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

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THIEF! character, Vince Eli

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lansky's Money-making Tips

It was the late 1920s and the Mob's financial genius, Meyer Lansky the visionary, was telling his associates, Frank Costello, Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Siegel how they were going to make money after the stock market crashed.

Lansky said that everyone was investing in the stock market, including his fiancĂ©. But Lansky advised her to sell all her stocks even though he was the one who told her to invest. She thought he was crazy. Even the kid who shined his shoes told Lansky he had fifteen shares of some stock. Lansky explained to his friends that they must get out of the stock market now, even if they took a loss. The few millionaires who controled the market were bigger crooks than anyone could imagine. They knew the market was extremely over-bought and couldn't go up forever. The day would come when the big investors would sell every stock they owned. Without them in the market, the bottom would fall out. Some of Lansky's gang scoffed at his words. To that he answered that you don’t need a crystal ball. You simply need to know what’s happened in the past and, most importantly, why. Then you can predict what will happen in the future.

Lansky described the conditions following WWI. In 1919, after the war, people went wild buying stocks that almost doubled in value overnight. But the Wall Street brokers never bought. They only sold. If stocks were such a good investment, why weren’t they buying?

It was because the market was inflated. The brokers knew it was getting ready to go bust. And when it did, those pieces of paper would be worthless. After the market crashed, great business opportunities came along. The suckers who believed the brokers about getting rich were selling their houses and businesses for ten cents on the dollar. None of the Lansky gang had the money or knowledge to take advantage back then.

He told his associates he thought it would take less than a year for the bottom to drop out. By then they'd be in an excellent position with ready cash. When the American dream ends, they would be the only ones with the liquid assets to buy what was left for peanuts. Lansky, true to his word, purchased land and legitimate businesses for a fraction of their real value.

Maybe Meyer's advice comes a tad late f0r those who lost money recently. But his wise words bear remembering.

I think Lansky would have spotted the likes of a Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme right off the bat. Madoff was pitching gains that were farfetched by any real standards. However, greed blinds people. Many investors lost their shirts believing Bernie Madoff knew how to make gobs of money. He did...for Bernie Madoff.


Friday, February 20, 2009

In case you had any doubts...

It's official: Poker is NOT a game of chance.

A South Carolina judge ruled that Texas Hold 'em is a game of skill. Really? Was it ever in question? Apparently, it's a ruling that could prevent police from arresting poker players.

A Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina judge wrote that there is "overwhelming" evidence the game is one of skill, not chance. South Carolina state law prohibits gambling on games of chance with cards or dice.

And I thought the fact that poker is not a game of chance was already established!?

What's your take on the topic?


Thursday, February 19, 2009

THIEF! featured in Las Vegas Review-Journal

Slick got a phone call from an old friend, Sam Raguso who appeared in our book Thief! Sam was all excited over seeing himself in an excerpt from the book and wondered how he could get a copy. Slick told him there are very few left, but he could get one at Borders Books at McCarran Airport or through Amazon, which can be accessed through our Website:

Here's the piece that appeared in the Spring Valley edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal thanks to journalist Ginger Meurer:


Who killed Bugsy Siegel? Who made Marilyn Monroe's murder look like an accidental overdose? William Slick Hanner claims to know the answers to those mysteries and more, many of which he shares in "Thief! The Gutsy, True Story of an Ex-Con Artist," written with Cherie Rohn.

The story follows Hanner from his 1932 Chicago birth through a series of encounters with the Mafia in Chicago, Miami and finally Las Vegas. In addition to his brushes with organized crime, Hanner worked in gaming,
drove a limo for the Chicken Ranch and served as Jerry Lewis' bodyguard.

The author can be found from 11a.m. to 4 p.m. most Mondays signing books at the McCarran International Airport Borders.
For more information, visit
Here's the excerpt Fred was talking about that appears on page 265 when Slick ran the poker room at the Landmark Casino in Las Vegas. Slick is narrating:

The day I discovered the gun, Sam Raguso [Slick's swing shift manager] was on duty. I made sure no one was listening. "Do you know who's gun that is in the cash drawer?"

