He is the man who helped build a greater part of Las Vegas with millions of dollars from Jimmy Hoffa’s mobbed-up Teamsters’ pension fund. Along with his close friend and business partner, the legendary Moe Dalitz, an early associate of Detroit’s notorious Purple Gang — high school dropouts who built their fortune on murder, hijacking, and rum-running during Prohibition — he built Paradise Development, a firm that prospered mightly during the heyday of the Vegas mob. Now he is working for the FBI. His name is Irwin Molasky.
“Dalitz was one of the most illustrious figures in the annals of crime,” wrote attorney Roy Grutman in his 1990 memoir, Lawyers and Thieves. “Able to trace his mob ties back to such underworld icons as Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Siegel, he even had the distinction of having been chased out of Cleveland in the 1940s by the city’s celebrated public safety director, Elliot Ness.”
In 1962, Dalitz, Molasky, Paradise, and two partners, Merv Adelson and Allard Roen, would snap up a total of 5000 acres outside the tiny San Diego County beach town of Carlsbad. There, with funds loaned by the Teamsters and C. Arnholt Smith’s US National Bank, they built Rancho La Costa, the posh resort that became synonymous with America’s mid-century wave of organized crime, murder, and political corruption.
Today, at the age of 84, according to a signed declaration filed under penalty of perjury, Molasky is sick and infirm, requiring a cane to move about a room. He is in the painful last stages of a rare form of incurable bone-marrow cancer and is in urgent need of taking care of business now rather than later.
Once worshipped as the financial genius of the Las Vegas Strip, he has been forced to watch as his trusted elder son Steven declared bankruptcy, with $55.4 million of unsecured debts during the financial meltdown of 2008.
His son-in-law, Kenneth Collin Cornell, who pled guilty to fraud charges resulting from a telemarketing boiler-room swindle in 1994, is being sued for breach of contract in a case arising from a Mission Beach condominium project he developed with his wife, Molasky’s daughter Beth.
But despite the maelstrom of his later years, Molasky has vowed to complete one project above all: a new San Diego headquarters for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Incredible as it seems to some old bureau hands, Molasky, loyal friend and associate of Moe Dalitz and a litany of other gamblers and bookies, has won a 20-year, $223.4-million lease from the U.S. General Services Administration to construct a 248,882-square-foot field office and campus overlooking Interstate 805 on Vista Sorrento Parkway in Sorrento Mesa.
The financing method the government is using to construct the project is itself controversial. By agreeing to lease the building from Molasky at $11.2 million a year, rather than paying $100 million up front to build it, critics say taxpayers will end up paying more than double.
The project was announced to the public this January as a fait accompli. But since then, a major complication has arisen. Molasky does not yet actually own the property, and he can’t obtain a loan with which to buy or build on it. A neighboring landowner filed suit against him in March, charging that the old Las Vegas hand, true to form, is trying to strong-arm his way to the capstone of a legendary career.
In a May 4 filing, lawyers for SN Investment Properties LLC, a Portland, Oregon–based development firm that owns the property adjoining the FBI site, charged that Molasky and his companies “are some of the largest real-estate developers in Las Vegas, Nevada” that “believe they can utilize their significant wealth and power to do whatever they want, wherever they want.”
At issue is a vehicle-access easement, granted in 1984, that runs across the land Molasky wants to use for the project. Molasky and his fellow defendants allegedly “knew months before the contract was awarded by the GSA, and even while they were bidding the contract and seeking approvals from the City of San Diego to develop the project, that the proposed FBI Building was to be built directly on top of an express deeded easement owned by SNI and running over the site of the FBI Building.”
“The current effort to expedite the trial date, despite the fact that Defendants have known since August 2010 of SNl’s easement,” the May filing says, “is just one further part of their strong-arm tactics.”
For their part, Molasky and his lawyers insist that the Portland firm is trying to waylay the FBI building for selfish financial gain at the expense of the public. “Upon learning that the tenant would be the FBI, Plaintiff began protesting that the development and construction of the FBI project would allegedly ‘diminish the value’ of Plaintiff’s property,” according to a response by Molasky and company filed May 4.
The filing added that Molasky had obtained documents showing that the strategy of its foe was “simply to stall and thereby obstruct the development of the FBI project in its entirety or receive a large payment from the Molasky Defendants.”
Any delay in San Diego would be costly, Molasky’s attorneys say. “The Molasky Defendants are currently developing three other FBI office projects for the GSA in Minneapolis, Portland, and Cincinnati, and this existing relationship could be damaged solely because the adjacent property owner claims it would like a different tenant, when in fact Plaintiff simply wants a huge payday for a long abandoned and never used 1984 easement. In addition, the Molasky Defendants have built up goodwill and a relationship of trust with the GSA, the FBI, builders and lenders, all of which is likewise threatened by Plaintiff’s attempt to belatedly assert rights that remained dormant for 26 years.”
Molasky himself filed a personal declaration, dated April 29, implying that, because his days were numbered, the court should hasten to hear the easement case: “I have…Waldenström’s Disease. This disease is a rare form of cancer that affects the bone marrow space in the human body. That disease is treated by chemotherapy and a drug called Rituxan. This disease was diagnosed approximately 15 years ago and I have been treated since that time.