home to the $50 million Mob Museum. Goodman estimates 800,000 people a year would visit the attraction, which is equal parts fascinating and controversial.

“This is the quintessential mob museum, there’s nothing quite like it,” Goodman said. When asked if an art museum would be a more appropriate use of the space, Goodman said, “Anyone who says this should be an art museum should go jump in the lake, with concrete shoes on!”

Playing to the cameras was the mayor. He also said he was grateful for being known as a “mob attorney” because it “put me in financial position to run for mayor.”

During our phone conversation, Cullotta said the museum would certainly help preserve Las Vegas’ history – whether we like it or not. “We have too many people who don’t know how Vegas was built,” he said. “I mean, we are losing our history, tearing it down. We have kids who don’t even know who Frank Sinatra was.” As for the argument that the museum, by its very existence, would glorify crime and criminals, Cullotta said, “People want to know about this part of our past. You make a movie about Jack the Ripper, and people flock to see it. It’s the same with this museum.”

In front of the camera, Cullotta said “The Outfit” would help dig Vegas out of the recession if the crew were around today. He is the last survivor of the original Chicago team in Vegas. “Vegas is having a rough time,” he said, “but I guarantee if the Outfit was still around there would be money here, somehow.”

I expect we will hear from Cullotta again, as part of some sort of Vegas history reclamation project.

Thanks to John Katsilometes

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Mob Museum Taking Some Hits

Las Vegas’ proposed mob museum has taken some hits of its own in recent weeks, targeted on late-night talk shows and Capitol Hill as an absurd showcase for the likes of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Meyer Lansky and Anthony “Tony the Ant” Spilotro.

Museum backers say the critics don’t get it. This won’t be some sideshow exhibit celebrating the mob’s role as a storied part of Las Vegas’ past. Rather, it will offer a serious examination of organized crime and law enforcement’s efforts to combat it.

During this episode, the underlying message received by those planning the museum was clear: As they move forward, they need to be ever careful about the museum’s image.

“We want it to be serious and we want it to be balanced, but we need it to have appeal,” said Dale Erquiaga, a museum board member. “It’s always on our minds as planners that we stay right on that line,” said Erquiaga, formerly an advertising strategist with R&R Partners. “It’s in every conversation we have.”

Most cities, it’s fair to say, would have cringed at the contemptuous national attention the mob museum received. Stand-up comedian Lewis Black said on “The Daily Show” on Jan. 14: “A mob museum? I thought Las Vegas already was a mob museum!”

And yet, the museum may have been aided by the dust-up, which Mayor Oscar Goodman and other museum proponents boasted likely resulted in more than $7 million worth of free publicity.

Several of the 13 board members of the 300 Stewart Avenue Corp., the nonprofit group working with the city on the project, likewise said in recent interviews that they are pleased with the museum’s progress, in terms of fundraising, collecting exhibits, and simply raising awareness of the museum’s mission.

A big part of that awareness-raising, as several board members pointed out, is making sure the public knows that the museum will be going out of its way not to glorify the Mafia.

“You have a very significant number of people in town who don’t want to glorify the mob. I count myself among them,” said board member Alan Feldman, senior vice president of pubic affairs for MGM Mirage. “There isn’t a sympathizer, if you will, among us,” he said, including fellow board member Goodman, a former attorney who zealously defended several vicious local figures.

According to Feldman and other board members, the marketers for the museum are doing everything they can to straddle the line between avoiding the mob’s glorification and keeping the museum and its exhibits interesting and entertaining. That struggle was reflected in a rough-draft museum brochure, which will be used to raise funds, garner exhibits or both, Feldman said.

On one page, the words “City Planner or Gangster?” were superimposed over a large black-and-white photo of mobster Bugsy Siegel. On another, “Tax Revenue or Skim?” is written over a photo of a spinning roulette wheel with gamblers in the background.

Feldman said that struggle was also reflected in the museum’s naming, which was finalized last spring at a meeting in City Hall.

After a long debate, consensus was reached on both a brand name — the mob museum — as well as the longer, more complete institutional name — The Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement — which was to show that the museum’s purpose was equally to tell the story of the police and G-men who chased, and ultimately brought down, the mob.