"Yeah Slick. It's Fred's. When we counted down the cash before his shift last week, Fred told me he was worried that Sam Manarite's son might try to get even, since Fred's seeing Barbara. The gun's for Fred's protection, just in case the Manarite kid gets any goofy ideas."

I kept all this to myself, waiting for the right opportunity. Well, everything came to a head when the cage manager, a very reliable friend of mine, told me Fred was after my job. The next day, sure enough, there was Fred yacking it up with Barbara in the coffee shop. The minute Fred came back, I montioned him over to the podium, handed him a pink slip and fired him on the spot. Fred's face turned the color of the crimson wallpaper.

"You can't do that!" he shouted.

"I just did," I answered.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Card Counting: Is it Legal?

So what do I do while I'm waiting for the economy to go north? I'm writing a blackjack card counter's story, that's what. It's really a fascinating account with lots of colorful side stories and characters along the way.

The upshot is that while most card counting is either done in large teams or solo, the card counter whose story I'm writing has devised a system for just 2 advantage players. He takes the reader step-by-step through card-counting secrets that no other source has revealed. It will be a new twist on a topic that already has a huge following.

Anyway, I have a couple of questions:

1. Presently card counting is legal. Should it be?

2. Do you believe considerable money can be made counting cards?

Readers, what do you think?


Friday, February 6, 2009

Spilotro Brothers Reap Revenge

The second big shot in Chicago's mob hierarchy gets life in prison. The following piece appeared in the blog,

In the long history of the Chicago Outfit, few murders have captured national attention like the killings of Anthony and Michael Spilotro, two brothers found battered and buried in an Indiana cornfield in 1986.

On Thursday, the man reputed to be the one-time head of the Chicago mob stood before a federal judge with an emotionless stare, his hands folded in front of him as he prepared to hear his sentence for his role in the Spilotro killings. James Marcello's expression didn't change as U.S. District Judge James Zagel sentenced him to life behind bars. Marcello was believed to be the highest-ranking mobster felled by the 2007 Family Secrets mob conspiracy trial, and he was held responsible for its marquee murder.

The Spilotros were killed for bringing too much heat to the mob's lucrative arm in Las Vegas, then headed by Anthony Spilotro. The brothers' deaths were immortalized in the movie "Casino," which showed them being beaten with bats in a farmer's dark field.

The Family Secrets trial cleared up many of the myths surrounding the killings. Testifying for the government, mob turncoat Nicholas Calabrese explained how the brothers were actually lured to a suburban Chicago home with the promise of promotions but were jumped in a basement by a hit team.

In some of the most riveting testimony of the trial, Calabrese recounted how the men walked down the basement stairs. Realizing his fate, Anthony Spilotro asked whether he could say a prayer.

That moment was not lost on one of their brothers, Patrick Spilotro, a suburban dentist who aided federal authorities in the Family Secrets investigation. Spilotro was one of three relatives to address the court during Marcello's sentencing hearing and ask for a just punishment. Those who "denied my brothers a prayer . . ." he said, his voice trailing off, "deserve no mercy.

"Prosecutors alleged Marcello drove Calabrese and others to the murder scene. He might have known how his actions would hurt others, Patrick Spilotro said, as Marcello lost his father in an Outfit killing.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Markus Funk argued for a stiff sentence, describing Marcello as more cunning, courteous and adept than the other mob figures at the trial. In short, he was management material. "That is why he, unlike them, is in a different position in the Outfit," Funk said.

Marcello's lawyers, Marc Martin and Thomas Breen, told the judge there was little they could say that had not been repeated often during the trial. Marcello pleaded not guilty and always maintained his innocence, they said. "Mr. Marcello has denied his involvement in the Spilotro brothers' murder as well as [a third murder]," Breen said. "That's all he can do.

"When Zagel offered him a chance to address the court, Marcello declined, as many convicted reputed mobsters have historically done.

