The Chicago Syndicate: Teamsters
The Mission Impossible Backpack

Showing posts with label Teamsters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Teamsters. Show all posts

Thursday, December 06, 2012

New York Unions Are Still Mob Targets

The Genovese crime family has a well-earned reputation as the most feared of New York City's five Mafia organizations. An FBI bust this spring may weaken that standing. Local unions are hoping so. On April 18, an 18-count indictment was unsealed in Brooklyn federal court charging 11 arrestees with racketeering, embezzlement, extortion and other offenses. At least eight are Genovese soldiers or associates, including capo Conrad Ianniello, nephew of recently-deceased onetime acting boss Matthew Ianniello. U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, Eastern District of New York, stated: "This indictment is the most recent chapter in this office's continued fight against organized crime's efforts to infiltrate unions and businesses operating in New York City." All defendants, save for one, have pleaded not guilty. Her spokesman told NLPC this week that all other cases are still pending.

New York's La Cosa Nostra families in recent years have seen attrition in their ranks as a result of aggressive law enforcement. Two cases stand out. In February 2008, federal agents arrested some 60 Gambino made men and associates (including Genovese and Bonanno members) for crimes including murder, racketeering, theft, and loan sharking. By the end of that September, virtually all defendants pleaded guilty; about three dozen were sentenced. The bust was part of a sweep, called Operation Old Bridge, coordinated with Italian authorities. Three years later, in January 2011, hundreds of FBI agents, U.S. marshals, and New York State and New York City cops arrested nearly 120 persons named in an 82-page, 16-count indictment for murder, racketeering, money-laundering, extortion and other offenses. It was the largest Mafia bust in American history. Nearly three dozen of those arrested were full-fledged members of the Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese or Lucchese crime syndicates; others belonged to the DeCavalcante (Northern New Jersey) and Patriarca (New England) families. The entire Colombo leadership, for the time being, was taken out of commission. Dozens of other defendants were associates of various mobs.

Labor unions figured in each case. Nabbed in Operation Old Bridge was Louis Mosca, business manager for Laborers International Union of North America Local 325. He eventually pleaded guilty to mail fraud conspiracy for buying a book containing the names of union members on behalf of the brother of Gambino captain Lenny Dimaria. And Michael King, former contractor project supervisor-shop steward for Laborers Local 731, pleaded guilty to extortion. In the 2011 mob takedown, which has taken longer to prosecute, New York Mafia families controlled various operations of Cement and Concrete Workers Local 6A (a Laborers affiliate), International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 282, and International Longshoremen Association Local 1235.

Conrad Ianniello is a logical starting point for connecting the dots in this latest round of arrests and indictments. If nothing else, he's got an impressive mob pedigree. His uncle, Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello, who died of health problems at age 92 this August, served as acting boss for the Genovese family after godfather Vincent "the Chin" Gigante was sent packing to federal prison in 1997, the latter's "crazy man" act revealed as just that -- an act. The elder Ianniello controlled the Queens, N.Y.-based Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 until he pleaded guilty in 2006 to two separate federal charges, the first for arranging payoffs from bus companies to Local 1181 officials and the second for extorting payments from trash hauling companies in Connecticut. He received respective prison sentences of 18 months and (concurrently) two years. His nephew, Conrad, picked up a few lessons during his youth. He was convicted for grand larceny in 1972 and gun possession in 1986. These brushes with the law apparently didn't put him on a straight and narrow path.

According to federal prosecutors, the younger Ianniello in 2008 shook down contractors and extorted payments from street vendors operating at the Feast of San Gennaro in Lower Manhattan's Little Italy. The annual festival had a reputation for mob infiltration until 1996 when then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani appointed a special aide, Mort Berkowitz, to oversee the event. Ianniello also allegedly engaged in racketeering conspiracy to facilitate illegal gambling. More apropos, he had his handprints on organized labor. During April and May 2008, noted the indictment, Ianniello conspired with two other defendants, Robert Scalza and Ryan Ellis, each a Genovese associate, to extort payments from an unnamed labor union so its leaders would refrain from further organizing at a Long Island work site. In this way, the defendants could reserve organizing for International Union of Journeymen and Allied Trades (IUJAT) Local 713, where Scalza served as secretary-treasurer.

Local 713 isn't the only mobbed-up Journeymen and Allied Trades affiliate. Two other defendants, James Bernardone, secretary-treasurer of the Bronx-based IUJAT Local 124, and Paul Gasparrini, were charged with racketeering conspiracy. The pair allegedly extorted payments from a subcontractor during approximately 2006-09 at various construction sites in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. The indictment cited Bernardone as a Genovese crime soldier and Gasparrini as a Genovese associate. Another indicted co-conspirator, Salvester Zarzana (see photo), previously had been president of United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Local 926 until his ouster for his alleged abuse of his union-issued credit card. Zarzana now stands accused of extortion in connection with a Local 124 project site. The indictment identified him as a made man in the Genovese syndicate.

Union corruption in this round of indictments also involved persons not necessarily involved with the Genoveses. That would include John Squitieri, who in 2008 allegedly embezzled funds from employee pension and annuity plans of Local 7-Tile, Marble, and Terrazzo, an affiliate of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC). He provided nonunion tile workers for the renovation of the Paramount Hotel near Manhattan's Times Square. In this way, he could pocket union retirement plan contributions. Another individual, Rodney Johnson, a project manager at the Paramount Hotel site, was charged with obstruction of justice for impeding a grand jury investigation.

The three remaining defendants weren't involved in union activity, but they're significant notwithstanding. A Genovese family associate, William Panzera, and Robert Fiorello, were charged with loan-sharking and extortion. And the final defendant, Felice Masullo, a Genovese associate who had been considered for elevation to made man, was indicted on running an illegal sports gambling operation. This wasn't his first dust-up with the law. Several years ago he ran a restaurant with two brothers, Anthony and Angelo Masullo, until all three were charged with racketeering. Each pleaded guilty in November 2009. Felice Masullo received a prison sentence of 41 months for cocaine distribution, extortion and sports gambling. This case was part of a probe that secured racketeering pleas from former Genovese acting boss Daniel Leo and his nephew, Joseph Leo, for illegal gambling and loan-sharking; several other Genovese personnel were among the dozen charged. For Masullo, the story didn't end there. This April, with 15 months remaining in his sentence, he was hit with new gambling charges. He pleaded not guilty at first but then changed his plea to guilty, and was sentenced in October in Manhttan federal court to eight months in prison.

