Jimmy Hoffa, an excerpt from my future book about Las Vegas.
The Teamsters and Jimmy Hoffa had a lot to do with Las Vegas’ growth. Millions of dollars of Teamster pension funds were loaned to known associates of organized crime notables, as late as 1976, to finance hotel-casino operations that were syphoning millions of dollars into the underworld coffers. Teamster trustees and officials have tried to give the impression that the fund’s suspicious loans stopped in 1967 when Jimmy Hoffa, who owed a great deal of outstanding favors to racketeers, went to federal prison. The record shows that the dubious loans continued until the Federal Pension Law took effect on Jan. 1, 1975. After this law was in service, according to Florida and Nevada investigations, a Teamster Pension Fund loan was made to a man directly linked to Meyer Lansky. The reputed associate of Meyer was on track to receive millions of dollars from the owners of Caesars Palace.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Hoffa had a big plan and lots of associates that could help him make it work. Hoffa’s bizarre blueprint for conquest of the American economy stipulated that Hoffa would become czar of the nation’s vital transportation facilities, as well as boss of millions of policemen, firemen, and government employees across the nation. He was so powerful that a single order from this brazen confidant of gangsters could halt all trucking, prevent the unloading of ships, prohibit the flow of cargo by air or rail, and call from their jobs the individuals who run state and local governments and protect public and private property. He was politically powerful as well “thug” powerful in close alliance with the top mafia bosses around the country like John “Johnny Dio” Dioguardi and Anthony “Tony Ducks” Corallo. Hoffa, then the international president of the Teamsters, used Dioguardi and Corallo in his efforts to capture control of the union in New York City. Dioguardi was an associate who worked under Lucky Luciano, and was involved in the 1956 acid attack that led to the blinding of newspaper columnist Victor Riesel.
Federal investigators, through electronic bugs, obtained recordings that not only implicated Corallo, but also seven other high-ranking mobsters in other families and provided the first proof as to the existence of the Mafia Commission. Corallo and Salvatore Avellino, Jr., who was affiliated with the Lucchese family, had long conversations on many topics. The government now had the chance to attack the high levels of several Cosa Nostra families.
The national criminal syndicate with legitimate labor and business was more critical than has heretofore been revealed. The report prepared for New York City police commissioner Lee brown stated:
The ramifications of this problem presented the gravest implications for the destiny of our national economy. This close-knit, clandestine, criminal syndicate, has made fortunes in the illegal liquor traffic during prohibition, and later in narcotics, vice, and gambling. These illicit profits help the syndicate with a financial problem, which they solve through investment in legitimate business. These legitimate businesses also provide convenient cover for their continued illegal activities.
The Senate Rackets Committee investigated Hoffa for two years and charged him in eighty-two specific instances with collusion with employers, conflicts of interest, tie-ups with hoodlums and gangsters, the rigging of union elections, the spending of dues funds “as if they were his own,” and suppressing the rights of members through brute force.
The Senate Committee cited Hoffa for the following :
Hoffa “masterminded” the chartering of seven bogus “paper locals” in New York. These locals were gangster-controlled, devoid of actual membership and set up to steal the election of the president of powerful Joint Council 16 for Hoffa’s buddy, John O’Rourke.
Hoffa “obstructed justice” by having secret Grand Jury testimony in Michigan leaked to him. He then forced a witness who gave detrimental evidence to flee to California before the witness could further testify.
Hoffa arranged for $200,000 in Teamsters welfare funds to be loaned to a Minneapolis Department store at a time when that store was in the midst of a strike with a fellow AFL union.
Hoffa maneuvered $31,953 in union dues into the defense of four teamsters officials who were tried and found guilty of extorting money from employers.
Hoffa spent an additional $22,428 in union funds to defend one of the convicted extortionist Gerald Connelly of Minneapolis after he had been indicted in connection with the dynamiting of two fellow teamster officials.
Hoffa arranged for Zigmont Snyder to be appointed business agent of Detroit Local 299, although Snyder was a “notorious hoodlum” who operated a non-union Detroit car wash in which he sometimes paid workers less than $1 a day for 12 hours work.
Hoffa had $500,000 in union funds transferred to a Florida Bank to assure a loan of a corresponding amount of money from the bank to a land development scheme in which Hoffa and his chief lieutenant, Owen Bert Brennan, held a 45 per cent option to purchase.
Hoffa kept Henry Lower, promoter of the Florida land deal, on the union payroll to the tune of $59,000 in salary and expenses while he set up the real estate scheme.
Hoffa has constantly defended and aided Teamsters officials who “were selling out the interests of Teamster Union members by setting themselves up in highly improper business activities and by entering into collusive agreements with employers.”
Seventy-five per cent or more of the delegates to the 1957 convention that elected Hoffa president were chosen in violation of the union constitution. These included delegates from Hoffa’s own local, 299, and Owen Bert Brennan’s local 337.
Hoffa repeatedly has named hoodlums, ex-convicts, and individuals under indictment to high posts in the union.
Hoffa and Brennan were aided by Bert Beveridge, owner of a trucking firm, in acquiring a truck company for themselves. They then made special concessions to Beveridge in his labor contract with the Teamsters Union to the detriment of workers.
The wives of Hoffa and Brennan, using their maiden names, have been involved in a series of business arrangements with firms that the Teamsters must negotiate with.
Hoffa built an alliance with the International Longshoremen’s Association and attempted to lend it $490,000 from Teamsters coffers after the ILA was ousted from the AFL-CIO because it was bossed by racketeers.
Hoffa attempted to force 30,000 New York taxicab drivers into a union run by gangster Johnny Dio, although his own union was attempting to organize the drivers.
