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John Roselli


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John Roselli (Filippo Sacco) first became involved in crime when he worked for Al Capone in the 1920s. By the end of the Second World War Roselli had emerged as a senior crime boss in Las Vegas with close links to Meyer Lansky. In 1947 the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) identified him as a leading figure in the Mafia and a close associate of Santos Trafficante.

In March I960, President Dwight Eisenhower of the United States approved a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) plan to overthrow Fidel Castro. The plan involved a budget of $13 million to train "a paramilitary force outside Cuba for guerrilla action." The strategy was organised by Richard Bissell and Richard Helms.

Sidney Gottlieb of the CIA Technical Services Division was asked to come up with proposals that would undermine Castro's popularity with the Cuban people. Plans included a scheme to spray a television studio in which he was about to appear with an hallucinogenic drug and contaminating his shoes with thallium which they believed would cause the hair in his beard to fall out.

These schemes were rejected and instead Bissell decided to arrange the assassination of Fidel Castro. In September 1960, Richard Bissell and Allen W. Dulles, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), initiated talks with two leading figures of the Mafia, Roselli (using the name John Rawlston) and Sam Giancana.

On 12th March, 1961, William Harvey arranged for CIA operative, Jim O'Connell, to meet Sam Giancana, Santo Trafficante, Johnny Roselli and Robert Maheu at the Fontainebleau Hotel. During the meeting O'Connell gave poison pills and $10,000 to Rosselli to be used against Fidel Castro. As Richard D. Mahoney points out in his book: Sons and Brothers: "Late one evening, probably March 13, Rosselli passed the poison pills and the money to a small, reddish-haired Afro-Cuban by the name of Rafael "Macho" Gener in the Boom Boom Room, a location Giancana thought "stupid." Rosselli's purpose, however, was not just to assassinate Castro but to set up the Mafia's partner in crime, the United States government. Accordingly, he was laying a long, bright trail of evidence that unmistakably implicated the CIA in the Castro plot. This evidence, whose purpose was blackmail, would prove critical in the CIA's cover-up of the Kennedy assassination."

In 1961 Roselli persuaded Meyer Lansky, to join the conspiracy and was reportedly offering a million-dollar reward for the Cuban leader's murder. Richard Cain, a specialist in electronics and wire taps, was also recruited by Roselli. Cain took part in a failed attempt in March 1961 to poison Castro.

The nearest Rosselli came to killing Fidel Castro was in September 1961. Several Cubans were arrested at the intersection of Rancho Boyeros Avenue and Santa Catalina Avenue in Havana. The men were in two Jeeps armed with bazookas, grenade launchers, and machine guns. Two of those arrested, Guillermo Caula Ferrer and Higinio Menendez, made a full confession during their interrogation and admitted they had been working with CIA agents in Miami and had been trained on Guantanamo, the American naval base in Cuba. All the men involved in the plot were executed.

In April 1962, William Harvey took control of the ZR/RIFLE project. He told Johnny Roselli that Santos Trafficante and Sam Giancana had to cease involvement in the project to kill Castro. Ted Shackley, the new head of JM WAVE, also began to play a more important role in planning the assassination.

Eventually Rosselli and his friends became convinced that the Cuban revolution could not be reversed by simply removing its leader. However, they continued to play along with this CIA plot in order to prevent them being prosecuted for criminal offences committed in the United States.

In February, 1963, William Harvey was removed as head of the ZR/RIFLE project. Harvey was now sent to Italy where he became Chief of Station in Rome. Harvey was convinced that Robert Kennedy had been responsible for his demotion. A friend of Harvey's said that he "hated Bobby Kennedy's guts with a purple passion".

Harvey continued to keep in contact with Johnny Roselli. According to Richard D. Mahoney: "On April 8, Rossrlli flew to New York to meet with Bill Harvey. A week later, the two men met again in Miami to discuss the plot in greater detail... On April 21 he (Harvey) flew from Washington to deliver four poison pills directly to Rosselli, who got them to Tony Varona and hence to Havana. That same evening, Harvey and Ted Shackley, the chief of the CIA's south Florida base, drove a U-Haul truck filled with the requested arms through the rain to a deserted parking lot in Miami. They got out and handed the keys to Rosselli."

