Mobbed Up

Organized crime

Mum’s the Word

Sheila Sweeney declined to comment when asked about the lobbying deal she signed with Kit Bond Strategies in 2016. 

As she exited the federal courthouse in St. Louis late Friday afternoon, Sheila Sweeney, 61, refused to comment on whether federal authorities have quizzed her about her role in steering a $240,000 lobbying contract to Kit Bond Strategies in early 2016.

Sheila Sweeney outside the federal courthouse in St. Louis with her attorney Justin Gelfand, Friday May 10, 2019.

Earlier, the former St. Louis Economic Development Partnership CEO pleaded guilty before federal Judge Catherine D. Perry to three-counts of defrauding the citizens of St. Louis County in the same pay-to-play scheme that snared former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger. Stenger pleaded guilty last week. Their partner in crime, John “Johnny Roller” Rallo, pleaded not guilty Friday morning. They were all charged with scheming to give contracts and property deals to Rallo in exchange for him contributing to Stenger’s campaign coffers.

The pay offs to Rallo were funneled by Sweeney through the St. Louis County Port Authority, which she also headed. The port authority received the funds from Penn National, the owner of River City Casino in South County. The casino pays the port authority about $5 million a year in rent, which is then passed on to the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership.

The money paid to Kit Bond Strategies appears to have originated from the same pool of cash. Sweeney signed the contract with Linda Bond, a principal partner in KBS with her husband, former U.S. Sen. Kit Bond. The St. Louis Economic Development Partnership paid KBS to lobby Congress to turn over the clean up of the radioactively-contaminated West Lake Landfill to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The effort to convince Congress to take the overall authority for the clean up away from the EPA and hand it over to the Corps involved coordinating the support of the St. Louis congressional delegation. As part of that effort, Rep. Ann Wagner (R) and Rep. Lacy Clay (D) testified together before a House subcommittee. The effort by KSB also included the support of then-Sen Claire McCaskill (D) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R). Legislation authorizing the turnover to the Corps passed the Senate, but failed to clear the House subcommittee.

 

The lobbying deal was carried out with little to no public knowledge, which raises questions as to why the effort kept on the low down. When asked about the deal on Friday, Sweeney remained mum.

After refusing to comment, Sweeney strolled across Clark Avenue with her attorneys and shared a laugh. She awaits sentencing and has been released on her own recognizance.

Life is good.

 

 

The History of Pimping

 When newspaper tycoon Mike Lacey,  former owner of the St. Louis Riverfront Times, was busted for pimping in California this week,  his arrest was long overdue. More than a decade earlier, a federal probe linked RFT sex ads to the Eastside rackets. 

[This story was first published in  January 2, 2004.]

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Mugshot of Mike Lacey courtesy of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department.

Pimping and Publishing, What’s the Dif?

Dennis W. Sonnenschein will have plenty of time to reflect on his business career over the next year. Yesterday (January 1, 2004), the St. Louis area massage parlor owner reported to federal prison to begin serving a one-year sentence for “misprision of a felony,” a charge similar to obstruction of justice.

In November, St. Louis Post-Dispatch staffer Michael Shaw reported that Sonnenschein was sentenced to a year in jail in federal court in East St. Louis. The court also ordered Sonnenschein to pay a $250,000 fine and give $1 million to Eastside charities. Sonnenschein must also hand over five parcels of property in Brooklyn, Ill., where the now-defunct Free Spirit Massage Parlor was located. Sonnenschein, who headed the A to Z Development Corp., admitted to the court that businesses located on his property were engaged in prostitution. The current owners of the sex businesses operating on his property were not charged. Although the property was listed in his estranged wife’s name, Linda Sonnenscbein wasn’t charged, either.

Sonnenschein, 59, has been engaged in the flesh trade since the 1970s, when he operated mobile massage parlors from the backs of vans in St. Louis County. Sonnenschein’s latest bust appears to have been part of a larger federal investigation into prostitution on the Eastside.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Clark indicated that the owners of Free Spirit advertised in Missouri publications from 1994 until 2000, the Post reported. Sonnenschein was indicted because the ads drew customers and prostitutes across state lines, which is a federal crime. The Riverfront Times publishes ads for the Eastside strip clubs and massage parlors every week. The time period investigated by federal prosecutors, 1994-2000, spanned the ownership change at the RFT. Hartmann Publishing, owned by Ray Hartmann, sold the newspaper to the New Times, a Phoenix-based chain, in late 1998.

But Sonnenschein’s trail extends further into the past. In September 1983, Post staffer Ronald Lawrence reported that one of Sonnenschein’s business associates was Fernando “Nando” Bartolotta, a made member of the St. Louis mafia family, then under the leadership of the late Matthew Trupiano. Less than two years later, on April 10, 1985, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported on the federal trial of Bartolotta in East St. Louis. Federal prosecutors had charged Bartolotta and another Missouri resident with conspiring to commit interstate transportation of stolen property. Testifiying against Bartolotta was FBI informant Jesse Stoneking, who the defense claimed had intimidated and entrapped the St. Louis organized crime figure. Bartolotta’s defense attorney was reported in the Globe as Andrew Leonard. An attorney of the same name — Andrew Leonard — was the longtime general counsel for Hartmann Publishing, the original owner of the RFT.

Stoneking, the informant who testified against Bartolotta and dozens of other St. Louis mobsters in the 1980s, died of an apparent sucide in Maricopa County,  Arizona a year ago (2003). The Chicago mob had allegedly put a $100,000 contract out on Stoneking’s life after he became an informant.

A Shot in the Dark

Questions linger in the death of mafia associate and former federal informant  Jesse Stoneking, who allegedly committed suicide in Surprise, Ariz. in January 2003.

