The Omaha Steaks God Bless America Memorial Day Special

Showing posts with label Tony Salerno. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tony Salerno. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Mob Hit on Rudy Giuilani Discussed

The bosses of New York's five Cosa Nostra families discussed killing then-federal prosecutor Rudy Giuliani Mob Hit on Rudy Giulani Discussedin 1986, an informant told the FBI, according to testimony in October of 2007, in Brooklyn state court. But while the late Gambino crime boss John Gotti pushed the idea, he only had the support of Carmine Persico, the leader of the Colombo crime family, according to the testimony.

"The Bosses of the Luchese, Bonanno and Genovese families rejected the idea, despite strong efforts to convince them otherwise by Gotti and Persico," said an FBI report of the information given by informant Gregory Scarpa Sr.

Information about the purported murder plot was given to the FBI in 1987 by Scarpa, a Colombo captain, according to the testimony of FBI agent William Bolinder in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn.

Bolinder was testifying as a prosecution witness in the murder trial of ex-FBI agent Roy Lindley DeVecchio, who handled the now deceased Scarpa for years while the mobster was a key informant. Prosecutors contend that DeVecchio passed information to Scarpa that the mobster used in killings.

In his testimony, Bolinder described the contents of a voluminous FBI file on Scarpa, who died of AIDS in 1994.

In September 1987, DeVecchio reported that Scarpa told him that the five mob families talked about killing Giuliani approximately a year earlier, said Bolinder. It was in September 1986 that Giuliani's staff at the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office prosecuted bosses of La Cosa Nostra families in the so-called "Commission" case.

The Commission trial, a springboard for Giuliani's reputation as a crime buster, resulted in the conviction in October 1986 of Colombo boss Carmine Persico, Lucchese boss Anthony Corallo and Genovese street boss Anthony Salerno. Gambino boss Paul Castellano was assassinated in December 1985 and the case against Bonanno boss Philip Rastelli was dropped.

The purported discussion about murdering Giuliani wasn't the first time he was targeted. In an interview in 1985 Giuliani stated that Albanian drug dealers plotted to kill him and two other officials. A murder contract price of $400,000 was allegedly offered by convicted heroin dealer Zhevedet Lika for the deaths of prosecutor Alan Cohen and DEA agent Jack Delmore, said Giuliani. Neither Cohen nor Delmore were harmed.

Other tidbits offered by Scarpa to DeVecchio involved an allegation of law enforcement corruption within the Brooklyn district attorney's office, said Bolinder. In 1983, stated Bolinder, Scarpa reported that an NYPD detective assigned to the Brooklyn district attorney's office (then led by Elizabeth Holtzman) had been taking money to leak information to the Gambino and Colombo families. A spokesman for current Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes said no investigation was ever done about the allegation.

Scarpa also reported to DeVecchio that top Colombo crime bosses suspected the Casa Storta restaurant in Brooklyn was bugged because FBI agents never surveilled the mobsters when they met there. The restaurant was in fact bugged, government records showed.

Thanks to Anthony M. Destefano

Monday, August 13, 2018

Have Connections to the #Mafia Marked @RealDonaldTrump's Entire Career?

Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas titled their classic group portrait of Harry S. Truman’s foreign policy team, “The Wise Men.” A book about Donald Trump’s associations might be called “The Wise Guys.”

Mario Puzo would’ve been just the man to write it. Martin Scorsese could option the movie rights. And if he’s not in prison when filming starts, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort deserves a role. Though Manafort hasn’t been accused of Mafia membership, Smooth Paulie certainly acts the part, judging from testimony at his trial in federal court on charges of fraud and tax evasion. He has a closet full of suits worthy of John Gotti (though even the Dapper Don might have balked at an ostrich-skin windbreaker) and a maze of offshore bank accounts dense enough to addle Meyer Lansky.

When Manafort’s turncoat lieutenant Rick Gates took the stand to detail their alleged conspiracies, I was transported to the day back in 1992 when Gotti’s underboss Sammy Gravano began singing at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn. Gotti’s lawyers attacked Sammy the Bull by demanding to know how many people he’d whacked. Manafort’s team asked Gates how many affairs he’s had.

If it seems harsh to compare Manafort to a mobster, take it up with President Trump, who got the ball rolling with a tweet before the trial began. “Looking back at history, who was treated worse, [Al] Capone, legendary mob boss . . . or Paul Manafort?” Trump mused. And the president ought to know: He has spent plenty of time in mobbed-up milieus. As many journalists have documented — the late Wayne Barrett and decorated investigator David Cay Johnston most deeply — Trump’s trail was blazed through one business after another notorious for corruption by organized crime.

New York construction, for starters. In 1988, Vincent “the Fish” Cafaro of the Genovese crime family testified before a U.S. Senate committee concerning the Mafia’s control of building projects in New York. Construction unions and concrete contractors were deeply dirty, Cafaro confirmed, and four of the city’s five crime families worked cooperatively to keep it that way.

This would not have been news to Trump, whose early political mentor and personal lawyer was Roy Cohn, consigliere to such dons as Fat Tony Salerno and Carmine Galante. After Cohn guided the brash young developer through the gutters of city politics to win permits for Trump Plaza and Trump Tower, it happened that Trump elected to build primarily with concrete rather than steel. He bought the mud at inflated prices from S&A Concrete, co-owned by Cohn’s client Salerno and Paul Castellano, boss of the Gambino family.

Coincidence? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Trump moved next into the New Jersey casino business, which was every bit as clean as it sounds. State officials merely shrugged when Trump bought a piece of land from associates of Philadelphia mob boss “Little Nicky” Scarfo for roughly $500,000 more than it was worth. However, this and other ties persuaded police in Australia to block Trump’s bid to build a casino in Sydney in 1987, citing Trump’s “Mafia connections.”

His gambling interests led him into the world of boxing promotion, where Trump became chums with fight impresario Don King, a former Cleveland numbers runner. (Trump once told me that he owes his remarkable coiffure to King, who advised the future president, from personal experience, that outlandish hair is great PR.) King hasn’t been convicted since the 1960s, when he did time for stomping a man to death. But investigators at the FBI and U.S. Senate concluded that his Mafia ties ran from Cleveland to New York, Las Vegas to Atlantic City. Mobsters “were looking to launder illicit cash,” wrote one sleuth. “Boxing, of all the sports, was perhaps the most accommodating laundromat, what with its international subculture of unsavory characters who play by their own rules.” But an even more accommodating laundromat came along: luxury real estate — yet another mob-adjacent field in which the Trump name has loomed large. Because buyers of high-end properties often hide their identities, it’s impossible to say how many Russian Mafia oligarchs own Trump-branded condos. Donald Trump Jr. gave a hint in 2008: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.”

For instance: In 2013, federal prosecutors indicted Russian mob boss Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov and 33 others on charges related to a gambling ring operating from two Trump Tower condos that allegedly laundered more than $100 million. A few months later, the same Mr. Tokhtakhounov, a fugitive from U.S. justice, was seen on the red carpet at Trump’s Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.

Obviously, not everyone in these industries is corrupt, and if Donald Trump spent four decades rubbing elbows with wiseguys and never got dirty, he has nothing to worry about from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. But does he look unworried to you?

Thanks to David Von Drehle.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Where the Mob Bodies, Bootleggers and Blackmailers are Buried in the Lurid History of Chicago’s Prohibition Gangsters

In 1981, an FBI team visited Donald Trump to discuss his plans for a casino in Atlantic City. Trump admitted to having ‘read in the press’ and ‘heard from acquaintances’ that the Mob ran Atlantic City. At the time, Trump’s acquaintances included his lawyer Roy Cohn, whose other clients included those charming New York businessmen Antony ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno and Paul ‘Big Paul’ Castellano.

‘I’ve known some tough cookies over the years,’ Trump boasted in 2016. ‘I’ve known the people that make the politicians you and I deal with every day look like little babies.’ No one minded too much. Organised crime is a tapeworm in the gut of American commerce, lodged since Prohibition. The Volstead Act of January 1920 raised the cost of a barrel of beer from $3.50 to $55. By 1927, the profits from organised crime were $500 million in Chicago alone. The production, distribution and retailing of alcohol was worth $200 million. Gambling brought in $167 million. Another $133 million came from labour racketeering, extortion and brothel-keeping.

In 1920, Chicago’s underworld was divided between a South Side gang, led by the Italian immigrant ‘Big Jim’ Colosino, and the Irish and Jewish gangs on the North Side. Like many hands-on managers, Big Jim had trouble delegating, even when it came to minor tasks such as beating up nosy journalists. When the North Side gang moved into bootlegging, Colesino’s nephew John Torrio suggested that the South Side gang compete for a share of the profits. Colesino, fearing a turf war, refused. So Torrio murdered his uncle and started bootlegging.

Torrio was a multi-ethnic employer. Americans consider this a virtue, even among murderers. The Italian ‘Roxy’ Vanilli and the Irishman ‘Chicken Harry’ Cullet rubbed along just fine with ‘Jew Kid’ Grabiner and Mike ‘The Greek’ Potson — until someone said hello to someone’s else’s little friend.

Torrio persuaded the North Side leader Dean O’Banion to agree to a ‘master plan’ for dividing Chicago. The peace held for four years. While Torrio opened an Italian restaurant featuring an operatic trio, ‘refined cabaret’ and ‘1,000,000 yards of spaghetti’, O’Banion bought some Thompson submachine guns. A racketeering cartel could not be run like a railroad cartel. There was no transparency among tax-dodgers, no trust between thieves, and no ‘enforcement device’ other than enforcement.