Like previous mob busts and indictments, this latest round underscores the still-pervasive power of the Mafia and the Genovese family in particular. And if there is a New York Mafia outfit whose ranks could use some thinning, it's the Genoveses, with an estimated 250 to 300 made men and another thousand or more associates. Federal authorities cite the need for continued vigilance even while acknowledging the blow they have struck against the mob's operations. FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice Fedarcyk explained in announcing the indictments: "Even as mob families seek and discover new ways to make money by illegitimate means, they continue to rely on tried-and-true schemes like extortion and gambling. The mob's purpose is making money, and how is less important than how much." And Robert Panella, Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, stated: "The Office of Inspector General will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to vigorously investigate labor racketeering in the nation's unions."

Thanks to Carl Horowitz.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mob Hit Site "Purple Hotel" to Get Extreme Makeover

There are plans for a major makeover at the site of one of the most infamous mob hits in Chicago history. Mob Hit Site 'Purple Hotel' to Get Extreme MakeoverA development company recently purchased Lincolnwood's famous "Purple Hotel", and plans to make it the anchor of a new restaurant and retail complex. The building has sat empty for five years.

"It'll be attractive, and because it has such great heritage with having this iconic structure behind it, it should do pretty well," Mayor Gerald Turry said.

Part of that heritage is rooted in Chicago Outfit history. Teamsters lawyer Allen Dorfman was gunned down by two men in the Purple Hotel's parking lot in January of 1983. The month before, Dorfman was convicted along with Chicago Outfit leader Joey "The Clown" Lombardo of trying to bribe a Nevada U.S. Senator, as part of the mob's takeover of several Las Vegas casinos.

Art Bilek of the Chicago Crime Commission was a detective who worked dozens of mob cases. He says Dorfman was assassinated because the Outfit feared he'd talk to get a lighter sentence. "Of course he was going to talk. There was no question about it, so he had to go," Bilek said.

Now, nearly 30 years later, the Purple Hotel may soon be back in business. But, it may have one more mob story to tell, first. The new owners say they've been contacted by location scouts for the FOX series "The Mob Doctor" about possibly using the hotel in an upcoming episode.

Thanks to Dane Placko.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Jimmy Hoffa Buried Under Driveway in Roseville, Michigan?

Investigators will take soil samples from the ground beneath a suburban Detroit driveway after a man told police he believes he witnessed the burial of missing Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa about 35 years ago, police said Wednesday.

Roseville Police Chief James Berlin said his department received a tip from a man who said he saw a body buried approximately 35 years ago and "thinks it may have been Jimmy he saw interred."

"We are not claiming it's Jimmy Hoffa, the timeline doesn't add up," Berlin said. "We're investigating a body that may be at the location."

Hoffa was last seen on July 30, 1975, outside a suburban Detroit restaurant where he was supposed to meet with a New Jersey Teamsters boss and a Detroit Mafia captain. His body has not been found despite a number of searches over the years.

Innumerable theories about the demise of the union boss have surfaced over time. Among them: He was entombed in concrete at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, ground up and thrown in a Florida swamp or obliterated in a mob-owned fat-rendering plant. The search has continued under a backyard pool north of Detroit in 2003, under the floor of a Detroit home in 2004 and at a horse farm northwest of Detroit in 2006.

After Roseville police received the most recent tip, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality used ground penetrating radar on a 12-foot-by-12-foot patch beneath the driveway, said agency spokesman Brad Wurfel. It found "that the earth had been disturbed at some point in time," Berlin said.

The environmental quality department on Friday will take soil samples that will be sent to a forensic anthropologist at Michigan State University to "have it tested for human decomposition," Berlin said.

Results are not expected until next week.

The FBI had no immediate comment on the new effort in Roseville. Andrew Arena, who recently retired as head of the FBI in Michigan, told Detroit TV station WDIV that all leads must be followed, but he would be surprised if Hoffa is buried there.

Thanks to Corey Williams.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Teamsters Get Former Mob Bookie Hired at The Illinois Department of Transporation Along with a Check for Over $100,000 from Taxpayers

FOX Chicago's investigators have learned that the state of Illinois has been ordered to re-hire a former mob bookie, and cut him a check for more than $100,000.

Ralph Peluso was fired in 2010 after we started asking questions about how he landed on the state payroll.

He is now back on the job, thanks to the powerful Teamsters union.

Peluso allegedly took plenty of bets during his long career as an outfit bookmaker. But even he may be stunned at how he beat the odds and scored a major payday at the expense of Illinois taxpayers.

The man who was supposed to kill Peluso certainly can't believe it. "It blew me away!” Frank Calabrese Jr. said. “This is something that the people of Illinois have to look at."

Frank Calabrese Jr., spoke with FOX Chicago News in an exclusive interview via Skype from his home in Phoenix, Ariz.

He said Pelsuo was a key part of his father's outfit street crew in the 1980s and 1990s. Peluso paid Frank Calabrese Sr. $1,000 a week in street tax, in return for the mob muscle to run one of Chicago’s largest bookmaking operations. "He handled juice loans. He handled gambling,” Calabrese Jr. said. “He was our go-to guy for politicians."

Peluso - nicknamed "Curly" for obvious reasons – later fell out of favor and Calabrese Sr. wanted him killed. His feelings are clear in this prison conversation secretly recorded by the FBI.

"Gotta watch Curly,” Calabrese Jr. said. “Curly's a very treacherous son of a b****."

Peluso was scheduled to testify against Calabrese Sr., in the historic family secrets mob trial in 2007. But he got cold feet at the last minute. Still, Peluso's name surfaced 24 times during the trial, which led to the convictions of several longtime outfit leaders for nearly 20 murders going back decades.

Just months after the trial ended, Peluso quietly landed a $76,000 a year supervisor's job at the Illinois Department of Transportation.

In 2010, FOX Chicago broke the story of the ex-mobster's state job and Peluso was fired for "conduct unbecoming a state employee."

Well, guess who's back on the state payroll? "I'm shocked,” Calabrese Jr. said. “I'd love to know who's backing this guy."