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The end came in the desert with a single gunshot. Not a solidarity death, as implied by the
St. Louis Post-Dispatchbut one well attended. A death witnessed and documented, leaving little room for speculation. A simple suicide or so it would seem.
On Sunday Jan. 19, 2003, at 9:45 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, a man identified as Jesse Lee McBride shot himself with a .38-caliber revolver,while seated behind the wheel of a blue1995 Ford Crown Victoria on the outskirts of Surprise, Ariz., according to local police reports. The victim died approximately an hour later at a nearby hospital. Law enforcement authorities closed the case, after a routine investigation. Though the Arizona press ignored the incident, the news media in St. Louis later reported the true identity of the man as Jesse Eugene Stoneking, a 56-year old mobster, who gained fame here as a federal informant in the 1980s. 
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During his long criminal career, Stoneking put together a resume that ran the gamut from extortion to murder. By the late 1970s, he had become the top lieutenant of Eastside rackets boss Art Berne, who took his orders directly from the Chicago Outfit. But after being nabbed as the leader of an interstate car theft ring in 1981, Stoneking rolled over and became an FBI informant.
His undercover work for the bureau ultimately led to federal indictments and a string of convictions of St. Louis area organized crimefigures, including his boss. The mafia reportedly put a $100,000 bounty on his head.
Stoneking spent most of the next two decades running from his past.Despite Stoneking’s reputation and the FBI’s expressed interest in his death,municipal and county officials in Arizona, who had jurisdiction over the case, chose not to expand the inquiry.Their suicide ruling is based primarily on two eyewitness accounts, including one by a Maricopa County deputy.
For this reason among others, the Surprise police deemed Stoneking’s death an open-and-shut case. But however certain the cause of death may be, questions persist. In death, as in life, the truth about Jesse Stoneking remains elusive. 
Accounts vary. Discrepancies abound. Conclusions contradict. In this case, even the name of the victim is listed wrong on the medical examiner’s report. As a result, public understanding of the under-reported case has been limited by a combination of standard police procedures and the media’s failure to provide accurate, independent, follow-up coverage of breaking news.
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The men who were not there
The Post-Dispatch story on Stoneking’sdeath ran on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2003, six days after his suicide. Relying on a Surprise police spokesman’s account of the incident, staff writer Paul Hampel reported that Stoneking had shot himself in his car “in a desolate area on the edge of town.” Among the sparse details included in the story was that the former mobster operated an automobile repossession business and “lived alone” in Wickenburg, Ariz.
Hampel’s story sketched a solitary suicide on a lonely stretch of road at a remote location in the desert. But maps of the area show a different picture. The crime took place in sprawling Maricopa County, near the intersection of two well-traveled roads, which bordered residential developments and golf courses on three sides.
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More importantly, the police and medical examiner’s reports on the suicide show that Stoneking’s last act wasn’t carried out alone, but in the company of a longtime associate and a law enforcement official. Moreover, the car that Stoneking drove that night was registered in the name of his friend, as was the weapon that he allegedly used to kill himself.
The official police version of Stoneking’s death raises questions about the immediate actions taken by law enforcement officers, the methods used in the initial investigation and conclusions drawn afterwards.The following account is based on the reports of the first officers who arrived on the scene and a police interrogation of Stoneking’s friend.
At 9:05 p.m., the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office dispatched Deputy J. Sprong to Loop 303 and Bell Road because of a report that there were large rocks in the roadway. Sprong reported that on his arrival he saw a Ford Crown Victoria driven by Stoneking on the side of the highway with its emergency flashers on. The deputy also reported that two other vehicles, a late model Toyota SUV and a tow truck, were parked 300 yards further down the road.
The tow truck driver advised the deputy that the SUV and the vehicle driven by Stoneking had flat tires from hitting rocks on the highway. The SUV driver gave the same story, according to the report, prompting Sprong to double back and remove the road hazards.
On his return, the SUV and the tow truck(identified as a flat-bed type in other police reports) had departed. Sprong then pulled behind the Ford to ask whether the driver needed assistance. At that point, the passenger, identified as Michael Laurella, got out of the car and walked back to the police vehicle. “I then heard a single gunshot from inside of the vehicle,” Sprong wrote.
Sprong says he then shined a flashlight through the back window and saw blood coming from the right side of the driver’s head. As he ordered Laurella to continue walking towards him, Surprise police officer R. Peck arrived on the scene. Sprong also reported that a third law enforcement officer from the Arizona Department of Public Safety also arrived at the scene about that time.The state officer, according to Sprong, watched Laurella as he and Peck approached the Ford from opposite sides.
“I approached the vehicle on the passenger side as the other Officer (Peck) was on the Driver’s side,”reported Sprong. “We noticed a black revolver pistol next to Jesse’s right leg on the seat. His right hand was on top of the gun. I noticed that Jesse was still breathing but did not respond to my commands. I then reached inside the vehicle and took the gun and secured it in my vehicle.”
Peck’s report of the incident is mostly the same as Sprong’s with exception of a rather subtle but possibly significant omission. He doesn’t mention the arrival of the Public Safety officer at the scene. In Peck’s account, he searches Laurella, Sprong then directs the passenger to stand behind the police vehicle, as Peck presumably returns to his squad car to request another officer. According to Peck: “I checked Michael Laurella for weapons and Deputy Sprong then had him step to the rear of his patrol car. I then requested another officer from dispatch. Deputy Sprong and I then checked on the driver with deputy Sprong advancing on the passenger side and myself on the driver side.”

