The Con Men of Las Vegas

Nevada Governor Sisolak:  Boiler Room Operator

Yesterday I posted that Nevada Governor Sisolak had ordered a step backward in Las Vegas’ reopening after the Bat Plague shutdown.  Specifically, I noted that Sisolak had mandated face masks in public based on a hoax.  I opined that Sisolak would use the hoax to crush Nevada’s economy for the November elections and beyond.

Then a long-time acquaintance showed up in the TVO comments section with a very interesting piece of information about the governor. The comment is quoted in full below; here is the link to the original.

Sisolak and I have a curious shared business history.

My initial entree into telemarketing boiler room sales was here in Vegas in the mid-70s, selling advertising specialties nationally. It’s where I first met Darryl Purpose.

By the mid 80s when I had long since moved on to bigger and greener pastures, Sisolak had become the biggest boiler room advertising specialties operator in the state.

I had it on good authority (and it was certainly the common practice at the time) that Sisolak’s American Distribution Co.’s sales close/inducement was based on faux instant sweepstakes.  For example, his boiler room brokers would tell a customer he’d won a “big screen TV.”  A few weeks after the sale the prize would arrive – an ingenious giant magnifying glass that would affix to the front of the TV set.  What they had actually “won” was not a big screen TV, but rather a big TV SCREEN! LOL

So what do you expect from a former boiler room operator?

In Case You Don’t Know What a Boiler Room Is

A boiler room is literally a room equipped with telephones used for making high-pressure, often fraudulent, telemarketing sales pitches.  Remember when Christopher Moltisanti was running the Webistics boiler room stock operation for Tony Soprano?  His job was to supervise brokers selling a worthless stock to seniors.  The idea was to pump up the price so Tony could dump the worthless stock at a profit.

I’ve known Zengrifter for over 30 years, since the mid to late 1980s, when he called me at my office (I was publishing a journal for professional gamblers at the time) to invite me to his house in southern California. It was back when cell phones were just beginning.  Nobody I knew had one, but Zengrifter said they would be huge, and he told me that auctions were going on where the government was bidding off cell phone territories.

Zengrifter said he wanted my advice on how to gain an advantage in the auctions.  He even paid for my airfare.  He said we might be able to make some money together.

I liked Zengrifter.  He’s friendly.  He’s smart.  When he talked about cell phone territories, he sounded like a visionary.  We talked about auction strategies, and I went home.

A few years later, in 1995, Forbes ran a story about a guy who’d been running securities telemarketing scams that bilked investors out of as much as $200 million.  The guy was famous nationwide among law enforcement authorities and fellow boiler room operators as “the grifter.”  When I saw the guy’s name, my eyes almost popped out of my head.  It was my friend, Zengrifter.

Zengrifter ended up working out a deal where he helped authorities bust 14 other boiler rooms across the country — places where con artists hawked worthless stakes in wireless cable operations and the like.  Seven other defendants eventually pleaded guilty, including a former U.S. Attorney.

The point is, when Zengrifter talks about boiler room scams, he knows what he’s talking about.

Las Vegas When Sisolak Arrived

When Sisolak arrived in Las Vegas in the mid-’70s, the city was fully controlled by the mob.  The Vegas Sun reports that “from about 1950 to the early 1980s, the mob controlled every Strip resort that was worth controlling.”

Sisolak arrived here while Tony Spilotro was still keeping an eye on Lefty Rosenthal, the legendary oddsmaker in charge of mob skimming operations at the Stardust and Fremont casinos.  Spilotro was also busy running his Hole in the Wall gang, a burglary ring whose stolen jewelry was fenced at Spilotro’s Gold Rush jewelry store.  Spilotro’s reign didn’t end until his murder in 1986, ordered by the Chicago mob.

Spilotro’s partner, Fat Herbie Blitzstein, was a loan shark in Vegas until he was murdered in 1997 by L.A. mobsters who took over his operation.

The Teamsters’ Central States Pension Fund was still controlled by the mob and being used to build Vegas.  Harry Reid was the Chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board.  He was depicted in the movie Casino by Dick Smothers, the guy getting free rooms and hookers and free stacks of $500 lavender chips from casino boss Ace Rothstein (Lefty Rosenthal).

In FBI wiretaps from that time, mobster Joe Agosto was recorded making a reference to a “Mr. Clean Face” (Harry Reid) who could fix all the mob’s legal troubles.  According to Vegas reporter John L. Smith, Agosto was the guy in charge of skimming at the Tropicana for Kansas City’s Civella crime family.  Later, Agosto would turn prosecution witness against his former crime boss.

