An offer you can't refuse: Las Vegas opens new Mob Museum

Mob museum vegas

In this casino town partly built on gangster money, it's a sentiment you hear with some frequency: Things were better when the mob ran Vegas.

It conveys a certain wistfulness for the smaller, ostensibly friendlier city where, decades ago, locals shrugged at mobsters' running casinos and reinventing themselves as civic leaders. Sports handicapper Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal hosted a television show. Bootlegger Moe Dalitz helped build a hospital.

The city began formally cashing in on its mafia legacy Tuesday with the opening of the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement -- better known as the Mob Museum.

The publicly funded museum opened in a former federal courthouse where a U.S. Senate hearing on organized crime was held in the 1950s. Its exhibits were shaped by historians and former FBI agents, and include crime scene photos, tommy guns and a brick wall shot up during the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day massacre in Chicago.

The $42-million project has raised some hackles among fiscal conservatives, who consider it a waste of taxpayer money, the Associated Press reported. But the museum's cheerleaders -- including mob attorney turned mayor Oscar Goodman -- are betting it will draw tourists from the Las Vegas Strip to a slowly gentrifying section of downtown.

Other recent efforts to capitalize on Sin City’s mobster past have had mixed success. The Vegas Mob Tour, a 2½-hour jaunt that includes a stop at Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel's Flamingo hotel, has managed to rumble along for several years.

“I try to do it tactfully and with taste, as much as you can with a mob tour,” founder Robert Allen told The Times in 2008. “You can say someone cut off someone's head with a machete, but we prefer to say ‘decapitated.’ ”

The Mob Experience at the Tropicana casino had a tougher time, despite its Strip location and an extensive collection of gangster artifacts. For example, it displayed one of Meyer Lansky's love letters to his wife: "Keep your legs crossed and go to sleep."

The attraction closed last year amid a bevy of problems, including the bankruptcy of its owner, Murder Inc LLC. It's slated to reopen under a different name.


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Photo: A tommy gun exhibit at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas. Credit: Isaac Brekken / Associated Press

Victim of O.J. Simpson Vegas robbery accused of shoplifting

Oj simpson robbery victim
One of the sports memorabilia dealers whom O.J. Simpson was convicted of robbing in a down-market Las Vegas hotel is now fighting his own court battle.

Bruce Fromong, who testified against Simpson in the 2008 armed robbery trial, is accused of shoplifting from the Nellis Air Force Base Exchange near Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.  He is scheduled to appear in court Monday.

Authorities say that in October, Fromong swiped a Madden football PlayStation game from its package and a Case Logic briefcase; and that in November he removed another Madden disc from its package, taped up the box and put it back on the shelf.

In 2007, Fromong and Alfred Beardsley had gone to the Palace Station hotel expecting to sell Simpson collectibles to a wealthy buyer. The meeting was a ruse. Simpson and a ragtag band of men –- two of them armed -– stormed into Room 1203 and scooped up dozens of items. Simpson claimed he was merely trying to get back memorabilia stolen from him. 

Fromong made for a particularly interesting witness. He and Simpson had been such close friends, he said, that the football star used to sing "Happy Birthday" to Fromong's mother over the phone. But defense attorneys attacked him as a leech hoping to cash in on Simpson’s infamy. A recording captured Fromong telling someone minutes after the robbery: “I'll have 'Inside Edition' down here for us tomorrow. I told them I want big money.”

Jurors quickly convicted Simpson, who had been acquitted years before in the slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. A Las Vegas judge sentenced the former football star to between nine and 33 years in prison.


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Photo: Then-Clark County Dist. Atty. David Roger, left, questions Bruce Fromong during O.J. Simpson's robbery trial in 2008. Credit: Daniel Gluskoter / EPA

November Reno fire caused by arcing power lines, report says

The Caughlin Ranch fire in Reno in November.
Fire investigators have confirmed that arcing power lines caused a November blaze that destroyed 29 homes in Reno, causing about $7.6 million in property damage.

The report, issued by the Reno Fire Department, confirmed authorities’ suspicion that the brush fire started when high winds caused power lines to spark.

The report, released Friday, says a tree branch probably was blown onto to lines, the Associated Press reported.

The ensuing fire was then stoked by gusts of winds that reached 85 mph and eventually scorched about 2,000 acres.

Another 29 homes burned this month in a wind-whipped fire south of Reno. In that blaze, a man later  came forward to say he might have caused the blaze by improperly discarding fireplace ashes.

Prosecutors are considering whether to file charges against him.


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Photo: Residents watch the Caughlin Ranch fire in Reno in November. Credit: Liz Margerum/The Reno Gazette-Journal



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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal

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