Home Blog

Pending Doom From The Great Beyond: Robert Durst Died Peacefully In Prison, Might Meet Victim’s Dad & Mob Pals On Other Side

January 18, 2022 — If certain individuals were still alive today, convicted murderer and famous real-estate fortune heir Robert Durst wouldn’t have had died behind bars. Instead, he would have died in the streets like a dog, made an example of for all to see, said one former criminal associate of his victim’s father.

Last fall, Durst, 78, was found guilty in California of killing Susan Berman more than 20 years ago. Berman’s dad, David (Davey the Jew) Berman, helped pioneer the mob’s building of modern-day Las Vegas and ran a Minnesota-based Jewish mafia empire before dying of a heart attack in 1957 at age 54. Davey Berman was particularly close to the New York mob’s business whiz, Meyer Lansky and his allies in the legendary Murder, Inc. hit squad.

Durst died in a Stockton, California prison last week awaiting sentencing in the Berman slaying and facing charges in the 1982 disappearance and death of his wife. He was 78 and in poor health. Durst’s dad was real-estate tycoon Seymour Durst, the inventor of the National Debt Clock and owner of the most extensive collection of books written on New York City and its history.

One Vegas old timer who in his younger days served as a driver for Berman in the years prior to his death, remarked how even a man as powerful as Seymour Durst would have been incapable of saving his son from a brutal end.

“This screwball would never even thought of lifting a finger to hurt Susan if her dad and his friends were still alive back then,” said the old timer who recently turned 91 and has done almost three years in prison in his lifetime. “Her dad would have chain sawed this guy to death before the cops got to him, believe me. I don’t care how much money he had or who his dad was and  knew. He could never have bought his way out of a slow, painful death. But this is a different age, a whole new era.  Street justice gives way to court justice. And who am I to judge that really? I’m a retired hoodlum. But for better or worse, street justice is much swifter. They wouldn’t have hunted him down like an animal and made an example out of him.”

Susan Berman was murdered in Los Angeles on December 24, 2000 by her best friend Durst for fear she was on the verge of cooperating with authorities in the investigation into the disappearance of his wife, Kathleen 18 years earlier.

The 55-year old Berman was found shot in the back of the head in her home in Benedict Canyon. Her and Durst became close while attending graduate school together at UCLA.

Durst married Kathleen McCormack in 1973 and the pair moved to Vermont and opened a health store called All Good Things. Kathleen went missing on the late evening of January 31,1982 and was never seen or heard from again. Authorities believe Berman aided Robert Durst is disposing of his wife’s body.

Durst is also suspected of a murder in Texas. A neighbor at one of the Durst family properties, Morris Black’s dismembered corpse was found floating in Galveston Bay in 2001. Durst went to trial for Black’s killing, however was acquitted on the charges and eventually pleaded guilty to evidence tampering in connection with the dismemberment of Black’s body.

The lurid and crazy story of Robert Durst inspired the 2010 film All Good Things, starring Oscar-nominee Ryan Gosling. Durst himself participated in the chilling 2015 HBO docuseries The Jinx, which chronicled his strange connections to all three cases and included an apparent hot-mic confession, where he uttered “I killed them all” after thinking he had completed his interview and was out of hearing distance of the crew. That confession to him finally being indicted in the Berman homicide.

Many that knew Davey Berman believe if he was living when his daughter was slain, the killer either would have never dared pull the trigger in the first place and if he had, would haven’t made it long enough to see a jury. 

“The man wasn’t big in size, he was fearless though,” Berman’s former driver said. “Most of the men he surrounded himself with were bigger in stature than him and just as fearless. These were stone cold killers with malice in their hearts. You add in the fact that this whole thing would have been personal, Davey and his boys would have stopped at nothing, they would have moved heaven and earth to give this guy a slow and painful death.”

Davey the Jew was raised in Ashley, North Dakota by Ukrainian immigrants and then moved to Sioux City, Iowa as a teenager. By the 1920s and the height of the gangland Prohibition boom, he was living in Minneapolis and working as second-in-command to the Twin Cities Jewish mob boss, Isadore (Kid Cann) Blumenfeld. It was New York Jewish mob titan Meyer Lansky who put Berman and Kidd Cann together, helping forge bonds that stretched from the farmlands of the heartland to the heart of the Big Apple and what would soon become the “Five Families” of the American mafia.

When Berman first landed in Minneapolis, him and his main bodyguard and enforcer, Israel (Ice Pick Willie) Alderman, ran their own independent rackets separate from the Kid Cann crew. But at Lansky’s behest, they joined forces and brought in the city’s biggest Irish crime lord of the time, Tommy Banks, into their organization. They received support and resources from the Italian mobs in New York and Chicago, respectively.

