Mobbed Up: The Fight for Las Vegas

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Open City | S1E4

by Las Vegas Review-Journal | The Mob Museum
June 9th 2020

“The mob had been, of course, heavily integrated in the casino industry here from day one.”

To understand the city of Las Vegas as it existed in the 1970s, we have to back up to Dec. 26, 194... More

a heads up before we get started. Mobbed up contains explicit content such as adult language and depictions of violence, including murder. Please be advised that this podcast might not be suitable for all audiences. Yeah, December 26th, 1946 It's opening night at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, and the guest list includes some of the biggest names in Hollywood. George Raft, George Sanders, Eleanor Parker Vivian blamed Planes full of stars have been flown in for the occasion, and they show up to the hotel one by one in their glitziest attire. Even the staff at the Flamingo is dressed to the nines with car dealers wearing tail coats and white ties. Locals who stroll in or asked to remove their cowboy hats something they're not thrilled about. But everyone in attendance is eager to explore the newest resort in Las Vegas. The Flamingo wasn't the first hotel to open up on what we now call the Strip, but it was going to be different, bigger, better, more refined and more luxurious than other hotels in town.

This was going to be the start of a new era for the resort industry in Las Vegas, at the time a small desert city. Millions of dollars have been poured into the construction of the Flamingo, and on opening night in 1946 it showed the review journals. Wally Williams would later write that on opening night, the hotel quote looks like somebody visited the lot on which Cecil B. DeMille is operating from steals. The swankiest set of the super colossal production transports it to Las Vegas and sets it down in the sand and sage brush. Guys and dolls from Las Vegas and suburbs such as Los Angeles and Hollywood jam the joint until it appears the proprietors will have to dis joint the walls to take care of the mob. Of course, when he wrote about the mob, Williams was just talking about the crowds. Yeah, mm, mhm, Yeah, yeah, when she got power, a lot of power.

You don't care about the money for the Las Vegas Review Journal in partnership with the Mob Museum. I'm read Redmond. He's one of you. You kill him, you're listening to mobbed up a true story about money. You're not supposed to have a profile like that, especially in Vegas crime. You want to be very quiet so you can steal the money. He always said If you pull a gun on somebody, you finish it because if you don't, it's going to come back to haunt you and I have ever seen what's going on here and he's saying they're trying to kill me and I said, Who's trying to kill you? And then he shut up. And the fight for control of Las Vegas The FBI will continue to look to the future to use the latest and most sophisticated techniques to fight organized crime. The mom would have destroyed Las Vegas. The only question is not if, but when it would be destroyed. I was there every day with these fellas. I had no idea that there was a mob and he once told somebody, There's bodies out there in the desert and there's more every day.

But if there is one area where the word war is appropriate, it is in the fight against crime. When you grab them, you'll bring them to the desert. You're gonna know where the hole has been dug. Part four Open City. Throughout the first few parts of this series, we've been primarily exploring the stories of two individuals a mob connected burglar and hit man named Frank Kalata and his childhood friend and eventual boss, Tony Spilotro. When we left off at the end of Part three, Tony had been sent out to Las Vegas to oversee the Chicago outfits interests there. And as we already know, Frank will eventually follow into Vegas in coming episodes of this series will continue to tell that story. And trust me, Frank's got a hell of a story left to tell. But for now, in order to understand the city that Frank and Tony move out to in the 19 seventies, we have to back up at least a few decades when the influence of organized crime first started to seep into Las Vegas. Now, before we dive into the history of the mob, I should probably point out there are plenty of things we don't know, and we'll never know about the mob.

Famously, mobsters don't take notes or keep thorough records, something that becomes apparent very quickly. If you ever go about conducting research for a podcast on the mob, that's one of the both fun and horrible things about studying the history of organized crime. Uh, it goes back to a Woody Allen line where he said, Organized crime says a lot of money on office supplies. They don't write things down. This is Michael Green, an associate professor of history at UNLV who helped with the planning of the bomb Museum. He pointed out to me that the question of when organized crime came to Las Vegas depends on how you define organized crime. It's an organized criminal enterprise. Okay, so if you're looking at Las Vegas, Block 16 1st Street between Stewart, Noggin had supposedly illegal prostitution going on in the teens, and that's an organized criminal enterprise. When we were planning the Mob Museum, the curator, Dennis and Cathy Barry, who also did the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the International Spy Museum, we were all talking one day, and I talked about how the KKK had been here in significant numbers in the twenties.

