Published Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009 | 2:05 a.m.
Updated Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009 | 10:47 a.m.
The mafia was the center of attention Friday night in the Clark County Commission Chambers, as the room played host to a panel discussion on the mob in Las Vegas. The panel is part of a monthly series celebrating the county’s 100th anniversary.
The event offered a unique platform for people once on opposing sides of organized crime to come together.
Frank Cullotta, a former Las Vegas mobster, sat next to Dennis Arnoldy, a retired FBI special agent, and Kent Clifford, the commander of Metro’s Intelligence bureau from 1979 to 1983. Joining them were journalists George Knapp of KLAS-TV Channel 8 and Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John Smith.
Bob Stoldal, a retired TV executive, moderated the discussion.
The conversation was friendly and lively as the panelists talked about their old friends – and enemies.
Arnoldy told how colleagues at the FBI gave Cullotta the nickname “Far-Away Frank” because they knew it would bug him.
“It did work,” Cullotta said. “The reason they called me that is because I had a crew of guys who used to go out and do the robbing, so of course I was far away.”
With the attention brought by the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement — scheduled to open in 2011 — some may say that things in Las Vegas were better when the mob ran the town, Stoldal said.
But that idea drives law enforcement people crazy, Knapp said.
“They don’t like to think that the mob ever ran the town,” he said. “And maybe in fact the mob didn’t.
“But the mob controlled a significant percentage of the casinos in the town at the time, in what we would call the golden age of Las Vegas — before the corporations got here, when you could get a cheap meal still, when they handed out comps and showgirls mingled with gamblers and customers and things of that sort. The time when, generally, people who’ve been here a long time concede was the best time ever in Las Vegas, and so they equate the two,” Knapp said.
“There’s no question those casinos, mob-controlled casinos, had a great deal of influence in the town, that there was a great deal of corruption,” he said.
It was eventually the cooperation between the FBI and Metro Police that brought down the mafia, the panel agreed.
“I had never worked with a police department until I got to Las Vegas, and I couldn’t believe the cooperation,” Arnoldy said. “We worked hand-in-hand. It was wonderful.”
Cullotta agreed that the cooperation was what ended the success of his former associates.
“We always thought ... that one agency wasn’t enough to get us. And we never thought that the two of them would join up,” he said. “They worked together and they nailed all of us.”