Besides building an early-adulthood friendship and business relationship with Lansky, Berman and his brother and right-hand man, Charles (Chickie) Berman, cultivated ties to the Chicago mafia during their days in Iowa. The press dubbed Kid Cann the “Al Capone” of Minnesota and the heat that reputation generated began bearing down upon the Bermans and their business operations. The fact that the Bermans and Kid Cann had close links to the Mayor of Minneapolis, Marvin Kline, didn’t matter. The group’s days in the Twin Cities were numbered.

Following a stint in the Canadian army, where he saw combat in Europe during World War II, Davey Berman headed west to Las Vegas to help Lansky and Lansky’s partner, Benjamin (Bugsy) Siegel, implement their plan to develop the city into a desert oasis for gambling and entertainment. They took aim at building the first major resort-style hotel and casino on what would eventually become known as the “Strip.”

Flanked by his brother, Chickie, and their top muscle, Ice Pick Willie Alderman, Davey the Jew landed in Las Vegas in 1944. One year later, at the conclusion of the war, he moved his wife and daughter, Susan, to Nevada to join him.

Berman headed an ownership group, including Lansky, that had controlling interests in the El Cortez, the El Dorado, and the Las Vegas Club, three of the first casinos in the city. The Flamingo, the first taste of real glitz and glamour for the area in the form of a hotel and casino, opened in 1946

Upon Bugsy Siegel being murdered in Beverly Hills in 1947 for mismanagement of the Flamingo’s finances, Berman was put in charge of the first-of-its-kind high-end establishment, along with Lansky lieutenants, Moe Sedway from New York and Gus Greenbaum from Chicago. Back in Minnesota, Kid Cann, according to FBI records, also received portions of “skim” money from the business arrangement in Vegas.

“Davey Berman was one of the very early big-time players in Las Vegas, essentially one of the founding fathers of The Strip,” said Geoff Schumacher, a Las Vegas mafia historian and executive director of the city’s Mob Museum. “That was a cutthroat world he existed in and found success and respect in. Those guys didn’t play games and didn’t trust just anyone. Everyone in Vegas held Davey Berman in very high esteem. He really served as a bridge for the mafia families in the east coast and the Midwest to come together out here and coexist peacefully and prosperously. I would say that’s his legacy and it’s a hefty one.”

In 1951, Berman sold his shares in the Flamingo and purchased an interest in the Riviera. He died on the operating table during heart surgery three years later.

United Colors Of Power: Pagan’s “Latin Quarter” Paying Dividends As Part Of Blue Wave Plan To Boost Motorcycle Club’s Influence

January 16, 2022 — A new influx of Latino blood has bolstered the Pagan’s Motorcycle Club’s “Blue Wave” expansion effort, a campaign launched in 2018 to spread the Pagan’s brand across the country. The Blue Wave was conceived by former Pagan’s national president Keith (Conan the Barbarian) Richter, who viewed the inclusion of members boasting Hispanic heritage as a key element to the club’s push for growth on the East Coast and establishing a presence on the West Coast and within the American Southeast.

The 62-year old Richter named highly-respected New Jersey Pagan’s figure Hugo (Zorro) Nieves his national vice president. Subsequently, he actively forged alliances with Hispanic crime groups and other biker empires to augment his conquest agenda, specifically the Latin Kings street gang and the Mongols Motorcycle Club, using Nieves as his mouthpiece. Before Nieves, no Pagan’s with Latino blood had ever held a leadership post in the club and before Richter’s ascension, the club’s didn’t actively recruit Hispanics.

Nieves is college educated and well spoken, appearing in front of the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation in 2019 to represent the club at a public hearing related to the commission’s probe into the Pagan’s increasing power in the Garden State. The club’s in Newark, Elizabeth and Jersey City are headed by Hispanic bosses. Exercising his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer most of the questions posed to him at the hearing, Nieves stated emphatically the Pagan’s was not a criminal organization.

With Richter at the helm, the Pagan’s more than doubled in size and opened 15 new chapters around the country, absorbing and patching-over dozens of smaller support clubs. The pivot westward saw the Pagan’s open chapters in Texas, Las Vegas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Arizona, Washington and Oregon.

Richter is serving a three-year prison stint on a gun charge arising from a traffic stop last winter. He comes from the club’s Long Island, New York chapter. Virginia Pagan’s MC leader Robert (Big Bob) Francis reportedly assumed the reins as national president in July following Richter reporting to start his time behind bars.

Baltimore Crime Lord Used Business Relationship With Puffy Combs To Throw 500 Parties, Funnel Illegal Gains From Drug Empire

January 15, 2022 — According to court testimony, former Baltimore drug kingpin Richard (Smitty) Byrd held an exclusive contract to hold parties and rap concerts with hip hop mogul Sean (Puff Daddy) Combs whenever Combs visited Maryland. The business relationship resulted in more than 500 events, many of which Byrd would use to wash drug proceeds, per Byrd’s own testimony at the racketeering trial of his one-time attorney last year.

