Before his car was blown up outside Marie Callender's Restaurant on 10-4-1982, Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal had been one of the most powerful controversial men in Las Vegas. He was in charge of the largest casino operation in Nevada. He was famous for being the man who had brought sport book-bettings to Vegas - an achievement in local history. He was a gambler's gambler and a man who set the odds. He had Vegas & gambling so cold. A perfectionist. There was no joy left in it for Lefty. It was ALL BUSINESS.
|Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal|
|Frank & Geri|
Lefty Rosenthal NEVER believed in luck or chance. He believed in winning & losing streaks. Where gambling was, Lefty believed in everything but luck. He learned early that if he was to ever master the skill and become a professional player, even the remotest possibility of chance was out. He grew up reading the racing form. He would tear it up KNOWING everything there was to know. His dad owned horses so he was at the track w/ him all the time. He became a part of it. Hanging out at 13-14 and as an owner's son. Everyone left him alone. He was in groom. Learning EVERYTHING! He truly learned gambling in the bleachers of Wrigley Field & Comiskey Park. An open-air casino w/ constant action. After learning what he needed to, Lefty began making proposition bets out on his own. He learned from a great showman. He began reading EVERYTHING doing his research. Meeting others who knew the score. They knew Lefty was SERIOUS! He had an aptitude and they were willing to help. Allowing this kid within their circle. Pretty soon, Lefty had to learn to rely only on himself.
|Tony "The Ant"|
Tony was also a master thief. He had the best team. He mostly worked in jewelry. He knew everything about stones and could've been a jeweler. At this point, being a jewel thief, Frank Cullotta was now Tony Spilotro's right hand man. They would be searched by custom agents, who found packs of diamonds, including 2 that had been sewn into Spilotro's wallet. Customs confiscated the loot, which included their burglary tools. Frank went to pick up Tony from the airport. When they got home, Tony got a white towel and put it on the kitchen table. Nancy, Tony's wife, bent over the table and began dropping diamonds one-by-one from her hair. She was made to hide them there. Frank Cullotta was w/ Tony's crew for 5 years before he ever met Lefty Rosenthal. During this point in time, Tony was very, very cautious of his dealings & surroundings.
|Robert F. Kennedy|
At first, Frank went back home. He thought he could continue his betting back in Chicago. He was wrong. After arriving in Chicago just in time for football season, he was doing okay except it became clearer after every weekend that he should be playing in Vegas instead. Eventually, Lefty was on his way to Vegas, after helping Tony w/ a long-ass favor, and so was his rap sheet. The Chicago Crime Commission was preparing to alert the Las Vegas police that Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal and his credentials were about to arrive. The police were informed that Frank had at least 12 gambling arrests and no convictions, pleaded no contest to attempted bribery of a college basketball player in 1961 North Carolina. Pleading & Taking the 5TH Amendment 37 times before a congressional committee.
Meanwhile, Frank had met Geri. She was a dancer at the Tropicana. She was the most beautiful girl he ever saw. She was tall, statuesque & w/ great posture. Everyone who met her liked her in 5 minutes. She had fantastic charm. She was a queen around the casino. She could control anything. People would turn around and look. She knew how to work a room. She was a chip hustler - a working girl. A couple of guys who she went with, making 500,000/year. Lefty's attitude changed toward her one night when he went over to see her dance at the Trop(icana). It did bother him when she came out dancing topless. He informed her that he had to leave before the end of the show. Lefty couldn't stay due to feeling differently about Geri. But he got curious, he stated he would meet her. He went over to see her in action. Meanwhile, Geri had made a guy a small fortune. Every time she made a small pass, Frank noticed that she was snatching little black $100,000 chips of his pile and slip them into her purse. But before she's busted, the guy reaches for her purse. He was going to empty it right there in front of everyone. But before he can do that, Geri leans over, grabs his chip racks and tosses them into the air as high as she can. The whole casino was raining in chips. It becomes a MADHOUSE! Everyone is dipping for chips on the floor. Lefty can't take his eyes off of her. She's standing there like royalty while they both just look at one another (Frank & Geri). He fell in love right then & there.
After the financial dealings gone wrong w/ Lenny, a friend had the answer: Marry Frank Rosenthal. "He was very rich, marry him, get his money and then divorce him." Geri believed in horoscopes. She didn't want to marry Lefty due to astrology. Lefty himself was skittish about getting married again. He had NEVER been w/ anyone like Geri EVER BEFORE! Frank & Geri were married on 5-1-1969 by a Justice Of the Peace. Frank KNEW Geri didn't love him. He thought w/ time, it could develop and grow. Forming an admiration & respect. He was fooled & played. She wanted to become more respectable and quit her other jobs and dealings. When Frank was dating Geri, he was warned by outsiders of Geri's true intentions. Outsiders who truly had Frank's back and was looking out for him. Frank thought about his life and skills. He was Frank Rosenthal. He could change Geri.
At the wedding, Geri had gotten up to make a call. Frank checked on her and seen she was talking to Lenny Marmor. She was crying. She was "saying goodbye to a former life." The past is now the past. They were now married and life would be different. Lefty Rosenthal was 41 and had enough of life as a freelancer. He was running a betting & booking business office called The Rose Bowl and had been arrested 6 times in a 4 month period. He was tired of the day-to-day life of it. He wanted to pack it in and settle down w/ a steady gig. In 1971, Geri was pressuring Lefty to quit gambling and get a regular 9-to-5 (job). Geri wanted them to live a normal life. He felt he owed it to her to give it a try. After filling out applications, Lefty had some friends at the Stardust and got a job as a floor man.
The guy that assigned Lefty to his first night in charge of watching 4 Blackjack tables was the blackjack manager, Frank Cursoli. A Stardust VP knew Lefty from Chicago and introduced him to Cursoli. Word was getting out that Lefty was no ordinary hire. As Lefty was getting into the industry, he began phasing out his sports betting. By the end of his first year, Lefty had reduced all of his betting down to the NFL, even quitting college basketball.He had NEVER entertained the idea of working in a casino until Geri suggested it. Once he started, Lefty was intrigued. It was the type of place where people came w/ a dream and left behind about a billion dollars. Lefty became obsessed w/ learning EVERYTHING he could about the business. Anything he wanted answers to, he would have to learn on his own. It was next to impossible for a casino not to make money. Walking around outside of the pit, Lefty could see from behind the dealers whether they were lifting their hole card way too high. He soon found a very common practice in casinos.
