They were law enforcement’s pests and the casino industry’s parasites, arriving in Las Vegas as the feds cracked down on gambling coast to coast.
They were the mob — gangsters, hoodlums, thieves, small men — Las Vegas’ founding fathers. Their influence locally lasted about half a century, although their impact on those formative years will forever be threaded into the tapestry of Las Vegas’ lore and history.
Some are long forgotten such as Tony Brancato and Tony Trombino of Kansas who pulled off a successful armed robbery at the Flamingo in June 1951. Both were later slain in Hollywood by Jimmy Fratianno, who was never convicted for lack of witnesses and evidence, according to Ed Reid and Ovid Demaris in "The Green Felt Jungle."
Some mobsters had the nicknames of pests — Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel and Tony "the Ant" Spilotro. (Neither guy liked the monikers: Siegel earned his early because of a tendency to "go bugs" whenever angered or thwarted. He preferred to be called Ben. The media adopted Spilotro’s nickname after FBI agent William F. Roemer Jr. referred to him as "that little piss ant.")
Love ’em or hate ’em, mobsters played a major role in Las Vegas’ rise to becoming a renowned tourist destination, although they took more from the town through casino skimming and money laundering schemes than they gave to the region’s growth and the community’s welfare.
In its heyday from about 1950 to the early 1980s, the mob controlled every Strip resort that was worth controlling, stealing untold millions of dollars in tax revenues that could have paid for schools, roads and other public services.
Mobsters found easy ways to take control of some casinos in Las Vegas. Billy Wilkerson, whose dream of an exotic gambling resort became the Flamingo, needed help from mob bosses Meyer Lansky and Siegel to fund the casino’s construction. Moe Dalitz and the Cleveland Mayfield Road Gang bailed out the original builder and owner of the Desert Inn, Wilbur Clark, after he ran short of construction. Even gambler Tony Cornero had to seek financial help from Dalitz and Lansky to finish building the Stardust.
Those and other mobsters were no heroes, despite claims by some Vegas old-timers that the town was much better when the mob ran it.
Mobsters were often vicious, ruthless men whose skimming operations funded gangster activities such as narcotics sales, prostitution, loan sharking and other nefarious ventures nationwide.
Yet a number of mobsters who came to Las Vegas gave up their evil ways and became model citizens, good businessmen, dedicated family men and civic leaders.
After a ban in 1909, gambling once again became legal in Nevada in 1931. But the mob was slow to see the potential of all forms of gambling in this small state, opting initially to focus on running horse racing parlors via control of the race results wire.
Although much attention is paid to Siegel, his role has been vastly exaggerated in stories and films. He wasn’t even the first mobster to open a joint on the Strip.
That "honor" arguably goes to a cop who ran the Pair-O-Dice that opened on dusty Highway 91, today’s Las Vegas Boulevard or the Strip. The club, operated by Guy McAfee, stood near where the Frontier (imploded in November 2007) was. McAfee, a Los Angeles Police vice squad commander, secretly owned illegal casinos in Southern California, according to Sally Denton and Roger Morris in "The Money and the Power."
Siegel, representing the East Coast mob interests of Frank Costello and Lansky, in effect stole the already under-construction Flamingo away from Hollywood Reporter Publisher Billy Wilkerson, who ran short of money to finish the resort.
But then Siegel so mismanaged the construction of the post-World War II project that it cost six times more than his projected $1 million price tag, Reid and Demaris wrote in "The Green Felt Jungle." On top of that, Siegel’s girlfriend, Virginia Hill, skimmed hundreds of thousands of dollars of the mob’s money, helping to seal her boyfriend’s fate, the authors said.
A torrential downpour, coupled with a lack of efforts to draw people to the middle-of-nowhere desert town for a Dec. 26, 1946, grand opening party further set back the mob’s efforts to recoup its investment in the Flamingo.
As a result, Siegel was "retired" from the casino business in the early summer of 1947 with four blasts from a .30-30 carbine as he read a newspaper in girlfriend Hill’s Beverly Hills, Calif., home, according to "The Green Felt Jungle."
But we are getting way ahead of ourselves.
To understand how organized crime truly got a foothold in Las Vegas, one must logically accept that one little publicity-seeking gangster could not have orchestrated such a task on his own. It is far more logical that the top figures of the Mafia had to be involved in orchestrating such a move.
Here’s a look at those characters:
Born Maier Suchowljansky in 1902 in Grodno, Poland, Lansky fled at age 10 from czarist Russian troops with his family to Manhattan.
A math whiz, Lansky was naturally good at calculating the odds on craps games, Sally Denton and Roger Morris wrote in "The Money and the Power."
"There’s no such thing as a lucky gambler. There are just the winners and losers," Lansky was quoted as saying by Robert Lacey in "Little Man: Meyer Lansky and the Gangster Life." "The winners are those who control the game … All the rest are suckers."
Those closest to Lansky claimed that he accomplished the supreme blackmail in the 1930s, obtaining photographs of alleged homosexual acts by J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, and his supposed lover Clyde Tolson, but the claim was never proven.
Early on Lansky saw the value of gambling operations to the mob. In 1938 he traveled to Cuba to finalize a deal with Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista to take control of the island’s lucrative gambling operations. Under Lansky’s leadership, Cuba became a gaming mecca. Batista lined his pockets with riches from his share of the gambling profits as his people starved, which planted the seeds for revolution. Batista’s government was overthrown in 1959 when rebel communist forces under Fidel Castro came to power. Castro nationalized casino operations and kicked out the mob.
This left the mobsters with just Las Vegas, and they made the most of it.
In the early 1940s, Lansky and Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel drove across the desert from Los Angeles to the dusty railroad stop called Las Vegas. With temperatures soaring near 115 degrees, the wires in their Cadillac melted.
"There were times when I thought I would die in that desert," Lansky is quoted as saying in "The Money and the Power." "Vegas was a horrible place."
Lansky initially had dispatched Siegel to Las Vegas to take control of racetrack bets humming over the wires. Contrary to legend, it was Lansky, not Siegel, who envisioned what Las Vegas would become.
"What I had in mind was to build the greatest, most luxurious hotel casino in the world and invite people from all over America — maybe the high rollers from all over the world — to come and spend their money there," Lansky was quoted as saying in "Lansky: Mogul to the Mob," by Dennis Eisenberg, Uri Dan and Eli Landau.
Lansky was the financial brains behind the National Syndicate. He was trusted by every mob family in the country and handled the shares of profits to the penny.
