Las Vegas has always been an attractive place for the hail-fellow, the hustler, and the man on the make.
With its shadowy history, seductive setting and proximity to a limitless river of cash, it brims with dreamers, scufflers and schemers. It's a spot where a guy who knows a guy can make a good living.
It was perhaps the ideal spot for the FBI to turn a man like Stephen Corso loose with a recording device. By all accounts, Corso was the street-wise guy Las Vegas tourists fantasize about and most locals rarely experience, the one who exists in dimly lighted bars and nondescript strip mall offices.
Corso was an accountant by training, a salesman by calling, and a high-rolling degenerate gambler by compulsion when he got caught swiping clients' money to feed his blackjack Jones and penthouse lifestyle. He spent $5 million that didn't belong to him and was on his way to a prison stretch when he began cooperating with the FBI in 2002.
From what I've pieced together from public documents and street sources, the smooth-talking accountant found his true calling as an undercover informant. Reliable sources say Corso worked his way into the local mob scene and pulled the pants off some very experienced wiseguys.
According to a federal document from the Eastern District of Virginia, where Corso's efforts helped nail securities attorney David Stocker on a "pump and dump" stock manipulation scheme with connections reaching into the Securities and Exchange Commission, the accountant was a one-man La Cosa Nostra census worker.
"He provided information related to the activities of individuals with ties to several LCN organized crime families to include: the Chicago Outfit, Lucchese LCN, Bonanno LCN, Genovese LCN, Colombo LCN, Philadelphia LCN, Decavalcante LCN, and Gambino LCN," the document states. "Corso was also instrumental in providing FBI agents with information on individuals with ties to Russian organized crime, Youngstown, Ohio gangsters, and the Irish Mob which exists in the Boston, Mass. area."
Sounds like the guy did everything but dig up Jimmy Hoffa. Corso back-slapped his way into the Las Vegas underworld, then used his accounting and tax preparation skills to give the wiseguys a financial endoscopic treatment.
He played an integral role in sealing the deal in the lengthy "Mafia Cops" case, in which Las Vegas residents and former NYPD detectives Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa were found guilty of acting as contract killers for the Lucchese crime family. Corso's work in Las Vegas proved beyond reasonable doubt that the Mafia Cops continued their criminal conspiracy years after leaving New York.
"Corso's testimony was critical to the ... conclusion that the conspiracy continued into the limitations period," one government document states.
It's as simple as this: No Corso, no Mafia Cops conviction.
And it will be intriguing to see whether the government gets a victory in a related drug case involving Eppolito's son, Anthony Eppolito, and Guido Bravatti now that Corso has been sentenced to a year and a day for his own transgressions.
It's also been reported Corso worked in connection with the Crazy Horse Too investigation. I imagine former Crazy Horse official Bobby D'Apice, who now resides at government expense, won't be sending his former tax consultant, Corso, a letter of reference.
At his February sentencing in Connecticut, U.S. District Judge Janet Hall seemed almost apologetic. Although she called Corso's crime "an extraordinary violation of trust," she admitted, "I can't find the words to describe the value, at least in my judgment, of this cooperation."
The feds have a long tradition of going to embarrassing lengths to help their most effective informants. Not this time. Corso, the accountant, will serve longer than some informants with murder convictions.
Who could blame him if he told the government to get stuffed?
The FBI and U.S. attorney's office in Connecticut credit Corso with generating at least seven arrests, 20 convictions, and $4.2 million in seizures and forfeitures.
And it isn't over.
"The LCN is well known for its tradition of seeking retribution against those who cooperate with law enforcement," a federal memo states. "Corso knew of the danger, but continually put himself in harm's way for the benefit of the government."
So much for loyalty.
Now all Stephen Corso has to do is watch his back the rest of his life.
John L. Smith's column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith/.