In November, 1963, Roselli travelled to Arizona with a male friend and two women. He was being followed by the FBI but on the way to Los Vegas they lost contact with him. According to Tosh Plumlee, a pilot working for the CIA, he picked up Roselli from Tampa, Florida, early on the 22nd November. Plumlee then took Roselli to New Orleans. After picking up three more men, Plumlee took Roselli and his friends to Redbird Airport in Dallas. In an interview in April, 1992, Plumlee claimed that he was told that the objective was "to abort the assassination" of John F. Kennedy.

Roselli discovered in 1966 that the FBI had been collecting information on his activities. Attempts were made to deport him as an illegal alien. Roselli moved to Los Angeles where he went into early retirement. It was at this time he told attorney, Edward Morgan: "The last of the sniper teams dispatched by Robert Kennedy in 1963 to assassinate Fidel Castro were captured in Havana. Under torture they broke and confessed to being sponsored by the CIA and the US government. At that point, Castro remarked that, 'If that was the way President Kennedy wanted it, Cuba could engage in the same tactics'. The result was that Castro infiltrated teams of snipers into the US to kill Kennedy".

Morgan took the story to Jack Anderson and Drew Pearson. The story was then passed on to Earl Warren. He did not want anything to do with it and so the information was then passed to the FBI. When they failed to investigate the story Anderson wrote an article entitled "President Johnson is sitting on a political H-bomb" about Roselli's story. It has been suggested that Roselli started this story at the request of his friends in the Central Intelligence Agency in order to divert attention from the investigation being carried out by Jim Garrison.

Roselli was eventually charged with being involved in illegal gambling in Las Vegas. In an attempt to obtain a lenient sentence, Roselli provided information in court about his role in helping the CIA with Operation Mongoose and ZR/RIFLE. The judge was not impressed and he was sent to McNeal Island prison. His good friend Fred Black intervened and used his powerful political connections to get transferred to a less harsh prison. Roselli was eventually released in 1973.

In 1975 Frank Church and his Select Committee on Intelligence Activities interviewed Roselli about his relationship with the secret services. It emerged from this interview that Roselli and fellow crime boss, Sam Giancana had taken part in talks with the CIA about the possibility of murdering Fidel Castro. Roselli also claimed that a CIA hit team that had been dispatched to Cuba had been "turned" and used to kill Kennedy.

The following year the Select Committee on Intelligence Activities decided to recall Roselli. Soon afterwards Fred Black called him and warned him that Santos Trafficante had taken out a contract on his life and that the "Cubans were after him".

In July 1976, Roselli left home in Florida to play golf. He never arrived at the golf course and ten days later his body was found floating in an oil drum in Miami's Dumfoundling Bay. He had been garroted. Roselli's legs had been sawed off and squashed into the drum with the rest of his body.

Jack Anderson, of the Washington Post, interviewed Roselli just before he was murdered. On 7th September, 1976, the newspaper reported Roselli as saying : "When Oswald was picked up, the underworld conspirators feared he would crack and disclose information that might lead to them. This almost certainly would have brought a massive US crackdown on the Mafia. So Jack Ruby was ordered to eliminate Oswald."

The House Select Committee on Assassinations managed to obtain the records of an FBI wire tap on Santos Trafficante. On the tape Trafficante was heard to say "now only two people know who killed Kennedy and they aren't talking."

In an interview in April, 1992, Tosh Plumlee claimed that Roselli had been killed because he knew too much about JM WAVE, Operation Mongoose, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

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James DiEugenio, review of Larry Hancock's Someone Would Have Talked (March, 2008)

http://www.ctka.net/someone_would.html

The other book relied upon here is All American Mafioso: The Johnny Roselli Story. This is by Charles Rappleye and Ed Becker. This book, like Ultimate Sacrifice, makes extravagant claims about Roselli that I find rather strained and poorly sourced, e.g. his alleged involvement in the death of Castillo-Armas in Guatemala. One of the sources for the Roselli book is Jimmy Fratianno, a noted Mafia informant. If one walks around Los Angeles (where I live) often enough, one will eventually meet someone who knew a friend of Fratianno's. And that person will tell you a tale Fratianno had not revealed in public before about Roselli's involvement in President Kennedy's assassination. I know this for a fact since it just happened to me about eight months ago. Unlike Rappleye and Becker I will not be writing about it. As Michael Beschloss has stated, there is no library with the declassified papers of Sam Giancana. Or in this case, John Roselli. So, in large part, one must rely on the word of people like Jimmy "the Weasel" Fratianno. And if you wish to aggrandize and sensationalize Roselli, then you will use a character like him. I would place the Becker/Rappleye effort somewhere on a par with John Davis' tome on Carlos Marcello. So it was not surprising to me that the authors of the gaseous Ultimate Sacrifice were eager to use both of these works. It did surprise me that Hancock used the Roselli book as much as he did. In fact, about half his chapter on Roselli is sourced to it. He even mentions an alleged meeting between Roselli and Ruby in the fall of 1963. Yet he then adds that this is based on FBI reports that no one can produce.

