Regrettably, yet understandably, IRS’ mob fighting role overlooked

By now the IRS must be used to being the forgotten mob-fighter in the law enforcement pantheon.

If you stroll through the Las Vegas Mob Experience at the Tropicana, for instance, you’ll find an entertaining assortment of organized crime memorabilia and some references to the FBI and Metro, but you won’t be reminded that it was revenue agents, not Hoover’s G-men, who brought down Chicago’s “Scarface” Al Capone.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find downtown’s Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement has created a tribute to the efforts of local police and the FBI in battling the mafia but has failed to give the IRS its due. And that would be too bad.

On April 15, the one day a year everyone is thinking about the IRS (and not always kindly), I’m reminded about Capone being tripped up by fearless fellows armed with sharpened pencils. Back in 1931, the IRS Intelligence Unit and Special Agent Frank Wilson finished their methodical investigation of Capone’s rackets, which stretched from Chicago to the West Coast. Wilson submitted the investigation to unit leader Elmer Irey, another crime-fighter lost to history.

Capone’s fixers fiddled with the jury and threatened Wilson’s life, but eventually the IRS investigation resulted in Scarface Al’s conviction on tax evasion charges. Capone could rig elections and make competitors disappear, but he had no answer to the fact he had never filed a tax return. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison, and his rackets passed to successors.

Meanwhile, federal crime-fighter Eliot Ness became an American hero. Although Ness candidly acknowledged the revenue agents’ role in nailing Capone, J. Edgar Hoover fanned the media flames, and most of the public believed Public Enemy No. 1 was done in by crime-fighting supermen known as “The Untouchables.”

Capone was hardly the only gangster felled by the IRS. Another notable from the golden era of organized crime was Irving “Waxey” Gordon, who caught 10 years for tax evasion and narcotics trafficking and died at Alcatraz in 1952.

Even the ones who managed to beat the tax man were often never the same after the experience. Dutch Schultz, for instance, wasn’t convicted by prosecutor Thomas Dewey in a pair of trials, but the legal trouble weakened him with his particularly unforgiving peer group. When Schultz insisted on putting a hit out on the prosecutor, his pals decided to eliminate him. He was murdered in 1935.

Out West, legendary Las Vegas casino boss and former bootlegger Moe Dalitz survived a tax-evasion trial in the 1960s, but the case helped usher him out of the casino business.

If the Mob Museum and the Tropicana hoodlum tribute fail to give the intrepid revenuers their due, well, that would be in keeping with a long-standing tradition.

JURY DAY: State Supreme Court Justice Ron Parraguirre answered the call to jury duty Monday at the Regional Justice Center. (No, he didn’t show off by wearing his black robe.) Parraguirre sat throughout the morning, but his number wasn’t called, and he was dismissed in the early afternoon.

By coincidence, the justice’s wife, Leslie Parraguirre, was called for jury duty Monday at U.S. District Court. She also wasn’t needed.

“It was jury day for the Parraguirres,” Justice Parraguirre quipped, adding, “I was hoping to get picked. I’ve never been able to get picked.”

ON THE BOULEVARD: Summerlin diners will be pleased to learn The Martini at 1205 S. Fort Apache is open. With Sandra Starr managing and son Nicholas Starr behind the bar, it’s a family affair. It also provides a glimmer of optimism about our slowly recovering economy.

BOULEVARD II: Tear up those tickets, lotto fans. The proposed state lottery bill is dead at the Legislature. Although it wouldn’t have patched the gaping hole in the budget, lottery talk remains a favorite with locals.

Have an item for the Bard of the Boulevard? E-mail comments and contributions to Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith.

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