The teamsters are backing Peluso. They appealed his termination and won.

According to IDOT, an arbitrator recently ruled the state did not have "just cause" to fire Peluso. The arbitrator ordered him reinstated to his job, including back pay totaling more than $103,000.

IDOT said in a statement that it is disappointed: "The department aggressively defended its position and strongly disagrees with the arbitrator's decision."

"Why would the collective bargaining agreements protect someone like this?” Rep. Ed Sullivan asked. The Republican state representative is asking for an investigation into Peluso's re-hiring, as well as how the ex-mobster got the job in the first place. "With unemployment at ten percent,” Rep. Sullivan asked, “how does someone with this questionable background get a job with the state of Illinois?"

The man whose father wanted him to kill Peluso said there's a simple explanation: "That's called clout,” Calabrese Jr. said.

FOX Chicago managed to reach Peluso by phone at the IDOT maintenance yard in Schaumburg where he works. He said he had no comment and hung up.

The teamsters aren't talking, either. Repeated calls to local 916 in Springfield, which appealed Pelsuo's firing, have gone unanswered.

Thanks to Dane Placko

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’ 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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Peter Bart's "Infamous Players: A Tale of Movies, the Mob (and Sex)"

He was a tall, silver-haired man, square-jawed with a military bearing, always impeccably attired in a dark blue suit. It was only a few weeks into my Paramount job when I came to understand that His visits were a daily occurrence, but did not linger or chat with anyone other than (Paramount head of production) Bob Evans, nor did anyone on staff ever refer to him or acknowledge his visits. Korshak was the ghost who was always there but never there.

Evans had talked earlier about him once or twice, always in a manner that betrayed not only respect but near-reverence. Sidney Korshak was not so much his personal attorney (he never paid him) or even his mentor as he was his consigliere. And when Korshak arrived for an Evans audience, all other plans would be set aside. Whoever happened to be in the reception room would have to wait until the big man had come and gone from Evans' sanctum sanctorum. And this procedure was replicated by other power players at other offices in town, as I was to learn.

Sidney Korshak, it seemed to me, was the man who knew everything -- the big corporate deals as well as the personal peccadilloes. It was some time before I also realized that Korshak was the man who knew too much.

It was Korshak's role in life to dwell simultaneously in two separate and distinct worlds which, in his grand design, would remain hermetically sealed against each other. There was his celebrity world -- he liked to drop names like Kirk Douglas or Dinah Shore or Debbie Reynolds, or to casually mention that he'd just had dinner with Sinatra in Las Vegas, or with Nancy and Ronnie Reagan in Beverly Hills. But he would never mention his other friends, like Tony Accardo or Sam Giancana from the Chicago mob or Jimmy Hoffa from the Teamsters or Moe Dalitz from Vegas.

Korshak would allude to the corporate deals he made on behalf of Lew Wasserman or Howard Hughes, but he never confided what he knew about Bugsy Siegel's murder or Hoffa's disappearance.

Korshak's life was built around a web of secrecy, and he was convinced that he would always be able to move effortlessly from one world to the next. It was only later in his life that he, too, found himself trapped. As the dangers in his nether life became more ominous, Korshak was unable to extricate himself from his underworld bonds. The celebrities would continue to decorate his life, like glitzy toys, but the bad boys would always be hovering out there with their furtive demands and threats. …

Over the years my relationship with Korshak remained distanced but cordial. He never directly asked anything from me nor subjected me to his power games. When his son, Harry, began to produce movies at Paramount -- I never figured out precisely how this deal came about -- Korshak said to me he would "appreciate it" if I were to "look out" for Harry and provide advice if he began to stray. But when young Harry's career did not go well, Korshak was the first to inform his son that he would do well to pursue other career possibilities.In observing Korshak's superbly surreptitious maneuverings over time, I began to accept a reality none of us wanted to openly address. Sidney Korshak was a gangster, albeit a very civil and well-groomed gangster. The bad boys had achieved major clout in the entertainment industry, and Korshak, despite all his secrecy, represented the embodiment of that clout.

Ironically, while Korshak yearned for the trappings of "respectability," his pals in Hollywood venerated him, not for his cool or his great wardrobe or even for his lawyering skills, but rather for his fabled underworld ties. …Bob Evans, for one, had always romanticized the lore of the gangster -- hence his lifelong ambition to make the movie about the mythic, mobster-owned Cotton Club, which ultimately came to haunt him. Charlie Bluhdorn,founder of Gulf + Western, which owned Par, had a longstanding flirtation with the shadow world out of fringe financiers in Europe and ended up doing deals that resulted in prison sentences for his partners and almost for himself. (Paramount president) Frank Yablans subscribed to mobster mythology to such a degree that he even agreed to play the role of an underworld thug in a movie titled "Mikey and Nicky." He was in rehearsal on the film before an apoplectic Bluhdorn vetoed his participation (even the often reckless Bluhdhorn realized the potential jeopardy to his corporate image).

Thanks to Peter Bart

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Plans to Dig Up the Old Giants Stadium to Search for Jimmy Hoffa's Body?

What do the New York Giants and Jets have in common with Jimmy Hoffa? Not much, unless you buy into the long-festering urban legend that they all shared the same residence in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

But now, the two football teams are headed to a new $1.6 billion facility nearby dubbed the New Meadowlands. And their departure may be the best opportunity to finally put to rest the endless stories that Hoffa is not "swimming with the fishes" in the swamps of New Jersey. Or is it?

The old stadium, which opened in 1976 and is often referred to as Giants Stadium, is being razed, with demolition beginning Thursday.

Urban lore has it that Hoffa, Plans to Dig Up the Old Giants Stadium to Search for Jimmy Hoffa's Body?the long-missing Teamsters leader, was killed by members of organized crime and buried in the end zone, or thereabouts, in Giants Stadium.

Representatives for the New Meadowlands stadium said that the field won't be dug up, but that the stadium will be torn down in large pieces and the land eventually will be a parking lot.

Is it possible that football and soccer players -- not to mention the hundreds of thousands of fans who have visited the stadium for concerts over the years -- have trod near the former union leader?

