What's in a name?
Plenty when it comes to alleged Mafia figures. And one name thrown out in former Detective Michael J. Rothmiller's book about the Los Angeles Police Department has prompted some veteran mob watchers to question his account of one episode--involving the huge Longo Toyota dealership in El Monte.
In his book, "L.A. Secret Police: Inside the LAPD Elite Spy Network," Rothmiller portrays rumors about the late owner of the franchise, Dominic Longo, as an example of how detectives sometimes went overboard in their jobs, seeing a Mafioso behind every tree--especially when it came to prominent Italian-Americans.
There was an "immense" file on Longo, he said, and detectives followed him all the time--but no one ever sought Longo "to hear his side of the story." So Rothmiller and his partner decided to make the trip.
As Rothmiller tells it, Longo welcomed the chance to rebut the rumors of Mafia ties, explaining that he "grew up with some of these guys. I give them jobs, but they're nothing jobs."
Specifically discussed was "Jimmy Regace," whom Longo said he paid $200 a week "to transport cars. . . . That's it."
Rothmiller says he and his partner had already "wasted time" checking out Regace, whom supervisors in the Organized Crime Intelligence Division insisted was "a Mafia don craftily posing as a car runner." In fact, the former detective said, "Regace lived in a miserable little Anaheim apartment in one of those smog-and-belch zones."
But to insiders who read Rothmiller's book, there was something familiar about the Regace name.
"I think that's an alias," said one private detective who works on mob cases, "for Dominic Brooklier."
Brooklier was the onetime boss of the Mafia in Los Angeles. He died in prison in 1984 while serving time for 11 counts of extortion and racketeering.
That is hardly the profile of an impoverished car jockey. But the late Brooklier's son--top criminal defense attorney Anthony P. Brooklier--confirmed that Jimmy Regace was, in fact, his father.
"That's a name he picked up when he was 16," taking it from a character in a movie, the younger Brooklier said. His father was a friend of Longo's, he said, and sometimes hung out at the car dealership.
To the younger Brooklier, the description in the book suggests that the organized crime cops, "didn't know who he (Regace) was. . . . I guess it doesn't take too much to throw them off track."
According to Rothmiller's co-author, however, they did know the true identity of Regace. Journalist Ivan G. Goldman, a former part-time copy editor at The Times, said an attorney for their publisher instructed them not to tell readers Regace was the well-known Brooklier out of fear of a libel suit.
"As I recall," Goldman said, "we didn't want to get him mixed up with his son."