The Frontier Hotel was around in the late forties however gambler, promoter Maury Friedman had big ideas. These are some notes from interviews I had with one of the former partners of the Frontier, who may have been an informant for the FBI. I will not name the individual for reasons of privacy. In some sentences the text is in “first person” and there is the use of “I”. This is not this writer, but it refers to the interviewee.
Maury Freidman was still looking for investors, so he came to me and asked if I would go with him to Palm Springs where he was to meet with some potential investors. He never told me who he met with for reasons I found out later. Maury and Mal Clark, a broker who was trying to get investors for a finder’s fee, asked me to join them later after their meeting at a local restaurant. Irving Leff was also at the meeting. He was a partner with Maury in the New Frontier, and close friends with Sid Hudson and shoe magnate Harry Karl. Hudson was an employee of Karl’s; however, he basically became a resident in the Flamingo Hotel in its heyday. I still don’t know who they met with, but later I was told that they picked up the remaining points, which meant we could start construction. It was great news! Maury’s chickens almost came to roost on me.
In July 1970, I was called to meet with the FBI in Los Angeles. They were conducting an investigation into alleged “hidden interests” in the Frontier Hotel. I called Adrian Marshall, an attorney friend who lived in Los Angeles, to represent me. We discussed the situation and he agreed to meet me at the Grand Jury room.
I sat in the waiting room outside the Grand Jury room and recognized Tony Accardo and Paul “The Waiter” Ricca; however, neither of us acknowledged the other. I’d met each separately via Johnny Rosselli years earlier. Any recognition would have been more problems for all of us.
In 1969, Accardo was listed in the United States Congressional Record as a member of the Mafia. He was then considered by law enforcement authorities as the leader of the Chicago Outfit, but he was a smart guy and never did any jail time. He began his organized crime career in the late 1920s as a bodyguard for Al Capone and acquired the nickname “Joe Batters” after developing expertise using a baseball bat as an enforcement tool. In 1929, he was suspected to be a gunman in the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
Paul Ricca was another elder statesman right alongside Accardo. You didn’t mess with him, either. He was a top lieutenant for Capone when Capone was sent to jail, but he ran into trouble in the early 1940s when he and his pals, including Johnny Rosselli, were convicted of extorting close to $2 million from the movie industry. Ricca served three years of a ten-year sentence, then was paroled and took over as the leader of the Capone operations. He was Johnny Rosselli’s main juice in Chicago.
They were in the Grand Jury room about ten minutes each, which strongly suggests that they invoked the Fifth Amendment. After the inquisition, they left together. During this timeframe, Accardo had a home in Palm Springs and spent a lot of time there. These guys were strictly business and cold as ice.
What an ordeal I went through. I was grilled for three hours about Maury Friedman’s meeting in Palm Springs. Would you believe, I’d forgotten about it? So I denied going to the meeting until they produced a copy of an airline flight manifest dated during the time period the meeting took place that had my name on it. Damn! I was really shocked that my memory, which was and is usually very good, had gotten me into deep “doo doo” with the FBI. Of course, I had to admit going to Palm Springs with Maury, but I couldn’t tell them what they wanted to know because I wasn’t at the meeting. They wanted the names of the people who had met with Maury and Mal, and who had put the money up for the Frontier Hotel. All I could tell them was that I was told that they were from Detroit. Adrian and I conferred several times, and he was finally called in to meet with the agents by himself. They told him that if I testified for the investor group, they would severely restrict my freedom to do anything outside Leavenworth. They didn’t know they were doing me a great favor. That meant I couldn’t testify for anybody. I couldn’t testify for them or against them. What a relief! I was off the hook with everybody. Somebody up there was also very good at “sleight-of-hand” and dealt me the right cards.
There is no doubt in my mind that the FBI knew exactly who was at the meeting and they knew I was not there, so when I told them that I was not at the meeting, they knew I was telling the truth. They always have the answer before they ask you the question. Either they had the room bugged, just like they’d bugged the Desert Inn, the Fremont, and probably the Frontier Hotel, or they had an informant. As I said before, “we” (meaning the inside management group at the Frontier Hotel) suspected we had a mole within our group who was feeding information to the authorities. As I look back now, I’m sure that the place was bugged.