Few urban legends continue to capture the imagination like the disappearance of a union boss with a murky past. The story is now a traditional butt of comedians' jokes, and one shouldn't be surprised that in 2004, the show "Mythbusters" devoted a segment searching for Hoffa. Several areas of the field were tested, but nothing was found. Conclusive? Perhaps not. If you listen closely, you can hear Geraldo Rivera kicking himself for not doing an hourlong special.

A Google search of "Jimmy Hoffa" reveals many theories and opinions on the whereabouts of the controversial union leader, who was reportedly last seen in a suburban Detroit restaurant.

Hoffa skipped off to Brazil with a "go-go dancer" one union official swore. The Weekly World News claims NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has revealed Hoffa's body in a large hidden compartment with a special concrete block. "Crushed in automobile compactor" and "Ground up at a meat processing plant and dumped in Florida" are some of the other theories. Director Quentin Tarantino must be excited about the possibilities.

So just how did Hoffa supposedly end up in the end zone of a football stadium in New Jersey? According to one account, his body was mixed into concrete that was later used to construct the stadium. But why does this story seem to resonate and remain one of the top theories?

Jeff Hansen, an author and former Detroit police officer, says the rumors probably linger because the stadium is a well-known landmark. "It's the NFL," he said. "It's construction, organized crime and cement. Everyone wants to play on that."

Hansen did his own research, and in his recently released book "Digging for the Truth: The Final Resting Place of Jimmy Hoffa," he says the union leader was probably killed closer to home in Michigan and disposed of in a crematorium.

John Samerjan is vice president of public affairs at the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which oversees the Meadowlands Sports Complex. He says he's heard it all before, and he dismisses the story by saying, "It's a complete urban myth."

"There was this mob lore that the mob dumped bodies in the weeds before the stadium was built. The meadowlands region was 'the weeds.' No one has taken this seriously," he said. "It would often come up because every so often, a mobster would write a book or a magazine article. I was here eight years ago when the calls came flooding in."

The rumor mill was so out of control then that a former publicity official recalled recently that the stadium posted a "He's not here" message on its electronic billboard outside the stadium.

The FBI office in Detroit says the investigation of Hoffa's disappearance is ongoing. "We follow up on leads," Detroit FBI spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said.

The FBI office in Newark, New Jersey, doesn't plan to send anyone to the stadium when it's torn down. "Nope" was the response from Newark FBI spokesman Brian Travers, who says he's fielded several recent calls from the media about the matter.

"My question to you," Travers replied about the seemingly lunacy of the question, "is why would anyone think we would wait this long. We would have dug up the 50 yard line during the Super Bowl a long time ago if there was any credence to the rumor."

The issue of digging is very sensitive for New York sports fans. During the construction of the new Yankee Stadium, a construction worker, and Red Sox fan, buried a Red Sox jersey in wet concrete, hoping to hex the Yankees. The Yankees spent thousands of dollars to dig up the jersey and, in doing so, perhaps averted a future curse and urban legend.

Superstitious? The Yankees won the 2009 World Series.

Thanks to Chris Kokenes

Friday, January 29, 2010

Rudy Fratto Says that Not Paying Taxes for 7 Years Was Just a Mistake

Rudy Fratto, reputed top lieutenant in the Chicago Outfit, proudly told me just before his sentencing on Wednesday that he'd never before been convicted of a crime.

Given all the attention the FBI has paid to him over the years—plus the fear he inspires in wiseguys when they spot him in their rear-view mirrors and the silence at the mention of his name—that's surprising.

"Before this, no convictions. Not federal. Not state," said Fratto, 66, whose lucky streak ended when he pleaded guilty to evading federal income tax payments for seven years. "They make me out to be some bad guy. But really, John, I'm not that bad. I'm just a good guy who made a mistake."

Fratto's "mistake" was avoiding federal income taxes by funneling cash into a defunct trucking company until he got caught.

He didn't dress like some flashy HBO gangster. He wore a beige suit, dark tie, gray hair combed forward, glasses. He looked like a tired clerk.

Fratto's attorney, the esteemed criminal defense counsel Art Nasser, looked more the part. Art's big head of gleaming gray hair, the sharp blue suit, the tan, the white teeth, the sarcasm in the eyes. Nasser could wear a camel-hair coat draped over his shoulders, without putting his arms through, and get away with it.

In court, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly sat through the tears and the familial pleas for mercy. He saw the truly heartbreaking sight of Fratto's sobbing teen-age sons begging to keep their dad out of prison. The boys, one in high school, one in college, used their neckties to dry their tears.

Then Fratto's wife, Kim, dressed in black, slowly hobbled up to the bench, gripping a walker. She sobbed that if Rudy went away, she'd lose the house and they'd be destitute. "And I've got two broken feet, judge, and now I'm going blind!" cried Kim, startling everyone in the courtroom.

Then Fratto spoke to the judge, admitted his crime, asked for mercy, and said, yes, indeed, his wife was going blind. "Yes, your honor, she told the doctor that she wanted to see the ocean, and he said she probably wouldn't see the ocean, or the beach, or whatever," Fratto said.

Kennelly announced he was forced to impose a prison sentence, rather than send a bad message to faithful taxpayers. "A year and a day," Kennelly said.

"A year and a day?" asked Nasser, who tried to stop a smile, but then his lips broke free of his teeth and there it was. "A year and a day, judge, means he'll be able to get to a halfway house in a few …"

Kennelly cut him off. "I'm not interested in that," the judge said brusquely. "That's up for the Bureau of Prisons to decide."

In federal court, a sentence of one year would have been worse than a year and a day. That's because federal sentencing guidelines mandate that if a sentence is one year or less, the defendant must serve every day of the time. But anything over a year and the defendant serves about 85 percent. But not all of it in prison. Fratto will do a few months, perhaps at the Club Fed in Oxford, Wis., where corrupt politicians will know who he is.

Chances are they've even nodded at him, respectfully, from across some steakhouse floor.

After a few months, Fratto will be moved to a federal halfway house in Chicago, sleeping there at night, spending his day working or whatever. Currently, Fratto is employed as a "technical consultant for the electronic entertainment industry," Nasser said.

Don't you love it? It sounds like a great trade once legalized video poker comes to Rush Street.

Not a word was mentioned in court about Fratto's reputed ties to organized crime, or his relationship with restaurant and nightclub owners. But some close to Fratto worry about other criminal investigations.

