Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Carlos Marcello: Big Daddy In The Big Easy


Joseph Hauser (AP)
Joseph Hauser (AP)

Lobbyist Isaac Irving Davidson was a mover and shaker in Washington D.C. He was a close friend of Marcello, who he referred to as "Uncle Snookems." Through one of his many business deals, he made contact with a Los Angeles-based insurance operator, who also happened to be a convicted swindler called Joseph Hauser. Davidson introduced this man to Carlos in June 1976. Hauser was anxious to expand his business interests into Louisiana. For a fee of $250,000, Carlos made a few phone calls, which resulted in Hauser getting access to all the insurance business from the Building Trade Union and also lucrative contracts with the Teamsters and Longshoreman Unions. Hauser leveraged this business through an insurance company he purchased in New Orleans, again using Carlos as the go between.

However, by the end of 1978, Hauser was in deep trouble. The SEC had placed his company under receivership because of irregularities they had discovered in the way the business was set up, and in addition he and Davidson were indicted on federal racketeering charges. In February 1979, Hauser pleaded guilty and looked set to pay a hefty fine and go off to prison for some time. He was then approached by a FBI agent, who offered him a way out of his troubles, provided he was prepared to participate in an undercover operation to be mounted against Marcello. It was part of a nationwide Justice Department sting operation, to be known as "Operation BRILAB," an anagram for Bribery and Labor. The exercise to dethrone Carlos Marcello began on April 2, 1979.

This was to be a momentous year in the life of Marcello. His peerless, hard working lawyer Jack Wasserman died suddenly of a heart attack. It was estimated that over the years, Carlos had paid him over $2 million in legal fees to fight his deportation case, which had originally been entered against him back in 1956, and was now the longest and costliest in United States history. In 1979, Carlos admitted for the first time ever, on record that is, that he belonged to the Mafia. The FBI launched two operations against him, both of which succeeded, and resulted in lengthy prison sentences, effectively destroying him and his criminal empire.

Hauser, aided by two undercover FBI agents, set themselves up as representatives of a fictitious West Coast insurance company and set out to induce Marcello to use his influence to get key officials in the labor movement and the state and municipal governments to award major insurance contracts to the company, in return for a share of the huge commissions payable on these agreements. Hauser and the FBI agents would wear wires and Marcello's office at the Town and Country Motel complex would be bugged.

This operation had been under way about six months, when Hauser, in one of his many conversations with Carlos, picked him up on the wire he was wearing, saying, "I'm doin' this for friends of mine in California. They Maf like me, you know, personal friends."

The men he was referring to were the leaders of the Los Angeles Mafia: the boss, Dominick Brooklier, his underboss Sam Sciortino, a capo called Mike Rizzitello, and three top soldiers in the West Coast arm of the mob. They had been indicted on federal racketeering charges in February 1979, largely on the evidence of former [capo] "Jimmy the Weasel" Frattiano, who had become an informant because he feared Brooklier had put out a contract on him.

The FBI through Hauser convinced Marcello that they could set up the judge in the forthcoming trial of the six men, provided Carlos could provide a suitable inducement. On November 1, the FBI bug planted in Carlos' office recorded him confirming with Hauser that he would guarantee the $125,000 that had been agreed upon to bribe Judge Pregerson.

On June 17, 1980, Carlos Marcello, along with three other men, was indicted by a federal grand jury of twelve counts of racketeering in the BRILAB case. It was scheduled for summer 1981. On August 5, 1981, he was indicted by a Los Angeles federal grand jury for conspiring to bribe a United States district judge. Carlos was not concerned about his New Orleans trial. He had beaten them always on his home ground. As he said to a newspaper reporter, "They's not going to get me man, no way man. Dese are my people here." But Los Angeles was a different story. That was the one to fear. As it turned out, they would both shaft him.

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