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Blame the FBI & US Attorney for Local Corruption?

Posted by Michael Zahara on Jan 2, 2012

Yes, they deserve the lion’s share of the blame but it’s not that easy and is far more complicated when looking at crimes in Nevada and what doesn’t happen on the federal level whereas in other cities, the Justice Department acts decisively as a check on and prosecutor of local corruption of public officials and their subordinates.
My first engagement with the FBI occurred in the 1980’s when I was working for the oldest Common Carrier in the trucking business and two FBI agents and the company’s Chairman and the Executive VP I reported to came up to my desk. My superiors had a look of great panic in their faces which were absent any blood at all.  The agents asked me several questions, I answered truthfully, and by protecting the company as I always still do, the company was allowed to keep the $2500.00+ certified check I demanded for a shipment, and the Chairman turned around and endorsed that check over to me and promoted me on the spot.
Unbeknownst to me prior to that day is that I had inadvertently intercepted an illegal shipment of Cobalt which can be used for nuclear, neutron, and possibly what are called ‘salted bombs’ weapons manufacturing and the FBI was hot on the trail of the bad guys they arrested when they came to pick it up at my company’s terminal several miles away from my Chicago Loop corporate offices.
After that, I interacted with agents in their Chicago offices on many occasions and mostly informally since I work in an industry dominated by organized crime until I moved here full-time. 
My first impression was how very different the FBI’s culture was here in Las Vegas compared to their Chicago office and how seemingly disinterested they are here compared to back home too.  Said one local agent friend to me, ‘Michael, we would need an office as large as Los Angeles and New York combined to tackle all that is going on in Southern Nevada.’
Our local FBI has a paltry 200+ or so agents; hardly a serious commitment by the federal government here and that’s largely by intentional design.  During the purge of the mob from resort and hotel ownership here credited deservedly or not to then Attorney General Bobby Kennedy in the 1960’s, the grand bargain was an enormous infusion of Mormons to take over the running of the resorts’ financial operations–because they were perceived as being more honest and good with money–and that by default has resulted over the decades in our local FBI offices having an inordinate amount of LDS agents and other personnel too.
But to blame a Mormon protection racket on the appalling lack of federal law enforcement interest here over the years is too easy and is also just incorrect.
I didn’t have any official relationship with the local FBI Field Office until 2006 when I asked for and received their protections during the 2006 Clark County Sheriff’s race for myself, my family, and my candidate and his family.  I watched them watching us and when the FBI wants you to know they’re around and aware, they’re quite conspicuous in doing so. 
Even the men all looked like Clarice Starling! 
Their fingernails, their shoes, and their eyes are very easy to identify them when they are attempting to be surreptitious, but not undercover.  Since then, several agents here and around the country and their various offices in Washington and Virginia are regular visitors here too and I welcome their readership.
The FBI is one of more than 66 agencies under the US Department of Justice and in theory, they are also the investigative arm of the US Attorneys’ 93 judicial districts, including our own Daniel Bogden, one of the worst USAs in the country as his abysmal record clearly shows.  Each of the 66+ agencies under USDOJ are fiercely territorial and cooperation is only achieved if cultures mesh and interpersonal relationships are strong at the executive level.
That’s been a rarity for decades in Las Vegas.
I say ‘in theory’ because the poisoned relationships between the agencies as Daniel Bogden has fostered during his disastrous tenure is extraordinarily frustrating to the regular Joes and Janes across federal law enforcement.  For whatever they may do, if the US Attorney refuses to prosecute, it’s a wasted effort.  Hyper-dysfunction between USDOJ agencies here is certainly not unique as other regions suffer the same syndrome, but here in Las Vegas, it’s especially bad and that means an unproductive and largely unresponsive federal response.
Though no person under USDOJ here has ever been a source here, none has ever said a kind word about Daniel Bogdennone–or Ellen Knowlton either, though many liked her.  During Sallie Mae, I learned to go directly to Washington on all matters to avoid conflicts and compromising anyone here.  My treatment by and cooperation with the very highest levels of USDOJ, USDOE and Treasury were superior–all superstar careeristand I learned how the bosses in DC pulled the local strings…or not.
Observing Ellen Knowlton’s many failures during her tenure as our FBI chief was an education in how things have operated in federal law enforcement in Las Vegas for decades.  What she chose to go after…or not, an appalling indictment of women who placed political expediency over law enforcement while enjoying her local celebrity rather than using the powers granted to her position.  I watched Knowlton turn a blind eye to local politicos who should have long been in the federal prison system and she completely ignored vast, institutional corruption at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department further emboldening them to be what they’ve become today: The very worst major police department in the United States under Sheriff Douglas Gillespie.
Today, Ms Knowlton is associated with the Mob Museum of all things!!!   What does that tell the world about our commitment to federal law enforcement here?
It’s not widely known, but one reason local federal investigations don’t occur here with any regularity or dependability to keep the crooks in public office worried is the enormous expense of such investigations–many can take from 12 months to up to 3 years before convening a grand jury–and that’s why they generally only go after ‘slam dunks’ which fall into their laps like Operation G-Sting in Las Vegas.  A commitment to federal investigations also requires a proactive US Attorney which we do not have in Las Vegas in Daniel Bogden and an energetic FBI Special Agent in Charge which we currently do have in SAIC Kevin Favreau, but the revolving door of SAICs here where most barely last three years and move on has been gravely damaging to necessary law enforcement continuity on the federal level here because of the type of city we are and the human vermin we attract in Las Vegas.
So what citizens are left with in Las Vegas is ironically what the FBI is best at: Just sitting back and watching and listening.  These men and women know about everything; you can’t surprise them with a fact or tip if your very life depended on it but almost all of it never goes anywhere because of the complete federal lack of interest in prosecutions here.  Passing along intelligence to other Field Offices is done all over the country, but appears to be the only thing our local office does because no one here has ever been a voice in Washington for the resources necessary for our FBI and US Attorney offices here; our leaders and our citizenry simply aren’t interested in such things and the Justice Department knows it.
But a disinterested citizenry was ignored in New York and Chicago when superstar USA Patrick Fitzgerald arrived in those locales and threw down a gauntlet that scared the living crap out of everyone in the public sector. 
I was there in 2001 when he arrived in Chicago and watched a beloved but horribly corrupt politico literally throw up in a wastebasket in fear.
He went to federal prison a few years later with more than 60 others also indicted under what began as an innocuous investigation into selling truck licenses for bribes which came from a family being killed in Wisconsin and led to an Illinois governor going to prison and his investigators along with an energetic Chicago FBI were so good that they came into my workplace which was right next door to the corrupt facility and asked to see our driver records too and I gave them over without a moment’s hesitation.  We were clean and so were our drivers!
A couple of FBI agents put it together and the US Attorney ran with it, so it can be done, it just hasn’t ever been done in Las Vegas.
Why don’t we ever get that kind of driven Fitzgerald talent on the federal level here?
Isn’t it time that Las Vegans demand this?

Mike Zahara Siganture 

Michael  Zahara