Before entering court, Fratto confronted Joe Fosco, a blogger son of a late Teamsters union official who has filed a civil suit against Fratto alleging that he'd been threatened. In the hallway, Fosco said Fratto had taken him for a ride through Melrose Park, and pointed at a sign for D&P Construction—controlled by the brother of Outfit boss John "No Nose" DiFronzo—while implying that DiFronzo wasn't happy with Fosco.

"It's all lies!" Fratto said, rounding on Fosco. "Get out of here, liar! You pervert! I'm not going into court if he's going in."

After the sentencing, the Fratto women, their tears dried by the court's mercy, confronted Fosco in the hallway. One of the women who'd just finished pleading for compassion and forgiveness showered Fosco with earthy insults.

"This is all a (expletive) joke," Rudy Fratto said, walking away.

That may be. He insists he's just a good guy who made one mistake, even if it happened seven years in a row.

Still, there's no mistaking the notion that federal investigators aren't finished with Fratto.

Thanks to John Kass

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Prosecutorial Misconduct in the Hoffa Conviction?

The government's hard-won conviction of Jimmy Hoffa on jury-tampering charges is under assault 45 years later.

A retired law professor has persuaded a federal judge to consider unsealing secret grand jury records to set the historical record straight. William L. Tabac wants to prove his theory that the Justice Department - then led by Hoffa's nemesis, Robert Kennedy - used illegal wiretaps and improper testimony to indict the Teamsters leader.

"I think there is prosecutorial misconduct in the case, which included the prosecutors who prosecuted it and the top investigator for the Kennedy Department of Justice," Tabac said.

James Neal, the special prosecutor who convicted Hoffa in 1964 in Chattanooga, calls the claim "baloney." But the petition from Tabac, who taught at Cleveland State University and has been gripped by the Hoffa case since his days as a law clerk, will be heard Monday in a Nashville courtroom.

To prepare for the hearing, Chief U.S. District Court Judge Todd J. Campbell ordered the Justice Department, FBI and other agencies to turn over any sealed records from the Hoffa grand jury related to testimony by investigator Walter Sheridan, wiretapping or electronic eavesdropping.

It's yet another post-mortem look into the affairs of the controversial trade union leader, whose career, disappearance and presumed death continue to spawn conspiracy theories decades later.

The special grand jury convened in 1963 after the federal government had failed for the fourth time to convict Hoffa of corruption charges while he led the Teamsters. The grand jury indicted Hoffa on charges of jury tampering in a Nashville case that accused Hoffa of taking payoffs from trucking companies but ended in mistrial.

A jury in Chattanooga found Hoffa and three co-defendants guilty. Hoffa, later convicted in Chicago of fraud and conspiracy, continued as Teamsters president even as he served four years in prison until stepping aside and getting his sentence commuted by President Richard Nixon in 1971.

Multiple reports describe open animosity between Hoffa and Kennedy, who investigated Hoffa while in the Senate and as attorney general.

Tabac contends the indictment may have been based only or in part on the testimony of Walter Sheridan, a Kennedy special assistant who headed the investigation. Sheridan's testimony "was, in effect, Kennedy's," said Tabac.

"Even during the Cuban missile crisis he (Kennedy) was in touch with Nashville all the time," Tabac said. "I believe he testified to the grand jury through his top aide and I believe it was wrong, especially if that is the basis on which he (Hoffa) was indicted."

Tabac (TAY'-bak) also thinks Edward Grady Partin, a Teamsters official and Hoffa confidant who testified for the prosecution, may have worn a concealed microphone to record conversations with Hoffa and those were heard by the grand jurors.

Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, Partin died in 1990 and Sheridan, who wrote the 1972 book The Hoffa Wars: The Rise and Fall of Jimmy Hoffa, died in 1995. Tabac says only the grand jury records can reveal what happened.

Federal prosecutors oppose Tabac's petition, saying it doesn't meet Supreme Court standards for lifting grand jury secrecy.

Hoffa was last seen in July 1975 in suburban Detroit, where he was supposed to meet with a New Jersey Teamsters boss and a Detroit Mafia captain.

Hoffa was declared legally dead but his body has never been found, spawning innumerable theories about his demise. Among them: He was entombed in concrete at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, ground up and thrown in a Florida swamp or obliterated in a mob-owned fat-rendering plant. The search has continued into this decade, under a backyard pool north of Detroit in 2003, under the floor of a Detroit home in 2004 and at a horse farm in 2006.

Neal, a fledgling lawyer when Kennedy chose him to prosecute Hoffa, said the government did nothing illegal. "Apparently, he (Tabac) thinks if he got the grand jury material he would see that we obtained evidence by wiretaps. It's baloney," Neal said.

Even if Tabac can prove his theory, it's unclear if that would lead to overturning the conviction. "The problem is just that everyone is dead, so it is pretty hard to do," Tabac said. "If there is perjured testimony, I think the relatives may have standing to bring some kind of ... name-clearing procedure."

Thanks to Bill Poovey

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Devil and Sidney Korshak Coming to HBO

One of the most intriguing characters to ever come out of Chicago will be the focus of a major HBO miniseries, executive produced by legendary Hollywood player Robert Evans.

Based on ''The Devil and Sidney Korshak,'' Nick Tosches' recent story in Vanity Fair, the six-hour miniseries will showcase the life and times of Korshak, the reputed mob lawyer who used his amazing network of connections to labor leaders, politicians, Hollywood and Las Vegas moguls and key members of the Mafia to become one of the nation's true power brokers during much of the last half of the 20th century.

''I consider him the godfather's godfather,'' Evans told Daily Variety, explaining how Korshak helped make possible one of the best movies ever filmed.

When Evans headed Paramount, he faced two huge obstacles to getting Mario Puzo's novel The Godfather turned into a film. MGM wouldn't release Al Pacino from a commitment to film ''The Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight,'' and the crime syndicate threatened to kill Evans if he made ''The Godfather'' in New York.

Korshak quickly solved both problems.

According to Evans, the attorney phoned Kirk Kerkorian, the head of MGM, and hinted there might be delays on building the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Vegas -- unless the studio released Pacino.

As for the mob threats? ''That problem went away with one phone call from Sidney. Not two phone calls -- one phone call,'' Evans said.

