Saturday, November 19, 2011

Historical, Colourful - History of Vegas by J. Robb Montana

All rights reserved. No part of this manuscript may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical,photocopy, recording or otherwise without the written prior permission by J. Robb Montana.
While this story is inspired by actual events, certain characters, characterizations, incidents, locations and dialogue were fictionalized or invented for the purposes of dramatization. With respect to such fictionalization or invention, any similarity to the name or to the actual character or history of any person, living or dead, or any product or entity or actual incident is entirely for dramatic purposes and not intended to reflect on any actual character, history, product or entity.

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Vegas lies in the middle of Nevada's Mojave Desert where over thirty-eight million tourist visit every year. Vegas hotels bring in an easy ten million dollars per year from this popular entertainment destination.

Vegas, born in the early 1931 due to legalized gambling in the State of Nevada. By spring of 1946 a Jewish Gangster named Meyer Lansky (born Meyer Suchowljanski) (July 4, 1902 - January 15, 1983; known as the "Mob's Accountant"), became very interested in developing a hotel in Vegas.
Meyer Lansky was well known in the American organized crime, responsible for over four hundred mysterious deaths. He had strong ties with the Italian Mafia by hiring within this organization to carry-out hits. He would hire a hit man named Siegel Benjamin from time to time who was member of the East Coast Italian Mob.
Lansky used Gang boss Siegel (known as Bugsy) to instigate most of his criminal activities. In 1937 he sent Bugsy to Los Angeles to tighten syndicate money operations. His career was fronted as a legal gambler at the Santa Anita Park a hop, skip and jump from Los Angles. Bugsy was responsible for the Murder Inc. who killed "Big Greenie" Greenberg, a police informant, with his fellow gang member, Whitney Krakower. Greenberg's death was Bugsy's attempt to further his reputation from organized crime, but the heat was still on.
Lansky wanted Siegel involved first-hand in the development of the new Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. He forced Siegel to become part of the operations of the new William R. Wilkerson's prestigious Flamingo Hotel. Siegel apparently hated the desert and wanted to stay with his family in Los Angeles; Lansky prevailed.
With great resentment Siegel started the lavish operation of building the Flamingo Hotel without the approval of William R. Wilkerson. He was way over budget by use of his inside black market where costs reached well-over the one million dollar figure within just the plumbing itself. Apparently the costs were enormous with an additional surprise purchase of a kitchen costing a mere $29,000 (today, you would be lucky to purchase an Alto-Shaam Cook and Hold Oven for that price). The project was soon to be completed in the spring of 1947 with soaring costs of over $6 million. This price obviously caught the attention of his boss earlier than Siegel was aware of - back in 1946. Lansky knew Siegel was stealing money from the mob and ordered a hit against Siegel.

On June 20, 1947 Siegel, back home in Los Angles enjoying an evening paper, when he was shot five times, once in his right eye. You may remember this scene in the famous movie Godfather series where a Flamingo owner named Green was shot in the right eye; apparently getting the information from Siegel's staged killing.
It wasn't long before the Mafia had strong hold of Vegas, with the Chicago Mafia being the strongest of them all. The Chicago Mafia built eight hotels, such as the Stardust, The Riviera hotel and the Tropicana. The glamour of organized crime and the possibilities of rubbing shoulders with movie stars frantically brought the public to Vegas, not realizing that the Chicago Mafia used illegal benefits on the casino floor. The atmosphere in Las Vegas was exciting, as Frank Sinatra, Lauren Bacall and David Niven.
In 1950 the population of Vegas grew from 25,000 to over 65,000 residences. By 1966 Vegas grew attention from Howard Hugh's. Although Howard Hugh's already owned 25,000 acres outside of Las Vegas, he was very interested in monopolizing on property within the city of Las Vegas. At first his interest was primarily the airport, TV Station and more raw land, he had no idea he was going to pursue his interest into Vegas hotels.
During his investment of properties within Vegas, he and his Mormon accountants occupied the complete top of the Sands Inn who was owned and operated by the Chicago Mob. Howard was not interested in gambling but quickly received the attention of the Chicago Mafia due to occupying the elite floor of the Sands Hotel. It wouldn't be a problem if Howard would gamble on the casino floor, but that wasn't even considered. After weeks of holding rooms and not giving their high-rollers any chance to use the rooms, the Chicago Mafia gave Howard an ultimatum. It has been stated that, "Either Howard leave the hotel or he would be forcibly moved out"
To Howard Hugh's this was just an invitation to "Buy-out" the competition, which he did in 1967. Howard Hugh's bought the Desert Inn and his employee, Bob carried out the formalities. It wasn't long after that, that Howard had caught "Vegas Fever" - he phoned up Bob and laughing he asked his employee, "How much of these toys are available?" Bob was taken back and asked," What toys do you mean Howard? Apparently Howard laughed some more and said," How many many Hotels are available? From that point on, just as Sammy Davis Jr. Said once, "Howard Hugh's is the only man I know who plays monopoly with real hotels...
Howard Hugh's proceeded to buy off the Frontier, the Silver Slipper, the Sands hotel and many more. The Chicago Mafia loved the fact the Howard Hugh's was buying out the hotels, because as far as they were concerned, it took-off the heat of the Attorney General, the well-known Bobby Kennedy. Bobby Kennedy and The President of the United States - John F. Kennedy objective was to clean-up organized crime. Unfortunately, this brought the assassination of John F. Kennedy, leading back to the Chicago Mafia.

