The DeBartolo Family and Organized Crime

From Interference: How Organized Crime Influences Professional Football by Dan Moldea.

The following information has never appeared in any San Francisco newsaper

Chapter 42, pp. 352-353:

"The owner of the Pittsburgh Maulers in the new league was Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr., who was frequently under suspicion of mob ties.

"For example, the U.S. Customs Service had received information from one of its special agents, William F. Burda, in January 1981 that the DeBartolo organization 'through its control of particular state banks in the state of Florida is operating money-laundering schemes, realizing huge profits from narcotics, guns, skimming operations, and other organized-crime-related activities. This organization is reported to have ties to [Carlos] Marcello, [Santos] Trafficante, and [Meyer]Lansky and because of its enormous wealth and power has high-ranking political influence and affiliations.'

"In an earlier report, authored by Burda, the special agent wrote that he had developed source information indicating that 'Meyer Lansky, the financial wizard of OC [organized crime], is now considered by most to be almost senile and getting out of the business. His successor and new financial wizard is recognized as Edward J. DeBartolo.'"

Lansky, Trafficante and Marcello, p. 285:

"Trafficante was among the most powerful Mafia figures in America. He controlled Florida's narcotics network and gambling operations, particularly the 'bolita lottery,' a Cuban numbers game. A protege of Meyer Lansky, Trafficante was Lansky's principal enforcer in the crime syndicate's Cuban gambling establishments in pre-Castro Cuba. After Castro overthrew the Cuban government and closed the casinos, Trafficante was arrested and held in custody. Soon after his release and return to the United States, he was recruited by the CIA for his participation in the CIA/Mafia plots to assassinate Castro. He was also a close friend and business partner with Carlos Marcello of New Orleans."

DeBarolto's Florida bank, p. 479

According to a confidential report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. "WFC Corporation is a cover for the largest narcotics operation in the world." Law-enforcement agency documents also stated that WFC had been heavily influenced by Florida Mafia boss Santos Trafficante.

A report of the FDLE states that the Florida comptroller's office was investigating "what appears to be spurious loans made by WFC Corporation from its Grand Cayman Island subsidiary, through Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company of Tampa, a banking institution whose majority stockholder is Edward DeBartolo Sr."

DeBartolo, who bought Metropolitan in 1975, owned 227,000 shares of stock in the bank. His position was so strong at the Metropolitan Bank that he, unilaterally, forced the bank's president to resign in 1981. Other board members had no say in the matter. Metropolitan collapsed in 1982. It was the largest bank failure in Florida history.

From Chapter 32, p. 286:

"Major Realty had been a frequent target of federal investigations during the 1960s and 1970s because so many of its investors, attorneys, lenders and clients had ties to Florida mobsters, especially Meyer Lansky and Santos Trafficante."

Chapter 33, pp. 287-291 (The DeBartolo Chapter)

The announced buyer of Major Realty's land in 1968 was Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr., a major builder of shopping malls around the United States, who was alleged by a variety of law-enforcement agencies to have business ties with top organized-crime figures, including Meyer Lansky, Carlos Marcello, and Santos Trafficante.

In 1970, DeBartolo's name had appeared on the U.S. Justice Department's Organized Crime Principal Subjects List, a catalogue of people who are suspected of having links to organized crime. Later, DeBartolo challenged the listing of his name on the register through his attorney, Charles F.C. Ruff. At the time of this action, DeBartolo was attempting to obtain a license to operate a racetrack in Oklahoma and didn't want the list to prejudice the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission, which issues the licenses.

In response to this challenge, David Margolis, the chief of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section, responded to Ruff. Margolis wrote, "The so-called Principal Subjects List was created in the late 1960s and distributed to a number of government agencies in 1971. Individuals whose names appeared in investigative reports were placed on the list, although they were not necessarily the subjects of criminal investigations. Over the years the list became outdated, and persons remained on it even though they were no longer of interest to the Department of Justice, were not the subjects of any investigation, or were deceased." Margolis added that the list had not been in use since August 1975--after an order had been issued by Margolis's predecessor that "the list should be destroyed."

DeBartolo was born in the Smoky Hollow section of Youngstown, Ohio in 1909. He received his degree in civil engineering from Notre Dame and made his fortune in the construction business, primarily as a builder of shopping centers. Between 1952 and 1954, DeBartolo and members of his company were subjected to six bombings of their offices and shopping centers. No one was killed and the bombing spree was never solved. In 1960, he purchased the Thistledown racetrack near Cleveland, and the following year he bought the nearby Randall Park racetrack. The concessions for these tracks were handled by the Emprise Corporation, a Buffalo-based sports-services conglomerate, which was indicted and convicted in 1972 for racketeering and fronting for several organized-crime figures. In 1973, Debartolo bought another racetrack, Balmoral, just south of Chicago.