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James DiEugenio, review of Larry Hancock's Someone Would Have Talked (March, 2008)

http://www.ctka.net/someone_would.html

The other book relied upon here is All American Mafioso: The Johnny Roselli Story. This is by Charles Rappleye and Ed Becker. This book, like Ultimate Sacrifice, makes extravagant claims about Roselli that I find rather strained and poorly sourced, e.g. his alleged involvement in the death of Castillo-Armas in Guatemala. One of the sources for the Roselli book is Jimmy Fratianno, a noted Mafia informant. If one walks around Los Angeles (where I live) often enough, one will eventually meet someone who knew a friend of Fratianno's. And that person will tell you a tale Fratianno had not revealed in public before about Roselli's involvement in President Kennedy's assassination. I know this for a fact since it just happened to me about eight months ago. Unlike Rappleye and Becker I will not be writing about it. As Michael Beschloss has stated, there is no library with the declassified papers of Sam Giancana. Or in this case, John Roselli. So, in large part, one must rely on the word of people like Jimmy "the Weasel" Fratianno. And if you wish to aggrandize and sensationalize Roselli, then you will use a character like him. I would place the Becker/Rappleye effort somewhere on a par with John Davis' tome on Carlos Marcello. So it was not surprising to me that the authors of the gaseous Ultimate Sacrifice were eager to use both of these works. It did surprise me that Hancock used the Roselli book as much as he did. In fact, about half his chapter on Roselli is sourced to it. He even mentions an alleged meeting between Roselli and Ruby in the fall of 1963. Yet he then adds that this is based on FBI reports that no one can produce.

My source for the Ruby meeting with Roselli is not all “American Mafioso” nor is that book the source for the fact that Roselli confessed his involvement in a conspiracy against JFK to his lawyer (that comes from “Sons and Brothers” by a reputable Kennedy historian, Richard Mahoney). Obviously I try to pick and choose the information I consider consistent or reasonable but certainly”American Mafioso” contains a great deal of research which it would be unreasonable to totally disregard. To be specific, I view Roselli and various criminal elements, including Ruby, in a strictly support role – not as organizers or instigators but rather as advisors and accessories available because of Roselli’s connections to key CIA officers.

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Rosselli was in Vegas on the day of the assassination (which he helped plan).

If anyone says they have personal knowledge that JR was in dallas, IMO that is evidence that whatever that person says must be accepted with a rather large "suspension of disbelief" since a man cannot be in two places at the same time.

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Rosselli was in Vegas on the day of the assassination (which he helped plan).

If anyone says they have personal knowledge that JR was in dallas, IMO that is evidence that whatever that person says must be accepted with a rather large "suspension of disbelief" since a man cannot be in two places at the same time.

BULL!

Gratz takes the cover story that Roselli was woken up from sleep at his Vegas apartment to hear the news about the assassination.

"In November, 1963, Roselli travelled to Arizona with a male friend and two women. He was being followed by the FBI but on the way to Los Vegas they lost contact with him."

So the FBI forgot to check on his Vegas residence?

Get real.

Wim

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In his testimony before the Church Committee Rosselli named the Hollywood producer who had called him in Vegas with the news of the assassination. Not sure whether any investigative agency ever verified this with the man from Hollywood but it is doubtful Rosselli would have stated this if the story could not be verified.

I do believe Rosselli helped plan the assassination but there was no reason for him to have been at "ground zero" when the event went down.

So, since it is at a minimum very probable that Rosselli was in Vegas (if he was not, he would have somehow had to cooerce the Hollywood producer to lie for him), anyone who states he was with JR or saw JR in Dallas on the 22nd has a vivid imagination, to put it mildly.

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In July 1976, Roselli left home in Florida to play golf. He never arrived at the golf course and ten days later his body was found floating in an oil drum in Miami's Dumfoundling Bay. He had been garroted. Roselli's legs had been sawed off and squashed into the drum with the rest of his body.