In May 1924, O’Banion framed Torrio for a murder and set him up for a brewery raid. In November 1924, Torrio’s gunmen killed O’Banion as he was clipping chrysanthemums in his flower shop. Two months later, the North Side gang ambushed Torrio outside his apartment and clipped him five times at close range.

Torrio survived, but he took the hint and retreated to Italy. His protégé Alphonse ‘Scarface’ Capone took over the Chicago Outfit. The euphemists of Silicon Valley would call Al Capone a serial disrupter who liked breaking things. By the end of Prohibition in 1933, there had been more than 700 Mob killings in Chicago alone.

On St Valentine’s Day 1929, Capone’s men machine-gunned seven North Siders in a parking garage. This negotiation established the Chicago Outfit’s supremacy in Chicago, and cleared the way for another Torrio scheme. In May 1929, Torrio invited the top Italian, Jewish and Irish gangsters to a hotel in Atlantic City and suggested they form a national ‘Syndicate’. The rest is violence.

Is crime just another American business, a career move for entrepreneurial immigrants in a hurry? John J. Binder teaches business at the University of Illinois in Chicago, and has a sideline in the Mob history racket. He knows where the bodies are buried, and by whom. We need no longer err by confusing North Side lieutenant Earl ‘Hymie’ Weiss, who shot his own brother in the chest, with the North Side ‘mad hatter’ Louis ‘Diamond Jack’ Allerie, who was shot in the back by his own brother; or with the bootlegger George Druggan who, shot in the back, told the police that it was a self-inflicted wound. Anyone who still mixes them up deserves a punishment beating from the American Historical Association.

Binder does his own spadework, too. Digging into Chicago’s police archives, folklore, and concrete foundations, he establishes that Chicago’s mobsters pioneered the drive-by shooting. As the unfortunate Willie Dickman discovered on 3 September 1925, they were also the first to use a Thompson submachine gun for a ‘gangland hit’. Yet the Scarface image of the Thompson-touting mobster was a fiction. Bootleggers preferred the shotgun and assassins the pistol. Thompsons were used ‘sparingly’, like a niblick in golf.

Al Capone’s Beer Wars is a well-researched source book. Readers who never learnt to read nothing because they was schooled on the mean streets will appreciate Binder’s data graphs and mugshots. Not too shabby for a wise guy.

Thanks to Dominic Green.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Reviewing the History of @RealDonaldTrump and The Mob

As billionaire developer Donald Trump became the toast of New York in the 1980s, he often attributed his rise to salesmanship and verve. "Deals are my art form," he wrote. But there is another aspect to his success that he doesn't often discuss. Throughout his early career, Trump routinely gave large campaign contributions to politicians who held sway over his projects and he worked with mob-controlled companies and unions to build them.

Americans have rarely contemplated a candidate quite like Trump, 69, who has become the unlikely leader among Republican Party contenders for the White House. He's a brash Queens-born scion who navigated through one of the most corrupt construction industries in the country to become a brand-name business mogul.

Much has been written about his early career, but many details have been obscured by the passage of time and overshadowed by Trump's success and celebrity.

A Washington Post review of court records, testimony by Trump and other accounts that have been out of the public eye for decades offer insights into his rise. He was never accused of illegality, and observers of the time say that working with the mob-related figures and politicos came with the territory. Trump declined repeated requests to comment.

One state examination in the late 1980s of the New York City construction industry concluded that "official corruption is part of an environment in which developers and contractors cultivate and seek favors from public officials at all levels."

Trump gave so generously to political campaigns that he sometimes lost track of the amounts, documents show. In 1985 alone, he contributed about $150,000 to local candidates, the equivalent of $330,000 today.

Officials with the New York State Organized Crime Task Force later said that Trump, while not breaking any laws, "circumvented" state limits on individual and corporate contributions "by spreading his payments among eighteen subsidiary companies."

Trump alluded to his history of political giving in August this year, at the first Republican debate, bragging that he gave money with the confidence that he would get something in return. "I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me," he said. "And that's a broken system."

As he fed the political machine, he also had to work with unions and companies known to be controlled by New York's ruling mafia families, which had infiltrated the construction industry, according to court records, federal task force reports and newspaper accounts. No serious presidential candidate has ever had his depth of business relationships with the mob-controlled entities.

The companies included S & A Concrete Co., which supplied building material to the Trump Plaza on Manhattan's east side, court records show. S & A was owned by Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno, boss of the Genovese crime family, and Paul Castellano, boss of the Gambino family. The men required that major multimillion-dollar construction projects obtain concrete through S & A at inflated prices, according to a federal indictment of Salerno and others.

Salerno eventually went to prison on federal racketeering, bid-rigging and other charges. His attorney, Roy Cohn, the former chief counsel to Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.), was one of the most politically connected men in Manhattan. He was also Donald Trump's friend and occasionally his attorney. Cohn was never charged over any dealings with the mob, but he was disbarred shortly before his death in 1986 for ethical and financial improprieties.

"[T]he construction industry in New York City has learned to live comfortably with pervasive corruption and racketeering," according to "Corruption and Racketeering in the New York City Construction Industry," a 1990 report by the New York State Organized Crime Task Force. "Perhaps those with strong moral qualms were long ago driven from the industry; it would have been difficult for them to have survived. 'One has to go along to get along.' "

James B. Jacobs, the report's principal author, told The Post that Trump and other major developers at the time "had to adapt to that environment" or do business in another city. "That's not illegal, but you might say it's not a beautiful thing," said Jacobs, a law professor at New York University. "It was a very sick system."

Trump entered the real estate business full-time in 1968, following his graduation from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He worked in Queens with his father, Fred Trump, who owned a development firm with apartment buildings and other holdings across the country. Donald, who had worked part-time for the firm for years, learned the business from the inside.

When he joined his father, Donald Trump examined the books and found tens of millions of untapped equity. Trump urged his father to take on more debt and expand the business in Manhattan. "At age twenty-two the young baron's dreams had already begun to assume the dimensions of an empire," Jerome Tuccille wrote in a biography of Trump.

Donald Trump took over in 1971 and began cultivating the rich and powerful. He made regular donations to members of the city's Democratic machine. Mayors, borough presidents and other elected officials often were blunt in their requests for campaign cash and "loans," according to the commission on government integrity. Donald Trump later said that the richer he became, the more money he gave.

After a series of scandals not tied to Trump, campaign finance practices in the state came under scrutiny by the news media. In 1987, Gov. Mario Cuomo and New York Mayor Ed Koch appointed the state commission on government integrity and gave it subpoena power and a sweeping mandate to examine official corruption.

The commission created a database of state contribution records that previously had been kept haphazardly in paper files. It called on politicians and developers to explain the patterns of giving identified by the computer analysis.

Trump appeared one morning in March 1988, according to a transcript of his appearance obtained by The Post. He acknowledged that campaign contributions had been a routine part of his business for nearly two decades. He repeatedly told the commission he could not remember the details.

"In fact, in 1985 alone, your political contributions exceeded $150,000; is that correct?" Trump was asked. "I really don't know," he said. "I assume that is correct, yes."

A commission member said that Trump had made contributions through more than a dozen companies. "Why aren't these political contributions just made solely in your name?"

"Well, my attorneys basically said that this was the proper way of doing it," Trump said.

Trump told the commission that he also provided financial help to candidates in another way. In June 1985, he guaranteed a $50,000 loan for Andrew Stein, a Democrat who was running to be New York's City Council president. Six months later, Trump paid off the loan. "I was under the impression at the time it was made that I would be getting my money back," Trump told the commission. "And when were you disabused of that notion?" "When it was time to get my money back," Trump said.

Asked whether he considered such transactions as a "cost of doing business," Trump was equivocal. "I personally don't," he said. "But I can see that some people might very well feel that way, sir."

Stein told The Post he did not recall the loan, but he said developers were close to city officials at the time. "The Donald was a supporter, as well as a lot of the real estate people were," Stein said. "They have a huge interest in the city and have their needs."

Trump's donations were later cited by the organized crime task force's report as an example of the close financial relationships between developers and City Hall. "New York city real estate developers revealed how they were able to skirt the statutory proscriptions," the report said in a footnote. "Trump circumvented the State's $50,000 individual and $5,000 corporate contribution limits by spreading his payments among eighteen subsidiary companies."

Trump, then in his early 40s, said he made some donations to avoid hurting the feelings of friends, not to curry favor. "[Y]ou will have two or three friends running for the same office and they literally are all coming to you asking for help, and so it's a choice, give to nobody or give to everybody," according to his testimony at a 1988 hearing by the New York Commission on Government Integrity.

John Bienstock, the staff director of the Commission on Government Integrity at the time, recently told The Post that Trump took advantage of a loophole in the law. "They all did that," Bienstock said. "It inevitably leads to either the reality, or the perception, that approvals are being bought by political contributions."

As his ambitions expanded in the 1970s and 1980s, Trump had to contend with New York's Cosa Nostra in order to complete his projects. By the 1980s, crime families had a hand in all aspects of the contracting industry, including labor unions, government inspections, building supplies and trash carting.

"[O]rganized crime does not so much attack and subvert legitimate industry as exploit opportunities to work symbiotically with 'legitimate' industry so that 'everybody makes money,' " according to the organized crime task force report. "Organized crime and other labor racketeers have been entrenched in the building trades for decades."

In New York City, the mafia families ran what authorities called the "concrete club," a cartel of contractors that rigged bids and squelched competition from outsiders. They controlled the Cement and Concrete Workers union and used members to enforce their rules.

Nearly every major project in Manhattan during that period was built with mob involvement, according to court records and the organized crime task force report. That includes Trump Tower, the glittering 58-story skyscraper on Fifth Avenue, which was made of reinforced concrete.