The fact that Peck didn’t mention the arrival of the third officer in his report could be explained as a simple oversight. It is clear from Sprong’s version of events that he had requested additional back up. His account indicates that three law enforcement officers from different jurisdictions were on the scene only moments after the suicide occurred. But oddly, in his report, Sprong doesn’t identify either of the other officers by name. He does, however, repeatedly refer to the victim as “Jesse; ” and the witness, Laurella, as “Michael,” which in retrospect seems somewhat informal for a police report. 
Sgt. P.H. Riherd of the Surprise PoliceDepartment arrived next and advised Sprong that the shooting took place within the town’s jurisdiction. Sprong reported that he then turned the pistol over to her. Riherd also ordered Peck to close the road to traffic and set up warning flares. (Later, Peck was directed by another officer to drive Laurella home.) In the interim, emergency medical technicians arrived at the scene and Stoneking was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Phoenix, where he died.
By the time J.C. Vance, the investigating detective, arrived on the scene, an hour after the shooting, the body and the weapon had both been removed from the vehicle. Moreover, the first responding officers had been relieved of their duties by others, including Sgt. Riherd and officer G. L. Welch.
Vance reported that he received a call at10:15 p.m. from Sgt. D. Cuker, who wasat the scene, asking him to respond to a“possible homicide or suicide.”When Vance arrived, at 10:45, Welch’s patrol car was parked directly behind the Ford Crown Victoria and the weapon that Stoneking allegedly used to kill himself was on the trunk of the Ford.Laurella was seated in the back of Welch’s patrol car.
Botched
From these official accounts, the investigation appears to have been compromised from the outset. In the hour that it took the detective to arrive, the chain of custody on the weapon had changed two or three times. Two of the three witnesses, both law enforcement officers, had left the scene. And the body had been removed. 
There are other discrepancies. When Vance interrogated Laurella at the scene, Stoneking’s friend told the detective that two other vehicles had pulled over to side of the road with flat tires, not one as Sprong reported. According to Laurella’s account, the other cars were parked in front and behind his car. Laurella indicated that the tow truck driver fixed both of those vehicles’ flat tires.
Instead of also asking for assistance, however, Laurella says that Stoneking said that he preferred they fix their flat themselves.By the time deputy Sprong returned to the scene after clearing the rocks from the road, both of the other vehicles and the tow truck had departed, Laurella said.
During the meantime, nothing in the police reports show that Laurella or Stoneking made any effort to fix their own flat tire in the intervening 30 or 40minutes. They also declined to request assistance from the tow truck driver,according to Laurella’s account.
Instead, they remained seated inside the car. When Sprong pulled up behind them and activated his overhead emergency lights, Laurella said that Stoneking asked him to hold his glasses and then requested that he get out and tell the deputy that help was on the way.
Laurella said he was ten or 12 feet behind the car and had just begun to speak to the deputy when he heard the single gunshot come from inside the Crown Victoria. Laurella says he was then ordered to put his hands on the hood of the patrol car by the deputy. As stated in the other accounts, officer Peck arrived at the scene immediately after the gunshot was fired.
But according to detective Vance’s report, Laurella didn’t mention the unidentified state cop, who deputy Sprong says guarded Laurella while he and officer Peck checked on Stoneking. According to detective Vance’s report:“Laurella further indicated that at this time a Surprise police officer arrived on scene and he was secured in the back of the deputy’s patrol car, while the police approached his vehicle.” Laurella added that “he remained seated in the deputy’s patrol car while other police and medical personnel arrived on scene and treated his friend, Jesse.”Again, the differences in the accounts of the three witnesses could be an innocent oversight in the police reporting. It’s also possible that Laurella, under duress, may have not have recalled the arrival of the third police officer.
Less explainable, though, is how Laurella ended up in possession of Stoneking’s wallet. According to the detective’s report: “Laurella also indicated that he had McBride’s (Stoneking’s) wallet in his pocket as it was given to him by an officer.” 
If Laurella is to be believed, a police officer at a possible homicide scene removed personal effects from a victim,or, at least, from the inside of the vehicle where the shooting took place, and then handed them over to a potential suspect. An evidence technician, who arrived later, took photographs, but by then the crime scene had been disturbed more than once by police and the emergency medical crew. Swab tests of Laurella’shands showed no signs of gunpowder.
But contrary to the Post-Dispatch, story, the medical examiner’s report doesn’t indicate that similar tests were performed on Stoneking’s hands even though they had been bagged at the crime scene expressly for that purpose. Soot was found in the head wound, according to the medical examiner, but no powder tattooing was identified, which is often present when a gunshot is fired at close range. 
In addition, no autopsy was performed, according to the medical examiner’s report.  
The story that wasn’t there
Aside from the Post-Dispatch story that appeared nearly a week after his death,there has only been one reference to Stoneking that appeared in the newspaper since then, a nostalgic column by staffer Pat Gauen that ran in the Illinois zoned edition. A search of Lexis-Nexis database doesn’t show the Jan. 25, 2003 news story was even published. 
* During his interrogation at the scene, Laurella said he and Stoneking lived together in a mobile home in Wickenburg. The Post-Dispatch reported that Stoneking lived alone. 
* Laurella owned the Crown Vic that Stoneking was driving, according to the police reports. The Post-Dispatch reported that it was Stoneking’s car.
* Laurella and deputy Sprong were present at the time of Laurella’s death. The Post- Dispatch implied that
Stoneking died alone.
* The .38-caliber revolver that ended Stoneking’s life belonged to Laurella. The Post-Dispatch didn’t even mention Laurella’s name.
At least one working journalist in St.Louis knew better.
On Jan. 22, veteran TV newsman John Auble of KTVI-Channel 2 in St. Louis called detective Vance and said he believed that suicide victim Jesse McBride was actually Jesse Stoneking, a federal informant.
Vance contacted the U.S. Marshal’s office for confirmation. The next day the detective reported that he picked up the bullet from the medical examiner’s office along with photographs of the autopsy — the autopsy the medical examiner’s report indicates was never conducted. He also wrote that he retrieved a set of latent prints from the corpse and sent all the evidence to the state crime lab for analysis.
On Jan. 27, two days after the Post- Dispatch story ran, FBI agent Frank Brostrom of the St. Louis field office spoke with detective Vance by phone, advising him that he believed McBride was actually Stoneking. Brostrom requested that the Surprise police send him the crime scene photographs and a copy of the police report.
Vance’s police report is dated Jan. 27,2003. It bears no indication of the results of the state crime lab results on the evidence. A later supplemental report filed by detective Sgt. Y. Ybarra indicates that he had received the medical examiner’s final report on April17, 2003, nearly three month’s after Stoneking’s death. The report concludesthat Jesse McBride died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.Officially, Stoneking has never beendeclared dead. For the record, onlyMcBride pulled the trigger. In death, Jesse Stoneking had finally managed to escape his enemies on both sides of the law, including himself.
“They’re going to hit me someday.”
More than a decade before his death in the Arizona desert, Jesse Stoneking prophesized that he would die not by his own hand but as a result of a vengeful execution carried out by the Mafia.“I know they’re going to hit me someday,” Stoneking told former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Ronald Lawrence in 1987.
Lawrence had reported on Stoneking’s career as a federal informant and over the years a bond developed between the two men.The trust that the newspaperman engendered prompted Stoneking to divulge aspects of his life that he had never revealed to anyone else. In 1987,Lawrence interviewed Stoneking over a two-day period at a motel in Central Illinois, which the now-retired reporter published as a magazine article two years later. 
After his usefulness as a federal informant in St. Louis had been expended, Stoneking briefly entered the federal witness protection program, but he chaffed under its constraints. He left the program and began his life on the run, often hiding out in small towns in rural Southern Illinois and Kentucky, using the pseudonym Jesse McBride.
Stoneking also spent stretches of time in Arizona, where he operated an automobile repossession business. During the intervening years, Lawrence met sporadically with Stoneking and began writing a biography of him. They sometimes had lunch at the Our Lady of the Snows Shrine near Belleville, Ill.
Later, they met clandestinely at a house in Chester, Ill. At that particular meeting, about a year-and-a-half before his death, Stoneking expressed apprehension about plans to return toArizona. Lawrence last saw Stoneking in 2001, when he visited him in Arizona. Stoneking’s fears had not subsided.
“He was paranoid,” says Lawrence.“Really paranoid at times. … His cover was blown.”There is little doubt that the police knew who he was. In the small town of Wickenburg, where he resided, Stoneking’s past was no secret. After his death, Surprise Police Department spokesman Scott Bailey, a Wickenburg native, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “We’d see him driving around town and say, `There goes the Mafia guy.’”