And there is a story that they may have burned across at the site of the museum, the old federal courthouse at Third and Stewart. And they said, Gee, it's too bad we can't use that since it's an organized crime museum, I said well, isn't the KKK organized crime well, you can argue that we don't have a specific date that we can look to and say That's where it all started. That's when organized crime came to Nevada. But there is some consensus that the first traditional organized crime figure in Las Vegas was a bootlegger and sex trafficker named Jim Ferguson, who arrived in the city in 1924. At the time, the city's population was about 2300 total. For a little perspective, Caesar's palace alone has nearly 4000 hotel rooms. The following decade, a couple key events would lead to more elements of organized crime coming to the city 1931. The state of Nevada legalized wide open gambling card games, slot machines, the kind of gambling we see in casinos today. Then, in 1933 the prohibition of alcohol was repealed nationwide, cutting off the Mafia's most significant source of income at the time.

But according to museum Vice president of Exhibits and Programs Jeff Schumacher, you didn't really see elements of organized crime start to get involved in Vegas casinos until the late thirties, and the real catalyst for that was a reform movement in Southern California. In 1938 new mayor of Los Angeles was elected Fletcher Baron. This new mayor of Los Angeles, Fletcher Bowron, was determined to clean up the vice that was prevalent in Southern California. That meant cleaning up illegal gambling operations. Baron comes in, and what you see is a crackdown on illegal gambling in Southern California. And a number of these illegal operators move to Las Vegas, where they see an opportunity to, uh, to make an honest buck, if you will, to take their talents the things that they learned operating illegal gambling halls and go legitimate and have legal gambling halls in Las Vegas, in Las Angeles.

These guys had been considered Gangsters in Las Vegas, they were businessmen, and they were getting a chance to make their money out in the open. So this was really the beginnings of of sort of a criminal element becoming involved in our gambling industry that evolved during World War Two into more of an organized crime, a formal, traditional organized crime element in the casinos. I think that arguably started with the purchase of the El Cortez by a crime syndicate out of New York in 1945. And this is, uh, you know, famously Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Gus Greenbaum. Most said way, uh, and and several others, all of whom had traditional organized crime ties of the many figures and forces that helped shape the city of Las Vegas. In its early days, there is one individual whose name comes up in just about every conversation.

Benjamin Siegel. You may know him as Bugsy. He got the nickname Bugsy over the years because they would say, Well, he go bugs. The voice you're hearing is Mom, museum content development specialist Jeff Burbank. And that was about his volatile temper. And people didn't want to approach him with anything complicated where he might get angry because then he would go into a rage and you don't know what he do because he was violent person. So they would say, Hey, look, watch out. This guy will go bugs if you tell them that, right? And he hated the nickname. Of course, he wanted to be called Ben or Mr Siegel, and he would really berate someone who used that nickname. According to Jeff, Ben Siegel had been involved with crime long before he came to Las Vegas. Since he was a kid in New York City, Ben Seal, from an early age, was a violent person involved in extorting well intimidating push CART operators.

What Jeff is describing was a protection racket where Ben and his friend most said way. Another guy who would go on to make a name for himself in organized crime circles would sell quote unquote fire insurance to push card operators essentially a threat that if you didn't fork over some cash, these kids would come back at night and burn your cart to the ground. Things escalated from there and then eventually got involved with another young criminal whose name might ring a bell, a guy who would eventually become known as the Mob's money man. Then he got in with Meyer Lansky. They started taking a hit contracts. They were in their late teens, early twenties, and so he was a very violent, volatile person. He was also very bright and shrewd, and he made himself rich with the others, and you became a flamboyant dresser and he had movie star looks and he was charismatic, and when he was sent by the New York mob to run some rackets in Hollywood.

He became very friendly with a whole slew of Hollywood stars. Ben Siegel spent the bulk of the 19 thirties out in California, piling around with movie stars, extorting film companies and helping the mob expand its gambling rackets. Among other things, uh, he was involved in drug trafficking. He was also involved in prostitution. From there, Ben Siegel looked to Las Vegas historian Michael Green in the early 19 forties. Ben Siegel came to Las Vegas from Southern California. Now there are stories that had gone to L. A. Hoping to get into the movies, and I think he did decide once he got there that that's what he wanted to do. But he was sent there to get control of unions that were involved in making movies, and this was a big organized crime thing. Labor racketeering. He came here to get involved in the race wire. The horse racing results were big money, big business, and the mob wanted to control it, and Siegel did his duty here and got that and then got into the casino business. There's a powerful myth that surrounds Bugsy Siegel to this day, and it's that he was the inventor of Las Vegas.