“My motivation for volunteering on this project was to ensure that law enforcement, in particular the FBI, would be fairly and accurately represented,” said Ellen Knowlton, head of the 300 Stewart Avenue Corp., and the former special agent in charge of the local FBI field office, in a statement. “I also wanted to make sure that the lifestyle of those involved with organized crime would be accurately depicted and not ‘glamorized.’ ”

Though Goodman said that he wanted as much federal stimulus money as he could get for the museum, plans for the project shouldn’t be altered if none is forthcoming, officials say.

According to city officials, the museum has raised about $15 million so far, including $3.6 million in federal grants and another $3.5 million in state and local grants.

The museum has a $50 million price tag. Ultimately, according to a museum fact sheet, that will include $7 million in grants and $8 million in city funds, with the remaining $35 million to come from bonds from the city’s redevelopment agency.

Construction on the interior of the city-owned museum building — the old three-story post office and federal courthouse building downtown — is set to kick off this spring. The city is hoping for an opening date of sometime in 2010.

Looking at some of the exhibits the museum has lined up, it’s difficult to say whether preventing the mob’s glorification will be something easily achieved.

At a charity auction in June at Christie’s in New York, a mob-museum-contracted designer spent $12,450 to purchase four artifacts from the blockbuster HBO series “The Sopranos.”

Included among the items was the black leather jacket, knit shirt and black slacks Tony Soprano wore in one of the series’ final episodes, “The Blue Comet.”

In the episode, actor James Gandolfini wore the outfit as he went to sleep clutching an AR-15 machine gun that his brother-in-law, Bobby, who had just been shot to death, gave him as a birthday present.

Thanks to Sam Skolnik

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Oscar Goodman Supports the Federal Stimulus Package Funding Mob Museum

After taking a hail of bipartisan bullets in recent days over the suggestion that a federal stimulus package should help pay for a proposed $50 million museum here on the history of organized crime, the project’s godfathers are returning fire, complaining that Washington pols are scapegoating the museum and the city.

The planned Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, a k a “the Mob Museum” on its own Web site, is to include interactive exhibits where visitors can snap their mug shots, stand in police lineups and wiretap one another. Such a center, Mayor Oscar B. Goodman said in an interview Thursday, is “absolutely falling within the four corners of what President-elect Obama is trying to achieve.”

Oscar Goodman Supports the Federal Stimulus Package Funding Mob Museum“This is a project where all the plans are in place and we can start it within 30 days,” said Mr. Goodman, a former criminal defense lawyer who represented several Mafia figures in the 1970s and 1980s.

Citing studies showing that 250,000 tourists a year would visit the attraction and noting that tourism is to Las Vegas what car sales are (or were) to Detroit, the mayor continued: “I don’t know why Mitch McConnell would take on this project. It’s a great project.”

Senator Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican and the minority leader, attacked the museum this week as a kind of localized earmark project that does not belong in legislation Congress passes to jumpstart the flailing economy.

Jon Summers, a spokesman for Senator Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat and the majority leader, said Mr. McConnell’s statements were “moot because Senator Reid has been clear that there will be no earmarks” in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, as President-elect Barack Obama calls it. Instead, Mr. Summers said, the money is likely to go to federal agencies for disbursement based on criteria not yet decided.

Slated to open in 2010, the museum would occupy the entire 42,000 square feet of a three-story neoclassical building that was the first federal courthouse in Clark County and one of the sites of the 1950 hearings into organized crime led by Senator Estes Kefauver, Democrat of Tennessee.

The creative director of the planned museum, Dennis Barrie, who also curated the International Spy Museum in Washington and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, said the structure was the second-oldest in Las Vegas and needed a $26 million restoration.

So far, $15 million has been raised, including about $3.6 million in federal grants and a nearly equal amount in state and local money, since 2001. A full-throttle fund-raising effort is to begin later this year. The federal government deeded the building to the city for $1 in 2000 with the stipulation that it be put to a cultural use. Restoration has begun.

“I’m sure it’s good fodder for politicians,” Mr. Barrie said, “but the interesting thing about the mob museum is that it’s a real look at the history of organized crime in America that goes back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the mob came out of the various ghettos and how it influenced America. A lot of people, what they know about the topic is what they learned from Hollywood.”

That said, Tony Soprano and Michael Corleone would get their due in a room about the Mafia’s influence on popular culture, and visitors would be exposed to unvarnished tales of the exploits of law-enforcement and mob figures, said Ellen Knowlton, a retired special agent in charge for the Federal Bureau of Investigation who is the museum’s chairwoman.

