Saturday, March 13, 2004

Entering the Morgue: The Nature of This Blog 

First of all, readers of Media Mayhem may have noticed that I have concentrated lately on organized crime in St. Louis. Some of my postings have to with events dating as far back as the 1940s. Most references, however, are focused on an era betwe en the mid-1960s to the early 1980s, when several reporters for the two St. Louis dailies covered the subject in great detail. Those reporters include Robert H. Teuscher, Ted Schafers, Edward H. Thornton, Denny Walsh, Al Delugach, Lou Rose, Roy Malone and Ronald J. Lawrence.

I gathered copies of news stories by these reporters through countless visits to the Mercantile Library beginning in the late 1980s. After the St. Louis Globe-Democrat folded in 1986, the Mercantile, then a private library downto wn, purchased the newspaper's library. The library on the fifth floor above the Boatmen's Bank had a somewhat exclusive atmosphere to it, and was widely known for its collections dedicated to Westward expasinon, railroads and inland waterways. It mainly c atered to local historians with esoteric interests. Old men sat in the main hall of the library sipping coffee or playing chess. Napolean's death mask hung over the mantel. Unlike many libraries today, it was always quiet and there were no Internet termin als, of course.

The Globe files, which dated back to the 1920s, contained the history of the city. Newspaper librarians such as Mary Ellen Davis spent most of their lives clipping and cross referencing each story. They then folded the stories an d put them in envelopes. They clipped stories not only from the Globe, but the Post-Dispatch and Star-Times, as well.

My interest gravitated toward crime reporting. Stories about Egan's Rats, the Cuckoo Gang and the Green Ones. Each of these gangs developed in certain parts of the city and over time gained political power. They also came from different ethnic backgrounds: Irish, Syrian and Italian.

The clips chronicled the criminal careers of steamfitter boss Lawerence Callan an, Mafia chief Tony Giordano and Cuckoo leader Jimmy Michaels. Lawyers, businessmen and politicians, who were associates of these organized crime factions, also made headlines: Morris Shenker, mob lawyer; Mayor A.J. Cervantes and his business partner Ant hony Sansone; Sorkis Webbe Sr, owner of the Aladdin Casino and Thomas Green, co-owner of the Dunes Casino.

By reading the newspaper accounts I began to develop an understanding not only of the past but how the city operated currently.

During this perio d, I did general assignment reporting for the Riverfront Times. The work included covering political campaigns and issues before the Board of Aldermen or the County Council. But the RFT never really covered crime or the cops as a regular beat. So I am by no means an expert in this area.

A blog is a curious beast. It takes on a life of its own after a while. My entries are, for the most part random. And I must stress that the content would never match the criteria of a newspaper account. What you read here is not shaped or packaged for public consumption in the same way that a newspaper tidies things up. The majority of the postings don't have a news pegs. And because of that they aren't considered timely.

Frankly, the same thing could be said for many news stories. Yesterday's train crash or baseball score is news because it's immediate. But most people get that information from TV or radio nowadays. So modern newspaper stories often contain information that the reporter and his or he r sources may have known for days, or weeks or months. Good investigative pieces will reach back years to put thing in perspective. Once a verdict is reached or an arrest made or a law passed, the reporter writes a lede and then takes the information already in hand and recounts how the event came to pass. The story is tweaked by editors and polished by a copy editor.

However dated the material on this blog may seem, it hasn't been processed in the same way. Because there are no copy editors there are copy errors, misspellings and sentence fragements. But not too many, I hope. I write online and with one click it's published. Writing online doesn't make for good, crisp copy. Often times I merely type excerpts of documents. My explanations of those documents are opinionated. Obviously, I'm not taking the time to talk to sources. I don't know who is reading the blog, so it's hard to judge the audience.

What you're looking at is a very fat reporter's notebook. Nothing more. Maybe you'll find some entries interesting and maybe not.

A Peek at the Opus Dei Files 

In the spirit of Lent and the Christian Comedy Net, which shares a silimar Internet address with Media Mayhem, I have retrieved my Opus Dei files from the closet. Some of the contents of the files wered compiled by Jeannette Batz, a colleague of mine when I was a reporter at the ungodly Riverfront Times. From now until Easter, you can look forward to revelations about the conservative Catholic order. You may find out a thing or two a bout specific Opus Dei activities in the St. Louis area. But first let's examine some general background information on the sect:

Without digging too deep, here's thumbnail sketch:

*Opus Dei founder Monisgnor Jose Escriva de Belaguer, who was canoiz e d by the Holy Se e i n 2002, was a Spanish cleric who sided with the fascists during the Spanish Civil War.

*The name of the sect is Latin for "God's Work." Opus Dei is officially santioned by the church as a "personal prelature," which means the or g an ization has its o w n bishop and operates independently of any parish or diocese.

*The sect recruits middle and upper-middle class neophytes from Jesuit college campuses such as St. Louis University.

*Senior members of the organization hold powerful positions within the ranks of government and business worldwide.

* Robert Hanssen, a FBI agent who spied for Russia for 15 years, was a devout member of Opus Dei.

* Opus Dei's bizarre rites include self-flaggelation.

* Some Opus Dei members c ontri bute their entire salary to the organization.

* Opus Dei recenlty completed building a high-rise office headquarters in Midtown Manhattan.

* Opus Dei is alleged to have been associated with death squad activities in Central and Latin American i n the 1980s.

* The Opus Dei chapter in St. Louis operates quietly from a residence hall in Kirkwood.

Here is a capsule description of Opus Dei, courtesy of the Opus Dei Awareness Network, a parental group opposed to o rg anizat ion's indoctrination of young people:

Opus Dei is Latin for "the work of God." According to the Encyclopedia of Associations, Opus Dei is "a personal prelature of the Catholic Church founded by the Spanish priest Josemaria Escriva, with the aim of spreading throughout society a profound awareness of the universal call to holiness and apostolate through one's professional work carried out with freedom and personal responsibility.

Although lay members continue to work in the secular world, they remain under the strict spiritual direction of Opus Dei.

A personal prelature is an entity within the Catholic Church that is headed by a "prelate" and defined by persons rather than by geographical area (such as dioceses). Therefore, local bishops have little control over Opus Dei's membership, activities or practices.

Questionable Opus Dei Practices

* Destruction of the family; isolation of the family through mind control.
*Aggressive recruitment using teams and staged activities.
* Some m e m be rs must turn over all money and gifts to Opus Dei.
* Members must report regularly on the progress of their personal recruiting efforts.
* Lack of informed consent. Some controls, like opening all personal mail, corporal mortification, and don ati on of ent ire salari es are not revealed until after the initial commitment has been made.
* Members are discouraged from telling their parents of their lifetime commitment to Opus Dei "because they won't understand."
* The display of pictures of loved ones is discouraged, not by rule but by subtle example.
* Some members have been told that if they leave Opus Dei they may be damned and will live life without God's grace.

To read Opus Dei's side of the argument click here

A Funny Thing Happened to Me on My Way to the Cross 

Internet Surfers' Advisory: You Are Approaching the Twilight Zone

The address of my sometimes blasphemous blog is similar to that of the Christian Comedy Net, a web site of evangelical humor.

Have you heard the one about the rabbi, the priest and the serpent healer?

The impetus for CCN, of course, must be the prevailing paucity of pulpit puns. For devinely mysterious reasons CCN chose the unlikely URL of www.mediamayhem.com. Whereas, the address for my blog is www.mediammayhem.blogspot.com.

Today's Word Puzzle: The Princess of Eboli Spanish Conspiracy 

Claro, No?

Call it journalistic dadism or psychosis brought on by a terminal case of numerology.

Plugging the keywords 2929 Enterprises into Yahoo's search engine this morning, I came up with one of the weirdest web sites I've encountered lately.

I entered 2929 Enterprises, the name of the company that now owns Landmark Theaters, operator of the Tivoli Theater, without quotation marks and ended up with the following hit. Apparently there is a vast political conspiracy dating back to 1995 in Spain involving various departments of government. But the nature of the conspiracy is unclear because the text of the web site has obviously been translated into English using Babble Fish or some similar automatic translator. As a result, the text is even more garbled and arcane than your everyday dose of Media Mayhem. Decode The Princess of Eboli Spanish Conspiracy and win a lifetime subscription to Media Mayhem.

"... 4.The telephone of the European Centre of Documentation of that University, presentes the next telep hone:3942
60 1.

One must to suppose that these things are not a cranky elaboration, no ones attending to personal inducements made things like these, more when is known the economic ambitions of the crim inals involved in these facts. So, it could be concluded that this control in the University is focused to avoid the persons who not fit in the purposes of these criminals get some knowledges and so, a concrete social status.

The economic power of the c rimina l organization is sure, take in mind the vehicles, houses, etc. bought frequently for the members of the group. Is know certainly, that these criminals can destroy any vehicle with no problems and to buy another one for the member who have been d iscovered.

Is known too, the absence of scru ples in these persons, they are patriot, but more acutely is to said that this last is used as excuse for maintaining its criminal status, with independence on the political sign.

Coming back to the economic relatio nships, is clear that in buying houses, vehicles or other things exists a economic flow. This flow of money it has been observed that occurs in close groups, that is, there is a first injection of capital at concrete levels of the organization, la ter, the distribution of this money is made th rough ways that present a legal face. The geometry of these organization y clearly pyramidal, flowing the money such as horizontal as down-up. A concrete group of subjects would have the mission of buy any pr oduct to other member of the o rganization, that could be a newspaper, a laundry, a vehicle, built a house, etc. being this the system of distribution of capital. Of course, we are not talking about drugs or something like this, the trade consists in comm on goods and executed under the legal rules of t he market, showing
a normal face, but made in close groups.

A comprehensible example could be the case of a pub. This place would have concrete clients who will go to that place depending on the amou nt of money t hat must be transferred to that member of the organization and so a method for reward the services of that member to the criminal-mafioso organization. All seems to be a legal face, a group of clients who consume, no more, but all they belon gs to the same criminal organization, and all they come s from a wide sectors of the society, giving so, a chance face, and that makes very complicated to detect the financing mechanism.

This criminal organization has a level of organization that permit s to get the r uin of any other member objective of the mafioso organizacion, to organize campaigns of slander and social destruction. By this, is inferred that they have control on the mechanisms to which normally could arrive money to members foreign to the group.