The Road to Perdition
Jesse Stoneking wasn’t born a hardened criminal, but by adolescence he already had begun developing anti-social tendencies. At 14, the former choirboy was expelled from Catholic elementary school in St. Louis for bringing a pellet gun to class.
Soon a juvenile judge placed him on probation for a string of burglaries, which netted $20 in coins. After his parents’ bitter divorce, Stoneking lashed out by stealing a car and going on a joyride, earning him a three-year hitch in reform school, a virtual criminal training ground. In 1964, his prior juvenile record resulted in a stiff sentence, this time for the minor offense of under-age drinking. A St. Louis County judge ordered him to serve two months in jail and meted out a two-year probation.
By this early stage in his life, the dye had been cast. The rebellious youth, who had taken a few wrong turns, was now on the irreversible path of a career criminal. Stoneking adopted his grandfather, a one-time bank robber, as his role model. His commanding size and domineering attitude served his purposes well,eventually attracting the attention of Art Berne, the Eastside rackets boss, who recruited him into the Outfit. Within afew years, he had become Berne’s number one enforcer. Berne had inherited his criminal empire from the late Frank “Buster” Wortman. From the 1940s until his death in 1968, Wortman had reigned over prostitution, gambling and labor racketeering, including control over Pipefitters Local 562 in St. Louis. Wortman’s organization, which Berne took over, answered, in turn, to the Chicago Outfit, which by the late-1970s was controlled by Jackie Cerone and Joey Aiuppa.

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Stoneking earned and kept Berne’s loyalty by doing his bidding. On Oct. 22,1978, for instance, mob associate Donald Ellington was found dead in a remote area of Jefferson County, Mo. with two .38-caliber bullets in his head.Police arrested Stoneking as a suspect in the killing, but he was never charged. Rumors were that the dead man had incurred the mob boss’ wrath, in part due to the mistreatment of Berne’smistress, a prostitute. Stoneking allegedly carried out the vendetta on Berne’s orders. 
Stoneking’s prowess in the Outfit grew the next year, when he killed two men in a shootout at the Kracker Box tavern outside Collinsville, Ill. In September 1980, a jury convicted Stoneking of the murders, but St. Clair County Judge Stephen Kernan set aside the convictions, after the defense claimed new witnesses had come forward.
In a plea bargain, Stoneking later pleaded guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter and received probation.Then-prosecuting attorney John Baracevic said he agreed to the deal because the prosecution lacked witnesses. Killing two men in St. Clair County, Illinois in1979 had netted Stoneking a lighter sentence than he received in St. Louis County for under-age drinking 15 years earlier.It appeared that Stoneking’s mob connections were taking care of him.
During these years, the mob provided him a series of well-paying, no-show jobs with the operating engineers, pipefitters and laborers unions. But when the feds busted him in 1981, his fortunes quickly changed. A federal grand jury in Benton, Ill.indicted Stoneking for operating a multi-state car theft ring. Stoneking pleaded guilty and received a three-year federal sentence.
 
Stoneking’s federal bust occurred in the wake of Anthony Giordano’s death. For decades, St. Louis’ Mafia boss, with the backing of the Chicago Outfit, had managed to cobble together an alliance of competing organized crime factions. After his death, a power struggle immediately developed, beginning with 
the September 1980 car bombing of Southside Syrian gangster Jimmy Michaels.
The loose alliance had come unraveled, allowing the FBI to make inroads into the previously impregnable inner sanctum of the mob’s hierarchy. Aging Mafia underboss John Vitale, who had ascended to the Mafia’s top post following Giordano death, became anFBI informant and falsely implicatedStoneking in the Michaels bombing.
Roll Over Test
His fingering left Stoneking feeling doubly betrayed. Berne had let him take the fall in the car theft bust and also not retaliated against Vitale’s accusations. Stoneking decided to roll over. In return for his early prison release, he, too, agreed to become an FBI informant. Between October 1982 and August1984, Stoneking secretly taped more than 130 conversations with Berne and dozens of other mobsters, including Matthew Trupiano, who had been installed as the St. Louis Mafia boss following Vitale’s death.
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As a result of Stoneking’s undercover work, Berne and Trupiano were indicted on federal charges in connection with a scheme to coerce protection payments from Eastside massage parlor kingpin Dennis W. Sonnenschein. At the time, Sonnenschein was a business partner of Nando Bartolotta, who had been inducted into the St. Louis Mafia with Trupiano. (Stoneking’s testimony would also help send Bartolotta to prison on unrelated charges.)
As recently as last year, Sonnenschein, the brothel operator, received a one-year prison sentence for not cooperating with a federal grand jury inquiry into the interstate promotion of prostitution by Eastside massage parlors that solicited business in the St. Louis Riverfront Times between 1994 and2000. Berne pleaded guilty to the extortion scheme and received a six-year sentence. Trupiano, on the other hand, went to trial and was acquitted of the same charges.
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Evidence and testimony introduced at the 1986 trial provided details of mob plans that otherwise may have neve rbeen publicly revealed. For starters, FBI agent Terry L.Bohnemeier testified that Stoneking continued to receive $1,600 a month for his work as a federal informant. In return, Stoneking supplied the bureau with tapes of talks in which Berne and Trupiano discussed extorting money from Eastside topless club owners.
 According to the tapes, Trupiano intended to have Bartolotta, his soldier, pressure Sonnenschein into paying protection money out of profits that the two partners made from the Golden Girls topless club. Berne, on the other hand,wanted to bomb PT’s, a competing topless club in Centreville, as a means of convincing the owners to pay up. 
During a car trip to Chicago, Berneexpressed concerns about the risks of extorting money from “pimps” such as Sonnenschein:  “You watch, these pimps will spread it around who the Mafia is,”Berne warned Stoneking. “The G(government) will be there.” While he continued to voice his suspensions about the reliability of pimps, his top lieutenant sat next to him in the front seat wearing a wire.
In August 1984, Stoneking left St. Louisin the dead of night. He entered the witness protection program in Boston, but bolted after only a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, the Mafia had placed a$100,000 price tag on his head.
For the next two decades, while his estranged wife and children disappeared into the witness protection program, he remained at large hop-scotching across the country, living in small towns in three different states.
Stoneking remarried and made efforts to settle down, but glances in his rearview mirror always kept him moving. His last glance came in January 2003 onthe outskirts of Surprise, Ariz., when a squad car rolled up behind him as he sat on the shoulder of a highway behind the wheel of a friend’s disabled Ford Crown Victoria. With the emergency lights flashing in the desert night, he put a .38-caliber revolver to his temple and pulled the trigger. At least that’s the official version.Reporter Lawrence, Stoneking’s confidant, tends to believe it.
“I was pretty close to him,” says Lawrence, adding that Stoneking had turned reflective in his later years, often reading and quoting from the Bible. “He had changed. He didn’t like what he had did.”