“We’re trying to make sure this project is as accurate as possible,” Ms. Knowlton said, “so there are people involved who have had organized crime in their life or family. I don’t want to go beyond that to say who is participating. But it’s interesting that a number of people want their family’s side of the story told accurately.”

Even within Las Vegas, though, the project is controversial. The mayor acknowledged that some Italian-Americans were so alarmed when he first hit upon the idea in 2002 that he backed off quickly, joking that he had actually proposed a “mop museum.”

The F.B.I. supports the museum and has agreed to lend records and other artifacts to be exhibited. But among those opposed is a former federal prosecutor, Donald Campbell, who had a hand in breaking the mob’s hold on Las Vegas in the 1980s. “I don’t think we should ever romanticize a criminal activity,” Mr. Campbell said.

A spokesman for Senator McConnell, Don Stewart, said the senator was not attacking the idea of the museum so much as Mayor Goodman’s inclusion of it on the list of projects he would jumpstart with stimulus money. “The parameters for this bill need to be, does it create jobs, is it a waste of the taxpayers’ dollars, is it something that will help us long-term, not just a temporary thing, ” Mr. Stewart said.

Supporters say the museum will do just what the bill intends.

“This project exactly meets the criteria," said Alan Feldman, a museum board member and senior vice president of the casino giant MGM Mirage, the state’s largest private employer. “It is a construction project. It’s a legacy project; it’s a project that stimulates the economy by putting a wonderful tourist attraction downtown.”

Either way, Mr. Goodman is clearly enjoying the national attention the museum financing plan has prompted. “This is $1 million worth of publicity for us,” he said. “I love it. Just spell my name right.”

Thanks to Steve Friess

Monday, November 03, 2008

Was Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal a Snitch?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tropicana was the playground of the Kansas City mob.

The boys in Detroit staked out the Aladdin.

The Dunes had ties with St. Louis mobsters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He may not have testified, but he definitely talked.

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

Thanks to Jane Ann Morrison

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Benjamin Spillman

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The (redacted) Museum: The Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement

Las Vegas hopes its newest museum will be a hit.

The city is opening The (redacted) Museum: The Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, which will showcase southern Nevada's colorful and storied past in organized crime.

The City Council unveiled the name Tuesday, along with logos resembling court documents with material blacked out. The first redaction obscures the word "mob."

"I don't think anybody is able to do tongue-in-cheek the way Las Vegas can do it," said Mayor Oscar Goodman, a former criminal defense lawyer who represented organized crime figures before representing residents in City Hall.

The museum is expected to open in spring 2010 in downtown Las Vegas at the site of the former federal courthouse where Goodman tried his first case.

As city officials unveiled the plans, council members tossed around T-shirts that said: "There is no such thing as a mob museum nor have I ever been there."

"Does this mean the mayor's going to be cleaning out his garage?" joked Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian.

Goodman joked of his possible contributions to the exhibits: "They've been in my backyard trying to dig up some of the old relics, but so far I've fended them off. We'll have a lot of Oscar-abilia in there."

Plans for the museum are supported by the FBI, which has pledged to locate organized crime artifacts in Washington and lend them for displays. The former head of the Las Vegas FBI office, Ellen Knowlton, is chairwoman of the museum's board.

Officials say the museum won't glorify organized crime, but instead will give a candid look at its influence on Las Vegas, how law enforcers worked to extract illegal influences from gambling, how mob operations in cities around the country were connected and famous hearings on organized crime.

The city believes the museum could draw as many as 800,000 visitors each year and is part of an attempt to revitalize downtown Las Vegas.

The mob theme was picked after a poll of 300 tourists showed more than 70 percent ranking the idea among its top three concepts. Other options included a behind-the-scenes look at gambling, a museum on magic or a museum dedicated to Las Vegas icons such as Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.

Thanks to Oskar Garcia

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Tony Spilotro's Vegas Meeting with a Drug Kingpin

In Las Vegas terms, it was like Godzilla meeting King Kong. Or maybe Al Capone bumping into John Dillinger.

It may have been the most infamous meeting Vegas has ever known. It occurred in the middle 1970s, before the town had been cleansed of the last vestiges of mob influence, during a time when marijuana was still the preferred smoke of many retro-Hippies and Hollywood jet-setters, and cocaine was just starting to come on the scene in a big way.

