In a recent phone conversation with California filmmaker John Church, he asked me an interesting question, one touching on the 1976 Don Bolles homicide. In answering it, I realized that I was in possession of both some information and a related document which ought to be memorialized on my website.
I should note as a preface of sorts that Church is the grandson of exemplary Arizona Attorney General Wade Church of more than a half-century ago. Back before creation of a regulatory Arizona Corporation Commission, Wade Church as AzAG was having his own problems with the Arizona Public Service Co. trying to manipulate his office into approving a dubious APS rate hike. Wade Church rejected the increase, leading to nasty name-calling by friends of APS and a resultant libel lawsuit won by Church against publisher Gene Pulliam and the ARIZONA REPUBLIC.
Happily that still dominant newspaper in the Valley of the Sun at least has cleaned up its act a little bit over ensuing decades. Current efforts by APS to get whatever rate increases it wants by rigging elections to the Arizona Corporation Commission with “dark money” now even are engendering criticism and opposition by the present-day ARIZONA REPUBLIC.
In his recent query, John Church wondered how Arizona Mafia boss — the Tucson-based Joe Bonanno — had managed in his time to avoid serious legal problems and to operate so successfully. Let me now begin an answer by repeating a paragraph from a 2009 segment on my website entitled “The Bolles Murder: A Case of Curious Coincidences”:
Bonanno at the time was one of the ablest Mafia leaders in the U.S., much cleverer than virtually anyone in local, state, or federal law enforcement who ever attempted to go after him. Individually and collectively, the latter were vastly over-matched by the extremely capable Sicilian. He had a remarkable ability to impose discipline in otherwise chaotic situations, to corrupt key public figures through an effective mixture of bribes and extortion, to engage in long-term financial planning and strategies, yet to be flexible enough to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, and to promote far-reaching joint ventures with other organized crime groups to the economic benefit of all, where lesser leaders undoubtedly would have engaged in protective and wasteful turf wars.
After his own move from New York to Arizona, in way of specific illustrations, Bonanno not only blessed the Chicago mob’s westward expansion into the Phoenix area in the 1960s but agreed to share Arizona dog track “skim money” with the new arrivals. And he readily opted to engage in other cooperative and profitable endeavors with them such as the theft of gold and similar precious metals from Motorola.
But there were other strategic factors as well in Bonanno’s long reign as a Mafia boss here, one being — like APS today — his own use of “dark money” decades before it now has been granted legal status by the U.S. Supreme Court. Bonanno used to raise and manage a sizeable “slush fund” of cash which he could covertly inject into selective Arizona political campaigns for candidates whom he felt would best protect mob interests. While notorious and wealthy liquor magnate Kemper Marley was by no means a traditional organized crime figure per se, like many other prominent Arizonans he and Bonanno were not strangers. Marley indeed was one of those who occasionally would contribute upon Bonanno‘s request to that off-the-books pot of political money. As a matter of fact, one friend of the late Marley acknowledged to me that Marley and Bonanno actually were on the outs for a spell in the mid-1970s when Marley, for whatever reason, decided to turn down Bonanno’s latest request for such a financial donation.
There also were tactical factors in Bonanno’s favor, among them the considerable discipline with which he and his Tucson-based troops carried rolls of quarters and consistently used pay telephones around that town in order to conduct mob business beyond the reach of eavesdropping by law enforcement agencies. I’m appending along with these comments a copy of the Bonanno Family’s Tucson phone book as in use during the mid-1970s, with many of the pay phone booths in question to be found adjacent to corner convenience markets scattered around that area. His soldiers knew when to be at which locations in order to make and receive secure calls on a daily basis, beyond the capacity of law enforcement officials to figure out the system. I was provided with this Bonanno-related telephone directory in the late 1980s by the widow, now deceased, of a mob associate who had been active in Mafia money laundering operations. He eventually had become the victim of a “mob hit” himself when suspicion arose over his reliability, concern that he might be inclined to make a deal and reveal all that he knew if ever seriously charged criminally.
Copyright © 2016 Don Devereux, All Rights Reserved
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