Stories say the reason Lansky operated for so long in Las Vegas without close investigation by the feds was because he allegedly had those photos of Hoover.
Lansky was not indicted for a crime until 1970. Even then, it was the Internal Revenue Service that went after him, not the FBI. The tax case against Lansky eventually fell apart, and he remained a free man. He kept his hand in Las Vegas operations until his death from lung cancer on Jan. 15, 1983.
BENAMIN "BUGSY" SIEGEL
In early 1945, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel approached the owners of El Cortez on behalf of Meyer Lansky and purchased the downtown property for $600,000. Lansky also became a hidden owner in the Thunderbird on the Strip.
Siegel formed Nevada Projects Corp. to complete the Strip’s second resort, the Flamingo, which the mob had taken away from Billy Wilkerson. Siegel’s estimated cost was $1 million.
After World War II, Siegel obtained lumber and pipe to build the club with the federal government and Wilkerson’s help. For expensive marble and decorative woods, Siegel went through the Mexican black market, Ed Reid and Ovid Demaris wrote in "The Green Felt Jungle."
One of Siegel’s friends was U.S. Sen. Pat McCarran, for whom McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas is named.
The senator reprioritized projects in Southern Nevada so that Nevada Projects Corp. could receive the copper fixtures and tiling to get the Flamingo up and running, according to "The Money and the Power," by Sally Denton and Roger Morris.
Siegel’s Trans America Wire Service racing wire, operating out of Chicago and Los Angeles, was in place in every horse parlor in Las Vegas.
Despite all of that, Siegel’s Las Vegas success hinged on the lavish grand opening of the Flamingo on Dec. 26, 1946, which turned out to be a disaster.
Things didn’t go so well, according to Steve Fischer in "When the Mob Ran Vegas." Although Siegel had hired a dozen uniformed guards to watch the casino, many of the dealers helped themselves to money. Two rival casino owners, Tutor Scherer and Beldon Katleman, both won nearly $100,000 that first night. Actor George Raft was the only well-known loser that night, dropping $75,000 at baccarat. Even then, the house was still down nearly $200,000.
In the showroom, Jimmy Durante played to less than 80 people. The following night was even worse as Rose Marie played to fewer than 20, Fischer wrote.
None of the hotel’s 90 rooms were in any condition for guests because workmen were still installing individual sewer systems based on Siegel’s orders. As a result, potential Flamingo guests stayed at El Rancho Vegas or the Frontier.
The Flamingo lost nearly $700,000 during the 65 days it was open. On Feb. 6, 1947, Siegel told his two publicists — one was future Las Vegas Sun Publisher Hank Greenspun — to send out the word that the hotel would close and reopen in a month.
On March 1, 1947, the Flamingo reopened as the Fabulous Flamingo — billed as the world’s most glamorous hotel.
The Andrews Sisters opened the front doors and later the sisters — Patty, LaVerne and Maxene Andrews — mingled with guests such as actress Joan Crawford and the comic Ritz Brothers.
Siegel had lost favor with his mob bosses and was killed by four bullets to the head in Hill’s Beverly Hills home on June 20, 1947. Afterward Siegel’s lieutenants Moe Sedway, Gus Greenbaum and David Berman walked into the executive offices of the Flamingo and announced they were taking over.
After Wilbur Clark ran out of money building the Desert Inn, Dalitz and his Cleveland partners purchased controlling interest with Teamster loans in 1949, according to Steve Fischer’s "When the Mob Ran Vegas."
Dalitz and many other questionable gaming figures were conveniently out of town when Sen. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee came to Las Vegas in November 1950 and held his one-day hearing on organized crime.
In a historical oddity, it was not until after that high-profile hearing into the inner workings of the gaming industry that the Chicago mob really began to establish itself in Las Vegas, according to a memoir by late FBI agent William J. Roemer.
Unlike Siegel, who was pretty much in the Las Vegas gaming business for himself, Dalitz was more like Sedway, becoming a community-spirited figure.
Dalitz, Allard Roen and Merv Adelson built Sunrise Hospital, the Las Vegas Country Club and the Boulevard mall.
Dalitz also helped charitable causes, often reaching into his own pocket to buy uniforms for local youth sports teams. He won many civic awards in Las Vegas for giving back to the community.
"He lived the mobster’s dream, to get to Las Vegas and reinvent himself — and become a fabulous success," Fischer wrote. "He (Dalitz) was a quiet, reserved person — unless you got on his wrong side."
One person who did that was unheralded Las Vegas founding father Tony Cornero:
In March 1955 Cornero was desperately in need of money to finish building the Stardust so he made his pitch to Dalitz and Meyer Lansky, owners of United Hotels, the Desert Inn’s operating company.
Cornero got a $1.25 million loan from Dalitz. A second and a third loan followed, enough to finish the Stardust. Hardly a day went by that Dalitz didn’t bug Cornero about the loans. Fretting over the payment of the debt to his mob pals apparently took its toll on Cornero. On July 31, 1955, at 11:20 a.m., Cornero died while shooting craps at the Desert Inn after a meeting with Dalitz. Drinking 7&7s and down $37,600 at the table, Cornero fell over dead, according to Ed Reid and Ovid Demaris in "The Green Felt Jungle."
Historians and others have speculated his death was caused by a heart attack brought on by Dalitz’s insistent nagging. Another rumor circulated that Cornero had been poisoned. The county coroner’s official report said it was a heart attack.
Regardless, Cornero’s death put Dalitz in position to oversee operations at the Stardust along with Chicago mobster Murray "The Camel" Humphreys and the mob’s clean frontman, Jake Factor, brother of cosmetics mogul Max Factor.
Humphreys had served as a lieutenant under Al Capone and later worked for Sam Giancana. When the Black Book was established in 1960 listing those so undesirable they could not step foot in a Nevada casino, Humphreys was one of the original 11 entries.
According to Sally Denton and Roger Morris in "The Money and the Power," the Chicago mob through the 1960s was able to add the Sahara, Hacienda (where the Mandalay Bay now stands) and the Fremont, which at the time was downtown’s largest casino, to its list of Las Vegas holdings.
Denton and Morris detailed one event that was to change Las Vegas: The arrival of billionaire Howard Hughes.
Dalitz was still running the Desert Inn when Hughes came to Las Vegas during Thanksgiving weekend 1966 and took over the top two floors of the hotel, paying $26,000 a day, but not gambling.
Hughes’ right-hand man, Bob Maheu, called Johnny Rosselli, the Las Vegas enforcer for the Chicago mob after Dalitz asked that Hughes be removed to make the rooms available for high rollers who were coming into town for New Year’s Eve.
