Mobbed Up: The Fight for Las Vegas

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The Argent Empire | S1E5

by Las Vegas Review-Journal | The Mob Museum
June 16th 2020
00:49:01
Description

"You don’t buy Mr. Spilotro drinks. He buys you drinks." In 1971, Tony Spilotro moves from Chicago to Las Vegas to look after the mob's interests, alongside a longtime oddsmaker named Frank "Lefty... 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, yeah, yeah, yeah. Mhm! Mhm in the audio you're hearing. Right now, I'm walking up to the front gate of a home in the Las Vegas Country Club, a gated community a little ways east of the Las Vegas Strip. I'm here to meet the home's current owner, an attorney named Jim Morgan, who has agreed to show me around the place. The home has been described to the Review Journal as a quote, very one of a kind property and something you don't see in Las Vegas built like a fortress. A little Fort Knox. As Jim shows me the home's front gate, I can start to see why supposedly these doors are bulletproof. Um, you can see how heavy they are. Yes, just inside the bullet proof gate before you get to the front door of the home, which is also bulletproof. There's a small electrical room housing a maze of wires and electrical boxes.

This is every time I have any electrical stuff done at the house. The they're all they're all fascinated by the electrical in this house. I'm not an electrician by any stretch of the imagination, but even I can tell this isn't typical for a home of this size. This unit has enough power to run a small commercial building. But he needed that because he had all of the camera and TVs up in one of the rooms. I'll show you. Jim tells me that one of the upstairs bedrooms used to be filled with video monitors hooked up to a home security system and surveillance systems at a handful of casinos. And I'll show you there's tons of wiring all over this house. So we had eyes on the Stardust from from home. Stardust and his and the other casinos. Yeah, but the start is was the biggest one and his power in an all out of here. Yep. Uh huh. Yeah, that's why they're there. I'll show you all the wires and wiring is crazy. There's mhm. People hate cable guys and the electrician and stuff hate coming here because there's so many wires.

It's hard to track. How bad when we step into the home past another set of bulletproof doors. It feels like we've stepped back in time. I know that phrases overused, but it really does feel like we've been transported to the 19 seventies, everything from the furniture to the art, the wallpaper. You can tell this is seventies wallpaper with the fabric on it, and you'll see several places where they wallpaper is original. There's one other thing that grabs your attention immediately when you walk into this home a glass floating staircase just past the entryway. On the other side of it are Florida ceiling windows with a view out to the Country clubs Golf course. Jim tells me that just like the front doors and every other original window on this side of the home, all the glass, I'm looking at his bulletproof. And then he points to some evidence that this may have been a wise precaution, a chip in the glass on the outside of the window. This is supposedly, I say, bullet hole. But it's not a whole because it didn't penetrate the glass, this glass supposedly bulletproof, and that's where somebody tried to shoot him from the golf course.

If you can see it. Yeah, And so that's supposedly he was coming down the stairs one day and someone opened fire. Just a single shot, you know, just just one boy whole. Mm, yeah. Mhm. Mhm. When she got power. A lot of power. You don't care about the money on the line 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 remember seeing 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 you 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 not after, 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. The Part. Five. The Argent Empire Mhm When Tony Spilotro was sent out to Las Vegas by the Chicago outfit, it was the early 19 seventies. During this era, the outfit was aggressively looking to expand its grip on casinos in the city and in 1974 working with other Midwestern mob families.

Milwaukee, Cleveland In Kansas City, they had an opportunity to take control of a handful of casinos, including the largest resort in the world. At the time, the Stardust Hotel, which boasted around 1400 rooms, the Teamsters Central States pension fund was going to put up the money, but that was only half the battle. By this point, if you are going to purchase a casino regulations required you to have a clean background. So the mom needed a front man, someone they could put down on paper as the owner. That's where a squeaky clean California businessman named Allen Glick comes into the picture. Here's Jeff Silver, a former gaming regulator who serves as board chair at the Mob Museum. Allen Glick had shortly earlier had gotten out of the Army and the Quartermaster Corps. I think he was a lower level officer there, and, uh, he was approached regarding an opportunity to purchase this hotel that was owned by RECRE Inc. A guy named Del Coleman and Recreation had its own reputational issues at the time and was in a situation where it was possibly going to lose its license.

