Retired Intelligence Detective Gary Jenkins brings you the best in mob history with his unique perception of the mafia. Gary interviews David Rabinovitch, an EMMY-winning investigative journalist and filmmaker, about his uncle Wolf Rabin and his association with Pittsburgh mafia member Sam Mannarino. David wrote a book titled Jukebox Empire: The Mob and the Darkside of the American Dream and told several stories from his book. Sam Mannarino was a prominent La Cosa Nostra figure in Western Pennsylvania when he went into business with Wolf Rabin. Mannarino and his brother, Gabriel “Kelly” Mannarino, controlled gambling and related activities in New Kensington for the Pittsburgh Crime Family. Of interest is that Sam Mannarino also had an interest in the Sans Souci casino in Cuba in the 1950s. This Cuban connection will be instrumental in the laundering of stolen bonds. David tells a story of international crime that stretches from the US to Canada to Cuba and Switzerland. David’s uncle, Wolf Rabin, got into the Jukebox business in the 1930s and developed many organized crime connections.
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GARY JENKINS, David Rabinovitch
GARY JENKINS 00:00
Well welcome all you Wiretappers out there. It’s good to be back here in studio gangland wire. I have a really interesting story. I didn’t remember how I got onto this somewhere on the internet of course. And it was about a man named Wolf Rabin now what a cool name Wolf Rabin. And he got involved with Sam Mannarino, who was a many of you all know is a big time Pittsburgh mafia member and they did a international kind of a crime and then I found there’s a book on it, you know, and then it’s by I believe a relative of south of not Sam Manariono but of Wolf Rabin, and so I have that man here, David Rabinovitch. Thanks a lot for coming on, David.
David Rabinovitch 00:41
Nice. Thank you for inviting me Gary was one thing in my family we pronounce to Rabin.
GARY JENKINS 00:48
Rabbit work. Okay. All right, a little more Russian, Russian. My grandpa used to say those Russians,
David Rabinovitch 00:57
My grandfather left Ukraine
GARY JENKINS 01:04
in hell really interesting. David is an Emmy winning documentary filmmaker and has a bunch of stuff out there. So David wants you tell the guys a little bit about your history your boat a few days, if you will.
David Rabinovitch 01:19
Know, this is pretty much all I’ve ever done. Since I was a teenager, I had the good fortune to have some wonderful mentors who a bureau chief from Time magazine, who might wind up breaking the ever start. I’m 19 years old. I grew up in Canada. So I worked a lot for media and Broadcasting Corporation, pretty young agent, we the longest producer, on staff and at 21 or 22. So we documentaries, really all over the world. I moved to the the United States 45 years ago and continue doing well. I think one of the most significant films made during my career was a film called Politics of Poison, which was an investigation of the use of chemicals known as Agent Orange. The other kind of major production that I’ll mention is still I’m this is a mini series called Secret Files of the Inquisition. And this is a four part Docudrama, based on files from the Vatican archive other archives in Europe that reveal just terrible things that we’ve held to people in the Noma passage church. Moving to Jukebox Empire, the Mob and the Dark Side of the American Dream, I found some of the work rather similar, because five years ago, the last 18,000 files that had been kept classified relating to the assassination of Kennedy, were declassified by the FBI and CIA agencies. And so piling through a case read 18,000 files, several 100 of them over 100 files contain references to my uncle, and the activities that he was involved with, in particular in what the Department of Justice referred to as the largest money laundering scheme in history. So I’ll pause there for you start wherever you’re like dirt.
GARY JENKINS 03:39
David, you know that jukebox industry started with a guy named David Rockola in Chicago and the mob saw that vending machine opportunity just like slot machines, it was, you know, vending machines, cigarette machines, they’ve always been involved in those kinds of machines because there’s a lot of cash money that goes through that. Plus they use them in bars, and they always have all this interest in bars. And so it just like a natural for the mob be involved in the vending machine business. In this case. It’s a jukebox, vending machine business and the launder other cash money through that. And so historically, that’s been part of their business. And moving on that to your story. You go across national international boundaries, you go up into Canada, you’ve got connections in Canada, yourself, your family does I think your relative Wolf Raben, tell us a little bit about him. And how did he get connected with this mob boss named Sam Mannarino?
