Feature Articles

October 2001

Muscling In

By John William Tuohy

      A year after the Sands casino opened its doors in Vegas in 1951, Jack Dragna, the head of the Los Angeles mob, the so-called Micky Mouse Mafia, moved in on Lansky's representative at the Flamingo, Moe Sedway. Apparently, Dragna had cleared it with Thomas "Tommy Brown" Lucchese in New York although it's more likely that Dragna, who worked directly under Chicago's control, actually gave the okay to appease the powerful Tony Accardo who had decided back in 1947 that he wanted his family to run Vegas.

     Dragna sent one of his capos, Jimmy "The Weasel" Fratianno, who would later turn mob informant, to send a message to Moe Sedway, Meyer Lansky's five foot, 130 pound front man in Vegas who had started as a gofer for Lansky back in New York.

     Arrogant with power and abusive to those under him, Sedway was widely disliked by the Italians he shared the Vegas Strip with.

     Fratianno caught up with him as he left the lobby of the Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles and was trying to flag a cab.

     Fratianno grabbed Sedway from behind and swung him around by the neck. "Moey, I want to tell you something, you motherfucker. You better walk straight around Vegas because the next time I'm going to blow your fucking head off." Then he backhanded Sedway across the mouth, drawing blood.

     "What's the matter with you?" Sedway cried. "Leave me alone."

      "Remember, you better walk straight." It was a Sicilan message that Sedway and Lansky understood. They had been moved on.

     Five days later Doc Starcher, Lansky's other front man in Vegas also got a visit from Jimmy the Weasel.

     Starcher had a record for assault and battery, robbery, burglary, bootlegging and hijacking and suspicion of murder. He had been under Longy Zwillman in New Jersey and for a while was a power in Newark politics. Then Lansky had picked him to oversee the building of the Sands in Vegas.

     Fratianno caught him between two sets of glass doors at the entrance to the Sands. "Listen you motherfucker. I want to tell you something. You're around here high rolling like a fucking big shot, you better do the right thing," and then backhanded him across the mouth, drawing blood. "You better walk straight in this town, or I'll blow your fucking head off," and then Fratianno worked him over.

     Starcher was small but he was tough but still there was nothing he could do, Fratianno was a made member of the Mafia, if he touched him, even to defend himself, he was a dead man.

     Lansky went to Lucchese. "What's the matter with that fucking weasel? What's his problem? First he whacks Moey Sedway and then he whacks Doc Starcher. He told them to walk straight or he'll blow their heads off. Listen Tommy, these guys are in my fucking family. Who does this weasel think he is anyway?"

     Lucchese said, "Well, you know, he's their top man out there. He's done a lot of work for LA and they're fucking starving out there."

     Lansky said, "So they're putting the arm on us, is that what this is?"

     "Listen Meyer, that's their country you're in, don't forget that."

     Lansky yelled, "That's open country out there! They got no right to smack my people!"

     Lucchese remained calm and said, "What? You want to start a fucking war? They've got to make a living. What do they care about open country? Vegas is in their back yard."

     It took a year to work out but in early 1954 Lansky sent word to Dragna that he could buy into the Flamingo for $125,000 but Dragna declined.

Mr. Tuohy can be reached at

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