Ralph Lamb, Sheriff of Clark County, Nevada, announced that he was going to investigate the Frontier for hidden ownership. In Clark County, the local government also has to approve a gambling license in addition to the State of Nevada. Technically speaking, a person could be approved for a State gaming license and be denied to operate within Clark County, where the Las Vegas “Strip” is located. The information that was given to the authorities was good enough for the police to barge into a Frontier room and arrest Anthony Zerilli, president of Detroit’s Hazel Park Racetrack. He was booked on vagrancy charges and released a few hours later. Zerilli’s father, Joseph, was a legitimate Detroit Mafia boss who was not apprehended at the legendary Mafia Appalachian meeting at the home of Joseph Barbara.
In that incident, the FBI questioned an employee at the Barbara estate and showed them Joseph Zerilli’s photograph, but the domestic employee suddenly could not identify Zerilli as being in attendance at the meeting. A further check of Hertz Rent-A-Car records reflect that Zerilli rented a car in Binghamton, New York and returned it to a Brooklyn, New York agency. The clerk stated that due to the volume of cars handled each day by him and also due to the considerable time lapse, he was unable to identify Zerilli as being the person who returned the car to his agency. The Hertz records indicated that the driver’s license used to secure the rental car was a Michigan driver’s license issued to Joseph Zerilli. Joseph Profaci was at the meeting; he is the father-in-law of Zerilli’s son, Anthony, who was arrested at the Frontier Hotel. Joe Zerilli denied being invited to Barbara’s home, denied any knowledge of the meeting, and denied any intention of appearing at the meeting.
Tony Accardo and Samuel Giancana were overheard in Chicago discussing that several prominent racketeers of Sicilian origin were “bosses in different parts of the country. They indicated that there are nine or twelve men who make up this so-called “Commission which mediates on matters involving jurisdictional disputes in so-called “open territories. Accardo mentioned that one of the members of this Commission is Joseph Zerilli of Detroit, Michigan. He stated that other members of this Commission were Vito Genovese, Joe Profaci Joe Bonanno, Joe Ida, Steve Magaddino, Pete Madaddino and Tommy Luchese.
Sources informed the FBI that the top leaders in the so-called mafia are in the East principally in New York and New Jersey. Information formed a solid opinion that the word of no man would carry more weight than that of Joseph Zerilli of Detroit. Zerilli would be apt to have the last word in settling any important dispute, whether it be in Detroit, Chicago or New York City. He had risen to the top in Detroit since 1931 and was probably as influential in the whole country as he was in Detroit. Zerilli was soft spoken and never encouraged violence except as a final resort when other methods failed. Zerilli was described as the “court of last resort whose decisions had the effect of law so far as the hoodlums were concerned. He was like the role of Don Corleone, played by Marlon Brando in the Godfather. Robert Kennedy commented about the Zerillis, “(Mr. Kennedy) The Toccos and Zerillis are two of the leading gangster families in Detroit, Mich., and in the Michigan area.
The Detroit hoodlums did not enjoy the prestige of hoodlums from Cleveland, Brooklyn, Miami, Chicago and other cities because their racket activities had been confined primarily to the Detroit area. Pete Corrado (deceased) reportedly had an interest in the Desert Inn in Las Vegas and his son Dominic Pete Corrado was believed to still have an interest in it after his death. When Corrado died, Pete Bommarito, brother law of Pete Licavoli, took over the Corrado operations. Tony Tocco, Tony Zerilli and Mike Polizzi had were looking for interests in other states and he said that Vito Giacalone and Mike Polizzi were the negotiators for the sons of Detroit hoodlums inasmuch as both could mix well and meet people.
“The meeting was supposed to be a special secret meeting, but the FBI and the local police had a pretty good idea what it was all about. Maury brought in the Detroit Mafia as hidden owners to put up the money to finish the hotel rooms and the casino. They had over five million dollars invested, so why were Accardo and Ricca called in to be questioned by the Grand Jury? Because my man and Ricca’s boy, Johnny Rosselli, was putting the squeeze on the Detroit family for 15 percent of the Frontier Hotel action. This was a major issue to all concerned and the FBI knew all about it,” said Bernie.