The Last Joyride
If Jesse Stoneking had ended his life alone, pulling the trigger in the lonely desert night, as the
St. Louis Post- Dispatch implied, perhaps the subsequent investigation by Arizona police would have been more thorough.
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As a federal informer in the 1980s, Stoneking, after all, had been responsible for sending more than a score of St. Louis organized crime figures to prison. Legend has it that the Mafia placed a $100,000 bounty on his head. In the intervening years, he managed to escape at least one assassination attempt and suspected that others had plotted against him since then.
With the passage of time, his name fadedfrom the headlines, but Stoneking remained haunted by his past, moving from state to state, living under his assumed name. Nothing contained in the police reports indicates why Stoneking and Laurella had traveled from the mobile home they shared in Wickenburg, Ariz. to Surprise,a distance of more than 40 miles.The police reports show that the Crown Victoria was registered to Laurella, and the suicide weapon also belonged to him. 
At the crime scene, Laurella told the investigating detective that Stoneking had not exhibited any outward signs of depression in the last several days. He added that Stoneking had taken the gun from his dresser drawer without his knowledge.
Authorities impounded the car, but Laurella was not held for further questioning and was driven home by a Surprise police officer. As with many suicides, the cause, as well as the circumstances of the death, remain puzzling, and, in this case, pieces of the puzzle seem to be missing.According to the official record, two men in their 50s, both with checkered pasts, decide to go on a joyride in the desert on a winter’s night for no apparent reason. After having a flat tire, one of them blows his brains out, as if on cue, exactly at the moment when a law enforcement officer arrives on the scene.
St. Louis sources, with knowledge of Stoneking’s criminal career, don’tnecessarily question the suicide ruling. For years, Stoneking displayed paranoid tendencies, fits of fantasy and wild mood swings, they say. He claimed to have colon cancer. He struggled through two broken marriages, while grappling to come to terms with the heinous deeds of his earlier life. Those close to his story also say, however, that it is a life he may not have altogether given up.
In the mid-1980s, Stoneking, of his own volition, withdrew from the federal witness protection program, after only a couple weeks. But he, nonetheless, came back to the Midwest with a different name – Jesse Lee McBride and the credentials to prove it.
In later years, Stoneking, using his new identity, ran a Wickenburg automobile repossession firm, a marginally legitimate business that suited his past experience as a car thief. In retrospect, it seems apropos that Stoneking’s last images of life came from behind the wheel of a big sedan, watching a flatbed tow truck come and go, and, finally, seeing the glare of the squad car’s flashing lights in the rearview mirror.The possibility exists that, at the time of his death, Stoneking was still working both sides of the law. As veteran St.Louis reporter John Auble says, “it would have been hard to get out of that kind of work.”
Blow Out
Laurella and Stoneking left their trailer in Wickenburg at about 7:30 p.m.ostensibly to visit a friend who lived nearby. From there, Stoneking drove Laurella’s car southeast for the better part on an hour through Maricopa County on U.S. 60, reaching the outskirts of Surprise sometime after 9:00p.m. At that point, he hit a rock on Loop 303 just north of Bell Road and had a blow out. 
It is unclear when Laurella, the last person to see Stoneking alive, first came to know him. Both men were divorced,and their ex-wives and families lived in Wickenburg. Until a year or two earlier, Laurella’s family owned and operated a motel, cafe and gas station in the small town.But the two men’s interests extended beyond Wickenburg’s confines. Laurella and Stoneking not only shared the trailer, they had also resided at the same address in Chester, Ill. the previous year.

Blurred Lines
Since fleeing St. Louis in 1985, Stoneking had lived under the assumed identity of Jesse McBride. McBride’s Social Security number was issued between 1984 and 1985 in Hawaii.  But there is no proof that Stoneking, in the guise of McBride, had ever lived in such an exotic locale.
Instead, it appears that Stoneking, aka, McBride, lived briefly in South Portland, Maine, which is perhaps where he did his brief stint in the federal witness protection program and acquired his new name. A source with knowledge of Stoneking’s whereabouts during this period places him at another New England location —Boston.
At the time, the Boston field office of the FBI was notoriously corrupt. Congressional hearings in 2002 revealed that Boston FBI agents, including the late H. Paul Rico, had engaged in criminal activities with Boston organized crime informants for decades, including murders in five states from Massachusetts to California.
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Regardless of whether Stoneking had even an indirect knowledge of these nefarious activities, the twisted relationship of federal law enforcement and organized crime in Boston, which continued through the 1990s, is a clear indication that lines had been blurred.
Stoneking had cast himself into a world fraught with ambiguities and shaded with deceit. After returning to the Midwest, Stoneking lived his secret life in Paducah, Ky., Collinsville, Brookport and Chester, Ill. In the mid-1990s, he lived briefly in Black Canyon, Ariz. and more recently Phoenix and Wickenburg,where his second wife and children resided. Somehow he managed to provide for himself and his family. Whether he continued to bolster his income through crime or working as a federal informant remains uncertain.
There are signs that he had changed. He operated an apparent legitimate business. He took solace in reading and quoting the Bible. He stayedout of jail. Still, on the night that he died, Stoneking had decided to carry a gun.
At the time of his suicide, he had already outlived the two most prominent mobsters whom he had betrayed. Both St. Louis Mafia chief Matthew Trupiano and Eastside rackets boss Art Berne were dead. A third Mafioso, Nando Bartolotta, had been sent back to prison for bank robbery. Despite the changing of the guard, the Eastside sex trade, which Trupiano and Berne had sought to extort, still thrives.
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More recently, massage parlor kingpin Dennis W. Sonnenschein, one of their extortion targets and Bartolotta’s former partner, pleaded guilty in East St. Louis to an obstruction of justice charge for withholding knowledge of the Eastside prostitution rackets from a federal grand jury. Sonnenschein is now serving a one-year sentence and was ordered to pay$1.25 million in fines and restitution.The grand jury investigation centered on the solicitations of prostitution across state lines through ads placed in the St. Louis Riverfront Times from 1994 to2000. In 1998, New Times Inc. (nowVillage Voice Media) purchased the RFT.

Sonnenschein’s bust related to the Free Spirit massage parlor in Brooklyn, Ill.,which closed in 2000. But the brothel operator also held other business interests. His now-ex-wife Linda Sonnenschein, for example, was listed in 2002 as the registered agent of Platinum Inc. of Brooklyn, where the Platinum Club, a topless bar is located. Platinum Inc., in turn, owns and operates Boxers‘n’ Briefs, a gay dance club in Centreville, Ill., according to the city liquor license. Entertainment IllinoisInc. of Scottsdale, Ariz. owns the property where Boxers is located.
PT’s strip joint in Brooklyn, Ill.

Though Stoneking’s federal informant status seemingly ended with the federal sentencing of Berne, his former boss, in1986, there are hints that it continued. FBI reports on interviews conducted in June 1991, obtained through Freedom of Information Act, provide details on the St. Louis mob, including Berne and Trupiano’s activities. Though the name of the FBI informant who gave the information has been redacted, it is clear that the person had close ties to Berne in particular. Stoneking, of course, was Berne’s top lieutenant.

