The real story behind the film, Casino.

Milwaukee Mob Story – Part 1

June 13, 2016

I met retired F.B.I. Agent Gary Magnesun in Las Vegas- he had been assigned to the Milwaukee Organized Crime Squad and then transferred to Las Vegas. In Milwaukee, he was assigned to the first Organized Crime squad. In Las Vegas, he was assigned to the investigation of Lefty Rosenthal and Tony Spilotro and the Stardust skim. When I went out to Vegas to interview folks for my film, he cooperated and gave me a great interview. Before I went out, I obtained his book Straw Man in which he tells about his career. I noted a name, Jacob Schlecter, and a description of 6’6′ 250s lbs and a leg breaker mentality. I remembered back to a narcotics investigation and surveillance we once did with the DEA. We had a man that fit this description but with a different name. I asked Gary about this and it seems this was the same guy.

To go back, We had a tip and an informant that claimed he could buy weed from a mob guy named Joe Sharpino, who had a tow truck and worked out of a body shop on Independence Ave in Kansas City. The DEA could find no criminal record on this guy. We checked with the FBI and the Intelligence Unit records and sources and found this guy to be a mystery. The DEA were able to make a few small controlled buys thought the informant. The informant is reporting the guy has some connection with local La Cosa Nostra family. The guy was an independent two truck driver who mainly hung around the body shop. The body shop was not known to be a mob front. The informant was buying more and more weed, but in small quantities.  He was laying the groundwork to introduce a female DEA agent in as a big buyer with lots of customers in the suburbs.

We rented a nearby apartment and watched the body shop recording every license number that came and went. No mob guys were showing up. If this was a mob guy, he was not associated with any local mob folks, and if this was his real name, he had no criminal record. The informant would be seen going into the body shop and leaving, then contacting the DEA agent with a story about how Joe Sharpino was going to break somebody’s legs because they owed the body shop money. I had an informant who sold used cars. He offered Joe Sharpino a car repossession job that we set up. The guy was suspicious or something because he turned down the job.

After a couple of weeks into this, the informant reported his tow truck driver had a heart attack. He went into St. Luke’s hospital for heart surgery. While he was recuperating, the informant relates that he has a Universal Life minister’s certificate and the supposedly mob guy wants the informant to marry him and his girl friend while he is still in the hospital.

After several jokes about how to “wire up” the informant and record the ceremony, we let that go and the informant married the target and his new wife. Finally the guy got back to his tow truck and the body shop. The informant makes the introduction to the female agent and she makes her pitch. The guy agrees and claims he can supply 50 pounds of weed. By this time, the DEA rules dictate they must identify the guy in order to continue the investigation and put these kinds of resources into it. I asked the KCPD Fingerprint Unit supervisor to make personal calls to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) at the FBI headquarters. This revealed some very odd results.

The DEA took these results to the US Attorney’s office. They  contacted the Witnesses Protection folks at the US Marshall’s. After a consultation and looking at our skimpy case, the US Attorney ordered the DEA to stand down. The guy disappeared shortly after. Next episode, I tell how he got put in the witness protection program. 

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