"Using concrete, however, put Donald at the mercy of a legion of concrete racketeers," according to "Trump: The Deals and the Downfall" by investigative journalist Wayne Barrett.

For three years, the project's fate rested in part with the Teamsters Local 282, the members of which delivered the concrete. Leading the union was John Cody, who "was universally acknowledged to be the most significant labor racketeer preying on the construction industry in New York," according to documents cited by the House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice in 1989. Using his power to disrupt or shut down major projects, Cody extracted millions in "labor peace payoffs" from contractors, the documents said.

"Donald liked to deal with me through Roy Cohn," Cody said, according to Barrett.

Trump was subpoenaed by federal investigators in 1980 and asked to describe his relationship with Cody, who had allegedly promised to keep the project on track in exchange for an apartment in Trump Tower. Trump "emphatically denied" making such a trade, Barrett wrote.

Cody was later convicted on racketeering and tax-evasion charges.

The mob also played a role in the construction of Trump Plaza, the luxury apartment building on Manhattan's east side. The $7.8 million deal for concrete was reserved for S & A Concrete and its owners, court records show. The crime families did not advertise their role in S & A and the other contractors. But it was well known in the industry.

"They had to know about it," according to Jacobs, the lawyer who served on the organized crime task force. "Everybody knew about it."

While these building projects were underway in the early 1980s, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and New York authorities carried out an unprecedented investigation of the five New York crime families. Investigators relied on informants, court-authorized wiretaps and eavesdropping gear. Over five years, they gathered hundreds of hours of conversations proving the mob's reach into the construction industry.

On Feb. 26, 1985, Salerno and 14 others were indicted on an array of criminal activity, including conspiracy, extortion and "infiltration of ostensibly legitimate businesses involved in selling ready-mix concrete in New York City," the federal indictment said. Among the projects cited was Trump Plaza. Salerno and all but one of the others received terms of 100 years in prison.

Trump also dealt with mob figures in Atlantic City, where he was pressing to go into the casino business, according to court records, gaming commission reports and news accounts. One of these figures, Kenny Shapiro, was a former scrap metal dealer in Philadelphia turned real estate developer on the Jersey Shore. Shapiro also was an associate of the Scarfo crime organization, serving as a financier of mob activities in south Jersey and Philadelphia, according to a report by New Jersey authorities.

Shapiro worked closely with Daniel Sullivan, a Teamster who also was an FBI informant, documents show. Trump's brother once described him as a "labor consultant" on Trump projects in New York.

Shapiro and Sullivan leased land to Trump for the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. They also agreed to help bankroll the campaign of a Michael Matthews, a mayoral candidate the mob considered to be friendly to its interests. Matthews was elected, but he later went to prison on extortion charges related to an FBI sting operation and a $10,000 bribe.

After questions surfaced about the mob's possible involvement in Trump's proposal, the state gaming commission delayed approval of Trump's casino license and eventually told him to buy the land outright to avoid trouble. In commission hearings, Trump defended Shapiro and Sullivan, according to "TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald."

"I don't think there's anything wrong with these people," he said. "Most of them have been in Atlantic City for many, many years and I think they are well thought of."

Records show Trump was aware of mob involvement in Atlantic City. In confidential conversations with FBI agents who contacted him about his casino deal, Trump said "he had read in the press media and had heard from various acquaintances that Organized Crime elements were known to operate in Atlantic City," according to a copy of a an FBI memo obtained by the Smoking Gun.

Trump told the FBI that "he wanted to build a casino in Atlantic City but he did not want to tarnish his family name."

Thanks to Robert O'Harrow Jr..

Friday, September 02, 2016

Did @RealDonaldTrump Join Investors with Reputed Mobs Ties on First Casino?

For years, Donald Trump has boasted that his casinos are free of the taint of organized crime, using this claim to distinguish his gambling ventures from competitors. But Trump's casinos turn out not to be so squeaky clean.

One of his prime Atlantic City developments, the Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, relied on a partnership with two investors reputedly linked to the mob, prompting New Jersey regulators to force Trump to buy them out. And he employed a known Asian organized crime figure as a vice president at his Taj Mahal casino for five years, defending the executive against regulators’ attempts to take away his license, according to law enforcement officials.

As the famously brash developer now considers a run for the presidency, this history could complicate his efforts to project an image of a trusted power in the business world. It exposes a seamy underside to Trump's rise to fortune -- one that involved intimate links to unsavory characters.

As voters learn more about such links between Trump and reputed organized crime figures, "it will get more difficult for him," says John Geer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University. "Under that withering examination, his past associations and troubles will all emerge and could make it tough in a Republican primary."

In his 2000 book, “The America We Deserve,” released to coincide with an earlier prospective presidential campaign, Trump boasted:

“One thing you can say about Trump, as the holder of a casino gaming license, is that I’m 100 percent clean -- something you can’t say with certainty about our current group of presidential candidates.”

Trump has sought to lean on such claims while sometimes intimating that industry competitors are themselves tainted by mob associations -- in order to saddle them with restrictions on their casino licenses.

On Oct. 5, 1993, Trump told a Congressional panel examining the rise of Indian casinos -- then, a rapidly emerging threat to Atlantic City -- that the proprietors were vulnerable to organized crime.

It is “obvious that organized crime is rampant,” Trump told the panel, according to a transcript, drawing a direct contrast to his own operations. “At the Taj Mahal I spent more money on security and security systems than most Indians building their entire casino, and I will tell you that there is no way the Indians are going to protect themselves from the mob.”

That broadside garnered Trump a reprimand from then-House Interior Committee Chairman George Miller, a California Democrat, who complained that he had never heard more irresponsible testimony. But Trump continued, predicting that Indian casinos would spawn “the biggest crime problem in the nation’s history.”

Trump’s neglected to mention that his initial partners on his first deal in Atlantic City reputedly had their own organized crime connections: Kenneth Shapiro was identified by state and federal prosecutors as the investment banker for late Philadelphia mob boss Nicky Scarfo according to reports issued by New Jersey state commissions examining the influence of organized crime, and Danny Sullivan, a former Teamsters Union official, is described in an FBI file as having mob acquaintances. Both controlled a company that leased parcels of land to Trump for the 39-story hotel-casino.

Trump teamed up with the duo in 1980 soon after arriving in Atlantic City, according to numerous news reports and his real estate broker on the deal, Paul Longo. The developer seized on a prime piece of property and partnered with Shapiro and Sullivan, but the state’s gambling regulators were concerned enough about Shapiro and Sullivan’s mob links that they required Trump to end the partnership and buy out their shares, according to several Trump biographies.

Trump's office did not respond to requests for comment. Both Sullivan and Shapiro died in the early 1990s.

Trump later confided to a biographer that the twosome were “tough guys,” relaying a rumor that Sullivan, a 6-foot, 5-inch bear of a man, killed Jimmy Hoffa, the Teamsters boss who disappeared in July 1975.

“Because I heard that rumor, I kept my guard up. I said, ‘Hey, I don’t want to be friends with this guy.’ I’ll bet you that if I didn’t hear that rumor, maybe I wouldn’t be here right now,” Trump told Timothy L. O’Brien, the author of “TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald” and current national editor of The Huffington Post.

Trump told a different story to casino regulators who were deciding whether to grant him the lucrative gambling license. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with these people,” he said about Shapiro and Sullivan during licensing hearings in 1982, according to "TrumpNation : The Art of Being The Donald." “Many of them have been in Atlantic City for many, many years and I think they are well thought of.”

Sullivan's unsavory reputation did not stop Trump from later arranging for him to be hired as a labor negotiator for the Grand Hyatt, a hotel project on Manhattan’s East Side, according to People magazine and the Los Angeles Times. Trump also introduced Sullivan to his own banker at Chase, though he declined to guarantee a loan to Sullivan, reported the L.A. Times.

Longo, the real estate broker Trump used in Atlantic City on the Trump Plaza deal, says he wasn’t aware of Shapiro or Sullivan having any mob ties, and insisted Trump didn’t have any problems at all obtaining his gaming license. “In AC, you always had to be careful who you were dealing with, but Donald did things on the level,” Longo told The Huffington Post. But Wayne Barrett’s biography, “Trump: The Deals and the Downfall,” alleges Trump considered using Shapiro as a go-between to deliver campaign contributions to Atlantic City mayor Michael Matthews, in violation of state law.

Casino executives are prohibited from contributing to Atlantic City political campaigns in New Jersey. Sullivan later claimed that he was present when Trump proposed funneling contributions through Shapiro. Trump denied the allegation in an interview with O’Brien. Matthews, who was later forced out of office and served time in prison for extortion, did not return calls from HuffPost.

Barrett also reported that Trump once met Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno, front boss of the Genovese crime family, at the Manhattan townhouse of their mutual lawyer -- infamous J. Edgar Hoover sidekick Roy Cohn. The author explained that Salerno’s company supplied all the concrete used in the Trump Towers in New York.

At the time of its publication, Trump slammed Barrett's book as “boring, nonfactual and highly inaccurate.”

Barrett's book prompted New Jersey casino regulators to investigate some of its allegations, but the state never brought any charges. "If there had been a provable charge, they would have brought it,” said former casino commission chairman Steven P. Perskie.

While Trump was making his bold statements about the integrity of the Taj Mahal at the 1993 congressional hearing on Indian gaming, a reputed organized crime figure was running junkets for the hotel, bringing in well-heeled gamblers from Canada. Danny Leung, the hotel’s former vice president for foreign marketing, was identified by a 1991 Senate subcommittee on investigations as a member of the 14K Triad, a Hong Kong group linked to murder, extortion and heroin smuggling, according to the New York Daily News.