As Harry Reid’s stint on the Gaming Control Board ended, somebody tried to car bomb him.  Reid’s friend offered to murder the likely culprit.

Personal friends of mine were still dealing seconds at blackjack tables in Las Vegas and Reno casinos well into the ’80s.  Binion’s Horseshoe Casino was still beating up any hole-card players they caught, much like the famous beating scene of the players caught spooking in Casino. Blackjack player Allan Brown was hospitalized with a ruptured spleen after his Binion’s beating.  The state had to drop all charges against the Horseshoe after all records in the case mysteriously disappeared.

The population of Las Vegas when Sisolak arrived was 325,000.  Unless you were a mobster running a casino, it was a city of little opportunity and low growth.  So much money was skimmed from the casinos by the mob that even the casinos struggled to find money to improve their facilities, and the Vegas community benefited little from casino profits.

So what drew Sisolak to Vegas from Wisconsin?  The only people I know who moved to Las Vegas in the ’70s were people who wanted to become professional card counters or professional cheats, or who were already involved in illegal gambling operations in other states and were invited by the people who owned those operations to work in their casinos in Vegas.

Sisolak has never worked in a casino that I know of.  He earned an MBA at UNLV in 1978, but UNLV was a nothing school at that time, founded less than 20 years earlier.  You’d never move to Las Vegas in the mid-70s to go to UNLV.

How did he end up running the biggest boiler room scam in town? Sisolak’s official government bio offers no clues.  Sisolak’s father was a project engineer at GM, a job that now pays $125,000 to $141,000.  Yet Sisolak’s official bio says he was born into a working-class family.  Sisolak’s official bio says he ran a “communications business” before entering politics, when even Wikipedia admits he ran a telemarketing operation.

And how did Sisolak hook up with Harry Reid?  By 1998, Reid had gotten Sisolak elected to the Nevada Board of Regents.  In 2008, Reid’s machine made Sisolak a Clark County Commissioner.  Ten years after that, Reid promoted Sisolak to governor, where one of his first acts was to hire fake doctor Ihsan Azzam as his chief medical officer.  Azzam has been putting “MD PhD” after his name for decades, even though he has never earned either degree.

But Azzam had the sole indispensable qualification for the job — he was willing to lie for powerful people.  When Nevada scientists found a few years ago that large natural deposits of asbestos in Las Vegas were getting exposed by commercial development and causing a troubling pattern of mesothelioma cases among residents of the area, Azzam, who was state epidemiologist at the time, determined that the exposed asbestos wasn’t a health risk.

This despite the Environmental Protection Agency designating the area a Superfund site in 2002 and, with the Department of Health and Human Services, declaring a public health emergency there in 2009.  Azzam is the guy “advising” Sisolak on his Bat Plague response.

So how did Sisolak meet up with Harry Reid?  Did they first meet up through Sisolak’s boiler room operation?  Harry Reid was alleged by Utah telemarketing fraudster Jeremy Johnson to have accepted a $600,000 bribe to make Johnson’s legal problems go away.  The FTC claimed Johnson’s companies scammed consumers out of $275 million by luring them into obtaining trial memberships for bogus services.  Consumers’ credit cards continued to get billed monthly for the nonexistent services.  There was no way for the victims to stop it.

Reporters confirmed that Johnson had documents that supported his claim of having bribed Reid.

Sisolak’s Big Con

I haven’t even touched on Sisolak’s alleged abuse of his wife, but you can read about it here.  There are disturbing photos in the piece of his wife’s bruised neck after an argument, and several witnesses in the piece describe Sisolak as a “control freak” who scared them.

Part of me looks at Sisolak with awe for the Big Con he is pulling off in Nevada.  He’s gotten an entire state with a population of over 3 million people to destroy itself over a hoax and wear a mask as a symbol of utter submission as well.  And hardly anyone is complaining!  The key to being a good con man is to keep your victim happy.

No wonder Harry Reid promoted this guy out of the boiler room!

You can find Part II of this article here.  You can find more of Zengrifter’s stories about the dark side of Vegas at his website here.

39 Responses to “The Con Men of Las Vegas”

  1. BennyHill

    Look back at my posts I told you Houston would be the test subject for closure redux….

    Fuck this. Go Sammy Hagar.

    • Arnold Snyder

      Benny, one hospital at 97% capacity, so panic, even though there’s plenty of room elsewhere.

      There are a million ways to keep this hoax going.

  2. Arnold Snyder

    Court victory in Florida: Judge rules against ballot harvesting and against counting ballots received after election day.

