Sinatra and the mob. Top row: Paul Castellano, Gregory De Palma, Frank Sinatra, Thomas Marson, Carlo Gambino, Jimmy Fratianno, Salvatore Spatola; bottom row: Joe Gambino, Richard Fusco
President Obama visits Cuba — it's all over the news. But why is the American press not discussing how Fidel Castro took over Cuba? A major reason is that the then-boss of Cuba, Fulgencio Batista, was a puppet of the American Mafia, which controlled much of the island's business, particularly the casinos and drug traffic.
Today's news is also full of the death of Frank Sinatra Jr. Are other media discussing the Cuba ties of Frank Sinatra Sr. and the American Mafia?
In December of 1946, there was a mob huddle in Cuba that came to be known as the Havana Conference. It was held at the Hotel Nacional, owned by the gangster financier Meyer Lansky and Batista. Lansky persuaded "Lucky" Luciano to come aboard as an investor. This hotel would host the conference, attended by mob leaders from throughout the U.S.
Frank Sinatra Sr. would provide the entertainment. Sinatra flew to Havana with two cousins of Chicago's Al Capone. Sinatra's bodyguard, Chicago's Joseph "Joe Fish" Fischetti, a longtime Sinatra buddy, accompanied the singer. (Sinatra would later invest in casinos.)
The main topics of the Havana Conference were the authority within the New York mob, the Havana casinos owned by the gangsters, the world narcotics operation, and what do do about Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, who was stumbling in launching a Vegas casino in which the mobsters had invested.
The Havana Conference was a model of democracy: the narcotics control and routes were sorted out, and a decision was made on what to do about Bugsy Siegel: exterminate him. Not long after, Siegel was killed when two bullets went through his head.
One of the attendees was Morris Barney (Moe) Dalitz, a Cleveland hoodlum who eventually got to be the Las Vegas mob monitor who kept the various families from bumping each other off. Dalitz became known as the caretaker of underworld investments in Vegas. Dalitz was one of four Vegas entrepreneurs who built North County's notorious La Costa resort. C. Arnholt Smith, the San Diego banker whom a Union-Tribune writer dubbed "Mr. San Diego of the Century," was a key financier of La Costa through his bank, United States National, which was eventually seized by the government.
Dalitz spearheaded some investments through the Teamsters' Central States fund, controlled by Jimmy Hoffa. That fund loaned $100 million to San Diego's Irvin J. Kahn, who used the money to develop Peñasquitos. Another Peñasquitos financier was Switzerland's tiny Cosmos Bank, which had a number of mob-related investments in the U.S. (I have never found any non-mob-related projects that Cosmos was involved in.) Frank Fitzsimmons, who replaced Hoffa, used to come down to San Diego and play golf with Richard Nixon. And Nixon had money — millions of dollars of it — in the Cosmos Bank, according to the Reader.