The Jamaican-born Byrd, 48, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 26 years in federal prison for running what the DEA called one of the biggest wholesale marijuana and cocaine operations in Baltimore history. Authorities seized 1,000 pounds of weed and 26 kilos of coke in an April 2013 raid. His indictment landed a year later in the spring of 2014.

Byrd laundered his drug money through a business called Loc Marketing, the name behind the celebrity-filled shindigs and music concerts he hosted in coordination with the contract he had with Combs’ business team. “P-Diddy” practically single-handedly pioneered the hip-hop revolution that took over the music industry in the 1990s and has yet to stop its momentum in pop culture and on the Billboard charts. During his testimony late last year, Byrd also spoke of partying with industry luminaries Drake, Nelly and Young Jeezy.

A rapper, producer, label head and fashion designer, Combs, 52, has been linked to notorious gangland figures in the past, specifically the Crips street gang and the Black Mafia Family, the biggest African-American organized crime group in the United States between 1990 and 2005. Combs’ dad, Melvin, was involved in the Harlem dope game of the 1970s, doing business with legendary heroin dons Nicky Barnes and Frank Lucas before being killed in a 1972 drug deal gone wrong.

The Detroit Mob & The Mormon Church: Motown’s “Flamingo” Fleeced Mafia Figure Allen Hilf For 1.5 Mil As He Sat Helpless Behind Bars

January 14, 2022 — Former Detroit mob mega-bookie Allen (The General) Hilf was robbed of more than one million bucks when he served federal prison time for a sports gambling bust in the late 1980s. The culprit: his own gun-mol wife, Virginia Hill, a Mormon-born Las Vegas dancer, stripper and aspiring actress.

The case of the missing 1.5 million dollars made it in front of the Utah Supreme Court, although not on Hilf’s accord. And at the end of the day, the court acknowledged Virginia Hill pilfered the cash from her ex-husband by liquidating his assets and emptying a joint banking account, but allowed her to keep it anyway.

Hilf, one of the biggest bookmakers in the United States at his peak, died of kidney failure in 2014 at age 73. He was a longtime non-Italian member of the Detroit mafia’s Giacalone crew and at the end of his life acted as the top adviser to reputed Tocco-Zerilli crime family boss Jack (Jackie the Kid) Giacalone.

FBI and DEA records link Hilf to a series of old Purple Gangers as his mentors in the rackets. The Purple Gang was Detroit’s iconic Prohibition era Jewish organized crime group. A number of old-school Purples reported to Detroit mob street bosses Anthony (Tony Jack) Giacalone and Vito (Billy Jack) Giacalone, Jackie the Kid’s uncle and father, respectively, in the decades that followed Prohibition.

Hilf’s only marriage during his life was to Virginia Hill, who he met in Vegas and mobsters in Detroit nicknamed the Flamingo after slain Jewish mob figure Benjamin (Bugsy) Siegel’s famous gal-pal, Virginia “The Flamingo” Hill (no relation), portrayed by actresses Dyan Cannon, Joan Crawford and Annette Bening in television and movie roles.

Like her earlier namesake, Hilf’s Virginia Hill was a woman unafraid of using her feminine wiles to get ahead in the world and ultimately get rich. Bugsy’s Virginia was born and raised in Alabama, but the General’s Flamingo was raised as a Mormon in Utah.

Hill began plotting her escape from Hilf when he was sent to prison for 18 months in 1987: he was nailed for overseeing the Giacalone crew’s gambling affairs. She consolidated the cash she grabbed from Hilf’s stash spots, safety deposit boxes and bank accounts and took off for Las Vegas in 1989, right after Hilf got home from the can but before he could realize what she had done.

The amount of the money-jack has been estimated between $1,500,000 and $5,000,000, according to sources and court documents.

“We heard she met a much younger guy,” retired FBI agent Mike Carone said. “The two of them looked a little out of place as a couple, Virginia looked like Sharon Stone in the movie Casino and Allen looked like a cartoon villain from a Popeye comic strip, pudgy, bald and always grinning. She was around for a while and then all of a sudden, she wasn’t.”

Carone was the agent responsible for arresting Hilf in the case he went to prison for in 1987, taking him into custody at his condo in West Bloomfield, with Virginia Hill present.

“I came in the front door with the warrant after Virginia just got back from walking the dog, we found Allen, in his bed with no clothes on, a phone glued to his ear taking action on that day’s games,” Carone said. “He knew was he caught red-handed and all he could do was smile. We all had a good laugh as we were cuffing him up and taking him away.”