Rosselli called in some favors and Hughes stayed a little while longer as a guest. In the mid-1960s there was no one who had more power in Las Vegas than Dalitz, but Rosselli apparently had significant clout, too.
That changed when Dalitz, a short time later, tried to oust Hughes only to be met with an offer to buy the Desert Inn as a tax shelter against the multimillion-dollar windfall Hughes got from his sale of Trans World Airlines.
Hughes needed more hotels as tax shelters. Lansky and Dalitz figured that the gravy train ride would soon be over for the mob. They reckoned it was a good time to dump Las Vegas gaming properties before the authorities, jealous over the mob’s profits, would start cracking down.
Lansky directed his hand-picked boss at the Sands, Jack Entratter, to sell Hughes that resort for slightly less than $15 million, giving Hughes a second hotel and putting a $1 million profit into Lansky’s pocket.
Although the mob’s influence over Las Vegas casinos would continue for nearly 17 more years, six of its finest hotels wound up in Hughes’ hands. By the time the mob got some of them back, the federal government was hot on its heels.
Dalitz continued to have an influence on Southern Nevada resorts well into the 1980s. He died of natural causes on Aug. 31, 1989, and was never convicted of a major crime.
Moe Sedway, a Genovese family associate, was well-liked in the Las Vegas community.
He served as Clark County alderman, was head of the United Jewish Appeal in Las Vegas and was on the board of directors of the Clark County Library.
When Sen. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee started his nationwide organized crime hearings in Las Vegas on Nov. 15, 1950, Sedway was the only one of the five witnesses to have had ties to the underworld, Sally Denton and Roger Morris wrote in "The Money and the Power."
According to the authors, Sedway, then 57, painted himself as an ailing, honest businessman who knew Lansky and his associate Frank Costello only in passing. He testified that he did not have ties to organized crime. In reality he was one of Lansky’s lieutenants.
Sedway told the committee that his ailments included three major coronary thromboses, an ulcer, diarrhea, an abscess on his intestines and hemorrhoids.
"I just got out of bed and I am loaded with drugs," Sedway testified, according to the authors.
He said that as a businessman, real estate investor and gambler he was not making a lot of money.
Sedway claimed he was unaware of any illegal activity in the casinos. He also testified that Lansky had once owned 100 shares of Flamingo stock while Siegel was alive, but that Lansky no longer held interest in any Las Vegas casino.
Sedway was chided by one committee member for having had any dealings at all with "scum of the earth" gangsters and asked how he would have lived his life differently, according to "The Money and the Power."
"We don’t get as rich as you think we do," Sedway said. "This is hard work. I would not do it over again. I would not want my children to do it. … The first thing I would do would be to get a good education like I am trying to give my children, and when I got real learned, I would become a United States senator like you."
Sedway’s testimony apparently did not carry a whole lot of weight, as the final 11,500-page Kefauver Committee report included just four pages from the Las Vegas proceedings.
Before the local committee hearing, Las Vegas Sun editor Hank Greenspun wrote: "A sharp 10-year-old boy could have come to the conclusion that crime and politics in this state are on friendly terms."
Sedway’s testimony, in effect denying the mob’s involvement in Las Vegas, may have been a lie, but his claims about his bad health were genuine. He died in 1952 at age 58.
TONY "JOE BATTERS" ACCARDO
Anthony Accardo got his nickname (Big Tuna) for his strong-arm method of settling arguments.
According to Steve Fischer in "When the Mob Ran Vegas," Accardo was not a man to cross:
The Riviera, which opened in 1955, had lost money consistently for three months. Accardo, the de facto owner, knew that if a casino loses money for 90 straight days something more than bad luck was going on.
He gave the official on-site owners 15 minutes to leave. Then Accardo asked Gus Greenbaum, retired president of the Flamingo, who was living in Scottsdale, Ariz., to return to Las Vegas and save the Riviera. Greenbaum declined.
A few nights later, Greenbaum’s sister-in-law was murdered in her bed. Gus changed his mind and came to Las Vegas to work for Accardo, Fischer wrote.
(Greenbaum initially was an associate of Meyer Lansky, a member of the Chicago mob and a syndicate accountant for Las Vegas casino operations. After Bugsy Siegel’s death, Greenbaum helped run the Flamingo. With a $1 million loan from the Chicago mob, Greenbaum soon turned the casino’s fortunes around, according to Ed Reid and Ovid Demaris in "The Green Felt Jungle.")
On Dec. 3, 1958, a maid found the bodies of Gus and Shirley Greenbaum in their Phoenix home.
Fischer wrote that observers say the ever-smiling Greenbaum gambled, drank and womanized, creating too high a profile for the mob’s taste. The Chicago syndicate also discovered that Greenbaum was skimming from the Riviera himself, thus sealing his fate.
In the late 1950s, Accardo called for a meeting of all mob leaders around the country who were making a comfortable living by skimming Las Vegas casinos. According to mob historians and FBI reports, the mob’s take from those properties was about $1 million a day.
Accardo suggested that there be only one outside man in Las Vegas who would oversee everyone’s interests.
Accardo and Sam Giancana, Accardo’s Las Vegas specialist, sat down to discuss whom they would send to Vegas. They chose Marshall Caifano — aka John Marshall — a brutal man who had a reputation for using a blowtorch on his victims. Giancana knew Caifano would keep everyone in Las Vegas in line, according to Fischer.
In 1956, with the IRS hot on his tail, Accardo turned the Chicago mob operations over to Giancana. When the heat cooled down 10 years later, he took it back, and Giancana went into hiding to avoid prosecution.
After a 1960 fire burned down El Rancho Vegas, the Chicago mob replaced Caifano with Johnny Rosselli.
After Accardo gained an interest in the under-construction Caesars Palace in 1965, he sent Tony Spilotro to Las Vegas to watch out for Chicago’s interests, according to Fischer.
Accardo, who was also a hidden owner of the Sands in the 1960s, died of congestive heart failure at age 86 in Chicago.
TONY "THE HAT" CORNERO
One man left more than just memories in Las Vegas, according to Steve Fischer in "When the Mob Ran Vegas," and Ed Reid and Ovid Demaris in "The Green Felt Jungle."
In the 1920s Tony "The Hat" Cornero made a lot of money during Prohibition by running whiskey from Canada and rum from Mexico.
He sold liquor to speak-easies in Southern California. By the time he was 25, Cornero had made $1 million. He got his colorful nickname from wearing a 10-gallon hat.