Lefty learned to spot ALL the scams. He tells a story of some guy dressed as a cowboy somehow stealing. The casino manager didn't know how. NO ONE did - EXCEPT FOR LEFTY! He KNEW this guy was a pro. He was beating them and showing off to the crowd. Lefty walked around behind the game and seen that the dealer was weak. He wasn't cupping his hand tightly enough. He lifted his hole card way too high. Lefty and his security went upstairs to watch it on the Eye, and there they seen this other guy hunched over the table behind the winner's dealer. Reading the dealer's bottom card and signaling his friend. Lefty seen that the spotter was using some electrical devices stored in his pocket. He immediately put a page in for a code for special security. He didn't let these guys get away with any of that money. They had plain clothes security slide in close to him. While one security guy distracted the crowd, the second stunned him w/ a small cattle prod. He crumbled to the ground. (It wasn't fatal. But once they find out they just got zapped with a cattle prod, they're gonna wish they had a heart attack.)
Lefty made his presence KNOWN throughout the casino. He came in as a floor man. Within a week, he was being treated like a BOSS! Word got around. His prominence & power at the Stardust were so clearly evident that within 3 months, the GCB (Gaming Control Board) began questioning whether Lefty should be required to submit an application for a key employee license. Lefty had a work permit. They both required FBI checks. They were insisting that Frank would have to have a key employee license if he was going to work in the casino. Lefty was trying to keep the GCB off his back, so he changed jobs. He became the Stardust Public Relations Director.
|Tony & Lefty|
By 1971, Tony was appearing in the newspapers just about every day. He couldn't walk across the street without picking up a tail. The heat was on him. Unless he got out of town, Tony, along w/ some of his crew, were on their way to prison. Frank Cullotta was given 6 years for robbery, burglary & assault. Frank and his wife, Nancy, were taking a trip out West for vacation. He stated that he might move to Vegas. In the spring, around the time Lefty was optioning to work at the Stardust, Tony had rented an apartment in Vegas. On May 6, a trailer van of Transworld Van Lines pulled up w/ a crew in front of Spilotro's. A few minutes later, 2 cars of IRS agents pulled onto the street and began taking notes of the foreseen action. Tony immediately suspected what was up w/ the IRS, so he ordered everything to be put back within the house. He then called his lawyer and sued the FBI claiming "federal authorities harassed him into leaving town. Now they were inferring w/ his constitutional rights to travel and reside anywhere in the United States."
Within a week, prosecutors relented and Transworld Van Lines returned and reloaded EVERYTHING. Most of it was scratched or chipped, but valued at $9,900. The name on the bill was Frank or Jerry Rosenthal. Before OFFICIALLY deciding to reside there, Tony & Nancy came out to Vegas for a visit. Tony wondered if Frank had any objection to the move? He just wanted to cover his bases and inform a heads up. Frank warned him: It's no joke out here. Out here, they don't like guys like us. Even coppers aren't afraid to bury people out in the desert. He warned Tony if he was coming out there, he HAD to be on his BEST behavior. According to the FBI, when Tony arrived he did NOT have the outfits permission to start shaking everyone down and to start up the loan sharking operation that could jeopardize the mob's skimming of the casino's that were their primary source of income. He KNEW how far he could go back in Chicago, but in Vegas Tony was on his own (thinking he had free reign.)
|Ozzie & Harriet|
But it didn't take long for Tony's loan-sharking, shakedown & crooked card games to attract so much attention that their act was soon falling apart. Tony wasn't in town 2 weeks before Feds had him on a wire. The F.B.I. in Chicago alerted Vegas that Tony was on his way. Tailing him to his first meeting in the middle of the desert. Tailing him wherever he went. Picking him up every 3-or-4 months on general principal. In September 1972, the law picked him up on a 1963 Chicago homicide warrant. Being held without bail awaiting extradition back to Chicago. Tony was only in town a year when Frank got the call for a voucher concerning him/Tony. Plus a character witness on a bond.
Lefty informed Tony that he was working the casino and was up for licensing. Lefty assisting Tony would be a Red Flag for the G.C.B. Lefty did it. He vouched for Tony to get out on a $10,000 bail. The following paperwork DID NOT involve Lefty. Spilotro eventually beat his case. His sister-in-law testified that he, Nancy, her & her husband had been w/ Tony the entire day. The jury dismissed the charges. He had a big grin of scorn across his face.
When Tony Spilotro originally got to Las Vegas in 1971, the town was a relatively quiet place. The bosses had been making so much money from their own illegitimate enterprises that there was a concerted effort by the Mob to keep the town clean, safe & quiet. The rules were simple. Disputes were to be settled peacefully. DO NOT DO ANYTHING TO ATTRACT ATTENTION! Before Tony Spilotro arrived, Mob matters were so benign. Petty criminals throughout the town were operating for free. All of the small shady dealings in Vegas were done. Spilotro stopped all of that. He changed the way business was done in Las Vegas. He took over. Tony left a widely known message throughout the city: There was a real gangster in town. Tony understood that he had free reign in running Vegas. The bosses were 1,500 miles away. Nobody was going to see them/him. Everybody's back home.
|Tony & Frank|
|The Hole In The Wall Gang|
Pretty soon, they had their operation down pat. In-out 5 minutes. Sometimes if things were slow and they needed cash, they would do straight robberies. Robbing the entire profits from the Rose Bowl. All booming industries create jobs and the Spilotro operation was no exception. Within a year, Spilotro was providing work not just for his crew, but it took care of officials and law enforcement. If Tony was confronted, he gave a reminder of who he was. Tony had moved his jewelry store front from Circus Circus to just off The Strip; The Gold Rush Jewelry Store. The front of the store was a GENUINE store, but the back was a sanctum of devices for criminal activity.