But that's something that would have come as a surprise to the residents and casino operators who were already there before he arrived. Um, nobody at the time said that he was that he found in Las Vegas who started the casino industry or anything close to that. This is David Schwartz, a historian and associate vice provost for faculty affairs at UNLV. Gambling in modern Las Vegas happened in 1931. Siegel was nowhere close to town. Then. That was all. Downtown first resort in the Strip was opened in 1941. Single had nothing to do with that. He did start to come to Vegas in the early thirties, mostly because he was the representative of a race wire syndicate. Race wire was how they distributed horse bedding information, and he was the one who basically would tell people, You get the service, you don't get the service. It was very important. So we did that. Ben Siegel's lasting impact on Las Vegas would come later on in the 19 forties, when he got involved with the construction of the Flamingo Hotel, a project that was actually started by a real estate developer named Billy Wilkerson, and Wilkerson was a genius.

He's the guy who founded the Hollywood Reporter, also a terrible, terrible gambling addict so constantly out of money he had started building the Flamingo because, his friends said, If you're going to gamble so much, you should build a casino and then you can lose to yourself. You know, that's today. They probably want therapy or even drug based treatment. But back then, the treatment, if you were rich, was to build your own casinos. They did that, uh, he ran out of money. So he is looking to restart the project. He's approached by a guy named Harry Rothberg, who represented other investors, and these turned out to be people connected with maybe Meyer Lansky and folks like that back in the East Coast. And Ben Siegel, as he was known, came out as their representative. The Flamingo was going to be the third hotel to open in the part of Vegas we now know as the Las Vegas Strip. But Wilkerson's vision and later on Ben Siegel's vision, was to build a new kind of hotel casino to revolutionize the resort industry in Las Vegas.

Altogether, the Flamingo was supposed to be a luxury hotel with big name entertainment. Bigger names than the other two hotels were bringing in at the time, and I think that is what tends to distinguish the Flamingo from the others. And so you go from the wallpaper, the chairs, the beds themselves. Everything about it was designed to be put it in quotation marks first class in a way that the original hotels, although very well built and very well run and having a lot of great amenities, really didn't match. That kind of luxury would come with a steep price tag. But with Ben Siegel now at the helm, the money for the project was coming from his friends in the upper echelons of the mob. The money essentially came from within organized crime. We're talking about Siegel's boyhood friend, Meyer Lansky, being back East, sort of serving as the chancellor of the exchequer, or secretary of the Treasury, and figuring out where the money goes.

And there are these various investors within organized crime who are providing the money. That's part of the problem. Siegel ends up facing. He was not dealing with a bank where he might be able to go in and float another loan or be able to convince the banker that things were going well. These were patient, business oriented people, but when they got impatient, they let you know it. The Flamingo project would end up costing around $6 million although many experts believe Siegel skinned a healthy portion of that for himself. Here's Wilkerson's son, Billy Wilkerson, the third speaking about his father during a 2019 event at the Mob Museum. Things started to get out of control. Siegel wanted more and more control over the hotel, then began this famous overspending that we've heard so much about. Siegel would eventually rack up $6 million in reading, which is absolutely phenomenal to offset that red ink. Ben Siegel apparently bought the land from Billy Wilkerson.

But Wilkerson was still the controlling shareholder with 40% of the shares, and Ben Siegel wanted full control over the project. It was an early December 1946 the Segal called a stockholders meeting at the End Financial Flamingo and basically told my dad to hand over all of his stock or he was going to be killed for it. Fearing for his life, Billy Wilkerson fled the country to Paris. From there, he would eventually sign a deal with Ben Siegel, releasing him from all debts, demands and interests in the Flamingo project. In other words, the Flamingo now belonged to Ben Siegel, who was still getting deeper and deeper into debt with the mob, convincing them to pour more and more money into the hotel project. Bugsy Siegel was also his own worst enemy, of course, because he was very arrogant and egotistical, and he didn't like to be told what to do. And he was even that way with the top level mobsters, Luciano, even his good friend Lansky. Actually, with Lansky.