And so they were looking for the next person to come in there and still keep control of this place, but at the same time looked like they had cleaned house. And so Allen Glick had an impeccably clean background at that time, whether he knew or not, he will tell you that he did not know that he was being used as a front man. 1974. Allen Glick purchased the Stardust Hotel using Teamster loans. Well, sort of. It was technically purchased by a holding company called the Argent Corporation. The Argent Corporation was a sort of fictitious operation, if you will, historian Michael Green. One version of it is that Argent is a R G. Allen are Click Enterprises. Another is that Origin is, after all, is the French word for money. Either would be appropriate. Although it was the most lucrative, the Stardust wouldn't be the only hotel casino purchased by Glick and the Argent Corporation. Then, when Opportunities became available to purchase the Fremont and the Hacienda and the Marina, that money was made available to Allen Glick.

To do that, Glick got a loan from the Teamsters union of somewhere in the neighborhood of $62.7 million to buy what ultimately became the Argent Empire, the starkest and hacienda on the strip, the Fremont downtown. And I think they also ended up with the marina, which is no longer with us but is sort of part of the MGM Grand complex. The Stardust is now going to be the Genting Group operation, the resort world, and the haciendas were. Mandalay Bay is now located, and it was thought that was a good good purchase for him. They were able to consolidate a lot of the hotels functions such as the coin counting department that ended up being part of a big skimming operation. Just like that, the Argent Corporation had become the biggest casino landlord in the city of Las Vegas, and Midwestern crime families were the beneficiaries. Here's Bill Owsley, former supervisor of the FBI's organized crime squad in Kansas City.

These were the partners Cleveland, Chicago, Milwaukee and Kansas City. So the skin money as he came out of the start us in the free mine was curried back to Chicago because they were the main answer. Wada. Then Chicago would split it up to look after its interests at the Argent Casinos. The Chicago outfit had a guy on the inside. An eccentric employee at the Stardust named Frank Rosenthal would eventually serve as the inspiration for Robert De Niro's character, Ace Rothstein and Martin Scorsese Movie Casino, based on the book by Nick Pileggi. Here's Stan Huntington, former special attorney with the Organized Crime Strike Force in Las Vegas. As you know, in traditional Mafia circles, you have to be of Sicilian or Italian extraction physically D n A. They want to be able to trace back. Who was your father?

Who was your grandfather? Who was your great great grandfather? Did you come from Palermo, or did you come from Sicily? That kind of thing. That's the traditional admission ticket, if you will, or starting point for admission to the Mafia. Rosenthal, of course, did not have that background. Frank Rosenthal came from a Jewish family in Chicago, meaning he could never become a made member of the outfit. Unlike, for example, Tony Spilotro. But they'll work with anybody who can make money for them, and Rosenthal was an expert sports handicapper and an expert better and later across the line into fixing, uh, sporting events. But he knew his way around casinos and sports, gambling and odds and things like that.

Frank Rosenthal came to Las Vegas, and he wanted to get into the industry and eventually was put in charge of the Stardust. The mob interests did this mostly out of Chicago. That's where he came from because there are a couple of Frank's in this series. From here on out, I'll try to stick to referring to Frank Rosenthal by his nickname Lefty. And Lefty was their God. Lefty was a genius when it came to gambling and odds. And what have you and, uh, they had put him in to run the casino. He puts his crew in there in order to skin the funds that are distributed to to the moth. Yeah. Yeah. If Allen Glick didn't know what he was getting into from the start, he was about to find out. Here's Gary Jenkins, former intelligence unit detective with the Kansas City Police Department and host of the podcast Gangland Wire. He had this man named Frank Lefty Rosenthal working for him and left. He was wanting to take more power and more power and and move people around the casino and really kind of edge this Allen Glick out being just, you know, uh, a figurehead that sits up in a big office while left.

