It is amazing how many very significant historical incidents have connections to Las Vegas. “Following the money”, may be the reason there are so many inter-connections between the players and the shakers in the one American city that is a genuine mystery to the entire world. There are so many interesting branches that connect Hollywood, Congress, the CIA, the Kennedy assassination, Cuba, politics, the White House and many more. Browsing the newspaper morgues and connecting the dots via timelines and facts becomes a conspiracy theorist’s delight. Here is one more for the mystery fans.
Johnny Rosselli has particular interest to this researcher for many reasons. Many years ago I had the privilege of meeting one of the driving authors of Rosselli’s story, Ed Becker. Little did I know then, I would eventually publish his book about Rosselli/
Who is Ed Becker? Here is what the Washington Post said in a story WP:Rudy Maxa August 12, 1979)
“When the House Assassination Committee released its report last month, its most perplexing section concerned alleged organized crime involvement with the killing of John Kennedy. Santos Trafficante and Carlos Marcello were fingered as “the most likely family bosses” to have participated in any plot, but then the ambivalent report termed the notion “unlikely.”
Linking Marcello to JFK’s death was an obscure private eye named Edward N. Becker, a shadowy figure who has passed in and out of organized crime circles as a shamus and anonymous researcher of books. Who is Becker?
He’s a 57-year-old, soft-spoken man who today lives in Las Vegas with his second wife. He’s currently involved in business with a former assistant attorney general of the U.S., Washington-based attorney Jerris Leonard. And Becker is not delighted his name surfaced in the House report.
“I expect some kind of retribution,” Becker says today. “The committee said, “We’re doing everything in the world to protect you.” I didn’t believe it. Of course I’m worried.”
In 1955 Becker signed on as public relations director for the Riviera Hotel in Vegas. His milieu was gambling and men whose occupations were vague, he says, and he eventually helped piece together an NBC “White Paper” on organized crime in 1966. He also helped gather information for the books Green Felt Jungle and the Grim Reapers, both billed as exposes of organized crime.
Becker says he was in Louisiana in September of 1962 working undercover for a finance company investigating Billie Sol Estes when he struck up a friendship with Carl Ropolo, a Shreveport oil geologist well-liked by Marcello according to the House report. The two men visited Marcello at his estate near New Orleans. In the course of a long evening of drinking scotch, Becker remembers Marcello cursing the Kennedy brothers and talking vaguely of trying to kill the president.
Marcello denies that.
That scene (without Becker’s name) made its way into Ed Reid’s book, The Grim Reapders, which led the House committee to Becker, who talked with a committee staffer by phone but refused to testify because he feared the arm of organized crime as well as the wrath of the FBI. The Bureau, according to the House report, worked hard to discredit Becker instead of investigating the validity of his information.”
Back to the main point: Browsing through the newspaper files I found one of the mysterious conundrums. Enter the Robert Kennedy assassination, Sirhan Sirhan and his lawyer, Grant Cooper. A story published in 1969 told of the trial of Sirhan that might have to have one more postponement because Cooper had to appear in District Court to face a Grand Jury on charges of contempt of court. The Grand Jury wanted to know how he obtained secret transcripts in the infamous Friars Club cheating case, wherein another client, Johnny Rosselli, was one of five convicted in the cheating of club members.
Rosselli was a partner with Maury Friedman, TW Richardson, Anthony Zerilli, Michael Polizzi and Tony Giordano (St. Louis) in the Frontier Hotel. All but Richardson served time in jail. Zerilli, Polizzi and Giordano were identified as members of the mafia by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Roselli was recruited, along with Sam Giancana and Santos Trafficante, to assassinate Fidel Castro, by Robert Maheu, representing the CIA. Maheu was a former FBI Agent and special operative for the CIA, and later became the number one man in running Howard Hughes hotels in Las Vegas.
Rosselli was a powerful behind-the-scenes influence in Hollywood. According to Gaeton Fonzi: “The story goes that Rosselli . . . ‘suggested’ to Harry Cohn, then head of Columbia Pictures, that Frank Sinatra get the Maggio role in From Here to Eternity, the part that subsequently saved the crooner’s sinking career. Mario Puzo dramatized the incident in The Godfather’s horse’s-head-in-the-bed scene.”52 – See more at: http://www.thomhartmann.com/blog/2006/01/ultimate-sacrifice-men-behind-murder#sthash.msIgRbwr.dpuf
Richardson, was involved with Maheu’s bugging of comedian Dan Rowan’s room at the Riviera Hotel and paid the wire-man $1,000 after getting a special code word that identified exactly who should get the money.
For all you Burbankians: Richardson had a good friend that built the Olive Manor Motel, Richard Westbrook. I went to grade school with his son Bobby at Bellarmine. Also at the same school, was Patricia Nolan. Her mom was Robert Maheu’s personal secretary. Westbrook was from St. Louis and moved to Burbank because the St. Louis Browns played winter baseball at Olive Recreation. Westbrook sent Bobby to live with my parents and we sold industrial soap to the Frontier as late teenagers.