Also during the 1960s, DeBartolo had engaged in a joint development in Florida with Lou Chesler and his General Development Corporation. According to their contract, Chesler and General Development were responsible for building houses in Port Malabar, Port Charlotte, Port St. Lucie, and other locations on both Florida coasts, while DeBartolo handled all commercial construction, such as shopping centers.

By 1965, DeBartolo had begun building shopping malls, beginning with the Summit Mall in Fairlawn, Ohio, near Akron. A 1978 classified report fro the Florida Department of Law Enforcement described him as "a very wealthy, powerful, influential person with organized-crime connections in Ohio. Subject deals in land purchases, construction and development of large shopping centers through the United States."

DeBartolo is also an admitted gambler and has had a $100,000 line of credit at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Also the owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League and the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, DeBartolo had made several unsuccessful attempts to purchase major-league baseball teams during the late 1970s. Among those teams he tried to purchase were the Chicago White Sox (twice), Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, and Seattle Mariners; he also tried to bring a major-league baseball team to New Orleans.

In the end, DeBartolo either withdrew his bid when it became clear that he would be facing stiff opposition, or he was flat out rejected because of his ties to racetracks and gamblers. "My father has too much class for baseball," Edward J. DeBartolo, Jr. told The New York Times.

In March 1977, the elder DeBartolo purchased 90 percent of the stock of the San Francisco 49ers for $17.6 million and made it a subsidiary of his corporation. The team was then given to his thirty-year-old son. "Eddie Jr. bought it from me," DeBartolo told The Pittsburgh Press. "Everyone thinks I gave it to him, but Eddie financed it and paid for it." However, the senior DeBartolo personally secured his son's purchase.

Tampa Bay owner Hugh Culverhouse was retained as the DeBartolos' tax attorney for the 49ers' sale. At that time, NFL Security reportedly could find nothing in the DeBartolos' background to prevent them from buying the team.

However, when I asked NFL Security chief Jack Danahy about that report, as well as the nature of the senior DeBartolo's background, Danahy replied, "I'm not going to discuss that one." It was the only time during my interviews with Danahy that he refused to answer a question.

Soon after the DeBartolos bought the 49ers, an FBI wiretap picked up Los Angeles mobster Jimmy Fratianno discussing a meeting with New Mexico criminal lawyer William Marchiondo to be held in San Francisco. The transcript of the conversation stated:

"Fratianno: Hey don't forget now: when the Miami Dolphins play, you're going to come over here. See, I got it arranged so you're going to sit with this guy, the owner of the 49ers.

"Marchiondo: Well, I want to talk with this guy, but that's a bad time for me to leave..."

Fratianno explained the conversation to my associate, William Scott Malone, "I arranged through this friend of mine [Youngstown Mafia figure Ronald Carabbia] for an attorney in New Mexico to sit with DeBartolo in the press box. They wanted to talk some kind of business. I don't know what it was. So I arranged a meeting."

Fratianno added that DeBartolo, Sr. was "very friendly" with Carabbia. He also said that the two men "used to go on junkets to the Tropicana [in Las Vegas]. And [DeBartolo] was a pretty heavy gambler. He would lose a lot of money. He had a pretty good line of credit in Vegas."

The United States Government and Organized Crime

Note from Ken: After World War II, the Justice Department, particularly the FBI, showed a particular disinterest in investigating organized crime and a heightened interest in the "dangers" of communist plots to take over the US from internal conspiracies.

Interestingly, key players in this phenomena, J. Edgar Hoover, Senator Joseph McCarthy, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan had numerous social connections with verified members of organized crime throughout their careers. With the exception of Ronald Reagan, all were heavy gamblers.

Reagan's introduction to the organized crime and the illegal gambling industry came when he was a sports announcer for WHO in Des Moines, Iowa. Though not a gambler, he frequented Chicago-mob controlled Club Belvedere at a time when, according to a Chicago law enforcement official, Chicago underworld figures operating in Iowa "had a special interest in college athletes and sports writers." Club Belvedere hosted an illegal casino.

Though the "fixing" of football games is somewhat rare (n the professional ranks at least), the mob's use of inside information from owners, players, and sports writers to establish point spreads for illegal bookmaking is extremely common.

Reagan's association with organized crime continued in Hollywood where, as president of the Screen Actors Guild, he granted Chicago mob-founded and controlled MCA an extremely lucrative monopoly which made the company the only studio permitted to both represent talent and produce shows. (See the book "Dark Victory" by Dan Moldea.)