For unloading rumrunner boats beyond the three-mile limit off Southern California’s coast, Cornero went to prison. When he got out in 1930, he and his two brothers, Frank and Louis, headed for Las Vegas.
Nevada Gov. Fred Balzar and the state Legislature were about to make gambling legal again, overturning a ban on gaming that was imposed for a second time in 1909. The state was going to allow Las Vegas and Reno to set up their own rules.
In 1931, Cornero bought 30 acres of desert property for $10 an acre and built the town’s first major casino, The Meadows, just east of Fremont Street and Charleston Boulevard. It burned down in 1943.
Cornero later built The SS Rex in downtown Las Vegas, which later became the Apache Casino, then the Horseshoe, and is now called Binion’s.
In the early 1950s, Cornero bought a 40-acre parcel on Highway 91 to build the Starlight. In 1955, he renamed the project the Stardust and construction began with $4.3 million in loans from Meyer Lansky and Desert Inn operator Moe Dalitz.
Two weeks before the Stardust was completed in 1955, Cornero went to Dalitz for more money. Less than two hours later, Cornero was dead of natural causes, listed as a heart attack by the county coroner. The opening of the Stardust was delayed for two years.
More than 1,000 mourners attended Cornero’s funeral, including nearly all the Strip casino owners. His favorite song, "The Wabash Cannonball," was sung. The day he died, Cornero’s bank account had only $800 in it.
Actor Cary Grant played Cornero in the 1943 film "Mr. Lucky."
Johnny Rosselli was cut from the same material as Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel — dapperly attired, handsome and ruthless. Rosselli’s business card read simply: "Strategist."
His first major deal in Las Vegas was building the $50 million Tropicana. A hidden owner included Carlos Marcello, the don of the New Orleans mob.
Authors Ed Reid and Ovid Demaris described Rosselli in "The Green Felt Jungle" as living "the good life of a respected elder in the Mafia."
An excerpt from their book describes Rosselli’s typical day:
"Between golf rounds, meals, steam baths, shaves and trims, twisting, romancing and drinking, there is time for private little conferences at his favorite table with people seeking his counsel for friendship. It may be a newsman, a local politician, a casino owner, a prostitute, a famous entertainer, a deputy sheriff, a U.S. senator or the governor of Nevada."
When Rosselli came to the United States in the 1920s, his name was Fillip Sacco. After joining the mob and migrating to Chicago, he took the name Giusseppe Rosselli. But friends called him by the more Americanized name "Johnny."
He caught the eye of guys like Anthony Accardo and Paul Ricca, two top men in Chicago, and Frank Costello, head of one of New York’s five crime families.
Accardo initially sent Rosselli to Los Angeles to take charge of the mob’s interest in the movie business. Rosselli managed to get Frank Sinatra the role of Maggio in "From Here to Eternity," for which he won an Oscar for an actor in a supporting role, rejuvenating his then-sagging career.
By early 1957 Rosselli was told to pack up and move to Las Vegas. Within a year, he got construction financing for the Tropicana and the Royal Nevada. The money came from the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund, controlled at the time by Chicago mobster Paul "Red" Dorfman, and later by his son, Allen. Both took orders from Rosselli, according to "The Green Felt Jungle."
In 1959, Rosselli was the ranking Mafioso in Las Vegas. He controlled the Monte Presser Talent Agency. In the 1960s nearly all major performers who played Las Vegas were booked through that company.
According to Reid and Demaris, Rosselli is believed to have introduced John F. Kennedy to Judith Campbell Exner, who was to become the president’s mistress. They also wrote that Rosselli got a piece of the Royal Nevada, the Frontier, the Dunes and the Aladdin after they were opened.
Then Rosselli bit off more than he could chew, so says Sally Denton and Roger Morris in "The Money and the Power." The mobster allegedly got involved in international plots that led to the attempted assassination of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
After Castro came to power in Cuba, the CIA plotted Operation Mongoose to kill the communist leader with the help of organized crime figures.
Howard Hughes’ right-hand man, Bob Maheu, an ex-FBI agent who today resides in Las Vegas, hooked up the American spy agency with Rosselli, who was allegedly offered $150,000 to kill Castro. In turn, Rosselli introduced Maheu to Giancana of the Chicago mob and Santo Trafficante, who ran the Tampa, Fla., mob for 30 years. They met in Miami Beach to finalize details of Operation Mongoose.
Attempts to kill Castro with pills and guns went awry.
After the infamous failed Bay of Pigs attack by anti-Castro forces, the CIA cut off ties in 1961 with Rosselli and other gangsters, Denton and Morris wrote.
In a March 8, 1984, "Where I Stand" column, Sun Publisher Hank Greenspun detailed how he helped get Rosselli out of jail in Las Vegas in 1967 following a call from a high-placed source in Washington, D.C., and how Rosselli explained the plot to kill Castro.
"Between the source of the Washington call and Johnny’s tale I realized I was sitting on one of the top stories of the era," Greenspun said.
"As a result of Johnny’s disclosure, I learned that Castro had gotten wind of the CIA plot and that he vowed that if the Kennedy brothers were trying to kill him, he would return the favor in kind.’’
Before the decade was over, both John and Bobby Kennedy were dead at the hands of assassins, neither of whom was officially linked to Castro.
In 1975 Rosselli was called before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee to testify about the plot to kill Castro. Shortly after his testimony, Giancana was murdered, and Rosselli went into hiding.
A year later, Rosselli was again called before a congressional committee to tell what he knew about John Kennedy’s assassination. He did not show.
A few months later, on Aug. 9, 1976, the decomposing corpse of 71-year-old Rosselli was found in a 55-gallon steel fuel drum floating in a bay near Miami, according to "The Money and the Power." He had been strangled, stabbed and had his legs sawed off.
It was long speculated that Trafficante had Rosselli killed because he was afraid Rosselli would reveal Trafficante’s role in the conspiracy to assassinate Castro, the authors said. It also was long speculated that Trafficante sabotaged the CIA’s Castro assassination plot after striking a deal with Castro, who in turn agreed to protect Trafficante’s illicit narcotics operations in the area.
Trafficante died March 17, 1987.
In June 2007, CIA documents called "The Family Jewels" were declassified, revealing the CIA’s involvement with Rosselli.
SAM "MOMO" GIANCANA
Salvatore "Momo" Giancana had a colorful career, according to an FBI report dated Sept. 12, 1960: He started out as a thief and killer in Chicago in the 1920s and was arrested for murder in 1925, but was not prosecuted because the state’s case fell apart when Alexander Burba, a cabdriver and the main witness, was murdered.
