I met the mob in Las Vegas recently, and some IRS T-Men too, but no FBI G-Men bothered to show up. Both sides wanted to tell me what Hollywood got wrong.
Assembled criminals included Frank Cullotta, The Las Vegas Boss, as well as Original Gangster Tony Montana, and mob biographers Dennis Griffin and John L. Smith,.The best of the IRS was there too, including legendary retired Chicago IRS special agent Tom Moriarty.
The meeting took place in the Clark County Library, just down the street from Bugsy’s “Flamingo” Hotel.
Mobsters, whose mugs danced up on a screen over the stage were long dead, or imprisoned, so they couldn't participate. But there was a full house of older spectators in the audience; whispering, smiling, and pointing at every picture. I overheard someone say “I knew him.” Another snickered “I pay my taxes.” There were lots of handshakes, hugs, and a smart looking older man sharing stories from under a 1950s Bowler Rat Fedora hat. He seemed to know everyone there. A woman pointed at the screen and asked him “Was he the guy handing the big bets?” Another asked “Is he still alive?”
Most of the mob was arrested for tax evasion.
“You can lie, cheat, steal, and murder, but you better pay your taxes,” said the moderator. The theater howled with laughter, so did the mobsters, but not so much the T-Men. Mr. Moriarty reminded us. “Did you know,” he lectured, “that two thirds of all the crooks in prison in the 1940s were captured by the IRS? In the 1950s the IRS prosecuted more than 12,000 cases, and won every one of them. In the 1960s 60 percent of all organized crime cases were handled through the IRS.”
If you’re a $35,000 a year trash man, drinking cheap store brand beer on the back of a $500,000 yacht, we’re coming after you!”
Frank, in his old New York Italian accent, countered that, yes you have to give the IRS some credit for breaking up the mob in Vegas, but it was the new corporate casino owners that really drove the mob from Vegas. “It was the greatest disappearing act in Vegas.”
After the presentation I asked Frank and Tony if they ever met a man so honest they couldn't corrupt him. Both said no. Frank said “If you are talking to me you are walking some kind of line, and I can turn you ‘like that!’”
I also asked both Tony and Frank if they feared anyone. Of course both their answers were no, and Tony gave me a look that made me shiver. The IRS agents had already left, probably went home to bed.
So how did Hollywood get it wrong?
The mobsters I saw, outside of being a bit older that Scarface and anyone in the Coreleone family, actually in their 80s, looked and talked like movie mobsters.The T-Men were just as frumpy looking as any movie FBI agent, and as average as the Hollywood “everyman” too. I’m still not sure Hollywood got it all that wrong.
I’m going back to have dinner them on Feb.14, to celebrate the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, at their hang out in the Royal House in Vegas. The event is open to the public. For more information call 702-735-6117 or if you are a Facebook member you can go to https://www.facebook.com/events/554153231263926/ .
Combine this dinner with a trip to the Mob Museum and you'll have a great visit, but remember not to spend too much money, the town in jumping with T-Men!