Anthony Giordano was also a hidden owner in the Frontier from St. Louis, Mo. He was a great friend of Dave Goldberg and Erwin Gordon, two of the country’s top bookies at the time. Goldberg and Gordon last worked at the Dunes Hotel in the late sixties and early seventies. Goldberg was especially close to Tony G., as he was called. Giordano was also close to Morris Shenker, who represented Jimmy Hoffa. Jack Shapiro
Friedman, a co-conspirator who testified for the government, and Feil, another witness who testified directly to the illegal involvement of some defendants, offered no evidence implicating Giordano; none of the four government witnesses who might on the prosecution’s theory, have known of Giordano’s involvement in the conspiracy, directly implicated him
Giordano and Zerilli were close friends. Giordano lived in St. Louis, Zerilli in Detroit. There were telephone calls between Giordano’s home and office and Zerilli’s, as well as other calls charged to Zerilli’s credit card and placed to Giordano’s numbers, at various key times in the course of events between June and November, 1967. Giordano knew the Cusumanos and the Sansones in St. Louis. The Sansones did not know Zerilli
The need for additional money, which resulted in the issuance of the Class C debentures Sansone later bought, developed in early June. There were calls between telephones listed to Giordano and Zerilli at that time. Zerilli came to St. Louis for two days on June 8.
The Sansones began gathering money for their VFI investment after Zerilli visited St. Louis, but before the Class C debentures in which they invested were officially issued. They could have learned about the investment possibility only from a person having knowledge of the inner operations of VFI.
In early August, Giordano repaid an overdue loan to the Cusumano family trust. Less than three weeks later, Sansone took out a loan from the same trust. This loan was part of the money Sansone eventually invested in VFI. The Sansone loan was the only business transaction ever consummated between Sansone and the Cusumano family. It was unsecured. Although the VFI debentures in which Sansone invested yielded 4% Interest, the loan from Cusumano was at 7%, an anomaly for which Sansone had no convincing explanation.
The Sansone investment was withdrawn less than 60 days after it was made, after Sansone was told by the Nevada Gaming Commission that he would have to apply for a gaming license, disclose the source of the invested funds, and provide fingerpints. Sansone testified that he withdrew only because, ‘I never anticipated that I would have to be classified as a gambler when I bought the debenture.’ But from the outset the Sansones admittedly knew they were investing in a gambling casino.
Giordano made five trips to Las Vegas between July and November, 1967. The Giordanos have no business interests or relatives in Las Vegas, and Giordano was not a gambler. Each of these trips was closely preceded, or followed, or both, by telephone contact between Giordano telephones and Zerilli telephones or phone calls charged to Zerilli. Each trip coincided with an important event in the unlawful scheme. For example, trips in September and November coincided with the beginning and end of the $150,000 investment.
On September 12 there was a series of phone calls between Zerilli’s home and Giordano’s home and business. The next day, Sansone marshaled the entire $150,000. On that same day there was a call from a Zerilli telephone to Giordano’s telephone. On September 14 Sansone flew to Las Vegas with the money to make the investment. He checked into the Frontier Hotel. Sixteen minutes later, Giordano checked into the Dunes Hotel. Four days later, Sansone deposited the $150,000 in VFI’s account, received the debentures, and left Las Vegas. Giordano departed the following day. In November, a telephone call to Giordano was charged to Zerilli on the same day the Nevada Gaming Commission’s letter was sent to Sansone. Giordano went to Las Vegas on November 9; Zerilli arrived and checked into the Frontier Hotel under an assumed name on November 10; and Sansone arrived on November 11 to complete the withdrawal of the $150,000 investment.
Former local FBI special-agent-in-charge Jim Nelson – deemed by the Supreme Court as an expert on the Mafia- agrees that St. Louis was a second-tier mob city. “Historically, they had access to the (ruling) commission through Detroit. And the Syrian mob was stronger here than the Italians.” John M. McGuire of The Post-Dispatch Staff. St. Louis Post – Dispatch [St. Louis, Mo] 19 Mar 1997: E, 1
Both Michaels and Giordano, along with John J. Vitale, were considered among the last of the big-time, alleged crime-boss figures, not that the so-called mob here was any great shakes, say retired policemen. It was strictly minor league, said one, who spent much of his career stalking these figures. He, too, asked not to be identified.