He runs the casino. Well, he was resisting this and wasn't letting left. He have free reign. One night left, he went to him. He said, You know, he said, you got all those loans from the Teamsters Union. He said, uh, there's a man in Kansas City that wants to talk to you, and he convinced him that they need to get on their private jet and fly back to Kansas City. Allen Glick is met at the airport by a member of the Kansas City crime family who takes him to an airport hotel where the boss of the family, a guy named Nick Savella, is sitting in the dark waiting for him. The rooms dark Nick Civil is already in there. There's one lamp. They sit him down in the middle of the room and put the lamp in his face and neck. Savella stands out of the cone of light and starts talking to him about you know, first thing he said. He said, You know, if I had my way, you wouldn't leave this room alive. And then he proceeds to tell him how he owes him at least a million a million $0.5 for his helping and getting that loan. And Glick's going, you know, God, how am I supposed to repay that? And Nick tells him, he said, You know, you don't worry about how you repay it, he said, You've got a man working for you out there, and you just lied to let him do what he needs to do and and we'll get that repaid.

So that same night, Allen Glick turns around and flies back to Las Vegas with all the motivation in the world to let this employee of his lefty, Rosenthal and free Reign over the Stardust. Yeah, mhm. Allen Glick would later testify that in October of 1974 he had the following interaction with Lefty in a coffee shop at the Stardust quote. He got up, and then he somewhat walked away from the table. His blood pressure was rising. Then he came back. I think it's about time that we had a discussion, Rosenthal said, referring to me by my last name, only Blick. It's about time you become informed of what is going on here and where I'm coming from and where you should be. I was placed in this position not for your benefit, but for the benefit of others, and I have been instructed not to tolerate any nonsense from you. Nor do I have to listen to what you say because you are not my boss. If you interfere with any of the casino operators or try to undermine anything I want to do here. I represent to you that you will never leave this corporation alive. Click says he told Lefty to leave.

But that left, he replied, When I said that you will not leave this corporation alive, people that I represent have the power to do that and much more. You should take me seriously. You are an intelligent individual, but don't test me. Allen Glick, apparently having received the message loud and clear, would publicly state the following about lefty quote. I feel extremely fortunate to have a man with Lefty Rosenthal's qualifications, working directly with me on establishing and carrying out general policies for all our resorts. He's been a great credit to Nevada's gaming industry. Mm Lefty Rosenthal was supposed to stay under the radar at the Argent casinos because by the 19 seventies, you needed a licence to serve in any high level role at a Vegas casino again. Here's former gaming regulator Jeff Silver. Well, there's a regulation that requires key employees, and the employees are, uh, there's a There's been an expanding definition of key employees, but at the time it was anybody who made $50,000 a year or more because that was a tremendous sum of money at that particular moment.

I was earning, like $24,000 a year as a member of the Gaming Control Board, so it was double my salary at that time. But these are people who had the ability to exercise significant influence over the operations of a casino who could extend credit, who could provide for complementary services and who actually controlled any of the accounting or or supervision all functions of a casino. This is former Nevada Governor Bob List, talking about Lefty in an interview with the Oral History Research Center at the UNLV Library, special collections and archives. He was firing people. He was hiring people. He was doing the things that effect major policies in the property. And yet he was not licensed, so the decision was made to call him forward for licensing. And so the Gaming Control Board held a hearing. One of the members of the Gaming Control Board at this time was Jeff Silver, whose voice here hopefully starting to get familiar with.

During the first hearing left, he got denied, and uh, it was the recommendation of the control Board that was unanimous. That went up to the commission, and it was unanimous upholding of that recommendation in denying him the reasons for denying Lefty a key employee license included a previous conviction in North Carolina for conspiracy to bribe an amateur athlete. And Senate testimony about Lefty attempting to bribe a football player into throwing a game They call him forward, made him apply for a license, held a hearing, find him unsuitable. And then he suit. And that put it in my hands as attorney general to handle the lawsuit. Before he became Nevada's governor, Bob List was the state's attorney general, and he was serving in that role. When left, he took his case to the Nevada State Supreme Court, and my position was a gaming license is a privilege. It's not a right, so you're not entitled to a gaming license. That suitability is a factor that can be considered in the public interest and that had never been tested before, and I won the case.

