Las Vegas Sun

October 30, 2014

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Columnist Jeff German: Jailhouse notebook reveals mob plots

Jeff German is the Sun's senior investigative reporter. Reach him at german@ lasvegassun.com or 259-4067.

A proposed hit on John Gotti's son, a plan to kill Ted Binion and details of the slaying of Herbie Blitzstein all are contained in jailhouse notes Ron Mortensen once secretly gave FBI agents.

Mortensen, a 35-year-old former Metro cop convicted in the December 1996 drive-by shooting of Daniel Mendoza, sat down with FBI agents at the Clark County Detention Center just weeks after his May 1997 trial.

Mortensen, now serving two life prison terms without the possibility of parole, gave agents 23 pages of handwritten notes (copies of which I've obtained) detailing his discussions with Antone Davi, who was awaiting trial in Blitzstein's shooting death. Blitzstein was a confidante of slain Chicago mob kingpin Anthony Spilotro.

The conversations between Mortensen and Davi occurred between June 9 and July 3 of 1997 while the two men were cellmates.

FBI agents Charles Maurer and Michael Howey, both prominently involved in the Blitzstein murder investigation, went to see Mortensen on July 14, 1997, records show.

"Mortensen said Davi almost immediately began to trust him and thereafter told Mortensen about his, Davi's, criminal activities," the agents wrote in a July 18, 1997, two-page report. "Mortensen would subsequently write down the things that Davi told him when Davi was not around or when he could disguise his activities as if he were writing a letter."

Prosecutors had planned to call Mortensen to the witness stand at Davi's April 1999 trial in federal court, but the 29-year-old Davi pleaded guilty just before the start of the trial.

The other Blitzstein shooter, Richard Freidman, also ended up pleading guilty. So did Alfred Mauriello, the reputed mob associate charged with hiring Davi and Freidman to kill Blitzstein in a scheme by the Los Angeles Mafia to take over street rackets here.

In his notes, Mortensen said Davi told him a rival New York crime family was "arranging through Al Mauriello to put a hit on Gotti's son, and Davi and Freidman were going to do that one, too." Gotti is the jailed boss of New York's Gambino crime family.

Davi also told Mortensen that he had informed FBI agents of a proposed "hit on Teddy Binion" a week before his house was sprayed with bullets in June 1997.

Mortensen said Davi reported that Binion was offering Mauriello $50,000 to kill his sister, Horseshoe Club owner Becky Behnen. Davi and Friedman were going to be directed to do that hit, Mortensen said.

But Binion, Davi told Mortensen, was not aware that the mob associates also wanted to kill him so that they could gain access to millions they thought were stashed away in his 2408 Palomino Lane home.

Binion was found dead at his house more than a year later, on Sept. 17, 1998. His girlfriend, Sandy Murphy, and her reported lover, Rick Tabish, are charged in his slaying.

Davi also said that Club Paradise, an adult cabaret on South Paradise Road, was a hangout for underworld figures in 1997. At the time, the club was run by Sam Cecola, who was alleged to have ties to the Chicago mob.

All of the "heavyweights of the local Mafia" were meeting at the topless club, Davi told Mortensen.

Davi, an ex-boxer who said he suffered brain injuries, referred to himself as part of a 10-member Las Vegas crew affiliated with New York and Los Angeles crime families.

He described how he and Freidman broke into Blitzstein's home on Jan. 6 1997, waited inside for six hours for him to come home and then shot him to death with .22 caliber revolvers.

As he slumped to the floor, Blitzstein put his hands to his face and yelled, "Why Me? Why Me?" Davi reported. After the slaying, Davi told Mortensen, the two killers casually went to an Outback restaurant to have dinner.

Mortensen provided the FBI agents with a July 9, 1997, letter he received from Davi after Mortensen had been moved to an isolation cell to prove to the agents that Davi believed the two men had become friends.

In the letter Davi said he missed sharing a cell with Mortensen and didn't understand why jail officials had separated them.

"This place is known for breaking hearts," he wrote. "Just when we started getting real tight, look what happens."

He described their time together as "too good to be true."

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