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The reports outline the hierarchy of St.Louis organized crime and spell out its control of certain labor unions, including Pipefitters Local 562 of which Berne was a member. Stoneking was also associated with the pipefitters and other unions during his criminal career. According to the FBI informant, control of Local 562 rested in the hands of the Chicago Outfit. The informant also stated that Berne had told him that Rallo Construction Co. handled financial and property transactions for the Chicago Outfit in St. Louis.

In 1991, Stoneking’s name surfaced again, during an investigation of then-St.Louis Teamster boss Bobby Sansone. A federal monitor overseeing the corrupt union had charged Sansone with not ousting Mafia member Nino Parrino from his position with Local 682. St.Louis political leaders, including then-Mayor Vincent C. Shoemehl Jr. the late St. Louis County Executive George“Buzz Westfall and former U.S. Sen.Thomas Eagleton weighed in on Sansone’s behalf, but he was,nevertheless, removed from office. The source of Parrino’s ties to Mafia had been a secretly recorded conversation taped by Stoneking. Five years after skipping town, Stoneking was still making waves.

In 2000, career criminal Richard Beck, who was seeking to cut a deal on a parole violation, asked to be interviewed by the FBI Agent Frank Brostrom of the St. Louis field office conducted the interview at the Franklin County jail in Union, Mo., where Beck was being held. Like Stoneking, the FBI initially suspected Beck may have been involved in St. Louis’ gang war in the early1980s.

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In many ways, Beck fit the profile better than Stoneking. He was a notorious bank extortionist and bomber. During his rambling recollections of his sordid career, Beck dropped the names of many criminal associates, including St. Louis mobsters John Vitale, Trupiano, Berne and Bartolotta. He told Brostrom that Trupiano and Bartolotta had been inducted into the Mafia during the same ceremony, which occurred at a St. Charles, Mo. pizzeria.

Beck’s efforts to belatedly cooperate with the FBI failed, and he will likely spend the rest of his life in federal prison. Last year, in a letter to an historical researcher, Beck wrote that “Stoneking was a pathological liar, who framed several guys to drum up some business for the FBI.” Beck referred to Stoneking as a “real slimeball,” and claimed that he had witnessed him beat his wife. “This guy is dead and where he belongs,” Beck added.

Among those who disagree is retired St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Ronald Lawrence, who maintains he, too, knew Stoneking well. Lawrence says he tested Stoneking’s veracity many times by asking him questions to which he already knew the answer. In each case, he says, Stoneking told the truth.

The real truth about Stoneking is still an open question, one that probably will never be answered. But there is little doubt that Jesse Lee McBride and Jesse Eugene Stoneking were one and the same person. Eight days after his suicide, FBI agent Brostrom, the same agent who interviewed Beck nearly three years earlier, called up a detective for the Surprise Police Department and told him as much. He then requested the latent prints, crime scene photos and police reports.

Phoenix Rising

donbolles

Thirty-eight years after a car bomb killed journalist Don Bolles, doubts remain as to who was responsible for the murder

 BY C.D. STELZER

first published in the Riverfront Times (St. Louis), June 11, 1997

By 11:30 a.m., as Don Bolles walked across the parking lot of the Clarendon Hotel in Phoenix, the temperature had already begun to climb to a high of 101 degrees that Tuesday — June 2, 1976.

Bolles, who had lived in the desert city for 14 years, was also accustomed to another kind of heat. As a journalist for the Arizona Republic , his reporting on local corruption had won him not only accolades but death threats. When he began backing his Datsun out of its parking space, six sticks of dynamite exploded directly below the driver’s seat. Bolles died 11 days later.

Witnesses at the bomb scene told police Bolles had remained conscious long enough to say: “They finally got me. The Mafia. Emprise. Find John (Harvey) Adamson.”

Ultimately, Adamson confessed to the murder. The former race dog breeder admitted luring the 47-year-old Bolles to the hotel under a pretense and then canceling the meeting. But the other two parties implicated by Bolles’ dying words were never thoroughly investigated by the Phoenix police even though the reporter was known to have provided congressional testimony in 1972 linking organized crime to Emprise, the Buffalo, N.Y. sports concessions conglomerate.

After more than 20 years, doubts still remain as to who instigated Bolles’ assassination. There is one certainty: the murder created a patron saint for a generation of otherwise iconoclastic investigative reporters. Martyrdom is not, however, the most lasting legacy that Bolles left. His work remains a guide into the unchartered underworld, a compass pointing beyond Phoenix to other cities, including St. Louis and Detroit.

Following Bolles’ death, more than 30 journalists from the then-newly formed Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) group arrived in Phoenix to carry out their late colleague’s work. The IRE will reconvene in Phoenix this week for the organization’s 20th annual conference. Among those expected to attend is retired Pulitzer-prize-winning reporter Bob Greene of Newsday , leader of the 1976 IRE team .

On their first visit, Greene and the other reporters spent a total of six months focusing their attention on corruption in Arizona. Their cumulative work resulted in a 23-part series — 100,000 words in length — which began running in newspapers nationwide on March 13, 1977.

“I still feel very proud to have been part of it, because I don’t think it is something that will ever be done again. says Jerry Uhrammer, who took a leave from the Eugene (Ore.) Guardian-Register to participate in the effort. “It was unique. We were all working with a common purpose,” says the recently retired 64-year-old reporter.

Members of the Arizona Project, as IRE dubbed it, agreed not to investigate the Bolles murder itself in deference to the ongoing police inquiry. Instead, the team chose to expose the kinds of corruption that garnered Bolles’ interest before his death. The laundry list included: land fraud, gambling, extortion, drug trafficking, prostitution and the exploitation of illegal aliens.

From the beginning, the project had critics. The New York Times and Washington Post opposed the idea, citing among other things a hesitancy to engage in “pool journalism.” Sen. Barry Goldwater, a target of the IRE team, likened the reporters to outside agitators and refused to be interviewed. Inside IRE itself, dissension centered on the team’s cooperative relationship with law enforcement agencies, including trading information with the FBI and the police.

Don Devereux, another Arizona Project reporter, feels the IRE team may have trusted the authorities too much. “We accepted very uncritically their scenario. In retrospect, we were very naive to get lead around. It really isn’t something that we should be running around congratulating ourselves about,” says Devereux of the IRE investigation.

Devereux, who still lives in Phoenix, joined the IRE team as a stringer for an alternative weekly in New Mexico. After the Arizona Project folded, he spent most of the next decade digging deeper into the Bolles case as a reporter for the Scottsdale (Ariz.) Progress. By 1980, his reporting helped spur the Arizona Supreme Court to reverse the original convictions of two of the men found guilty of the murder. In a subsequent retrial, one defendant was acquitted and the other sentenced again.

