Myth of the 20th Century – Episode 61: The Syndicate – American Underworld – Part 2

Social Matter
March 16, 2018

Welcome to the Myth of the 20th Century. The podcast airs on Fridays.

— Brought to you by —

Hank Oslo, Adam Smith, Hans Lander, Alex Nicholson, Nick Mason and special guest Alex Walker


After living through the hard times of the Great Depression and WWII, America in the 1950s was poised for the era of mass consumption, enjoying unprecedented access to inexpensive air travel and leisure opportunities. Chief among these new destinations was Las Vegas, with visits rising from in the tens of thousands per year in the 1930s to over 40 million by 2015. But obscured by the glitz of the Vegas Strip and the glamour of the show girls lay a new hub for an international criminal enterprise whose reach extended into drug trafficking, money laundering and extortion with extensive ties to the US government itself. Despite efforts to break up organized crime by ambitious US senators and prosecutors, the corruption of the Syndicate had penetrated so deeply into the institutional power of the United States that criminality for those at the top became more and more intertwined with those on whom they sought to pin the blame.


1931 – Gambling is effectively made legal in the state of Nevada
1933 – Prohibition ends with the repeal of the Volstead Act, ending many of the lucrative revenue sources for the growing crime syndicate.
1938 – Meyer Lansky travels to Havana, Cuba to formalize a relationship with the island’s military dictator, Batista. The gambling businesses of Cuba quickly fall under the control of the crime syndicate.
Late 1930’s – Lanksy attempts to orchestrate the prison-break of Lucky Lucian to preserve the national unity of Jewish and Italian mafia factions.
1942 – Operation Underworld begins as USG agents and military officials begin working alongside Jewish/Italian mafia bosses to secure American ports against Axis saboteurs.
1946 – 1947 — James Reagan and Bugsy Siegel, two prominent American gangsters, are assassinated, kicking off internal syndicate battles that are only resolved through refocused business activities in Las Vegas.
1947 – Flamingo casino opens in Las Vegas, marking a new era of syndicate-driven casinos in America.
1950 – Kefavuer Hearings begin preliminary hearings and research, with Senator Kefavuer launching a national investigation into the crime syndicate’s domestic activities across 14 states. The testimonies of over 600 are undertaken, including several major mobsters from the era.
1957 – Johnny Roselli, a Hollywood based member of the Chicago Outfit, moves to Las Vegas and begins hustling in the casino business.
1960 – Operation Mongoose, a Eisenhower-era CIA program, begins operations. Not long thereafter, Johny Roselli is approached by Robert Maheu (working for billionaire Howard Hughes and the CIA) to introduce Maheau to members of the Syndicate. Angry over the loss of their business in Cuba, Syndicate power-players such as Giancanno, Traficante, and Lansky.


– Mobs and the Mafia, Goldblatt and Messick (1973)
– The Permindex, Hoyos (1981) –
– Mob on the Run – Las Vegas, KLAS-TV (1987)
– Dope, Inc., Executive Intelligence Review (1992)
– Final Judgment: The Missing Link in the JFK Assassination Conspiracy, Piper (1994) –
– The Dark Side of Camelot, Hersh (1998)
– The Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America, Denton and Morris (2002)
– JFK and the Unspeakable, Douglass (2008)
– The CIA as Organized Crime, Valentine (2016)
– The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton, Morley (2017)
– The Kefauver Hearings –


Join the discussion at TGKBBS