Documents bring icons back from yesteryear

It’s officially named the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, but let’s not kid ourselves. It’s commonly called the Mob Museum for a reason.

The American public has a fascination with mobsters that borders on a blood lust. And the museum at 300 E. Stewart Ave. has tickled that fancy since its Valentine’s Day opening in 2012.

Its walls are festooned with historically factual displays, but museum-goers can’t walk far before encountering the faux photo lineup, genuine St. Valentine’s Day Massacre wall and even a toy Tommy gun that’s fun for the whole family. What’s a gangster museum without a little entertainment, right?

Although it’s not given top billing, “Law Enforcement” is also part of the museum’s theme. With that in mind, museum officials have scored an impressive coup in the form of a collection of original documents from one of America’s greatest crime fighters, Elmer Lincoln Irey.

Who was Irey?

As a founding member and longtime head of the Internal Revenue Service’s Intelligence Unit, Irey’s team of relentless Criminal Investigation agents were largely responsible for knocking off Chicago’s “Scarface” Al Capone and a generation of other notorious gangsters on tax-related charges, solving the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case, and penetrating the corrupt regime of Louisiana Gov. Huey Long.

Irey’s mob used pens and accounting practices to follow the money. The result was devastating and forced old-school hoodlums and corrupt politicians out of business.

After becoming the chief coordinator of all the Department of Treasury’s law enforcement agencies in 1937, Irey was given the task of coordinating increasingly complex criminal investigations.

The FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover received more headlines, but Irey’s T-Men scored an impressive string of victories over organized crime and corrupt politicians.

Life magazine once called Irey, “one of the world’s greatest detectives.”

After he retired, Irey was called back into action by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to help sell a beleaguered American public on the need for increased income taxes to finance the war effort.

Irey’s credibility was essential to winning over the people, and the understated man served with distinction.

The donation from the Irey family to the museum is the culmination of an effort started by Las Vegas IRS Special Agent in Charge Paul Camacho, an unabashed fan of the man. When Camacho saw the documents — personal letters, photographs and articles from throughout Irey’s career, including many never before published — he implored the proud but private family to share its cherished pages of history. They graciously agreed.

The Mob Museum is now in possession of the documents, which eventually will be displayed and also made available for research and historical review.

Word of the Irey documents’ existence has already begun to attract national media attention.

Among many highlights: A hand-written letter to Irey dated Dec. 30, 1932, from celebrated aviator Charles A. Lindbergh following the capture of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the kidnapper and killer of his son.

One of the world’s most famous men, Lindbergh wrote in part, “I want you to know how much we appreciate all that you have done for us during the past year. It’s not possible for me to thank you sufficiently for your own assistance and for that of your department. … Time and time again during the past months I have realized the value of federal organization.”

A decade later, it was FDR’s turn to praise Irey for volunteering to fight for “Taxes to beat the Axis.”

In a March 9, 1942, letter, Roosevelt wrote, “On March fifteenth (then the income tax deadline date) neither you nor I are particularly popular. On this coming March fifteenth we will be unpopular with more millions of tax payers than ever before. Since we are to be companions in misery, I feel I should take a moment to tell you of my pride in the work of the Intelligence Unit.

“…I know how much quiet pride you have in the reputation of the Unit. I am taking this opportunity to let you know I share in that pride. I hope you will let your staff know of my feeling.”

And he did. Irey’s career was marked by high accomplishment and unwavering self-effacement.

That he’s being highlighted at the museum fills IRS man Camacho with pride. It was his fascination with the subject that started it all.

Museum Executive Director and CEO Jonathan Ullman recognizes the importance of the Irey letters not only to history, but to the museum as well.

“It’s of tremendous significance,” Ullman said recently. “You have some amazing correspondence here that gives you insight that you ordinarily wouldn’t have. It’s so personal. It’s so emblematic of who these individuals were, and ties you to the events of the day. Without the benefit of this type of material, without getting such a comprehensive collection, you don’t always have the context and the perspective that you have when you see the pieces collected. You’re actually kind of brought back to a particular period of time when the tax system was really in peril, when the nation was in peril during wartime, when individuals in leadership positions were truly regarded as heroic figures.”

The presence of the donation is a clear sign the museum is putting on academic weight even as it entertains the masses.

Thanks to a generous family, Elmer Lincoln Irey’s remarkable law enforcement legacy will live on.

He’ll always be known as one of the good guys at the Mob Museum.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. Follow him on Twitter @jlnevadasmith.