According to David Burnham's history of corruption in the Justice Department "Above the Law", the Reagan adminstration was the most organized crime-friendly administration in the nation's history.

Nixon, Sports, Gambling and Joseph McCarthy, p. 103:

"The founder of the Dallas Cowboys, Clint Murchison, Jr., who wore a crew cut and spectacles, paid $550,000 for the team..."

"The Murchisons were enthusiastic supporters of Senator Joseph McCarthy's witchhunt and major backers of President Nixon in his 1960 presidential campaign against John Kennedy. After Nixon lost the election, he bought a lot from the Murchisons in Beverly Hills for the bargain price of $35,000."

"A successful businessman like his father, Clint Murchison, Jr., was also a heavy gambler."

The late President Richard Nixon was described as "an avid football fan and a longtime gambler," p. 215.

Gambling and and Governments, p. 95:

"According to numerous government officials, McLaney had sought out and received Lansky's approval to purchase the Nacional. The casino operators enjoyed the cooperation of President Fulgencio Batista, who was nothing more than a Lansky puppet. The Nacional had been the regular meeting place for the Chicago and New York crime syndicates.

"However, within three months after the sale of the Nacional, Fidel Castro swept down from the Sierra Maestras and overthrew the oppressive, Mafia-controlled Batista regime. After Castro's victory, the underworld--which had hedged its bet and provided support to both sides in the Cuban revolution--believed its investments in Cuba to be safe. However, Castro double-crossed the Mafia the following April. He shut down the gambling and narcotics operations and exiled Lansky; he boarded up the casinos and imprisoned other mobsters.

How it's all covered up

"The evidence is clear that there has been a cabal among some past and present officials of the Justice Department's Organized Crime and Racketeering Section and some of its Strike Force offices. And the NFL, through its long-term sweetheart relationship with a variety of law-enforcement agencies, particularly the OCRS, has been a direct beneficiary of this situation--which raises serious questions about possible conflicts of interest as well as activities that border on sheer political corruption," pp. 416-417

"The bookmakers have contacts with every owner in the league." - Al Davis, owner of the Raiders and former business partner with Allen Glick who managed Las Vegas casino investments for the mob. Davis arranged the sale of the 49ers to the DeBartolo family in the 1970s. p. 32.

"We have a basic rule in the NFL," says a former law enforcement official who advises the NFL of security matters." It is to keep it upbeat and keep it positive. But above all keep in quiet." p. 33

Phil Manuel, former Senate investigator: "The oldest trick in the book is to hire old Justice Department officials and make them understand that they are to protect the security of the NFL owners.

"The retired law-enforcement guys maintain their ties to their old agencies, and they can tell which investigations are being done and whether they migt be troublesome. When some wrongdoing is ready to go public, the NFL security people can go to their old fellow workers and say,'We can handle this ourselves. Give us a chance to straighten this mess out without all the attention your public investigation will bring.'" p. 37

Ralph Salerno, former supervisor of detectives for the NYPD: "How does the NFL protect itself with one guy in each NFL city. They do it illegally. The local NFL security guy takes the local police commissioner, the chief of detectives, and other important law enforcement officials and gives him season tickets and box seats. They get wined and dined.

"And then these public employees who are paid with public funds come up with criminal information and turn it over to profit-making corporations. And that is illegal. Do the police do that for every trucking company or furniture manufacturer? Of course not. But they do it for the NFL. The whole NFL Security operation that Rozelle {brags} about is simply and illegal operation." p. 37

An IRS agent taken off an NFL-related gambling probe: "What we've got here are connections among the Cosa Nostra, the federal government, the big attorneys in the D.C. area, sports figures, and the television news media. We were getting too close to the people at the top. [He} was being protected by people within the Justice Department. P. 171

Reagan took (Nevada Senator) Laxalt's advice, and the President's first opportunity to revise the federal budget yielded a one-third cutback of the FBI's investigations into gambling, prostitution, arson-for-profit, gangland murders, and pornography - along with a hiring freeze and dramatic staff reduction within the FBI. Reagan also indicated that no new undercover operations would be authorized against organized crime or white-collar crime. Instead, the Reagan Justice Department wanted to concentrate on street crime and small drug use. p. 341

From Interference: How Organized Crime Influences Professional Football by Dan Moldea.

Note from Ken:The DeBartolos were large contributors to Reagan and Bush and are active in California politics. Edward DeBartolo Jr. refers to the California Attorney General as "Danny" and has contributed to his campaign war chest. They were room mates at Notre Dame.

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