The next step is to dedu ce the income of th at clients. That clientes, usually, are integrated in a superior structure or at the same level, nurtured following the same way that the previous. The mechanisms of feeding are wide: over-wages, gifts for some favours, etc. Is not nec essary to go at then of this reasoning, regarding to the origin of the primary capital and who a re the dealers. Is clear enough.

The reason for which the criminals of inferior levels not reveal against the others over them, mus t be searched in the cogn itive model of these subjects, and overall, the number and nature of elements needed for satisfying they need. The power that their "headers" let them to have over its victims, is compensating, in any way, the sit uatio n of submission with respect to their s "leaders". Other element that avoid the rebellion against the "leaders", is the group dependence, a fundamental factor , in together with the previous, in order to explain that balance in the criminal structur e, whe re not fit the individualism , and it could be said that t he group presents a collective personality. ... [read more babble]ª

Friday, March 12, 2004

Journalism 102: A Shift in the Paradigm 

I know that much of what I've been blogging about must seem like ancient history, but human events and human nature don't really change that much. What changes is our way of seeing them. In this respect, mass media plays a fundamental role in our percepti on.

For example, in 1971, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Theodore C. Link described some of St. Louisan Thomas R. Green's partners in the Dunes Casino as being associates of the "Chicago Syndicate," which denotes a loose affiliation of gangst ers in control of organized criminal activities.

If a "Chicago Syndicate" existed today, editors at the same newspaper would never allow a reporter to use that term in his or her copy. The elimination of this "loaded" phrase from the newspaper lexicon i s indicative of a large shift in our cultural paradigm. Some would argue that its banishment is a sign that American journalism has grown more sophisticated. I would counter that American journalism has grown insipid.

In the late 1940s, the Post-Di spatch described the same organization as the "Capone Gang." Al Capone was already dead, but the Capone Gang had still taken over Pioneer News Service, the bookies' wire service in St. Louis, according to the Post-Dispatch.

By the 1970s, however, the way in which newspapers reported events was already starting to change. The same year that Link of the Post-Dispatch wrote about the "Chicago Syndicate" the following sentence appeared in the rival St. Louis Globe-Democrat:

"... In refusing payment of the claim the (fire insurance) company is accusing Thomas P. Venezia of a fire of incendiary origin. ..." Incendiary origin -- not arson.

It could be argued that the editors at the Post-Dispatch were better than th ose at the Globe, of course. Or that Link was a better writer than either Steve Higgins and Dennis J. McCarty of the Globe.

But that would ignore the shift in the paradigm.

After the mid 1980s, the Post-Dispatch stopped repo rting on organized crime all together. It didn't exist. Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan promulgated the idea of organized crime's demise and the public bought it, no questions asked. Matthew Trupiano was an inept gin rummie player, a com ic-tragic figure. End of story. There weren't any car blowing up on Interstate 55 and so nobody bothered to look any further.

But the corruption continued.

When the feds ousted Robert Sansone as local Teamster boss for associating with a member of the Mafia, it was dismissed in the press as an over reaction. The accused soon found other cushy jobs with the building trades or the fitters. Those further up the food chain, the political powerbrokers and business types, remained untouched.

If the daily p ress was paying closer attention to the sleazey practices of attorney Michael Lazaroff in the 1990s, the whole Station Casino scandal might not have happened. Post-Dispatch reporter Phil Linsalata, to his credit, revealed that Station's founder was tied to Kansas City Mafia in the 1980s. But that was it. One story. No follow up. Adding insult to public injury, the St. Louis Business Journal lauded Lazaroff, Station's lobbyist, for his "work ethnic."

Does that sound ludicrious now? It should.

In 1995, Post-Dispatch reporters Patrick Gauen and Charles Bosworth Jr. described Thomas Venezia as a "businessman" -- the day after he was indicted on federal racketeering charges. This is the same Venezia who in 1971 was accused by a fire insurance company of setting a "fire of incendiary origin," excuse me, arson.

Second Word of the Day 

paradigm 1. an example that serves as pattern or model. 2 The conceptual framework that permits the explanation and investigation of phenomena or the objects of study in a field of inquiry.

Word of the Day 

nescience 1. Absence of knowledge or awareness, ignorance. 2. Agnosticism.

It's a Big Box Now  

One of my stories from the Riverfront Times, back when it gave a damn.

Sansone Group, with the financial help of a Japanese investment firm, destroyed this old Brentwood neighborhood for the common good -- so we can all shop at Target now.


A Brentwood neighborhood is destroyed for yet another strip mall


first published in the Riverfront Times (St. Louis), Feb. 19, 1997

There will be no more hallelujahs shouted at the Brentwood Temple Church of God in C hrist. No more hymns. No more sermons. No more amens.

Last week, the modest house of worship on Withrow Avenue stood vacant, its windows boarded up with plywood. The church had not been burned down by racists, it had been bought out by a real estate dev eloper intent on building a strip mall on the surrounding 65-acre tract. As a result, more than 100 nearby homes are being razed. Before the first crocus blooms, Evans Place subdivision -- a 75-year-old Afro-American neighborhood in St. Louis County -- will disappear forever.

On Grace, Darling and Agnes Avenues, bulldozer tracks have already bared the ground, and mud runs down the streets, as if the earth itself were being evicted. Addresses have been scrawled in orange spray paint on the front of ea ch single-storyframe residence. Once well-kept yards are now littered with the debris of displaced lives: a broken mirror on a front porch stoop, a discarded doll in a driveway.

Last Thursday morning, a huge yellow Komatsu tractor, its diesel engine idl ing, squatted next to the rubble at 8605 Darling. The mechanical claw attached to the heavy equipment had left a gaping hole in one remaining exterior wall, exposing a child's nursery.

"That's an awesome machine," said a member of the wrecking crew from the cab of his pickup truck. "Five or six crunches and its done." Behind him, an entire block had already been leveled. It looked like a tornado had touched down. But the destruction of Evans Place is by no means a natural disaster.

ORIX Sansone LLC -- a partnership between a giant Japanese-owned real estate investment firm and the St. Louis-based Sansone Group -- began acquiring the valuable land east of Brentwood Boulevard and south of Eager Road last year. When the $55 million first phase of the "Pr ome nade at Brentwood" is completed, the tenants will include a Target discount department store and Sports Authority, a national sporting goods chain. Other retailers that plan to lease space include
PetsMart and HomePlace.

The Brentwood city governmen t ha s cooperated with the project by granting the developer the right of eminent domain and creating a tax increment financing (TIF) district that will help subsidize the cost of the mall well into the next century. Under TIF, taxes levied on a developme nt ca n be earmarked to retire municipal bonds issued to pay for the project's roads, sewers and other improvements. More than $20 million will be directed towards that end during the first phase of the Promenade project. An extra $6.5 million in publicly-subsi dized improvements will be tossed into the second phase.

The question of whether this TIF-subsidized project is a boom or a boondoggle remains unanswered. One thing is certain, however. The idea is far from universally accepted. In a special elec tion he ld earlier this month, Richmond Heights voters turned down a plan to publicly subsidize another proposed shopping center, the Galleria Pointe, which would have also been located along Brentwood Boulevard ("Bucking the System, RFT, Feb 5). Meanwhile, a TIF district set up by the city of St. Louis to finance the St. Louis Marketplace shopping center on Manchester Avenue remains mired with problems.

Since opening in 1992, a high percentage of the nearly 500,000 square feet of retail space at the Ma rketplace has remained vacant. Shopping centers are a speculative business venture. But by plopping the Promenade down next to Highway 40 (Interstate 64), and just down the road a piece from the Galleria mall, the Sansone Group and ORIX Real Estate Equities Inc. lowered the risk. Furthermore, the inflated cost of purchasing more than 100 low-income housing units at well above market value has been more than compensated for by Brentwood's TIF subsidy. One side benefit of this municipal generosity is that a foreig n investor's profit margins will likely remain tad more secure. Almost everybody whoever lived in Evans Place is gone now.

Former residents of Evans Place who were contacted declined to comment on their displacement. Some older residents died before th ey could move. Memories of the old neighborhood next to the brickyard have been buried. It is as if a particularly heinous crime occurred, and out of shame or guilt nobody wants to talk about it. Calls made to a Brentwood elected official, and a spokesman for the Sansone Group went unreturned last week.

Last year, some residents charged that Westin Management Group, the real estate company that negotiated the home sales for the Sansone, had bargained improperly. The homeowners hired a lawyer a nd filed s uit, but eventually settled out of court. There now remains only one holdout (see sidebar).

Sometime last fall, the last child played for the last time in a backyard in Evans Place. A boy rode down the street on a bicycle at dusk. Someone wate red withering tomato vines with a garden hose. The smell of barbecue wafted through the air. A teenager played a stereo too loud.

It didn't happen exactly like this, of course. It didn't happen all at once. But evidence of these commonplace events can be found in the junk that has been left behind. Soon the trash will be hauled off or covered over, too. The strip mall developer has pledged to commemorate Evans Place with a monument.

Dopie Me, Can't Tell the Differece Between the Three Anthony Sansones 

Identifying the three Anthony Sansones can be cofusing. I have sometimes identified the elder Anthony Sansone as Anthony Sr. to distinguish him from his son. But Anthony Sr.'s father was also named Anthony. Here's what St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Edward H. Thorton reported on March 11, 1973 on the eldest Anthony Sansone:

"... Sansone's father, the late Anthony (Lan) Sansone, was a professional bondsman at the Municipal Courts Buildings for many years and in 1937 was sentenced to two years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to a charge of violating the Harrison Anti-Narcotics Act. ..."

I used to always think of that graf when I saw the Brentwood police car and Bi-State bus painted with the D.A.R.E. anti-drug organization's logo, courtesy of the Sansone Group.

Business Networking or a Tangled Web of Associations? 

One of St. Louis real estate and insurance executive Thomas R. Green's past partners was John T. Murphy, a Democratic powerbroker and lawyer. In 1968, Murphy, Green, Max Lubin (Green's uncle) and mob lawyer Morris Shenker developed an 18-story office building at 12th and Olive in downtown St. Louis and then leased it to the federal government. Green was also a partner in the Dunes Casino in Las Vegas with Shenker, Lubin and associates of Chicago organized crime.

A few years later a grand jury investigated the hidden ownership of the Frontier Casino in Las Vegas. St. Louis real estate developer Anthony Sansone testified about his participation in the scheme.

