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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - April 3, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta Tuesday, April 3, 1973 THE LETHBRIDGE HERALD 5 Lansky's money can't buy everything Iii search of the Mafia By Charles Foley, London Observer commentator LAS VEGAS Against all the odds, Meyer Lansky, argu- ably the wealthiest and most notorious gangster in the Uni- ted States, may now be brought to trial in this gambling city of the nation. It will be the cli- max cf a 10-year campaign by the Federal Bureau of Investi- gation to prove corruption and massive "skimming" in Las Vegas casinos. Skimming is the gentle art of salting away the millions be- fore gambling profits are ported to the tax authorities, and Meyer Lansky, described as the top financial genius of American crime, is accused with other defendants of con- spiring to conceal from the In- ternal Revenue Service a total of million in unreported in- come from Las Vegas' Flamin- go Hotel over an eight-year pe- riod. Lansky, now 71, recently reached the end of a long and bizarre pilgrimage around the globe. Denied asylum by coun- try after country, he was forced to return to the U.S. after an odyssey lasting nearly three years. Arrested by FBI agents when his airliner landed in Mi- ami, Lansky prepared grimly to face the music. "A man of his age just doesn't want to go through all explained his lawyer, David Rosen. "But it has become apparent that there is no place else for him to go." Now a federal jury has con- victed Lansky of criminal tempt in refusing to appear be- fore a grand jury investigating the Flamingo skimming case. Later this year the Flamingo trial will begin, and the wit- nesses will include some form- er insiders at the casino. But government lawyers are un- comfortably aware that few things are more slippery than a top mobster with a good law- yer. Lansky has been a major un- derworld figure since the 1920s, yet he remains shadowy. U.S. tax authorities have estimated his wealth at around mil- lion, but very little of it is in bis own name. He has had stakes in gambling casinos from Vegas and the Caribbean to the Middle East; interests in Miami hotels, New York cloth- iers, New England race-tracks. The millions from these enter- prises have been stacked in numbered accounts in Swiss banks; thus sanitized, the mon- ey has flowed back into legiti- mate businesses in the U.S. The FBI and other law en- forcement agencies have long regarded Lansky as the key man in the Mafia establish- ment, although, as a Jew, a non-Italian, he has always served as an ex-officio member of the organization. "They used his financial says one federal agent. "In return, the Mob allowed him to build up his empire, although of course he was watched all the way." The slight, greying Lansky, who avoids night life, dresses conservatively and cultivates the most unobtrusive of life styles, is one of the few sur- viving members of the original group that created organized crime in America. As a nine- year-old (born Maier Suchowl- janski in Poland) he immi- grated to Brooklyn, became a small-time thief in New York's slums, then an operator of ille- gal distilleries during the de- pression. He and Bugsy Siegel ran what became known as the "Bugs and Meyer Mob" of gun- men, who guarded travelling consignments cf illegal booze. Next Lansky expanded his in- terests through partnership with big-time mobsters like Joe Adonis and Frank Costello. In the 1940s he set up casinos, lot- teries and gambling dens around the country. He was the financial power behind the building of the huge Flamingo Hotel in Vegas, and he installed his old friend Bugsy Siegel as its boss. Siegel botched tie job extravagantly and was shot dead in his Beverly Hills home in 1947, reportedly on the or- ders of Lucky Luciano, who was then directing Mafia op- erations from Havana. Lansky himself was later given a large slice of the Cuban gambling business by dictator Fulgencio Batista; but when Batista was overthrown by Castro in 1959, Lansky and company were driven out and made new headquarters in Las Vegas. In the early 1960s the mob was running, through front men, three big casinos besides the Flamingo the Dunes, the Fremont and the Horseshoe. Skimming was common to all of them. The FBI "bugged" the Fre- mont in 1962, and discovered that vast sums up to 000 a month were simply vanishing, untaxed, into Mafia hands. It was Attorney Gen- eral Robert Kennedy who first put the heat on the Vegas but the Mob, it soon appeared, had friends in high places. FBI agents, listen- ing on a "bug" planted in the office of two Lansky associates, heard them discussing a secret report on their operations which had been given to the Attorney General's office only two days previously. The Mob was making generous contribu- tions to the campaign coffers of Nevada politicians. Annoyed by the FBI's atten- tions, Lansky and his friends eventually sold their Vegas in- terests and moved to Miami. With Frank Costello, he created a new empire