“We never had mainliners; here they came under the jurisdiction of Chicago,” he said. “Even Kansas City had more of a mob, and more muscle, than St. Louis.”
Years ago, I ran into an old friend who was a former Central Telephone Company installer that I’ll call “Bruce.” I asked Bruce about the FBI wiretaps that were in the Fremont and other places. He really shocked me when he told me that every hotel where he’d done any work had special lines that were identified with a special tag and some special initials written on them. He said when he saw this type of line in the phone room of the casino, he was never to alter or change it. He knew it was some sort of wiretap. It was common knowledge to the installers.
Was the informant Frank “Bomp” Bompensiero? I don’t know for sure, but I knew that he was the informant about the Rosselli shakedown at the Desert Inn. There is also a real good chance that the FBI may have intercepted conversations of Ricca and Accardo about this shakedown attempt.
Let me also tell you about Maury’s plans for the Frontier Hotel. The FBI followed Maury Friedman, who had returned to Los Angeles. In December, 1965, Friedman, Rosselli, and Mal Clarke, who was coming from Palm Springs, were meeting in Los Angeles with people from Chicago regarding the leasing of the New Frontier Hotel. Clarke, John Rosselli, and Maury Friedman were planning to take over the operation of the New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas and that Jack Burk had been approached to consider assuming the position of assistant casino manager.
Friedman attempted to interest Steve Wynn, from Baltimore, in buying five points of the New Frontier Hotel for $10,000 per point. Friedman had flown Wynn to Las Vegas for the Clay-Patterson fight for the purpose of then attempting to sell him points in the New Frontier Hotel. Friedman stated that they were going to build a high-rise building at the hotel. Maury had great foresight and was a deluxe salesman. When I say “deluxe,” that is a term we used to refer to a dealer who hustled customers for tips, or tokes as they are referred to. There was something about Maury’s left-handed, and I literally mean left-handed, style that was overpowering. When he would start to get ready to sign his name on a piece of paper, the windup and the get-ready were hypnotic. His hand would start the slow swirl and eventually the pen would gently strike the paper like a perfect three point landing in a tumultuous weather situation. To put it bluntly, he was a master at selling a concept. The notion of a high-rise hotel in Las Vegas may have been the catalyst in Steve Wynn’s creative mind that urged him to also build high-rises. Maybe Maury was like a great marketing professor of gambling, rooms, food, and beverage. Some of his original ideas are still implemented today.
Friedman and Clarke put together a deal to take over the New Frontier Hotel from landlord John McArthur and Lou File, president of Banker’s Trust. An informant advised the FBI early on that it was a foregone conclusion if Friedman did take over the New Frontier Hotel and constructed a high-rise building, that Rosselli would have an interest in the operation
In January 1966, Maurice Friedman, Jack Barenfeld, Mal Clarke, John Rosselli, Abe Phillips; Los Angeles bail bondsman, Lou Mandel, Bill Weiss, real estate investors; Jonie Taps, Music Department of Columbia Pictures, and two Japanese men from Newport Beach had dinner at the Cellar Restaurant on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills. The dinner was apparently a meeting for those interested in the leasing of and having points in the New Frontier Hotel. Friedman said Mal Clarke, a former bookie, was going to manage the casino. Friedman apparently sold his points in the New Frontier Hotel to John McArthur, possibly with an option that he could have the first refusal to lease. Harry Karl was also in on the deal, with Barenfeld and Rosselli requesting that a golf course be built in connection with the hotel and that Harry Karl be the president of the golf course. The group also discussed giving one point to the legendary boxer, Rocky Marciano, to use his name in publicity for the hotel. Al Fine, who owned the Cellar Restaurant where they were eating, wanted some points, and the group agreed that they would decide at a later date whether Fine could get two points. Maury had them begging for more, especially when he remarked that “everyone at this dinner had points in the New Frontier Hotel lease.”