The interesting thing here is that as influential as Roselli may have been ,he was never a high ranking mobster. When he was first sent to Los Angeles by Capone, he was put under Jack Dragna, the boss of the LA family. Though "made" in CHicago- though the Outfit has never conventionlly made mobsters the way NY, Newark, or other cities did- Roselli became a default soldier in the LA family. But he was a smooth operator and talked the talk, giving him an edge over the usual street toughs.

Another thing is that by the early 70s, when the Anderson articles came out, Roselli had lost many of his old allies in the underworld, and had not breached any new relationships with up-and-coming guys. When push came to shove, Roselli was the kind of guy who could get whacked without any special sit-down.

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Does anyone know the extent to which Roselli actually participated in training anti-Castro Cubans in jungle warfare?

I have read reports that he trained people on No Name Key, which even today is fairly rough country.

I have a hard time picturing a Hollywood-type mucking around in the snake-infested mangroves.

Perhaps he fought in WWII and had some jungle fighting skills to pass on to anti-Castro recruits.

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There are several factual errors in the first post including but not necessarily limited to the following:

(1) Allen Dulles was not directly involved in the recruitment of the mafia.

(2) Neither Bissell nor Dulles talked with the mafia leaders.

(3) John's narratiuve omits the CIA's use of Robert Maheu as a cut-out. It was Sheffield Edwards, head of the CIA Office of Security, who brought Maheu into the operation. Maheu first met with Rosselli at the Brown Derby Restaurant in Hollywood.

(4) No CIA leader brought Giancana into the plot. It was Rosselli who brought in Giancana and Trafficante. And why not also state that Giancana used the alias "Sam Flood'? To only state JR's alias may imply that Giancana did not use one. Trafficante was simply "Joe the courier".

(5) O'Connell was Rosselli's original "case officer" until he was replaced by Harvey sometime in 1962. Harvey had nothing to do with the March 1961 delivery of the poison to Rosselli in Miami. Harvey was not even present.

(6) I believe the transmittal of the poison and cash in Miami in March of 1961 was from Maheu to Rosselli not from O'Connell to Rosselli. I am not 100% certain from my memory whether O'Connell attended the meeting.

(7) I do not believe that Rosselli went any place with Plumlee on November 22nd. (Sorry, Tosh.) JR testified to the Church Committee that a Hollywood producer called him in Vegas with news of the assassination. Unless JR had persuaded the producer to lie (which obviously would have told the producer that JR was involved in the assassination) we have to assume that JR did indeed take that call in Vegas. Nevertheless, I believe, as Richard Mahoney does, that JR helped plan the assassination. By the way, does Plumlee's story that JR went to Dallas on a mission to abort the assassination make ANY sense? Who was behind the assassination he was attempting to abort? The CIA? His friends in the Mafia? It makes no sense that JR would attempt to abort an assassination planned by either the CIA or the Mafia.

(8) JR was not charged with illegal gambling in Vegas. He was charged with being a party to defraud (some Hollywood celebrities by the way) in rigged card games at the Friars Club in Hollywood (where his membership had been sponsored by Frank Sinatra).

In the overall scheme of things these factual errors may not matter (except for JR's "alibi" which if true impeaches Plumlee's story) but I do think it is nonetheless important to keep our facts straight.

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Does anyone know the extent to which Roselli actually participated in training anti-Castro Cubans in jungle warfare?

I have read reports that he trained people on No Name Key, which even today is fairly rough country.

I have a hard time picturing a Hollywood-type mucking around in the snake-infested mangroves.

Perhaps he fought in WWII and had some jungle fighting skills to pass on to anti-Castro recruits.

He did no training. He drank, talked, planned, fixed, and made connections; got people on board, found the right people in his spheres of influence, passed money and was a conduit for information, etc.

Thanks for clearing this up.

I was having a difficult time seeing a high-flying mafiosi voluntarily working in the No Name Key mangroves.

I have kayaked around No Name Key, and it is quite rough.

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I have kayaked around No Name Key, and it is quite rough.

Exceptional fishing though.

Maybe Roselli sought the expertise of Tampa Mafioso Alphonse Scaglione, who owned a fishing camp in Ruskin, Florida. At that time Ruskin was the boonies, though not as primitive as No Name Key.

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