THIEF! The Gutsy, True Story of an Ex-Con Artist

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THIEF! character, Vince Eli

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

1960 Presidential Election Reeks of Corruption

If you think this year's presidential voting is fixed, corrupt or just plain weird, many of you may remember another election year in 1960 between JFK and Richard Nixon:

Some Republicans and historians have alleged that Kennedy benefited from vote fraud, especially in Texas and Illinois, and that Nixon actually won the national popular vote despite the fact that Republicans tried and failed to overturn the results in both these states at the time--as well as in nine other states. These two states are important because if Nixon had carried both, he would have won the election in the electoral college.

Kennedy won Illinois by less than 9,000 votes out of 4.75 million cast, even though Nixon carried 92 of the state's 101 counties. Kennedy's victory in Illinois came from the city of Chicago, where Mayor Richard J. Daley held back much of Chicago's vote until the late morning hours of November 9. The efforts of Daley and the powerful Chicago Democratic organization gave Kennedy an extraordinary Cook County victory margin of 450,000 votes --- more than 10% of Chicago's 1960 population of 3.55 million -- thus (barely) overcoming the heavy Republican vote in the rest of Illinois. Earl Mazo, a reporter for the pro-Nixon New York Herald Tribune, investigated the voting in Chicago and claimed to have discovered sufficient evidence of vote fraud to prove that the state was stolen for Kennedy.

Slick remembers that election very well. He was working as a bartender at a Chicago Outfit strip club called the Showboat. Giancana warned all of the strip club workers that they had better get down to the polls and vote for JFK or else... If that wasn't enough of a warning, the Chicago Alderman stationed at the polls told all the mob associates they'd break the hands of anyone who didn't vote Democrat. Slick needed no further encouragement.

It's also true that Nixon sent his brother Don to Meyer Lansky to appeal for help in his campaign against JFK. Nixon needed money, the union vote, and the State of Illinois, heavily controlled by the mob. But Meyer refused to support Nixon who he viewed as dishonest and power hungry. Nixon’s loss to JFK prompted Nixon to tell Bebe Rebozo, “I’ll destroy Meyer Lansky some day.” It never happened.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

No More Lefty

At 79, Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal has departed planet earth... cause: apparent heart attack. The famous odds maker and infamous mob associate now calls the shots in that "sportsbook in the sky" we'll all visit sooner or later.

Back when the mob had teeth, Slick was juiced in as a Stardust Casino BJ dealer by Tony Spilotro. Slick remembers Lefty strutting around in his designer suits whose colors would knock your eyeballs out. One day Slick spotted Lefty and told him that pointy-toed shoes were out. Lefty never uttered a word. The next day somebody tapped Slick on the shoulder. It was Lefty silently pointing to his shoes. They had round toes.

But Slick could never figure out why oddball Lefty set off a bomb in one of the Stardust restrooms. One thing was sure: Lefty played by his own set of rules.

John L. Smith says it best in his obit:

