A tale from Running
|Maybe Genovese crime family boss Anthony 'Fat Tony' Salerno, on that November, 1984 day in New York, was still suffering the effects of his stroke three years earlier.|
| Because as he
listened to the Chicago mob's demand that he rein in Las Vegas gaming mogul Steve Wynn,
Fat Tony seemed deaf not only to the Chicago messenger -- John 'Peanuts' Tronolone -- but
also to the chance that an FBI microphone might pick up the conversation.
As luck would have it, there was a live microphone, and it had been hidden there in Fat Tony's Palma Boys Social Club since at least the previous March.
That mike has turned out to cast a very long shadow.
Not only did the mike mean the end the 60-year criminal career of Anthony Salerno. Its output -- even today, a dozen years later -- still threatens the carefully tended public image of the putative Las Vegas sun king, Steve Wynn.
The story behind the Chicago mob's concerns and why they went to Fat Tony can be found in Running Scared: The Life and Treacherous Times of Las Vegas Casino King Steve Wynn, a book researched and written by Las Vegas Review-Journal news columnist John L. Smith, and published last year by Barricade Books of New York.
Though tightly documented, the book has been the subject of a massive campaign of attempted suppression by Wynn. [See accompanying story.]
The meeting between Tronolone and Salerno at the Palma Boy Social Club, was, in part, a legacy of the earlier era, in the '70s, when the mob-dominated Teamsters Central States Pension Fund had helped Allan Glick buy the Stardust and Fremont casinos.
After Allan Glick's connection to organized crime was exposed, Glick, in 1979, sold his holdings in the Stardust and Fremont to Allan D. Sach's Trans-Sterling Corporation, which federal investigators quickly surmised was little more than a mob-connected holding company for Glick's original mob sponsors. Trans-Sterling was put under the trusteeship of Victor Palmieri and Co., and in 1984, after federal indictments outlined a mob-skimming operation at the Stardust, Sachs, too -- as part of a settlement with the Nevada Gaming Commision -- agreed to sell out.
The promissory notes held by Trans-Sterling for the Teamster-generated mortgages on the Stardust and Fremont hotels had a face value of $73.9 million, and Palmieri's initial attempts to find a buyer at that price failed.
"Then, on Oct 15,
1985," writes Smith, "Palmieri contacted Irwin Molasky -- a man intimately
familiar with the Teamsters pension fund -- who, in turn, reached out for Steve
Tronolone: Jack Zero [Jack
Cerone, of the Chicago crime family] told me, he said, 'You got to do this. No fucking
telephones. Nothing. You gotta go and see this thing move right away. You gotta tell
Salerno to tell Vince [Vincent Vinci] to get somebody to get Steve Wynn to stop. He's
blocking the sale. He's blocking the sale.
Earlier that same year, in
March, FBI surveillance had twice registered Harris visiting Fat Tony at the Palma Boys
Harris had an interesting history. A successful condominium developer in South Florida, he
was also the son of a notorious Miami-based mob bookmaker, recently deceased. An
acquaintance of Steve Wynn since the 1960s, he had also known the famed mob mastermind
Meyer Lansky. And he had attended high scholl in Miami with Wynn's wife, the former Elaine
met with Salerno at the Palma Boy. Parness and Salerno had served time
together in prison.
Right. He's looking. You see. But he's blocking it. That shit, that's not for sale. But
he's blocking the sale, see? The combination from Chicago. Their people are buying... now
trying to... they put, put a $52 million bid in for it.
Salerno: How can he [Wynn] go in it when I'm in it?
Tronolone: You can't call him no more. You gotta send word to him.
Later, when federal prosecutors used the tapes in their prosecution of Salerno and 15 other mobsters and their associates on 40 federal charges, ranging from murder to union corruption, they told Federal District Judge Mary Johnson Lowe that the tapes definitely connected Wynn to Fat Tony Salerno and the Genovese crime family.
"They were unhappy with [Wynn] at that point because they thought the offer was high enough," federal prosecutor Alan Cohen told the judge, "but Wynn was holding out for full face value and enough was enough. 'Let's go through with the deal. Stop holding out for the full amount.'"
Judge Lowe: "..what evidence is there ... Salerno would be acting against his apparent best interests by dumping on Wynn because Wynn was holding up the sale...?"
Cohen: "..while Salerno was going to get a piece out of Wynn's end, the people in Chicago and in
Kansas City were going to get a piece out of the other end, and you'll see
in the transcript it says, the message that Tronolone carries is, 'We can all make money
from both ends.' And what Salerno had to do was to get Wynn to go ahead and sell so that
the people in Chicago and Kansas City could get out of their end -- the Stardust and
Fremont owners -- and Salerno could get out of his end what he could get out of Wynn. Each
of the respective organized crime families had, as they say in the tapes, 'We have it on
each end. We have it in Las Vegas and you have it here.'"
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