Canadian police testified at a 1995 hearing before New Jersey’s casino commission that they observed Leung working in illegal gambling dens in Toronto alongside Asian gang leaders. Leung, who denied any affiliation with organized crime, had his license renewed by the commission over the objection of the Division of Gaming Enforcement.

Back in the early 1980s, just as Trump was dipping his toes into Atlantic City real estate, the developer did express concern to the FBI that his casino ventures might expose him to the mob and “tarnish his family’s name.” He even offered to place undercover FBI agents in his casinos, according to an FBI memo uncovered by TheSmokingGun.com. When Trump asked one of the agents his “personal opinion” on whether he should build in Atlantic City, the agent replied that there were “easier ways that Trump could invest his money.”

That proved prescient: In early 2009, Trump’s casino company in Atlantic City filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, just days after Trump resigned from the board.

Thanks to Marcus Baram

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

What did Roy Cohn Teach @realDonaldTrump

The future Mrs. Donald J. Trump was puzzled.

She had been summoned to a lunch meeting with her husband-to-be and his lawyer to review a prenuptial agreement. It required that, should the couple split, she return everything — cars, furs, rings — that Mr. Trump might give her during their marriage.

Sensing her sorrow, Mr. Trump apologized, Ivana Trump later testified in a divorce deposition. He said it was his lawyer’s idea.

“It is just one of those Roy Cohn numbers,” Mr. Trump told her.

The year was 1977, and Mr. Cohn’s reputation was well established. He had been Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Red-baiting consigliere. He had helped send the Rosenbergs to the electric chair for spying and elect Richard M. Nixon president.

Then New York’s most feared lawyer, Mr. Cohn had a client list that ran the gamut from the disreputable to the quasi-reputable: Anthony (Fat Tony) Salerno, Claus von Bulow, George Steinbrenner. But there was one client who occupied a special place in Roy Cohn’s famously cold heart: Donald J. Trump.

For Mr. Cohn, who died of AIDS in 1986, weeks after being disbarred for flagrant ethical violations, Mr. Trump was something of a final project. If Fred Trump got his son’s career started, bringing him into the family business of middle-class rentals in Brooklyn and Queens, Mr. Cohn ushered him across the river and into Manhattan, introducing him to the social and political elite while ferociously defending him against a growing list of enemies.

Decades later, Mr. Cohn’s influence on Mr. Trump is unmistakable. Mr. Trump’s wrecking ball of a presidential bid — the gleeful smearing of his opponents, the embracing of bluster as brand — has been a Roy Cohn number on a grand scale. Mr. Trump’s response to the Orlando massacre, with his ominous warnings of a terrorist attack that could wipe out the country and his conspiratorial suggestions of a Muslim fifth column in the United States, seemed to have been ripped straight out of the Cohn playbook.

“I hear Roy in the things he says quite clearly,” said Peter Fraser, who as Mr. Cohn’s lover for the last two years of his life spent a great deal of time with Mr. Trump. “That bravado, and if you say it aggressively and loudly enough, it’s the truth — that’s the way Roy used to operate to a degree, and Donald was certainly his apprentice.”

For 13 years, the lawyer who had infamously whispered in McCarthy’s ear whispered in Mr. Trump’s. In the process, Mr. Cohn helped deliver some of Mr. Trump’s signature construction deals, sued the National Football League for conspiring against his client and countersued the federal government — for $100 million — for damaging the Trump name. One of Mr. Trump’s executives recalled that he kept an 8-by-10-inch photograph of Mr. Cohn in his office desk, pulling it out to intimidate recalcitrant contractors.

The two men spoke as often as five times a day, toasted each other at birthday parties and spent evenings together at Studio 54. And Mr. Cohn turned repeatedly to Mr. Trump — one of a small clutch of people who knew he was gay — in his hours of need. When a former companion was dying of AIDS, he asked Mr. Trump to find him a place to stay. When he faced disbarment, he summoned Mr. Trump to testify to his character.

Mr. Trump says the two became so close that Mr. Cohn, who had no immediate family, sometimes refused to bill him, insisting he could not charge a friend.

“Roy was an era,” Mr. Trump said in an interview, reflecting on his years with Mr. Cohn. “They either loved him or couldn’t stand him, which was fine.” Mr. Trump was asked if this reminded him of anyone. “Yeah,” he answered. “It does, come to think of it.”

The gossip columnist Cindy Adams, who knew everyone, had no idea who he was.

“This kid is going to own New York someday,” Mr. Cohn told her, gesturing at a tall 20-something bachelor at a dinner party in the early 1970s. “This is Donald Trump.”

“Yeah, so?” Ms. Adams recalled replying.

Mr. Cohn, the son of a prominent New York judge, had taken an uncommon interest in Mr. Trump.

The two had met not long before at a private disco called Le Club, and instantly hit it off while discussing a nettlesome obstacle for Mr. Trump. The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department was suing him and his father, accusing them of refusing to rent to black tenants. Mr. Trump told Mr. Cohn that their lawyers were urging them to settle.

“Tell them to go to hell and fight the thing in court,’” Mr. Trump later recalled Mr. Cohn advising him. Mr. Trump did just that, with Mr. Cohn as his lawyer. Not only did Mr. Cohn countersue the government for $100 million, he filed a blistering affidavit on Mr. Trump’s behalf, mocking the case. “The Civil Rights Division did not file a lawsuit,” Mr. Cohn wrote. “It slapped together a piece of paper for use as a press release.” The Trumps ultimately settled the case by agreeing to make apartments available to minority renters, while admitting no wrongdoing.

For Mr. Trump, the benefits of his new representation were obvious. Mr. Cohn was one of the most famous and feared lawyers in America. He would later appear on the cover of Esquire beneath an ironic halo, and earn a posthumous parody on “The Simpsons.” But Mr. Cohn saw something in Mr. Trump, too. “He could sniff out a power-to-be, Roy could,” said Susan Bell, Mr. Cohn’s longtime secretary.

After helping convict the Rosenbergs as a young federal prosecutor and then working in Washington as a top aide to McCarthy, Mr. Cohn had returned to New York, starting a boutique practice in his shabby but elegant townhouse on East 68th Street.

The division of labor in the firm was clear.

“We called him the rainmaker,” said Michael Rosen, a partner who handled many of the firm’s organized-crime cases. “We did all of the grunt work, if grunt work means preparing the case and trying the case.”

Mr. Cohn lived on the third floor, often traipsing downstairs in his bathrobe well after the workday had begun and taking clients upstairs to a small sun porch. The elevator rarely worked. In the winter, the lawyers stuffed towels around the windows to keep out the cold.

Parties and business meetings tended to blur, with celebrities like Andy Warhol and Estée Lauder crowding in and spilling out. “That townhouse was a workhorse,” recalled Mr. Trump, a familiar presence there himself.

He and Mr. Cohn became social companions, lunching at “21” or spending evenings at Yankee Stadium in the owner’s box of Mr. Steinbrenner, another Cohn client.

After Mr. Fraser entered Mr. Cohn’s life, the two were frequent dinner guests at Donald and Ivana’s Trump Tower apartment, with its Michelangelo-style murals. They were also regulars at Mr. Trump’s box at the Meadowlands, the home of his sports team, the New Jersey Generals of the short-lived United States Football League.

Mr. Cohn was the master of ceremonies at a Trump birthday party at Studio 54; years later, Mr. Trump returned the favor with a birthday toast of his own at a party in the atrium of Trump Tower, joking that Mr. Cohn was more bark than bite. “We just tell the opposition Roy Cohn is representing me, and they get scared,” Mr. Trump said, according to a cousin of Mr. Cohn’s, David L. Marcus, who attended. “He never actually does anything.”

Among the many things Mr. Trump learned from Mr. Cohn during these years was the importance of keeping one’s name in the newspapers. Long before Mr. Trump posed as his own spokesman, passing self-serving tidbits to gossip columnists, Mr. Cohn was known to call in stories about himself to reporters.

It was also through Mr. Cohn that Mr. Trump met the political operative who has played a leading, if behind-the-scenes, role in his campaign: Roger Stone.

When Mr. Stone, the roguish former Nixon adviser and master of the political dark arts, came to New York in 1979 to court support for Ronald Reagan’s presidential bid, he arrived with a box of index cards filled with the names of actors and producers. And Roy Cohn.

“I made an appointment and I pitched him on Reagan, and he said, ‘You have to meet Donald and Fred Trump,’” Mr. Stone recalled in an interview.

Eventually, Mr. Cohn and Mr. Trump became so inseparable that those who could not track down Mr. Cohn knew whom to call.

Once, Mr. Cohn chartered a plane with friends, without Mr. Trump, trashing it during a midair party. He refused to pay. So the airline found Mr. Trump, asking if he could help. He called Mr. Cohn, more amused than concerned. “I said, ‘Roy, what are you going to do about this? I mean, you destroyed the plane,’” Mr. Trump recalled. “He said, ‘Eh, we’ll pay them someday.’”

By the time Mr. Trump started getting serious with a Czech model named Ivana Winklmayr, Mr. Cohn had become something of an expert on marriage.

“It’s difficult to imagine and admit that the flush of the moment may become the flush of the toilet as the relationship goes down the tubes,” he wrote about the importance of prenuptial agreements in his book “How to Stand Up for Your Rights and Win!”

According to “Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention,” a book by the journalist Wayne Barrett, Mr. Cohn advised Mr. Trump against marrying Ms. Winklmayr, but insisted that if he must, there had to be a prenuptial agreement. He would handle it himself.