David Rabinovitch 04:39
Gary, you’re raising number of points. I’ll go back to the first thing you said and start with that connection. David Rock ola. Jukebox pioneer came from a little town in the province of Manitoba. Very good man. I grew up in the same town of my local hero. You called Morgan ManitobaWord with. Three towns are about 100 miles apart. And the late 1920s My uncle, it was aiming for the big time. We had big vision marks for big and he got on the train and took off. Where they left my grandmother given McCarty with my dad, my grandmother gave him $1. So he would never go grow. When he was dying. He gave it to his brother, who’s also in the book. My uncle Leon, who’s had a professional name of Lee Cagney. Everybody thought he looked like me tag me. When he was dying. He gave it to my dad, my dad gave it to me. So I have the dollar. Buddy left and you know, it’s through artifacts like this that we connect directly to people and the stories rampant with the Chicago who’s a young man and he was very adept at electronics than he started out working in the early 1930s On the first car radios and power radio so it’s it was phenomenal and even in the middle of the depression you could get afford to buy a car paid extra for the radio it’s just an amazing thing so he made a lot of money with that worked him on activity to make radios in this case contracts with the US Army and the Navy that has to go are only tracks ended and its factories quiet and that’s when many mentioned San Marino Amon sound calls up my uncle lets me know says oh, why when we want to talk to you. We’re good with electronics and then we can get the rights to a new jukebox that plays for me records. Well, the host anything can play at the time with him. So we spend our revolutionize the industry. We’re not the picture. This is 1945 every jukebox in the United States, all five or 600,000 of them needs to be replaced because the jukebox production had all stopped during the war. The factories were repurposed. So my uncle asked me to redouble unreadable. Why are you calling me so well, you know, electronics. And here’s the plan stick but look out. So that engaged him I think that his electronics mind. But we’re also engaged in was it was a real shot get rich beyond rich/ So we went into business together. According to the documents. The deal was bill would make the jukeboxes rather arena would handle six. And that gets the which you were alluding to sales meant not just selling machines, it meant collecting all those coins, as credit through the machines and of course, aren’t reported to the IRS on just if you go around saying a dozen years later, waking 5758 The committee in Congress and they document every document they suggest that at that time, approximately two and a half billion dollars a year was being collected from coin machines in the States. No courts not report. Well, two and a half billion dollars waiting to see you calculate that into today’s money.
GARY JENKINS 08:45
That’s a lot of money.
David Rabinovitch 08:47
David Rockola. And Rockola is the last jukebox company left in the United States not not only by the by Rockola and my uncle were really, really bitter rivals in the industry.
GARY JENKINS 09:01
David Rockola. I mean, he goes on out of it. Your uncle’s getting into it. It was his first name actually Wolf?
