Kent Clifford

Bonus Episode – Las Vegas

January 12, 2017

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In this episode, I tell about my Las Vegas speaking engagement. I did a power point based on my recently completed book. Leaving Vegas: The True Story of How the F.B.I. Wiretaps Ended Mob Domination of Las Vegas Casinos.

Additionally, I tell a good true crime story. In 2012, I was in Las Vegas to interview Commander Clifford of the las Vegas metro PD, retired F.B.I. Agents, former Stardust Casino employees and Dr. Michael Green (UNLV) about Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, Tony Spilotro and other 1970’s era organized crime involvement in casino skimming.

During the interview, Kent Clifford, told me a personal story. This story was not applicable to the casino skimming but it was a rollicking good true cops versus robbers story. I filmed that story and you can find it on the special features of my documentary, Gangland Wire. It is not in the Amazon streaming version, only on the DVD.

When a new Sheriff, John Moran, put Clifford in the Intelligence Unit he was given a mandate to clean up the Unit and fight organized crime. The Unit was well known to contain dirty cops. He pushed out the old guard detectives and hired in trusted officers.

One of his first acts was when he arrived at work one December morning. He found cases and cases of top drawer whiskey, vodka and scotch. He learned several Strip casinos had donated this for Christmas presents to the detectives. He ordered the cases returned and for this tradition to end.

He ordered an aggressive approach to harass and intimidate the Tony Spilotro Hole in the Wall Gang. He was sued six times for a total of $56 million, and all were dismissed,” he once told an audience at the Clark County Library as part of Mob Month.

The most significant lawsuit was for the 1980 shooting death of Spilotro gang member Frank Bluestein. This law suit failed. But the lawsuit is a small part of that story.

Intelligence Unit detectives David Groover and Gene Smith were watching a Spilotro hangout known as the Upper Crust. They observed a new guy come in, talk to mobsters Tony Spilotro and Frank Cullotta, and leave with a pizza. They followed the new person’s car in order to identify the guy.

Bluestein was driving a 1979 Lincoln with Illinois license plates, making the cops very curious. With the cops following closely behind, he pulled out onto Flamingo and immediately started speeding.

Soon, the detectives had plenty of probable cause based on traffic violations. They put a portable red light on the dash and commenced to make a traffic stop. The Lincoln turned off the main road into a side street with no one around. The subject stopped and as the detectives walked up on the driver, he pulled away only to stop a short distance up the street. When the Lincoln stopped again, the detectives pulled their guns and approached the car. The driver exited with a pistol in his hand. The officers immediately shot and killed who they would learn Frank Bluestein, a 35-year-old maitre d’ at the Hacienda Hotel & Casino. At that time, the Hacienda was one of several properties controlled by the Chicago Outfit. His father, Steve Bluestein, was an official in the local Culinary Union and had been the subject of a 1978 search warrant as part of the FBI’s investigation of Tony Spilotro.

Later Clifford learned Spilotro was claiming he put a contract hit out on the two officers. Clifford took a plane to Chicago and visited several known homes of Outfit bosses. He then went to visit Chicago Outfit front man and Teamster, Allen Dorfman. He told Dorfman that if anything happened to his two officers, he’d come back with 40 officers and kill anything that moved.

He was told to leave and wait in his hotel room for a call. If he got a call and the caller said, “Have a safe journey home, Commander,” the contract was off. About 2 a.m., he got that call and Clifford returned to Las Vegas. As a matter of note, nothing bad ever happened to those officers and Retired Commander Kent Clifford passed away in 2014.

He was born in Menan, Idaho, and a resident of Las Vegas since 1963. Kent served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War as first lieutenant, earning the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and the Army Commendation Medal. He also served as commander of intelligence for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. After retiring with the LVMPD, he entered commercial real estate, eventually becoming a CCIM broker for his own business. – See more, click here.

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