Tony was COMPLETELY FOCUSED. He ALWAYS had something going on or in production. He had NO CAPACITY of casual conversation. He could be cordial and likable. But DON'T WASTE HIS TIME W/ MENIAL BULLSHIT. But he could flip his switch in a second. He lived a completely separate life from his family life. Although they shared a son, Vincent, that's about it. They had separate quarters of the house. Nancy just stayed out of her husband's way. The BIG problem was that Tony was in charge . . . But in charge of what? Tony Spilotro, the most terrifying mobster in Las Vegas, could not manage to get a job at the Stardust for the relative of a Chicago capo did not help his reputation back home.
At one point, the FBI became so frustrated w/ the telephone tapes and once-promising Gold Rush microphone that they installed a surveillance camera in the ceiling of a back room behind Cullotta's restaurant, where they suspected that Spilotro was having some of his key meetings. As time passed, Tony spent less & less time w/ his wife, Nancy. He would be out fooling around cheating w/ other women.
Tony loved his son, Vincent. He meant everything to him. He would always be home at 6:30A to make breakfast for his son. He was wired, tailed, harrassed, arrested & indicted. But never convicted. In his first 5 years of being in Vegas, there were more murders committed then in the previous 25. Tony was questioned/tried for about all of those murders, but NEVER convicted!
After 2-or-3 years, Lefty's marriage to Geri seemed like a bad bet. Even though Geri gave birth to a son, Steven, she found that the domestic life Lefty wanted her to live to be too restrictive. Frank was working day-and-night at the casino. Geri suspected him of cheating. When she accused him, he told her she was crazy. He accused her of being drunk and taking too many pills. Geri began going out. Sometimes staying out all night. Sometimes she'd disappear longer. Lefty hired private detectives and would turn up at her favorite bars demanding for her to come home immediately. He finally threatened to divorce her. Geri didn't want to lose everything. Lefty would only take her back if she agreed to have another child and make a greater effort at staying away from drugs/alcohol. Geri didn't want to have another child, but it was the only way she had to keep from being thrown out on the street. She didn't stand a chance against Lefty in court. He was a very powerful man.
Even though they had Stephanie in 1973, obviously it made their problems worsen. Geri was resentful being forced to have Stephanie. There was no problem w/ Stephen. He was a boy. It was that Stephanie was a daughter. Making competition w/ Geri's daughter, Robin. Geri was very upset. She could NEVER warm up to Stephanie. But, she NEVER forgave Frank for making her go through a second pregnancy. Geri just adored Steven. She spoiled him rotten. He was favored over their daughter. It was like Steven was the one who mattered. The KNOWN favorite. Geri was very strong-minded. Not giving a damn what people said or thought.
money, Lenny didn't care what she did. Her attitude depended on her drug supply. With Percodan, she was warm and friendly. She wasn't able to do much, but the kids were cleaned, dressed & looking good. When she ran out of them, she was mean. Things w/ Geri & Lefty would turn MEAN! He wasn't home much anyway. He was running the casino and worried over his license, staying ahead of the Control Board. He was very fastidious. Everything had to be PERFECT!
At this point in Lefty's life, he didn't really drink. He DIDN'T KNOW about addiction. Control. Uppers & downers. He was a square. Taking her out for business dinners and seriousness, she's taking a glass and ordering Dom Perignon, drinking down the glasses. Lefty didn't want her to get loaded and make a scene. He looks at her and she doesn't say a thing. She doesn't acknowledge. He threatens to make her pay later if she continues drinking that night. She thinks he's bluffing. Lefty gets someone else to get some sense into Geri. He is TRULY seeing the reasons why others thought the marriage wasn't a great idea.
Frank Rosenthal was NOW the town's most important gambling executive. Prior to Lefty, it was brilliant businessman and second largest casino owner in Las Vegas, Allen Glick. Frank had negotiated a $2.5 million contract. He planned to introduce a sports book at the Stardust, and he appeared before the state legislature as an expert witness. Frank was the first to allow women blackjack dealers on The Strip.He hired Siegfried & Roy and their white tigers away from the MGM Grand by offering to build them a dressing room designed to their specifications; throwing in a white Rolls-Royce as a bonus. Lefty had honestly bought the Rolls for Geri but she preferred the little Mercedes sports-car. The Rolls was just sitting in the garage so Lefty gave it to them (Siegfried & Roy).
The slot machine meters were rigged to falsely record 1/3 more in wins then were actually being paid out. The electric scale used to weigh the coins had been rewired to underweigh the coins by 1/3. Paper bills were never taken to the cashier's cage to be counted in w/ the rest of the casino's paper money. Bills were taken away in large manila envelopes. The envelopes from the auxiliary banks from the casinos were then taken to the head office. The money was then handed over to special couriers who made regular trips transporting the cash between Vegas & Chicago, where it was distributed to Milwaukee, Cleveland, Kansas City & Chicago. NO ONE was sneaky. People who worked in the courtroom & cashiers cage KNEW ALL ABOUT IT. The more experienced casino executives, who suspected that some kind of skim was in place, were experienced enough to understand it was better to "look the other way".
According to the FBI, Tamara Rand was murdered to protect the skim. The murder was ordered by Ballisteri. When Mrs. Rand won the right to subpoena documents relating to the Teamster loan, it was clear the case had to be stopped. The entire setup & scam would've been jeopardized. No one was ever indicted for Rand's murder. The skim went on. If you excluded everyone w/ something in their backgrounds from getting licensed, you'd probably have to terminate 50% of the people in the town. By 1975, after just one year in operation, the chairman of the board was being questioned about his connections to 2 mob murders and whether he had the mob's influence in getting the Teamster's loan. This ENTIRE scam was a 100,000,000 corporation, one of the BIGGEST in Las Vegas, surrounded by controversy.
