Sunday, March 11, 2018

Goodfellas Part III: Viva Las Vegas

Welcome to the third installment in what began as a series centered around the organized crime ties of President Donald J. Trump, aka the Orange One. This series in turn grew out of a prior blog I wrote several months ago that considered Trump's ties to a mysterious gaming company known as Resorts International.

Resorts grew out of a Florida-based company known as the Mary Carter Paint Company, which was established in the early 1960s. At the time Mary Carter was believed to be a CIA front used to assist anti-Castro Cubans bent on overthrowing Castro. Over the course of this present series we've encountered more than a few individuals who traveled in the same circles. But more on that in a moment.

By the late 1960s Mary Carter remade itself as Resorts International and established a famed casino on Paradise Island, the first such operation in the Bahamas. The Paradise Island casino soon became a popular destination for Overworld figures such as then-President Richard M. Nixon and reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes. It also became a hotspot for less reputable figures, such as fugitive financier Robert Vesco, Vatican deep state operator Cardinal Paul Marcinkus (noted before here), various Lansky associates and Richard Mellon Hitchcock, who at one point was the banker for the largest LSD smuggling operation in the world.

Around this time Resorts also established its own private intelligence company, which was known as Intertel. Staffed with numerous "former" US intelligence veterans, Intertel first gained notoriety in 1970 for the role it played in the mysterious rescue (or abduction, depending upon one's point of view) of Howard Hughes. Intertel would continue to function as Hughes own personal security detail for the rest of his life, a time period in which few would even see the reclusive billionaire in the flesh.

Howard Hughes
Resorts would also play a key role in opening up Atlantic City to legalized gambling and it was in this capacity that the Orange One began his relationship with the company. Prior to the death of Resorts founder and longtime CEO James Crosby Trump became friendly with much of the board and made a takeover effort upon Crosby's death in 1986. Trump eventually wound up as CEO, but then faced his own takeover bid, which was mounted by Merv Griffin. Griffin eventually ended up with Resorts, but Trump acquired the Company's crown jewel, the Taj Mahal.

Resorts was hardly Trump's first brush with organized crime or the deep state, however. As was noted in the first installment of this series, Trump had begun relations with the Syndicate via the Five Families and the Philadelphia crime family from the time of his earliest building projects in the late 1970s. He would also indirectly end up in a business relationship with infamous private detective Robert Maheu, a longtime CIA asset who had managed Hughes' business empire for well over a decade before he was "rescued" by Resorts' Intertel operators.

One of the most curious figures Trump wound up in bed with was Edward "Biff" Halloran, a reputed Genovese crime family member who owned a host of business operations in the NYC/New Jersey and Philadelphia areas. Halloran ran race tracks, hotels and had a virtual monopoly on concrete in the NYC area during the 1980s, which was the basis of his business relationship with Trump. Halloran disappeared mysteriously in 1996 and has not be heard from since.

During the 1970s one of Halloran's business partners was an ambitious young man from Kentucky named Bradley Bryant. As was noted in the second installment of this series, Bryant would go on to establish an elaborate drugs-and-arms trafficking operation that masqueraded as a private security operation known as Executive Protection, Ltd.

Bryant's partner in all of this was a fellow Kentuckian known as Andrew Carter "Drew" Thornton, a former US Army paratrooper and Lexington cop with far right leanings. Bryant was himself an ex-Marine and their operation drew extensively from the ranks of "former" police and military officers. Frequently they recruited through Soldier of Fortune, a mercenary magazine run by Robert K. Brown. Brown as a former Green Beret who had participated extensively in anti-Castro operations during the early 1960s in Florida and who laid supply "military advisers" for CIA efforts in Central America during the 1980s.

Robert K. Brown
"The Company," as Bryant and Thornton came to call their operation, was also widely believed by state and federal law enforcement to be a CIA front as well. And a key figure in setting up Bryant and Thornton with their initial crop of clients was none other than Trump's frequent business partner, Biff Halloran.