David Rabinovitch 09:08
My grandmother gave all her children Yiddish names. So give us a Wolf or elbow. We changed it right away, of course growing up small out of the 1910s. Hence, they became he was William or William. We have this school textbooks from 1915. And with his signature really rabid while later when he was in Chicago, you start building all of this pretty common among the people that name that sounded European, but he just took the first five letters and rate at that point really only only the family would call a Wolf
GARY JENKINS 09:50
as he got in with San Mannarino and as they started doing business together you know the mob that has these international connections especially in the 50s down in Cuba. But there was a lot of money going down into Cuba and they had a lot of business interests down there. And they were connected to New York crime families, you know, Meyer Lansky and and all those and, and so now what I found really fascinating was this all sudden international connection, then this washing the money scheme that they get caught up
David Rabinovitch 10:18
when we make the connection for you, and then we can pick it up from there. So building the the gift box, called the maestro, is the name of it was an enormous success. And when I bought a surplus playing from the US Navy, a Lockheed Lodestar, 14 seat troop transport plane, and they barnstormed the country and the plane selling jukeboxes. So the thing was really big. And but it blew up in a lawsuit over the patent rights. A lawsuit filed by David Rockola. So connection, sir, all right. Rockola, I think need a little bit of this. Rockola was tied in behind the scenes with Senator Howard Capehart. Senator Capehart had been the sales manager for the Wurlitzer company, who really put them on the map the air jukeboxes, back to save your world with your company was Nevada business that he shot his jukebox plans so that then he would politics that elected but behind the scenes, he did everything he could to protect his connections, shall we say, from the jukebox in this way. And you can find more about this in Robert Kennedy’s book. And because Kennedy was the council, or the McClelland Committee investigating the coin machine industry and labor racket in the late 1950s. The Maestro, Bill’s jukebox, in all grew up on a went to the Supreme Court and they actually sent the marshals into the factory to shut everything down. And after that is his wife is crate sparking books on Tuesday think on Bill, you guys have written these guys, let’s deal with the devil, they’ll never let go. And he was pretty concerned because they’ve invested a lot of money he needed to build a found he had huge visions of what to do. And he could pull it off. But he owed them a lot of money. So he was pretty concerned. And Mannarino said, don’t worry, we just made may need your assistance. Some time, we’ll give you a call, I really think there’s about a 10 year period, you were involved with the call came 1958. And to give you the context for this, this is now in the second two thirds of my book, Jukebox Empire. Castro and the revolutionaries were gaining steam into on as you know, very the mob had a very strong investment with very huge investments. With all the casinos in their relationship with the dictator, Batista, that was fine. He did a huge scam. And business went on. But they were concerned that Castro coming in, they would lose this enormous source, the revenue, what to do about it, and then hear the story becomes a kind of real life. Ocean’s 11 They decided okay, well, let’s double down we’ll support Batista, and Castro. And whoever wins will still have you know, they’ll get a piece the same piece, they will also have our scenes. Well, how are you gonna do that? You need ours? Where are you gonna get ours? You can get them from the army, US Army National Guard, they got lots of our you’re gonna pay somebody to do that. Okay, you could do that. But where are you gonna get the money? Banks have money. So this is how we’re laying out true Gary was how organized crime became an entirely intregrated operation absolutely parallels legitimate business. So with money, There were a group of gangsters based out of Montreal, and they had schools to go in. And last, it’s a big box. So how this began, they went into a vault in a little town Brockville, Ontario. And they pulled off what the FBI called the biggest bank robbery in the world. And the estimates when they call the newspapers, day by day, it starts $2 million $3 million. We just keep throwing up $14 million in 1958. Wall come to 100 million today. But it wasn’t cash was the next best thing. What they took were bearer bonds. Now bearer bonds are like cash. It’s not like a corporate bond. It’s whoever holds it open. But these had to be made fungible. So we say that’s a polite. And that’s, that’s where what arena was putting on this whole deal together, called Lou. Here’s a guy was how to deal with international money. He’s got the savoir faire that our guys don’t want. I mean, so you know, people say the because of the name pout, the Meyer Lansky was the exterior, who developed this business, how do you turn illegitimate money into business enterprises. But he wasn’t the only one. Although I will say in the course of this research, didn’t even find, I mean, they all stayed at one hotel in New York, they all like to stay at the ward. And you can get down through the FBI records of who was in which room number which night, and what phone calls they made, because all their records are age. So that’s where they came to my uncle Bill, with all these bonds, and we need to invest them so that we have the cash to pay the other guys who are gonna get ours from the National Bar. This all of this is all fit. So the bonds themselves were legitimate. So I think this fits a category of if you don’t ask, then you don’t know what you don’t want to know. So I think there was we didn’t get to the court case that was part of this came in with all this money. And he worked out the plan to go to Europe and converted it to cash, your Swiss francs.
GARY JENKINS 17:15
I guess they did that because they were stolen. And communications were what they are today. Another thing they used to do is then go take them to a bank and borrow money against them. And then the bonds would just lay in the bank being held, you know, as collateral for that money, then they’d never intend on paying it back. And then when the banks would catch the bonds, they’d find out they were stolen in the United States. But they did this because they probably would never find out they were stolen. in it.