Sansone invested $150,000 in the Frontier in 1967. On March 5, 1972, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Edward H. Thorton reported the following:

Sansone Casino Tie Told
by Edward H. Thorton
A Staff Correspondent of the Post-Dispatch

Anthony F. Sansone Jr. business associate and political ally of St. Louis Mayor Alfonso J. Cervantes, invested $150,000 in the Frontier Hotel and gambling casino in Las Vegas, Nev., in 1967, he testified in United States District Court Friday.

And $40,000 of that amount was furnished by John T. Murphy, personal attorney for Cervantes and the Mayor's representative in several of Cervantes's businesses it was revealed.

Sansone was called by the government to testify in the anti-racketeering trial of Emprise Corp. of Buffalo, N.Y. and six individuals, including Anthony J. Giordano, reputed head of the St. Louis Mafia. They are charged with conspiring to conceal ownership of the Frontier Hotel in 1966 and 1967, using interstate facilities to further their scheme. Sansone never concealed his dealings with Frontier. ...

The Government has charged that Sansone's $150,000 loan to Vegas Frontier Inc. was arranged by Giordano and another defendant, Anthny J. Zerilli, a captain in the Detroit Mafia and former president of Hazel Park Racing Association at Detroit.

It is also alleged that on or about Sept. 14, 1967, Giordano and Sansone went from St. Louis to Las Vegas where the $150,000 was delivered to Jack Shapiro, who was managing director of the Frontier.

Sansone denied emphatically that he ever had traveled from St. Louis to Las Vegas with Giordano. He testified that although his father was a long time friend of Giordano's father, he would consider his relationship with Giordano as that of an acquaintance.

[the $150,00 came from the folowing sources, according to Sansone's testimony:]

$10,000 from Airport Limousine (Sansone testified he owns the company); his children's savings bonds; a check from his father and mother; funds from the sale of stocks he owned; a $25,000 loan from Frank Susumano, St. Louis restaurant operator and $40,000 obtained from lawyer "Murphy."

Sansone was Cervantes's campaign manager in the 1965 mayoral contest. Sansone testified that he withdrew from the Frontier Hotel venture about Nov. 10, 1967 and got his $150,000 back plus interest."

Thomas R. Green, Murphy's partner in the downtown office development, owned the Tivoli Theater in University City until 1994. ›

Dying to Go to Vegas 

The St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported on Oct. 14, 1971 that Mafia bosses Anthony Giordano and John J. Vitale and Giordano's nephew James Giammanco were arrested and questioned over the murder of Primo Frank Caudero, a St. Louis travel promoter sp ecializing in Las Vegas junkets.

from the Globe
Giordano, Vitale Released After Refusing to Talk About Slaying

Reputed Mafia chief Anthony Giordano, alleged Mafia leader John J. Vitale and James Giammanco were arrested Wednesday for questionin g in connection with the Oct. 2 gangland slaying of Primo Frank Caudera. ...

The body of Caudera, 49, a St. Louis promoter of junkets to Las Vegas casinos, was found in the trunk of his car Oct. 2.

Shortly before he was killed, Caudera had complained to FBI agents that St. Louis gangsters were trying to "muscle in" on his junket business.

Trolling the Back Channels of 9-11 

I started out this morning trying to find out a little more about Landmark Theaters, the operator of the Tivoli Theater and dozens of other art houses around the country. Where did end up? the Enron scandal and 9-11. A cautionary note: Everything is linke d in the Hyper-linked world of Internet. That said, it does seem more than a little curious that Oaktree Capital Management, the multi-billion-dollar pension fund investor, would be linked to both the Enron swindle and Spirt Airlines, the carrier that fl e w four of the 9-11 hijackers to New Jeresy days before the attacks. Oaktree bought Miramar Airlines of Miami, from Spirit earlier this year.

The history of Spirit is interesting, too. Spirit started out as Charter One, an Eastpointe, Mich. air carrier founded in 1980. Charter One flew gambling junkets first to Atlantic City and then Las Vegas and the Bahamas before expanding to oth e r markets. The company moved its operations to Miramar, Fla., near Fort Lauderdale, in 2000. But the low-fare carrier remains the second largest carrier in Detroit, with Atlantic City still one of its primary destinations.

Oaktree is a very big, dive rsified company, of course. So it shouldn't be that surprising that it would invest hard-earned public and private pension fund money in a shady energy company, a low-fare-regional airline, movie houses that show foreign flicks or formica makers ... I guess.....

Spirit Airlines Carried 9-11 Hijackers to Jersey 

Testifying before a closed-door session of the Joint Intelligence Committee on June 18, 2002, FBI director Robert S. Mueller III testified that four of the September 11 hijackers flew from Fort Lauderdale, Fl. on Sept. 7, 2001 to New Jersey on Spirit Airlines.

Oaktree Capital Management, an investor in the Lankmark Theaters, the operator of the Tivoli Theater, purchased the Miramar, Fl.-based carrier earlier this year.

The hijacker s of Flight 93 -- Saeed Alghamdi, Ziad Jarrah, Ahmad Al Haznawki and Ahmed Alnami -- flew on the Sept. 7 Spirit Airlines flight..

Spirit Airlines of Florida Sold to Oaktree 

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on Feb. 24 that Oaktree Capital Management, an investor in Landmark Theaters, the operator of the Tivoli Theater, bought Miramar, Fl.-based Spirit Airlines for $125 million.

Oaktree Tied to Enron Scandal 

The Houston Chronicle reported on April 1, 2003 that Oaktree Capital Management, an investor in Landmark Theaters, the operator of the Tivoli Theater, was tied to the Enron scandal.

Hell Hound, Oaktree Capital's Partner 

On Jan. 19, Buyout.com reported that Oaktree Capital Management, a pension fund management firm invested in Landmark Theaters, the operator of the Tivoli Theater, partnered with Cerebrus Capital to buy out a formica manufacturing firm.

Strange name for an investment firm, Cerebrus.
The definiton for Cerebrus from the Penguin Dictionary of Classical Mythology:

CerebrusThe dog of Hades. He watched over the realm of the dead and forbade living people to enter it, and prevented dead from leaving it. Cerebrus is generally described as having three dogs' heads, a serpent fro a tail and on his back inumerable snakes' heads. He is sometimes said to have had fifty, or a hundred heads. He was chained up in front of the gate of the Underworld and filled souls with terror as they were entering. One of the labours of Heracles was to go to the Underworld to find Cerebrus and bring him back to earth. Cerebrus was believe d to be the son of Echidna and Typhon, brother of Orthrus, the monstrous dog of Geryon, of the Hyrda of Lerna and of the Nemean lion...∞

Keystone State Auditor Investigates Oaktree Capital 

Last year the Pennsylvania state auditor sought to audit public pension fund investments including those tied to Oaktree Management, which is heavily invested in Landmark Theaters, operator of the Tivoli Theater in University City.

More Background on the "Vulture" Firm that Controls the Tivoli 

from the Milwaukee Business Journal

Oaktree Capital Management, an investment management and buyout firm with approximately $25 billion of assets. ...The majority shareholder, Oaktree Capital anagement, is a so-called vulture firm that speciali zes in acquiring troubled companies in inefficient markets. Oaktree operates as a money management firm and has built a reputation of using its expertise to make respectable gains on its investments, usually avoiding high-risk, high-reward markets.

Oakt ree tends to be a long-term investor in the companies it acquires, typically holding an investment for five to seven years before
selling it, or taking it public. Oaktree has offices in Los Angeles, New York, London, Singapore and Tokyo. The firm currentl y is
involved in the initial public offering for Loews Cineplex Entertainment Corp.

Landmark Theaters Owned by 2929 Entertainment and Oaktree Capital Management LLC 

Background on the company that currently leases the Tivoli Theater:

Los Angeles, CA-Sept. 24, 2003--- Todd Wagner, Co-Founder and Chief
Executive Officer of 2929 Entertainment, announced his company has entered into an agreement to acquire the parent com pany of Landmark Theaters, the nation's largest art-house theater chain, from investment funds and accounts managed by Oaktree Capital Management, LLC. Upon closing of the transaction, Wagner and his partner Mark Cuban will assume ownership of the parent company of the Los Angeles based chain. It is expected that the current management team at Landmark will remain in place after the closing. The transaction is scheduled to close in October subject to customary regulatory approvals and closing conditions. ...

After selling Broadcast.com, the Internet company that he and Cuban founded, for $5.7 billion to Yahoo! Inc. in 1999, Wagner created 2929 Entertainment to leverage his expertise in digital technology and his passion for the entertainment business. In November, 2001, 2929 acquired Rysher Entertainment and its substantial film and television programming library, including various rights to such shows as "Hogan's Heroes," Sex and the City," and "Star Search." A new version of "Star Search" co-produce d by 2929 Entertainment, premiered in January 2003 to strong ratings. A second season of Star Search will launch in January 2004 on CBS. ...

In addition to 2929 Entertainment's extensive library and production
capabilities, Wagner and Cuban are also par tnered in HDNet, an all-high
definition national television network. HDNet, the leader in
high-definition broadcasting, produces and televises more hours of original
HDTV entertainment, news and sports programming than any other network. Its two 24/7 ne tworks, HDNet and HDNet Movies, are currently available on DIRECTV, DISH Network, Charter Communications, Insight Communications, and other cable companies affiliated with the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC).

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Was Tony Snubbed? 

In July 1996, KMOX talk show host Charles Brennan attended the 50th birthday party for Pasta House co-owner John Ferrara. Among those also in attendance was the late Democratic state senator J.B. "Jet" Banks. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has reported in depth on Banks' checkered political career, including an unsolved homicide in the Missouri Bootheel.

Brennan's attendance was mentioned by Post-Dispatch gossip columnist Jerry Berger on July 24, 1996. In the same column, Berger mentions another birthday celebration -- that of Anthony F. Sansone, patriarch of the local real estate dynasty.

In 1980 or thereabouts, Sansone sold his airport limo service to none other than J.B. "Jet" Banks.

Hmm. I wonder if Jet made an appearance at Sansone's party, too?