The state Supreme Court affirmed the decision to deny Lefty a key employee license, so left he tried to bring his case to the U. S Supreme Court. I still remember the opening line of our brief and the United States Supreme Court, and we're like this. This case involves an attempt buy it convicted felon to get a privileged gaming license in the state of Nevada. We wanted to get their attention. In the end, the U. S Supreme Court decided not to take the case up, letting the Nevada State Supreme Court's decision stand left. He wasn't going to get his license. It looked as though he was out of options. But he quickly discovered a loophole. Certain non gaming titles in casinos apparently didn't require a key employee license. So, at least on paper, he became a food and beverage director and later the entertainment director at the Stardust. Even though he assumed these other titles to avoid having to get a gaming license, he did take certain aspects of these new jobs seriously. For example, Lefty is said to have monitored the number and distribution of blueberries in each blueberry muffin at the Stardust, inspiring a famous scene in the movie casino.

Here's Jane Anne Morrison, a retired reporter and columnist who spent nearly 40 years with The Review Journal the blueberry story. He apparently got a a muffin with not as many blueberries is the guy with with him, and he had a fit that he wants x amount of blueberries and every muffin, you know. And it's a pretty funny scene, and from what I hear, it's true. That part is that that part is supposed to be true again. Former Gaming Control Board member Jeff Silver, originally after he was turned down for his role as the casino director casino manager. Then he scurried over to these other titles in the hopes that he might be able to continue exerting his influence over the operation. Uh, so we were at times had to change the the the regulations to clarify certain things that were going on. For example, in the case of entertainment director, there was an exception that was put into the law at one legislative session for Frank Sinatra.

Well, Frank Sinatra had catered to Sam Giancana when he was owning the Club Cal Niva in northern Nevada, northern Lake Tahoe, and so they were concerned that having Frank Sinatra be involved in entertainment on the premises could be a problem. So they carved out an exception for people who are involved in the entertainment business, providing services to a hotel and, of course, Lefty. Looking at that, thinking that maybe he could create an exception for himself, created The Frank Rosenthal show. Another show was terrible. It was just awful. I mean, he he was not a good interviewer, but he had famous people on and they would shit chat, and then he'd have a showgirl or two on and people would, uh, you know, in terms of what the show was like. It was laughable. But people watched it because he got good. He got good people on there. Aside from hosting The Frank Rosenthal show in counting blueberries left, he also paid close attention to the Stardust hotels showgirl show the Lido de Paris.

So the first leader show I did ran 22 months. Then the second leader show I did ran maybe two years, 24 months, and they progressively got longer and longer. The next show I did win three years. So in all I was in the leader show 15 years, and this was all at the start of Yes, this is Charles, nor Fernald, who was a dancer in Las Vegas during the sixties seventies and eighties. The clips you're hearing are from a 2014 interview he did with the Oral History Research Center at the UNLV Library, special collections and archives. The way Charles tells it, bumping shoulders with mobsters from time to time was just part of working in entertainment in Las Vegas during this era, and it didn't bother him, at least not until one man in particular came around. We had discounts in all the shops in the hotel we had in the coffee shop. We could eat for free. You know, we had a lot of liberty, and they were very nice to us. And never he never. I've never felt threatened at all, ever never felt threatened until Lefty Rosenthal, according to Charles, when the Argent Corporation bought the Stardust and Lefty Rosenthal took up the role of entertainment director, the friendly relationships between the dancers and the mobsters ended.

They weren't fooling around. Thanks. Men meant business, you know, and dangerous business all of a sudden, working as a dancer at the Stardust became a frightening job. According to Charles, Lefty was a fanatic when it came to monitoring the weight of the dancers at the Stardust, for example. Every so often he would round up all the performers and weigh them on a meat scale. We actually had to be weighed in once a month, and you couldn't be £5 more or £5 less than your weight. Well, sometimes I'd have to go home. And, you know, I was so scared of gaining any weight whatsoever. So who was doing the way in? Was it they would show Rosenthal? Yeah. And the girls, the dancing newts and everything. They got so thin, so thin. And they breasts. We're like, shrinking and were with him in in the audience that would laugh at them because they were so small. And the lead dancing girl, she had to do one number where she was just in a little tiny bikini, that was it.