Giancana was rumored to be the driver and a gunman at the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the bloody Prohibition era conflict between two Chicago gangs on Feb. 14, 1929, according to FBI files. He spent most of the 1920s and 1930s in prison for various crimes.
Giancana had close ties to Anthony "Joe Batters" Accardo, an ex-bodyguard of Al Capone and a rumored gunman in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
By the late 1950s, Giancana had risen to the top of the Chicago heap, controlling protection rackets, pinball betting, prostitution, numbers, narcotics, loan sharking, extortion, counterfeiting and bookmaking. He was arrested more than 70 times — three times for murder, the FBI report said.
While consolidating his power, Giancana ordered the deaths of more than 200 people, an unknown number of whom were tortured, according to the FBI.
Gradually he gained control of most major Las Vegas casinos through the 1950s and 1960s. Florida, Michigan, even Massachusetts mobsters all worked the casinos in the 1950s, but the Chicago mob was in charge, FBI reports said.
Giancana installed Marshall Caifano — aka John Marshall — as the "outside man," the go-to guy for all mob operations in Las Vegas in the 1960s. That included skimming at the Sands, Riviera and Desert Inn, which generated $2 billion annually for the mob, including $40 million to $50 million for Giancana, the FBI said.
In 1957 an IRS investigation forced Accardo to step down and turn full control over to Giancana. Accardo stayed on in an advisory capacity and worked behind the scenes, biding his time until he once again could return to the top spot.
When the FBI released 1,275 pages on Frank Sinatra, more information became available on Giancana. From those FBI files, Americans learned that the ties between Sinatra and Giancana dated back to the 1960s.
Giancana liked entertainers and he counted several of them among his friends, including Joe E. Brown, Jimmy Durante, Dean Martin, Keely Smith and Phyllis McGuire of the McGuire Sisters. The 1995 film "Sugartime" linked a married Giancana romantically to McGuire, who today resides in Las Vegas.
The most consistent allegation binding Giancana and Sinatra is that Sinatra fronted for the mobster’s ownership of the Cal-Neva Lodge in Lake Tahoe in the early ’60s. Giancana in 1960 was included in Nevada’s Black Book, which listed people who were not allowed in any Nevada casino. Whatever ownership interest he may have had in a gambling business had to be covered up.
Giancana’s ownership of the Cal-Neva was confirmed by the FBI, which recorded a conversation between Giancana and Johnny Rosselli in which Giancana said, "I am going to get my money out of that joint (Cal-Neva)."
In the end, Sinatra voluntarily gave up all of his interests in Nevada casinos.
According to FBI files, the autobiography of Antoinette Giancana, Sam’s daughter, and the testimony of Rosselli in 1975, Giancana conspired with the CIA to assassinate Castro in the early 1960s.
When Giancana was jailed for contempt of court in 1965, his power ended. After his release from prison, he was exiled to Mexico for most of the rest of his life.
Giancana was murdered in 1975 in Chicago after his role in the Castro plot came to light, but before he could testify at congressional hearings investigating the CIA.
TONY "THE ANT" SPILOTRO
The Las Vegas casinos of the Meyer Lansky-Benjamin Siegel-Sam Giancana era gave way in the 1970s and 1980s to a new generation of Chicago mobsters.
Tony Accardo sent Tony "the Ant" Spilotro to Las Vegas, replacing Marshall Caifano in 1971, ex-FBI agent William F. Roemer Jr. wrote in "The Enforcer: Spilotro: The Chicago Mob’s Man Over Las Vegas."
Marshall Caifano previously had been replaced as the mob’s Las Vegas enforcer by Johnny Rosselli in 1960, but eventually worked his way back into that position by the late 1960s. Caifano’s effectiveness had somewhat been limited by his being placed in the Black Book. Caifano died in his sleep in a Minnesota federal prison in 2003 at age 92, according to Roemer.
In addition to making Spilotro the enforcer, the Chicago mob, to ensure a continuing flow of cash from Las Vegas casinos, installed a frontman with no criminal background, Allen Glick, who became known as "the golden boy" of gaming.
Glick was the owner of record of the Stardust, but bookmaker Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, Spilotro’s close friend, was the real boss of casino operations.
Although Spilotro started off overseeing the mob’s interest in casinos, he noticed that street crime paid well, so he quickly spread tentacles into that arena. He was known as "King of the Strip" and even operated legitimate businesses such as a sandwich shop. Of course, Spilotro’s bread and butter were his illegal operations such as the Gold Rush, a Sahara Avenue jewelry retail outlet that fronted his fencing operations, according to Las Vegas Sun files.
Spilotro, who was born in Chicago on May 19, 1938, got his tough-guy image for the brutal beatings in Chicago, FBI files said. He dropped out of Steinmetz High School at age 16 and made money shoplifting and purse-snatching. In 1955, he was caught stealing a shirt from a department store and fined $5.
By his 21st birthday, Spilotro had been arrested 13 times. He caught the attention of Chicago mob enforcer Sam "Mad Sam" DeStefano, who got Spilotro into the mob, according to Roemer.
Roemer wrote that in 1962, two minor hoodlums, Billy McCarthy and Jimmy Miraglia, killed a couple of Chicago mob-connected guys — the Scalvo brothers — without permission. Spilotro caught McCarthy and tortured him for information on the whereabouts of his pal. Spilotro struck McCarthy in the groin with an ice pick and put his head in a vise. Each time McCarthy refused to give information, Spilotro tightened the vise until one of McCarthy’s eyeballs popped out. McCarthy told all. Both men’s bodies were eventually found in the trunk of an abandoned car.
Less than a year later, Spilotro was a "made man" in the Chicago mob. His first job was running bookmaking operations in northwest Chicago.
In 1964, the mob sent Spilotro to Miami to work as a muscle guy for sports betting genius Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal. That job lasted three years before Spilotro returned to Chicago where he did the mob’s bidding for four more years, Roemer wrote.
After Spilotro, his wife, Nancy, and adopted son, Vincent, moved to Las Vegas in 1971, Tony opened a jewelry and gift shop at the Circus Circus. Using his wife’s maiden name, Spilotro did business as Anthony Stuart Ltd. Concessions in major casinos were hard to snag, especially for people with ties to organized crime. Circus Circus owner Jay Sarno ignored those rules and let Spilotro open up shop, according to Roemer.
