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Mob Month to feature Mafia stories

Stories and secrets of former mobsters are set to come to life in January during the third consecutive Mob Month at the Clark County Library , 1401 E. Flamingo Road.

Panel discussions featuring speakers ranging from historians to FBI representatives and ex-mobsters are set for each Tuesday of the month in the Main Theater, beginning today with "Ladies First: The REAL Mob Wives of Las Vegas." This kickoff panel includes Wendy Mazaros, author of "Vegas Rag Doll," a book about her marriage to Chicago hit man Tom Hanley. The panel also includes Lisa Caserta, wife of "Goodfellas" mob man Henry Hill, and a visit from a Meyer Lansky family member.

Julie Okabayashi, scheduling specialist, said women’s relationships with mob men has been a hot topic, especially in television, and wanted to include a panel about their indirect roles.

"No one ever talks about the women in the mob," Okabayashi said. "We really wanted to examine that topic a little bit closer and have the ladies kick off the whole series."

The Jan. 10 panel, "How the FBI, Nevada Gaming Control and the IRS Took Down the Mob," will have former and current FBI, IRS, Nevada Gaming Control and Las Vegas Mob Museum representatives exploring the strategies that mobsters used in their casino schemes. Moderated by former Nevada Gaming Control agent Jack Miller , author of "Master Cheat," the panelists will discuss the devices that mobsters used in casinos and how federal agents conducted mafia round ups.

Okabayashi said the Jan. 17 panel, "Son of a Gun: How to Diss Your Hitman and Keep Friends — The Untold Story of Billy and Andrew," explores a unique topic of friends in different mob families. She said the particular story involving Billy Cutolo Jr. and Andrew DiDonato is an intriguing one.

"(Cutolo Jr. and DiDonato) were childhood buddies and grew up in different mob families," Okabayashi said. "Billy’s father put out a hit on Andrew in his younger days, and Andrew lived to tell the tale. He wrote a book about survival in the mob, he’s a witness for the feds, and he participates in (mob) trials today."

Former mobster Salvatore Polisi’s documentary, "UBATZ," is set to make its Las Vegas premiere Jan. 24 during Mob Month. The documentary tells Polisi’s personal story as John Gotti’s assistant in the New York mob and his transition out of a life of crime to a screenwriter and author.

"I came out to Hollywood 22 years ago to reinvent myself, and that’s exactly what I did," Polisi said. "When (people) see the documentary, they get an inside view on how a young kid is led into this life and what drove me to leave that life."

Polisi hopes people who view the documentary not only gain a perspective on his story but also on how to avoid falling into his former lifestyle.

"I was a junkie for excitement. I kept robbing banks and never thought it was wrong. I thought it was heroic," Polisi said. "I hope (the documentary) might keep some kids from going into crime, even in their neighborhoods. I want to show that anyone can change and reinvent themselves."

To cap off Mob Month, author Kenny "Kenji" Gallo is scheduled to speak Jan. 31 about being a mixed-race teenage drug dealer and distributor for Pablo Escobar before becoming a director and producer in the porn industry and eventually working undercover for the FBI. Ramon Gonzalez, Gallo’s former lawyer, and Tabitha Stevens, Gallo’s ex-wife, will join the panel, "From Medellín to the Mob: Meet Ronin of the Underworld Kenny ‘Kenji ‘ Gallo," moderated by national television crime commentator and author Vito Colucci.

Okabayashi said merchandise sales and book signings will be available at each panel, but these items aren’t the focal point of the event.

"Everyone who’s coming is coming on a volunteer basis," Okabayashi said. "We’re not asking for any honorariums. They’re coming in for the message and truly giving back to the community."

Mob Month is free and open to the public, but Okabayashi encourages people to arrive by 6 p.m. — an hour before each event — to receive wristbands and entry into the panels.

For more information on Mob Month events, call 507-3458 or visit lvccld.org.

Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Lisa Carter at lcarter@viewnews.com or 383-4686.

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