And the scene where she would fall on the floor and she was on her back. And I thought it was Her breast was sticking out the and it was her shoulder blades. You could see every ribbon. Her back, Charles says Lefty would also show up just about every night and sit right in the middle of the audience in a high price section referred to as Kings Row. Just watching and taking photos. He would sit there almost every night with all these cameras that he had, and he had these cameras that had lenses on them enormous as big as my hand, you know? And he'd be sitting there because he had to hold him with both hands. They were so large and so heavy. And I keep saying, What is he taking pictures? So what was he thinking? I don't know. I never saw the films. Although he can't say for sure what left he was taking photos of Charles is pretty sure that it wasn't. The dancers smiles. How did the other dancers feel about Rosenthal and terrified?

The girls were scared to death. I mean, they were really afraid because they didn't want to lose their jobs. And he was so strict with, you know, And it was it was scary. It was just really scary. Okay. While Lefty Rosenthal continued to serve as an entertainment director on paper, his off the books roll with Argent was to keep an eye on the mob skimming operations in a column published in the Review Journal. Jane and Morrison would right. He had various titles from food and beverage director to entertainment director, but it was no secret he was concerned with more than how many blueberries were in a blueberry muffin and how tall the showgirls were. Here's Jane Anne herself. He was basically making sure that the skin got to where it was going, that it was getting back to Chicago, that it was getting back to Kansas City. His his job was, uh, you know, he probably had something to do with show girls. He had a little fondness for Showgirls. That's the rumor. But basically he was overseeing the skim. That was his main job because Lefty was continually challenging Nevada's gaming laws.

There were Windows of time when he was barred from working out of the Argent casinos, so he found ways to work from home. Later on, when I had an opportunity to review uh to to see Frank Rosenthal's house, it was for sale at the Las Vegas Country Club. It contained all of this, uh, electronic equipment where he was actually staying at home when he actually couldn't report to the property and it was still involved in the business operations of the hotel electronically through direct wired cable television and and other other video capabilities. This is the home in the Las Vegas Country Club I visited at the beginning of this episode. There's a good picture of Lefty and his wife we found. And you can see it's in this kitchen. It's taken right here. Actually, the cabinets are all different clearly, but the fridge right here in the cabinets. So they were standing right here. That picture was taken. And to this day you can still see the wiring from all the electronic equipment Lefty installed to keep an eye on the Stardust.

Mhm. Thank you. Yeah. Yeah. This is the same thing. That's just all through there. And then you can see all the mhm to the wiring going upstairs. The room above us is the room where he had basically his office and all the monitors with the TVs and stuff after the break, Tony Spilotro makes a name for himself in Las Vegas. Yeah. Mm. No, Before the break, you heard about the outfits guy inside the Stardust and other Origin Corporation casinos. Lefty Rosenthal. Well, while lefty was keeping an eye on operations from the inside. Tony Spilotro was tasked with looking after the mobs interests on the outside and with keeping an eye on Lefty. Here's my museum vice president of exhibits and programs. Jeff Schumacher left. He was not a tough guy. He was, you know, a technician. Be well, so they needed to send a second person out to Las Vegas to, uh, to take care of tough, rough stuff.

And that was Tony Spilotro. Tony Spilotro, uh, was a was a soldier in the Chicago outfit. He was a killer, frankly, and a street boss, uh, in Chicago, and they sent him out to Las Vegas, I think, because they had high hopes for him and they thought he could eventually become a high level person within the outfit. Lefty was the mobs numbers guy, and Tony was the muscle. He then came in Las Vegas, and he was kind of a sidekick with Rosenthal and making sure the starters ran smoothly. Ultimately, though, Spilotro kind of went out on his own. He freelanced and he wanted everybody needed to make their own money because, you know, it's not like you get a salary from the mob. You you have to find ways to make money. And he might have gotten a piece of the skin, but he wanted more. And so he brought a crew out to Las Vegas. Uh, guys who knew from Chicago mostly and got involved with, uh, robberies, burglaries, extortion, loan sharking, Um, and with a particular talent for burglary, former organized crime strike force attorney Stan Huntington.

