Reputed Chicago Mafia boss Joseph J. Aiuppa and four other alleged mobsters were convicted Tuesday by a federal jury in Kansas City of skimming profits while secretly controlling the Stardust and Fremont casinos in Las Vegas with Teamsters Union pension fund money in the 1970s.
The case involves a major scandal in America's gambling capital, where state authorities have never brought a major criminal case based on skimming and hidden ownership.
U.S. strike force prosecutor David B. B. Helfrey called the guilty findings a significant victory that proved "beyond a doubt" the concerted workings of the Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Kansas City crime families and their hold on former Teamsters and Las Vegas casino officials.
Judge Joseph E. Stevens Jr., who had not allowed the use of the word Mafia to be named in testimony, congratulated the jury. "Your decisions are courageous ones . . . . " he said. "I believe you will come to conclude that this is an important case that you have played an important part to resolve."
Convicted with the 77-year-old Aiuppa on charges of conspiracy and related charges were Milton J. Rockman, 73, of Cleveland, and Chicagoans John Cerone, 71, Angelo LaPietra, 60, and Joseph Lombardo, 57.
Each defendant was convicted on eight counts, with each count carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The jury deliberated about 30 hours over a period of six days. Attorneys for Rockman and Cerone immediately said they would appeal the convictions.
4 Others Plead Guilty
Four other defendants pleaded guilty before the four-month trial began. They included reputed Kansas City Mafia head Carl Civella. Two others pleaded guilty during the trial, including reputed Milwaukee Mafia chief Frank Balistrieri.
Two additional defendants, lawyer sons of Balistrieri, Joseph P., 45, and John, 37, won dismissal from Judge Stevens after the government finished presenting evidence. Another defendant, Anthony Spilotro, the Chicago group's alleged overseer in Las Vegas, is to be tried later.
Although the indictment specified skimming--or secretly removing--$2 million from gambling proceeds before taxes were paid on it, federal law enforcement officials have estimated that many times that amount were siphoned from the casinos during the ownership of Allen R. Glick of San Diego.
Glick was probably the key witness in the trial, testifying that he was intimidated into fronting for the crime figures. Glick was official owner of both casinos for more than four years, marked by adverse publicity, until the state finally forced him to give up his casino license. The prosecutors subscribed to Glick's description of his role during their opening and closing statements to the jury.
Denied Knowing of Mob Ties
Although he reportedly went to school with one of Balistrieri's sons, Glick testified that he did not know the criminal standing of Frank Balistrieri in 1974, when Teamsters pension fund officials sent Glick to see him about arranging financing to buy out Chicagoan Delbert W. Coleman. Coleman was the controlling stockholder of Recrion Inc., owner of the Stardust and Fremont.
Glick's successors at the Stardust and Fremont, Allen D. Sachs and Herbert L. Tobman, were forced to sell out two years ago after Nevada authorities accused them of failing to prevent further skimming.
Through the defendants' influence, Glick testified, he obtained an initial $62,750,000 from the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund to buy out Coleman and the smaller stockholders of Recrion, formerly Parvin-Dohrmann Co. The same pension fund, which furnished most of the capital to build the Las Vegas Strip, later lent Glick's Argent Corp. about $25 million more to refurbish the Stardust.
The 80-odd witnesses at the trial often were upstaged by secret, court-authorized recordings of conversations among some of the defendants and other persons who used code names in referring to themselves and Las Vegas public figures. Along with the recordings were projections on a large screen of notes kept by one defendant, Carl DeLuna, who pleaded guilty during the trial. In the end, the jury accepted the prosecution contention that all these pieces added up to a mosaic of conspiracy and shared diversion of profits skimmed without payment of taxes.
Ex-Teamster Chief Testifies
Among the highlights of the trial was the testimony of former Teamsters President Roy L. Williams, who became the first person in such a position to testify that he took orders from and was paid off by a Mafia chief.
That person, the late Nick Civella, head of the Kansas City organized-crime family, died in 1983 after being released from prison.
In his closing argument, Helfrey told the jury that Williams' testimony "brought home the tremendous influence and extent of the conspiracy these defendants exerted."
Carl W. Thomas, former Las Vegas casino overseer, testified that he provided the expertise to skim money from the Stardust and Fremont, as well as at the Hacienda and at Circus Circus under former owners. Charges in the Stardust case were dropped against Thomas in return for his cooperation. However, he is serving a 15-year federal prison term imposed in 1983 on a related skimming case involving the Tropicana casino.
Other major witnesses were several convicts-turned-informer, among them Aladena (Jimmy) Fratianno, Ken Eto and Angelo Lonardo.