In 1970, four years after his first purchase of the Desert Inn, Howard Hugh's lost his interest in Vegas and decided to sell his investments in Vegas. Due to paranoia Howard left for the Bahamas for unseen reasoning. But, that is Howard.
[When I was a teenager I had the fortune of meeting Howard Hugh's in Vancouver, just by mistake. My parents left me in the hotel by myself (not a good idea); I decided to take a little adventure and check out the top of the hotel. Little did I know that an aging Howard Hugh' occupied the top floor. Sure enough I was confronted by plain clothed bodyguards who high-tailed me out. But, just before they were going to usher me out, Howard Hugh's stopped them as he made his regular walks on the top floor. He said to me, "You want some advice?" At the time I had no idea who this important person was. All I knew, he had to be important to have bodyguards. I remember looking up at him, a very sick pale man. I said," Huh, yeah sure, as long as you don't tell my parents." He laughed, coughed and gasped. He said," Never get caught..." I grinned and was escorted back to my room.
Just after Howard Hugh's left Vegas, a head mafia figure came to town, Anthony Spilotro. He had a vindictive personality making sure that everyone was honest when it came to the illegal skimming, a creative opportunity for the Mafia to collect money from its own casino's without being on record. That basically means "Free Money" non-taxed illegal funds. It has been said they collected over $300,000 per month during this operation, with money going to head office in Chicago.
Anthony (Tony) Spilotro was thought to be the main control in Vegas, but was not the case. Tony was just another gang boss within the Chicago Mob. The Mafia always needed someone to appear as controlling a legitimate business, and this is where Alan Glick came in. Alan Glick was a 34 year old lawyer who started the Argent Corporation which took out a loan of over $60 million( loan was given to him by means of the Teamster Union by Hoffa himself) to purchase Stardust, Freemont hotel and Marina's. It was important for the mafia to showcase a legitimate corporation by use of Alan Glick. Apparently Alan Glick wasn't aware that the mafia had control; I think not. It wasn't long before Alan Glick realized he had no control over the mega hotels.
In the background was Frank Rosenthal who just so happen was raised in Chicago and a long time friend of Tony Spilotro. To this day, the FBI has never been able to link Frank Rosenthal with the Chicago Mafia. Frank Rosenthal was well known in Vegas when he started his very own show called "The Frank Rosenthal Show", apparently to deceive the FBI to his mob connections. It must have worked, because today he lives at fine old age as a multi-millionaire in Miami South Beach.
The Mafia seems to be profitable until Tony Spilotro decided it was "ok" to venture his illegal activities outside the Vegas Strip. In 1979 he allowed fellow gang members (known as the "Hole in the Wall" Gang) to rob homes and businesses within Vegas, as long as Tony Spilotro received dividends called "Street Tax". Everything went to plan with robberies of 3-4 homes per night bringing in an estimate $100,000 per month. It looked like the mobsters were winning the game of organized crime with lawyers, judges and political officials in their back pocket.

The FBI had inside word from an informant of a big jewelry heist at the Bertha's Jewelry Store. It was their first big break to catch the mafia red-handed. On Independence Day using fireworks as a cover the "Hole in the Wall" Gang proceeded to rob Bertha's Jewelry Store by crashing through the roof top. They had no clue that the whole police force were waiting in the biggest Stake- out in Vegas history.
The Gang was apprehended with no contest and it wasn't long before the head leader, Frank Culotta turned into a government informant, placing heat on Tony Spilotro. The heat from the FBI turned Tony Spilotro very paranoid, with public spotlight by means of paparazzi. With all the unwelcomed publicity to the Chicago mafia, Tony Spilotro and his younger brother were found dead in a corn-field in Indiana, not far from the head mafia's golf retreat.
Today, Vegas Strip is a vibrant humming giant with legitimate businesses holding the interest in mega hotel chains. It seems that the mafias is no longer in Vegas...or are they :)

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