Beyond the Biff

But Halloran was hardly Trump's only link to Bryant and Thornton. Before getting to that, however, I must address how Bryant hooked up with Halloran in the first place. Bryant's relationship with Halloran derived from contacts amongst the local gentry centered around the famed Kentucky Derby
"... Bradley had obtained a high-paying corporate executive position, thanks to his friendship with John Young Brown, Jr. – the fast-food wizard who had made millions with his Kentucky Fried Chicken empire. Bradley had gotten to know Brown when his younger sister Lynne married one of Brown's best friends – Dan Chandler. Chandler, the wayward son of former Kentucky governor A.B. 'Happy' Chandler, worked for 'John Y.,' as everyone called the chicken magnet, in the franchise business. The marriage of Lynne Bryant to Dan Chandler signaled Bradley's inclusion into a slightly older, and more solidly entrenched, generation of bluebloods. Chandler and Brown were like big brothers to Bradley, and their fast crowd of jet setters and gamblers appealed to Bradley's adventurous streak. Through them, Bradley met his future partner – a Philadelphia multimillionaire named Edward 'Biff' Halloran, who was a regular at the Kentucky Derby. Chandler was more than happy to take credit for launching Bradley's career. When Chandler and Brown introduced Bradley to Halloran, Bradley was working as a flak in Frankfort for the state governments – a patronage position Chandler had helped Bradley land..."
(The Bluegrass Conspiracy, Sally Denton, pgs. 59-60)
Not only did John Y. Brown play a key role in launching KFC as a major international food chain, but he also held stakes in other chains such as Roadhouse Grill, Texas Roadhouse and Kenny Rogers Roasters at various times. During the 1970s, he also owned various professional sports franchises such as the Kentucky Colonels, the Buffalo Braves and the famed Boston Celtics. Then, in 1980, Brown was elected as governor of Kentucky just as the Company's operations were going into high gear.

John Y.
For our purposes here, the most compelling of Brown's business ventures was the purchase of the Lum's chain of restaurants from the founders, Stuart and Clifford Perlman, during the early 1970s. Prior to the transaction Lum's had also been the owners of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas which, as noted in part two, was later used a place of money laundering by the Company and other gangsters by the later 1970s. Officially the Perlmans retained control of Caesars after selling Lum's, but there have long been allegations that Brown had a stake in the casino.
"Less than a month later he paid $4 million for three-hundred Lum's restaurants and franchise rights. What began in 1956 as a Miami beach hot-dog stand had been parlayed by Clifford and Stuart Perlman into an international chain, enriching the brothers and enabling the weenie czars to purchase Caesars Palace in 1969 four $58 million.
"Through a complicated series of financial transactions, John Y. made Jimmy Lambert president of two companies that bought the Lums restaurants from Caesars World, Inc., then sold them to John Y. The machinations – which were further clouded by false press releases issued to newspapers – were scrutinized by Nevada gambling authorities, who wondered if John Y. was acquiring a 'hidden interest' in Caesars. Speculation increased when John Y. insisted that his lackey Dan Chandler be given an executive position in Caesars, ostensibly threatening to take his gambling business to another casino if Caesars refused to employ Chandler."
(The Bluegrass Conspiracy, Sally Denton, pgs. 164-165)
That would be the same Dan Chandler who introduced Bradley Bryant to Biff Halloran and who was still employed by Caesars when Bradley and Drew Thornton began using it launder drug money. The above-mentioned Jimmy Lambert was also well connected in organized crime circles as well, with contacts that included Thornton and even Meyer Lansky. Lambert made numerous trips to Florida to pow wow with Lansky and his associates, while frequently staying at properties owned by John Y.

Lambert and his organized crime connections eventually became a major issue of John Y. during his 1983 reelection bid. In June of that year The New York Times charged that "Lambert was a courier for Brown, carrying hundreds of thousands of dollars from Las Vegas back to Kentucky" (The Bluegrass Conspiracy, pg. 309-310), among other allegations. It also came to light that Brown was likely a silent partner in a crime-riddled nightclub Lambert owned in Cincinnati. Amusingly, it was named Trumps.

With all of these connections, there has been longstanding speculation that John Y. Brown was familiar with the Company's operations. Another Lexington high society figure, Anita Madden --a friend of John Y.'s whose raunchy Kentucky Derby balls have become legendary ---was also linked to the Company as well. Drew Thornton and many other Lexington police who fell in with the Company had provided Mrs. Madden security for her parties and there are indications that her ties had grown deeper to the operation --via Lambert --over the years. Mrs. Madden will be quite significant in a future installment, so do keep her in mind.

