Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Quiet Politics in a Quiet Town

Dennis N. Griffin. The Battle for Las Vegas: The Law vs. The Mob. Las Vegas, NV: Huntington Press, 2006.
John McCarthy was elected Sheriff in 1978 after running as a reformer.  17 year incumbent Ralph Lamb was defeated.  Sheriff McCarthy promoted several Detectives and Patrolmen to upper level management.  Several more senior and experience people sued.
McCarthy believed there was corruption and discriminating actions happening in the Sheriff’s department.  McCarthy fired an Undersheriff who ran against him four years later.
McCarthy went after organized crime. Tony Spilotro was a key target of investigation by McCarthy as well as the FBI.
In 1910, Nevada passed a law prohibiting gambling, even disallowing a customary coin flip for paying for a drink.  Las Vegas was incorporated in 1911 with a population around 800.  Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, had a population of 3,321.
The 1930 population of Las Vegas was 5,165.  In 1931, Nevada legalized gambling and issued six gaming licenses.  Divorce law was changed allowing for divorce after six weeks of residency.  The Hoover Dam was built which was a huge factor in improving the Nevada economy.  Las Vegans soon was a center of gambling and six week residents in hotels.
The first Las Vegas Strip casino was El Rancho Vegas in 1941.  The first casino believed build with organized crime influence was the Flamingo, which was controlled by Bugsy Siegel.
Siegel helped create the Trans-America wire service that wired nationwide horse race results to bookmakers.  Since this activity was legal in Nevada, Siegel in the 1940s charged Las Vegas bookmakers $25,000 monthly.  
Siegel observed there was an uncompleted and failed casino called the Flamingo.  He obtained financing and finished building the Flamingo as a casino and high scale hotel for $6 million.  $1 million of that was to provide each guest room its own sewer pipes.  
Siegel owed the Del Webb Construction Company $2 million for building the Flamingo.  Meanwhile, the Chicago mob took control of Trans-American’s rival.  Siegel then told his New York organized crime associated he needed $2 million to keep Trans-American operational.  The New York mobsters were stunned by Siegel’s bravado.  Around the same time, Los Angeles bookmakers expressed displeasure over the high costs of mob influences forcing them to use two wire services.  Siegel reacted angrily toward them and gave them no breaks.  The Flamingo opened to small attendance.  It was operating at a loss.  Siegal closed the Flamingo temporarily after two weeks. A conference of mobsters was convened, and Siegl was not invited.  Siegel met with Charlie “Lucky” Luciano. Luciano told Siegel to give his wire service to the Chicago mob. Siegel refused.
The Flamingo reopened in 1947 and began running at a profit.  Siegel was shot to death.
Morris “Moe” Daliz arrived in Las Vegas in 1949.  He completed an abandoned building project and opened the Desert Inn casino.
Tony Accardo was a member of the Chicago mob who rose to the top of the Chicago mob.  Joe Aiuppa became the head of the Chicago mob.  Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal was a Chicago odds maker and bookmaker.  Ronsenthal moved to work in Las Vegas at the Stardust as casino manager.
Tony Spilotro represented Chicago mob interests in Las Vegas.  It was noted money was skimmed from tables and slot machines before it was counted. Scales were altered to misread how much was taken.  Managers and employees knew not to question where that money went. Spilotro began loan sharking.  He did not directly challenge the leading Las Vegas lonashark, Guspare Anedetto Speciale.  Spilotro slowly increased his share of the business and then took control of Las Vegas loansharking when Speciale was imprisoned. Spilotro moved into selling stoen goods. Spilotro sent a share of his earnings back to the Chicago mob. 
The Gaming Control Board, aware of Spiotro’s crime connections, had him removed from operating out of the Dunes.  He then began operating from a private country clumb founded by Moe Dalitz.  
The FBI raided Spilotro yet he was able to destroy evidence before they reached it. A Judge threw out the evidence gathering for going beyond what was authorized in the warrant.
Lefty Rosenthal was denied being hired by a casino due to his associations with mob figures.  Nevada law prevented any casino hiring anyone with crime connections expect if the person is an entertainer.  Rosenthal was hired as Entertainment Director at the Stardust.  He was given a weekly TV show.
Las Vegas population reached 400,000 in 1978 with about 11 million tourists during the year.  In 1973, the Clark County Sheriff and Las Vegas Police merged and became the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, or Metro. Sheriff Ralph Lamb led Metro, with John Moran, former Las Vegas Chief of Police, as Undersheriff.  The merger did not go smoothly between officers.
IN 1977, Sheriff Lamb was indicted for income tax evasion for unprepared loans from Benny Binion, a casino owner.  Also, Lamb had connections and used them.  His brother’s bar supply company had a contract with almost every resort hotel. The head of Vice, Narcotics, and Juvenile Bureau, John McCarthy decided to run against Lamb
McCarthy won the support of the Clark County Republican Party. Lamb was acquitted and ran for reelection. McCarthy won.  Gary Lang, the new Metro Legal Advisor, received a bomb threat. Officers passed over for promotion brought a class action law suit against McCarthy. The Intelligence Bureau was reorganized with people suspected of mob relations removed.
Metro investigated Spilotro with constant surveillance. Metro and the FBI agreed to work together.
McCarthy was criticized for his handling of a situation where three prisoners took three corrections officers as hostages. McCarthy stayed in the background, stating he would let professional negotiators handle the situation.  Two prisoners died as the prisoners fought amongst themselves.
The NAACP charged Metro with abusing African Americans.  McCarthy replied that the instances were of disrespect, not abuse. He met with NAACP officials regarding their concerns.
The Intelligence Bureau was claimed to have used suspicious tactics and to have threatened those who complained.
Metro suspected Spilotro was behind murders, including the killing of someone whose testimey could have brought others to testify against Spilotro.
McCarthy had some personal problems. He divorced his wife. His son was arrested for selling drugs to an undercover agent.
A Judge ruled that creating Metro was unconstitutional. Metro had a year of uncertainty while the case was on appeal.
The local newspaper reported Metro had under surveillance John Moran, former Undersheriff, and Beecher Avants, the Clark County District Attorney’s Chief Investigator.  Moran and Avants were potential opponent to McCarthy’s reelection. McCarthy believed Moran created the story.
Spilotro’s attorneys and others filed a class action suit against the surveillance program.  They claimed it was harassment and that they used false pretensions to imprison people in violation of their rights.
The state legislature passed legislation that resolved legal concerns on the creation of Metro.  The lawsuit to dissolve Metro was dropped.
John Moran defeated McCarthy. Moran ran on a promise to bring street prostitution under control in 90 days.  This was done.  McCarthy left office noting the difficulty in fighting organized crime.
Tony Spilotro was charged in torture murders in Illinois.  He was tried and acquitted, even to the surprise of his attorney. Ten years later, the Judge in the case was convicted of taking bribes in a different murder case.
Tony Spilotro and his brother Michael was beaten to death in Chicago in 1986.  No one was charged with their murders until 2005, when members of the Chicago mob were charged with their murders and for 16 other murders.


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