    Those are two of the Democrats’ favorite vote fraud methods.

    • Erik d

      Did I misread this

      “ No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

      This comes from a little known (to Democrats) document called the us constitution

  3. Davehat

    The California Governor mandated last week that masks are no longer optional. Governor Sissy probably thought ‘Great idea’ and copied it.

    Fortunately viruses cannot travel through the air (dessicate & disintegrate). They can only travel in water droplets. Each droplet can carry seven million virus particles (per milliliter) but because droplets are larger than the holes in an N95 mask, they don’t pass through.

    Lesser masks like cloth or blue surgical masks don’t do anything (don’t filter incoming air & not a tight fit).

  4. Davehat

    Wow Nevada is a lot more corrupt than I realized. The governor… Senator Harry Reid… I guess the narrative “we got rid of the mob in the 80s” doesn’t tell the whole story.

    • Arnold Snyder

      Davehat, the corruption is pretty much as bad today. That story about the boiler room operator paying $600k to Reid was from 2013. Reid asked for $2 million.

  5. Chris

    (sigh) another Friday and weekend wondering when and if things will get back to normal. I suppose eventually all the people who are going to get it and die will get it and die and the press will have to focus on some other crisis. I also suppose the whomever figures out a vaccine will get an insta Nobel Prize for all the lives they save…

    I find the case study in Sweden interesting, they did not shut-down and their rates (although slightly higher) are not significantly worse than the rest of Europe. In 20 years, maybe we’ll look back and realize what the real damage was during this time period. Meanwhile my friend died from cancer, because our local hospital stopped all ‘elective’ ie non-coronavirus treatments. He didn’t get the memo that cancer stopped being a ‘thing’ because of coronavirus. And the local press didn’t care at all, because his death certificate said cancer and not covid. Wrong C-word I guess.

    Life is too short for all this non-sense. I can only live in my Sapphire memories right now and hope it finally re-opens and the 10’s and 11’s coming back out to play.

  6. Robby J

    Texas, controlled by a Republican, just decided to re-close bars and strip clubs!

    Meanwhile, Trump doesn’t have the balls to publicly say that the virus is a hoax, that we should not be wearing masks, and that people and businesses should disregard these illegal closure orders.

    Why? Because Republican and Democratic politicians are so similar despite trying to appear different, are so equally unintelligent, and are so equally intellectually dishonest that they are willing to tank an economy based on a big over-reaction.

    Most Republicans are RINO, otherwise they wouldn’t be re-closing economies and instead would be speaking out against these injustices.

    If you can still find a way to vote Republican after this mess and after Trump refusing to publicly disown this virus in clear and certain terms instead of voting Libertarian or for a candidate who clearly acknowledges this virus as a hoax, then you are as intellectually dishonest as the Democrats!

    • Arnold Snyder

      I agree with you, Robby. From the beginning of this hoax, Trump’s response to it has greatly troubled me. Abbott’s response is very troubling to me now. Don’t get me started on DeWine and some of the others. DeWine is getting sued for his shutdown right now and I am rooting for the people suing him. Ducey in Arizona is allied with the Mexican drug cartels.

      I can’t tell whether Trump is incompetent on this issue because of his fear of germs or if the explanation is much darker. I choose right now to believe he’s stupid on this issue because if he’s selling us out there’s no hope.

      I would just say there’s more hope among the Republicans. DeSantis in Florida has been good. Kemp in Georgia has been good. Noem in South Dakota has been so great that South Dakota citizens threw a parade for her in gratitude.

      I would argue that other Republican governors have tended to be stupid rather than malicious.

      The Democrats are more troubling to me, keeping far too many things locked down for far too long, disrespecting freedom of religion and the right to protest the shutdowns while encouraging their Antifa Sturmabteilung to riot.

      As proof the Democrat-controlled states have been worse, jobs are getting lost in blue states right now at the fastest rates in their histories, while red states are gaining jobs:

      Here’s a huge Seattle investment firm leaving Seattle for Phoenix and saying they expect 80% vacancy rates in downtown Seattle by October:

      Seattle citizens are having to sue the city to get access to police and fire protection again and to be compensated for the destruction of their homes and businesses due to the city’s decision to allow an Antifa-controlled zone of a six square block neighborhood:

      • Robby J

        Florida just closed down bars and clubs again. That guy is as indefensible as any Democrat. RINO!

        • Arnold Snyder

          Robby, I don’t think you’re right on that. I’ve got dancer friends working in the strip clubs in Miami right now. They reopened June 18 with lap dances and private shows and everything.

