"You see, Greenspun used the paper as an extortion
device," the 67-year-old former supervising agent for the state told Electric
Nevada. "If you crossed him, you were dead, as far as the politicians [were
"In other words, they used to
say, he couldn't get you elected, but he sure as hell could get you un-elected. So
all of these politicians, including Laxalt, were totally subservient to his wishes.
"He thought he was the feudal
lord of Las Vegas," but "his power was based solely on his attacks in the
Yablonsky says it was when his office
launched an undercover investigation of political corruption, that Greenspun started his
first attacks on the FBI man.
"I suspected that his reasons
for attacking me was that the only way he could enhance his riches was by having crooked
politicians and people who would submit to his extortion," he says now.
Operation Yobo, based on a
misspelling of the FBI man's name, was an operation that went on for about 18 months. In
the operation, payoffs were made to politicians.
The five were:
1) State Senator Floyd Lamb, who,
says Yablonsky, "was probably most powerful senator in the history of the [Nevada]
2) State Senator Eugene V. Echols;
3) Clark County Commissioner Jack
4) Clark County Commissioner Woodrow
5) A Reno councilman whose last name
Lamb, recalls Yablonsky, at the time
was head of the state senate's finance committee, with control over the State Employees
"The ostensible purpose of our
undercover guy was to get a loan to buy a casino," he says.
"In fact it was supposed to be
Boomtown, up around Reno. Mr. Lamb wanted one percent as a quote, finder's fee, (laughter)
which he thought he was entitled to (more laughter).
"He had been given about $20,000
prior, and he introduced the undercover guy to several of the others and so forth.
"They weren't all indicted at
the same time; it was over the period of a few months."
All five of the politicians were
"And then the case that really
brought the wrath of God on me, by Mr. Greenspun and others," says Yablonsky was the
case of U.S. District Judge Harry Claiborne.
Claiborne, a Democrat, had been
appointed to the federal bench in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter, upon the recommendation
of Nevada Senators Howard Cannon, a Democrat, and Paul Laxalt, a Republican.
"The principal person
[triggering] the initiation of the investigation," says Yablonsky, "was Joe
Conforte, who had claimed he had bribed the judge."
After Conforte -- operator of a
brothel in Mustang, Nevada, east of Reno -- made his initial claim, the U.S. Justice
Department started a probe into Claiborne's alleged failure to pay sufficient income
A federal grand jury indicted the
judge December 8, 1983 on charges of income tax evasion, receiving a bribe, and filing a
false ethics report. Then, in August, 1984, the federal district court in Reno found him
guilty on two
Top of page
counts of willfully underreporting his federal income taxes in two
Claiborne, sentenced to two years in
prison and fined $10,000, refused to quit drawing his judicial salary, and would not
resign from the bench. In large part because of that, he was impeached by the U.S. House
of Representatives in July, 1986, and convicted by the U.S. Senate on October 9, the same
The former Nevada federal judge was
only the fifth federal official in the history of the American Republic to be so convicted
by the Senate.
During the early stages of the case,
says Yablonsky, Greenspun's attacks became extremely fierce.
"Mr. Greenspun was trying to
kill the case, by making all kinds of allegations of government misconduct by yours truly
and the prosecutor," says the former agent.
In addition, he says, the publisher
was working with some cooperating politicians "to set me up."
"They were trying to get me out
of there -- that was basically it.
"But I think [Greenspun's] thing
with me, in terms of Claiborne, had more to do with his relationship with Benny Binion,
because Claiborne was a very close friend of Binion.
"Imagine a federal judge whose
best friend is a convicted murderer," muses Yablonsky.
"I don't know anywhere [else]
United States where that could have happened."
Even though Greenspun is dead, says
Yablonsky, his legacy continues today with the Las Vegas Sun's continuing enmity for the
former FBI SAC.
"When the movie Casino came out,
I was asked by one of the editors of the Cincinnati Post ... to accompany his reporter to
the movie and give my reaction, [since] some of those actions took place during my
watch," he says.
"So I did and he wrote a nice
article and it went out on the wire service, and it didn't take more than a day before two
columnists in the Las Vegas Sun take off on me, one of them claiming that I was the only
FBI SAC who ever was run out of town."
The actual record, says Yablonsky,
began when he was assistant agent in charge in Boston, then got promoted to AIC,
at which time he
was reassigned to run the Cincinnati, Ohio office.
"According to my Washington
sources, I was hand-picked to go to Vegas because there was dissatisfaction with the
running of the office and the activity level and so forth.
"I was told by the director he
was sending me there to "stimulate some activity."
Arriving in January of 1980,
Yablonsky says he was scheduled to retire at the end of '83 because it was
then when he would reach the FBI's mandatory
retirement age of 55.
"I reached 55 on December 29 of
'83, and retired December 30."
Yablonsky said the Sun
said "a bunch of other things" they had been "perpetrating" during his
tenure in Las Vegas.
"I must admit I'm still angry
about that. It's probably what impels me to continue to write this story," he said,
referring to his book in progress about his 1980 through 1983 tour of duty in Las Vegas.
"I came out to Nevada with 28
years on the job and not a mark against me. I think I had one censure for leaving a
paragraph out of an unimportant report, and that was my record."
The mob and Senator Howard Cannon
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