We were never able to indict Tony Spilotro for being part of the effort to skim money out of the casinos. He had his fingers in lots of other pies like loan sharking, burglary rings, stolen jewelry, that kind of thing. Just like Lefty Tony struggled to keep a low profile. Las Vegas newspapers first connected him to the mob in 1972 when he was charged with the torture murder of a loan shark back in Chicago after one of his co defendants, someone who has been said to have been considering rolling over on Tony, was killed by a shotgun blast to the chest. Tony was acquitted in 1973 but despite the acquittal, from then on out, Tony would serve as a de facto face of the mob in Las Vegas again. Here's former RG reporter and columnist Jane Anne Morrison. He was in bars, he was in restaurants, and one night I took a bunch of the RJ people.

I didn't take him. We went with a bunch of the RJ people and I went over to a bar that he hung out at the my place off of Maryland Parkway. And it was really interesting. We came in. He recognized me. He didn't recognize the others, but he recognized me and he sent drinks over to all of us. And at that time we all thought that was a big deal. We it was like George Clooney had sent drinks to us, and later I thought to myself, Why was I excited about that? You know he's the killer. Why did I? Why did I think that was a big deal? Of course, the the other reporters were impressed that we got free drinks. They were always impressed that we got free drinks from anybody. That's what reporters are like. Quick fact check. Yes, that pulls up Review. Journal reporter Jeff Gorman also told me about an encounter yet with Tony Spilotro at a bar in Las Vegas when he was just starting out as a reporter. And at this time, I was starting to cover Spilotro again early in my career. So we we go in, we sit in a booth and we see Spilotro at the bar, and there's nobody else in the joint.

It's just me, the other reporter, couple waitresses, a bartender and, uh, Spilotro and and the actor Robert Conrad, who was who became famous in those days for the in the lead role in the television series Wild Wild West. Spilotro was known to, from time to time hang out with celebrities, and he was one of them at the time. And so we we saw him and we said, Hey, should we? What should we do? And when the waitress came over, we had this idea to hey sent over drinks to those guys to spell out Mr Spilotro and his friend, and she goes over to Spilotro, starts talking to him, comes back and says, Um, you don't buy Mr Spy lateral drinks. He buys you drinks. Back in Chicago, Tony might have been considered a lower level member of the Mafia, but in Las Vegas. He was an underworld king, and the whole city was his domain. An anonymous casino owner would tell The Times in a series published in the Review Journal Quote.

Everybody on the Strip was scared to death of the little bastard Tony, stranded in and out of joints like Little Caesar, Spilotro was regarded as basically a soldier in the mob, which is a low level physician. He was a made member, which was an accomplishment within the mob. But he was a soldier who had a big territory, the lucrative casino skimming operations. And so he got so much more attention because of that, according to an l A Times study, more gangland murders took place in Nevada between 1971 and 1974. Spilotro is first four years in the state. Then, during the previous 25 years combined, rightfully or not, members of law enforcement made the connection between the uptick in Mafia style executions. Antonis arrival in Nevada Federal investigators believed that Tony Spilotro was responsible for more than two dozen murders.

This is my museum, vice president of exhibits and programs, Jeff Schumacher, who also pointed out that Tony was never actually convicted in a homicide case. Some people mistakenly attached any suspicious murder in the seventies in Las Vegas to Tony Spilotro. He didn't do everything. He didn't kill everybody. In one case, in March of 1974 Tony was arrested on suspicion of murder but released the next morning because the detectives who booked him were unable to tell a judge whom he was supposed to have killed. But it's reasonable to assume, uh, through the evidence that has come subsequent to his death, that he was definitely involved in rough stuff for the Chicago Mob and up to and including murder. And famously, you know, he was wanting to get information out of an individual who had, uh, given the outfit trouble. And he put the guys had an advice and squeeze device until the guys I popped out there is testimony to that effect.