of Eastern sea- board casinos and bookmaking networks under the mild eye of corrupt police and politi- cians. Ever the economist, Lansky showed his Mafia asso- ciates how to invest the money from illegal ventures into licit enterprises where it could not be traced. These included ho- tels, motels, all kinds of resort properties which offer tax write-offs and a means to "launder" illegal cash. Lansky's Miami career end- ed abruptly in 1970, when the underworld financial wizard packed his bags and fled to Is- rael shortly before U.S. grand juries returned two indictments against him in the Vegas skim- ming operations. In Israel, too, Lansky showed his influence: time after time his tourist visa was extended as he fought for the right, as a Jew, to become an Israeli citizen. But in the end the Israeli Supreme Court threw him out, noting his vio- lent past in organized crime and his continued contacts with leading gangland figures who had flown to sec him in Tel Aviv. In a desperate search for asylum, the little man with the pinched face and the steely eyes began an aerial odyssey that took him through Switzer- land, Brazil, Argentina, Para- guay, Bolivia, Peru and Pana- ma, offering million to any country that would grant him a home. It must have been a se- vere shock to Lansky to dis- cover that there are still some things that money cannot buy. Back in Miami at last, he is free on bail awaiting sentence for his contempt con- viction. Prosecutor D o u g a 1 d McMillan said that the convic- tion would let mobsters know that the U.S. Justice Depart- ment's organized crime strike force, which he heads, means business. On hearing that, Meyer Lansky smiled, briefly. By Eva Brewster More than a year has passed Hainan's plot as related in the Book of ther. The perpetrators wanted to find out The Mafia's closed membership WASHINGTON Every time a newspaperman does a piece on the Mafia, he hears from hundreds of law-abiding Itali- an-Americans who are angered that only Italian names were used in the article. As one lady wrote to me after a piece I did on the Mafia's bitterness at not getting any royalties from "The "I am sick and tired of this whole de- grading, damaging stereotype that writers such as you have perpetrated on the Italian-Am- erican. It is insulting, defama- tory and downright cheap." Now the main problem for writers when discussing the Mafia is that while all Italian- Americans are not members of the Mafia, all members of the Mafia are Italian. The anger of the decent, hard-working Ital- ians should be directed against the Mafia and not the people who write about them. The solution to the problem, as I see it, is that the Mafia has to open its membership to other ethnic groups regardless of sex, creed, religion or color. For as long as the Mafia has been operating in the United States, it has been lily-white and open only to males of Ital- ian extraction. This not only is By Art Buchwald un-American but is in violation of the federal law. If the Mafia were just a so- cial club, they would have every right to say who should and should not belong. But it is a proven fact that the Mafia is engaged in interstate com- merce and is a profit-making organization dealing with the public. It is time the members of the syndicate open their doors to women and blacks and people of Irish, Jewish, Polish and German descent. According to all statistics, the Mafia runs the biggest business in the United States. If this is so, then they should be subject to the Equal Opportunities Act. The Mafia has maintained that they could not run their enterprises except with Italian help. This is a 19th-century idea which has been passed down to the present Mafia families. They are trying to maintain an aura of mystery around the syndicate. They are keeping out people who are as well qualified, if not better, to do anything that a member of the Cosa Nostra could do. What is the big deal about running gambling and numbers rackets, white-slavery rings and drug syndicates? You don't even need a college education to do most of the jobs that the Mafia requires of its members. By opening the Mafia to non- Italian blood, I honestly believe the Mafia would be doing them- selves a great service. They would get fresh ideas, inspired leadership and youthful vigor that the organization so badly needs. Why does a godfather always have to be the head of a Mafia family? What would be wrong with having a godmother? The Mafia will tell you, "This is the way we've always done it." But times are changing. Ev- eryone wants and deserves a piece of the action. There is no room any more in this coun- try for an underworld organiza- tion that discriminates against a person because he is not of Italian origin. Although the Mafia is prob- ably the greatest example of free enterprise in this country, I think it's time for the govern- ment to step in and say, "If you won't hire women, blacks, Mexicans, Indians or WASPs, then we're going to close you down. That is the law of the land." COUTTS since, early in 1972, I promised myself an