The agreement, completed only weeks before the wedding, did not quantify Mr. Trump’s net worth — “impossible to accurately determine due to the illiquid nature of his holdings” — and took a bearish view of Mr. Trump’s earning potential and a modest view of his tastes.

“Donald’s standard of living is basically simple,” it said, calling Mr. Trump’s preferred lifestyle “neither opulent nor extravagant.”

When the marriage dissolved a few years after Mr. Cohn’s death, Mrs. Trump’s lawyers charged that she had not had proper representation on the prenup. Her initial lawyer had worked for Mr. Cohn on at least one case, and was a frequent passenger on Mr. Cohn’s yacht, the Defiance. The divorce case eventually ended with a settlement. The prenup was just one of many Trump deals, some more conventional than others, in which Mr. Cohn was intimately involved.

He used his connections to help Mr. Trump secure zoning variances and tax abatements critical to the construction of the Grand Hyatt Hotel and the Trump Plaza.

After one Cohn coup, Mr. Trump rewarded him with a pair of diamond-encrusted cuff links and buttons in a Bulgari box.And if Mr. Cohn did not always feel comfortable charging a friend for his services, Mr. Trump was hardly one to put up a fight.

“Roy said, ‘I’ll leave it to Donald to give me what he thinks is fair,’” Mr. Fraser recalled of one lengthy Trump tax case in particular. “But, of course, Donald didn’t give him anything.”

Some work would have been difficult to bill. For instance, Mr. Cohn lobbied his friends in the Reagan White House to nominate Mr. Trump’s sister Maryanne Trump Barry to the federal bench. (Questioned last year about this, Mr. Trump said his sister “got the appointment totally on her own merit.”)

“He was a very good lawyer if he wanted to be,” Mr. Trump said in the interview.Asked about Mr. Cohn in 1980, Mr. Trump was more blunt in his assessment: “He’s been vicious to others in his protection of me.”


It started with a cut that would not stop bleeding.

Mr. Cohn’s diagnosis came not long after his former companion, Russell Eldridge, had gotten his. Mr. Eldridge had spent most of his final days in a private suite overlooking Central Park in Mr. Trump’s Barbizon Plaza Hotel.

Ms. Bell, Mr. Cohn’s secretary, recalled that Mr. Trump’s secretary, Norma Foerderer, had billed Mr. Cohn for the room, and later called to say that Mr. Cohn had not paid.“I said, ‘Guess what, Norma, he’s not going to,’” Ms. Bell said. “And she kind of knew it.”

Mr. Cohn remained in his townhouse. Until the end — and even under interrogation by Mike Wallace on “60 Minutes” — he insisted that he had liver cancer, not AIDS.He received experimental AZT treatments in Washington and continued working. But his clients could not help but notice that his health was deteriorating.

Mr. Trump started gradually moving cases elsewhere, he said, never telling Mr. Cohn why. “There’s no reason to hurt somebody’s feelings,” he said.“He was so weak,” Mr. Trump added. “He was so weakened that he really couldn’t do it.”

Mr. Cohn never spoke about Mr. Trump’s decision, but was plainly crushed, according to Ms. Bell. She remembers it happening not gradually, but “overnight.”

Even as his health was failing, Mr. Cohn, whom government prosecutors had unsuccessfully pursued for decades on charges including conspiracy, bribery and fraud, faced a final indignity: He was facing the prospect of disbarment. Among other offenses, he was charged with coercing a dying multimillionaire client — during a late-night visit to the man’s hospital room — to amend his will to make Mr. Cohn an executor of his estate.

The hearings were closed to the public. But true to form, Mr. Cohn, riding to the daily proceedings in a red Cadillac convertible, insisted on a spectacle, describing his accusers as “a bunch of yo-yos just out to smear me up.”

The prominent figures whom Mr. Cohn summoned to testify on his behalf included Barbara Walters and William F. Buckley Jr.And, of course, Mr. Trump. He described his friend in simple terms.“If I summed it up in one word,” Mr. Trump told the hearing panel, “I think the primary word I’d use is his loyalty.”

Gaunt, frail and besieged, Mr. Cohn nevertheless managed to attend a dinner with Mr. Fraser at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., shortly after Mr. Trump purchased the property in late 1985. It was a last glimpse at his final, fair-haired project.

“I made Trump successful,” he would occasionally boast, according to Mr. Marcus, Mr. Cohn’s cousin, a former journalist who chronicled Mr. Cohn’s last months for Vanity Fair.

In June 1986, Mr. Cohn was disbarred for “unethical,” “unprofessional” and “particularly reprehensible” conduct.

To this day, Mr. Trump rues the outcome. “They only got him because he was so sick,” Mr. Trump said in the interview. “They wouldn’t have gotten him otherwise.”

During his final days, Mr. Cohn called Mr. Trump, ostensibly for no particular reason. “It was just a call: ‘How are things going?’” Mr. Trump recalled. “Roy was the kind of guy — I don’t think he ever thought he was dying, frankly.”

About a week later, in August 1986, Mr. Trump received another call.Mr. Trump hung up the phone, repeating the news to an associate in his office: Roy Cohn was dead.“I said, ‘Wow, that’s the end of a generation,’” Mr. Trump remembered. “‘That’s the end of an era.’”

Mr. Fraser inherited all of Mr. Cohn’s possessions: the townhouse, his weekend place in Greenwich, Conn., his Rolls-Royce, his private plane and much more. But the Internal Revenue Service, collecting on Mr. Cohn’s tax debts, confiscated nearly everything.

He did get to keep the cuff links Mr. Trump had given Mr. Cohn. Years later, Mr. Fraser had them appraised; they were knockoffs, he said.

Mr. Fraser soon returned to his native New Zealand, where he now works as a conservationist at the Auckland Zoo. He has not spoken with Mr. Trump since Mr. Cohn’s death, but he has no doubt that if his former lover were still alive, he would be an enthusiastic supporter of the Trump campaign.

“Having trained or mentored someone who became president,” he said, “that would have been quite exciting for Roy.”

Thanks to Jonathan Mahler and Matt Flegenheimer.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Here's What's Known about @realDonaldTrump's Reputed Mob Ties

In his signature book, Trump: The Art of the Deal, Donald Trump boasted that when he wanted to build a casino in Atlantic City, he persuaded the state attorney general to limit the investigation of his background to six months. Most potential owners were scrutinized for more than a year. Trump argued that he was “clean as a whistle”—young enough that he hadn’t had time to get into any sort of trouble. He got the sped-up background check, and eventually got the casino license. But Trump was not clean as a whistle. Beginning three years earlier, he’d hired mobbed-up firms to erect Trump Tower and his Trump Plaza apartment building in Manhattan, including buying ostensibly overpriced concrete from a company controlled by mafia chieftains Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul Castellano. That story eventually came out in a federal investigation, which also concluded that in a construction industry saturated with mob influence, the Trump Plaza apartment building most likely benefited from connections to racketeering. Trump also failed to disclose that he was under investigation by a grand jury directed by the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, who wanted to learn how Trump obtained an option to buy the Penn Central railroad yards on the West Side of Manhattan.

Why did Trump get his casino license anyway?
Why didn’t investigators look any harder?
And how deep did his connections to criminals really go?

These questions ate at me as I wrote about Atlantic City for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and then went more deeply into the issues in a book, Temples of Chance: How America Inc. Bought Out Murder Inc. to Win Control of the Casino Business. In all, I’ve covered Donald Trump off and on for 27 years, and in that time I’ve encountered multiple threads linking Trump to organized crime. Some of Trump’s unsavory connections have been followed by investigators and substantiated in court; some haven’t. And some of those links have continued until recent years, though when confronted with evidence of such associations, Trump has often claimed a faulty memory. In an April 27 phone call to respond to my questions for this story, Trump told me he did not recall many of the events recounted in this article and they “were a long time ago.” He also said that I had “sometimes been fair, sometimes not” in writing about him, adding “if I don’t like what you write, I’ll sue you.”
I’m not the only one who has picked up signals over the years. Wayne Barrett, author of a 1992 investigative biography of Trump’s real-estate dealings, Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention, has tied Trump to mob and mob-connected men.

No other candidate for the White House this year has anything close to Trump’s record of repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers, and other crooks. Professor Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, said the closest historical example would be President Warren G. Harding and Teapot Dome, a bribery and bid-rigging scandal in which the interior secretary went to prison. But even that has a key difference: Harding’s associates were corrupt but otherwise legitimate businessmen, not mobsters and drug dealers.

This is part of the Donald Trump story that few know. As Barrett wrote in his book, Trump didn’t just do business with mobbed-up concrete companies: he also probably met personally with Salerno at the townhouse of notorious New York fixer Roy Cohn, in a meeting recounted by a Cohn staffer who told Barrett she was present. This came at a time when other developers in New York were pleading with the FBI to free them of mob control of the concrete business.

From the public record and published accounts like that one, it’s possible to assemble a clear picture of what we do know. The picture shows that Trump’s career has benefited from a decades-long and largely successful effort to limit and deflect law enforcement investigations into his dealings with top mobsters, organized crime associates, labor fixers, corrupt union leaders, con artists and even a one-time drug trafficker whom Trump retained as the head of his personal helicopter service.

Now that he’s running for president, I pulled together what’s known – piecing together the long history of federal filings, court records, biographical anecdotes, and research from my and Barrett’s files. What emerges is a pattern of business dealings with mob figures—not only local figures, but even the son of a reputed Russian mob boss whom Trump had at his side at a gala Trump hotel opening, but has since claimed under oath he barely knows.