David Rabinovitch 17:45
Well thats exactly what he did that with small amounts at a local bank in Chicago, where the bank security was they knew them from businesses about no problem, not a small amounts, big amounts, you know, withdraw attention anywhere. So that’s when he went to Europe and made deals with a number of Swiss banks. He also interviewed German banks. They set up a shell company in Liechtenstein to follow these things through. It’s very good Ocean’s 11 Very, very before Oceans 11, it’s the real thing. They pack in for the trial for the money laundrying. They brought over a number of bankers to testify when there is a German Banker who testify, he said Rabin offered to buy my bank. Now, you’re talking about the nerves and thinking big and this banker asked him, “well what’s your source of financing” and the response and this is all out of the trial transcripts and the response, “we have unlimited financing from every coin machine in the United States.
GARY JENKINS 19:08
The mob would own a Swiss bank own their own Swiss bank
David Rabinovitch 19:14
That was that was the idea
GARY JENKINS 19:16
as I can see where that was leading that says fascinating did you find out anything about how they got this case money down to Cuba then the Batista Castro did that come out in the trial?
David Rabinovitch 19:28
Well, then yes, we didn’t send the money to Castro you got the armaments? Oh, they are so what I’m filling in the gaps are what do you say sentence like any legitimate business you need product, you need financing, you need shipping. And so now they have the money. Then there’s another whole crew that comes in with a real dirty ass bad guy named Joe Merola. Who has a whole other story but he was so tight with CIA after he was convicted, the gun running aspect of this JFK pardoned him. There was no reason ever made public But literally, to far ahead of this story to answer your question about I had the money going, but the money from the bank, just like anybody else would, except they blasted through five few concrete steel, they set up the accounts in Europe. So now you have a draw on the money. Then they got another group, who went into the National Guard Armory at Canton, Ohio. And drove out with four vans full of armaments, over 300 M-1 rifles and machine guns and borders. Well, you need arms, the government has arms. Around that’s really good. Then they had the arms, but how are you gonna get them to Cuba, the transportation, they stole private planes, from the docks in Cuba to Florida. And they had a fleet, a fleet of beachcraft ferrying this stuff back and forth? Well, of course, you heard the attention of law enforcement places. And the incident that’s in my book is they were tracking a particular pilot, and Mannarino, Sam Mannarino order to send this shipment of guns to Cuba is actually in an air chase with the US Border Patrol. We’re tracking it and they forced the pilot things unraveled from there.
GARY JENKINS 21:53
I guess this is why there was so much information in the Kennedy assassination files because it then because of the CIA, and Cuba was all wrapped up in that. So then they jumped on this. And I would imagine the CIA probably glommed on to some of those guys and their transportation networks in order to help them when they get down into the Bay of Pigs. And so that’s that’s just a fascinating story, man.
David Rabinovitch 22:21
Well, that’s exactly how it came to me in a rather interesting way. I have written a draft of the book. Some of this was rubbish, sketchy loading, right. This was factual with documentation. And then under something called the Kennedy Assassination Records Act. In 1992, Congress had the agencies 25 years to release any classified files any way related the assassination. They didn’t make the deadline. So ever by 2018. year later, another 18,000 files that were declassified when I didn’t mean they were automatically on the internet, or digitized. But they were declassified to develop access to hardcopy files, and I found references to this whole henchard including reticle in over 100 files. So want to be clear, I don’t think he or this group were in any way involved with the assassination of JFK. That’s years later. And at that time, ripple was already a person. So
GARY JENKINS 23:43
don’t spoil the end. They’ve
David Rabinovitch 23:46
left the connection. I’m being the agencies and collected all this under their various categories, to Cuba, and I think that’s why it was suppressed or greasy.