He was he was more reasonable, but with other people who told him, You know, he needed to cut back or, you know, where is the money, that kind of thing. He was very arrogant and would put them down and say, I'll do it when I feel like it or I'll let you know when it happens That kind of thing, according to Jeff Siegel's poor money management skills and his arrogance, would ultimately cause his backers to want him out of the picture. They decided in late 46 a number of top mobsters went to Cuba and decided that Siegel had to go even even before the Flamingo opened in December of 1946 Siegel went ahead with the opening of the casino. When the Flamingo opened. The opening night acts were Jimmy Durante, who's a star and a lot of media. Rose Marie had been a big star on radio and Xavier Cugat, a major band leader. So I think we're talking about the Flamingo aiming a little higher, and I think ultimately it paved the way for a lot of what was to come by some accounts, including when you heard from the Review Journal at the top of this episode, the opening was a success.

But that was just the surface. Underneath all of the glitz and glamour. The hotel was still unfinished, and it was bleeding money. It was still not completed. The rooms weren't completed. People went into the main lobby, the main casino, and they saw construction curtains up on the ceiling, and it really wasn't ready to open. But he felt that he had to get the ball rolling the rooms at the Flamingo weren't ready in time for the opening, so guests were staying at other hotels, bringing their winnings with them instead of spending them in house within a few weeks, the Flamingo is said to have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, on top of the already exorbitant construction costs that went into it in the first place. Siegel has investors who are not happy that it is not making the money it is supposed to make. Siegel really deserves credit for getting the thing built, but it doesn't mean he really knew well what to do with it once it was built, and even then, he had trouble in getting it built.

Mhm. By late January, around a month after opening, Siegel was forced to temporarily closed the Flamingo to stop the bleeding and finished construction. On February 8th, 1947 an announcement appeared in the review journal Reading Ready, announcing the official opening of Las Vegas newest and finest resort hotel Hotel Flamingo, opening Saturday, March 1st with complete resort facilities for your comfort and convenience. All rooms and suites individually styled by Tom Douglas noted Hollywood decorator and designer Olympic Championship swimming pool. Entire hotel completely are conditioned finest cuisine and service internationally famed entertainers. Small text in the bottom corner of the announcement reads. To make this possible and to coordinate all our activities and facilities so that we may offer you the finest service. The casino and dining room at the Flamingo have closed and will reopen Saturday, March 1st. The mobbed up Flamingo Hotel did reopen in March, and it even started to turn a profit after that. But Ben Siegel's fate was already sealed. On June 20th, 1947 Siegel flew to Los Angeles and drove to a home he rented there with his girlfriend, Virginia Hill.

That evening, he sat down on the couch and began reading a newspaper, unaware at about 14 ft away, a gunman was crouched in the backyard, resting a 30 caliber carbine rifle in the cross of a trellis. Mhm, the gunman fired nine shots into the home before speeding off. Ben Siegel was hit multiple times in the chest and in the face, one of the bullets knocking his left eye out of its socket. According to FBI records, Siegel died instantly. Mhm, although you can take some educated guesses about who killed Ben Siegel, based on the company he kept, his murder would go unsolved. To this day, it is an open case, literally. The Beverly Hills Police Department considers it an open case. I have the funny feeling they are not likely to solve it any time soon. Within an hour of Bugsy Siegel's death, new mob representatives walked into the Flamingo and announced that they were taking over. Shortly after his death, a new management team came in, including said Way in Greenbaum, who had been at the El Cortez downtown.

Ben Gottstein, Davie Berman and a biographer of Meyer Lansky described them as looking like generals mopping up after a coup. And just like that, a new era was underway in Las Vegas. If you ever want to define the term symbiotic relationship, try the growth of Las Vegas and the growth of organized crime. I don't think we have one without the other, at least at the rate Las Vegas group. After the break, Las Vegas expands and crime families from all over the country one a piece of the action. Mm, mhm. Yeah, The mob had been, of course, heavily integrated in the casino industry here from day one.