But in August 1972, Spilotro’s efforts to establish himself in Las Vegas were interrupted by an indictment for the 1963 murder of Leo Foreman, Roemer wrote. Spilotro was arrested. He was released from jail on $10,000 bail and shuttled back and forth between Chicago and Las Vegas as he prepared for trial. Spilotro was acquitted in 1973.
In 1974, the Los Angeles Times reported that in the three years Spilotro had been in Las Vegas, more gangland-style murders had been committed here than in the past 25 years combined.
According to Las Vegas Sun files, that same year Spilotro was one of six men indicted by a federal grand jury in Chicago in connection with defrauding the Central States Teamsters Pension Fund of $1.4 million.
Among the defendants were Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, one of Spilotro’s bosses in the Chicago mob, and Allen Dorfman, the go-between for arranging financial transactions between the pension fund and organized crime.
Dorfman had been convicted in a Teamster kickback case a few years earlier. The chief witness died of a shotgun blast as he ran from four attackers in a plastics factory. Spilotro again was acquitted.
About this time, Herb "Fat Herbie" Blitzstein followed good friend Spilotro to Las Vegas after a 1976 illegal gambling conviction in Chicago.
The world became smaller in 1978 when Metro Police Commander John McCarthy, head of the vice, narcotics and juvenile bureau, decided to challenge his boss, Sheriff Ralph Lamb, and won the election.
Kent Clifford became commander under McCarthy and was assigned to keep watch on Spilotro. The FBI also changed agents, beefing up its Las Vegas office, bringing in the likes of special agent Joe Gersky and Joseph Yablonsky, the new special agent in charge.
In 1978, Spilotro’s name was entered into the Black Book, forbidding him from entering Nevada casinos.
In 1979 the FBI had enough evidence to raid Spilotro’s Gold Rush jewelry store. However, the racketeering case that resulted from the raid was dismissed. A judge found FBI agents had overstepped their authority, the Sun reported.
Spilotro’s attorney was Oscar Goodman, who would go on to become mayor of Las Vegas. In 1980 Goodman told the Sun that his client was a victim of police harassment.
"I think it’s un-American," Goodman said. "These are really Gestapo-like tactics. It literally has become a police state in this community."
In the 1980s, the Sun wrote numerous stories on Spilotro’s activities:
On April 9, 1981, shots rang out on the home and vehicle of Spilotro and the nearby house of his brother John. In August, John Spilotro contacted District Attorney Bob Miller and demanded an investigation. He told the Sun that he went to the DA because the police failed to do a thorough investigation and that he believed the shooters had actually been cops. Spilotro said that not only had his property been damaged, the shotgun blasts placed him and his family in personal peril. Some pellets barely missed his sons, he said. Nothing ever came of the incident.
The feds caught Spilotro’s Hole in the Wall Gang — Frank Cullotta, Wayne Matecki, Larry Neumann, Leo Guardino, Ernie Davino and former cop Joe Blasko — during a July 4, 1981 hit at Bertha’s, an upscale East Sahara Avenue furniture and jewelry store.
They were charged with conspiracy to commit burglary, attempted grand larceny and possession of burglary tools. Other Hole in the Wall Gang members Herbert "Fat Herbie" Blitzstein, Michael Spilotro and Joseph Cusumano were not arrested.
Cullotta had turned state’s witness and testified against Tony Spilotro, but his testimony came up short, and "the Ant" was acquitted, the Sun reported.
In late January 1983, Richard Daley, state’s attorney for Cook County, Ill., and a Chicago mayoral candidate, announced that Spilotro had been indicted for the 1962 torture killings of Miraglia and McCarthy in a case that was dubbed "the M&M murders," Roemer wrote.
The indictment was based in large part on the grand jury testimony of Frank Cullotta. Spilotro was arrested in Las Vegas and jailed without bail. Goodman got Spilotro released on bail. The lawyer called Cullotta "King Rat."
Spilotro beat the rap once more. But more trouble awaited. Spilotro went on trial in 1986 for burglaries at homes and two businesses. That trial ended in a mistrial.
Spilotro and his brother Michael left for a meeting on June 14, 1986, two days before the start of the second Hole in the Wall Gang trial in Las Vegas. The Spilotro brothers were never seen alive again. Their battered bodies were found buried in an Indiana cornfield several days later. Tony Spilotro was 48 years old.
The Chicago Tribune reported that on Sept. 27, 2007, a federal grand jury in Chicago found three aging mobsters responsible for 10 murders, including Spilotro’s. They were Frank Calabrese Sr., 70; Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, 78; and James Marcello, 65. Marcello, described by prosecutors as a top leader of the Chicago mob, was held responsible for Spilotro’s murder.
Spilotro was the basis of the character Nicky Santoro, portrayed by Joe Pesci in the 1995 film "Casino."
FRANK "LEFTY" ROSENTHAL
Marty Buccieri was a pit boss at Caesars Palace and a distant relative of Chicago underboss Fiori "Fifi" Buccieri. He reportedly had connections to most of the Vegas crime figures worth knowing, the Las Vegas Sun reported in 1975. He used those connections to arrange a number of Teamster pension fund loans to Allen Glick, chief executive of Argent (Allen R. Glick Enterprises), the Chicago mob’s installed owner of the Stardust, Hacienda, Fremont and Marina casinos.
In March 1975 Glick was summoned to Kansas City, Mo., to meet with Nick Civella. Glick was told he owed the Kansas City family $1.2 million for its assistance in getting approval of the $62.7 million Teamsters Central States Pension Fund loan to buy the Stardust, UPI reported in 1986.
And Chicago, Kansas City and Milwaukee mob representatives made it clear to Glick that he was not to interfere with Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, UPI reported.
In summer 1975, law enforcement learned that Buccieri had approached Glick and demanded a $30,000 finder’s fee for his help in obtaining the loans. At one point, he is said to have physically threatened Glick. The Argent boss then informed Rosenthal of the incident.
A few days later, Buccieri was found shot to death. Authorities immediately suspected that Tony "the Ant" Spilotro was involved. Others in the know disagreed, citing the use of a .25-caliber weapon, rather than the .22 that was a supposed Spilotro trademark, according to the Sun.
Regardless of the identity of the perpetrator, it was logical to conclude that Glick was a dangerous man to argue with or threaten.
In an attempt to avoid going through the scrutiny of getting a key gaming employee’s license — Rosenthal surely would have failed because of criminal convictions — he changed his official title a few times. He was a food and beverage director and later was entertainment director. But regardless of title, Rosenthal ran the casino and made sure the mob got its slice of the pie, according to the newspaper.