GARY JENKINS 23:56
San Mannnarino, did he get charged as part of the conspiracy here? I didn’t really remember that from my story I did on him
David Rabinovitch 24:03
in the money laundering trial. There were 4 men who were charged. My uncle, Wolf Rabin, San Mannarino, Norman Rothman, who was a nightclub casino operator in Miami, Cuba, and a man named George Brosnan, who was a German lawyer, who had been one fixture dealing with Cuba met with the Swiss backs. The indictments were file lightning 59 To show the influence of the mob in Chicago, everything was fine. It didn’t come to trial for three years. Nobody wanted to touch it. And when they finally brought it for me, even the first judge retired rather than adjudicate the trial. When it finally came to trial, the first 23 Witnesses were excused. Nobody wanted to be on the jury. The judge threw a ship fit and then made a circus out of this cartoon or for anything sorry. Those are the four who were indicted in the trial. My uncle’s lawyer was first thing first then escaped. His last name is Garber. And he was Jimmy Hoffa is lawyer. teamsters leader was unpriced. See, see how right in there? You know, all these people worth you need a good lawyer, right? You got off as lawyer, and they all had the lawyers who were all part of this. So there’s another Sam Mannarino’s lawyer rushed through this trial. But earlier events was Charlie Margiotti, and Charlie Margiotti had been elected Attorney General of the State of Pennsylvania. He was the first Italian American, the whole statewide office in Pennsylvania. And he was their guy. So when he was actually he worked closely with my uncle, Mark Miller, he, he was the frontman, he was the chairman of the board of the boss. He was also Mannarino’s representative on the board of directors of the Pittsburgh Pirates. So you can see your work there, there. And also, I mean, the Mannarinos owned oil wells in Pennsylvania. They are mining interests. So this is this all connecting in just led me into all these these paths? Because I really like a dog with bone with the research. So I’m sure I can tell, As a detective or something more and what happened was, my uncle was indicted, Mannarino was indicted. Rockland was indicted. The district attorney really screwed up because when they called up the defendants, he didn’t produce Rockland. The judge said, Well, the defendant has to be present. He said, Well, I can’t get over here. He’s already presumed that gunrunning go to the judge had to issue a writ of habeas corpus. Rockland out of prison in Atlanta to Chicago for the trial, but one of my one, they go up, they decide and Rockland He fixed it. He was they’d made a deal. And he because he knew so much about Cuba, they reduced the sentence to gun running and declared a mistrial. He’s already convicted, we will let him out on this one. The German lawyer he convinced them that he didn’t know anything about any of it, other than making these reductions. Well, come on, really? Sam Mannarino? I’m pretty convinced from everything I’ve read. He fixed it. You only need one guy on the jury to dissent. Well just just take one out of twelve? Well, and that’s what these mob lawyers were known for. That we could fix the jury that was the easiest thing to do. That just another aside. Garner, my uncle’s lawyer was later convicted of witness tampering, but was released after one day on the order of Thurgood Marshall, because they got the evidence through wire tap which they had didn’t have permission for. Finally it gets down to Sam Mannarino gets off Then what my uncle told the sister is important. Somebody had to take the fall. Yeah, they would have bought me out of it. But that wouldn’t have been so good for me. So it was better to do my time. And now they reduced that he was given a 10 year sentence. How can you use that three months is
GARY JENKINS 29:37
that bad for for that big of a crime? But David, that’s a heck of a story. That is one heck of a story.
David Rabinovitch 29:48
Well, there’s a lot more in the book.
GARY JENKINS 29:51
I know we don’t guys, we’re not giving it all away. There’s a lot more in that book. So you need to get that book I’ll have links Send the show notes to Amazon for that book,
David Rabinovitch 30:04
very good Jukebox Empire: The Mob and the Dark Side of the American Dream
GARY JENKINS 30:09
David Rabinovich. I really appreciate you coming on the show and it’s a pleasure to meet you.
David Rabinovitch 30:14
Very real pleasure to speak with you.
GARY JENKINS 30:17
Don’t forget, I like to ride motorcycles. So look out for motorcycles when you’re out there driving around, and if you have a problem with PTSD, in the year event, go to the VA website and get the hotline number if you have a problem with drugs or alcohol either our good friend Anthony ruggiano, has a hotline number and he works in and runs a treatment center down in Florida, but he can help you no matter where you are in the United States. It’s a toll free number. So thanks a lot guys. And I really appreciate you coming on the show. David. It’s been a fascinating talk.