Anita Madden
But back to the matter at hand, namely Donald Trump. The thing is, Trump had become quite active in the same social circles as many of the elite backers of the Company by the mid-1970s. It likely began with the Orange One's obsession with casinos.
"There was always something about the prospect of owning a casino that intrigued Donald Trump. As far back as 1976, before he consummated a single real estate deal in New York, he was telling reporters he would build the world's largest casino in Las Vegas and name it Xanadu. By then Donald had already made the first of what would become repeated pilgrimages to Vegas, not to gamble, but to visit Caesars Palace and the other cash farms stretched out along the strip."
(Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth, Wayne Barrett, pg. 202)
Trump was reportedly a regular at Caesars throughout the late 1970s when, as was noted in the prior installment, it was a mecca for organized crime figures to launder drug money at. At the time Bradley Bryant was a regular there while Dan Chandler, his brother-in-law and a good friend of John Y. Brown, held an executive post at Caesars.

Caesars Palace
By at least the early 1980s Trump would become a regular at the Kentucky Derby --which also attracted many key figures linked to the Company, including John Y. Brown, Dan Chandler, Jimmy Lambert, Anita Madden and of course Biff Halloran. In 1983 Trump was a guest at the Derby Eve Gala, hosted by John Y. Brown and also attended by Bill and Hillary Clinton. Reportedly at this event Jimmy Lambert had arranged for a considerable donations to Brown's reelection campaign by the Clintons and a certain reputed organized crime figure.
"In 1996, a published biography of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Partners in Power, reveals that Lambert had also been the conduit for some $300,000 in cash given to then-Govornor John Y. Brown by Clinton and Brown intimate Dan Lasater, a fast-food and bond brokerage millionaire suspected of ties to organized crime and who would later be convicted himself on drug charges. According to FBI records, Brown through Lambert had asked for a million dollars at the time, but Lasater had decided to give 'only' $300,000, conveyed in a brown paper bag aboard Lasater's Lear Jet as he flew the Clintons to the 1983 Derby, where the two governors and their wives would socialize as usual..."
(The Bluegrass Conspiracy, Sally Denton, pgs. 369-370) 
Brown and his then-wife, Phyllis George, would maintain close ties with the Clintons for years to come. However, in the immediate future, they would move into one of Trump's properties. After losing his reelection bid Brown and George became some of the first tenets at Trump Tower --which, as noted in part one, was fast becoming a center of money laundering in its own right.

While comparisons have often been made between Brown and Bill Clinton --and not unjustly as both men have a similar personal style --Brown seems to have served as something of role model for Trump as well. Both men are tycoons that had no political experience before being elected. Both men also leaned heavily on the business community to staff their administration with. And both men seem to have risen through the ranks thanks to similar shadowy interests.

From the 1983 Derby Eve Gala, which appears to have been riddled with intrigue: John Y Brown, Phyllis George and Donald Trump are the three standing up; Hillary Clinton is seated at the far left
Of course, none of this represents a smoking gun tying Trump to the Company and its network. But it is all very suggestive, none the less. Trump starts making pilgrimages to Las Vegas in the mid-1970s and by the end of the decade his first major construction project is off the ground. He's greatly aided in this project by Biff Halloran --a former business partner of Bradley Bryant's who helped set Bryant up with clientele for the Company. Halloran is also a regular at the Kentucky Derby and friendly with John Y. Brown, who helped set Bryant up with Halloran in the first place. By the early 1980s Trump is making the Kentucky Derby scene and branching into the gaming industry in Atlantic City. By 1984 John Y moves into Trump's flagship property, which is also beginning to establish itself as a mecca for money laundering in much the same way Caesars Palace had been a few years ago.

John Y's close friend and Bradley Bryant's brother-in-law Dan Chandler was an executive at Caesars during this time and John Y was suspected of having a hidden interest in the casino. This claim is further bolstered by Jimmy Lambert's reported trips to Kentucky from Vegas with payments for Brown. And then Brown turns up living at another money laundering operation that was built with assistance of his friend, Biff Halloran.