Hoffa caused the Health and Welfare Fund of the Michigan Conference of Teamsters to lose $600,000 in the first three years of operation because he awarded the fund’s contract to the Union Insurance Agency, run by his pal, Allen Dorfman. Incidently, Dorfman’s lady companion was a cocktail waitress at the Dunes Hotel.
Hoffa forced the union to pay between $5,000 and $7,000 to find the runaway wife of his brother, William Hoffa, and made the union pay William’s hotel bill and $75 in expenses while William was eluding police who wanted him on an armed robbery charge. Another little rumor is that Hoffa was related in some manner to Ross Miller of the Riviera Hotel.
The Rackets Committee found that at least sixty executives of the Teamsters union have been tried for a variety of crimes from murder on down. In Hoffa’s lengthy 1958 session with the Rackets panel, Hoffa was asked why Robert “Barney” Baker, a thug with a police record, was retained in a high union post.
Hoffa answered, “Senator, he is a great organizer, and every one of us has some faults.”
Robert Kennedy responded, “I think what he (Baker) has done is clear and his associations, and the fact that I read out the names of the people he has been associated with: Cockeyed Dunn, Meyer Lansky, Joe Adonis, Frank Costello, Jimmy Blue Eyes, Bugsy Siegel, John Vitale, Lou Farrell, and what else do you want? What does it take, Mr. Hoffa?”
Hoffa replied, “I think those names attract you a lot more than they attract me, and I say to you that Baker, being in the capacity of organizing and carrying out his position in organizing, that we would have no way of knowing he was talking to these individuals unless he wanted to tell us, and apparently he didn’t. So I cannot be expected to reprimand an individual for something I didn’t know at the time it was happening.”
Hoffa did not invoke the Fifth Amendment one time throughout this entire Senate Hearing.
Hoffa’s close associate, Al Baron, was a regular around the Dunes Hotel in the early 1970s and the asset manager of the fund. After being investigated by a Chicago federal grand jury, he was removed by Teamster officials. He brought a lot of heat on the Teamsters. Al was a loud braggadocio type of guy. He let you know who he was in an arrogant style. He would enter the Dunes baccarat gaming area and basically throw his weight around. He was not a qualified casino man in any sense of the word, but he would take the opportunity to jump into the baccarat floorman’s “ladder chair” as soon as there was an opening. The “ladder chair” was similar to the type of ladder style chair that was used in some crap game operations. Al would always prefer the chair that faced out to the casino, so he could watch everyone and they could see him. He never wore a suit and did not look like he belonged in the chair. At this time he owned Golf Course Motel, which was on the present site of the MGM Grand.
Hoffa was a guest at the Dunes in the late 1960s and a friend indeed to the owners and operators. When he got out of prison, he announced that he wanted his job back, even though he’d been warned by Mafia associates to back off. “I’m not guilty then, nor am I guilty now,” Hoffa told union members in the 1970s.
The Mob was concerned that Hoffa might reveal the connection between Teamsters loans to Las Vegas casinos and the cash being skimmed from those casinos. Hoffa had to go.
On the last day of his life, hours before he was killed, Hoffa placed a frantic call to Las Vegas. An FBI telex shows that he phoned the Dunes hotel to speak to his lawyer, Morris Shenker, who bought into the Dunes with a Teamsters loan of his own. It is very probable that Shenker bought into the Dunes with Hoffa’s help and had Hoffa as his hidden partner. It would be inconceivable that it would not be any other way. Shenker couldn’t turn him down. Over the years, Hoffa employed Shenker’s services and they remained as tight as a bolt and a nut.
Shenker, whom Life magazine once called the “foremost lawyer for the mob in the U.S.,’” was the former head of the St. Louis Commission on Crime and Law Enforcement despite alleged business and personal ties with the gangsters who operated in the city. He was frequently in the national spotlight representing gambling figures before the Estes Kefauver hearings on organized crime in the early 1950s. Hoffa was his most famous client. A federal grand jury accused Shenker of conspiring to skim thousands of dollars from the Internal Revenue Service and bankruptcy creditors. The money supposedly was diverted from a California partnership owned by his children to individuals in Canada and then back to Shenker’s secretary in Las Vegas in an elaborate scheme to avoid creditors. Shenker denied any wrongdoing.
Former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Ronald J. Lawrence said of Shenker:
“There is a tendency to dismiss as inconsequential the tremendous influence and power wielded inside and outside the underworld by Morris Shenker, a functionary for the St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago and other families. This largely was because most local law enforcement officers were unable to comprehend the complexity of the man and his operations.
“Shenker, a lawyer who once represented Jimmy Hoffa, was a mover and shaker and a financial genius of the caliber of Lansky. It was Shenker who tapped the Teamster Union’s Central States Pension Fund to finance much of the mob’s penetration of Las Vegas casinos and other ventures. Shenker’s influence extended far beyond the underworld and he was able to get two of his own federal indictments killed.
“St. Louis underworld interests controlled two Las Vegas casinos the Dunes, owned by Shenker, and the Aladdin.”
Shenker had filed for bankruptcy in 1984 after a $34 million court verdict against him for money he borrowed from the Culinary Workers Pension Fund for resorts in Southern California and other projects. Hoffa would turn over in his grave if he knew what Senker had ruined. There is a former casino owner that claims Shenker was also a government informant.
Shenker also was a lawyer for Tony Giordano of the St. Louis crime family, who was indicted and convicted of being a hidden owner in the Frontier Hotel at the time Mr. Interviewee was an officer in the corporation. The question is: Did Mr, Interviewee know about Tony Giordano? As the secretary to the casino operating company and confidant to Maury Friedman, how could he not know about Tony G? This is Las Vegas.