Jane Ann Morrison
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Although I have never been a perp, I participated on a famous perp walk in 1983 and have the black-and-white photo to prove it.
The perp was later-to-be-murdered mobster Anthony Spilotro. The serious-looking FBI agent walking him by the press was Marc Kaspar.
The journalists waiting to ask questions that wouldn’t be answered were George Knapp and the R-J’s federal court reporter at the time. That would be me. The one with the Afro.
During a panel Saturday, Kaspar told the behind-the-scenes story of that perp walk outside the Foley Federal Building.
Spilotro had been indicted on racketeering by a federal grand jury, and Kaspar went to arrest him. The two men had known each other for years because Kaspar has been on the FBI’s Las Vegas organized crime squad since coming to Las Vegas in 1977, and the squad’s No. 1 target was the Chicago mob’s enforcer.
You would think they would be bitter enemies. Not so. When Spilotro was arrested, Kaspar didn’t even use his handcuffs. Until they got close to the federal building and Kaspar said, “Tony, I’ve got to put handcuffs on you.”
Spilotro offered his hands up, he was cuffed, and they did the perp walk. Kaspar knew what he had to do, so did Spilotro; it was all very professional.
Kaspar has donated those cuffs to the Mob Museum, which hosted the Saturday panel discussion of what was real and what was fiction in the 1995 movie “Casino.”
Kaspar was speaking out publicly for the first time about his experiences as the case agent in the Spilotro investigation.
Oscar Goodman gave his views from the perspective of the attorney representing Spilotro and his chum Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal.
Former Gaming Control Board member Jeff Silver spoke about his role chasing the mob as a state regulator.
Former FBI agent Deborah Richard told her experience in two previous columns, and retired television reporter and anchor Gwen Castaldi told of the challenges facing journalists covering the mob in the 1970s and 1980s.
As Castaldi said, without cellphones and the Internet, it wasn’t easy, especially because news about the mob in Las Vegas was frequently connected to news about the mob in Kansas City, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Detroit and Chicago.
Kaspar told about a 1981 search where the subject — in this case Stardust employee Phil Ponto — had been tipped. The agents searched his apartment looking for marked money that had been skimmed from the Stardust.
The safe was opened, and inside was nothing but Ponto’s Social Security check.
It was Ponto’s way of flipping off the FBI, much like the simultaneous search that resulted in agents coming up with cookies and a bottle of wine in a car trunk.
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