Las Vegas' Stardust resort set for demolition

Monday, March 12, 2007

A piece of Chicago history will be blown up Monday night in Las Vegas. In this Intelligence Report: the end of an era for the Chicago mob.

The Stardust was the world's largest resort when it debuted in 1958, an opening marked 49 years ago by several celebratory bombs being exploded on the strip. The Chicago mob's first mega-profit center in Las Vegas grew from the dust of the desert. And at midnight tonight, to dust it will return.

Many of the old gambling joints in Vegas have been imploded to make way for sleek, modern casinos and resorts. But Monday night, when the Stardust disappears in a cloud, a scar will be removed from the skyline of Las Vegas.

Chicago outfit control of the Stardust provided inspiration for the film Casino. It provided employment for notorious mob boss Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, who would eventually end up sleeping with the bugs in an Indiana cornfield. And for years, the Stardust provided millions of dollars in skimmed profits for Chicago mob bosses, stacks of cash collected every week by a courier with a briefcase and flown to Kansas City, where Chicago outfit leaders had set up an outpost.

But in 1983, Nevada authorities uncovered the scheme and traced its roots back to the infamous leaders of the Chicago syndicate: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Jackie "The Lackey" Cerone, Angelo "The Hook" Lapietra and Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa. They were among nine mafia-anointed from Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland and Kansas City, who were convicted in 1985 of skimming millions of dollars from the stardust. All were sentenced to long prison sentences.

Even though the Stardust stayed in business for another 20 years, federal agents say that skimming case broke the back of the outfit in Las Vegas and was the beginning of the end for the Stardust.

When the stardust opened in 1958, it was renting out rooms for $8 a night. Finding a room at that price will be a long shot when the new 5,300-room Echelon Place Hotel and Casino opens up in on the old Stardust site in the year 2010. That hotel that will replace the Stardust and is expected to cost at least $4 billion to put up.

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