Why the FBI Swarmed Las Vegas Following Oswald's Death

LAS VEGAS -- The day after Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot to death accused presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of Dallas Police headquarters, FBI agents began chasing rumors that Ruby had recently visited Las Vegas.

Exhibits from the Warren Commission, which examined the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, and the killing of Oswald two days later, detail a fast-paced investigation in Las Vegas. Included were interviews with at least 27 gaming executives, lower-level resort employees and other Las Vegans.

Ultimately, the 15 agents who conducted the interviews left empty-handed, having failed to confirm rumors that Ruby traveled to Las Vegas, played golf and opened a line of credit at a Strip casino.

At least on that score, Ruby may have been telling the truth when he told an FBI agent during a Dallas jailhouse interview on Nov. 25, 1963 -- the day after killing Oswald -- that he hadn't passed through Las Vegas since 1937.

The FBI didn't buy that, though, and wasted little time pursuing a Las Vegas angle. Here, in approximate chronological order, were the Las Vegans interviewed and what they had to say.

Ben Goffstein, Nov. 25 -- The future developer of the Four Queens hotel was casino manager at the Pioneer Club downtown when he was interviewed. He said he didn't know Ruby, who also went by his birth name Rubenstein, and heard no rumors that he ever visited Las Vegas. Goffstein said that through his contacts he would have heard whether "Rubenstein" had ever been downtown. Goffstein said that if Ruby had come to Las Vegas, it is more likely he would have frequented the Strip.

Thomas Joseph Callahan, Nov. 25 -- The Pioneer Club owner said he didn't know Ruby but like Goffstein offered to help the FBI if new information emerged.

James Phil Long, Nov. 25 -- The California Club owner said he had no information on Ruby and had never seen him. Long was originally from the Fort Worth-Dallas area but moved to Las Vegas in 1947, about the time Ruby moved from Chicago to Dallas.

John D. Gaughan, Nov. 25 -- Gaughan, who owned the El Cortez and Flamingo hotels at the time, said he didn't know Ruby. But while attending a Las Vegas rodeo on Nov. 24 with Horseshoe owner Benny Binion and son Jack Binion, Gaughan said Ruby's name came up in conversation. The Binions, from Dallas, said they didn't know Ruby either but Benny Binion said he believed he had heard of Ruby. Gaughan said another individual he saw at the rodeo mentioned that Ruby had been in Las Vegas about a week earlier and stayed at the Sahara hotel. Gaughan also said he was told by Flamingo manager Jerry Gordon that Ruby never stayed at that resort. But Gaughan gave the FBI the phone number of Jerry Rosenberg, the Flamingo's representative in Dallas. The FBI quoted Gaughan as saying that Rosenberg "would certainly know Ruby and could possibly furnish information concerning him."

William Rice, Nov. 25 -- Rice, a pit boss at the Tropicana hotel, said he didn't know Ruby but might recognize him if shown a photograph.

Jack Womble, Nov. 25 -- The Tropicana assistant manager said he checked hotel registrations back to Jan. 1, 1963, and saw nothing connected to Ruby or Rubenstein.

John Johnson, Nov. 25 -- A cashier at the Tropicana, Johnson said Ruby didn't have a credit card established there.

B.P. Saumby, Nov. 25 -- Saumby, manager of the Golf Club Motel, said he couldn't find any registration records tied to Ruby or Rubenstein.

Carl La Marca, Nov. 25 -- A bar manager at the Castaways casino, La Marca said he knew Ruby or Rubenstein "only slightly" but knew nothing of his personal or professional life. He said he last saw Ruby in January 1963, but the FBI exhibit didn't elaborate on this point.

June Wisdom, Nov. 25 -- Wisdom, a Castaways reservation manager, said there were no records of Ruby having registered at the hotel dating back to December 1962.

Robert Ryne, Nov. 25 -- The Silver Palace casino manager worked in Dallas in 1945 but said he didn't know Ruby. He said his only friend from the Dallas area was Horseshoe casino owner Benny Binion, but Ryne said he didn't know whether Binion knew Ruby.

Cecil Simmons, Nov. 25 -- Simmons, part owner of the Desert Inn resort, said he had visited Dallas two or three times in a four- to five-year period and had seen Ruby "on no more than 10 occasions," according to the FBI. "The times he had seen Ruby were in the Adolphus and Baker Hotels, and he recalled Ruby went to the barber shop in the Adolphus, which was the same one that he (Simmons) used," the FBI wrote in reference to the Dallas hotels. "Ruby had a night club across the street from the Adolphus and invited Simmons on two or three occasions to visit it, but Simmons never did. Simmons stated he did not know Ruby other than to ‘say hello.'"

Nov. 25 -- FBI Special Agent Leo Stevens checked records from the Las Vegas Police Department and sheriff's office but found no information concerning Ruby.

August De Angelo, Nov. 26 -- The captain of the Flamingo hotel showroom said he knew Ruby but not socially. De Angelo said that in 1956 and 1957 he was maitre d' at the Hilton hotel in Dallas and recalled Ruby coming into the hotel on numerous occasions. But De Angelo said he was unaware of any Ruby visits to Las Vegas and also stated that Ruby was not known to be interested in gambling. "De Angelo claimed Ruby was more interested in show business and was always energetic in his promotion of the Vegas Club, which Ruby owned in Dallas," the FBI reported. "He described Ruby as a person who liked talent and the entertainment field, in general, and whenever he frequented the Hilton Hotel, he would make it a point to inform De Angelo of persons appearing at the Vegas Club. De Angelo stated he liked Ruby personally, even though he had a very boring personality and was extremely hard to get rid of. Ruby was known to De Angelo to be very arrogant at times and considered him very temperamental. He claimed he avoided Ruby since you could never determine what type of reaction you might get from the simplest of statements to him." Although De Angelo said Ruby was not known to be interested in gambling they played cards together on a couple occasions at the Artist Club in Dallas. But the FBI quoted De Angelo as saying he did not know Ruby well enough "to even guess at the motivation behind Oswald's murder. He recalled that Ruby used to employ Dallas police officers at the Vegas Club as ‘door watchers' but knew of no other association between Ruby and the police department with the exception that he seemed to know all policemen."