Friedman also boasted that he had a piece of Au Petit Jean’s Restaurant and Stefanino’s Trattoria, both in Beverly Hills. The week before, while under the influence, he bragged that he owned a large piece of the Beverly Crest Hotel in Beverly Hills and has had this interest for some time. Friedman just happened to know my pals Jack Cooper and Meyer Lansky. It is a small world.
The target opening date of the New Frontier Hotel was April 1, 1966. Funny, it was April Fools’ Day. Organized crime attorney Sidney Korshak made the statement that the New Frontier Hotel would not get a Nevada gaming license. He was partially right.
Mal Clarke, along with Jack Barenfeld, a clothing manufacturer and real estate investor, real estate investor William Weiss, and T.W. Richardson, a gambler with plenty of experience, would manage the casino. In this arrangement, Friedman had 22 points at $40,000 a point. A source said that McArthur loaned Friedman six million dollars to construct 600 additional rooms.
Friedman was so excited that the New Frontier Hotel would open April 1, 1966, and that they had the money. All they needed was to get the operator’s lease signed. He decided to send his attractive wife, Norma, on an extended vacation to Italy and gave her $10,000 to buy clothes in New York City.
Irving Leff, a close friend of Rosselli, did not have points in the New Frontier Hotel lease, but wanted to buy out Friedman’s interest in the Silver Slipper in Las Vegas. He then decided not to pursue it because he understood Friedman was taking T.W. Richardson and Shelby Williams, who were the operators of the Silver Slipper, under the new lease to run the Frontier Hotel. He believed that this could probably result in the Silver Slipper not having good casino operators and it could conceivably go broke.
Johnny Rosselli had plenty of cards up his sleeve during these years. He had money invested in the shows at the Desert Inn Hotel and the Tropicana Hotel, and also owned a piece of the earnings from the sons of Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Spike Jones, and Frank Sinatra, Jr. How did that happen?
Now here is a bombshell: Rosselli “owns a man named Morrie Seuss at Paramount Studios and also controls Howard Koch, president of Paramount Studios, Jeanne Peters became very friendly with Koch, eventually divorced Howard Hughes and married Koch.
Rosselli had a lot of juice, as it is called, and he used it. He worked on a deal to move Jack Entratter out of the Sands Hotel and into Columbia Studios to produce two pictures.
The more I think about it, the Frontier Hotel was a good example of how intensely the Feds were pursuing the Mob. They messed up a couple of good investments for me, and I had no part of any activities involving the Mob in the Frontier Hotel. We worked our asses off to get the reconstruction done and get the place opened. I knew I had to stay clear of the “wise guys,” and I did so by investing my own money every time, but I still got caught “in the switches.” I guess the old bromide “If you lie down with dogs you’re going to get fleas” bit me in the gluteus maximus.
After it was announced that reconstruction would begin, Maury Friedman carne to me and said, “We have no manager. Do you know anyone?” Of course, I did. That became the beginning of Burton Cohen’s long career in management of Las Vegas Hotels. At the moment, Burton was general manager of the International Airport Hotel System in which I had a five percent interest. I checked with Meyer and Jack Cooper who, as I’ve said, were the major stockholders in I.A.H.S. I didn’t want them to think I was pirating Burton away from them. They gave me the okay to proceed with an offer, so I called Burton and put him in touch with Maury, who was in charge of the management company that would operate the Frontier. After speaking with Burton, Maury came to an agreement with Burton to come aboard.
I’d known Burton for over forty years, beginning in Florida. He was an attorney and the son of a prominent hotel operator in Miami Beach. Burton went on to manage the Thunderbird, Caesars Palace, and finally retired from the Desert Inn. While at the Desert Inn he became quite famous in the seventies as a Vegas hotel owner in the TV drama Las Vegas. I bring up Burton because he was an inadvertent but important player in the Frontier Hotel problem for me. He was perfect for the job. He had a great wit and affability that drew people to him. And he was a very good friend.
Well, we finally got the joint open in 1968. I was a host in the casino and Steve Wynn was in charge of the slot department, but I wished I’d been in charge of the entertainment. We were packed with guests from the beginning despite the fact that Maury really screwed up the entertainment in the show room. I had contacted Tony Bennett and Count Basie before the opening, thinking I was doing a good thing. I went to Maury and told him we could get both, but he evaded me for some time. Finally, he told me he’d already signed a group from Russia in a show entitled Europa. I couldn’t believe it and told Maury he was out of his cotton-picking mind. In spite of being good friends, we had a heated discussion in which I asked him if he had any documentary proof that his mother had ever married his father.