interview with Meyer Lansky, the Mafia boss, then living in Tel Aviv. It would have been a lucrative story that might have paid for my trip to Israel twice over and it appealed to a reporter's adventurous in- stincts. What then made me give up my quest? I wish I knew the honest answer. I soon learned that Lansky had left his suite in the Dan Hotel and rented a house somewhere in Tel Aviv but I lacked the landlord's identity. Still, this wasn't a prob- lem. In Israel everybody knows somebody who knows somebody. Possessing the nec- essary impetus and curiosity one can find out some amazingly well guarded secrets. Hasorea, one of the cummunal settle- ments I visited, had called a general meet- ing to discuss one single item of business a letter received from Meyer Lansky. The meeting, called to order, the secre- tary proceeded to read the message: "Dear Some years ago in the U.S., I was introduced to one of your members on a lecture tour, collecting contributions for your museum. His pictures of ancient treasures caught my imagination and I was determined to further this worthwhile pro- ject." The secretary was interrupted by a girl demanding, "Give me his address, please." He ignored her and continued: "Now, liv- ing in Israel, I would like to take this op- portunity to donate one million pounds to help you expand the museum's existing facilities. This is your share of a contri- bution to two good causes. The other half was handed over to Mrs. Moshe Dayan, wife of General Dayan, who graciously ac- cepted it for charities of her choice. I trust you will be able to make good use of this money. All I ask in return is an invitation to visit your museum in the near future." "Please read the sender's shouted the girl again. said the secretary, "comments first. Do we accept this A member of the settle- ment jumped up: "Under no circumstanc- es should we take the "Why asked another, "Money doesn't smell and we do want to expand the museum." "Have we sunk that low to even consider taking gifts from argued another. 'All I want is his insisted my friend. Ths meeting erupted into a fierce debate, but finally, restraint and common sense were exercised and by a show of hands an over- whelming majority voted against the ac- ceptance of the contribution. "Just as said the secretary, "for I now have to admit to you, my dear friends and address-hunter that the letter was a hoax from start to finish It was a "dress rehearsal" sketch from Purim (the Jewish festival commemorating defeat of refute that possibility. just how closely we adhere to our princi- ples or how far we have moved towards materialism. Thank you all for coming." A few days later, Lansky's past was dis- closed before the Supreme Court of Is- rael. There was no doubt as to the out- come of his appeal and Reuter news wired this message around the world: "The way is now paved for LaLsky's extradition." My interest in the case waned but sinco T made an earlier promise to achieve the interview I still felt I should make an- other attempt. I decided to visit the of- fices of a magazine which had recently had an article in glowing of Lansky's character and kindness. During my fruitless conversations with editors, reporters and an archivist I was concious of the stares of a man with a broken nose whose penetrating gaze made me feel like a fish in an aquarium. He looked the image of a gangster. The sight of him was chilling. As I was returning his stare, he broke into a smile that changed his face to angelic sweetness. I finally suc- ceeded in getting Lansky's 'address and left to treat myself to a well deserved cup of coffee at a sunny side-walk cafe. I join asked the 'gangster' as he sat down without waiting for a reply. "Do you have he went on, again without waiting for my answer "Well, in that case why don't you go and get that nice head of hair fixed "Instead of I asked innocently. "Oh, you know, you have such a mischievous twinkle in your eyes and, really, Tel Aviv is such an ugly city, you could improve it no end if you make yourself more beautiful." "Why I thought and left to have my hair fixed. Emerging from the beauty salon an hour later, I saw him again gazing at a flower shop. "Doesn't that look just he said to me leaving me puzzling whetier he meant my hair or the flower arrangement in the window. "By the he confided, "the judges win give their decision on the Lansky case on March 22nd." With that he vanished into the crowds. I never pursued the object of my search although all I had to do was take a taxi out to the address. I would Eke to think I gave up because, like Hasorea, I scorned material gain, gained indirectly from crime. I realized I had by then lost interest and it is fatal to attempt writing a story about which you no longer feel curious. I believe both reasons are true but there will always remain a small, cynical voice reminding me "You were scared by a sweet little guy who was only trying to be helpful." In all honesty, I could not totally GCQ Besides your building permit youll need us. Here's what the AGT Building Industry