No word yet on who will play Korshak, a mysterious figure whose powerful pals ranged from Hollywood titan Lew Wasserman to Henry Kissinger.

While Korshak left Chicago for California in the 1940s, he remained very close to his brother Marshall Korshak, the late state senator and father of Margie Korshak, owner of one of Chicago's best-known public relations firms. Sidney died only one day after Marshall in 1996The Kid Stays in the Picture: A Notorious Life.

In his memoir The Kid Stays in the Picture: A Notorious Life -- itself turned into a critically acclaimed documentary -- Evans summed up Korshak's immense power:

''Let's just say that a nod from Korshak and the Teamsters change management. A nod from Korshak and Santa Anita [race track] closes. A nod from Korshak and Vegas shuts down. A nod from Korshak and the Dodgers can suddenly play night baseball.''

Thanks to Bill Zwecker

Monday, March 23, 2009

Chicago Glitterati to Host Fund-Raiser for Former Union Boss with Reputed Mob Ties

Sneed of the Chicago Sun-Times reports:

Former union boss Bill Hogan is going to get some help paying staggering legal bills from a federal legal battle.

  • To wit: A host of Chicago glitterati are planning a fund-raiser March 24 at O'Brien's restaurant, which will be headlined by actor James Belushi and former Chicago Bear Richard Dent and be hosted by -- amongst others -- William Marovitz, Jimmy Piersall, Lucy Salenger, Jerry Roper, Arny Granat, Marvin Zonis, Steve Lombardo, Phil Stefani, Grant DePorter, Teddy Ratner, Father John Smyth, Christie Hefner and retired union leader Tom Fitzgibbon.
  • Background: Hogan, who was expelled in 2002 and banned from associating with Teamsters, is battling contempt charges for continuing to speak to Teamster members. He claims his freedom of speech has been violated

That's an impressive list of Chicago establishment types coming to the aid of a someone who has ties to the Chicago Mob. Here's more from the Chicago Sun-Times of January 10, 2005:

  • the reputed mob associates who have belonged to Local 714, such as Hogan pal Nick Boscarino, Bill Hogan Jr. attended a 2001 private party in Las Vegas held by Rick Rizzolo, a Las Vegas strip club owner who may have ties to organized crime figures, and Rocco Lombardo, whom the FBI identifies as a Chicago gangster, documents show.
  • In an interview this past fall, Hogan acknowledged visiting that restaurant but not for a private party with those men, whom he said he doesn't know.
  • The Teamsters' investigative squad urged a government-sanctioned group called the Independent Review Board to investigate further and decide if another "trusteeship" is warranted.

Would you want to hand Card Check to these guys?

Thanks to Steve Bartin

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Joey the Clown Given Life in Prison

Reputed mob boss Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo was sentenced Monday to life in federal prison for serving as a leader of Chicago's organized crime family and the murder of a government witness in a union pension fraud case.

Lombardo, 80, was among three reputed mob bosses and two alleged henchmen convicted in September 2007 at the landmark Operation Family Secrets trial which lifted the curtain of secrecy from the seamy operations of Chicago's underworld.

"The worst things you have done are terrible and I see no regret in them," U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel said in imposing sentence. He also sentenced Lombardo separately to 168 months for going on the lam for eight months after he was charged.

Lombardo grumbled that he had been eating breakfast in a pancake house on Sept. 27, 1974, when ski-masked men beat federal witness Daniel Seifert in front of his wife and 4-year-old son and then shot him to death at point-blank range.

"Now I suppose the court is going to send me to a life in prison for something I did not do," Lombardo said. He said he was sorry for the suffering of the Seifert family but added: "I did not kill Danny Seifert."

In a last-minute effort to bolster his alibi, he read from two documents signed by Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano, now serving a 15-year sentence for wiretapping stars such as Sylvester Stallone and bribing police to run names through law enforcement databases. Pellicano was originally from Chicago.

Lombardo was one of the best-known figures in the Chicago underworld. His lawyer, Rick Halprin, told jurors during the trial that he merely "ran the oldest and most reliable floating craps game on Grand Avenue" but was not a killer.

Witnesses said he was the boss of the mob's Grand Avenue street crew — which extorted "street tax" from local businesses and engaged in other illegal activities.

He was sent to federal prison along with International Brotherhood of Teamsters President Roy Lee Williams and union pension manager Allen Dorfman after they were convicted of plotting to bribe U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon, D-Nev., to help defeat a trucking deregulation bill. Cannon was charged with no wrongdoing in the case.

Lombardo was later convicted in a Las Vegas casino skimming case.

Seifert was gunned down two days before he was due to testify before a federal grand jury. His two sons spoke at the sentencing about the pain of losing their father when they were still children.

Joseph Seifert recalled how he saw mobsters "chase my father like a pack of hungry animals" before shooting him.

Nicholas Seifert said that he succumbed to depression over the killing. "I felt like a coward for many years for not seeking revenge for what those men did to my father," he said.

Lombardo used a wheelchair in court. Halprin declined to say what health problems his client has but said he needed to be sent to a prison where he would get adequate medical care.

Zagel acknowledged that he thought carefully about Lombardo's age in deciding on a sentence. But he said he wanted one that would not "deprecate the seriousness of the crime."

Zagel has already sentenced Calabrese to life and reputed mobster Paul Schiro to 20 years. Schiro was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison seven years ago after pleading guilty to being part of a gang of jewel thieves run by the Chicago police department's former chief of detectives.

Still to be sentenced are James Marcello, reputedly one of the top leaders of the mob, and Anthony Doyle, a former Chicago police officer who became an enforcer for Frank Calabrese. Also still to be sentenced is Nicholas Calabrese, Frank's brother and an admitted hit man who became the government's star witness.

Thanks to Mike Robinson

Monday, February 02, 2009

Mobster, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Gets Life in Prison

Mobster Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, one of the five Outfit associates convicted in the landmark Family Secrets trial that riveted Chicago for weeks with its lurid testimony about 18 decades-old gangland slayings, was sentenced to life in prison this afternoon.

U.S. District Judge James Zagel levied the sentenc after the aging mob boss addressed the court in a gravelly voice and denied having anything to do with the Seifert murder.

