Daddy only ever dealt in cash. I never saw him write a check or use a credit card. He was always peeling off big bills—tipping extravagantly. Organized crime kept him far from cash-strapped, to say the least.
So, to hear the story about Daddy my country-clubbing cousin shared in Nashville last weekend shouldn’t have surprised me—except that it did. It, quite frankly, floored me.
Lounging on his screened-in back porch in front of the largest flat screen this side of Cincinnati, Bill described a series of events that unfolded in the spring of 1979. Finishing his MBA at Vanderbilt, my cousin was studying for exams when he received an unexpected call from my father—the kind of call Daddy never made to his nephew before or after.
Daddy said he had a “girl” he wanted Bill to meet, inviting him to Pittsburgh for the weekend and indicating there would be a ticket waiting for him at the airport. Billy, as we called him then, agreed to come.
However, in addition to setting up my cousin with a woman and guaranteeing a romp in the hay that likely meant the woman was paid—Daddy asked Bill, after he’d arrived, to do him a “favor.” He took Bill to an apartment he ostensibly rented for “business purposes” and pulled two good-sized suitcases from beneath the bed, opening them to show Bill what he was “dealing with”—namely two pieces of luggage packed with cash. I imagine them being like the red Sampsonites my parents owned at the time—can only assume the money was rubber-banded into dime-sized ($1,000) stacks—the same way my father ordinarily organized bills, counting, stacking, and rubber-banding them in front of the TV in our family room—football blaring in the background—soundtracking the money-laundering life we led on Dewey Avenue.
According to Bill, Daddy asked my cousin to help him carry the suitcases to his Cadillac. My father offered no further explanation.
However, this story raises a number of obvious questions, including how much money was in those suitcases, what Daddy was doing with it, what the seeming connection was between bringing Bill from Nashville, buying him an airline ticket, setting him up with what was probably a “call girl,” and asking him to carry the cash. It seems obvious that my father expended considerable effort and funds to set up this unprecedented weekend for his nephew, and that the weekend was meant not so much to compensate Bill for the “favor” of carrying the cash, but to entice him to come, so my dad could ask Bill to return the favor and unwittingly engage in this transfer of funds.
But the question remains why.
And just how much suitcased-cash might there have been? In fact, similarly stashed cash was left in a Sydney restaurant in November of 2011. That one piece of luggage turned out, according to Australian authorities, to contain 1.28 million US dollars in $50 bills.
So, this is only an estimate. Bill doesn’t seem to recall the exact denominations of bills in Daddy’s luggage, and maybe that doesn’t matter. What is significant here is that my father had two of these suitcases, and regardless of the exact amount of money they contained, we can be guaranteed is was a whole hell of a lot—a shit-load, if you will. We can also be sure that Bill only did what Uncle Tyce had asked, thinking it was the least he could do, considering the weekend he’d just enjoyed.
My cousin also seemed to think Daddy was bookie-ing from this Pittsburgh apartment—using it to receive calls—working there instead of at home. However, I remember an apartment Daddy rented around that time. Yes, it was used to take calls—but in a high-tech-for-the-time kind of way.
This was in the very early days of call-forwarding technology. My father rented an apartment where he had a phone installed. With this new device attached to the telephone, his clients’ calls could be forwarded to any other location—generally to either our house in Pittsburgh or to my parents’ condominium on Miami Beach. I remember Daddy being excited about this innovation and freedom it gave him to both work and receive calls at our cabana on the beach. I remember Daddy nearly glorying in this—reveling in the options it opened up to combine work and play—both at home and away.
There may also have been the added benefit of misleading federal authorities as to my father’s exact location in the event of a “visit.” I remember one time FBI agents raided our house in Pittsburgh, while my parents were, in fact, vacationing on the beach in Miami.
I have no idea why Daddy needed his nephew’s help, and neither does Bill. Was the apartment being cased? Did he need someone else to be seen carrying those suitcases out of the apartment? Where did my Dad get all of that cash?
Clearly, I know the answers to none of these questions, but realizing my need to ask them makes me more committed than ever to filing a Freedom of Information Act, so I can acquire a copy of my father’s FBI file. If this story my cousin shared is even remotely accurate, Daddy was dealing with way more money than I had ever imagined.
Something big must have been going down that weekend in 1979 that my father was willing to risk his nephew’s involvement, willing to spend the money to fly him from Nashville and lure him with promises of sex. But then I remind myself that to Daddy, money was no big deal. He was cash-happy—easy come, easy go.
I also remember my father spending extravagantly that spring—shopping trips to New York, a Caribbean cruise for six, a two room suite aboard the Oceanic, a private balcony over-looking the Atlantic.
We were, I suppose, floating in more money than I had ever imagined—smooth sailing on the high seas of organized crime—literal suitcases of cash.
Is there any way Daddy could have carried that cash to the Bahamas— mafia money laundering camouflaged by cruising with kids?
Note: If you are new to my blog, you might like to know that I am writing a memoir about growing up in an organized crime family. I’m hope that publishing posts about my past will help me accomplish that. For a list of my other memoir posts, click here. If you are interested in reading any of my protected posts, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or let me know in the comments below, and I will gladly share the password with you.
I want to thank the editors at WordPress and everyone who read my Freshly Pressed post last week, especially those of you who “liked,” left comments, and/or subscribed. I don’t know how to strongly enough express my appreciation! I had planned to visit the blogs of everyone who left a comment, but the response was so overwhelming, I don’t see how I can actually do as I had hoped. Please, please know how grateful I am. I will visit as many of you as I can in the coming weeks. You all are amazing!