Paul Coates -- April 18, 1959
April 18, 2009 | 2:00 pm
Vice Jury May Call CohenBY PAUL COATES
Former gambling czar Mickey Cohen may be called before a Ventura County grand jury to discuss his possible connection with prostitution, commercial sex parties and organized crime in Oxnard and Ventura, I learned today.
Ventura County law enforcement officers have launched a full-scale probe of a ring which assertedly panders to Hollywood playboys for pastimes now denied them in the rigid confines of the Sunset Strip.
Woman's Tip Told
The investigation, by police in Oxnard and Ventura and the district attorney's office, was touched off when a former, self-confessed prostitute blew the whistle on what she termed syndicated crime in Ventura County.
She also charged that the gangster invasion of Oxnard and Ventura was masterminded by "certain gentlemen from Detroit."
But the organization, she alleges, has connections in Los Angeles and many customers she entertained traveled from L.A. and surrounding communities.
Cohen Call Told
Cohen's name was introduced to the case when a source close to the district attorney's office said the some-time racketeer may be included in future grand jury subpoena lists.
Mickey, of course, denied any connection with prostitution anywhere.
"Look," he told me, "you know my record. I've never been mixed up in either prostitution or narcotics."
I asked him if he was on friendly terms with a certain businessman in Oxnard and if, according to allegations, he had visited the man on several occasions.
Friend of Friend
"I have a friend who owns a bar in Oxnard," he began, then interrupted himself. "No, that's not right. I know a guy whose brother runs a bar in Oxnard."
That's all Mickey had to say on the subject.
Woodruff Deem, chief criminal complaint deputy for Ventura Dist. Atty Roy Gustafson, told me that his office is heading up the vice probe.
Thus far, grand jurors have heard testimony from 28 witnesses, including the former prostitute.
Other witnesses who appeared before the jury last March 30 include prominent Oxnard businessmen. They refused to talk with reporters about their testimony.
The former prostitute assertedly told jurors that she had been the star attraction at numerous parties arranged by the gangster element.
She also charged, it is understood, that one Oxnard businessmen's organization sponsored some of the stag parties, which featured nude dancing by girls, the showing of lewd films, and mingling of male guests and female "stars" before the assembled group.
In fact, she reportedly told the jury, she was used as a lure to tempt men to join the group.
"They'd promise prospective members that they could 'date me' if they'd join," she said.
She charged that eight girls were employed by the syndicate to operate in at least four nightclubs in Oxnard and Ventura. The girls' total take was estimated to be in excess of $5,600 a week, with much more going to the organization's male leaders.
Oxnard Police Chief Al Jewell conceded that his office felt it had a "strong case" when he took it to the district attorney's office.
Is he disappointed that his investigation hasn't resulted in indictments by the grand jury?
"Well," he answered carefully, "as a law enforcement officer I am always interested in results."
The alleged vice activities reportedly began about three years ago during a community battle in Oxnard over the selection of a new police chief.
Subsequently, Chief Jewell, a nominee and dedicated fighter against crime, was selected to lead the Police Department after considerable pressure was brought to bear on the City Council.
Lee Grimes, managing editor of the Oxnard Press-Courier and grand jury foreman, has refused to discuss the probe, even with his own reporters.
Deputy Dist. Atty Deem, pressed for an answer on the infiltration of Detroit hoodlums, would only say:
"Well, we do know that there are certain Detroit people in business here."
The self-confessed prostitute, who said she made between $200 and $300 on weekends from her illicit activities, ignited the investigation after a businessman refused to acknowledge her child, a boy she claims was fathered by him.
In her discussions with law enforcement officers, she assertedly charged that one of her sisters in the world's oldest business had been murdered by the syndicate to prevent her escaping its clutches.