The judge said that unlike co-defendants in case, Lombardo showed some balance in judgment and some ability to charm people. But in the end, defendants must be judged by their actions, "not about our wit and our smiles," Zagel said. "The worst things you have done are terrible, and I see no regret in you," the judge told Lombardo in handing down the life sentence.

Lombardo, the wisecracking elder statesman of the mob, and four other defendants were found guilty in 2007 of a racketeering conspiracy that stretched back to the 1960s and included extorting "street taxes," collecting high-interest "juice" loans, running illegal gambling operations and using violence and murder to protect the mob's interests.

He also was found guilty of the 1974 murder of federal witness Daniel Seifert and of obstructing justice by fleeing from authorities after his indictment. He faced a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Lombardo was sent to federal prison in the 1980s for conspiring with International Brotherhood of Teamsters President Roy Lee Williams and union pension fund manager Allen Dorfman to bribe Sen. Howard Cannon (D-Nev.) to help defeat a trucking deregulation bill. Cannon was never charged with any wrongdoing and the bill became law with his support.

When Lombardo got out, he resumed life as the boss of the mob's Grand Avenue street crew, prosecutors said. He denied it. but his attorney, Rick Halprin, told the trial he ran "the oldest and most reliable floating craps game on Grand Avenue."

When the Family Secrets indictment was unsealed, Lombardo went on the lam for nine months. He ultimately was brought before U.S. District Judge James Zagel.

Two of Lombardo's co-defendants were sentenced last week. Paul "the Indian" Schiro got 20 years for the racketeering conviction, and Frank Calabrese Sr. got life for racketeering and for seven murders.

James Marcello, once called Chicago's mob boss by authorities, is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Operation Family Secrets Mob Trial Sentencing to Continue This Week

Federal agents tried for more than three decades to penetrate the deepest secrets of Chicago's organized crime family -- the names of those responsible for 18 ruthless murders aimed at silencing witnesses and meting out mob vengeance. They even called the investigation Operation Family Secrets.

Their patience was rewarded six years ago when a mob hit man began to spill the family secrets as part of a deal to keep himself out of the execution chamber. And starting this week, three aging dons of the Chicago underworld convicted in September 2007 as a result of that testimony are due to receive long sentences -- quite likely life.

Two alleged henchmen also convicted after the 10-week Family Secrets trial are expected to get long sentences as well.

"These were the main guys who ran the crime syndicate -- they were ruthless, they were absolutely ruthless," says retired police detective Al Egan, also a former longtime member of an FBI-led organized crime task force.

Wisecracking mob boss Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, 80; convicted loan shark and hit man Frank Calabrese Sr., 71; and James Marcello, 66, all face a maximum of punishment of life in prison.

Former Chicago police officer Anthony Doyle, 64, and convicted jewel thief Paul Schiro, 71, weren't convicted of any murders but the jury found them guilty of participating in what prosecutors say was a long-running conspiracy that included killings, gambling, loan-sharking and squeezing businesses for "street tax."

The case is a major success for the FBI in its war on the mob.

"It led to the removal or displacement of some of the most capable guys in organized crime," says author John Binder whose book, "The Chicago Outfit," tells the story of organized crime in the nation's third largest city. And it sends a strong message to members of organized crime: Do you really want to be the guy at the top? Because we're going to get you in the future."

Lombardo is the most colorful defendant. He was sent to federal prison in the 1980s for conspiring with International Brotherhood of Teamsters President Roy Lee Williams and union pension fund manager Allen Dorfman to bribe Sen. Howard Cannon, D-Nev., to help defeat a trucking deregulation bill. Cannon was never charged with any wrongdoing and the bill became law with his support.

When Lombardo got out, he resumed life as the boss of the mob's Grand Avenue street crew, prosecutors say. He denies it but his attorney, Rick Halprin, told the trial he ran "the oldest and most reliable floating craps game on Grand Avenue."

When the Family Secrets indictment was unsealed, Lombardo went on the lam for nine months. And when he was brought before Zagel, the irrepressible clown quickly lived up to his nickname. The judge asked him why he had not seen a doctor lately.

"I was supposed to see him nine months ago," Lombardo rasped, "but I was -- what do they call it? -- I was unavailable."

"A little joke now and then never hurts," he told the trial. But the jury found him responsible for gunning down a federal witness.

The jury also found Calabrese responsible for seven murders.

His own brother, Nicholas Calabrese, 66, testified that Frank liked to strangle victims with a rope and slash their throats to make sure they were dead.

Nicholas Calabrese became the government's star witness after he dropped a bloody glove near the scene of a mob murder. He agreed to talk out of fear that agents would match his DNA to that on the glove and he would be sentenced to death.

Among other things, he said his brother Frank liked to give names to their mob hits.

One was known as "Strangers in the Night," he testified. That was because the Frank Sinatra song was playing on the jukebox while two men were strangled in 1978 in a suburban Cicero restaurant.

Marcello was at one time the mob's big boss, according to federal investigators.

The jury held him among those responsible for the murder of Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro, at one time the Chicago mob's man in Las Vegas and the inspiration for the Joe Pesci character in the movie "Casino."

Spilotro and his brother Michael were found buried in a shallow grave in an Indiana cornfield.

Doyle is the only one of those convicted at the trial who is not accused of direct involvement in the murders.

Schiro was sentenced to prison for 5 1/2 years in 2002 for being part of a gang of jewel thieves run by the former chief of detectives of the Chicago police department, William Hanhardt. Prosecutors claimed he was to blame for a mob hit in Phoenix. But the jury deadlocked on the case.

Nicholas Calabrese is to be sentenced Feb. 23.

Thanks to CBS2

Thursday, December 18, 2008

On the Waterfront, Mafia-Style, Leads to Operation UNIRAC

Dockworkers in Wilmington, North Carolina were getting sucked into a trap. Needing money between paychecks, some went to James Lee, a former dockworker who had become a leader in their union—the International Longshoremen’s Association, or ILA.

Lee had opened a small store across from the union hall and begun offering loans to his fellow members. But there was a catch. Lee charged an exorbitant interest rate, upwards of 25 percent per week.

Because he controlled the distribution of paychecks, Lee could make sure the dockworkers paid up: he would cash their checks by forging their signatures, take his cut, and then give what was left to the dockworker.

For the workers, this nefarious setup just kept them coming back for more loans. And if they complained? No luck—the mob had Lee’s back.