Around the time of the Ferrara bash, another party goer, Sorkis Webbe Jr., would have been recently released from federal prison for his part in the city's cable TV scandal. Webbe's late father, Sorkis Sr., was convicted of income tax evasion involving the Aladdin Casino in Vegas in the early 1980s. On release from prison, Sorkis Jr. managed the golf range owned by Fred Weber Inc. on Creve Coeur Mill Road. That property was taken to build the new Page Avenue extension and bridge, aptly named after the late county exec Buzz Westfall. Weber built the bridge so it profitted doubly. Besides major political donor and CEO Thomas Dunne, the road-building company's roster included Anthony William Giordano, the son of the late mafia boss Tony "G" Giordano. The younger Giordano apparently went to work for Weber sometime after he shuttered the family's banana distribution company on North Broadway in 1995.

That must have been a hell of party, Charlie.

Venezia Suspected of Torching His Own House -- In St. Louis County 

In 1971, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported that an insurance company suspected that Eastside racketeer Thomas Venezia torched his own house in St. Louis County.

Globe reporters Dennis McCarty and Steve Higgins reported the story.

Later in his career, Higgins, a Republican, became U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri.

Perhaps Post-Dispatch reporters Pat Gauen and Charles Bosworth, who described Venezia as a "businessman" in the 1990s, should have consulte d Higgins about Venezia's background.

Interestingly, the Eastern District of Missouri, rarely indicts criminals of Venezia's status. The dearth of racketeering indictments gives the perception that the Missouri side of the border is less corrupt than t he Eastside. *

Fire insurance firm fights county claim
by Steve Higgins and Dennis J. McCarty
St. Louis Globe-Democrat
Nov. 27, 1971

"The payment of a large fire insurance claim, after the explosion and destrcution of a $40,000 St. Louis County house las spring, is being fought in federal court here by teh Hartford Fire Insurance Co., a Globe-Democrat check of records shows.

In refusing payment of the claim the company is accsuing Thomas P. Venezia of a fire of incendiary origin (which is a fancy way of saying arson). The eight-room brick and frame home of Venezia and his wife, Sandra, in Old Farm Estates was demolished by a double explosion and fire last March 18. ..."

Even if Venezia didn't intentionally cause the blasts, the fire was still determined to be suspect by insurance investigators. So did somebody else blow up Venezia's house?

Holier Than Ray 

KMOX talk show host Charles Brennan accused former Riverfront Times publisher Ray Hartmann of printing obscene, indecent materials in the past. on last night's Donnybrook broadcast.

One thing I can say for Hartmann is that he has never been reported to chum around with the company th at allegedly Brennan keeps.

On July 24, 1996 St. Louis Post-Dispatch gossip columnist Jerry Berger reported that Brennan attended Pasta House owner John Ferrara's birthday party. The guest list at that fete included: the late J.B. "Jet" Banks, north side crime boss and state senator; George Peach, defrocked circuit attorney; Peter Rothschild, developer; Sorkis Webbe Jr., former alderman and convicted felon; the Rallo clan, John, Nick and Charles and the other Pasta House Boys, Joe Fresta and Kim Tucci..

Your 50 Cents Worth 

Today's edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch features an excellent report by Phillip O'Connor on U.S. mercenaries fighting in Iraq. Pixs by J.B. Forbes.


What happened to Riverfront Times reporter Geri Dreiling, whose name has been missing from the staff box for the last two weeks?

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Tomas Venezia, a Stone-Cold Killer Before He was 21  

Through a good chunk of the last decade, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch called Thomas Venezia a businessman -- even after he was indicted for racketeering.

Eaxample: U.S. Indicts Seven in Illegal Gambling by Charles Bosworth Jr. and Patrick E. Gauen
Businessman Thomas Venezia of Belleville operated a multimillion-dollar gambling scheme protected by bribes to Mayor Sylverster Jackson of Washington Park, according to a federal indictment unsealed Thursday against them and five others.

Here's two earlier stories that appeared in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, which indicate clearly Venezia's past "business" activities. None of this was ever mentioned in the Post-Dispatch coverage. Why? It's not relevant? It's a different Thomas Venezia? Well, they're about the same age.

Dec. 2, 1962
Youth Released In Slaying of Former Convict

The circuit attorney's office Thursday refused to issue a warrant against a 19-year-old boy who shot and killed a former convict Wednesday night in his father's tavern., the Manhattan Bar, 524 North Vandeventer ave.

Quentin H. Gansloser, first assistant circuit attorney, said the youth, Thomas P. Venezia, of 2605 Alfred ave., apparently acted in self defense when he shot Elmer J. Dowell, 25, of 4111 Laclede ave.

The shooting occurred at 10:30 p.m. in the bar owned by the youth's father, Thomas G. Venezia, 62, of the Alfred avenue address. The younger Venezia said he shot Dowell after Dowell threatened to kill him. An open knife with a four-inch blade was found near Dowell's body.

The elder Venezia told police he ejected Dowell from the tavern at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.

He said Dowell returned Wednesday night and asked to be served and bartender John Welker, 23, of 3410 Nebraska ave. refused to serv him Dowell started arguing with the elder Venezia.

The younger Venezia said he then asked Dowell to leave but Dowell started toward him with his arm raised and yelled "I'll kill you." the youth fired four shots at Dowell. One went into the floor and three struck Dowell. The youth then called police and told them when they arrived that I'm the man who shot him."

Dowell, a tuckpointer, was senteced to two years in state prison in September 1958, on charges of forcible rape. He was paroled after serving one year. In 1955, he was given a suspended two-year sentence on a charge of statutory rape.

Jan. 2, 1964
4 Arrested In Slaying Of Laborer
Victim Found Lying in Front of Olive St. Bar

Four persons have been booked for murder in the fatal shooting of a laborer, found lying on the sidewalk in front of the Pink Elephant Lounge tavern 3840 Olive St. late New Year's Eve.

The victim, John Johnson, 34, of 4162 Washington bl., was shot once in the head. He was pronounced dead at City Hospital.

Booked for murder were Thomas Venezia, 20, of 2605 Alfred ave; Alfred K. Graf, 34, a bartender, of 1519A Cass ave.;Mrs. Faye Clark, 21, a barmaid, of 3840A Olive st., and Miss Betty Homer, 23, of 1147 Talmadge ave., a clerk. All four denied knowledge of the killing.

One witness told police Mr. Johnson, a Negro, was shot inside thavern and dragged to the sidewalk. Blood spots were found inside the building.

However, all four persons arrested in the death denied this.

A witness who sasw the shooting said he heard an explosion and saw Mr. Venezia walk up to another man and take what appeared to be an automatic pistol from him.

The other man then left, police were told.

Mr. Venezia, who police said is a brother of the tavern's licensee, Saarah Tararrana, said he was upstairs sleeping and did not see the deaed man until he was discovered on the sidewalk, according to Capt. John Walsh, head of the homicide division.

Both Mr. Graf and Mrs. Clark said Mr. Johnson had not bee in the tavern.

Mis Homer denide seeing the shooting and was not at the tavern when police arrived.

Mr. Venezia shot and killed a former convict in December 1962, at his father's tavern, the Manhattan Bar, 524 North Vandevanter ave.


Another Riverfront Times advertiser. The Illinois Secretary of State shows the company that owns PT's Eastside locations to be Cardinal Management L.P., Troy Lowrie, general president.

Lowrie is the heir to his father Hal Lowrie's chain of topless bars that operate in several states. Lowrie has also branched out into other business ventures. Lowrie's headquarters are in Denver. After one of his Denver managers -- Laurence Ballani, was brought up on sexual assault charges, stemming from the alleged rape of a dancer, Lowrie transferred him to the East St. Louis area, where PT's owns four topless bars. The civil case against Ballani eventually went to the Colorado Court of Appeals (#99CA2407). The criminal charge brought against Ballani was through Arapahoe County, Colorado prosecutor's office (98-R694).

Hey, Andy, why doesn't Westword look into this?

Boxers n' Briefs 

Another Riverfront Times advertiser.
Boxers n' Briefs is owned by Platinum Inc., according to its 2001 Centreville liquor license. The Illinois Secretary of State lists Sherry Dee Marsala of Brooklyn, Ill. as the registered agent; James Lichty, president and Linda Sonnenschein, massage parlor kingpin Dennis Sonnenschein's former wife, secretary.

Sonnenschein, a pimp, pleaded guilty last year to an obstruction of justice charge related to a federal grand jury investigation into the prostitution rackets on the Eastside. The grand jury was looking into how the prostitution rackets use Missouri publications such as the Riverfront Times to draw customers across state lines for illegal purpooses.

The property on which the gay strip club in Centreville is located is owned by Entertainment Ill. Inc., according to its 2001 Centreville liquor license. The name on the liquor license is Robert D. Hollenbeck, 4334I Arrow Tree Dr., St. Louis, Mo. 63128.

But Illinois Entertainment's address is listed as 10282 N. 103 Place, Scottsville, Ariz. 85258.

Hey, Lacey, why don't you investigate this? -- it's in your backyard.

The Crystal Palace 

Another Riverfront Times advertiser. All three felons associated with this topless bar have been convicted of racketeering or obstruction of justice charges. They are: Thomas Venezia, Amiel Cueto and Robert Romanik.

New Times "associate executive editor" Andy Van De Voorde must be ignorant or awfully damn stupid to say that RFT advertisers aren't connected to organized crime. Of course, you could never tell that from fine reporting of Bruce Rushton, who has written about Brooklyn, Ill. and never mentioned Dennis Sonnenschein, Thomas Venezia, Amiel Cueto or Robert Romanik. I believe that you went to the strip clubs, Bruce. You didn't pull a Jayson Blair.

The VIP Oriental Spa in Centerville 

I'm sure this outfit has advertised in the Riverfront Times in the past. It's located in Centreville, Ill. According St Clair County property records the land under the VIP Oriental Spa is owned by one Andrew Millas. Andrew and his brother used to operate a steak house in Centreville and one in East St. Louis. Both of them were blown up in dynamite bombings in 1965.

From my notes: On March 30, 1965, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported that the Millas Steak House, 4101 State Street, East St. Louis, was damaged by an explosion. Authorities estimated that the blast was caused by 10 sticks of dynamite.

A couple years ago Millas was listed as being broker and member of the Fairview Heights (St. Clair County, Ill.) Chamber of Commerce.

Thankfully for Mr. Millas, things have settled down since the wild and wooly 60s.