Is this all a mere coincidence?

The Puppet Master

And if not, a compelling question becomes: who sent Trump on these initial pilgrimages to Las Vegas that seem to have resulted in him traveling the same circles was John Y. Brown?

While I've found no evidence of it, my suspicion is that the individual in question was Trump's longtime attorney and political mentor Roy Cohn. Cohn first gained notoriety in the 1950s when he served as Joseph McCarthy's lead attorney for his Communist witch hunts. While this ended in McCarthy's disgrace, Cohn returned to New York City where he established a highly lucrative legal practice and began known as the city's premier "fixer." Cohn's influence were legendary. So were his organized crime ties.
"With clients who ranged from John Gotti to the sons of Carlo Gambino, Cohn reportedly hosted gatherings of the commission itself – which included the heads of the five crime families – at his town house. His closest mob confidant and client, Tony Salerno, was so involved in Atlantic City that he was believed to have sanction the murders of the hit man who killed Scarfo's predecessor, boasting on federal tapes: 'I'm the fucking boss, that's who I am. Connecticut is mine; New Jersey is mine.' One Cohn aide specifically remembers a 1983 get-together at Cohn's town house living room that supposedly included the lawyer and his two clients – Trump and Salerno – right around the time that Salerno's S&A concrete was building Trump Plaza, the Third Avenue residential tower..."
(Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth, Wayne Barrett, pg. 244)
"Fat Tony" Salerno
The above-mentioned Commission was the ruling body of the Syndicate where the Five Families and other organizations made decisions concerning their activities. If Cohn was serving as host of such functions, he was very high in the Syndicate indeed. And --as was noted in part one --he was the man who had introduced Trump to Biff Halloran in the first place. Naturally, both men were clients of Cohn's. Cohn also had longstanding ties to Syndicate players in Vegas, as shall be noted in a moment.

Cohn was also the man who put Trump in contact with Overworld figures such as Roger Stone and Rupert Murdoch who would play key roles in his political rise. In point of fact, Cohn appears to have been one of the leading figures behind the rise of Murdoch's media empire in the States. Cohn not only got Murdoch access to the Oval Office, but also the CIA. Consortium News recently noted:
"Rupert Murdoch, the global media mogul who is now a kingmaker in American politics, was brought into those power circles by the infamous lawyer/activist Roy Cohn who arranged Murdoch’s first Oval Office meeting with President Ronald Reagan in 1983, according to documents released by Reagan’s presidential library.
"In a photograph of the Jan. 18, 1983 meeting, Cohn is shown standing and leaning toward Reagan who is seated next to Murdoch. Following that meeting, Murdoch became involved in a privately funded propaganda project to help sell Reagan’s hard-line Central American policies, according to other documents. That PR operation was overseen by senior CIA propaganda specialist Walter Raymond Jr. and CIA Director William Casey, but the details of Murdoch’s role remain sketchy partly because some of the records are still classified more than three decades later."
Cohn has long been reputed to have been involved in some of the darkest operations of the US intelligence community. These ties probably first came to light around 1970 with the publication of the highly controversial "Torbitt document." This document alleged that the JFK assassination had been carried out by a cabal of far right wing FBI men of Division 5, NASA, the Defense Industrial Security Command and the inevitable ex-Nazis and Syndicate figures. This cabal was organized around a Basil-based corporation known as Permindex, which later relocated to Italy with the name of Centro-Mondiale Commerciale. According to Torbitt, Permindex had four primary goals:
"1. To fund and direct assassinations of European, Mid-East and world leaders considered threats to the Western World and to petroleum interests of the backers.
"2. To furnish couriers, agents, and management in transporting, depositing and rechanneling funds through Swiss banks for Las Vegas, Miami, Havana and international gambling syndicate.
"3. To co-ordinate the espionage activities of the Solidarists and Division Five of the FBI with groups in sympathy with their objectives and to receive and channel funds and arms from the financiers to the action groups.
"4. To build, acquire and operate hotels and gambling casinos in the Caribbean, Italy and at other tourist areas..."
(NASA, Nazis & JFK, various, pgs. 48-49)
Of course, this sounds remarkably like the operations overseen by the Company (as outlined in part two of this series) and Resorts International (noted before here). Torbitt singled out Las Vegas in particular as a key cog in the international operations of Permindex and as we've seen thus far, Vegas did serve as a kind of base of operations for the Company. And Trump's business empire (which was built in part upon hotels and casinos) appears to have begun with his pilgrimages to Las Vegas. Do keep this in mind as Vegas shall crop up again and again through out this series.

