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June 24, 2021

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Tropicana’s former landlord suing over ‘60 Minutes’ segment

Fred Doumani, the one-time controversial landlord of the Tropicana hotel-casino, has filed a defamation lawsuit in District Court against CBS Inc. and "60 Minutes" correspondent Ed Bradley.

Doumani claims he was slandered during the show's March 24, 1996, segment about his attempt to buy the Bicycle Club card club in Southern California from the federal government.

What miffed Doumani was the description of him by Bradley as having "ties to many mob figures" when the lawsuit contends he "is not, and has never been, associated with organized crime and has not engaged in criminal and illegal acts."

Last year, however, Doumani and his brother, Ed Doumani, were indicted by the government for allegedly diverting millions from a $34 million court judgment their bankrupt company had won over the 1979 sale of the Tropicana hotel-casino into their own pockets. They deny wrongdoing.

Fred Doumani concedes his reputation was tarnished in the late 1970s when he and his brother were the Tropicana's landlords while Midwest Mafia families were investigated for systematically skimming profits from the casino.

The brothers were never charged in the investigation that sent several mob kingpins to federal prison, but state gaming agents forced them to sell their interests in the Tropicana.

The "60 Minutes" story indicated that Doumani was invited to bid on the Bicycle Club by the government and attended at least one meeting accompanied by Joey Cusumano, an ex-felon associated with the Chicago mob. Cusumano is in the "Black Book" of persons excluded from setting foot in Nevada casinos.

The federal government had seized the Bicycle Club in 1990 and ran it for years, earning about $30 million but drawing criticism. There were allegations of skimming, stealing, cheating and payoffs at the club.

The "60 Minutes" story said a deal was struck to sell the club to Doumani for $39 million but the agreement was quietly cancelled after a background check.

The lawsuit Doumani filed himself alleges that "60 Minutes" knew its segment was false or broadcast it "with reckless disregard for whether or not it was true."

A demand by Doumani for a retraction was rejected, the lawsuit stated.

"60 Minutes" spokesman Kevin Tedesco said Wednesday that CBS was unaware the lawsuit has been filed.

The lawsuit, alleging that Doumani suffered injury to his business, profession and occupation, seeks unspecified general and punitive damages.