“My feeling is that both of those men were patsies in this case,” says the 63-year-old Devereux . “One guy is still in prison for the Bolles’ homicide, who I believed was framed. It perturbs some of us out here that that kind of miscarriage of justice can continue.

“The biggest disservice we did to Bolles was not paying more attention to him,” says Devereux. “His dying words were words we should have glommed onto a little more seriously, because when he was lying on the pavement he said: `Adamson, Emprise, Mafia. … Emprise was almost Bolles’ white whale. He was obsessed by them. …”

Emprise was, indeed, a big fish, with 162 subsidiaries in the United States and abroad, employing more than 70,000 people. Formed in 1915 by the Jacobs brothers of Buffalo, the concessions firm had expanded from selling peanuts at baseball games to an ownership role in professional sports. Some of Emprise’s partners in these far-flung ventures had long criminal records. In Detroit, for example, Emprise held a stake in the Hazel Park race track with known Mafia figures.

Bolles’ first brush with the Buffalo-based corporation came in 1969, after a group of independent Arizona race-dog breeders filed suit against Funk’s Greyhound Racing Circuit, alleging that the track operators were trying to put them out of business. The Funk family shared ownership in Arizona’s six dog tracks with Emprise and were indebted to their out-of-town partner.

Bolles found the Funks were influencing the Arizona Racing Commission. After exposing this in a series of stories, three racing commissioners were forced to resign. The Funks hired a private investigator to tap Bolles’ telephone, and obtain other confidential information. Both sides filed law suits: the Funks suing the Arizona Republic and Bolles for libel, and Bolles suing them for invasion of privacy. Despite the litigation, Bolles continued to speak out.

By the time he testified before the House Select Committee on Crime on May 16,1972, Bolles had been researching Emprise for three years. Asked by a congressman what he had discovered, Bolles answered:”We found there was a continual association with organized crime figures over a 35 year period.”

In late April 1972. only a few weeks before Bolles’ congressional appearance, a federal jury in Los Angeles had convicted Emprise and fined it $10,000 for concealing the Mafia’s ownership of the Frontier Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Mafia figures convicted along with the concessions firm included the late Anthony Giordano of St. Louis, and Anthony J. Zerilli of Detroit.

Although the case dates back a quarter of a century, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Detroit last year charged Zerilli and other surviving Detroit mobsters with a multi-count racketeering indictment that includes their illegal ownership of the Frontier and other casinos in Las Vegas.

The 1972 Emprise conviction led several states to initiate their own inquiries. In Illinois, the racing board subpoenaed financial records of Sportservice Inc., an Emprise subsidiary that operated concessions at Cahokia Downs race track. In Missouri, the state liquor-control supervisor examined Sportservice’s operations in St. Louis and Kansas City. But Emprise attorneys successfully defended the company against these charges except in Oregon, where the firm lost its liquor license.

Following its federal conviction, Emprise Corp. dissolved, and its many subsidiaries were placed under Delaware North Cos. Inc. The paper transfer, however, kept the assets of the privately-held corporation in the hands of Jeremy Jacobs, a son of one of the founders. During his reign, Jacobs has guarded the company’s reputation by suing detractors and hiring a former FBI agent as security director. The unrelenting litigious assault against former Rep. Sam Steiger of Arizona, the most outspoken of Emprise’s critics, eventually resulted in the congressman publicly expressing confidence in the concessions firm.

Delaware North continues to dominate sports concessions in several major league cities and owns numerous parimutuel horse and dog racing tracks. In Bolles’ home state, the company currently operates dog racing tracks under the name of Arizona Greyhound Racing Inc. It also holds the concession rights for the Phoenix Suns basketball team through Arizona Sportservice Inc. The corporation’s other interests range from ownership of the Boston Bruins hockey team to a lucrative concessions contract with the National Parks Service.

In St. Louis, Sportservice still holds the concessions contract at Busch Memorial Stadium, home of the baseball Cardinals. During this year’s Missouri legislative session, the Cardinals owners lobbied successfully for the creation of a sports authority that will examine the possibility of allowing the baseball club and Sportservice to divert millions of dollars in taxes into a special fund to pay for stadium upkeep. The sports authority is also expected to look into the potential for using the same tax abatement method as a financing mechanism for building a new ballpark sometime in the future.

This is not the first time Sportservice’s name has been mentioned in regard to the stadium or other professional sports facilities in St. Louis. The week before the Crime Committee heard Bolles’ testimony in 1972, it listened to Capt. Earl T. Halveland, then the commander of the intelligence unit of the St. Louis Police Department. Halveland told how the Emprise subsidiary originally helped finance Busch Memorial Stadium.

“Sportservice Inc. purchased the concession equipment that was installed in the stadium. This was reported to be a million dollars worth of equipment for the concession stands,” said Halveland. ” (In return,) they (Sportservice) received a 30-year contract for the concessions and guaranteed … Civic Center Redevelopment Corp. — which developed the stadium project — $400,000 (per year).” It doesn’t take a fiduciary to ascertain that the 30-year, $12 million guarantee provided a footing for the stadium’s financial structure.

One beneficiary of the Sportservice contract with Civic Center was Giordano, the St. Louis Mafia boss, who owned Automatic Cigarette Sales Co. Sportservice and its sister company, Missouri Sportservice, granted Automatic Cigarette Sales the rights to place cigarette vending machines not only at the stadium but at the municipally-owned Kiel Auditorium and the Arena, then home of the St. Louis Blues hockey team.

In 1967, Emprise lent Sid Salomon Jr., then the owner of the Arena and the Blues, $1.5 million, after Sportservice landed a 10-year concessions contract at the facility. When that contract expired, Sportservice played a hand in the complicated 1977 sale of the Arena to Ralston Purina Co., which had bought the Blues earlier that year. As a part of the $8.8 million Arena deal, Ralston paid off the mortgage holder and a partnership that included Sportservice. After Ralston acquired the Arena, it leased the building back to Dome Associates Inc., another company linked to the Buffalo-based sports concessions firm.

By 1977, Bolles was dead, but Sportservice’s liaisons in St. Louis and elsewhere still seemed to mimic the patterns he explained to the Crime Committee five years earlier. Bolles then recounted how he had traveled around the country rummaging through newspaper morgues in an effort to understand the scope of the Emprise empire. He described how Emprise loans locked professional sports franchises into unbreakable long-term contracts. He outlined how the Cleveland mob borrowed money from Sportservice dating back to 1937. He explained how Moe Dalitz, a leader of the Cleveland crime organization, reciprocated, lending Emprise $250,000 in 1958.