I'm Not Insinuating Anymore, Andy 

In the July/August issue of the St. Louis Journalism Review, News Times executive associate editor Andy Van De Voorde said that I "insinuated that New Times is supported by advertisers linked to organized crime. ..."

What exactly does an "execu tive associate editor" do, anyway, besides lie?

Media Mayhem Review 

In its first three months, Media Mayhem has reported the following:

1. Convicted felon and Mafia soldier Nando Bartolotta and former Riverfront Times publisher Ray Hartmann shared the same lawyer -- Andrew Leonard.

2. The 2003 federal investigation that snared pimp Dennis Sonneschein, an associate of organized crime, looked into the luring of customers to Eastside whorehouses by advertisements placed in the Riverfront Times between 1996 and 2000. During the last two years of the investigation, the newspaper was owned by New Times Inc. of Phoenix, publisher of a dozen weekly newspapers. Nando Bartolotta, a St. Louis Mafia soldier, acted as Sonnenschein's "bodyguard" in the 1980s.

3. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch inaccurately reported the circumstances surrounding the death of federal informant Jesse Stoneking in Surprise, Ariz. in January 2003. Among those who Stoneking had helped put away was Nando Bartolotta, who, as already mentioned, was represented at trial by Andrew Leonard, longtime general counsel for Hartmann Publishing. Stoneking had knowledge of the Eastside rackets because he was second in command to the late Art Berne, who died in 1994.

4.The Riverfront Times failed to mention that Frank Fertitta Jr., an associate of organized crime, was the founder of Station Casino in it reporting on a gambling scandal that rocked the state in 2000. Station bought full-page ads in the RFT before being kicked out of the state.

5. Thomas R. Green, a Vegas-connected contemporary of Fertitta's, owned the Tivoli Building in University City prior to its sale in 1994 to Joe Edwards, owner of Blueberry Hill bar. Blueberrry Hill remains a major advertiser in the Riverfront Times. The RFT became the first office tenant of the renovated building in 1997. Green, the building's previous owner, shared a stake in the Dunes Casino and Hotel with mob lawyer Morris Shenker, two former St. Louis bookies and associates of Chicago o rganized crime. In the 1970s, Edwards rented Blueberry Hill from Green.

6. St. Louis County Executive Charles Dooley received a $2,000 contribution to his 2000 congressional campaign from loan shark Alvin Malnik of Miami Beach. Malnik was the protege of mob financier Meyer Lansky.

7. Julia Von Wellen, the longtime partner of St. Louis Police Board member Floyd Warmann, was arrested for prostitution and promoting prostitution in St. Louis County in 1979.

8. Retired Madison County Deputy Conrad "Pete" Baetz, a congressional investigator, compromised the House Select Committee on Assassination's inquiry into the death of the Rev. Martian Luther King Jr. by engaging in illegal activities with the late Oliver Patterson, an informant for the committee.

About New Times: "A Weekly Respite from the Hurried Fact-Finding of Daily Journalism" 

Let's examine the inaccurate, self-promoting BS that New Times uses to sell its image as a legitimate journalistic enterprise:

"... We make a difference in our communities, by breaking news, by taking the time to interpret it, and by off ering readers a weekly respite from the hurried fact-finding of daily journalism. ..."

"A weekly respite from the hurried fact-finding of daily journalism." That's rich. In the last month, the Riverfront Times has featured a co mic strip on the cover, a story about some retro beatnik revival and a chronology of a reporter's week-long alcoholic binge.

An Old Con Talks About Russell Byers and Jesse Stoneking 

Russell Byers was the primary witness before the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978. He testified that he had received a contract offer to kill the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Byers also was the suspected mastermind of the 1978 St. Louis Art Museum burglary. He was arrested but never charged for that crime.

Jesse Stoneking was the FBI informant who set up Mafia members in St. Louis in the early 1980s. He died, in an apparent suicide, in January 2003 in Arizona.

Here's an excerpt from a l etter from Richard Beck dated Sunday, Sept. 14, 2003:

"... Russell Byers last lived on Fredric Court in Brentwood (acutally Rock Hill), Missouri. His best pal was Marty Webber, a retired FBI agent, who was involved in buying some stolen bronze western artifacts I had, to sell to the insurance company. We all got into an argument over $ and misrepresentation by Byers. I was warned (FBI) to leave him alone. Russell was plump, about 5 ft 8 in with thick grey hair and brown eyes

"About Russell Byers, Jesse Stoneking, etc. I would prefer to concentrate on the book. Stoneking is in the 302's coming your way. Stoneking (Art Berne's right hand man) was a car thief who killed Don Ellington for Art because they killed Mel Beckman and Dutch Dowling for Buster Wort man and Art didn't trust him. Jesse in turn became Art's right arm. Art inherited everything from Buster and Chicago (because they didn't want it). ...

"Stoneking was a pathological liar who framed several guys to drum up some business for the FBI. First he'd go to a guy (he did it to me) and suggest some criminal conspiracy and promote it all. Then come back later with a tape recorder (FBI). This guy I knew well. Been to his home, saw him punch his wife, loaned me his car (with a FBI bug in it). This guy is dead and where he belongs. A real sime ball. ...

I stole lots of fine art and sold it to Byers and Ash Finer (a deceased Jewish businessman Byers introduced me to). I will send you news clippings on that to.

Forget about the Steamfitters file for now, Ok? We could talk about them all day. Besides I was a mjor suspect on Callanan, Shoulders, Steska and other bombs. I'll send you news clippings. Your friend CD could of been invaluable with obtaining news clippings on me. ..."

Bartolotta: "Just a Fat Sissy Before He was `Made'" 

If you believe the FBI's paper trail, the bureau's field office in St. Louis doesn't have a clue about the its own past investigations into organized crime here.

Take, for example, the FBI 302 report filed by Special Agent Frank Brostrom in early M ay 2000.

Brostrom traveled to the Franklin County Jail on May 2, 2000 to interview Richard Douglas Beck, a St. Louis career criminal who likes to call himself the "Mad Bomber." Beck also enjoys bragging about his criminal past and says that St. Lou is Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan once wrote a column about him. By the time Brostrom arrived on the scene, the old crook was getting up in years, when he was jailed in 2000 in Franklin County. He is now serving a federal prison term in West Virginia and wants someone to write his autobiography.

Brostrom, the FBI agent, wrote a couple chapters of the book himself. Beck, seeking to cut a deal to lessen his sentence, provided information about his past criminal associations. He was an expert in rigging car bombs and also bank extortion.

On May 5, 2000, Beck provided the following information to Brostrom:

" ... (sic)Nondo Bartolotta
Beck advised that known "mob figure" John (sic)Vitali was Nondo Bartolotta's "sponsor." when Nondo was ` initiated.' Beck then advised SA Brostrom to make sure to record the following information as it would make a good 302.

"Beck advised that (sic)Vitali initiated Nondo and Mathhew Trupiano at the same time. The initiation ceremony took place at a St. Charles, Missouri pizzeria.

Beck advised that an individual identified as Gary Wiser (phoentic) priviously "bad-mouthed" Beck during a conversation with (sic) Nondo Bartolotta. Bartolotta told Beck that Wiser came to the Soulard Market and said some bad things about Beck. Beck "could take cared of it." Beck recalled that Bartolotta described Wiser's address as being near Matthew Trupiano's house. Beck recalled that Wiser's backyard faced a school yard. Beck could not recall the exact address. Bartolotta kne w that Beck was going to do something to Wiser because of the accusations. Bartolotta then admitted to Beck that he had lied about Wiser. Bartolotta was embarrassed but admitted that he lied and that Wiser did not really say thing about Beck. Beck could n ot believe that Bartolotta lied., but Beck respected him for admitting that he lied.

"Beck was associated with Bartolotta long before all of the "Mafia shit started". Beck recalled that (sic)Nondo was just a `fat sissy" before he was "made'. Beck recalls Bartolotta was always talking about the fact that Trupiano got `made when (sic)Nondo got `made.' After being `made' Bartolotta became arrogant and a tough guy.

"Beck advised that Bartolotta was associated with organized crime and recalled an inc ident wherein Bartolotta was invited to a meeting with Ray Flynn., Matthew Trupiano and Jesse Stoneking. During the meeting they all agreed to help Beck get into the Local 53 Union. Beck also recalled a discussion with Bartolotta where Bartolotta told Bec k that he could never become a `made member' because Beck was not Italian. Bartolotta further told Beck that he (Bartolotta) had to go along with Trupiano's decisions about Beck. ..."

Note that FBI agent Brostrom repeadtedly misspells Mafia boss Joh n Vita le's name. Anybody from St. Louis would know that Vitale is spelled with an E on the end not an I. It's a common Italian name here. Brostrom also repeatedly misspells Bartolotta's first name Nando, which is short for Fernando.

Also worth noting i s the f act that FBI informant Jesse Stoneking is mentioned in Beck's FBI report. More than two years later, agent Brostrom contacted the Surprise, Ariz. police department concerning Stoneking's death.

J.C. Vance of the Surprise (Ariz.) Police Depar tment ma de the following remarks in his report dated Jan. 22, 2003:





REPORTED:01/27/03 by J.C. VANCE
RECORDED:01/27/03 by J.C. VANCE
INCIDENT: 30119097

It would be easy to infer from Brostrom's belated contact with the Arizona police that the FBI in St. Louis didn't know where Stoneking was at the time of his death. After all, John Auble of KTVI-TV Channel 2 -- not Brostrom of the FBI -- firs t contacted the Surprise police and notified them that the deceased, who they had identified as Jesse McBride, was actually St. Louis FBI informant Jesse Stoneking. Auble's call to Arizona beat Brostrom's by a day.

Moreover, in his own report based on t he Beck interview, Brostrom doesn't even know how to spell Vitale, It's spelled V-I-T-A-L-E, Frank. John Vitale has been dead for more than two decades. So a young agent might not know how to spell his name.

I'm often told that the simplest answer is often the right one. But I don't necessarily buy that. The world is never that simple except to people who are looking for easy answers.