When the story was refuted by disgruntled agents, rumors about Rosenthal's close relationship w/ Mob ties had a basis in fact. Lefty was given sound advice to lay low. Staying in the background was a better shot at getting his license. The GCB tried for months to catch Lefty running the Stardust. He repeatedly insisted he was in other venues in charges. Whenever an investigator showed up, Lefty would vanish from the casino. Setting off proof in black & white. He would have to apply for a license. There were multiple glaring violations of the Gaming Control rules. Lefty was DEEPLY concerned to go before the control board and get a fair hearing in view of his background. Could he get a fair shake?
The hearing took over 2 days in Carson City. Lefty was asked about EVERYTHING!! He answered every question in FULL detail. When asked questions about his relationship w/ Tony Spilotro, Lefty began a long-running monologue. Even w/ mundane details. Nothing to do w/ ANY of it.
Lefty recognized that he was getting into a very sensitive area of gaming. He became familiar w/ the GCB, the commission and the business as a privileged industry. He also acknowledged that he is also a family man w/ a wife and 2 kids. He has had a close to perfect record. At this point, Tony & Frank have avoided each other. Frank defended himself for 5 hours. The full hearing took 2 days. On 1-15-1976, after all of the hearings, the GCB recommended that Lefty's license was denied. A few board members refused to vote on-record. Some asked for it to be unanimous. A week later, Lefty's lawyers and himself went to Carson City to appeal the hearing. It was obvious they were going to get slammed. It wasn't much of an appeal. The commission backed up the control board unanimously. Their refusal to license him was supposed to be the end of Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal at The Stardust. He was to be out of gaming. He was given 48 hrs to clear out his desk. He did. On 1-29-1976, Lefty moved out of his newly refurbished office at the Stardust and went home.
|Eye In The Sky|
Lefty then brought another lawsuit against the control board in District Court challenging the Board's power to deny him the right to make a living. Lefty stated his record in Nevada was clean and he long ago paid his debt to society. He was challenging the Board to have cause for withholding or back off the enforcement. Board members stated Lefty was denied due to his notorious background & associations. Lefty was NOT given an opportunity to face one live witness. What he faced were reports from 15 years prior. With Lefty spending more time at home, life was tense. Lefty & Geri harped on each other. Their already fragile relationship would go from plate tossing at each other to becoming icy. Geri's drinking was becoming more of a problem. Their most strenuous battles usually resulted in either Lefty or Geri's slamming out of the house.
When Geri stormed off for a night or a few days, Lefty never knew where she went. He always suspected that she went to Beverly Hills to meet up w/ Lenny Marmor or another ex. Some believed that Geri stayed w/ Lefty due to her fear of losing custody of Steven. They stated that Geri also valued her jewels just as much as her children. When she was depressed, Geri would go to the Bank and ask to see their 3 safety deposit boxes. To really soak in her jewels and devour them. Geri would also go to the Spilotro house. Nancy & Geri would share domestic woes. Geri also took her problems to the only man she thought had influence over her husband - Tony Spilotro.
Shortly after Lefty had been ousted from his post, in 1976, auditors claimed that the slot machine coin counting scales were off by 1/3. The Stardust's secretary-treasurer later told the SEC he didn't remember receiving such a call. It was the FIRST signal of trouble in the count room. At the time, Allen Glick's attention was focused on raising $45 million in additional Teamster money for his planned renovations and on hiring a replacement for Lefty Rosenthal. Frank Ballisteri had told Glick that the pension fund's chief financial adviser, Allen Dorfman, had a replacement for Rosenthal in mind.
Carl Wesley Thomas was a politically connected & experienced 44-yr-old casino executive. He was one of the most highly respected casino executives in Nevada. Gaming control officials throughout the state breathed a sigh of relief when they heard that Carl Thomas was going to replace Frank Rosenthal. In addition to his impeccable reputation, Carl Thomas was also the greatest casino skimmer in America at the time. Dennis Gomes, the chief auditor for the Control Board, learned from informants who worked at the Stardust that there was something going on w/ the slot count. Gomes was certain the slot operation was being skimmed. He was certain, but needed PROOF! Gomes hired a bored 28-yr-old CPA and non-practicing attorney and they both began digging into the books and slot machines at the Argent and going through names of organized crime figures. Everything they found led to something else.
Gomes & the law began making unannounced audits of the Argent casinos. They found a number of small-scale scams. Gomes began monitoring the auxiliary banks on the Stardust casino floor and comparing the number of plays shown on the machines w/ the totals listed. HUGE discrepancies began to emerge. Things became even more suspicious when they discovered the other casinos, The Fremont & The Hacienda, sent their slot revenue to the Stardust for tabulation, despite the count rooms. On 5-18-1976, Gomes, Law & 2 GCB agents walked into the Stardust cashier's cage and DEMANDED to see the books. The cage employees were STUNNED! It was ALL skim. They were told to clean it up. Gomes & Law have hit the Stardust.
The raid of the Stardust uncovered the BIGGEST slot scams in the HISTORY of Las Vegas. Sending the hotel into TOTAL chaos. At first, Glick called the charges of skimming nonsense. That wasn't what the charges were. They were looking for the possibility of embezzlement. The casino's license would have been revoked if the Control Board decided that Argent's management had participated in the Skim. It was apparent that EVERYONE knew what was going on, but no one wanted to do anything about it. They tried connecting Argent & Glick to the Mob. Documents showed his involvement. Glick acted like he knew NOTHING! He even insisted upon applying for the insurance that covered the loss. Carl Thomas began to work at the Stardust a couple of months before the raid.
The food & beverage was a joke. Racing & sports bookmaking was in shambles. Some room clerks were taking reservations and when a person paid in cash, they'd pocket the cash and destroy the record. Lefty had always denied having anything to do w/ the Skim and had NEVER been charged. The Carl Thomas skim at Argent ended the day Lefty Rosenthal returned.
Lefty Rosenthal was back in charge after 2 months of reclaiming his office from Carl Thomas. The Nevada Supreme Court reversed the previous ruling. Rosenthal was prepared. He resigned as head of the casino and was immediately appointed by Glick as Argent's food & beverage director. Lefty then embarked on an all-out campaign to get a license. What began as simple as a suit over Lefty's license had escalated into war between Lefty and the state's political powerful licensing powerhouses. Taking it to federal court claiming being denied their constitutional rights. Rosenthal was no longer just bothersome and litigious. He was dangerous. He was all over the place and began to crave the spotlight. Just in case charges arose that Lefty's title was just a cover for what he was really up to, he threw himself into his new job description.