Bolles cautioned “that Emprise has … had a gradual shift from a concession to an ownership position in the tracks and elsewhere through the use of high-interest loans. … If they are in ownership positions, they … are in a position to effect the outcome of the contests. I just feel that it is absolutely essential, with millions of dollars changing hands on private bets and otherwise on every major sports contest in this nation, that we be absolutely assured of the fact that we have clean, honest sports.”

The reporter’s caveat dovetailed with Halveland’s testimony. The intelligence unit commander told the panel that St. Louis bookmakers — who were close associates of Giordano — received their daily sports betting line from Las Vegas “at one location formerly owned by Missouri Sportservice Inc.”

More important perhaps is Halveland’s theory on how Giordano bankrolled his own move into the Las Vegas gambling scene:

“A substantial sum of money was received by Giordano … in 1965 through the sale of property at 508 Market St., St. Louis, Mo.,” said Halveland. “This building formerly housed a B-girl-type juice joint tavern. This property was sold to the Civic Center Redevelopment Corp., which subsequently constructed the St. Louis baseball stadium in this area. … He (Giordano) is then known to have made visits to Las Vegas, Nev., and the Frontier Hotel incident began developing just after this time.”

Halveland’s testimony — which went virtually unreported at the time — indicates that an illegal St. Louis gambling wire service operated at a site previously owned by an Emprise subsidiary. In addition, the St. Louis police officer testified that Giordano may have received some of the money he secretly invested in the Frontier by selling property to Civic Center, the stadium developer. Emprise, who held the concessions contract with the stadium, was convicted of shielding Giordano’s and the Detroit Mafia’s joint ownership of the casino.

The St. Louis Mafia leader and heroin trafficker known used legitimate businessmen to further his casino interests. Halveland told the Crime Committee that “Giordano secured a loan from a St. Louis area restaurant operator.”

Actually, Frank Cusumano, the St. Louis restauranteur, made three unsecured loans to Giordano totaling $50,000 between 1964 and 1968, according to Cusumano’s testimony at the 1972 federal trial in Los Angeles. He wasn’t the only St. Louisan that provided backing for Giordano, however.

Real estate tycoon Anthony Sansone Jr. testified he had withdrawn a $150,000 investment in the Frontier, after being notified he would be required to apply for a Nevada gaming license. Federal prosecutors alleged Sansone, a business partner of former St. Louis Mayor Alfonso J. Cervantes, traveled to Las Vegas with Giordano to make the investment. Sansone is the son-in-law of the late James Michaels Sr., then the Syrian crime boss of St. Louis’ and a close ally of Giordano.

That Emprise was convicted with Mafiosa from both St. Louis and Detroit is probably not a coincidence. Three of Giordano’s sisters married Detroit Mafia members, according to Halveland’s testimony. But organized crime ties linking the two cities with Arizona date back even further.

During Prohibition, Peter and Thomas (Yonnie) Licavoli, Joseph Bommarito and other St. Louis gangsters migrated to Detroit to act as gunmen for the Purple Gang, a group of notorious Jewish bootleggers. Later, Peter Licavoli moved to Tucson in 1944 at the request of mobsters Bugsy Siegel and Moe Dalitz. At the time of Bolles’ death, Peter Licavoli Sr. shared power in Arizona with Joe Bonanno, the exiled boss of one of New York’s ruling Mafia families.

This is the milieu Bolles inhabited by the mid-1970s.

Profits from illicit alcohol sales during Prohibition helped establish a new multi-ethnic criminal cartel in the U.S. After repeal in 1933, the same crime groups began financing the nascent casino industry in Las Vegas, and dominating other rackets throughout the Southwest, often with the paid cooperation of local politicians and law enforcement authorities.

Beginning in 1946, Licavoli, the Arizona mob boss, operated an illegal gambling wire service with Kemper Marley Sr., the wealthiest liquor distributor in the state. Later, Marley’s United Liquor Co. supplied Emprise dog tracks with 10 percent of their alcoholic beverages. During the 1974 Arizona gubernatorial race, Marley was the biggest contributor to Gov. Raul Castro’s campaign. After the election, the Castro administration appointed Marley to the state racing commission, but he was forced to resign because of adverse publicity from stories written by Bolles.

The Phoenix police theorized that Marley wanting revenge enlisted the help of local contractor Max Dunlap. Dunlap then allegedly hired Adamson to carry out the bombing. Adamson claimed that plumber James Robison assisted him.

Over the years, Dunlap and Robison have maintained their innocence. Dunlap remains incarcerated. Although, Robison gained acquittal in a retrial, he is still awaiting release from prison on a related charge. Meanwhile, the state paroled Adamson last year, and he disappeared into the federal witness protection program.

he Phoenix police never even arrested Marley, who died in 1990.
Devereux, the Scottsdale Progress reporter who covered the case, believes Adamson falsely implicated Dunlap and Robison as a part of a plea bargain to lessen his own sentence. The police hastily granted Adamson associate Neal Roberts, an attorney, immunity in the case for his cooperation. Roberts promulgated the theory that Marley, a friend of Dunlap’s, was behind the murder. During the trial, Dunlap testified that he had unwittingly delivered $5,800 to Adamson at the request of Roberts. The Arizona Supreme Court overturned the original trial court’s convictions because defense attorneys weren’t allowed to cross-exam Adamson, denying the defendants their constitutional right to confront their accuser.

In short, the police investigation and the state’s prosecution both missed the mark. “I don’t think it was incompetence,” says Devereux. “I think this was a deliberately misdirected investigation and prosecution. And I think the press … bought into it. Not out of any corruption on their part, just out of naivete.” The state’s case was handled by the office of then Arizona Attorney General Bruce Babbitt, who would later ascend to the governorship and is now the Secretary of the Interior in the Clinton administration.

“We made assumptions that Bruce Babbitt and the leadership of the Phoenix police department were in fact honest people,” says Devereux. “I think we were mistaken.”

Devereux places the blame for the murder on the late Bradley Funk, a close friend of Roberts, the immunized attorney. Funk was one of the local partners in Emprise’s Arizona dog track operations. “Bolles was using Bradley Funk’s ex-wife as one of his key information sources on the dog tracks,” says Devereux. “As a consequence of the divorce from Bradley, she was going to court every two years to adjust child support payments. … Bolles would give her lists of things that he wanted to get in the ways of documents, and she would add them to her (legal) motions. … I think Bradley got tired of his ex-wife and Bolles playing this game with him.”

No one really knows for sure what transpired excect perhaps Adamson, the only person who ever admitted having anything to do with Bolles’ murder. The reporter’s confessed killer lives somewhere now under a new identity with federal protection. More than likely he is far from dry winds that descend from the Superstition Mountains across the parking lots of Phoenix and all those glinting windshields and scorching vinyl seats.