While the claims made by Torbitt concerning Permindex remain highly, highly controversial, it seems all but certain the corporation was tied to both the US intelligence community and the Fascist International and that it has been linked to at least two very notable assassinations.
"...When the announcement for Permindex was first made in Switzerland in late 1956, its principal backing was to come from a local banker named Hans Seligman. But as more investigation by the local papers was done, it became clear that the real backer was J. Henry Schroder Banking Corporation. This information was quite revealing. Schroder's had been closely associated with Allen Dulles and the CIA for years. Allen Dulles's connection to the Schroder banking family went back to the thirties when his law firm, Sullivan and Cromwell, first began representing them through him. Later, Dulles was the bank's General Counsel. In fact, when Dulles became CIA Director, Schroder's was a repository for a fifty million dollar contingency fund the Dulles personally controlled. Schroder's was a welcome conduit because the bank benefited from previous CIA overthrows in Guatemala and Iran. Another reason that there began to be a furor over Permindex in Switzerland was the fact that the banks founder, Baron Kurt von Schroder, was associated with the Third Reich, specifically Heinrich Himmler. The project now became stalled in Switzerland. It now moved to Rome...
"...The Board of Directors was made up of bankers who had been tied up with fascist governments, people who worked the Jewish refugee racket during World War II, a former member of Mussolini's cabinet, and the son-in-law of Hjalmar Schact, the economic wizard behind the Third Reich... There were at least four international newspapers that exposed the bizarre activities of Permindex when it was in Rome. One problem was the mysterious source of funding: no one knew where it was coming from or going to. Another was that its activities reportedly included assassination attempts on French Premier Charles de Gaulle. Which would make sense since the founding member of Permindex, Ferenc Nagy, was a close friend of Jacques Soustelle. Soustelle was a leader of the OAS, a group of former French officers who broke with de Gaulle over his Algerian policy. They later made several attempts on the de Gaulle's life, which the CIA was privy to. Again, this mysterious source of funding, plus the rightwing, neo-Fascist directors created another wave of controversy. One newspaper wrote that the organization may have been 'a creature the CIA... set up as a cover for the transfer of CIA... funds in Italy for illegal political-espionage activities.' The Schroder connection would certainly suggest that."
(Destiny Betrayed, James DiEugenio, pgs. 385-386)

Permindex's link to the JFK assassination came via one of its most notorious members: international business man and reputed CIA asset Clay Shaw. Shaw was famously one of the individuals charged in attorney Jim Garrison's investigation in the Kennedy assassination in New Orleans. In the Oliver Stone film JFK Shaw was portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones.

The "Torbitt document" also alleges that Roy Cohn was a key member of Permindex, but I have been unable to confirm this. Among other things, the "Torbitt document" claims that Cohn was using the Lionel Corporation to funnel money to Syndicate interests in Vegas. I initially found this claim to be ridiculous as Lionel was chiefly known for making children's toys, most notably their legendary toy trains. And yet I later found that there was some merit to these claims:
"... Roy Cohn, former chief counsel to Senator Joe McCarthy – and a close friend of both Hoover and H. L. Hunt – was indicted by a federal grand jury in September 1963 on eight counts in a stock-fraud case... Cohn's Lionel Corporation was deeply enmeshed with Las Vegas gambling interests, which provided the basis for his indictment."
(The Man Who Knew Too Much, Dick Russell, pg. 523)
J. Edgar Hoover and oil baron H.L. Hunt were allegedly two of the key backers behind the Permindex network, according to Torbitt. Hunt, a former "professional gambler" who parlayed his winnings into ownership of half the oil fields in West Texas, had longstanding ties to organized crime. As I noted before here, he was surely a key figure in the Kennedy assassination.