Lefty announced that he would be the host of a talk show that would promote the Stardust and obviously it's food & beverages. He also began to write a column for the Las Vegas Sun. The Frank Rosenthal Show premiered in April 1977. It appeared erratically at 11:00P on Saturday Night for 2 years. His first guests were Allen Glick and the Domani Brothers, who owned an interest in 4 Vegas hotels. They were announcing that Vegas was becoming a police state. They had performers, interviewers, handicappers; sometimes drop-in guests like Jill St. John and O.J. Simpson. The appearance of occasional superstars like Frank Sinatra. The show was amateurish and self-serving, but it had a strange addictive quality. Before long, it was the TOP-rated show.
Tony Spilotro was finding Lefty's celebrity harder and harder to take. While Lefty was here-and-there, on TV or whatnot, it seemed Tony grew to resent the accessible freedom that Lefty had that Tony didn't. There was also resentment due to Tony being the REAL boss in Vegas and Lefty was all over town like the Big Man On Campus. After Lefty had acquired some notoriety from the TV show, he surrounds himself w/ co-workers and ass-kissers. Tony sees Lefty walk in the joint and everyone is up to shake his hand. Lefty's loving it. He practically ignores and blows off Tony. He/Tony didn't like that. Tony seen that as a direction for disrespect. A way of Lefty saying: "I'm the Big Man In Town and F*** You!" Lefty could've acknowledged Tony without actually doing so. Tony was beginning to feel that Lefty was getting a BIG head and forgetting where he came from.
Whenever Tony was even mentioned in the media, it angered Lefty that his name (Lefty's) was attached to it. Lefty was certain that had he NOT had a connection to Tony Spilotro, he would NOT have had the licensing problems that he did. EVERYONE involved had that perception that Tony was the boss of Vegas - but he wasn't. It was the Outfit. Some people would use Tony's name without any connection just to get ahead. Not realizing it wasn't the purest way to go. Members of Tony's own family were turned down based on his reputation alone. They'd all get turned down. It was a very tough time for Tony. He'd get so mad as to want to whack everyone (even only in a heated moment.) Tony had a plan. He wanted to take over the Midwest. He began to list who he could count on and who their HIT list was. If Tony & Lefty had ANY discussions AT ALL, they ALL began to take place 50 miles outside of Las Vegas - LITERALLY in the desert. With things being the way they were, Lefty shortened his chances of these meetings being able to return a 50/50 shot. Cutting his chances in half.
Tony would get very pissed whenever Lefty's name came up. Everytime Tony had any ideas about doing anything and needed Lefty's help, Lefty would X him out. Tony was coming to hate Lefty. He thought Lefty was pissing on his parade. The Las Vegas FBI had been on Spilotro's case for years. Building something on Tony and his crew. Tony & his crew of bookmakers, shakedown artists, loan sharks & burglars did NOT seem to operate ANYWHERE NEAR the TOP of the casino business. Bosses back home would give them minor assignments to accomplish - if they were lucky. They would get him running errands more than casinos. (Distract his attention to Lefty could run the casino solo.) Typical activities picked up on phone taps & room bugs between April & May 1978. All they heard were mundane & tedious details. The stuff that MATTERED , the work that Spilotro was asked to do for the Bosses in Chicago took place on 5-1-1978. Most taps took place at The Gold Rush. The FBI recorded over 8,000 conversations on 278 reels of tape. Most of it was MUNDANE BULLSHIT! Nothing that MATTERED. In June, the Bureau launched a massive raid in which over 50 agents served everyone w/ search warrants. The warrants were served in Las Vegas & Chicago. Allowing agents to seize cash, filing cabinets, weapons, tape recordings & financial records. ALL of it posted in the newspapers, along w/ customary sentencing linking Spilotro-to-Rosenthal and The Stardust. Within months, all seized materials were returned to their owners. The widely public raid was a bust. Leaving Tony free to continue to operate.
Allen Glick was soon becoming a mistake and the Mob wanted him out. He was perfect in the beginning for a mark, but now he was coming off more than he was worth. The press loved to criticize him for one. He was more clever than the Teamster's Pension Fund had expected. The SEC disclosed that within a week of receiving the Teamster loan back in 1974, Glick had taken $317,500 from it and used it for personal expenses. The SEC charged Glick for using the Argent as his private source for funds in flagrant disregard of his fiduciary duties to Argent holders.
The SEC also accused Glick of dissipating Argent funds on several unprofitable ventures. The slot machine skimming scam was still under investigation. The Tamara Rand murder was still unsolved. $300,000 had been advanced to an advertising agency for ad promotions in a local newspaper w/ no results. Contributions were given to political candidates without a public mention. The Teamster empire was collapsing. The Mob attempted to get rid of Allen Glick by buying him out. The proposal was actually made to Glick by Lefty.
On 11-28-1978, Carl Thomas and Joe Agosto arrived in Kansas City for a meeting w/ Nick Civella. Thomas had been put in charge of the skim at the Tropicana. Now there was a problem: Civella believed he was being skimmed by the very people Civella had put in charge. There was a slight period when the skim was getting out of control, but they had to get to back on track. The State Of Nevada realized owners weren't giving them a fair count on the tax revenue, so they passed a law that outlawed owners from even entering their count rooms. Even today, a casino owner can't go into the count room. That law meant owners had to pick front-men to do the count for them. Pretty soon, the REAL count NEVER hit the door. The front-men, who were the BIG shots in town, got laws passed that kept the wiseguys, the REAL owners back then, out of town. The front-men set it up w/ the politicians and the cops so that the REAL owners, the racket guys, couldn't set foot in town. The wiseguys may have been tough at home, but they were easy pickings out in Vegas.
