Las Vegas Sun

November 16, 2018

Currently: 54° — Complete forecast

Columnist Jeff German: DuCharme once posed as ‘dirty cop’ to infiltrate the mob

THE FBI'S LATEST assault on the mob has unlocked a secret carried by Control Board member Steve DuCharme for more than a decade.

Before his gangland slaying in January, Chicago mob associate Herbie Blitzstein had been bragging that he had made payoffs to DuCharme while he was a Metro Police detective.

The boasting was picked up in secret FBI wiretaps.

And last week, in a just-unsealed FBI affidavit, Blitzstein associate Joe DeLuca was quoted as telling FBI informant John Branco that Blitzstein had records of payments he had made to a state gaming regulator.

As it turns out, Blitzstein did pay off DuCharme back in 1986. But DuCharme says he accepted the money while working undercover for Metro intelligence.

As a general assignment detective, DuCharme says, intelligence Lt. Loren Stevens had asked him to pose as a dirty cop to infiltrate the Chicago mob's organization, run at the time by Blitzstein's boss, the late Anthony Spilotro.

Many recall that Spilotro had a reputation for corrupting cops.

In 1978, Metro was plagued by scandal when the FBI learned that former Detective Joe Blasko was on Spilotro's payroll.

DuCharme says he met with Blitzstein on several occasions, accepting $500 from him once and $300 another time. The money was logged in as evidence at the police department.

"I was getting in pretty tight with Herbie," DuCharme says. "He was taking a shine to me."

But as luck would have it, DuCharme's duty as an undercover cop was cut short when a separate Metro sting, dubbed "Operation Chutzpah," ensnared Blitzstein and his cronies.

DuCharme says his undercover career "died on the vine" after Blitzstein's arrest. Blitzstein went away to prison and Spilotro was murdered outside Chicago, ending the Chicago mob's reign on the streets here.

In January 1991, about the time Blitzstein got out of prison, Gov. Bob Miller appointed DuCharme to the Gaming Control Board.

His undercover days probably would have remained a secret until the FBI started probing a plot by the Los Angeles mob to take over Blitzstein's remaining street rackets.

The takeover bid cost Blitzstein his life, but it was smashed by the FBI, which in April arrested top Los Angeles and Buffalo underworld figures in an unprecedented racketeering probe. Blitzstein's alleged killers also were identified and charged.

DuCharme says he put his dealings with Blitzstein behind him until a couple of weeks ago, when the FBI notified Stevens they had picked up on Blitzstein's bragging.

Stevens then relayed his conversation with the FBI to DuCharme.

The intelligence lieutenant, DuCharme says, explained to the FBI that DuCharme never really was on Blitzstein's payroll.

There seems to be a feeling, however, that Blitzstein may have gone to his grave thinking he had corrupted DuCharme.

"I never put it to bed with Herbie," DuCharme says. "As far as I know, he may have still thought he had me on the hook."

It couldn't have been that long of a hook, however.

Last year, DuCharme pushed hard to include Blitzstein in Nevada's Black Book of undesirables banned from casinos.

A month before his murder, the Control Board nominated Blitzstein for the book.

* Dealers at the Sheraton Desert Inn are said to be outraged that one of their own allegedly has been stealing tokes from them.

Amid IRS scrutiny several years ago, dealers at most Las Vegas casinos agreed to create toke committees to distribute tips evenly and keep better records of their income.

But one member of the Desert Inn's committee, veteran craps dealer Pete Santarini, apparently was pocketing tips meant for his fellow workers.

Santarini, a toke committee member for 15 years, reportedly was captured in the act on casino surveillance tapes. He was said to have had about $2,000 in chips in his pocket when casino officials nabbed him.

State gaming agents last week arrested Santarini on theft charges.

Santarini, who also has been fired from his dealer's job, could not be reached for comment.

But the alleged betrayal of his colleagues has enraged D.I. dealers, who wonder how long he may have been ripping them off.

"He seriously damaged the morale of all of the employees," says one dealer, who asked to remain anonymous.

The dealer praises the "genuine interest" that D.I. executives and gaming agents have shown in this case.