This is former Nevada Governor Bob List in an interview with the Oral History Research Center at the UNLV Library, Special collections and archives, Bugsy Siegel's and all the rest of the They're the ones Who built It, and in the old days there were no suitability standards. Anybody in those times could apply for a gaming license, and I guess it be like getting a driver's license almost, you know. Yeah. Before the break, you heard the story of Bugsy Siegel finishing the construction of the Flamingo Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, which opened, then closed, then opened again in the late forties. Well, a bunch of other hotel casinos popped up shortly after many of them tied to organized crime again. Here's Mom, Museum vice president of exhibits and programs, Jeff Schumacher. The Flamingo was followed by the Thunderbird. The Thunderbird was another Meyer Lansky operation, and then two years later, you have the opening of the desert in, which is now the introduction of the Cleveland mob into Las Vegas with modalities and his partners.

The Thunderbird in the Desert Inn would be followed in quick succession by the opening of the Sahara the Sands, the Dunes and, in 1955 the first high rise casino in Las Vegas, the Riviera, which brought the Chicago outfit into the city. By most accounts, the Chicago outfit, which started under Johnny Torrio and Al Capone, actually grew bigger and more sophisticated after Capone left in 1931. And it was the most powerful mob organization in America, and for it to arrive in Las Vegas was a very big deal. And these folks, you know, really took over the Riviera and operated it. And, uh, and it may have introduced the concept of skimming to Las Vegas. As part of that. Skimming would take many different forms throughout the mobs rain in Vegas, but at its most basic and involved under reporting a casino's income and pocketing the difference. In other words, skimming a little something off the top before counting up to casinos. Cash revenue on the heels of the Riviera.

The hacienda opened on the strip in 1956 followed by the Tropicana in 1957 and then you have a year later, in 1958 the opening of the Stardust. If I had to put a number on the casinos that opened in the fifties that had ties to organized crime. I'd go 90%. This again is historian Michael Green. He told me that all these new casinos on the Strip we're creating a sizeable workforce in Las Vegas. That meant that as the hotel casino industry expanded, so did the city itself, both in terms of population and infrastructure. So with the growth of the hotels catering to the tourists who are coming in, you also have the growth of a community surrounding them. So you have everything from this massive expansion of the African American population because of the availability of jobs here. For the most part that had been going on from the mid forties on, you also had the beginnings of the university because more people coming to town wanted a college education. You had the creation of the Clark County School district to try to manage this incredible growth in the number of students where everybody just about seemed to be on double sessions.

All of these factors are kind of running together, and organized crime makes a lot of it possible, and people who come here working in organized crime they themselves will go to the temple or wherever they worship. They're going to have kids in school. They're they're part of the community as well. But at the same time, they didn't necessarily come to Las Vegas saying, We're going to build a community. But once they got here, they were part of it, and they both benefited and were beneficiaries. At some point, amid all of this expansion within the criminal underworld, it had been decided that Las Vegas would be an open city. No single family or syndicate controlled the territory, meaning everyone could get in on the action as long as they didn't interfere with the operations of other families. You look at the strip and you'd go up and down the strip and say, Well, all right, the Flamingo uh, that's New York and Lansky, Miami and so on Desert in Modal, It's Cleveland Mayfield Road Gang Sands. You've got a New York group.

But there is a guy from Houston. There's a guy from Kentucky. Uh, the Stardust ends up with Chicago. The Tropicana started with Miami and New Orleans, Detroit and ST Louis at the Dunes, and you say, Well, wait a minute Aren't they competing? They are competing. They are all competing for the dollar for the money that people are going to bring. But they are also in business together partly through cross investment, cross investment meaning. And this initially came as a surprise to me that different crime families sometimes went in on casinos together. For example, construction of the Stardust Hotel have been started by a California gambling boat operator. But when he died in the middle of the hotels construction, the Cleveland Mafia and the Chicago outfit partnered to open and operate it together. So the start us the Tropicana, the Riviera, the Flamingo, the Thunderbird, the Desert Inn and there are a few others were all mob involved by 1958. Now this is about the same time, 1958.

There's an opportunity to build Las Vegas to grow Las Vegas to, uh, to make the Las Vegas Strip a much more significant player, you know, economic engine than it had been. But the mob needed money. Mom didn't have money to invest at the level that was needed to build thousands of rooms. Uh, you know, in all of the different amenities that go into a more modern hotel casino. The mom needed money and lots of it. Problem was even setting aside the criminal element of all of this. Most banks at the time weren't interested in getting involved in the casino business historian Michael Green. It's a little hard for us to comprehend today when you have major multinational corporations owning casinos and real estate investment trusts and other things that you would find on Wall Street and think nothing of it. They're involved in casinos today. Once upon a time, there was no way that any legitimate financial institution lending institution or, for that matter, corporation would touch a casino.