Here's another take on Lefty, compliments of
Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal - Las Vegas Casino Czar for the Chicago Outfit - Dies in Miami Beach
Bookmaker and former casino boss Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal died in Florida on Monday at age 79, according to family members and a source at his high-rise condominium complex in Miami Beach, Fla.Rosenthal was a minor celebrity confined to the world of gambling, organized crime and Las Vegas society until the 1995 movie "Casino," which was based on his life story, propelled him to a much higher level of fame — and notoriety.
Rosenthal's passing marks the close of yet another chapter in the transformation of Las Vegas from a gambling destination of ill-repute to a global destination celebrated by everyday tourists, politicians and corporate leaders who invest billions of dollars in resorts.
"He was the innovator and creator of what we know today as the race and sports book in Las Vegas with all the modern accoutrements," said Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, a former attorney who represented Rosenthal in high-profile scrapes with Nevada regulators, including now-Sen. Harry Reid. "He was an uncanny bettor and won a lot more than he lost."
Goodman painted Rosenthal as the type of boss who represented the best of Las Vegas, in terms of how to run a good casino. "He was the kind of guy who, when working in the casino industry, would see a cigarette butt on the floor, pick it up himself and dispose of it," Goodman said. "And then he'd fire the employee whose job was to have picked it up in the first place."
Rosenthal was also a controversial figure whose life story was entwined with the emergence of Las Vegas as a destination for money mobsters sought to launder through legal casinos.
His childhood was spent learning the gambling trade through illegal bookmaking operations run by organized crime figures from the Midwest. He made connections that fueled his rise and instigated his downfall later in Las Vegas.
Rosenthal was born June 12, 1929, in Chicago and spent the 1930s in Chicago. When he arrived in Nevada in 1968, he discovered that gambling could not only be profitable but a ticket to prominence in a place where his occupation was the subject of reverence, not scorn.
"When I was a kid growing up in Chicago, if you walked around with a ... card in your hand, you were subject to be arrested or harassed, at least," Rosenthal said in 1997 during an interview with the PBS program "Nightline." "On the other hand, if you want to go to Las Vegas, Nevada, you can do the same thing and be quite respectable."
The word "respectable" was a loaded phrase when it came to Rosenthal.
When he moved to Las Vegas, he had already gained some level of notoriety for an appearance in 1961 before a Senate hearing on gambling and organized crime during which he invoked Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination 38 times.
An indictment in California in 1971 for conspiracy in interstate transportation in aid of racketeering helped prevent the bookmaker Rosenthal from getting a Nevada gaming license, a situation that angered him for years after he left Las Vegas. A 1963 conviction stemming from an attempt to bribe college basketball players later landed him on a short list of people excluded from Nevada casinos. But lack of a license didn't stop him from holding sway over operations at the Stardust, Hacienda, Fremont and Marina casinos when they were owned or controlled by the Argent Corp., and financier Allen Glick. Glick was the purported front man for Midwestern mob bosses who controlled the casinos through Argent, which was funded in part through loans from the Teamsters union.During an interview with a magazine reporter in 1975, the unlicensed Rosenthal landed himself in hot water with regulators when he said, "Glick is the financial end, but the policy comes from my office."
Rosenthal's problems were exacerbated by personal and business connections to reputed mobster Tony Spilotro.
Spilotro wound up being indicted in a skimming scheme, along with about 14 others, which also sealed Rosenthal's fate with gaming regulators, who ended up putting both men in Nevada's Black Book of persons excluded from casinos.
Spilotro also wound up having an affair with Rosenthal's estranged wife, Geri, a situation law enforcement authorities later claimed as evidence Spilotro tried to kill Rosenthal.
"Obviously there were things going on," Rosenthal told the Fort Lauderdale (Fla) Sun-Sentinel in 1995. "There are more tricks in the trade than I can ever describe to you. But I think some of it (the federal inquiry) was exaggerated."
Later in the Sun-Sentinel story, Rosenthal acknowledged there was little chance he could escape the notorious shadow of Spilotro. "In retrospect, his reputation and the fact that we were boyhood friends — there was no way for me to overcome it," Rosenthal told the newspaper.
Others' suggested that Rosenthal was more than just boyhood friends with rough characters.
The Sun-Sentinel story included claims by Glick that Rosenthal made lethal threats when he didn't get his way.
Glick paraphrased Rosenthal's approach as, "If you interfere with any of the casino operations or try to undermine anything I want to do here ... you will never leave this corporation alive."
But in the end, it was Rosenthal who was on the wrong end of lethal threats.On Oct. 4, 1982, in a parking lot outside a Marie Callendar's restaurant on East Sahara Avenue, Rosenthal turned the key in his Cadillac and ignited a fiery explosion that ruined the car but didn't kill him.
Rosenthal left Las Vegas after the bombing but remained in the headlines throughout the 1980s as the government sorted through the dirty laundry of the Las Vegas gambling industry in myriad court proceedings.
Rosenthal also sought to appeal his spot in the Black Book, an effort that was denied in 1990. At the time then-Gaming Control Board member Gerald Cunningham said allowing Rosenthal back into the business would represent, "a threat to Nevada's gaming industry.
"The 1995 movie, "Casino," directed by Martin Scorcese and starring Robert DeNiro as a Sam "Ace" Rothstein, was essentially an idealized version of Rosenthal and boosted Rosenthal's fame later in life.
He also maintained a Web site that offered gambling "tips and tricks."On Tuesday, Goodman said there was a side to Rosenthal that was largely unknown to moviegoers, gambling regulators and business associates. "What I saw through representing him since 1972 until I was elected a mayor was a different side, a loyal friend and a loving parent who doted over his kids," Goodman said.
Rosenthal himself told the Sun-Sentinel his Las Vegas story was poorly told, especially by those in law enforcement. "Rumors and bull(expletive)," he told the paper. "That's the No. 1 industry in Nevada."

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fred Pascente

Several years ago, just after the article below hit the news, Slick and I attended the grand opening of Freddy Pascente's nightclub in the famous South Beach district of Miami Beach. Slick knew Fred from years ago when Fred was a regular in Las Vegas.

A few days prior to the opening we kibitzed with Freddy. To say that he was unhappy about his listing in Nevada's Black Book of excluded persons was like saying Joan of Arc was a little upset about being burned at the stake as a heretic.

As you can imagine, the gala was quite and affair complete with hot women, rocking music and flowing booze. Freddy the fine host, allowed us to experience the "inner sanctum" portion of the nightclub where the real deals went down. Therefore it came as no surprise when we were politely asked to leave when major players were ushered in to be wined and dined.

Rumors ran rampant about why the nightclub folded so quickly after its opening. Perhaps it was only intended to enjoy a brief run?

Read below for more about Fred Pascente...

Allegations Against 'Crazy Horse Too' (Part 2)
November 22, 2002
Glen Meek Reporting

It's a topless club with a reputation for hard-nosed bouncers -- but do some of the workers have ties to mob figures? News 3 'Investigator' Glen Meek has been digging deeper into allegations made against the "Crazy Horse Too" topless club by a man injured there.