Neither Trump’s campaign spokesperson, Hope Hicks, nor Jason Greenblatt, the executive vice president and chief legal officer at the Trump Organization, responded to several emailed requests for comment on the issues raised in this article.

Here, as close as we can get to the truth, is what really happened.

After graduating in 1968 from the University of Pennsylvania, a rich young man from the outer boroughs of New York City sought his fortune on the island of Manhattan. Within a few years Donald J. Trump had made friends with the city’s most notorious fixer, lawyer Roy Cohn, who had become famous as lead counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy. Among other things Cohn was now a mob consigliere, with clients including “Fat Tony” Salerno, boss of the Genovese crime family, the most powerful Mafia group in New York, and Paul Castellano, head of what was said to be the second largest family, the Gambinos.

This business connection proved useful when Trump began work on what would become Trump Tower, the 58-story high-rise where he still lives when he’s not at his Florida estate.

There was something a little peculiar about the construction of Trump Tower, and subsequent Trump projects in New York. Most skyscrapers are steel girder construction, and that was especially true in the 1980s, says John Cross of the American Iron & Steel Institute. Some use pre-cast concrete. Trump chose a costlier and in many ways riskier method: ready-mix concrete. Ready-mix has some advantages: it can speed up construction, and doesn’t require costly fireproofing. But it must be poured quickly or it will harden in the delivery truck drums, ruining them as well as creating costly problems with the building itself. That leaves developers vulnerable to the unions: the worksite gate is union controlled, so even a brief labor slowdown can turn into an expensive disaster.

Salerno, Castellano and other organized crime figures controlled the ready-mix business in New York, and everyone in construction at the time knew it. So did government investigators trying to break up the mob, urged on by major developers such as the LeFrak and Resnick families. Trump ended up not only using ready-mix concrete, but also paying what a federal indictment of Salerno later concluded were inflated prices for it – repeatedly – to S & A Concrete, a firm Salerno and Castellano owned through fronts, and possibly to other mob-controlled firms. As Barrett noted, by choosing to build with ready-mix concrete rather than other materials, Trump put himself “at the mercy of a legion of concrete racketeers.”

Salerno and Castellano and other mob families controlled both the concrete business and the unions involved in delivering and pouring it. The risks this created became clear from testimony later by Irving Fischer, the general contractor who built Trump Tower. Fischer said concrete union “goons” once stormed his offices, holding a knife to throat of his switchboard operator to drive home the seriousness of their demands, which included no-show jobs during construction of Trump Tower. But with Cohn as his lawyer, Trump apparently had no reason to personally fear Salerno or Castellano—at least, not once he agreed to pay inflated concrete prices. What Trump appeared to receive in return was union peace. That meant the project would never face costly construction or delivery delays.

The indictment on which Salerno was convicted in 1988 and sent to prison, where he died, listed the nearly $8 million contract for concrete at Trump Plaza, an East Side high-rise apartment building, as one of the acts establishing that S &A was part of a racketeering enterprise. (While the concrete business was central to the case, the trial also proved extortion, narcotics, rigged union elections and murders by the Genovese and Gambino crime families in what Michael Chertoff, the chief prosecutor, called “the largest and most vicious criminal business in the history of the United States.'')

FBI agents subpoenaed Trump in 1980 to ask about his dealing with John Cody, a Teamsters official described by law enforcement as a very close associate of the Gambino crime family. The FBI believed that Cody previously had obtained free apartments from other developers. FBI agents suspected that Cody, who controlled the flow of concrete trucks, might get a free Trump Tower apartment. Trump denied it. But a female friend of Cody’s, a woman with no job who attributed her lavish lifestyle to the kindness of friends, bought three Trump Tower apartments right beneath the triplex where Donald lived with his wife Ivana. Cody stayed there on occasion and invested $500,000 in the units. Trump, Barrett reported, helped the woman get a $3 million mortgage without filling out a loan application or showing financials.

In the summer of 1982 Cody, then under indictment, ordered a citywide strike—but the concrete work continued at Trump Tower. After Cody was convicted of racketeering, imprisoned and lost control of the union, Trump sued the woman for $250,000 for alteration work. She countersued for $20 million and in court papers accused Trump of taking kickbacks from contractors, asserting this could “be the basis of a criminal proceeding requiring an attorney general’s investigation” into Trump. Trump then quickly settled, paying the woman a half-million dollars. Trump said at the time and since then that he hardly knew those involved and there was nothing improper his dealings with Cody or the woman.

There were other irregularities in Trump’s first big construction project. In 1979, when Trump hired a demolition contractor to take down the Bonwit Teller department store to make way for Trump Tower, he hired as many as 200 non-union men to work alongside about 15 members of the House Wreckers Union Local 95. The non-union workers were mostly illegal Polish immigrants paid $4 to $6 per hour with no benefits, far below the union contract. At least some of them did not use power tools but sledgehammers, working 12 hours a day or more and often seven days a week. Known as the “Polish brigade,” many didn’t wear hard hats. Many slept on the construction site.

Normally the use of nonunion workers at a union job site would have guaranteed a picket line. Not at this site, however. Work proceeded because the Genovese family principally controlled the union; this was demonstrated by extensive testimony, documents and convictions in federal trials, as well as a later report by the New York State Organized Crime Task Force.

When the Polish workers and a union dissident sued for their pay and benefits, Trump denied any knowledge that illegal workers without hard hats were taking down Bonwit with sledgehammers. The trial, however, demonstrated otherwise: Testimony showed that Trump panicked when the nonunion Polish men threatened a work stoppage because they had not been paid. Trump turned to Daniel Sullivan, a labor fixer and FBI informant, who told him to fire the Polish workers.

Trump knew the Polish brigade was composed of underpaid illegal immigrants and that S&A was a mob-owned firm, according to Sullivan and others. "Donald told me that he was having his difficulties and he admitted to me that — seeking my advice — that he had some illegal Polish employees on the job. I reacted by saying to Donald that 'I think you are nuts,'" Sullivan testified at the time. "I told him to fire them promptly if he had any brains." In an interview later, Sullivan told me the same thing.

In 1991, a federal judge, Charles E. Stewart Jr., ruled that Trump had engaged in a conspiracy to violate a fiduciary duty, or duty of loyalty, to the workers and their union and that the “breach involved fraud and the Trump defendants knowingly participated in his breach.” The judge did not find Trump’s testimony to be sufficiently credible and set damages at $325,000. The case was later settled by negotiation, and the agreement was sealed.

While Trump’s buildings were going up in Manhattan, he was entering a highly regulated industry in New Jersey – one that had the responsibility, and the means, to investigate him and bring the facts to light.

From the beginning, Trump tried to have it both ways. While he leveraged Roy Cohn’s mob contacts in New York, he was telling the FBI he wanted nothing to do with organized crime in Atlantic City, and even proposed putting an undercover FBI agent in his casinos. In April of 1981, when he was considering building a New Jersey casino, he expressed concern about his reputation in a meeting with the FBI, according to an FBI document in my possession and which the site Smoking Gun also posted. “Trump advised Agents that he had read in the press media and had heard from various acquaintances that Organized Crime elements were known to operate in Atlantic City,” the FBI recorded. “Trump also expressed at this meeting the reservation that his life and those around him would be subject to microscopic examination. Trump advised that he wanted to build a casino in Atlantic City but he did not wish to tarnish his family’s name.”

Part of the licensing process was supposed to be a deep investigation into his background, taking more than a year for would-be casino owners, but Trump managed to cut that short. As he told the story in Trump: The Art of the Deal, in 1981 he threatened to not build in Atlantic City unless New Jersey’s attorney general, John Degnan, limited the investigation to six months. Degnan was worried that Trump might someday get approval for a casino at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan, which could have crushed Atlantic City’s lucrative gaming industry, so Degnan agreed to Trump’s terms. Trump seemingly paid Degnan back by becoming an ardent foe of gambling anywhere in the East except Atlantic City—a position that obviously protected his newfound business investment as well, of course.

Trump was required to disclose any investigations in which he might have been involved in the past, even if they never resulted in charges. Trump didn’t disclose a federal grand jury inquiry into how he obtained an option to buy the Penn Central railroad yards on the West Side of Manhattan. The failure to disclose either that inquiry or the Cody inquiry probably should have disqualified Trump from receiving a license under the standards set by the gaming authorities.

Once Trump was licensed in 1982, critical facts that should have resulted in license denial began emerging in Trump’s own books and in reports by Barrett—an embarrassment for the licensing commission and state investigators, who were supposed to have turned these stones over. Forced after the fact to look into Trump’s connections, the two federal investigations he failed to reveal and other matters, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement investigators circled the wagons to defend their work. First they dismissed as unreliable what mobsters, corrupt union bosses and Trump’s biggest customer, among others, had said to Barrett, to me and other journalists and filmmakers about their dealings with Trump. The investigators’ reports showed that they then put Trump under oath. Trump denied any misconduct or testified that he could not remember. They took him at his word. That meant his casino license was secure even though others in the gambling industry, including low-level licensees like card dealers, had been thrown out for far less.

This lapse illustrated a fundamental truth about casino regulation at the time: Once the state licensed an owner, the Division of Gaming Enforcement had a powerful incentive not to overturn its initial judgment. State officials recited like a mantra their promise that New Jersey casinos were the most highly regulated business in American history, more tightly regulated than nuclear power plants. In Temples of Chance, I showed that this reputation often owed less to careful enforcement than to their willingness to look the other way when problems arose.