That's where the Teamsters union at the time, led by you guessed it. Jimmy Hoffa comes into the picture. They found an opportunity in partnership with the Teamsters union, and Jimmy Hoffa and Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters agreed to use their Central States pension fund to issue loans to the mob to mob interests in order to build or expand casinos. And, you know, hundreds of of millions of dollars were loaned to mob mob connected casinos in Las Vegas in the late from the late fifties through the early seventies to get a lot of these places built. And, uh, one of the most famous of those was Caesar's Palace. Here's my room Borders, a longtime Nevada journalist talking about the 1966 opening of Caesars Palace in an interview with the Oral History Research Center in the UNLV Library, Special collections and archives. When Caesar's Palace opened, Jimmy Hoffa was on stage taking accolades because it was Teamster money that built Caesars.

And banks and insurance companies weren't about to loan any money to build hotels in Las Vegas because it was gambling and that was bad. It wasn't accepted anywhere else in the country. And so if it hadn't been for organized crime and the questionable money coming in from the Teamsters pension fund and the culinary pension fund, I don't think that Las Vegas would have been built. Midwestern crime families, most notably the Chicago outfits, had gained influence over the trustees of the Teamsters Central States pension fund. They pulled the strings, and the trustees would approve multimillion dollar loans. Here's Bill Owsley, former supervisor of the FBI's organized crime squad in Kansas City. It all surrounds the teams to pension fund that Papa had put together back in the fifties, and then the fund became billions of dollars, and Hoffa had decided that he's not going to invest this money. Uh, you know, with banks and insurance companies, he's going to use the fund for himself.

And, of course, as you know, Hoffa was mobbed up from the get go. They were his partners, and, uh, it was an unbelievable situation at the fund. According to Bill Housely, the loans coming from the fund were often distributed with few or no protections. The way he was able to do that was to pack the trustees who managed to fund because different trustees were connected to different crime families. You'd end up with a situation where multiple crime syndicates had a stake in the same casino. So instead of competing for territory, Chicago, Kansas City, Cleveland and Milwaukee would end up working together. The Midwest families Chicago, Kansas City, Milwaukee and Cleveland had this death grip on the Teamsters. This is Gary Jenkins, a former intelligence unit detective with the Kansas City Police Department and host of the podcast Gangland Wire. And the Teamsters have this huge big pension fund. The Central States Teamsters pension fund in a pension board can vote to invest their members money in any way that they deem fit.

There's really it's a private deal. In a way, it was less private now, but back then it was more of a private thing with very few regulations over so they could loan money to a guy that wanted to buy a casino. And at the time, legitimate banks didn't really want to loan money to people run casinos. Gambling was still kind of a little bit in the dark on the on the dark side, and and the banks were all ran by stodgy oh, men from old time families that, you know their dad had run the bank and their grandpa started it and things like that. So they didn't really want to get involved with something as dirty as a casino business. But the Teamsters union would. Throughout the 19 fifties and sixties, hundreds of millions of dollars from the Teamsters Central States pension fund were poured into Las Vegas casino projects. So by the time Tony Spilotro came to Las Vegas from Chicago in 1971 casinos up and down the Las Vegas Strip or controlled by the mob, former Nevada Governor Bob List.

Vast majority were still mobbed up, and there had never been a comprehensive effort by law enforcement to do anything about it. I mean, all of the local sheriffs and everybody, they just went along with it and places contributed to campaign money for all the elected officials and the victims really were. It wasn't the old kind of time kind of victims of the mob, uh, in terms of the citizenry. The victims were the citizens who didn't get their taxes collected from the casinos. They were skimming the money. It wasn't being reported because they were walking the money out the back door instead of putting it through the counting room. Although the outfits and other organized crime families would develop a variety of interests in Las Vegas, they're real cash. Cow was always the casinos, something that started to become more and more apparent to members of law enforcement throughout the 19 seventies.