Today's Word Puzzle 

handwritten schematic from the Jesse Stoneking file

Nando Bartolotta, Art Berne, Stoneking
Sonnenschein, Dennis
Boxers n Brief
Platinum Inc. parent
Entertainment Ill. Inc.
(10282 103 Place
Scottsdale, Ariz. 85250
Gotti, NY?
Local 562
Chicago Mafia
Michael Laurella
Wickenburg, Ariz.
Surprise, Ariz.
Both Maricopa County as is Entertainment Illinois, Ill.
Berne's successor, Thomas Venezia
Amiel Cueto
Edw. Wortman (Buster's bro.)
Vending machine comapny 

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The Murder of J. "Jack" O'Connell Hough, Miami Beach 1967 

Last week I came across a reference to the murder of J. O'Connell Hough in Miami Beach in 1967. I didn't recall who Hough was. Now I know.

Denny Walsh reported the background on the case in his May 29, 1970 article, The Mayor, The Mob and the Lawyer. The late Duncan Baumann, the publisher of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat refused to run Walsh's story as a part of series on the Mafia. The publisher obviously didn't want to offend his pals, Mayor A.J. Cervantes, Anthony Sansone and Morris Shenker. S o Walsh quit the newspaper and sold the story to Life. Walsh and fellow Globe reporter Al Delugah won the Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on the local Mafia. They are the last reporters to win the Pulitzer for news reporting in St. L ouis. You could say there's been a bit of a dry spell.

"... In 1968 the government named Shenker as an intended beneficiary when it brought charges against a number of people in an elaborate insurance kickback scheme, but they failed to make it stick. A few years earlier the St. Louis Steamfitters' union had suddenly begun doing a lot of business with an obscure Indiana insurance company named First United Life. Two of Shenker's business associates turned up as agents for First United and started collec t ing commissions and allowances in connection with th sale of insurance to the union.

It deveveloped that just before the union switched its insurance to Frist United, a group including one of the agents and Shenker's accountant had secured options fr om Frist United on some 90,000 shards of the company's stock -- at $4 a share below market price. Taken together, the potential profits on the stock options, the commissions and the allowances added up to more than $1 million.

The government investig ate d and brought charges of "conspiracy to kck back." Two witnesses testified that Shenker had to be cut in for 10 percent of everything or the deal wouldn't go through. (Shenker admitted owning some First United stock but said he had bought it `over t h e counter.')

A federal grand jury incited several people including the president of First United and a Steamfitter official. Shenker was named only in a bill of particulars. Jack Hough (J. O'Connell Hough), who had received both allowances and stock, ha d agreed to talk. But before he could, Hough was found murdered in Florida. The other key witnesses, including Shenker's accountant, backed out, and when the case finally came to trial last year, all the defendants were acquitted. ..."

The Mayor and the Deposed Meatcutter Boss Tour a Defunct Stock Yard 

Sansone, Mayor's Ally, In MSD Land Negotiation
St. Louis Globe-Democrat
Aug. 20, 1966
by William J. Feustal and Denny Walsh

Anthony Sansone, close business and politcial associate of Mayor Alfonso J. Cervantes, has injected himself into real estate negotiations involving the Metropolitian Sewer District, half of whose governing body is appointed by the mayor.

A trip by Mayor Cervantes himself to the property preceded by a matter of days Mr. Sansone's entry into the negotiations involving the old Mississippi Valley Stock Yards. ...

The land in question is the now-defunct Mississippi Valley Stock Yards, at 61 Angelica St., which is 4100 north between Broadway and the Mississippi River. Thirteen acres involved are north of Angelica and five acres south.

The owner is Carroll P. Poland who closed the yards last Sept. 1. ...

Mr. Poland contends that he did not invite Mr. Sansone into the deal.

He said that Nicholas M. Blassie, deposed ST. Louis meatcutter boss knew of his anxiety to dispose of the land and brought the mayor to the stock yards once night last fall to look things over. ...≤

They Don't Call it Organized for Nothing 

Here's an excerpt from my 1997 article on the murder of Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles 20 years earlier. At the time of his death Bolles was investigating the Emprise Corp. and its ties to organized crime.

...This is not the first time Sportservice’s name has been mentioned in regard to the stadium or other professional sports facilities in St. Louis. The week before the Crime Committee heard Bolles’ testimony in 1972, it listened to Capt. Earl T. Halveland, then the commander of the intelligence unit of the St. Louis Police Department. Halveland told how the Emprise subsidiary originally helped finance Busch Memorial Stadium.

“Sportservice Inc. purchased the concession equipment that was installed in the stadium. This was reported to be a million dollars worth of equipment for the concession stands,” said Halveland. “ (In return,) they (Sportservice) received a 30-year contract for the concessions and guaranteed ... Civic Center Redevelopment Corp. -- which developed the stadium project -- $400,000 (per year).” It doesn’t take a fiduciary to ascertain that the 30 year, $12 million guarantee provided a footing for the stadium’s financial structure.

One beneficiary of the Sportservice contract with Civic Center was Giordano, the St. Louis Mafia boss, who owned Automatic Cigarette Sales Co. Sportservice and its sister company, Missouri Sportservice, granted Automatic Cigarette Sales the rights to place cigarette vending machines not only at the stadium but at the municipally-owned Kiel Auditorium and the Arena, then home of the St. Louis Blues hockey team.

In 1967, Emprise lent Sid Salomon Jr., then the owner of the Arena and the Blues, $1.5 million, after Sportservice landed a 10-year concessions contract at the facility. When that contract expired, Sportservice played a hand in the complicated 1977 sale of the Arena to Ralston Purina Co., which had bought the Blues earlier that year. As a part of the $8.8 million Arena deal, Ralston paid off the mortgage holder and a partnership that included Sportservice. After Ralston acquired the Arena, it leased the building back to Dome Associates Inc., another company linked to the Buffalo-based sports concessions firm.

By 1977, Bolles was dead, but Sportservice’s liaisons in St. Louis and elsewhere still seemed to mimic the patterns he explained to the Crime Committee five years earlier. Bolles then recounted how he had traveled around the country rummaging through newspaper morgues in an effort to understand the scope of the Emprise empire. He described how Emprise loans locked professional sports franchises into unbreakable long-term contracts. He outlined how the Cleveland mob borrowed money from Sportservice dating back to 1937. He explained how Moe Dalitz, a leader of the Cleveland crime organization, reciprocated, lending Emprise $250,000 in 1958.

Bolles cautioned “that Emprise has ... had a gradual shift from a concession to an ownership position in the tracks and elsewhere through the use of high interest loans. ... If they are in ownership positions, they ... are in a position to effect the outcome of the contests. I just feel that it is absolutely essential, with millions of dollars changing hands on private bets and otherwise on every major sports contest in this nation, that we be absolutely assured of the fact that we have clean, honest sports.”

The reporter’s caveat dovetailed with Halveland’s testimony. The intelligence unit commander told the panel that St. Louis bookmakers -- who were close associates of Giordano -- received their daily sports betting line from Las Vegas “at one location formerly owned by Missouri Sportservice Inc.”

More important perhaps is Halveland’s theory on how Giordano bankrolled his own move into the Las Vegas gambling scene:

“A substantial sum of money was received by Giordano ... in 1965 through the sale of property at 508 Market St., St. Louis, Mo.,” said Halveland. “This building formerly housed a B-girl-type juice joint tavern. This property was sold to the Civic Center Redevelopment Corp., which subsequently constructed the St. Louis baseball stadium in this area. ... He (Giordano) is then known to have made visits to Las Vegas, Nev., and the Frontier Hotel incident began developing just after this time.”

Halveland’s testimony -- which went virtually unreported at the time -- indicates that an illegal St. Louis gambling wire service operated at a site previously owned by an Emprise subsidiary. In addition, the St. Louis police officer testified that Giordano may have received some of the money he secretly invested in the Frontier by selling property to Civic Center, the stadium developer. Emprise, who held the concessions contract with the stadium, was convicted of shielding Giordano’s and the Detroit Mafia’s joint ownership of the casino.

The St. Louis Mafia leader and heroin trafficker known used legitimate businessmen to further his casino interests. Halveland told the Crime Committee that “Giordano secured a loan from a St. Louis area restaurant operator.”

Actually, Frank Cusumano, the St. Louis restauranteur, made three unsecured loans to Giordano totaling $50,000 between 1964 and 1968, according to Cusumano’s testimony at the 1972 federal trial in Los Angeles. He wasn’t the only St. Louisan that provided backing for Giordano, however.

Real estate tycoon Anthony Sansone Jr. testified he had withdrawn a $150,000 investment in the Frontier, after being notified he would be required to apply for a Nevada gaming license. Federal prosecutors alleged Sansone, a business partner of former St. Louis Mayor Alfonso J. Cervantes, traveled to Las Vegas with Giordano to make the investment. Sansone is the son-in-law of the late James Michaels Sr., then the Syrian crime boss of St. Louis’ and a close ally of Giordano.

That Emprise was convicted with Mafiosa from both St. Louis and Detroit is probably not a coincidence. Three of Giordano’s sisters married Detroit Mafia members, according to Halveland’s testimony. But organized crime ties linking the two cities with Arizona date back even further.

During Prohibition, Peter and Thomas (Yonnie) Licavoli, Joseph Bommarito and other St. Louis gangsters migrated to Detroit to act as gunmen for the Purple Gang, a group of notorious Jewish bootleggers. Later, Peter Licavoli moved to Tucson in 1944 at the request of mobsters Bugsy Siegel and Moe Dalitz. At the time of Bolles’ death, Peter Licavoli Sr. shared power in Arizona with Joe Bonanno, the exiled boss of one of New York’s ruling Mafia families.

This is the milieu Bolles inhabited by the mid-1970s.

Tony Sansone, Another Satisfied Lazaroff Customer 

Among Michael Lazaroff's many clients was Sansone Development. In 1999, I wrote a story for the Riverfront Times on tax-increment financing in St. Louis County. Sansone then led the pack in receiving public subsidies to help build its many developments. There are only three references to Sansone in the RFT's online archive. They are all by me. When Sansone is mentioned in the media nowadays, the patriarch's dark past is never mentioned. Here's a capsule version from my 1999 TIF story:

Anthony F. Sansone Sr., the patriarch of the Sansone Group, will never be displaced or disturbed by a TIF project. The 73-year-old developer is far from the bulldozers' roar, ensconced in the tony St. Louis County suburb of Huntleigh, where, according to St. Louis County property records, he occupies a 15-room mansion that has seven baths and a market value of almost $1.5 million.

Reaping TIF benefits is but the latest good fortune to befall Sansone, whose financial affairs have flourished in the gray realm where private interests and public policy come together. Over the years, newspaper accounts have alleged a litany of improprieties from which Sansone Sr.'s business interests have reportedly profited. Many of the accounts contain references to associations with political and organized-crime figures.