Crazy Horse President Rick Rizzolo has admitted rubbing-elbows with men in gaming's "black book" -- and others linked to organized crime. But the company he keeps also includes some of Southern Nevada's top politicians.

Literally behind the glitter of the Crazy Horse Too topless club is the grit of an auto repair shop. It's owned by Former Pro Wrestler, Buffalo Jim Barrier. From his neighboring business -- Barrier has seen a lot of strange things at the Crazy Horse. "Yeah, I've seen bouncers out in the parking lot beating people. I've seen people coming into my place all bloody." Barrier took pictures of a Kansas tourist crumpled in the Crazy Horse parking lot in September of 2001. Kirk Henry's neck was broken as he left the club after a dispute over his tab. He's now a quadriplegic. "The management of this club should be severely punished for allowing thugs and criminals to beat up the clients that come into this place, and I think the place should be shut down." Henry is suing the Crazy Horse -- alleging there's an environment of lawlessness in the club.

The man suspected of assaulting Henry -- Shift Manager, Bobby D'Apice. D'Apice has previous arrests for domestic battery, battery on an officer and carrying a concealed weapon. In a videotaped deposition made for Henry's lawsuit, Crazy Horse President Rick Rizzolo was asked about his hiring of men with criminal backgrounds. "Prior to hiring your employees do you inquire of them as to what their criminal history is?" "No." "Why not?" "We believe in giving everybody a shot." "Irrespective of what their criminal histories might be?" "Yeah."

Rizzolo's view on background checks may help explain why there are a number of ex-felons or men with mob ties at the Crazy Horse. Men like Shift Manager, Vinnie Faraci... son of reputed "Bonnano" crime family soldier... "Johnnie Green" Faraci of New York." "Does Mr. Faraci have any criminal history?" "Yes." "What is his criminal history?" "Insurance fraud. I know about that because he was working for me when he was arrested." Crazy Horse bartender Joe Blasko also has a criminal history. He's a former corrupt Metro cop convicted in the 1980's for taking part in a mob-run burglary ring. "You know he has a criminal history but you don't know what it's for?" "I think it had something to do with Bertha's Jewelry store, but I don't remember what -- if you mean the conviction I don't know what that was all about."

Mr. Rizzolo's memory was also fuzzy about his Shift Manager Ray Randazzo. "Are you aware of Mr. Randazzo's criminal history?" "I know he has one, I don't know what it's for." "It's for drug trafficking."

Then there's Fred Pascente -- former Chicago cop and former employee of Chicago's version of the Crazy Horse -- which pays Rizzolo a 20-thousand dollar a month consulting fee. You'll find Pascente in Nevada's Black book --excluded from casinos for alleged links to organized crime. "Are you aware of any arrests of Mr. Pascente in Las Vegas?" "Yes." "How is it that you're aware he was arrested?" "I was standing next to him." Rizzolo says he ended his association with Pascente after his inclusion in the black book.

Then there's Rocco Lombardo, floorman at the Crazy Horse. You may have heard of his brother Joey -- named in published reports as a top advisor to the Chicago mob. "Is that "Joey the Clown"'s Brother?" "I don't know. His brother's named Joey -- I don't know if he's a clown or not." While professing ignorance of "Joey the Clown" -- Rizzolo was certain to recognize this next name -- until his lawyers shut him up. "Do you know Joseph Cusamano?" "He's not answering that based on counsel." "Are you refusing to answer the question?" "Yes."

Joseph Cusamano was placed in Nevada's black book in 1990 -- for criminal convictions and alleged mob connections. You'll note Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman was Cusamano's lawyer at the time. Though Rizzolo has hobnobbed with black book and mob figures -- his social circle also includes prominent Nevada politicians. Rizzolo's friendship with City Councilman Michael McDonald -- but McDonald says he's never taken campaign cash from Rizzolo and doesn't vote on issues involving the Crazy Horse. But Kirk Henry and his wife Amy can't help but wonder if Rizzolo's political connections keep government officials from taking too close a look at the club's liquor license. "And I can't understand what kind of city or state would allow a place like this to remain in business."

"The man suspected of hurting Mr. Henry -- has not been charged with anything at this point." He and his lawyer declined comment. Mr. Rizzolo was advised by his lawyer not to go on camera with us -- but the attorney did fax a statement that reads in part:

"We strongly dispute the idea that Crazy Horse Too has not done enough to maintain order and civility within the club."

"Given that more than a thousand people a day come to visit the Crazy Horse -- it is unavoidable that the occasional incident will occur." In this case -- Rizzolo's lawyers suggest Mr. Henry fell in the parking lot -- and was not attacked.

But our own investigation indicates there are witnesses who saw Henry being assaulted.The FBI and metro would like to hear from anyone who might have seen what happened to Mr. Henry. The two agencies are working together on a probe of incidents at the Crazy Horse Too.