As I predicted, the Europa show was a dismal failure. Nobody wanted to see it. We were giving invitations away by the handful and doing everything imaginable to get people into the showroom. Nothing helped. I went to Maury and said, “The only reason that stupid Cossack show got here was that you must have gotten paid under the table. I’ll bet you never saw the show before you signed their contracts. Nobody in this business could make such a goof if he wasn’t paid to do it.” He didn’t answer me and walked away.
As I said, when you lie down with dogs, you’re going to get fleas. We’d just gotten the place up and running when the Nevada Gaming Commission shut us down due to pressure from the Feds. We were given a deadline of twelve o’clock midnight April 30, 1969, to either sell the place or vacate it.
We later learned that there was a mole at the front desk. A memo was sent out on Burton’s stationery to give VIP treatment to some “wise guys” that the Gaming Control Board had already listed as persona non grata. The mole sent a copy to the Feds and that became the final straw. We also learned about the Feds’ system of wiretaps in several of the Vegas casinos and their ongoing investigation of hidden Mob interests, particularly in the Frontier. The wiretap operation was later reported by Ovid Demaris in his book The Last Mafioso.
As a matter of fact, in March of 1971, Tony Zerilli, Mike Polizzi, Tony Giordano, Peter Bellanca, Art Rooks, and Jack Shapiro were indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in Los Angeles for concealing hidden interests in the Frontier Hotel. Maury Friedman, T. W. Richardson, Irving ‘Slick’ Shapiro, and Alex Kachinko were “unindicted co-conspirators.” I concluded that these must be the guys Maury Friedman met with in Palm Springs, which I’ve already told you about. I break a sweat every time I think about the grilling I got from the FBI about that meeting.
Maurice Friedman was granted immunity and provided plenty of information to indict Tony Zerilli, Michael Polizzi, and Tony Giordano of having hidden interests in the Frontier Hotel. In July 1972, Zerilli and Polizzi were sentenced to four years and fined $40,000 each. Giordano was sentenced to four years and fined $10,000. All three appealed their convictions and were denied. The three began serving their sentences in 1975. In 1976 they were denied parole.
The following press coverage took place in Los Angeles California in 1970 and 1971 during the period the Federal Grand Jury was hearing testimony relating to the Frontier Hotel case:
The Los Angeles Herald Examiner for May13, 1970 contained the following item,
John Rosselli, 63 of Beverly Hills is due to receive an invitation today for a third appearance before a Federal Grand Jury investigating interstate racketeering, “The dapper silver-haired Rosselli who testified before the panel for three and one-half hours yesterday will be asked tc return next Monday,” according to Assistant U.S Attorney David Nissen.
“During a recess yesterday Rosselli said, ‘I’m doing my best to cooperate A few things are a bit touchy. I just hope I’m doing the right thing you never know.”
He first testified before this Grand Jury on May 1after U.S District Judge Manuel Real granted him immunity from prosecution and ordered him to answer questions.
U.S Attorney Matthew Byrne declined to comment on the specific scope of the Grand Jury probe but it is known that it is focusing on Las Vegas casino activities earlier in the investigation records of the Frontier Hotel sale to billionaire HOWARD HUGHES.
James Cantillon, Rosselli’s attorney revealed that “his client has been questioned about the activities of several racketeering figures including Sam (Momo) Giancana, one time mafia boss of Chicago.”
The Los Angeles Times, May 15 1970: “Alleged underworld figure Johnny Rosselli was ordered again Thursday to answer a Federal Grand Jury’s questions which it was revealed in court deal with secret ‘skimming’ of gambling proceeds by hidden interests in Las Vegas casinos. The nature of the inquiry became known for the first time when ROSSELLI who had been granted immunity from prosecution to testify was returned to court for balking at certain questions. Rosselli stopped answering when the questioning turned to the subject of a meeting at the office of his attorney James Cantillon with Frank La Porte, alleged Chicago mafia figure.