Agosto & Thomas met to discuss the Tropicana skim w/ Civella and others. They took place when NO ONE had a clue. There became 8 reels of tape that became a LANDMARK in law enforcement. Describing ALOT of methods and operations used in these skims. Less than 3 months later, F.B.I. agents Shea Avery & Gary Jenkins of the Kansas City Police Intelligence Unit knocked on Carl DeLuna's door, who was working w/ Agosto & Thomas, and presented him w/ a search warrant allowing them to look for records & papers. For months, the FBI had been watching DeLuna use pay phones at hotels. He was seen wrapping up notes from his rolls of quarters. Now they began to search his house.
They found $4,000 cash in on drawer, 8,000 in another & 15,000 in an armoir. There were 4 pistols, a handbook on poisoning, a police scanner radio, a black wig, a key making tool, 130 blank keys, a book on how to make silencers. All sorts of things but NO records, then came the basement. It was a situation where you COULD TELL NOTHING was thrown away. In a locked room in the basement, agents found notebooks, steno pack, hotel note pads & index cards. ALL neatly written in ink. Neatly itemizing ALL of DeLuna's expenses. Messages were written in codes, but EASY to decipher. Notes showed the breakdown and distribution of the skim. As they went over the notes, F.B.I. agents arrested Carl Caruso - aka the Singer - coming off of a plane. His/Carl's legitimate business was running junkets to Las Vegas, at the same time he was a money shifter carrying the skim money from Agosto at the Tropicana to the Civella mob.
Warrants were served to Joe Agosto in Vegas + Tropicana stockholders in Kansas City, Nick & Carl Civella. All they found were bags full of cut diamonds and an old clipping from an unknown publication. It was chilling. Two days after the search, DeLuna met w/ 3 pf his gang in Kansas City. Wimpy's. The F.B.I. bugged the ENTIRE restaurant and conversations, including an admission from DeLuna that he expected a jail sentence. He was eventually sentenced to 30 years in prison. His arrest and the notes taken provided the F.B.I. w/ the blueprint of the skim conspiracy.
Two days after the search, DeLuna met w/ 3 of his gang at a restaurant in Kansas City, Wimpy's. The F.B.I. bugged the ENTIRE restaurant and conversations, including an admission from DeLuna that he expected a jail sentence. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison. His arrest and the notes taken provided the F.B.I. w/ the Blueprint of the skim conspiracy. At this crucial time in Lefty's life, Geri was drinking and taking pills. She didn't seem to care that Lefty was under strenuous pressure. One night Lefty's ulcer was acting up and he was upstairs in bed. He had used the intercom to inquire about dinner. His pain was beginning to show. A non-violent incident including a gun while Geri was inebriated.
The next morning Lefty was going to work and she walks him out to the car. He calls the house an hour later and she was already inebriated. Lefty got in his car and went back to the house. He parked down the block and snuck into the house. He wanted to see what was going on. Geri was on the phone. Lefty thought she was talking to her daughter, Robin. He can literally hear her tell whomever on the phone that she needed help to kill Lefty. Please help me! Walking into the room, Lefty said there was no help. He re-affirms what just happened 2 ago. That she loved him. She hangs up the phone. Then she reaffirms her broken nose that received just hours ago. But she's been this way for years. After that, Lefty became more cautious coming home. Not due to the pistol she had, but fear the she truly would hire someone to do it.
Both Frank & Geri had terrible tempers. Geri's sister recalled them being in tantrums. Even from childhood-to-adulthood, Geri was spoiled. She needed to dictate the terms. Frank was the same way. Geri's original plan was to divorce Frank right away if it didn't work out, but 9 months later, she had Steven and he was everyone to her. She didn't understand how she could leave her child. What would change when she was a kid? She couldn't have done what she went through. But she felt alone. Lefty was living the LIFE while she was at home w/ the kids. Hearing rumors throughout town. She found receipts for jewelry when taking the laundry to the cleaners. Geri took the kids on a trip to La Costa. When she left, Geri & Lefty weren't getting along too well. Just before they were due to come home, Lefty still hadn't heard from them. After checking the hotel, they had moved out 2 days ago. Lefty was in a panic. They weren't on any airline. Lefty called Geri's boyfriend. He informed him Geri & the kids were w/ Robin and Lenny Marmour. He/Lenny gave Lefty a phone number. Lenny sounded slick and sharp by answering the phone. He had a sight fake Southern accent. Frank wanted to talk to Geri. He/Lenny stated that she wasn't there. Frank was adamant to talk to her. He wanted his kids and wanted them on a plane quick. He/Lenny tried to get Lefty to believe she wasn't there. Lenny said he was going to call Lefty back. In reality, Geri, Robin, the kids & Lenny hit the road.
Geri caused Lefty so much embarrassment. Right at the time w/ his troubles w/ the Gaming Commission. Meanwhile it's 2:00A, and Tony Spilotro comes to the Stardust, playing games, loses each time. He began to abuse the dealer. He keeps asking for a card that he likes. The pit bosses nod for it to continue. When it's a disagreeable card, Tony throws it back and tells the dealer to shove it. He begins getting PISSED! When Tony asks the pit bosses for an extendable line of credit, Lefty is dragged into it.