I can't say that as I got off the plane, we saw that the priorities were the infiltration of organized crime families into the legitimate casino business. This is Stan Hunterson, former special attorney with the U. S. Department of Justice organized Crime Strike Force in Las Vegas. They were doing other things here. Jewellery. Robbery is a loan sharking, that kind of thing. But it pretty quickly became apparent that that was really where the money was, if you will, Um, and, of course, the Mafia had recognize that going back to the days of Bugsy Siegel and the Flamingo back in the 19 forties, Bugsy Siegel and Billy Wilkerson couldn't have possibly dreamed of the Las Vegas Strip as we know it today.

Nobody could have. The hotel they built was a big deal at the time, But the flamingo that's on the strip now has about 30 times the number of rooms compared to their original Flamingo hotel. If you visit the Flamingo, you won't find any of the original structures, but you will find a beautiful courtyard filled with waterfalls, fountains, trees and birds. There's even a real flamingo habitat. I went down there the other day just to take it all in and try to imagine what the area was like back in Bugsy's time. Alright, already, I'm gonna do that thing. They're doing podcasts or they just kind of stand in the spot and describe their surrounding some back at the Flamingo Hotel by the Garden Chapel. Apparently, this is where the original Flamingo Hotel, the one started by Bugsy Siegel, stood. There is no trace of the original hotel, kind of in the shadow of the modern one. Uh huh. You've tucked away back here. There's trees everywhere. There's birds chirping. There's a literal flamingo habitat, waterfalls, fountains. Standing in this courtyard almost felt like I wasn't in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip anymore, although in fairness I was in the shadow of the world's tallest Ferris wheel and could faintly hear a Rihanna song playing in the background.

But you get the point I'm trying to make. It was peaceful. After watching some fish swim around in a koi pond and chatting with a few tourists, I spotted what I was looking for. A memorial to Bugsy Siegel, featuring a bronze bust of his face and a description of the original hotel we got coming up on the plaque. Here. We got a little bird perched on top. Yeah, that, uh, it reads the Bugsy building on this site. Benjamin Bugsy Siegel's original Flamingo Hotel stood from December 26th, 1946 until December 14th, 1993. The hotel, which has 77 rooms, including the notorious Mr Siegel's Bugsy Sweet or Presidential Suite, as it was sometimes referred to as unique in more ways than one. The window panes, for instance, for bulletproof. And although there was only one entrance to the top floor suite over five possible exits has included a hidden ladder leading from the hallway closet to a basement tunnel, which led to an underground garage where Bugsy allegedly had a chauffeured getaway car awaiting at all times.

The plot continues, but Mr Siegel's preoccupation with safety and escape routes proved to be geographically misplaced. On June 20th, 1947 300 miles from Las Vegas, at the Beverly Hills mansion of his girlfriend, Virginia Hill Bugs. He was killed in a hail of gunfire by unknown assailants on Part five of Mopped Up. The outfit looks to expand its influence on the strip, and Tony Spilotro takes over the streets of Las Vegas and she goes over to Spilotro, starts talking to him, comes back and says, You don't buy Mr Spy lateral drinks. He buys you drinks. This is Ben, Part four of Mobbed Up, a production of the Las Vegas Review Journal in partnership with the Mob Museum. You know the drill you can find mobbed up on apple podcasts, Spotify or anywhere podcasts are found. Please leave us a rating and review on apple podcasts. I'm sure you're tired of hearing it, but if you have 30 seconds, it really does help us out.

Mopped up is reported and produced by me. Read Redmond. If you have any feedback questions or mob stories of your own, hit me up on Twitter at Red Redmond or send an email to our Redmond at review journal dot com. Our sound designer and audio editor for this series is Jonathan McMichael. We also composed our theme song thanks to Michael Greene, David Schwartz, Bill Owsley, Gary Jenkins, Stand hunter 10 as well as Jeff Schumacher and Jeff Burbank from the Mob Museum for sharing their insights on this episode. Select clips used in the interest of this episode and, as noted elsewhere, come from the Oral History Research Center in the UNLV Library. Special collections and archives, music and sound effects used in this episode are from Stephen Arnold Music and motion array. You can learn more about the Mob museum by visiting the mob museum dot org, and you can learn more about mobbed up by visiting. Review journal dot com. Backslash podcasts Thanks, as always, for listening, and we'll be back with more next week.

Open City | S1E4
Open City | S1E4
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