Did that happen? I believe it did happen. One former Las Vegas police lieutenant would tell the times Every time there was a hit, we'd rush to splotches house. Little Tony would always be sitting there waiting for us. Polite as you please. Hi, fellas. Come on in. He'd say, Have a seat. Can I get you something? Should I call my lawyer? Tony's lawyer was a young, sharp defense attorney named Oscar Goodman. Here's Oscar talking about Tony Spilotro at a 2015 event held at the Mob Museum. We were in the system so many times, and he was arrested so many times that it got to a point where I picked up the phone and called a judge, and I said they arrested Tony again. We released him on his own recognizance and the judge said in this one particular instance, What's he arrested for? I said, Well, he's arrested for murder and the judge says who? When I said, Nobody knows, nobody will tell me who was killed and he let him out on his own recognizance. And then we had a hearing on a Sunday, uh, in state court, and the same thing took place.

Uh, the district attorney said, What am I here for? They didn't have a victim. I mean, that's what was happening in those days. Oscars response to those who refer to Tony as a killer is pretty much the same today as it was in the 19 seventies. If he committed 26 murders and never spent a day in jail. Shame on the people who were supposed to solve these murders. As he's saying, this Oscar is sitting on a panel with a couple of former FBI agents. Deborah Rashard, an agent who was part of the team surveilling Tony Spilotro in the 19 seventies, responds. Don't you think when somebody has been charged with 26 murders that maybe there's some substance to it? Marc Casper splotches case agent with the FBI, also chimes in. Probably the reason Tony Spilotro was not ever, ever really convicted. And he got rid of all the evidence, which means he eliminated the other people that could that could implicate him. Well, that's you know, that's a That's a pretty strong, uh, accusation. He wasn't charged with those if he would agree if he was charged with him and bring him to trial. Let me defend him now.

If you spent some time in Las Vegas, you probably know this voice pretty well. Oscar Goodman would later serve three terms as the mayor of Las Vegas, and he's now married to the city's current mayor, Carolyn Goodman. If you ask me, it's one of the more incredible stories in a city full of incredible stories. He was the best defender of the bad guys in America. This is former Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who's known Oscar for most of his career. We were peers. We started practicing law about the same time he worked for originally from Morton. Blaine was really a good lawyer, well, eccentric, but a terrific lawyer. And Oscar is probably told people this publicly. But he told me that how he got involved with the so called bad guys when he first came to Las Vegas, his wife was still in Philadelphia, and so every night he would go home and stop. I believe I'm almost certain it was a house and, um, and play cards 21 or something as we play. And so he got to know people there and he didn't play large sums of money, quite the opposite.

And one time one of the pit bosses came in and said, We have somebody who's a criminal problem. Can you help us? Yeah, sure, sure. He had never had a criminal case before, but that's how you got started representing these bad guys over time. Oscar Goodman's list of clients would include a number of high profile reputed mobsters, including Meyer Lansky, Lefty Rosenthal and, of course, Tony Spilotro. Oscar was always very upfront with who he was. He criticized the federal government for how they prosecuted cases. And he, uh, truly believe that they were being unfair to US clans who were bad guys. So he didn't hide anything he wasn't. He was a very honorable, ethical liar. Oscar would become known as a mouthpiece for the mob, but the way he saw his work, as he told the Review Journal in the eighties, is that he wasn't defending mobsters. He was simply defending people accused of crimes who had as much right to a fair trial as anyone else in this country. In his words quote, Should a doctor turn away a leper because he doesn't like the smell of the disease?

I was there every day with these fellas. I had no idea that there was a mob RJ reporter Jeff Gorman, one of the things that splotch that Goodman would often say when reporters pressed him about Spilotro mob organized crime activities, he says there is no there is no Mafia in Las Vegas, he would always say that there is no Mafia. I don't know what you're talking about. There's no Mafia. I'd rather have this guy spell lateral in the presence of my wife and other women in my life than an FBI agent. That was one of his famous quotes. So it's constantly denying that there was organized crime and Spilotro was part of it. As the 19 seventies went on, attention from the media and law enforcement was making life more and more difficult for Tony. During his first few years in Vegas, Tony have been using casino gift shops as a front for some of his less reputable dealings. By the mid 19 seventies, that was no longer an option, So Splattered became too hot to be in a casino.