The place was Paul Anka’s Jubilation restaurant and discotheque, on East Harmon between the Strip and the university.

The meeting was between two notorious figures who carried themselves like kings in Las Vegas during that time: tough guy Tony “The Ant” Spilotro, Tough Guy, Tony an alleged enforcer for the Chicago mob, and marijuana importer-extraordinaire Jimmy Chagra, a smoothie from El Paso and the highest rolling gambler of his day.

From the Horseshoe to Caesars Palace to the Sands and beyond, casino pit bosses genuflected when Chagra and his brother, Lee, a famed Texas criminal defense attorney noted for his smartly cut black suits and walking stick, came striding up to the tables. The Chagra brothers could win or lose up to seven figures in a single evening, and if they got on a hot roll the dealers and cocktail waitresses could make their next three mortgage payments in tips.

Showgirls, hookers, even some celebrity headliners of the day, were known to party heavily when Chagra’s entourage rolled into town. Broadway Joe Namath was a pal, as were Liza Minelli and the crew from the Redford-Fonda flick The Electric Horseman, in which Chagra was typecast as a high-roller and given a speaking part. (Jimmy was cut from the final version after he was busted by the Feds.)

All the fast-laners knew there was action of every sort in the Chagras’ suite at Caesars. On other weeks, that same suite was occupied by Mr. Sinatra himself. The Chagra brothers were comped everywhere, and private jets were always on call when the boys from El Paso got the urge to make a wager or three.

Most gamblers rely on credit. Not the Chagras. They would drop off foot lockers containing millions of dollars at the Caesars cage and tell the cashiers, “Count it down, we’re going to gamble!”

Spilotro and his henchmen, who later became known as the Hole in the Wall Gang for several successful — and occasionally bungled — jewelry store heists, were feared up and down the Strip.

With Tony’s frequent perp walks becoming a staple of the evening news, and journalist Ned Day documenting his gang’s treachery in his thrice-weekly column, Spilotro kept anyone who encountered him on edge.

But on the night these two Vegas overlords, Tony Spilotro and Jimmy Chagra, met face to face, neither knew for certain who the other one was.

Here’s Chagra’s version of the meeting, recounted to me recently: “I was just out for a fun evening of dancing and cocktails with some of my pilots and a few lady friends, when this little guy comes up and says, “Get the (expletive) out of my booth.”

Chagra, who says he was a megalomaniac back in the day and had fear of no man, countered with, “I don’t see the name ‘Midget’ printed anywhere on this table. Get your own (expletive) booth.”

After several more pleasantries, Spilotro, seeing that he was outmanned, huffed out of the place with the line, “You don’t know who you’re talking to!”

Chagra was to find out several hours later when his phone rang about eight o’clock in the morning. On the line was his defense attorney, Oscar Goodman, insisting that Jimmy come to his office pronto.

“When I walked into Oscar’s office, there was that midget again,” Jimmy says. “Oscar introduced me to Anthony Spilotro, he insisted we shake hands, and he then told us that because we were both his clients and his friends, that we should make up and get along. He said that there was room in Las Vegas for both of us.”


Both Chagra and Spilotro acknowledged that peaceful coexistence made more sense than all-out war, and they agreed to meet at a later date. That meeting also took place at Jubilation, in the same booth they’d argued over.

Spilotro, as was his modus operandi, wanted in on Chagra’s marijuana importing business. Jimmy was doing just fine without partners, and knew that the only thing Tony would bring to his operation was intense heat from law enforcement. Talk of the proposed partnership was going nowhere when a cocktail waitress accidentally spilled a drink on Spilotro. Chagra says that Tony went ballistic and called her every name in the book, even after she made a fearful and timid apology.

Three days later her picture appeared in a local newspaper as a missing person. She was never found.

It’s only speculation what happened to that pretty young woman. Maybe she got word later that evening that the man she spilled a drink on was alleged to have conducted more than a dozen hits for the Chicago syndicate. Maybe that caused her to find religion and take the next Greyhound out of Las Vegas.

Or maybe, as happened more often than we’d like to think in those earlier, rough and tumble times before Wall Street took over Las Vegas Boulevard, she took that long ride into the desert and sleeps among the cactuses and mesquite bushes.