In 1986, three years after Trump Tower opened, Roy Cohn was disbarred for attempting to steal from a client, lying and other conduct that an appellate court found “particularly reprehensible.” Trump testified that Cohn, who was dying from AIDS, was a man of good character who should keep his license to practice law.

This was not the only time Trump went to bat publicly for a criminal. He has also spoken up for Shapiro and Sullivan. And then there was the case of Joseph Weichselbaum, an embezzler who ran Trump’s personal helicopter service and ferried his most valued clientele. Trump and Weichselbaum were so close, Barrett reported in his book, that Weichselbaum told his parole officer about how he knew Trump was hiding his mistress, Marla Maples, from his first wife, Ivana, and tried to persuade Trump to end their years-long affair.

Trump’s casinos retained Weichselbaum’s firm to fly high rollers to Atlantic City. Weichselbaum was indicted in Ohio on charges of trafficking in marijuana and cocaine. The head of one of Trump’s casinos was notified of the indictment in October 1985, but Trump continued using Weichselbaum—conduct that again could have cost Trump his casino license had state regulators pressed the matter, because casino owners were required to distance themselves from any hint of crime. Just two months later Trump rented an apartment he owned in the Trump Plaza apartment building in Manhattan to the pilot and his brother for $7,000 a month in cash and flight services. Trump also continued paying Weichselbaum’s firm even after it went bankrupt.

Weichselbaum, who in 1979 had been caught embezzling and had to repay the stolen money, pleaded guilty to two felonies. Donald Trump vouched for Weichselbaum before his sentencing, writing that the drug trafficker is “a credit to the community” who was “conscientious, forthright, and diligent.” And while Weichselbaum’s confederates got as many as 20 years, Weichselbaum himself got only three, serving 18 months before he was released from the urban prison that the Bureau of Prisons maintains in New York City. In seeking early release, Weichselbaum said Trump had a job waiting for him.

Weichselbaum then moved into Trump Tower, his girlfriend having recently bought two adjoining apartments there for $2.4 million. The cash purchase left no public record of whether any money actually changed hands or, if it did, where it came from. I asked Trump at the time for documents relating to the sale; he did not respond.

As a casino owner, Trump could have lost his license for associating with Weichselbaum. Trump has never been known to use drugs or even drink. What motivated him to risk his valuable license by standing up for a drug trafficker remains unclear to this day. Trump, in his phone call to me, said he “hardly knew” Weichselbaum.

The facts above come from court records, interviews and other documents in my own files and those generously made available by Barrett, who was the first journalist to take a serious investigative look at Trump. Our files show Trump connected in various deals to many other mobsters and wise guys.

There was, for example, Felix Sater, a senior Trump advisor and son of a reputed Russian mobster, whom Trump kept on long after he was convicted in a mob-connected stock swindle. And there was Bob Libutti, a racehorse swindler who was quite possibly Trump’s biggest customer at the casino tables at the time. Libutti told me and others about arrangements that went beyond the “comps”—free hotel rooms and services, for example—that casinos can legally give to high-rollers. Among these was a deal to sell Trump a less-than-fit horse at the inflated price of $500,000, though Trump backed out at the last minute. Libutti accused Trump of making an improper $250,000 payment to him, which would have cost Trump his license. The DGE dismissed Libutti as unreliable and took Trump at his word when he denied the allegations. (Libutti was a major figure in my 1992 book Temples of Chance.)

Some of the dealings came at a remove. In Atlantic City, Trump built on property where mobsters controlled parts of the adjoining land needed for parking. He paid $1.1 million for about a 5,000-square-foot lot that had been bought five years earlier for just $195,000. The sellers were Salvy Testa and Frank Narducci Jr., a pair of hitmen for Atlantic City mob boss Nicky Scarfo who were known as the Young Executioners. For several adjoining acres, Trump ignored the principal owner of record and instead negotiated directly in a deal that also likely ended up benefiting the Scarfo mob. Trump arranged a 98-year lease deal with Sullivan, the FBI informant and labor fixer, and Ken Shapiro, described in government reports as Scarfo’s “investment banker.” Eventually the lease was converted into a sale after the Division of Gaming Enforcement objected to Sullivan and Shapiro being Trump’s landlords.

Trump later boasted in a sworn affidavit in a civil case that he made the deals himself, his “unique contribution” making the land deals possible. In formal hearings Trump later defended Sullivan and Shapiro as “well thought of.” Casino regulators thought otherwise, and banned Sullivan and Shapiro from the casino industry. But the Casino Control Commission was never asked to look into FBI reports that Trump was involved, via Shapiro, in the payoffs at the time of the land deals that resulted in Mayor Michael Mathews going to prison.

Thanks in part to the laxity of New Jersey gaming investigators, Trump has never had to address his dealings with mobsters and swindlers head-on. For instance, Barrett reported in his book that Trump was believed to have met personally with Salerno at Roy Cohn’s townhouse; he found that there were witnesses to the meeting, one of whom kept detailed notes on all of Cohn’s contacts. But instead of looking for the witnesses (one of whom had died) and the office diary one kept, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) took an easier path. They put Trump under oath and asked if he had ever attended such a meeting. Trump denied it. The inquiry ended.

Taking Trump at his word that he never met with the mobsters in Cohn’s townhouse saved the casino investigators from having to acknowledge their earlier failure—that from the start, they had never properly investigated Trump and his connections to criminals. They certainly had the leverage to push harder if they chose. Indeed, two of the five Casino Control commissioners in 1991 declared that the DGE showed official favoritism to Trump. Commissioner David Waters complained that DGE did not go nearly far enough in seeking a $30,000 fine against Trump for taking an illegal loan from his father, which could be grounds to revoke Trump’s casino licenses. Waters called it “an outrage that the Division of Gaming Enforcement would take this position and fail to carry out what I understand to be its responsibility to enforce the provisions of the Casino Control Act.”

Even after he got his license, Trump continued to have relationships that should have prompted inquiries. For example, he made a deal to have Cadillacs dolled up with fancy interiors and exteriors beginning in 1988, marketing them as Trump Golden Series and Trump Executive Series limousines. The modifications were made at the Dillinger Coach Works, which was owned by a pair of convicted felons, convicted extortionist Jack Schwartz and convicted thief John Staluppi, who was so close to mobsters that he was invited to the wedding of a mob capo’s daughter. New York liquor regulators proved tougher than those in New Jersey, denying Staluppi, a rich car dealer, a license because of his rap sheet and his extensive dealings with mobsters, as Barrett’s former reporting partner Bill Bastone found in public records. So why did Trump repeatedly do business with mob owned businesses and mob-controlled unions? Why go down the aisle with an expensive mobbed-up concrete firm when other options were available?

“Why’d Donald do it?” Barrett said when I put the question to him. “Because he saw these mob guys as pathways to money, and Donald is all about money.” From a $400 million tax giveaway on his first big project, to getting a casino license, to collecting fees for putting his name on everything from bottled water and buildings to neckties and steaks, Trump’s life has been dedicated to the next big score. Through Cohn, Trump made choices that—gratuitously, it appears—resulted in his first known business dealings with mob-controlled companies and unions, a pattern that continued long after Cohn died.

What Trump has to say about the reasons for his long, close and wide-ranging dealings with organized crime figures, with the role of mobsters in cheating Trump Tower workers, his dealings with Felix Sater and Trump’s seeming leniency for Weichselbaum, are questions that voters deserve full answers about before casting their ballots.

Thanks to David Cay Johnston.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Good Rat - A True Story

Jimmy Breslin stared helplessly out the window of his office in The Daily News one afternoon in the 1970s, seeking inspiration — through a haze of cigar smoke — from the nondescript facade of a building across 42nd Street.

He betrayed no visible brain activity, not even a flicker of the genius that infused his columns, one of which was close to being overdue. I know because I was his anxious editor. But his blank stare was an illusion. Mr. Breslin was eavesdropping. He was mining a rich lode of gossip from his assistant, Ann Marie, who was chatting on the telephone outside his office door.

Mr. Breslin is a very good listener. Almost imperceptibly, his head began to turn until he finally fixed his gaze on Ann Marie, and in one of those unheralded but defining moments in journalism, a series of columns about the underside of life in the Big City — with the names changed to protect the guilty and Mr. Breslin himself — was born.

In “The Good Rat: A True Story” (Ecco Press), Mr. Breslin recalls another of his eureka moments, which took place in a Brooklyn courtroom where he had gone to research a book about two cops turned Mafia hit men. One was fat and sad-eyed, the other thin and listless.

“Am I going to write 70,000 words about these two?” Mr. Breslin asked himself. “Rather I lay brick.” But when the trial started two years ago, he recalls, an unknown name on the prosecution witness list “turns the proceeding into something that thrills: the autobiography of Burton Kaplan, criminal.” Mr. Breslin had found his subject, a Brooklyn Tech dropout, father of a judge, who was “a great merchant, too great, and after he sold everything that did belong to him, he sold things that did not.”

And lucky for us. His book ingeniously synthesizes Burton Kaplan’s bizarre biography, his testimony, and Mr. Breslin’s memoirs of his own earlier exploits and encounters with characters who punctuated his columns but are mostly dead, imprisoned, or hidden in witness protection programs.

“You can drink with legitimate people if you want,” Mr. Breslin writes of his social circle, adding that he is a product of nights when the mobster Fat Tony Salerno looked around the Copacabana, scowled at him and asked, “ ‘Didn’t you go where I told you to?’ ”

Where had Mr. Breslin been told to go? That morning, he had encountered Mr. Salerno at a court engagement where the mobster complained, “You look like a bum,” and slipped him an East Side tailor’s business card.