He moved over to a a jewelry store called the Gold Rush on Sahara Avenue just right off the strip, and it was right next door to the the famous Golden Steer steakhouse, which still exists today. And from there he ran his his fencing operation of stolen jewelry and all the other things that he would be doing, according to an L A time series published in the review Journal in the 19 eighties. Tony's new base, The Gold Rush included a buzzer operated front door, sophisticated police radio scanners. Guns kept him to the front counter and spotters with binoculars. Keeping lookout from the second floor from an upstairs office in the Gold Rush. Tony was allegedly running a growing criminal organization of illegal bookmakers, loan sharks, hitmen and burglars. The network even included a couple members of law enforcement who had been corrupted. Former Review Journal writer Fill Level would write that around this time. Tony quote extended his underworld authority to Southern California, where his troops became active in murder for hire, bookmaking, extortion, loan sharking and other crimes.

End quote level also notes that Spilotro was at the height of his power in 1977 but law enforcement was determined to take that power away, and they were turning up the heat. Former organized Crime Strike force attorney Stan Huntington. He had a lot of company in terms of being followed around wiretaps, that kind of thing. The wiretaps are hard to follow. These guys speak in code. Some of them use Italian slang, and most of the tapes sound like they were recorded on a potato. Here's an example from a call picked up between Tony Spilotro and Carl Tuffy DeLuna, a reputed underboss of the mob in Kansas City. The two were apparently talking about a possible sale of the Stardust Hotel DeLuca states. I truly think it would be detrimental. And Spilotro replies, I sure do. I understand that very well. De Luna. If I could be with you in person, I could go into it a little better with you.

Their reasoning. Spilotro No, I'm all for that. I agree. I hate I hate that shit. I ain't a scam guy. I remember one of my favorite lines from all the many hundreds of hours of wiretaps that I listened to. Spilotro was on the phone with one of his hoodlum friends, and the guy was complaining that he thought the FBI was following him and parking outside his house at night and the usual sort of gangster complaint about law enforcement. And Tony said in solace to this guy, it's the G standing for government.

It's the G. They never sleep. Stan Huntington also told me about one of his first face to face encounters with Tony Spilotro in the federal courts building in Las Vegas. Stan was walking into the grand jury room, and in his words, Tony thought it would be funny to stand in front of the entrance, blocking his way. I explained him quite nicely that he ought to move, although even on a podcast, I don't think I can use the exact language. But the point was not that I'm so brave. Tough. The point was, back in those days, we would sometimes look each other in the eye, and it's true, Uh, Spilotro had shark eyes. Just, uh, if you've watched any of those nature films, when the shark comes in towards the bait or whatever, it's going to eat that blank dead look. And those were Tony's eyes on Part six of Mobbed Up.

We sit down with a gaming official who battled the mob before going on to become one of Nevada's most well known politicians. So I said, Is this the money? And these guys had locked the door behind them when they came in so I could hear the FBI trying to get in. But I was in there with those guys. Mhm. Uh huh. This has been Part five of Mobbed Up, a production of the Las Vegas Review Journal in partnership with the Mob Museum. If you don't want to miss our next episode, and why would you make sure you subscribe to the series on Apple podcasts, Spotify or any other podcasting platform? Help us out if you have a second by leaving a rating and review on Apple podcasts and sharing this episode on social media. Mobbed up is reported and produced by me. Read Redmond. If you have any tips, feedback questions or a mob story of your own, find me on Twitter at Red Redmond Morrison, An email to our Redmond at review journal dot com. Our sound designer and engineer for this series is Jonathan McMichael, who also composed our theme song thanks to Jeff Morgan for Showing Me Around Lefty Rosenthal's former home.

Thanks also to everyone who shared their expertise, experience and insight with me for this episode. Jeff Silver, Michael Green, Bill Owsley, Jeff Gorman, Jane and Morrison Stand hunter. 10. Senator Harry Reid. Gary Jenkins, who hosts a podcast about the mob called Gangland Wire, and Jeff Schumacher from the Mob Museum. Some of the audio used in our intro, as well as clips noted throughout the episode comes from the Oral History Research Center at the UNLV Library. Special collections and archives, music and sound effects 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 for tuning in, and, as always, we'll see you right back here next week.

The Argent Empire | S1E5
The Argent Empire | S1E5
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