The Yakuza-American Mafia Connection: L.A. Mob’s Tropic Thunder Rained Down On Takahashi Crime Family’s “Junket Jack”

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June 24, 2022 — The double murder of Japanese gangster Wataru (Junket Jack) Inada and his girlfriend Ju Nam (Betty) Song in Hawaii on May 28, 1976 culminated a rocky two-year stretch for relations between the Yakuza and the L.A. mafia.

“Junket Jack” Inada was a Yakuza lieutenant stationed in Honolulu. He belonged to Tokyo’s Takahashi crime family and landed in Hawaii in 1972, fleeing an extortion conviction in Japan, per court records. Inada operated out of a travel agency in Honolulu’s Chinatown district called Mitsui Tours, where he ran travel junkets between Hawaii, Japan and Hong Kong, along with drug, pimping and gun rackets. His Honolulu PD jacket references his job as a “point man” for joint criminal affairs being conducted by the Yakuza and the American mafia on the West Coast.

In the winter of 1974, Inada, then-L.A. mob captain Peter (Shakes) Milano and several co-defendants were indicted out of U.S. District Court in Honolulu on heroin trafficking charges. Milano rose to become boss of Southern California’s Dragna crime family, overseeing the syndicate from 1984 until his death of natural causes in 2012 at the age of 86.

According to his FBI file, Milano is considered a suspect in the Inada-Song murder conspiracy, as well as a number of other gangland homicides, including the spring 1974 slayings of L.A. mob associate John (Johnny D) DuBeck and his wife Frannie. DuBeck, 31, was on the verge of testifying against Milano in a federal gambling case.

The 43-year old Inada’s murder took place the same week his trial was about to start in the heroin case. Betty Song, 27, was a waitress at a Hawaii Chinatown restaurant Inada had a piece of ownership in. They were killed in Inada’s University Avenue penthouse apartment after returning from a night on the town.

The DuBecks were slain exactly a week before Johnny D was scheduled to take the stand against Milano, L.A. mafia street boss Luigi (Little Louie) Gelfuso and L.A. mafia soldier John (Johnny V) Vaccarro, Johnny D’s partner in a restaurant on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, a thriving illegal gambling business in the Valley and a series of casino-fixing schemes in Las Vegas.

Johnny D and Frannie DuBeck were shotgunned to death returning to their Las Vegas apartment following a work-shift at the Westward Ho Casino and Hotel. Even with DuBeck off the witness list, the L.A. mobsters were found

guilty anyway.

Per FBI records, Junket Jack Inada became acquainted with the Yakuza as a young man when he was a pro boxer in Japan. After his time in the ring was finished, Inada became an enforcer for the Takahashi crime family in and around Tokyo. He was facing a stiff prison term when he fled to the U.S. in the 1970s.

Inada’s right-hand man in Hawaii was Korean gangster John (Bang Bang) Chang Ho Lee, who often filled the role as liaison for Inada to the mafia in L.A. and co-owned the travel agency with him. “Bang Bang” Chang Ho Lee had a reputation in both the Honolulu and Southern California underworlds as a well-connected pimp, drug dealer, counterfeiter and fence.

In November 1973, Bang Bang Chang Ho Lee was nailed for selling 2.2 pounds of heroin to an undercover DEA agent in a suite of a luxury hotel in downtown Honolulu. It was a half-million of powder in street value going for pennies on the dollar. The bust itself was suspicious, indicating to many that he had skimmed the dope from his and Inada’s business with the Italians in LA., and he subsequently flipped and turned state’s evidence.

Bang Bang Chang Ho Lee survived a car-bombing attack on March 6, 1974, when his Mercedes-Benz was blown up in the parking garage at the Honolulu Hawaiian Village Hilton. The car was registered to the Mitsui Tours travel agency in Chinatown. Police pointed the finger at Milano, per Honolulu PD investigation documents. Thirteen days later, the DuBecks were killed in Vegas, with Johnny D only a week out from taking the stand.

Inada was revered in West Coast and Southeast Asian gangland circles of the era for creating a “guns for drugs” exchange market bringing together criminals and crime factions from Asia and North America in a controlled and mutually beneficial economy of vice operating on two continents. Junket Jack was famous for offering free gun-range time in Honolulu to test his merchandise as part of his smuggling package for customers, according to DEA and ATF documents related to his homicide. Inada and Bang Bang were also known for their high-end prostitution dens at the Pagoda and Pacific Beach Hotels, respectively.

Per one DEA internal memo from the 1970s, Junket Jack Inada reported to notorious Hawaii crime boss Takeshi (No Finger) Takagi, described by the press at the time as a “Yakuza James-Bond type,” handsome, debonaire and quite lethal. Suspected in ordering multiple murders during his reign in Chinatown, according to his FBI file, Takagi was the king of porn in Honolulu’s Chinatown neighborhood, owning various clubs, adult bookstores, peep shows, massage parlors and escort services.

The Pagoda and Pacific Beach Hotels were raided by the feds in August 1975 in relation to Inada prostitution rings, according to DEA and federal court records. Informants told the Honolulu PD that Inada gave Takagi “tribute” for operating the rings out of the two swanky hotels.