Frank had to go to Los Angeles for a few hours. He asked if Geri wanted to go. Do some shopping. She didn't feel like it. She wanted to get a manicure. So, Frank left while Geri stayed home. When he returned later in the afternoon Geri was home, and Frank noticed Geri's hands. She didn't have her manicure. She didn't feel like it. It was raining. Geri said she had lunch w/ her sister. Frank COULD TELL that what she was saying was BULLSHIT. He was being casual, but she was catching on. Geri said she was at a country club w/ her sister having lunch. Frank had asked Geri to call her sister to verify their lunch menu choices. Geri gets a piece of paper, writes down her sister's number and gives the paper to the housekeeper to call Geri's sister. Lefty tried again to verify Geri's day. He began to call her sister. He starts to dial. Then Geri starts to come out with the truth. Lefty KNEW where she was the ENTIRE time, he just wanted to HEAR it. He told her if she BULLSHIT him, the marriage was over and she was out!
|Tony & Geri|
Tony Spilotro's ego got in the way. It was like he could do it and nobody can do anything about it! Frank Cullotta went to Chicago and comes to find out rumors circulating in Chicago of what's happening in Vegas between Tony, Geri & Frank. Most of the Chicago crew tried to believe Lefty. "This stuff isn't going on!!" By this time, this drama w/ Frank, Geri & Tony is ALL OVER TOWN! Lefty had ASSUMED Geri had Tony backed off. When he suspected Geri was still talking to Lenny Marmour, he had the phone bugged. After a couple of days, while listening to the tapes, he heard Geri talking to Tony on the tapes. He talked quickly and she'd try to be off the phone before Lefty walked in. This was after the DANGER warning. Lefty would HEAR her make plans w/ Tony, but she told him things were off between her & Tony. Lefty made her SWEAR to it. Their lives were TRULY at stake. She lied right to his face. Lefty pulled out and showed Geri the mall recorder & cassette with which he had bugged. At this point, Lefty was HEATED!! He almost became violent if she hadn't screamed for a sleepy Steven for help. Geri had Lefty backed off.
Lefty had already began dividing things shortly after Geri returned from her trip to Beverly Hills w/ Lenny. He filed a quit claim agreement in court separating the properties in prep for divorce. In agreement, Lefty got almost everything: the house, the lots to the country club and the couples 4 Thoroughbred horses. But the 3 safety deposit boxes were still shared jointly. According to Lefty, he needed someone to have access to the cash if he was under arrest or somehow unable to receive his own money. Lefty got Geri to agree that she would lose her right to ANY control of the children if she engaged in drugs/alcohol. The idea kept sticking within Lefty's own crew that he needed to be whacked. Frank Cullotta owned The Upper Crust Pizzeria. Geri storms in DEMANDING to talk to Tony. She wants Lefty dead NOW! After Geri's FORCEFUL exit by Tony and his crew, he acknowledges & admits he ROYALLY screwed up!
Frank always kept his emotions to himself. He never allowed them to show. The first time he ever showed REAL panic was when he called Murray Ehrenberg over. He instructed them to bring a gun for protection. For some reason, Frank didn't want to be alone. He wanted someone there. NO ONE had seen Lefty like this for years. After arriving there and almost falling asleep 2 hours later, they heard this loud noise. It was Geri. She was wildly out-of-it. She went right through the garage door, dented up the car and had just missed Lefty's feet. Geri didn't even wait for the door to open. She hit the door at the bottom. She could be HEARD LOUDLY throughout the doors and windows RANTING. Her actions and presence spoke as though she was on something. Lefty tries to talk calmly to her. No help. She continued screaming and ran through the garage door again. Now comes the neighborhood. Cops began showing up. Lefty know them. Geri is content on getting into the house. Lefty doesn't want to let her in due to adding on more drama. Lefty didn't stand a chance. This drama outdoors did not make Lefty look good. With his gaming control issues and this spectacle, things would not look good in court. Geri still proclaims to get into the house. These cops are anti-Frank Rosenthal. They wanted the matter settled so they could go home. Rosenthal agreed: If she calms down, I'll give her 5 minutes to come in and get what she needs. Because I don't know what she's gonna do. The money, the kids, the jewelry are all gone. What else does she want? There was nothing left for her to steal.
Geri came out about 3 minutes later. Lefty was in the driveway w/ the cops. She had her hands behind her back. Geri gets about 10 ft of Lefty and she twirls around and has a pistol at Lefty's head. The cops took off and ran. Geri COMPLETELY THREATENS Lefty. He either gives her DEMANDS or she'll kill him. She waves the gun all over. Just then Nancy Spilotro pulls up. Nancy begins talking to Geri and takes her side. Out of the corner of an eye, Tony drove by real quick. He was in a car wearing a cap and beard. Everyone is telling Geri to put the gun down. Suddenly, Nancy grabs Geri's arm and the cops come up from behind and quickly cuff Geri. She starts pleading for Lefty's help. Left had the cops leave her alone. He wasn't pressing charges and that he had a license for the weapon. NONE OF IT MADE SENSE and Lefty was worn out! After the cops left, they ALL went into the house.
Geri begins washing dishes like nothing was wrong. She was settled down. Out of the clear blue, Geri confesses to "sleeping" w/ Spiltoro. Frank instructed in response to KEEP HER MOUTH SHUT! She said she had to make a phone call. But she didn't want to use any phone in the house. She soon sped away FAST! She couldn't get to the bank fast enough. LEGALLY Geri couldn't take the materials held in the safety deposit boxes at the bank. Geri thought having police there would be safe due to earlier commotions. Officers volunteered to follow Geri to the bank to prevent a further disturbance. Inside the bank, Geri was yelling at the V.P. of the bank. She and bank employees set out 2-or-3 boxes and removed large quantities of cash. There were also documents and jewelry removed. Geri volunteered & tried to give cash to the officers. After that, she exited the bank and towards her car. As Geri and the security were leaving, other officers arrived at the scene in the parking lot. They were talking to her as she put the items into her car. A couple of minutes later, Geri was down Las Vegas Boulevard.
Geri took off at a fairly high rate speed going south. At this point, Lefty and Lenny arrived in a yellow Cadillac which was in the driveway at the disturbance. Police wouldn't let Frank out of the car. They were trying to prevent trouble. Frank got very heated! He tried to push through but was stopped. Geri concocted the ENTIRE situation w/ the cops preventing Lefty from "getting to her". Later that same night, she called from Beverly Hills. It was after midnight, Frank let her go and let her keep her jewelry. But he wanted his. She hung up. Frank then gets a call from Tony. He KNOWS the situation between Frank & Geri. Tony wanted to meet w/ Frank. Frank just couldn't conceive the thought in reality of Geri & Tony. He couldn't shake it. Lefty was calm. He knows of the reaction he would receive from back home. Geri thought this involvement could get them both killed. Tony told her to return the money and the jewelry. Frank promised Geri if he would give her the jewels & money, he would leave Geri & Lenny alone.