The judge then echoed Funk as he handed down the sentence, saying Marcello had shown self-control and judgment throughout the trial, unlike others who had sometimes come unglued. It was most significant to Zagel that "you could have done better," the judge told Marcello. "You know how to do better.

"Marcello spent most of the hearing looking relaxed in a dark olive suit, even when the son of another of his victims turned from the courtroom lectern to stare him down. Bob D'Andrea's father, Nicholas, was beaten to death in 1981 while mob leaders were questioning him about an unauthorized attempt on the life of a ranking Outfit member.

D'Andrea told Marcello to imagine his father's pain as he was beaten with the butt of a shotgun while tied up in the back of a car. One day, Marcello will have to explain himself to God, D'Andrea said. "I hope Mr. Marcello has some good answers for him," he said. "That's not life. That's eternity.

"At the defense table, Marcello sat still, one hand resting on his cheek.

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Monday, February 2, 2009

No Clowning Matter

Life in prison is no clowning matter. Photo of Joey Lombardo
at right soon after his capture in 2006. Here's the latest:

CHICAGO (AP) — Reputed mob boss Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo was sentenced Monday to life in federal prison for serving as a leader of Chicago's organized crime family and the murder of a government witness in a union pension fraud case.

Lombardo, 80, was among three reputed mob bosses and two alleged henchmen convicted in September 2007 at the landmark Operation Family Secrets trial which lifted the curtain of secrecy from the seamy operations of Chicago's underworld.

"The worst things you have done are terrible and I see no regret in them," U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel said in imposing sentence. He also sentenced Lombardo separately to 168 months for going on the lam for eight months after he was charged.

Lombardo grumbled that he had been eating breakfast in a pancake house on Sept. 27, 1974, when ski-masked men beat federal witness Daniel Seifert in front of his wife and 4-year-old son and then shot him to death at point-blank range.

"Now I suppose the court is going to send me to a life in prison for something I did not do," Lombardo said. He said he was sorry for the suffering of the Seifert family but added: "I did not kill Danny Seifert."

In a last-minute effort to bolster his alibi, he read from two documents signed by Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano, now serving a 15-year sentence for wiretapping stars such as Sylvester Stallone and bribing police to run names through law enforcement databases. Pellicano was originally from Chicago.

Lombardo was one of the best-known figures in the Chicago underworld. His lawyer, Rick Halprin, told jurors during the trial that he merely "ran the oldest and most reliable floating craps game on Grand Avenue" but was not a killer.

Witnesses said he was the boss of the mob's Grand Avenue street crew — which extorted "street tax" from local businesses and engaged in other illegal activities.

He was sent to federal prison along with International Brotherhood of Teamsters President Roy Lee Williams and union pension manager Allen Dorfman after they were convicted of plotting to bribe U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon, D-Nev., to help defeat a trucking deregulation bill. Cannon was charged with no wrongdoing in the case.

Lombardo was later convicted in a Las Vegas casino skimming case.

Seifert was gunned down two days before he was due to testify before a federal grand jury. His two sons spoke at the sentencing about the pain of losing their father when they were still children.

Joseph Seifert recalled how he saw mobsters "chase my father like a pack of hungry animals" before shooting him.

Nicholas Seifert said that he succumbed to depression over the killing.

"I felt like a coward for many years for not seeking revenge for what those men did to my father," he said.

Lombardo used a wheelchair in court. Halprin declined to say what health problems his client has but said he needed to be sent to a prison where he would get adequate medical care.

Zagel acknowledged that he thought carefully about Lombardo's age in deciding on a sentence. But he said he wanted one that would not "deprecate the seriousness of the crime."

Zagel has already sentenced Calabrese to life and reputed mobster Paul Schiro to 20 years. Schiro was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison seven years ago after pleading guilty to being part of a gang of jewel thieves run by the Chicago police department's former chief of detectives.

Still to be sentenced are James Marcello, reputedly one of the top leaders of the mob, and Anthony Doyle, a former Chicago police officer who became an enforcer for Frank Calabrese. Also still to be sentenced is Nicholas Calabrese, Frank's brother and an admitted hit man who became the government's star witness.