Ten years after that evening, Tony got his comeuppance when he was savagely beaten and buried in an Indiana cornfield.

Jimmy Chagra, after 23 years in an assortment of federal penitentiaries, at last breathes fresh air on the outside of those dank prison walls, and looks back at that time with wonder and regret.

“I knew if I’d gotten involved with Spilotro he’d eventually pop me,” Jimmy says. “Las Vegas was crazy back then. But man, was it fun. When you had a trunk full of cash, there was no better place on earth to be. They treated us like gods.”

Thanks to Jack Sheehan

Monday, June 18, 2007

Made to Be Mayor

Friends of ours: Tony Spilotro, Frank Cullotta
Friends of mine: Oscar Goodman

Oscar Goodman once defended some of Chicago's most notorious hoodlums and is now running the city they once ran: Las Vegas.

When federal prosecutors in Chicago put 14 mobsters on trial this summer, an aspect of the case will be how the outfit once controlled criminal rackets in Las Vegas. That prospect has Las Vegas' most prominent politician somewhat skittish because he was part of that past.

Oscar Goodman, Made to Be MayorIn a city of lights and largess, no one shines brighter or bigger these days than Oscar Goodman, the mayor now in his third term. The seat behind his city hall desk isn't just a chair, it's actually a throne. Even the headliners billed out on The Strip haven't played the halls that King Oscar once played before becoming mayor: the halls of justice, where for years as a lawyer, he tried to keep some top Chicago hoodlums out of jail.

The Chicago mob-the outfit, which is the given name for traditional organized crime founded in Chicago almost a century ago, is an organization pioneered by Al Capone and perfected by Anthony "the Ant" Spilotro, the outfit's Las Vegas emissary into the 1980s, frequently shadowed by his lawyer, Oscar Goodman.

"From a government perspective, he killed 26 people 21 people or 19 or whatever, but when I represented him he never did a day in jail. From '72 until the time he was killed ...They created him to be much greater than the role that he was really playing on behalf of Chicago while he was here, but they made him into an everyday news item and caused him to have a reputation perhaps he didn't deserve," Goodman said.

Nor did Tony Spilotro and his brother Michael deserve this, according to Goodman: the men were buried alive in an Indiana cornfield after angry mob bosses ordered them pummeled and planted.

"It was a violent death," said Goodman. "I think it was interesting when they were filming the movie Casinoand depicting the murder of Tony and his brother, it was so rough, that even during the production of a movie, somebody broke their arm. That's how violence it was."

Oscar Goodman knows all about the brutal movie. He played a mob lawyer in the film, and Goodman reveals that, as the Spilotro murders remained unsolved for years, he was never contacted by investigators. "I was always disappointed that nobody asked me any questions about who had done it or what was happening as far as Tony was concerned before it took place," Goodman said.

I-Team: "They didn't ask you a single question?"

Goodman: "No, not a single one. Don't you think they would've asked: Do you have any idea who might have done this?"

Despite smothering the opposition in last April's mayoral election, Goodman is not without critics.

"He's a braggadocio man. He's got an ego as big as it can be, and he's got the right job, because he's got a big mouth and he can promote [Las Vegas]," said Frank Cullotta, ex-mob hitman.

Cullotta was Tony Spilotro's major domo In Las Vegas before rolling over in 1982 to help the government prosecute outfit bosses. Cullotta and two former lawmen are authors of a new book on the Chicago mob and contend that Goodman had little to do with the mob's eventual exodus from Las Vegas.

"The Chicago Outfit is much less potent than it was years ago," said Dennis Griffin, author/former policeman.

"It is interesting that the mayor stopped it. Because before he said there was no organized crime," said Dennis Arnoldy, author/former FBI agent.

"Big corporations cleaned up this town...not Goodman," said Cullotta.

Unlike Mayor Richard M. Daley, who refuses to capitalize on Chicago's rich mob history, Goodman proudly displays outfit trinkets in his office and is turning a historic Las Vegas building into a mob museum.

"To celebrate that era, basically it's going to be telling the truth about Las Vegas. We're not going to implode any decades here...I won't whitewash our history here. We advertise as what happens here stays here, the mystique of Las Vegas. I don't want to give that up," said Goodman.