“Tell him you want a suit made right away so you don’t make me ashamed I know you,” Mr. Salerno ordered.

The book is cleverly constructed, opening with an annotated cast of characters, and it delivers canny anthropological insights into organized crime (“The feds soon realized all they had to do was follow guys who kiss each other and they’d know the whole Mafia”). Mr. Breslin also criticizes John Gotti for having “violated New York’s revered rush-hour rules when he had Paul Castellano killed in the middle of it.”

Mr. Breslin’s account of a victim who was killed by mistake belies the idea that there are no innocent bystanders. And every page reveals his talent for putting a twinkle in your mind’s eye (the lawyer Bruce Cutler wore “a light khaki summer suit that could have used 10 pounds less to cover”). The book is Jimmy Breslin at his best.

Thanks to Sam Roberts

Monday, August 24, 2015

Frank Lucas, Hollywood´s "American Gangster," and La Cosa Nostra Connection

Special to The Chicago Syndicate by Ron Chepesiuk

Hollywood has been hard at work molding the image of former 1970s Harlem drug trafficker Frank ¨Superfly¨ Lucas into the prototype of the modern American gangster. Frank Lucas, Hollywood´s 'American Gangster,' and La Cosa Nostra Connection The image of the Lucas character, played by Denzel Washington, has some shades of Edgar G. Robinson´s Little Caesar and Al Pacino´s Scarface, but while ruthless, the character is also African American, entrepreneurial, independent and even visionary. As part of the creation, Universal, the movie´s maker, would have us believe that Lucas was so entrepreneurial and independent that he became the first black gangster to break free of La Cosa Nostra´s iron grip on the American heroin trade and develop his own independent heroin trafficking network.

In the 2000 New York magazine article upon which the ¨American Gangster¨ movie is based, author Mark Jacobson wrote that if he (Lucas) really wanted to become "white-boy rich, Donald Trump rich," Lucas thought, he'd have to ´cut out the guineas (Italian American mafia). He'd learned as much working for Bumpy (Johnson) , picking up "packages" from Fat Tony Salerno's Pleasant Avenue guys, men with names like Joey Farts and Kid Blast.¨

Jacobson quotes Lucas as saying, ¨I needed my own supply. That's when I decided to go to Southeast Asia. Because the war was on, and people were talking about GIs getting strung out over there. I knew if the shit is good enough to string out GIs, then I can make myself a killing."

In the movie, the Italian American mafia is represented by the character Dominic Cattano. Played by Amand Assante, Cattano works out a deal in which Superfly becomes the white Mob´s major supplier of potent Number 4 heroin from Southeast Asia. At the end of the ¨historic¨ meeting, Lucas dramatically tells his wife: ¨ They (the Mob) work for me now.¨

So how accurate is Hollywood´s depiction of the Lucas--La Cosa relationship? Not very. It´s one of many inaccuracies that make the movie largely a work of fiction. Frank Lucas did not have any independent source of Asian heroin, and he was never in any position to dictate business terms to the Mob. In fact, for most of his career, Lucas got his smack the old fashion way: from La Cosa Nostra.

First some historical background. From the 1950s through the 1960s, the old reliable French Connection dominated the heroin drug trade. It was an efficient network in which Corsican gangsters transported the morphine base from the poppy fields grown in Turkey to Marseille, France. The morphine base was then refined into heroin and smuggled into the U.S., the connection´s biggest market, via Sicily, Italy, and Montreal, Canada.

It was efficient network that, according to the U.S. government reports, accounted for as much as 80 percent of the heroin smuggled into the U.S. By the early 1970s, however, international law enforcement was having great success against the French Connection and taking down its key mobsters. Meanwhile, the U.S persuaded the Turkish government to tighten surveillance of the country´s poppy fields, purchase the poppy crop from its farmers and institute procedures to encourage crop substitution. By 1972, the French Connection was in shambles.

Up until law enforcement began having success against Lucas, he, like other New York city heroin dealers, was getting his heroin supply from La Cosa Nostra. My research shows that Lucas did not come to Bangkok, Thailand until about 1974. Joe Sullivan a retired DEA agent who worked drug cases in East Harlem in the 1970s, recalled: ¨The French Connection was in the process of being dismantled and the supply was tight and expensive,. All the big drug traffickers, including Lucas, was getting their heroin supply from the Italians. Lucas was getting it for about $200,000 a kilo.¨

It didn´t mean that Lucas wasn´t making a lot of money in getting his heroin from the Mob. As Sullivan revealed.¨They (La Cosa Nostra) trusted their foreign contacts and were satisfied with bringing their heroin into the country. But the Italians thought it beneath them to whack the heroin, mix it, put it in glassine envelopes and hawk in the street. They preferred to sell their heroin to the black dealers. A few black dealers, such as Frank Lucas and Nicky Barnes, became successful controlling the drug business on the street while insulating themselves from the actual distributor.¨

When this author asked Lucas if he had ever worked with the Italian mob, the mere suggestion was enough to set off the old drug trafficker. ¨I was not going to have no fucking fat guy leaning back in the chair, smoking a $20 cigar and bragging how he had another nigger in Harlem working for him,¨Superfly roared. ¨I don´t play that game. The Italians were charging $50,000 to 75,000 a kilo, and I was getting it for $4,000 a kilo (from Asia). My junk traveled from the Mekong Valley to the Ho Chi Minh trail to the U.S.¨

The historical record, however, suggests that for most of Superfly´s criminal career it was otherwise. In June 1974, Lucas went to trial with 12 others for conspiracy to traffic heroin. It was just seven months before the authorities raided his home in Teaneck, New Jersey, and busted him for good. And still at that late date, no mention is made in the court records and in the press of any Asian connection in his drug trafficking plan. That didn´t happen until 1977 when Lucas was in prison and got busted again for trying to keep his heroin network operating.

One defendant in that 1974 trial was prominent Italian American mobster Ralph Tutino, aka ¨The General.¨ Lucas, Tutino and the other defendants were accused of involvement in a heroin smuggling conspiracy. The prosecutor identified Tutino as the principle heroin supplier, and Lucas, along with Robert Stepeney, another heroin drug dealer, as the major distributors.

According to the indictment, La Cosa Nostra mobster Antonio DeLutro delivered a package of about 11 pounds of heroin to Anthony Verzino in November1973 and received, as payment, $250,000 in two installments. Then in December 1973, Mario Perna, and Ernest Maliza, two other La Cosa mobsters, delivered a package containing 22 pounds of heroin to Lucas at the Van Cortlandt Motel in the Bronx. As these transactions clearly show, Lucas was getting his dope from La Cosa Nostra.

Tutino, who lived in the Bronx but had his headquarters in East Harlem, was a big-time heroin trafficker during the French Connection´s heyday. When the authorities busted the French Connection in 1972, many La Cosa Nostra godfathers who had thrived in the old days were now having trouble finding sources of heroin supply. But not Tutino. The authorities suspected him of having a direct connection to Mexican and Asian suppliers.

Lew Rice, a former DEA agent, interrogated Lucas when he decided to become an informant after facing 70 years in jail. According to Rice, after being busted for heroin trafficking, Lucas readily acknowledged to Rice that La Cosa Nostra was his major source of supply. ¨Lucas told me he was getting his heroin from Tutino, The General,¨ Rice recalled.

Lucas´ relationship with La Cosa Nostra could only be described as a rocky marriage of convenience, for Superfly, according to DEA sources, was constantly in deep financial trouble with La Cosa Nostra. He even owed two well-connected mafioso from the Gambino crime family $300,000 and only managed to avoid ending up buried in cement because the two Gambino crime family mobsters were arrested and carted off to jail in 1974.

The mobsters faced the prospect of long prison sentences, so they began singing like the proverbial canary. They revealed that one of their biggest customers for heroin was a prominent and flamboyant black drug dealer named Frank Lucas, who liked to call himself "Superfly." The informants' information allowed the authorities to obtain a search warrant, which authorized the raid on Lucas's house on Sheffield Road in Teaneck, New Jersey, in late January, 1975. This was the beginning of the end of Frank Lucas´s big-time criminal career, thanks to La Cosa Nostra.

Leslie Ike¨ Atkinson, a former U.S. army master sergeant and prominent black American drug dealer of the 1960s to mid 1970s, not Lucas, was the one who pioneered the Asian heroin connection. It is Atkinson, DEA sources confirm, who supplied Superfly with his Asian heroin, making him, not Lucas, deserving of the title, ¨American Gangster.¨

Atkinson, whom the DEA dubbed ¨Sergeant Smack,¨ got a close up look at Lucas´ dealings with La Cosa Nostra. In a recent interview, he remembered the time he was imprisoned in Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in the mid 1970s and two members of the Italian American mob paid him a visit. ¨´Frank Lucas said to come see you,´ one of the gangsters told me. ´He did what?´ I said. The mobsters said: ´Frank owes us $80,000 and he said you would take care of it.¨ Atkinson laughed. ¨Frank actually thought he could send two wise guys to me and I would pay off his debt."

Atkinson recalled another occasion when he went to New Jersey to pick up some money Lucas owed him. When he arrived at his destination, Lucas had men posted outside his residence. Superfly was in deep trouble with the Mob again.

So, yes, La Cosa Nostra did come to Frank ¨Superfly¨ Lucas. But it was to collect money owed him, not to get its heroin supply.

Investigative journalist Ron Chepesiuk is a consultant to the History Channel´s ¨Gangland¨ series and the co-author and co-producer of the book and DVD titled SUPERFLY: THE TRUE-UNTOLD STORY OF FRANK LUCAS THE AMERICANGANGSTER
(www.franklucasamericangangster.com.)


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