It’s the body that has rejuvenated the public’s fascination with The Mob.
In underworld parlance, the unfortunate male victim was wearing a metal overcoat in the shape of a barrel and had languished on the bed of shrinking Lake Mead in Nevada for decades.
Until, that is, the critically receding waters of America’s biggest man-made lake near Las Vegas gave up her grisly secret this month – sparking a frenzy of speculation about more Mob victims waiting to be discovered as the shoreline continues to creep forward in an environmental disaster.
One man many TV commentators believe might shed some light resolutely denies he has any insights – but he did give DailyMail.com a fascinating glimpse into the former Vegas Mob who would appear to be responsible.
‘Everybody is asking me, who is it – and do you know who did it?’ former high-profile mobster attorney Oscar Goodman told us exclusively.
‘And I say to them, don’t bother asking me that. How do I know?
‘Nobody ever came to me and said, Mr. Goodman you think it’s a good idea for us to put someone in a barrel and put him in the lake?’
Although it’s fair to say, some of his former clients might have had a fair idea about the typical fate of someone like the gentleman of the lake.
Goodman, now 82, represented legendary Mob figures Meyer Lansky, Frank Rosenthal and Anthony ‘Tony the Ant’ Spilotro, who director Martin Scorsese based his lead character Nicky Santoro on in 1995 hit movie Casino.
And while he cannot be specific about the victim, the attorney did reveal some chilling – and almost comedic ways – the way the Mob has been linked with Sin City.
DailyMail.com spoke with former high-profile mobster attorney and former mayor of Las Vegas Oscar Goodman, 82
Goodman represented legendary Mob figures Meyer Lansky, Frank Rosenthal and Anthony ‘Tony the Ant’ Spilotro. He is pictured (right) with Spilotro in 1986
Las Vegas police announced last week that the body found in a barrel at the bottom of Lake Mead is likely a man killed by gunshot in the ’70s or ’80s
What we do know: the victim was shot in the head and he was wearing clothes and shoes bought from Kmart in the ’70s or ’80s. That alone would suggest he wasn’t exactly the Dapper Don.
Goodman had a cameo role in Casino, playing himself
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police have already had ‘several dozen’ tip-offs about the victim’s identity, but haven’t shared any more information. Officers are working with the University of Las Vegas to determine how long the steel barrel would have taken to erode in the hope of giving them further clues.
The body was discovered close to Hemenway Harbor, home to Lake Mead Marina and Las Vegas Marina, on May 1. It was uncovered due to the megadrought that is causing Lake Mead’s waters to recede at a record rate.
‘I’m waiting to see if the guy was shot with a .22,’ said Goodman. ‘The favorite method of murdering somebody back in those days was to use a .22.
‘The .22 kills people, but it doesn’t cause great damage. It’s a small caliber bullet. And the person was usually shot in the back of the head. That’s the modus operandi in most of the cases with Mob related murders.
‘I have to say if I was a gangster I wouldn’t use a .22. I’d use something that put a bigger hole in somebody.’
Goodman, who also served as Las Vegas Mayor for 12 years from 1999, believes if DNA can be extracted from the victim after all these years then there is still a chance the killer can be identified.
‘I believe they have the tools that can get pretty close to solving this mystery,’ he said. ‘They may get the person who did it, if they are still alive.’
DailyMail.com was invited into the book and art-lined library of the beautiful home Goodman shares with wife Carolyn, the current mayor of Vegas. There he talked with animation, exuberance and a hint of mischief about Vegas’s Mob era.
‘Dumping a body in a barrel and then dropping it in a lake is not a bad way to get rid of someone,’ he said. ‘But nobody ever dreamt that lake would be as low as it is today.’
Director Martin Scorsese based his lead character Nicky Santoro on Spilotro in his 1995 hit movie Casino. Spilotro seen in a 1974 mug shot
Goodman famously gained an acquittal for Meyer Lansky (pictured), one of The Mob’s biggest figures through its golden years in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, who was instrumental in establishing the National Crime Syndicate with Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano
However, in the macabre humor that often surrounds Mob stories, he continued: ‘I used to joke that when we had a development project such as a new store, and I was asked to cut the ribbon as mayor at the start of excavation, I would pray one of my former client’s hands didn’t come up from the ground. That always used to crack people up.
‘If I were a criminal and I was looking to commit a crime and had to hide something like a body I would think of the desert before dumping it in a lake. That’s a lot of work to go out to Lake Mead and put somebody in a barrel, go out on the water and dump that barrel.