Goodman says that during the time he was representing mobsters, federal prosecutors tried to have him indicted for obstruction of justice but could never convince a grand jury that he did anything wrong. He has never been charged with anything.

Goodman says he is so well liked that a movement is underway to eliminate term limits in Las Vegas so he can continue to sit on the throne.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Friday, April 13, 2007

Will Book Shed New Light on Old Gangland Tales?

For a guy considered a pariah by his old friends, mob hit-man-turned-government informant Frank Cullotta suddenly finds himself, or at least his bloodstained memories, quite popular these days.

After spending the past two decades in the shadows as a protected witness after his cooperation with the FBI and U.S. attorney against mobster Anthony Spilotro and members of his Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, Cullotta is close to bringing out his memoirs of time in and out of the Chicago Outfit. Published by Huntington Press, "Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness" is scheduled to officially hit bookstores July 1. The book is co-authored by the 68-year-old Cullotta and Dennis N. Griffin with credited contributions from former FBI agent Dennis Arnoldy. Arnoldy was Cullotta's handler after his defection from the heart of Spilotro's criminal crew.

The timing of Cullotta's project couldn't be more intriguing for those who have followed the rise and fall of traditional organized crime groups, especially the infamous Chicago Outfit. Cullotta is telling his story at the same time attorneys for reputed Chicago mob boss Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo and a gaggle of co-defendants will be searching for outs and alibis in a sweeping criminal case in federal court in Chicago.

Reporters there are openly speculating that Cullotta, a former Lombardo associate, will be called as a witness. The trial is expected to start in May.

Word of the Cullotta manuscript's existence recently had both sides of the Lombardo case contacting Huntington Press publisher Anthony Curtis to request a copy. First, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitchell Mars called. Then, FBI agent Michael Maseth contacted Curtis. Not long after, Lombardo defense attorney Rick Halprin called.

When Curtis declined to provide the manuscript on the advice of lawyer Andrew Norwood, on April 2 the feds came through with a promised subpoena. On Monday, Curtis said he would comply with the subpoena.

Although Halprin expressed doubt the manuscript would produce new information, the defense attorney admitted to Curtis, "There are things only Frankie knows." (That sentiment is a far cry from Halprin's wisecrack about Cullotta during a pre-trial hearing in a Chicago courtroom last week: "For all I know, he's Ann Coulter.")

Are the things that only Frankie knows in the book?

What can Cullotta say that he hasn't previously testified to under oath?

At 78, Lombardo has been around the track too many times to get nervous about the memories of an admitted killer and thief. But Cullotta's story already has a proven appeal with readers. His perspective was sprinkled throughout Nicholas Pileggi's best-seller "Casino," and Pileggi has provided the foreword for Cullotta's memoir. In fact, Cullotta is said to have received a handsome fee as a consultant on the Martin Scorsese movie that followed Pileggi's book.

What will Cullotta's own book reveal?

Hopefully, he'll give readers his authentic and disturbing eyewitness accounts of his own criminal activity and the countless felonies that swirled around his life in Chicago and Las Vegas. The fact he's detailed a lot of that bloody stuff as a government witness shouldn't diminish its impact on the public more than two decades after Spilotro's murder, as long as he's candid.

Considering he's admitted killing in cold blood, it's the least he can do.

When the FBI and Las Vegas police finally caught up with Cullotta after the botched Bertha's store heist in 1981, his lifelong friend Spilotro was under enormous pressure from law enforcement. Even Spilotro's former defense attorney, Mayor Oscar Goodman, admitted his client's failure to provide legal assistance to Cullotta helped lead to his defection.

More than two decades after the murders of Spilotro and his brother, Michael, their homicides are part of 18 killings, some dating to the 1970s, outlined in the indictment against Lombardo, Frankie "The German" Schweihs, current reputed Outfit leader James "Little Jimmy" Marcello and a dozen others.

Cullotta was a participant and front-row associate during the twilight of the Outfit's dominance in Chicago and influence in Las Vegas. He has a rare perspective on a lifestyle that has killed dozens of his pals as well as a number of government witnesses and innocent bystanders.

The last thing Lombardo and the gang should want is for Frank Cullotta to take a stroll down memory lane.

Thanks to John L. Smith

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Mob Museum in Las Vegas

If Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman gets his wish, a mob museum will be coming to downtown Las Vegas. The Mayor has a new survey which supports his desires.


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