H.L Hunt
For his part, Cohn's hatred of the Kennedys was well known.
"It was a smart move hiring Cohn, who not only had a reputation as 'the toughest, meanest, vilest, and one of the most brilliant lawyers in America,' but who also hated the Kennedys, particularly Bobby, who had never forgiven Cohn for beating him to the post of chief counsel on Joe McCarthy's Senate subcommittee back in 1953..."
(Nemesis, Peter Evans, pg. 235)
Cohn would go on to become the New York attorney for Aristotle Onassis, the billionaire Greek shipping magnet who married JFK's widow, Jackie Kennedy, in the late 1960s. This was reportedly done out of spite as Onassis deeply loathed the Kennedy brothers as well. In Nemesis, award winning journalist Peter Evans even alleged the Onassis had put up the money to have Robert Kennedy assassinated in 1968.

Cohn's ties to Onassis bring to mind another famed conspiracy document from the 1970s: the Gemstone File. Among other allegations, Gemstone fingers Onassis as the key figure behind the assassinations of both Kennedy brothers. It also sketches out a cabal similar to Torbitt's, in which the Syndicate is in alliance with various US intelligence assets and shadowy international businessmen. Curiously, Gemstone also alleges that Onassis effectively kidnapped his chief rival, Howard Hughes, and kept the reclusive billionaire a prisoner while stealthy managing his business empire.

Aristotle Onassis
This syncs with the allegations long surrounding Resorts International, noted before here, that the gambling interest had abducted Hughes via Intertel and was holding the reclusive billionaire prisoner while overseeing his business empire. It is interesting to note that Onassis has an indirect link to Resorts via Paul Helliwell, the former OSS China hand who would establish a vast overseas banking empire the CIA would use to covertly fund its black ops. Peter Evans alleges that Onassis had conspired at one point with Helliwell and our old friend Mitchell WerBell III (noted in the prior installment) to stage a coup in Haiti.

Around the same time Helliwell also had dealings with Resorts.
"The bank [Castle Bank and Trust --Recluse] was established by Paul Helliwell, a former OSS China hand with a background in drug-trade intelligence. After the war, Helliwell had run CIA front companies in Florida. Through his Bahamian bank, and a companion institution in Florida, millions of dollars were funneled for covert military operations staged off Andros Islands in the Bahamas. Castle also facilitated tax evasion, and, in its trust-company capacity, voted the shares of certain nonresident owners of Resorts International, the top Lansky-era casino operation on Nassau. When one of their shareholders so strongly objected to the way Castle was voting his shares that he sued the bank, the scheme began to unravel."
(Hot Money, R.T. Naylor, pg. 315)
And the shareholder who sued Helliwell's infamous Castle Bank & Trust? Why, none other William Mellon Hitchcock (who was addressed at length before here), one of Resorts most notorious shareholders.

While all of this may seem like a bit of a digression, Mr. Billy, as friends referred to Hitchcock, will pop up again in our saga in a most striking capacity.

Mr. Billy is to the right
But let us now return to Roy Cohn. While there is nothing definitive linking him to the assassinations of either Kennedy brother, his hatred of them was well known and he was already well connected in the same right wing circles long linked to both assassinations by the early 1960s. He was also well established with Vegas Syndicate hands by this time as well, as evidenced by the indictments he faced over his management of the Lionel Corporation.

Even without being a member of Permindex, it is clear Cohn was an extremely powerful and well-connected figure, one responsible for arguably the most powerful media baron of the twenty-first century and certainly the most controversial American president of this same century. Even over thirty years after his death Cohn's influence is still vast.

And yet nothing has thus far explained the basis of his power. Cohn rose to prominence during the McCarthy hearings, but while Tail Gunner Joe's career was thoroughly ruined over said hearings, Cohn emerged even more powerful than ever. What was Cohn tied up in that made him so coveted by high ranking mobsters and billionaires in equal measure? Were his legal skills simply that good, or was there something else.

This researcher opts for the later and will explore the likely source of Cohn's influence in the next installment. Stay tuned dear reader.


  1. This series has been fantastic always waiting for the next post!

  2. The appreciation is proportional to the readers prior homework. Mr. Recluse: Don't be discouraged by the lack of response in these comment sections. It can be a sign of audience absorption and processing. Bravo!

  3. Interesting and informative content!

  4. Recluse, your fantastic as always, thank you!