This scenario, which played out in the 1970s, was not an isolated one. The Gambino and Genovese organized crime families had begun asserting control over waterfront commerce along the eastern seaboard in the late 1950s through a variety of racketeering schemes. Their influence in ILA was cemented by the 1970s, and the FBI was understandably concerned.

In 1975, as part of the FBI's growing strategy to attack organized crime, they opened a case called UNIRAC (short for Union Racketeering), targeting systemic Mafia crime in ILA.

It began when a Florida businessman named Joe Teitelbaum—tired of being bilked by the mob—became a cooperating witness of the Miami Metro-Dade police. His information was shared with the FBI, and they opened a joint investigation with the Miami police. Eventually, they began pursuing related crimes up and down the East Coast.

New York became central to the widening investigation. Anthony Scotto, a Gambino family capo who often extorted the hardworking dockhands, was a national ILA leader and one of the most politically powerful union leaders in the country. He seemed untouchable.

As a young agent, Louis Freeh—who later became FBI director—played a key role in the New York side of the case. One of his targets was a mobster named Michael Clemente, who was well connected to wider mob schemes. Freeh’s job was to go undercover to get close to Clemente, discover his contacts, and help protect an informant working with the FBI.

He got very close, it turns out. Freeh often hung around the gym where the mobster used a sauna to conduct his private meetings. Clemente soon warmed to this newcomer. Often wearing nothing but a towel, the undercover Freeh was able to help identify the mobster’s associates. His act was so convincing that when Clemente saw Freeh in court waiting to testify at his trial, the Mafioso tried to get his attorney to let the judge know that the “kid” had nothing to do with the crimes.

Former Director Louis Freeh was recently interviewed about his role in the UNIRAC investigation and its place in FBI history. Below is an excerpt from the interview.

"The ramifications of the case were very significant. It was the first major labor racketeering case that the FBI had made. In those days, particularly in New York, the organized crime problem was dealt with by the FBI ... really sort of on a one-on-one basis. The notion of UNIRAC was that we would look at the entire enterprise, in other words the Longshoremen's union, juxtaposed [with] the Cosa Nostra groups that were controlling them. So the result of that was Director Webster in Washington established for the first time in the organized crime unit a labor racketeering desk. And the Bureau went on to look at cases not just on the East Coast but the central states, the Teamsters' cases, and really started to look at organized crime as an enterprise target. That was I think really responsible for the ... substantial weakening of [the Mafia] over the next 20 years."

Along with Freeh, dozens of agents worked for several years to develop evidence of criminal activity within ILA. It paid off on December 18, 1978—30 years ago this week—when a Miami grand jury charged 22 labor union officials and shipping execs for taking kickbacks and other illegal activities. It was just one of many indictments along the East Coast. In the end, more than 110 were convicted, including mobsters Scotto, Lee, and Clemente.

More work was yet to be done, but the Mafia was now on notice that the Bureau’s new strategy was working.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Keith Corbett, Federal Prosecutor Who Helped Break the Detroit Mafia, to Retire

The federal prosecutor who helped break the Detroit Mafia is calling it quits.

Keith Corbett, 59, the cigar-chomping assistant U.S. Attorney who ran the office's Organized Crime Strike Force, said he plans to retire on Jan. 3 because of shifting priorities in the Justice Department and because, well, he's worn out.

"I don't want to be one of those old guys sitting around talking about the good old days and telling people how we used to do it," Corbett told the Free Press. He said he hasn't decided what he'll do next.

Coworkers -- as well as criminal lawyers who've matched wits with Corbett -- said they'll be sorry to see him go.

"He's as good on his feet as any lawyer who ever walked into a courtroom," said Detroit criminal lawyer Robert Morgan, a former federal prosecutor.

Morgan and others say Corbett can try cases with little preparation, yet recall key evidence with lethal precision.

Corbett is a cocky, street-smart Irish kid from Brooklyn, the son of a New York City cop.

After graduating in 1967 from a seminary with plans to become a priest, Corbett enrolled at Canisius College in Buffalo, where his plans changed. After getting a political science degree in 1971, he enrolled at Notre Dame University and got his law degree in 1974.

Corbett, who by then had married, landed a job at the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office.

In 1977, he joined a Pontiac law firm to boost his income, but didn't like civil law. The next year, he joined the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit and eventually was assigned to the strike force.

In 1980, he won racketeering convictions against Detroit Mafia captains Peter Vitale and Rafaelle Quassarano for extorting money from a western Michigan cheese company. The FBI has long suspected that the body of former Teamsters' boss Jimmy Hoffa was incinerated at their garbage disposal facility in Hamtramck.

In the mid-1980s, Corbett helped convict mayoral associate Darralyn Bowers and then-Detroit Water and Sewer Director Charles Beckham in the Vista Disposal bribery scandal.

Corbett went back to private practice in 1989, but quickly returned to his prosecutor job and was put in charge of the strike force a year later.

His biggest victory came in the late 1990s when he helped convict the top leaders of the Detroit Mafia of racketeering and other charges spanning three decades. The case demolished the Detroit mob. But he got in trouble in 2003 by helping a subordinate, then-Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino, prosecute the first terrorism trial to result from the federal 9/11 probe.

Though two North African immigrants were convicted of aiding terrorism, the case imploded when the U.S. Attorney's Office learned that the prosecutors had withheld key evidence from the defendants.

Convertino resigned. He was indicted on a charge of obstruction of justice, but was later acquitted. He sued his former bosses.

Corbett told investigators he joined the case at the last minute and didn't know evidence was being withheld. Though he wasn't charged, Corbett did suffer the indignity of having his strike force merged with another unit and was demoted.

Defense lawyers said they don't hold Corbett responsible for hiding evidence, but added that he should have done a better job of supervising Convertino.

Earlier this year, Corbett's bosses considered putting him on the trial team that pursued prominent Southfield lawyer Geoffrey Fieger on campaign-finance charges, knowing that Corbett wouldn't be intimidated by the outspoken Fieger or his legendary criminal lawyer, Gerry Spence. Corbett ultimately was not assigned to the case, which Fieger won.

"I don't know if it would have had any impact, but it would have been a lot of fun," Corbett said mischievously.

Thanks to David Ashenfelter

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


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