Gaming regulators and law enforcement officials never believed that Rosenthal confined his Stardust duties to ordering bulk foods or signing up entertainers, although he did briefly host a variety show on local television.
According to Sun files, authorities were sure Rosenthal was the mob’s inside man and that Allen Glick was the frontman. In June 1978 the Nevada Gaming Commission told Rosenthal that his duties required him to obtain a gaming license.
During the hearing, Rosenthal became increasingly heated over his status and eligibility and verbally attacked the Gaming Commission and its chairman, Harry Reid, now the U.S. Senate’s majority leader.
The episode was a disaster for Rosenthal. He was refused a license and in 1988 was placed in the Black Book of undesirables.
In numerous stories the Sun reported that federal agents launched in 1978 a major investigation into organized crime’s influence in Las Vegas. Tapping telephone lines proved the key in ending the mob’s last footholds at the Stardust and Tropicana. In December 1979, Argent was sold to Trans-Sterling Corp., another company with mob ties. The Kansas City mob continued to share in the skimmed proceeds without interference from the new owners. This arrangement continued until the early 1980s when indictments were issued against the Argent conspirators.
In the 1995 film "Casino," Rosenthal was the basis for the Sam "Ace" Rosenthal character portrayed by Robert De Niro. Glick was the basis for the Phillip Green character portrayed by Kevin Pollak.
Rosenthal lives in Florida and is still involved in the world of sports betting. Glick returned to California and today runs a real estate business.
Joe Agosto was born Vincenzo Pianetti in 1927. Information on his early years is vague. There are even conflicting reports as to exactly where he was born, Italy or Cleveland.
Agosto came to Las Vegas by way of Seattle. He got into the Tropicana by assuming the title of manager of the "Folies Bergere" show. He was an employee of the production company, not the hotel, according to a Court of Appeals document.
In April 1975, Agosto, by then an affiliate of Nick Civella’s Kansas City crime family in Missouri, was arrested by U.S. Immigration Services as an illegal immigrant. He quickly obtained the services of attorney Oscar Goodman and beat the immigration charge, the Las Vegas Sun reported in 1975.
Once cleared, he sought help from Civella on how he could best infiltrate the financially troubled Tropicana. With Civella’s backing, Agosto proceeded with his plans to gain influence over brothers Edward and Fred Doumani, who owned the Trop, Court of Appeals documents show.
Those documents said that a Teamster Central States Pension Fund loan, for which the Tropicana had applied, was denied. That left the property in a lurch and made the Doumanis susceptible to Agosto’s overtures. Agosto soon had a voice in the Trop’s management and operations.
Agosto maintained regular contact with Carl DeLuna for guidance and to report on his progress of setting up a skimming operation, the court documents said.
But before the skim started, a snag developed that would stall the gangsters’ plans for more than two years. The cash-strapped hotel came under the control of a new majority owner when chemical heiress Mitzi Stauffer Briggs purchased 51 percent of the Trop’s stock, the court documents said.
Briggs didn’t trust Agosto. She curtailed his role in running the casino. That prompted an all-out effort by Agosto to gain her confidence. Briggs was never involved in the skim, according to the documents.
The official papers went on to say that by 1977 he had succeeded and was effectively running the hotel and casino.
Carl Thomas of the Kansas City syndicate was "in charge of the crew which stole the money at the Tropicana," the court documents read. The first $1,500 was skimmed in April. When the operation got going, about $50,000 to $60,000 a month was being sent to the Kansas City mob’s coffers.
The conspirators were unaware at the time that their homes and businesses were under electronic and visual surveillance by the government.
On Feb. 14, 1979, the day DeLuna’s home was raided, the FBI nabbed a courier with $80,000 in skim money. The 11-month run at the Tropicana was over.
Goodman got Civella’s case separated from 10 others who were indicted in the Tropicana case. On March 1, 1983, Civella, who had cancer, was released to his family. He died on March 12, never facing judgment for his actions.
The remaining defendants stood trial in 1983. Three — Donald Shepard, Billy Caldwell and Agosto — entered guilty pleas before the trial. As a part of his plea agreement, Agosto became the government’s key witness.
Carl Caruso pleaded guilty during the trial. Peter Tamburello was acquitted. Carl Civella, DeLuna (represented by Goodman), Charles Moretina, Anthony Chiavola Sr. and Carl Thomas were convicted.
Thomas’ name was entered into the Black Book in 1986 (Anthony Civella, Carl’s son and Nick’s nephew, was put in the Black Book in 1997 for holding hidden interests in a Las Vegas casino and skimming).
DeLuna was sentenced to 30 years, Carl Civella got 35 years, Moretina was ordered to serve 20 years behind bars followed by five years probation and Chiavola drew 15 years.
Thomas was initially sentenced to 15 years. That term was later reduced to two years when he agreed to become a government witness at the Argent (Allen R. Glick Enterprises) Corp. trial involving skimming at the Stardust, the wire service UPI reported in 1986.
Agosto promised prosecutors he could incriminate numerous Nevada officials and implicate others, Court of Appeals documents show.
UPI reported Agosto told agents that syndicate leaders had asked him and Allen Dorfman to kill Glick with explosives, but that plot fizzled.
Agosto begged to go into the witness protection program so he wouldn’t end up another corpse. But soon after giving testimony in the Tropicana case, Agosto died of an apparent heart attack in August 1983 in Kansas City, Mo.
When the Dunes opened in 1955, the licensed owners were Sid Wyman, Kewpie Rich, Butch Goldstein, Major Riddle, Bob Rice and Howie Engel, according to Ed Reid and Ovid Demaris in "The Green Felt Jungle."
Wyman, who is enshrined in the Poker Hall of Fame, ran the Dunes’ gaming operations, but was more of a gambler than a gamer. That is, he was an active casino player. In fact, state gaming authorities passed a regulation banning casino bosses from playing in their casinos because of Wyman’s habits.
Morris Shenker, a noted attorney for the mob and the Teamsters Union, was also an owner of the Dunes with Ray Patriarca, the capo of the New England La Cosa Nostra.
Shenker came to Las Vegas the year the Dunes opened, but initially was an investor in the Royal Nevada. After Wyman died, Shenker took over at the Dunes, according to Sally Denton and Roger Morris in "The Money and the Power."
Shenker, who in the 1960s gained national attention for his defense of Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa, was dubbed by Life magazine in 1967 as the ‘’foremost lawyer for the mob in the U.S.’’