For instance, in 1964, Sansone acted as campaign manager for his business partner, Alfonso J. Cervantes, who successfully ran for mayor of St. Louis that year.

Once in office, Cervantes named Sansone Sr.'s brother to the influential post of city assessor. Prior to this appointment, Joseph C. Sansone was a partner with Anthony Sansone Sr. in the family's real-estate business. By 1967, Sansone Realty Co., then located at 4705 Hampton Ave., had its property taxes rolled back by more than 50 percent, according to a story in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

A 1970 Life magazine story, by former Globe-Democrat reporter Denny Walsh, focused national attention on Cervantes' relationship with Sansone Sr. The story told, among other things, how Sansone arranged a 1964 campaign-strategy session between his father-in-law, Jimmie Michaels, then head of the Syrian organized-crime faction in St. Louis, and Cervantes. After Cervantes won the mayoral primary, the Life story reported that Sansone Sr. later attended another strategy meeting with Michaels and Anthony "Tony G" Giordano, then the leader of the St. Louis Mafia. After publication of the Life story, Sansone denied in news accounts that the meetings took place.

Sansone's associations drew additional scrutiny in 1972, when he appeared as a witness in a federal anti-racketeering trial in Los Angeles. Under oath, he testified that in 1967 he had withdrawn a $150,000 investment in the Frontier Casino in Las Vegas, after being notified he would be required to apply for a Nevada gaming license. Federal prosecutors had alleged that Mafiosi in St. Louis and Detroit were trying to gain illegal control of the casino. Sansone, the prosecutors alleged, traveled to Las Vegas with Giordano to make the investment. Sansone denied the charge but testified that he was acquainted with Giordano through family ties.

With the passage of time, however, these eyebrow-raising headlines have been mostly forgotten, and the Sansone Group, as it is now known, goes about its business with little publicity. News stories that chronicle TIF projects are buried in the business section of the daily newspaper or relegated to the pages of the neighborhood weeklies. At the same time, the abuse of TIF keeps pressing the envelope of legality..

Lazaroff and Midland Development 

On Nov. 10, 1997, the St. Louis Business Journal lauded attorney Michael Lazaroff for being one of the top deal makers in the St. Louis investment banking community. Within two years, Lazaroff would attempt suicide over his participation in a sch eme to exert illegal influence on the Missouri Gaming Commission. Lazaroff was then doing the bidding of Station Casino. Station Casino founder Frank J. Fertitta is an associate of organized crime, according to the FBI.

Among Lazaroff's many other clien ts was Midland Development Co., which received the first tax-increment financing deal in the state for the St. Louis Marketplace on Manchester Avenue in the city of St. Louis. Lazaroff acted as general counsel for Midland in that deal.

The Marketplace p roject required buying out home owners on Bleeck Avenue so the Missouri Pacific Railroad tracks could be relocated behind the proposed project. The railroad then ran parallel to Manchester Avenue and, if left where it was, would have made it impossible f or cars to enter the parking lot of the mega-strip mall.

First the city blighted the homes on Bleeck Avenue and some on nearby Ecoff Avenue and threatened to take the properties through eminent domain, if property owners didn't sell. Then the real estate company owned by Missouri House Leader Tony Ribaudo's nephew came in and negotiated the deal. The plan was carried out in a well-organized and methodical manner. Residents were kept in the dark about the development until the last possible moment. Then t he city, the developer and the real estate company all swooped down at once.Using aggressive, cohersive tactics, Ribaudo purchased the land for the developers.

The Marketplace, which was supported by TIF funds by the city, has been in the red since it op ened. It is essentially a failed project.

At the one community meeting that was held to discuss the plan, my brother and I briefly talked to Michael Lazaroff. My brother asked him about the tenants in the effected neighborhood. "We don't give a damn about the tenants," said Lazaroff.

Michael Lazaroff, 47
Thompson Coburn

In the last five years, Michael Lazaroff has directed the successful
completion of some of the largest development and acquisition
transactions in the St. Louis area.

His client list reads like a Who's Who of the local business
community: The Sansone Group, which he represented in the Promenade development in Brentwood; Midland Development Group Inc., in the development of St. Louis Marketplace; Duke Realty; Follman Proper ties; Lipton Realty; Mercantile Bancorporation Inc.; and Station Casinos Inc.

During 1997, Lazaroff coordinated efforts by Davis Gaming to get a
Missouri gaming license. He also oversaw Davis Gaming's acquisition of an interest in Midby/Gold River and t he coordination of the development of the gaming complex in Boonville.

Lazaroff's civic interests include the American Cancer Society, the
Muscular Dystrophy Association and Big Brothers & Big Sisters of
Greater St. Louis. He is acquisition chairman for The Churchill School.

Profiles in Sleaze: Michael Lazaroff 

On Sept. 15, 1997 The St. Louis Business Journal ran the following profile of attorney Michael Lazaroff, identifying him as having "a strong work ethic." A little more than two years later, Lazaroff would attempt suicide for his part in gambling scandal involving Station Casino. Station was founded by Frank J. Fertitta Jr., who took part in the skimming Las Vegas casinos for the Mafia in the 1960s and 1970s, according to FBI wiretaps. Sansone Development, another Lazaroff client, was founded by A nthony Sansone Sr. In the early 1970s, Life magazine identified Sansone as being an associate of St. Louis organized crimes figures Jimmy Michaels and Tony Giordano. Sansone provided money to Giordano for the purchase of the Frontier Casino in La s Vegas.

Michael Lazaroff, 47
Thompson Coburn

On a recent Monday in September, Michae l Lazaroff was petitioning the city of Eureka to grant his clients, The Sansone Group, $38 million in tax increment financing for a mall near Six Flags Over Mid-America. Two days later Lazaroff appeared before a St. Louis City hotel selection committee to explain the financing for a proposed convention hotel on Laclede's Landing, again on behalf of The Sansone Group, as well as Drury Inns and the Carpenter's Union.

Lazaroff's strong work ethic and frequent successful results have brought him a collectio n of real estate clients that itself reads like a Who's Who in Real Estate -- Duke Realty, Follman Properties, Lipton Realty, Midland Development Group an d Pace Properties.

In the last year he has managed to combine his legal work for gaming companies w ith his real estate expertise to represent clients such as Marvin Davis, of Davis Gaming Boonville, for Station Casino Kansas City on development of reta il shops and for President Casinos on its planned relocation of the Admiral.

He is active in both th e Muscular Dystrophy Association and the American Cancer Society. On any given Friday with the St. Louis Cardinals at home, Lazaroff can be found at Bus ch Stadium.

In fact, Lazaroff said if he had to pick another career, it would be a baseball play-by-play announcer.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Today's Word Puzzle 

courtesy of Danny Casolaro's notes

Bob Nichols
one of the most powerful people in orgnized crime in the world -- dealers in cocaine - former CIA. His brother is a lawyer his ex-wife -- Hollywood

Harold O. Rimoto (?) big mobster Harold was a guy 66 tomorow ... Toyota Midwest, brother in Florida

late 70s Ricon was working with (mafia)
-- Chicago?
I was concerned


Straight Out of a James Ellroy Novel: Sid Wyman and Kewpie Rich, 1950 

Thomas R. Green's former partners in the Dunes Casino in the 1960s included the late Sidney Wyman and Charles J. "Kewpie" Rich, owners of C.J. Rich & Co., a national handbook operation that was headquartered in East St. Louis and St. Louis County a decade earlier.

St. Louis Globe-Democrat
June 6, 1950
National Gambling Center Uncovered
Thousands of Telegraphed Bets Seized When Gov. Smith Orders Authorities to Find Four St. Louisans Indicted in New Jersey

"Authorities hit the jackpot yesterday when they raided a St. Louis handbook doing a nation-wide business by telegraph and telephone that marked it as a nerve center in the national gambling pattern.

"The raid on the establishment, at 7203 St. Charles Rock rd., reportedly was an unexpected by-product of a search for four St. Louisans said to have been indicted yesterday by a grand jury in New Jeresy.

"It was said that Gov. Forrest Smith received a request from Gov. Alfred E. Driscoll of New Jeresy to locate four men, and in turn instructe d the Missouri State Highway Patrol to begin looking for them. The automobiles of two of the men sought were seen in front of the St. Charles Rock Road establishment, and a search warrant was obtained.

"The raiders found only one of the men wanted in N e w Jersey, but they also found thousands of telegrams from all parts of the country, placing large horse race and baseball bets. ...

"Two men were arrested. They are Sidney Wyman, 40, who gave his address as 5548 Delmar bl. and Steve Montefelice, 43, who said he lived at 4960 Thekla ave.

"Wyman is onf of the four men thought named in the New Jeresy indictment. He was listed last year by the Los Angeles police as one of the four St. Louisans whose names were found in a notebook owned by Mickey Cohen, the West Coast racketeer. Los Angelse police said then that the notebook and private recordings made in Cohen's home linked California gamblers with the national crime syndicate.

"The second man reportedly wanted in new Jersey, and who apparently left the establishment while officers were obtaining the serach warrent from the Clayton Circuit Court, is Charles J. Rich, head of the East Side gambling syndicate known as C.J. Rich and Company. ..."

6665 Delmar: Another Green Property 

Frequenters of the University City Loop recognize the building on Delmar Boulevard for its hiedous color scheme and the circus-like facade. You know the one -- 6665 Delmar -- where the Blockbuster is located on the ground floor.

In 1979, Thomas R. Green bought the building back from the St. Louis Art Museum so that he could lease it to the state for office space. The museum leased the building from 1974 to 1976 from American National Life Insurance Co. of Galveston. Green's uncle, Max Lubin formerly operated the Amco Agency out of the building. Lubin, Green, Jack Molasky, Morris Shenker and others benefited from loans that the life insurance company funneled through Amco that went to the Dunes Casino in Las Vegas in the 1960s. All of the above named individuals were partners in the Dunes at the time.

In 1976, American National donated the building to the Art Museum, which had been paying $40,000 in rent annually to the firm for the two previous years.

In 1968, Green and many of the same partners benefited from another sweetheart deal, when they leased the federal government space in an 18-story office building they developed at 12th and Olive.