“‘Who was present with you when you and Frank La Porte met at Cantillon’s office?’ he was asked. Rosselli complained he was being set up for a perjury charge and refused to answer any more questions. A record of the proceedings read for U.S District Judge Jesse W. Curtis revealed other questions he refused to answer were, ‘How was the meeting arranged? ‘Did you converse with Frank La Porte at any other location?”
Also read was a statement by Assistant U.S Attorney David Nissen informing Rosselli of the nature of the investigation, “It included possible violations of Federal law involving the holding of hidden interests in Las Vegas casinos and hotels and interstate travel for the removal of ‘skim’ or secretly removed funds.”
Nissen told Judge Curtis it was a ‘very sensitive Case’ and requested that other portions of the Grand Jury proceedings not be made public. Cantillon representing Rosselli charged that it was not a legitimate inquiry. He said, “An affidavit by U.S Attorney Byrne in support of the grant of immunity stated that Rosselli had certain knowledge which would be of aid to the Grand Jury. ‘Then they proceed to cross examine him to elicit from him some testimony which they can subsequently use as a basis for perjury.”
“‘I think they were surprised when he started to testify It is apparent this is not a legitimate inquiry.” Cantillon challenged the government to release the entire transcript of the testimony which he said would bear out his contentions.
NISSEN said, “Cantillon was ‘speaking from ignorance’ rather than knowledge but he offered to let Judge Curtis read privately a transcript of Rosselli’s first day of testimony May 1.”
Judge Curtis retired to his chambers to do so and emerged an hour later with the order that Rosselli must answer the questions. The Judge ruled the Grand Jury appears to be making an investigation in an area it is entitled to probe, and the scope of the inquiry is legitimate. He admonished Nissen that some of the questions asked of Rosselli appeared to deal with his own culpability and no other person’s. He cautioned the prosecutor to be more careful. Nissen contended that all questions related to Rosselli’s knowledge of illegal activities on the part of other persons as well as himself.
Rosselli returned to the Grand Jury room and testified for another 30 minutes then was excused until Tuesday at9:30 AM. At the time Rosselli is appealing convictions for his part in card cheating at the Friar’s Club and for failing to register as an alien.
The Los Angeles Times, July 10 1971, contained the following item:
“Millionaire developer Maurice Friedman has been threatened with death in prison because of testimony he gave the government against underworld figures it was reported
Friday. Friedman was described in Federal court as one of the key witnesses against six men in a corporation charged with a scheme to hide ownership of the Frontier Hotel gambling casino in Las Vegas. Friedman is serving Federal prison terms for his role in the Friar’s Club card cheating case and related offenses. He also is named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the hidden ownership case. At a hearing on pretrial motions before visiting U.S District Judge Gus Solomon, the threat on Friedman’s life was disclosed reluctantly by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hornbeck.
Hornbeck said, “Friedman was one of four or five witnesses whose testimony before a Grand Jury should not be released to the defense at this time for fear of reprisals.”
Pressed for explanation as to how a person in Federal custody could be in danger Hornbeck said, “Friedman’s life already has been threatened. As a result, Friedman was moved from the Terminal Island facility to the Lompoc Prison.”
Zerilli, Michael Polizzi, and Tony Giordano were denied parole in 1976.
Johnny Rosselli was murdered in August 1976.
Years later, Freddie Doumani asked me to come over to the Desert Inn. I met him there and he said, “Somebody wants to say hello to you.”
I looked up and it was Michael Polizzi. He hugged me and said, “I am so glad you treated us right.”
Once again I have to say how much I am thankful to Meyer Lansky for keeping me clean of any of the Syndicate’s nefarious operations, but I still got shut down with the rest of them at the Frontier. It was a very good opportunity gone bad through no fault of mine.
This writer concludes that there is a possibility that the mysterious “interviewee” may be indirectly responsible for Rosselli’s murder because Zerilli, Michael Polizzi, and Tony Giordano, who spent their time in jail, were led to believe that Rosselli was the informant.
This is just a theory and there is no evidence to substantiate it, however there is evidence to prove that the interviewee was an informant, and later on in his career assisted the FBI in another major casino-hotel.