Monday, September 2, 2013

Las Vegas: Operation Thin Crust

The last Las Vegas Mafia cases were Operation Button Down and Operation Thin Crust.  Operation Button Down was a nationwide assault on the leaders of the Mafia.  Operation Thin Crust was an FBI operation started in Las Vegas aimed at Mafia crews working in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is what is known as an open city in the Mafia world.  The Chicago Outfit ran the city for many years because they had the most interest in Casinos because they used Teamster loans to finance the Casinos. So when you see any film or something written and they say the Las Vegas Mob it is written by someone that has no clue.  The big rule for many years was that you were never supposed to kill in town because it would disrupt the Casino business.  

Operation Thin Crust

John Branco
The Operation was started by the FBI using a Fat Con Man named Tony Angeiletti and an undercover Agent that was called Charlie Morone.  Fat Tony opened up a Social Club behind the Rio in an industrial area and he was soon sucking up to the LA Families Underboss Carmen "Flipper" Milano.  Fat Tony named his club The Seabreeze after Carmen's Sea Breeze Distribution.  Carmen was the underboss and when I was in Las Vegas I would go see him with Jimmy Caci or Steve Cino. We would often meet at an Italian Deli owned by a Gambino guy named Johnny Mash.  The FBI soon realized that Fat Tony was a lying con man so they changed directions in their investigations. Fat Tony and another street hood in Las Vegas, John Branco, both were informants and neither knew that Charlie Morone was an undercover Agent.  John Branco was a long time low level street hood who was still trying to play the tough guy.  He was a big guy who would beat up smaller men but he could not do any work.  He was also an informant and had worn a wire for the FBI when his daughter was involved in killing her husband in Chicago. He was locked up in Boron Federal Penitentiary and he was released to get the murderers on tape. Jimmy Caci knew this and so did the others. John Branco used to collect money for Herbie Blitzstein's shylock business and he also tried his hand at extortion.  He tried to extort the owners of escort businesses in Las Vegas.  One night he confronted an escort operator and a fight broke out and one of his wannabees pulled a pistol.  John was arrested and his bail set but he had no way of making bail and Herbie told him to sit it out.  John flipped and began working with the FBI.  He soon began giving information on Charlie who was in Las Vegas to pursue criminal opportunities.  They soon revealed that Charlie was an FBI Agent and they started working together.

The Las Vegas FBI planned on taking down Fat Herbie in the case, and they had a bug in his house. Meanwhile John Branco and Fat Tony were going around telling people that Fat Herbie was a rat.  They wanted him hurt because they owed him money and they wanted what he had.  I have written before that Herbie was known to carry large sums of cash and he had a large shylock business.  The LA guys Steve Cino, Jimmy Caci, Carmen Milano and Bobby Milano all liked Herbe but they would still take a cut of his business.  The only LA guy who did not like Herbie was Louie Caruso, a Capo under Pete Milano.  Louie did not like Herbie because Herbie had him moved out of a booth at a stripclub in Las Vegas.  Louie is a short man who pumps himself up like a mini bodybuilder but he is no tough guy. He brought some bikers to a family sitdown in Los Angeles in a breach of the rules. Later he would be beaten up by some bikers.  

Jimmy Caci and I were making our rounds in LA one day when we had to go meet a friend named Abe at Starbucks across from the Beverly Connection. Abe brought a friend named Eddie to the meeting. Ori Spado ended up at the meeting, which I did not like.  Eddie had these really good Visa travelers checks that could even be run through a machine and they would come up real. He gave us four as a sample, Ori tried to take them but I got them.  A week later, Ori got Jimmy arrested and Jimmy was locked up.  Jimmy told me to take them to Las Vegas.  Rocky Zangari and John Demattia (members of another crew of the LA Family) heard about it from their guys in Vegas and decided to get in on it and shook down Abe. They started to bring them to Las Vegas.  We had a huge sitdown in Culver City where guys came from Las Vegas and Palm Springs. Jimmy's lawyer went to see him and brought back word that we were to drop it and let Rocky deal with it because it was a waste.

So Louie Caruso and Rocky Zangari dealt with John Branco and Charlie.  Louie Caruso really did want to make John Branco into the family.  I met him with Jimmy and Ori in Palm Springs at Club 340 one afternoon. I was there with my girlfriend and Louie brought his girlfriend so they hung out while we had our talk.  Louie brought up John Branco and how he wanted to to bring him into the family. Jimmy flipped out because Louie brought it up in front of me and that he would even consider it.  Jimmy told him John Branco was a rat and had worn a wire.  Louie was shocked and embarrassed but like a lot of Mob guys he liked easy cash and he got it from John Branco and the FBI.  I took a picture of Ori at that meeting and it is all over the web check it out.

A few weeks later I met Steve Cino in Las Vegas at Marie Calendars and we spoke about Herbie and Louie Caruso.  The real wiseguys did not want Herbie killed it was the wannabee guys but a mob killing makes the news.  Never mind that no made guy took part or was convicted for the murder.  Yet writers keep writing about the Mafia killing Herbie.

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