A July 14, 1979 article on the sale of the Delmar building in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat quoted state Sen. Harriet Woods, a University City Democrat:

"State Sen. Harriet Woods, D-University City, said she was aware of only sketchy details of the contract. She described Green as from "an old-time Democratic family."

Give me that old-time religion.


"Kewpie" Does Hollywood 

In the 1960s and early 1970s, University City real estate tycoon Thomas R. Green, former owner of the Tivoli Building on Delmar Boulevard, shared an interest in the Dunes Casino in Las Vegas with gambler Charles J. "Kewpie" Rich and others. Rich struck out from St. Louis in 1952, after his nationwide bookie operation on St. Charles Rock Road, C.J. Rich & Co., was raided.

In Casino, a non-fiction book about the control of Las Vegas by the Mafia in the 1970s, author Nicholas Pileggi has this to say about Rich:

In the beginning, Murray Ehrenberg, Lefty (Rosenthal's) former casino manager at the Stardust, said, "the casinos' owners did the count. But soon the state realized the owners weren't giving them a fair count on the tax revenue, so they passed a law that outlawed the owners from even entering their own count rooms. Even today, a casino owner can't go into the count room.

"That law meant the owners had to pick front men to do their count for them, and after a while the front men began to wonder, `Why am I counting the way I'm counting?' Pretty soon, the real count never hit the door.

"Front men like Charlie (sic)`Cubie' Rich, who was a close friend of Cary Grant's had a lockbox that was tightly packed with ten-thousand-dollar stacks of banded hundred dollars bills that one time when I saw him open it up, the lid literally sprang open. There must have been three or four million in that box. ..."

This was one of Green's partners in the Dunes, along with Morris Shenker and a cast of Chicago Outfit types. Another character mentioned in Casino is Carl Thomas, who fronted the Tropicana for the Civella crime family of Kansas City and others. Frank Fertitta Jr., founder of Station Casino, helped skim for Thomas. If you read the Riverfront Times in St. Louis, you'd never know that Fertitta ever existed, of course. But it's no secret, folks. They made a Hollywood movie out of the book.

Future Media Mayhem postings will explore "Kewpie's" career in more detail.

The Mysteries of the Orient: Inspector Chen Cao, I presume? 

The Far East Meets the Middle West

Chinese mystery writer Qiu Xiaolong, who attended Washington University, intends to set his next Inspector Chen Cao mystery in St. Louis. His first two novels in the series were set in in Shanghai.

Let's do lunch at Beffa Brothers next time you're in town, Qui. I want to pick your brain. Have you heard of Shanghai real estate developer Tong Shi Jum, a Hainan provincial powerbroker? How about Gary Fears, who built the Holiday Inn in Collinsville with public money? William Cellini of Argosy? Or car bomb victim Gary Triano of Tuscon?

Skimming the Skim: Fertitta is Dirty and so is the RFT 

The mob relied on front men to run its Las Vegas interests because Nevada gaming regulators banned them from owning and operating casinos openly. This meant that the skimmers themselves were suceptible to the same rip off by those who ostensibly did their bidding. In other words, the skimmers were being skimmed. Frank Fertittia Jr., the founder of Station Casino, skimmed the skim for Carl Wesley Thomas at the Tropicana in the early 1970s, according to FBI wiretaps that were put in place as a part of Operation Strawman.

Somehow Riverfront Times reporter Bruce Rushton forgot to mention Fertittia's name -- let alone his background -- back in 2000, when he wrote a story about Michael Lazaroff. Lazaroff was caught making inside deals, on behalf of Station and Fertitta, with then-Missouri Gaming Commission chief Robert Wolfson. Ultimately, Station was kicked out of the state because its executives refused to testify at hearings conducted by gaming officials in the wake of the scandal.

In 1992, former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Phil Linsalata revealed that Fertittia could not sign Station's Missouri gaming license for its St. Charles casino because he was recognized as an associate of organized crime by the FBI. The bureau had tape recorded Mafia bosses speaking to their Las Vegas casino representatives as a part of Operation Strawman in the late 1970s. Fertittia's name is repeatedly mentioned in conversations between Carl Thomas, who ran the skim for the Civella family of Kansas City among others. Rushton was aware of Fertitta's background because I put Linsalta's story in his hands. Nonetheless, he failed to even mention Fertittia's name in the story he wrote on the Lazaroff scandal. During the 11 months that it took Rushton to write the story, Station continued to place full-page ads in the RFT.

Here's an excerpt from the non-fiction bestseller, Casino by Nicholas Pilegi, which focuses on the "skimming the skim."

"... On Nov. 28, 1978, Carl Thomas and (casino manager) Joe Agosto arrived in Kansas City fro a meeting with Nick Civella. Thomas had recently been put in charge of the skim at the Tropicana Hotel, and now there was a problem: Civella believed that he was being skimmed by the very people Carl Thomas had put in charge. Don Shepard -- who was known by the code name `Baa-Baa' and was one of Thomas' most reliable count room skimmers -- had lost $40,000 in cash in a card game; when Civella hard about it, he immediately concluded that Shepard could never have accumulated that kind of money unless he was stealing it. ...

Agosto and Thomas met to discuss the Tropicana skim with Civella, his brother CArl and Carl DeLuna at the home of Carl Civella's sister-in-law Josephine Marlo. ..."

Here's a snippet of the verbatim transcript of part of the conversation in Marlo's basement dining room and captured on tape by the FBI.

Carl Thomas: They take the money and go off, they count it down, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. Now the bad part about that system, if they say they're taking two thousand a day, they could be takine twenty four hundred.

Nick Civella: Yeah, how do you, if they go in and take seventy five hundred, how do you know if they pick up seventy five (hundred)?

Carl Thomas: Nick, I only know it `cause the guy's been with me fifteen years and always done what I told him. I would be, I just can't believe this guy will do that to me. ...

Joe Agosto: All right. Then we work it outta the system, where, where maybe I can call `em up, the only fill slip, do you follow me?

Carl Thomas: The only system Joe, is really technical. Of course you got, you gotta, look, you're putting yourself in these guys' hands, too, now I guarantee these two guys (Fertitta and Shepard).

Joe Agosto: Supposing.

Carl Thomas: I guarantee these two, these guys go back there, open the box and snatch the cash. I, I've used that system as long as I can remember.

Carl Thomas: ... Me and Frank (Fertitta) and (Don) Shepard and my bookkeeper, my comptroller, who is one thousand percent, they're with me for fifteen years, have sat around in my kitchen thinking. For six hours, thinking of ways to beat these joints `cause (I or I'd) like to take money out of them. ...

Carl Thomas: I put one of my cashiers there. I had (sic)Fertita and Caldwell at the Fremont. ..."

There is little doubt that Fertitta has been mobbed up in the past. What's that say about the Riverfront Times and New Times Inc., when they go out of their way -- not to report the facts? It looks to me as if they're betraying the public trust. Rushton isn't Jayson Blair. He's not inserting overtly false information into his story -- he's just omitting certain important facts. What's more deceptive? You decide.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Today's Word Puzzle 

courtesy of Danny Casolaro's notes

deals with platinum

BCCI, Kerry, China (?)

pg 23
$200 million
Ishan Barbouti (Barbouti tied to Bush Sr.)
87and 88
RKR Real Estate

Silver Spring
Clint Walker from NSA -- TRW
Earl Bryan was pesterin g him for Canadian
FBI - Promis
Tony Motley
George Pender

Confessionals of a Serial Blogger 

I apologize for all the copy errors. It is, indeed, humbling to go back and see my sloppy copy. Believe me folks, I try to keep it clean.

The Witch Doctor and the PhD: Voodoo Denial 

Appearing on the KDHX current events program Collateral Damage Monday night, Webster University history professor Dan Hellinger generically referred to Haitian voodoo as an African religion, sidestepping a question from a caller about the voodoo practice of turning people into zombies.

The caller referred to Haitian voodoo practioners as "witch doctors," asking whether it was true that they used a chemical found in the blow fish to cause a death-like experience in their victims. Hellinger denied knowled ge of the practice, saying that the image presented by the caller was "stereotypic."

The caller's representation of the zombie ritual, however, was accurate. The practice is used to control troublemakers within voodoo society. The drug paralyzes the vict im and slows his metabolism, allowing him to watch his own burial. After he is resurrected, he is relocated to a village unfamiliar to him, where he is shunned as a pariah. The entire process causes the disorientation associated with being a "zombie."

Wa de Davis, a Harvard ethno-botantist, wrote the seminal work on the subject -- The Serpent and the Rainbow. As already mentioned, there is an expert at Webster University, philosophy professor Bob Corrbett. [Bob Corrbett's Voodoo Page].

Former Brothel Being Renovated 

The apartment complex in the 8500 block of Old Bonhomme Road in University City, where St. Louis County Police Comish Floyd Warmann's paramour previously held court as a madam, is being renovated.

Julia Rolves Von Wellen, aka, Dothothy Ann Pyron, was booked for prostitution and promoting prostitution by the St. Louis County Police Department on March 28, 1979. The scene of the alleged crime was 8524 Old Bonhomme Road, according to the police report.

The rebabbed apartment complex is to be named "The Villas on Bonhomme."ˇ

From the Land of Lincoln to the Land of Mao 

Tuscon Casino Developer, Linked to Cellini Associate, Dies in Car Bombing

After his last round of golf at the Poloma Country Club in November 1996, Gary Triano, a high-rolling Tuscon real estate developer, got behind the wheel of a borrowed 1989 Licoln Towncar and noticed a blue bag containing a wooden box on the passenger seat. When Triano went to open the box, he detonated a pipe bomb and died instantly.

At the time of his death, Triano, a high-stakes gambler who owed $30,000 to Vegas casinos, was negotiating a deal to open a casino in China. His Chinese counterpart was Tong Shi Jum, a Shanghai real estate developer and political leader on the island of Hainan. The financing for the deal was being put together by Illinoisan Gary Fears.

Fears is a longtime business associate of William Cellini, CEO of Argosy Gaming Co., owner of the Alton Belle casino. Fears helped get the first gaming license in the state for Argosy in the early 1990s. Earlier in their careers, Fears and Cellini defaulted on millions of dollars in state loans they received to build hotels in Springfield and Collinville, Ill. in the 1980s. Coincidentally, Triano's company in Tuscon, New Frontier Investment, had a similar name to Cellini's Illinois development corporation. [read more]

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