          And Google doesn’t come up with anything about the Florida strip clubs and bars getting closed again since June 18.

          • Robby J

            Clear as day here. Florida re-closing. See link.

            Republicans politicians are really just as weak and spineless. They keep acting like this is real when all the data is fake. There is no virus. There have been no deaths from this virus. It’s all been misattributed because it’s a big HOAX and the Republicans are in on it too or else they wouldn’t be purposely tanking the economy again.

            The Democratic communists and Republicans are conspiring to destabilize the state to make way for a new world order. This is all part of the Illuminati, have no doubt! The lamestream media is not reporting on this because they are controlled by them.


          • Arnold Snyder

            Robby, thanks for the link. But note, it’s not DeSantis announcing that. In fact, it’s not even Democrat mayors announcing that. It’s Halsey Beshears, secretary of the agency that regulates bars.

            He’s a Republican but this looks like standard political corruption to me (not that it’s okay, but it’s a use of Bat Plague for standard grift rather than the destruction of America). Beshears’ family business is a marijuana-growing operation:

            It looks to me like he’s shutting down bars to try to increase weed sales and his own business revenues.

            You watch, DeSantis will deal with this slimeball soon, as soon as he figures out what’s going on. It’s hard for anyone to keep up with all the hoaxes right now.

            DeSantis will deal with this promptly because he has ambitions for 2024 and Republicans will never vote for a Bat Plague hoaxer.

    • Davehat

      Trump was always a Democrat at heart (which is why I didn’t vote for him). He came from the Democrat-dominated NYC and donated contributions to Democrat mayors, governors, and even Hillary Clinton (for senate)


      • Arnold Snyder

        Davehat, exactly, which is why it cracks me up that Democrats hate Orange Man Bad. He’s an old-fashioned Democrat who looks far-right now because Democrats have gone insane.

  7. Arnold Snyder

    You can get a mask exemption in NV with a note from your doctor.

    The doctors who used to write prescriptions for weed are the ones to see.

    My wife and I will not be submitting to Sisolak’s mask mandate.


    Yes, I just saw the same thing about Florida:

    I don’t know if it’s the illuminati or any of that but it’s clearly a conspiracy and the political elite (of which Trump is now a part clearly) are all in on it. Nobody is standing up to these lies about this fake news virus. George Soros created the virus in a laboratory and released it to the public. They are all spineless.

    It’s not a Republican vs. Democrat issue or else Republicans wouldn’t be re-closing states just like the dumb Democrats and Trump would have stood up and directly told America that this is nonsense and to stop wearing masks and bowing down to the tyranny.

    The Republicans at this point are just as culpable based on their actions.

    That’s why ultimately I can only support the American Freedom Party. Any true patriot should feel the same way! AMERICA!

    • Arnold Snyder

      John, see my reply to Robby and thanks for the link.

      I’m probably one of the few people here who would agree with you on the Illuminati, but in this case it looks like this is a play by a standard slimeball politician.

      His family owns a weed-growing business and he’s likely trying to shut down bars to increase his own business revenues.

      I think this particular hoax will be shut down soon.

  9. Arnold Snyder

    The latest Bat Plague hoax, this time in Texas, is a doozy. This is the new hoax Benny alerted us to.

    Hospital CEOs in Texas are counting everyone who tests positive for Covid antibodies as a Covid admission, even if the person is being admitted for a face lift or a breast lump removal:

    Studies have shown that 50% of blood donations from 2015 to 2018 test positive for Covid, even though Covid didn’t exist yet:

    Just another lie for the media to pump out.


    There are some very EASY solutions that can be implemented to fix these problems.

    The first step is that the government needs to eliminate the so-called false freedoms of speech that are exploited to spread fake information to the public. It starts with requiring the immediate forced shut down of CNN, MSNBC, Washington Post, and all of the other fake media outlets. The government has to forcibly shut them down to stop the brainwashing. Nobody who cares about American can fairly defend these houses of corruption. That’s the first step.

    The second step is to forcibly stop the BLM protests and similar protests that are all based on fake news. These are fake protests organized by insurrection “professionals” that are aimed at destabilizing the government, forcibly overthrowing the police, and destroying our society. BLM and other protestors should be immediately jailed by the government for AT LEAST 2 years because they are only trying to overthrow it and put in place a government that is going to immediately pay out reparations against the will of the real Americans. Look at all the damage, there is nothing “peaceful” about them.