ad-high_impact_4
News
Who can understand hospital price lists?
Lists of costs for procedures, drugs and devices are now posted the websites of hospitals to comply with a new federal rule designed to provide additional consumer transparency. Good luck figuring out what they mean.
People in Mesquite deal with a massive power outage
People in Mesquite respond to a major power outage in the area on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Group helping stranded motorists during power outage
A group of Good Samaritans are offering free gas to people in need at the Glendale AM/PM, during a massive power outage near Mesquite on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen falls at Las Vegas parade
U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada fell and injured her wrist at the Martin Luther King Day parade in Las Vegas on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tate Elementary shows academic progress after categorical funding
Students at Tate Elementary in Las Vegas has benefited from a program to boost education funding in targeted student populations, known as categorical funding. One program called Zoom helps students who have fallen below grade level in reading. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Three Square helps TSA workers
Three Square Food Bank donated over 400 care bags to TSA workers affected by the government shutdown Wednesday, filled with food, personal hygiene products and water.
Las Vegas furniture store donates to Clark County firehouses
Walker Furniture donated new mattresses to all 30 Clark County firehouses in the Las Vegas Valley, starting today with Station 22. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mount Charleston Gets Heavy Snow, Fog
Mount Charleston saw heavy snow today, and fog in lower elevations as a cold front swept across the Las Vegas Valley. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Krystal Whipple arrested in Arizona
Krystal Whipple, charged in the killing of a Las Vegas nail salon manager over a $35 manicure, is expected to return to Nevada to face a murder charge.
Holocaust survivor on acceptance
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, talks about the most important message for people to understand from her life and experiences.
Holocaust survivor speaks about telling her story
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, tells of opening up about her experiences during Sunday’s event at Temple Sinai.
Jesus Jara State of the Schools address
Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara delivers his State of the Schools address on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Michael Naft sworn in to Clark County Commission
Michael Naft, chosen by Gov. Steve Sisolak to be his replacement on the Clark County Commission, was sworn into office on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Opening Party in Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace
CES conventioneers packed Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace, and let loose as they danced to DJs into the night. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas police piecing together details of fatal shooting
Six hours after the fact, Las Vegas homicide detectives worked to reconstruct the scene of a shooting early Jan. 7 that left one man dead in the southeast valley. (Rio Lacanlale/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dyer Lawrence explains college football playoff system proposal
Las Vegan Dyer Lawrence has a new idea for a college football playoff system that includes a unique scheduling component called National Call Out Day. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Death row inmate Scott Dozier found dead in his cell
Nevada death row inmate Scott Dozier is dead. Dozier’s death ends his legal odyssey, which began in 2007 when he was convicted in the 2002 murder of Jeremiah Miller, but does little to clarify what’s next for Nevada’s death penalty.
I-15 southbound near Primm closed after ‘major crash’
A rollover crash Saturday morning involving at least nine vehicles on southbound Interstate 15 near Primm caused an hourslong traffic delay. Traffic was backed up to Sloan, live traffic cameras show. (Rio Lacanlale/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Death Valley visitors deal with shutdown
Visitors staying at the Furnace Creek Campground were forced to move from the campground following health and safety concerns due to lack of resources during the partial government shutdown at Death Valley National Park in Calif., on Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. Richard Brian Las Vegas Review-Journal @vegasphotograph
Half of homicides in Henderson for 2018 domestic violence related
Lt. Kirk Moore of the public information office of the city of Henderson police department speaks to the Review-Journal in Henderson, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. Henderson saw a slight increase in homicides in the past year. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Governor-elect Steve Sisolak stops by Las Vegas Boys and Girls Club
Governor-elect Steve Sisolak kicks off his tour to Carson City, which will take him from Las Vegas, through Tonopah, and up to the capital city. First stop is the Downtown Boys & Girls Club.
Certificates for renewing wedding vows in Clark County
The Marriage License Bureau in Clark County began issuing a Certificate of Vow Renewal to married couples who are renewing their wedding vows on Jan. 3, 2019. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas flu season better than last year (so far)
Dr. Fermin Leguen, chief medical officer and director of clinical services at the Southern Nevada Health District, said there were 24 flu-related deaths at this point in the flu season. No deaths have been reported so far this year. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The Las Vegas Valley’s First Baby of 2019
The first 2019 baby in the Las Vegas Valley was Melialani Chihiro Manning, born at 12:10 a.m. at Henderson Hospital. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas NYE Fireworks - VIDEO
The full show: A spectacular view from the rooftop of the Trump International Hotel as 80,000 pyrotechnics illuminated the Las Vegas Strip at the stroke of midnight. Fireworks by Grucci choreographed launches from the Stratosphere, the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Aria and MGM Grand.
Snow in Henderson on New Year's Eve morning
Light snow flurries in Anthem Highlands in Henderson on Monday morning, the last day of 2018.
Sources: Henderson Constable may face more charges
Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell may face additional charges ... stemming from his spending of county funds, sources said. Mitchell was indicted earlier this month on five felony theft and fraud charges ... after a Las Vegas Review-Journal story questioned his spending. But grand jury records show even more extensive spending including ... an $800 dinner at steakhouse ... nearly 200 atm withdrawals mostly at gambling establishments ... and even Disneyland tickets. But his attorney plans to ask a judge to dismiss the charges.
Las Vegas NYE Restrictions and Enhanced Security
If you are planning to celebrate New Year's Eve on the Las Vegas Strip or Fremont Street, be aware that you are not allowed to bring backpacks, coolers, strollers or glass. There will also be an increase in security to ensure safe celebrations across town.
Catholic Charities serves up 53rd annual Christmas dinner
Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada and more than 100 volunteers served 1,000 Christmas meals to Southern Nevada's homeless and less fortunate. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @kmcannonphoto)
Henderson couple adds another school to their generosity
Bob and Sandy Ellis of Henderson, who donate to several Clark County School District schools, have added Matt Kelly Elementary in Las Vegas to their list of schools where every student gets new shoes, socks and a toy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like