Consulting Service does for developers, architects, engineers and contractors. We pre-plan communication facilities needs with you now to save costly problems later. Such as expensive alterations or added-on wiring eyesores caused by communication congestion. The service costs you nothing. But from a success standpoint it can mean communication flexibility both now and years down the road. For one thing, it can increase the building's value. "Communications Ready" buildings are increasingly important to prospective tenants or buyers because they are designed to cope with growing communications demands. As a team of specialized engineers, draftsmen and specifications writers, we're tuned-in to the complex communications needs of modern buildings. Commercial, industrial, and institutional. We're ready to work with you as soon as you're ready for us ideally, before the blueprints are final. And we'll stay on the job right through the final inspection. Books in brief "Jasper" by James Simp- kins. (McClelland and Stew- art, Twenty five year old Jas- per, the fun loving bear from, the pages of Maclean's Maga- zine, will bring a few minutes of lightness into a dreary day through this collection of amus- ing cartoons. A sample: Jasper points to a small bug and tells his two cubs: "It's aii ant; if we follow him he'll us to a picnic." ALLISON "Springfield .45-70" by John Reese (Doubleday, 183 It has been many years since I last read a Western. I was ap- palled at the lack of subtlety in the plot and the infelicity of the writing but I that those who regularly read this genre (and some very sophisticated people are addicts) aren't look- ing for such things. If one is looking for a diversion this should fill the bill It has sev- eral brutal shootings and is very chaste in its treatment of women. When it becomes a movie it shouldn't have any trouble with the censors! DOUG WALKER "Eleven Stories And A Be- ginning" by Howard Spring (Collins. 284 pages If you haven't read any stor- ies lately with an old-fashioned, happy ending, a tale with a touch of mystery, an inspir- ational theme, then this book is for you. Written in an inimitable style, Howard Spring's understanding of people and relationships makes this a grande volume. Once you pick it up. you won't be able to put it down until you have reached the end! It contains eleven separate stories plus "Ths LiUJe Vic- tims PJav" on xrfaich Howard Spring was working at the time of his death in 1965. Had he completed this novel, it would have been his fifteenth since 1934. among which are. "Rachel Rosing." "Fame Is The and "The Auto-biography OI Howard to name a few. AMJE SZALAVARY ace Report to readers Doug Walker It pays to advertise Advertising in newspapers serves read- BUILOING INDUSTRY CONSULTING SERVICE Edmonton 4S5-4801, Calgary ers in three ways: providing information about the marketplace; giving visual re- lief from solid masses of type that would otherwise prevail; enabling subscribers to have the newspaper for about one-quarter of what it costs. It is popular today to rail against ad- vertising but in some respects the criti- cism is an exercise in hypocrisy. How many of the opponents of advertising would be willing to pay at least four times as much for their newspaper? Not many; newspapers generally fold when they do not get sufficient advertising revenue. The very medium which is so frequently de- plored is almost indispensable to its crit- ics in their buying and selling activities, choice of recreational pursuits, keeping abreast of change, and perhaps other con- siderations as well. At any rate, the publication of a news- paper now depends on advertising. The fact is, it begins with advertising. It is the advertising department that determines the size and general layout of each ed- ition of the paper. On Monday afternoon, for instance, the advertising department in- forms the newsroom what the paper will be like on Wednesday. Each page is shown in miniature, with the ads "dummied in." The various editors then know how much or how little space they have to fill. Every newspaper seJs its own ratio of advertising to news, depending on its need for revenue. Most of them hover around a 30-30 average for a week or month, as is the case with The Herald. When the amount of advertising is known the num- ber of pages can be figured, but not rigid- ly. The heaviest shopping tends to take place toward the end of the week so ad- vertisers naturally vrant to get the best advantage of this, which often leaves Mon- day and Tuesday editions rather slim in size. Yet these editions must have the regu- lar pages (sports, family living, conks. editorial, classified, city, district, etc.) so there will likely be a greater ratio of news to advertising in them. The balance is re- stored by "stealing" back advertising space cm other days Anyone inclined to check up on the ratio lousiness should keep in mind thai any- thing thai is net advertising is considered news. Thus cartoons, comics, pictures, puz- zles, TV hSghjagMs, weather charts, tetters, Icalurcs