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Organized crime’s role in Las Vegas recalled at Mob Museum live event

Updated August 6, 2020 - 10:04 am

A live virtual event co-sponsored by the Las Vegas Review-Journal evoked the dramatic history of organized crime in the valley.

“Mobbed Up Live” aired Tuesday night from the historic courtroom inside The Mob Museum in downtown Las Vegas. With no in-person audience, the courtroom was nearly empty, but thousands tuned in live across Facebook, YouTube and reviewjournal.com to relive the days when organized crime interests controlled casinos all along the famous Las Vegas Strip.

“Mobbed Up Live” served as a wrap event for the Review-Journal’s 11-part podcast series “Mobbed Up: The Fight for Las Vegas,” which was produced in partnership with The Mob Museum and released over the past few months.

The event included two socially distanced panel discussions featuring four voices heard throughout the podcast series: former Review-Journal reporter and columnist Jane Ann Morrison, former federal Organized Crime Strike Force Special Attorney Stan Hunterton, UNLV historian Michael Green and former Nevada Gaming Control Board member Jeff Silver.

In the days leading up to the event, podcast listeners submitted questions for the panelists on topics ranging from modern organized crime operations in Las Vegas to thoughts on the movie “Casino.” One question prompted Hunterton to recall his unorthodox first encounter with Frank Cullotta, a former mob associate whose story is at the center of the podcast series. Another listener question had Morrison detail her 2008 story breaking the news that Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal had been a government informant.

“Once he was dead, I was able to get people to say it,” Morrison recalled. She went on to say she never found out what information Rosenthal provided to the government or if any of it had been reliable.

Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid taped an interview for the event via Skype to share a few stories from his time as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. Reid recalled that his predecessor on the commission, Peter Echeverria, warned Reid about the job and told him that he was being watched at all times.

“I just thought that was so much B.S., but it wasn’t,” Reid said.

Reid’s time on the Gaming Commission is explored in more detail in Part 6 of the podcast, titled “Cleanface” — the code name a handful of mob associates used to refer to Reid in phone calls intercepted by the FBI.

“Mobbed Up: The Fight for Las Vegas” explores many other threads related to the mob’s history in Nevada, including the real-life story behind “Casino,” the FBI’s Strawman investigation of casino skimming, and the infamous burglary crew known as the Hole in the Wall Gang. All episodes of the series are available now at reviewjournal.com and on all major podcasting platforms.

“I enjoyed every minute of it,” Silver said during the panel, referencing the podcast series. “It was so compelling, so truthful, so accurate about what was going on at the time.”

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