Hill eventually went to stay with her uncle in St. George, Utah, where he belonged to an offshoot of the Church of Latter-day Saints called the Apostolic United Brethren. A number of AUB church goers broke off to form their own polygamy sect and tried to persuade her to give them $1.5 million dollars to purchase a plot of land for a new church commune. Instead, she gave them $40,000 to help them in their efforts. Hill left the rest of the money hidden in her uncle’s house in St. George and returned to Vegas.

When Hill went to Utah to dip into the buried nest egg in 1991, the money was gone. It somehow made its way from her uncle’s polygamy camp back to the leaders of the AUB church. AUB president Owen Allred used the over $1.5 mil on paying off property loans, purchasing a car lot in Salt Lake County and luxury vehicles for Allred and other AUB influence peddlers.

Hill filed a federal lawsuit, that at first was tossed out of district court on statute of limitations restrictions and then reinstated by Utah’s Supreme Court. In 2003, Hill won her suit and a judgement of $1.8 million. However, an appeals court judge voided the payout on the grounds that Hill had “dirty hands” in obtaining the funds in the first place. It was Hill who had the last laugh though and the state’s high court once again ruled in her favor in 2009, saying it didn’t matter how she got the money into her possession and that because she was defrauded of the cash, she was entitled to it back plus damages.

Hill’s whereabouts today are unverified. The original Virginia Hill died of a drug overdose in 1966, 19 years after Bugsy Siegel was shot to death inside her Beverly Hills mansion for bungling finances in constructing The Flamingo hotel and casino in addition to allegedly covering for Hill’s sticky fingers.

Stranger Things In The D: Matouk Romain Case Marks Twelfth Anniversary, Only Alleged Witness To Disappearance Found Dead In Detroit

January 13, 2022 — Just a month removed from the strange passing of the only alleged witness in the case, the disappearance and death of Metro Detroit housewife JoAnn Matouk Romain marks its 12th anniversary this week. The Matouk Romain case was the focus of an Unsolved Mysteries episode on Netflix back in the fall of 2020 and Channel 4 won Emmy awards for its coverage of the case last year.

The 55-year old Matouk Romain vanished after attending a church service in swanky Grosse Pointe Farms on the night of January 12, 2010 and wasn’t found until almost three months later when Canadian fishermen came across her floating dead body in near pristine condition on the Ontario, Canada side of the Detroit River. The “Grosse Pointes” are an affluent cluster of neighborhoods resting on Lake St. Clair, just to the east of the Detroit city limits.

The Matouk family was at war with each other in the years preceding her death over a wine-store and real estate fortune estimated between $10,000,000 and $20,000,000. The cause of death was immediately ruled a suicide by drowning despite the fact that an independent autopsy conducted by pathologists at the University of Michigan ruled that there was no water in her lungs at the time she stopped breathing.

Matouk Romain feuded with her first cousin, Tim, a decorated cop and lead investigator for the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, in the weeks leading up to her going missing and told friends and those closest to her that she feared for her life. On January 7, 2010, Matouk Romain had a face-to-face meeting with members of federal law enforcement, per sources. What was discussed at this meeting remains unknown.

Tim Matouk denies any culpability in the disappearance and death of JoAnn Matouk Romian. He did an interview with both Unsolved Mysteries last December and with Dateline Detroit this week offering his side of the story and refuting the allegation that he ever threatened Matouk Romain’s life.

Art gallery owner and former high school football star Paul Hawk signed an affidavit claiming to have seen a man resembling Tim Matouk standing next to JoAnn Matouk Romain near the banks of Lake St. Clair around the time she vanished. Hawk’s allegations came under scrutiny for first identifying Matouk’s brother John as the man he had seen that night and maintaining a questionable timeline in relation to the time the sun set on January 12, 2010.

Hawk, 55, was found dead in his Grosse Pointe Farms home December 8, 2021. His cause of death is unclear, although initial reports stated that no foul play was suspected. Hawk was one of the greatest running backs in Grosse Pointe South High School history and played at Western Michigan and briefly at the University of Michigan. Hawk’s step brother, Tony Volpe, died suddenly in November.

Matouk Romain’s children and brother John have accused their cousin of murdering their mother and the Grosse Pointe Police Department of covering it up, allegations dismissed by federal judges in civil litigation seeking damages of $100,000,000. Grosse Pointe was long known as Ground Zero for Detroit’s Italian mafia, with all the dons of the crime family building an enclave known as “The Compound” on Middlesex Road in the 1930s.

Local mob shot callers began moving further north and then west in the 1990s and 2000s. One of those questioned in the case was an alleged mob-connected bookmaker tied to a number of members of the Matouk family, including John, who had a gambling debt with the bookie. The Matouks are of Syrian descent.

If anyone has information on what Matouk was meeting with the FBI about or why she was in fear for her life, which leads to arrests, they can collect the award as well. Information to claim the $200,000 reward can be sent to infor@ScottLewisPI.com or phoned into 855-411-LEWIS.