    The third step is to put controls on social media. These big social media companies are controlling speech and contributing to the problems. They need to be jailed if they do not prohibit fake news from reaching their platforms. There has to be strict CRIMINAL penalties (not just civil ones) for the managers, directors, and shareholders of social media companies that cannot keep their platforms clean of fake news.

    The only way that we will get this country back on track and out of the hands of the communists is by taking it back forcibly. This means increasing funding to the police and removing restrictions on automatic weapons (in fact any restriction on 2A) so that the police and those citizens can enforce the above for the justice of society as a whole.

    That is the only path forward at this point.

  11. Arnold Snyder

    Good news: A federal judge in NY has ruled that Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have violated the Constitution by discriminating against religious groups.

    He has struck down their Bat Plague lockdown orders that prevented outdoor and indoor religious activities.

    Citing “simultaneous pro-protest/anti-religious gathering messages,” Judge Sharpe ruled that the lockdown orders violate the First Amendment because they don’t apply equally to religious assemblies and secular assemblies.

    De Blasio, a raging anti-semite, had particularly singled out Orthodox Jews for discrimination.

    Step by step, hoax by hoax, guys.

  12. Arnold Snyder

    More good news: We’re all gonna get another $1200 or thereabouts in Coronabux.

    This will be for everyone, employed, unemployed, ski bum, retired, homeless meth addict. Everyone.

    Trump says deal with be finalized within a week or two.

      • Arnold Snyder

        Bill, outstanding. Thanks for the heads up.

        I’m doing a post on ADA laws tomorrow that provide you can’t be forced to wear a mask. So we’ve got tools to fight.

        • Zengrifter

          A little more background on Sisolak and the Vegas boiler rooms …

          By the early 70s boiler rooms in southern Nevada had become a very robust industry, some operations sold office supplies with a hidden kickback inducement to the company purchasing agent, typically mid-sized and larger companies, who can authorize the purchase order for tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars; huge orders of staples and pens and so forth. The sales were made on a net 90-day pay basis, typical of the industry.

          One of the product categories in the office supplies catalog that never got any traction was advertising specialties: imprinted pens and calendars and the like.

          At that point in time, the biggest boiler room operator was a former commercial plumber from Milwaukee named Ronald Schraeder. Ron was well-connected in Milwaukee and many rounders out of Milwaukee flocked to Vegas to join this new semi underground growth industry.

          Schrader’s company was called 50 States Distributing, and one of his salesmen had a eureka moment and showed Ron that the advertising specialties could be bigger than office supplies, and open up a huge market of small businesses, florists and bakeries and gas stations and such.

          it might only be a coincidence that Steve Sisolak also hails from Milwaukee, but he first got into that sales racket while going to school in Vegas late 70s.

          The untapped market for advertising specialties was huge, and Ron’s company and its spin-offs were ordering thousands of rural yellow page phone books filled with small business owners who had never ever got a phone call from out of state, let alone Las Vegas, to sell them something.

          At the time that Sisolak first entered the game (around ’77) the pitch was an ingenious “misprint” angle, no prizes:
          … “John I’m calling you with something of an emergency, I own a company in Las Vegas that does the advertising specialties for all the big hotels and casinos here.
          … “I just had a big order cancel on me, a large floral arrangement business in San Francisco that HAS THE SAME NAME AS YOURS: Big Valley Florist, they went bankrupt, and we’ve already printed the first line of advertising, the name, on ten thousand of our best quality ballpoint pens! 
          … “If you could please help me and take some of these off my hands I can print three more lines of advertising plus your logo, and I’ll sell them at my cost and pay for the shipping. Can you please help me, John?”

          The Vegas ‘adspec’ industry had exploded so big that by ’76 when the biggest timeshare sales resort in the country, the Carriage House – backed by Teamsters’ Morris Shenker played by Alan King in Casino – Carriage House that year did 21 million in sales 20% down and payments for 5 years …. That same year Schrader’s company did 26 million, COD.

          Needless to say, organized crime quickly got its hooks into this burgeoning industry. 

          By 1981 Schraeder had reached an impasse with regulators in 20 states, but not Nevada of course, and he made a sweetheart consent deal to leave the industry with a slap on the wrist.

          At that point in time, Sisolak with his UNLV MBA was one of the sales managers I believe, and with a little help from shadowy friends reconstituted Ron’s little empire and the name changed from 50 States Distributing to American Distributing; and the pitch angle changed from a misprint to a major prize sweepstakes.

  13. Erik d

    I hope it’s vegas but at this point I’ve gotta open other options up. On the way to a Pennsylvania strip club that says they are fully running. Lap dances and all shall see.



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