Three days later, Lefty filed for divorce on 9-11-1980. Three days after Lefty got a call from the Psychiatric Ward of Harbor General Hospital in Torrence, CA. He was told Geri had been arrested by LAPD attempting to undress on Suset Blvd. She was under the influence. When Lefty arrived to the hospital, Geri was in a straightjacket. She was hysterical. It was suggested for her to be admitted for 2 weeks.
Geri was released from the hospital and that her father and daughter would try to go for her to receive psychiatric care. It was an uncontested divorce. They both each received what they wanted. Lefty - custody of the kids, in return for $5,000/month alimony and visitation rights. Geri - her millions in jewelry and her Mercedes. Frank still wasn't so happy. The ENTIRE situation, Frank, Geri & Tony; ALL of the stories were making headlines. Stories of a rumored, but feared Rosenthal-Spilotro war. The F.B.I. purposely exploited the publicity. Stories of this even hit Chicago news. By that time, Joe Aiuppa had more to be upset about than this. NO ONE knew of any of these until they were NOTORIOUS! As soon as Frank Cullotta opened a pizza joint, Tony was coming around too much. He was there all the time. While he may have brought business, he was also destroying it. COPS would confer w/ customers on who TRULY clean until Tony came around. Now investigations.
A local TV news crew was having coffee nearby when the explosion occurred and took pictures of Lefty minutes after wandering dazed around the lot holding a handkerchief to his head. Agents investigating the case said Lefty was "very fortunate" to survive the blast. What NO ONE knew, except for the manufacturer of the car, in the model of an Eldorado Cadillac, they had installed a steal floor plate beneath the driver's seat for additional stability. That steal plate LITERALLY SAVED Lefty's life. The steal plate deflected the bomb upwards and toward the rear of the car instead of up & forward.
Metro intelligence threatened Lefty unless he received police protection. The next day, the threat was blasted in the papers. Frank still had some bandages visible to his forehead and arm. He said he refused to accuse anyone he knew of such an act. Lefty didn't believe it was a healthy situation for ANY of them. Not even entertaining the thought. Lefty TRULY didn't consider Tony a friend anymore. Still, Lefty was NOT turning on Spilotro. Lefty wanted to find out who did it and make sure it didn't happen again. He was doing what he had to to protect himself and his kids. Two theories were taken seriously about who tried to bomb Frank. Frank Ballisteri, who was KNOWN as The Mad Bomber. The second theory was that Spilotro was behind it.
Geri had moved to an apartment in Beverly Hills, running w/ a bad crowd and lowlifes. She had an abusive boyfriend who was a musician. She would go to Las Vegas on concerns for the kids. She had lost weight on speed and pills. She had the attitude and presence like she was still Mrs. Lefty Rosenthal. Lefty offered her $100,000 to change her name. She refused to due the power in the name. There was always the good and the bad that came w/ it. At this time, Geri was with a younger kid. He would address Lefty as "Mr." She/Geri was a MESS! On 11-6-1982, one month after the car bombing, Geri was screaming in front of The Beverly Sunset Motel and stumbled into the lobby where she collapsed. A motel clerk called the police, but when they arrived, Geri was in a coma. She NEVER recovered. Geri died 3 days later at the hospital. She was 46. The hospital found evidence of tranquilizers, liquor & other drugs in her system.
The story made the Vegas & L.A. papers - rehashing EVERYTHING. It was a story made for the tabloids and the cops. Lefty found out from a friend's wife. Frank called to verify the facts. 2 days later, Lefty got a call from Geri's daughter, Robin Marmour. Robin made the arrangements. Lefty's kids didn't want to attend their mom's funeral. After the speculation, Lefty spent $15,000 on an investigation and got the details. Geri's death coincided 1 month after Lefty's car explosion. Geri was buried in Mt. Sinai Memorial Park. It was private, but Lefty and the kids DID NOT attend. The true cause from the coroner was a lethal dose of drugs & alcohol in January 1983. Half of the assets and coins Geri was promised went to Lefty and the other half was divided evenly among the kids. They each received $2,581.
The wiretaps resulted in the indictment and conviction in MAJOR mob bosses who were involved in EVERYTHING. Allen Dorfman was shot and killed outside of a Chicago restaurant. He was convicted along w/ others for the Teamster pension fund to try and bribe to get favorable trucking legislation. On 3-13-1983, Nick Civella died of lung cancer. Joe Agosto was convicted in a check floating scheme that advanced the Skim. In April, he decided to become a government witness. His testimony resulted in convictions and stiff sentences. Agosto died of a heart attack a few months later. Frank Ballisteri plead guilty. Tony Spilotro was severed from the case due to his heart condition. He would be tried later. When the verdict was handed down, the stiff sentences were NO surprise.
1983 was a turning point in the history of Vegas. The Mob's main muscle and control was over! Slot machines became the casinos largest revenue producer. It was becoming a Disneyland for adults. Becoming family friendly. In 1983, the N.G.C. suspended the Stardust's license. Lefty and his family moved to California. Stephanie became a world-class swimmer. Lefty's life revolved around the kids. Steven was a talented swimmer as well. More so than Stephanie. But not as serious as his sister. The Spilotro brothers were found naked and disfigured in a 5ft. grave. Both Tony & his brother. TOGETHER. They were not meant to be found within the Indiana cornfield. They were beaten to death and tortured.
Today in Las Vegas, it has become a family theme park. NO mob affiliates ANYWHERE! Lefty lived in a gated community in Boca Raton. In 1987, Lefty was placed in the Black Book and forbidden from ever entering a casino again before his death in 2008 at age 79 of natural causes.
In 1995, a blockbuster feature film was made based on this story starring the ICONIC Robert DeNiro as Lefty (Sam "Ace" Rothstein), Sharon Stone as Geri (Ginger), Joe Pesci as Tony Spilotro (Nicky Santoro), Kevin Pollack as Allen Glick (Phillip Greene), James Woods as Lenny Marmour (Lester Diamond) featuring the skim within the Stardust (The Tangers).