‘Going out to the desert, you take a shovel and you do it at night, little flashlight. It’s easy to bury somebody out there. It’s a big desert.’
Goodman had a cameo role in Casino, playing himself. And he famously gained an acquittal for Meyer Lansky, one of The Mob’s biggest figures through its golden years in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, who was instrumental in establishing the National Crime Syndicate with Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano.
Lansky, The Mob’s ‘accountant’ was accused of skimming money from the Flamingo hotel in Vegas while living out his last days in Miami. Goodman nailed an acquittal due to his client’s ill health.
But his closest association was probably with Spilotro – depicted in Casino by Joe Pesci – who he represented for 15 years and who was accused over the murder of Chicago boss Sam Giancana.
‘They say he killed 27 people,’ said Goodman. ‘But I represented him for 15 years and he never spent a day in jail.
‘They (law enforcement and prosecutors) used to say, how can you represent such a terrible individual and I said, how can you be so dumb that you weren’t able to get a conviction?
‘He never was convicted. I read police reports involving him and they always tried to pin any kind of murder on him because they couldn’t pin it on anybody else around here.’
Goodman, who served as Las Vegas Mayor for 12 years from 1999, said The Mob in Vegas no longer exists. And one of the reasons is the abandoning of a key Mafia rule of Omerta, the code of silence. Goodman is pictured (left) with former judge Harry Claiborne
Goodman, pictured with The X Girls and Chippendale Dancers, said ‘I used to joke that when we had a development project such as a new store, and I was asked to cut the ribbon as mayor at the start of excavation, I would pray one of my former client’s hands didn’t come up from the ground’
Spilotro, however, did not die of old age. He disappeared with brother Michael in June 1986 from the latter’s Chicago home and their bodies were discovered several days later in a cornfield in Indiana.
The Mob in Vegas no longer exists, Goodman asserts. And one of the reasons is the abandonment of the key Mafia rule of Omerta, the code of silence.
‘Now, there is no Mob in Las Vegas, for a lot of different reasons,’ he said. ‘Everybody got older or went to prison, the techniques of getting folks to testify against alleged mobsters have loosened up.
‘The old concept of Omerta, the promise of silence, that doesn’t mean anything anymore. There is no loyalty amongst the members of the quote unquote Mob.
‘Law enforcement got wire taps where they got conversations of people discussing committing acts of criminality. The RICO statute upped the anti, somebody convicted of serious offenses but not murder could go away for life without possibility of parole.
‘It used to be like the wild west in Las Vegas. But everything is much tougher for somebody to be a real mobster these days.’
Asked what could get someone like the man in the barrel killed in the ’70s or ’80s, Goodman reflected: ‘Some people look on me like I’m some kind or Godfather or consigliere to the Mob. I can tell you, nobody ever asked me whether they could do anything illegal.’
However, he did reveal: ‘I had a case in Philadelphia where I was representing The Mob.
‘And there was a fella there who they attempted to kill 13 times, before they were successful on the 14th.
‘His purported transgression was that he broke off an engagement to the daughter of another mobster. That was enough to get him killed.
‘He apparently also said something about one of the other defendants that he wasn’t the best concrete man – they had a concrete business in Philadelphia. They were saying that was a reason to kill somebody. That is all it took.’
DailyMail.com was invited into the book and art-lined library of the beautiful home Goodman shares with wife. There he talked with animation, exuberance and a hint of mischief about Vegas’ Mob era
Goodman has a bar called Oscars in downtown Vegas and created The Mob Museum in the city while he was mayor.
He recalls that despite Vegas’s Mob association in the ’60s, ’70s, ‘it was a very safe place to live then’.
That was because mobsters had a rule that ‘if they were going to kill somebody, that they would not do it in Las Vegas’. He added: ‘They would do it in California or Arizona because they did not want to bring attention to Las Vegas.
‘Bobby Kennedy, who was Attorney General in the ’60s, had a vendetta against Nevada and Las Vegas in particular. Mobsters didn’t want to have a team of FBI agents coming into town. So if you kill somebody, the word was you at least bury the body across state lines and not bring attention to Vegas.’
Of defending mobsters against charges and in court, Goodman reflects that everyone deserves a fair trial. He said: ‘I wore it with pride.
‘I never apologized for it because the way I practiced was always to accuse government of not doing its job correctly and making sure that the government adhered to The Constitution of the United States.
‘And if they didn’t, I did not hesitate to embarrass them. And if that was to my client’s benefit so be it. I never apologized. It wasn’t my job to apologize.’