The St. Louis Commission on Crime and Law Enforcement alleged Shenker had personal ties with the gangsters who operated in that city.
Shenker was investigated by the Nevada Gaming Commission and other state and federal bodies, but was not indicted until 1989. A federal grand jury accused him of conspiring to conceal hundreds of thousands of dollars from the IRS and creditors from 1967 to 1973 during bankruptcy proceedings. Shenker denied the charges. His failing health aborted any chance for a trial, The New York Times reported in 1989.
Shenker served as Dunes chairman until 1984 and remained a major shareholder until the next year when the company went into bankruptcy.
Shenker died in St. Louis of pneumonia in August 1989 at age 82, owing the IRS an estimated $55 million. Four years later, the Dunes was imploded to make room for the Bellagio.
The property on which the Aladdin long operated consistently failed for decades. The English Tudor-style Tallyho Motel — a resort without gaming — opened on that South Las Vegas Boulevard site in 1962 and closed in October 1963. In 1964 it became the King’s Crown Tallyho Inn, and failed less than six months after it was denied a gaming license.
In 1966 Milton Prell purchased the resort. Its Arabian Nights theme befitted its name, the Aladdin. By 1969 Parvin Dohrman Corp. took over the Aladdin. In 1972, using the name Recrion Corp., the Aladdin was sold to veteran casino executive Sam Diamond, St. Louis politician Peter Webbe, attorney Sorkis Webbe and Richard Daly for $5 million, the Las Vegas Sun reported in 1979.
Under the Webbes, the hotel got a $60 million face-lift, including the addition of a 19-story tower and a new 7,500-seat performing arts center.
Sorkis Webbe was a longtime mob attorney and it did not take long for the Aladdin to get tainted as a mob joint.
In August 1979, James Abraham, Charles Goldfarb, James Tamer and Edward Monazym were convicted by a federal grand jury in Detroit of conspiring to allow hidden owners to exert control over the Aladdin.
The Nevada Gaming Commission then closed the hotel but U.S. District Judge Harry Claiborne opened it three hours later, saying he had "special powers" as a federal judge.
Webbe had his share of run-ins with the law.
In 1976 he was acquitted of tax evasion charges stemming from losses he claimed in a now defunct Hollywood film company.
Webbe’s attorney argued that the Justice Department’s organized crime strike force in St. Louis was "out to get" Webbe, although it had little or no evidence against him.
On Sept. 5, 1979, the Aladdin Hotel Corp., Sorkis Webbe and Del Webb Corp. were indicted along with five individuals on charges of conspiracy to defraud the Teamsters Union during the 1975-76 Aladdin remodeling, according to the Sun.
The indictment alleged that subcontractors were forced to pay kickbacks during the Aladdin construction project, including to Webbe, who allegedly got $1 million.
A month later, five Clark County commissioners, sitting as the County Licensing Board, agreed to revoke the Aladdin’s slot and unrestricted gaming license.
By Oct. 25, 1979, entertainer Johnny Carson and former Del Webb executive Ed Nigro offered to buy the Aladdin but were rejected, opening the door for entertainer Wayne Newton to buy the resort. That ended mob influence over the property.
Sorkis Webbe died in 1985.
HERB TOBMAN AND ALLEN SACHS
In the book "The Money and the Power" by Sally Denton and Roger Morris, an interesting event is described that laid the groundwork for the last great battle between the mob and law enforcement in Las Vegas.
Just after Joe Yablonsky became special agent in charge of the Las Vegas FBI office, he and a friend strolled into the Riviera coffee shop one day and saw casino men that Yablonsky considered undesirable.
The group included Moe Dalitz, Dalitz’s Mayfield Gang partner Morry Kleinman and Stardust manager Herb Tobman.
Tobman walked up beside Yablonsky’s companion and mused, "I guess you don’t mind who you’re seen with."
Yablonsky didn’t find it funny. Soon after that, he ordered an investigation into Tobman and his partner Al Sachs, including their alleged skimming at both the Fremont and the Stardust.
It was the start of a full-scale law enforcement war that was to rage across Nevada, Washington, D.C., and other locales for more than four years.
That made for some uncomfortable social situations. Dalitz, Tobman and several of their associates were members of the local Temple Beth Shalom when Yablonsky joined.
Sachs and Tobman took over the Stardust in 1979 after Allen Glick and Frank Rosenthal were run out by state gaming authorities.
According to the Sun: By 1984, veteran gamer Sachs and businessman Tobman also were ousted by allegations of skimming — charges similar to the ones that doomed their predecessors. Sachs and Tobman were fined what was at the time a record $3 million as part of the agreement to surrender ownership of the Stardust and their gaming licenses.
The resort was then taken over by Boyd Gaming, which ran it for 22 years before imploding the casino in March 2007 to make room for Echelon Place.
In court papers filed in 1985, Sachs and Tobman said they regretted taking a federal government deal "under duress."
In July 1985, U.S. District Judge Roger Foley dismissed Sach’s and Tobman’s civil suit that claimed the state violated their civil rights.
Sachs began his gaming career in the 1940s as a dealer in illegal Chicago gaming houses. He also worked in the legal pre-Fidel Castro casinos in Cuba.
Sachs opened the Royal Nevada in 1955. Three years later, he became a minor investor in the Tropicana. In the early 1970s, Sachs was president of the Stardust, but left in the mid-1970s because of disagreements with Glick and Rosenthal about how the casino should be operated and, in 1977, became the casino manager at the Aladdin.
Tobman and Sachs formed Trans-Sterling Corp. in 1979 to take over the Stardust. At one point in the 1980s, Sachs owned the Stardust, Fremont and Sundance (now Fitzgeralds) hotels.
Tobman had a more diverse career. He bought and sold real estate, ran a furniture store, operated the popular Mr. T’s Diner on Industrial Road and was a longtime owner of Western Cab Co.
Tobman, who in his youth worked as a Catskill Mountains resort bellhop and was a Las Vegas gas station attendant in his late 20s, served on the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board.
Tobman’s gaming career began in the 1950s when he was appointed general manager of the Moulin Rouge on Bonanza Road, the town’s first racially integrated casino. In 1971 he was hired as general manager of the Aladdin, where he instituted a champagne dinner buffet.
In 1974 Sachs, who was then Stardust president, promoted Tobman to vice president. Two months later, after Sachs quarreled with Glick and Rosenthal, Tobman succeeded Sachs as Stardust president.
Sachs died in 2002 at age 76, and Tobman died in 2006 at age 81. To the end they maintained they did not skim or otherwise work for the mob.