Robert Donald Lawrence, Nov. 26 -- Lawrence, whose occupation wasn't disclosed, said he knew Ruby in Dallas but hadn't seen him since departing that city six or seven years earlier. Lawrence was acquainted with Ruby when the latter ran the Vegas Club and described the nightclub owner as a "hothead" with a "short fuse." Lawrence said he had no knowledge of Ruby ever being in Las Vegas recently. "Lawrence recalled that Ruby at one time operated a beer and wine establishment in Dallas, Texas," the FBI reported. "He further recalled that Ruby was always friendly with the police in Dallas. He mentioned that Ruby was a very excitable person and used to become heated in the midst of poker games when things did not go his way. He also advised that Ruby spoke like a high pressure salesman when in conversation with others." Lawrence also gave the FBI the names of others who were friends or associates of Ruby in Dallas. Included was Charley Tish, who later went to work at the Prime Rib Restaurant in Las Vegas. Lawrence also told the FBI he never heard of Oswald until his name appeared in newspapers.

John Backus, Nov. 26 -- A boxman at the Horseshoe Club, Backus said he left Dallas in 1947 or 1948 but didn't know Ruby. "He does recall a small Jewish fellow who during the latter forties ran a ‘stripper school' in Dallas, Texas," the FBI stated. But Backus said he couldn't recall the individual's name.

A.J. Ricci, Nov. 29 -- Ricci, a bell captain at the Tropicana resort, said he heard rumors that Ruby recently stayed at the hotel but couldn't recall seeing him. Ricci also heard rumors that Ruby played golf at the Tropicana Country Club, and couldn't confirm this either. But the FBI reported: "He recalled that about a year or so ago a Jack Ruby who he believes to be identical to Jack Ruby, Dallas, Texas, based upon newspaper photographs, did come to Las Vegas and that he had asked Ricci to make reservations for a flight to Chicago. Ricci stated the reason he recalled this was that during the time Ricci was trying to make the reservation, Ruby changed the spelling of his name several times. He recalls Ruby changed the name to Rubin, Ruben and Rubenstein. Ricci did not know in which name Ruby finally got the reservation." The FBI also asked Ricci about the hotel's Rolls Royce, but Ricci said the luxury car had been in Los Angeles for repairs since Nov. 5.

Ernest Muscatello, Nov. 29 -- Muscatello, a Tropicana hotel bartender, said he was in Dallas several years earlier while in military service but didn't know Ruby.

Paul F. Coe, Nov. 29 -- Coe, an assistant manager at the Thunderbird resort, said there was no indication that Ruby had stayed there in 1963.

Preston Feinberg, Nov. 29 -- Feinberg, who owned nearly 6 percent of the Tropicana hotel, said he didn't know Ruby and never met him. He also said he never heard of Ruby in Chicago, where Feinberg lived for most of his life, and never lent Ruby the Tropicana's Rolls Royce. Feinberg said the vehicle had been in Los Angeles since Nov. 5 for repairs and a new paint job.

Nov. 29 -- W.R. Harwood from United Airlines, Will Riddle from Delta Air Lines and John Glibowski from Trans World Airlines all told the FBI that a check of flight manifests from Nov. 11 through Nov. 24 for flights from Dallas to Las Vegas failed to identify Ruby as a passenger.

Joseph Stefan, Nov. 30 -- A caddy master at the Tropicana Country Club, Stefan said that Ruby or Rubenstein hadn't been at the country club for at least the past 30 days, based on records that were kept for only that period of time. But Stefan said he believed Ruby might have played there "since he is sure that at some time during the past year, a player from Texas had given him a card from the Carousel Club in Dallas and told him to look him up if he ever got to Dallas." The Carousel Club happened to be one of the clubs Ruby owned. Another Ruby-owned club ironically was called the Vegas Club. But Stefan searched the country club and his home and said he must have thrown the card away.

Carl Barbalot, Nov. 30 -- Barbalot, general manager of the Tropicana Country Club, said he wasn't familiar with Ruby or Rubenstein even after seeing photographs of Ruby on television and in newspapers. Barbalot also said he didn't think Ruby ever golfed at the country club.

Ralph J. France, Nov. 30 -- France, a shill boss at the Castaways casino, said he didn't know Ruby and had no friends or associates in Dallas. The FBI also inquired about France's nickname, Frog, but didn't elaborate on its significance.

Mark Marquess, Dec. 2 -- A golf pro at the Tropicana Country Club, Marquess said he had no knowledge of Ruby ever playing there, even though he was aware of a Las Vegas television newscast that alleged Ruby had been in town. Marquess said a review of country club records turned up no evidence that Ruby had played there. Marquess also expressed strong doubts that Ruby had played at the country club recently because pictures of Ruby he saw on television and in newspapers were unfamiliar to him.

John Tihista, Dec. 2 -- The Stardust hotel credit manager said a check of registration records for September through November and a review of credit applications turned up no connections to Ruby or Rubenstein. But the FBI quoted Tihista as saying that about a month earlier, which would have been around early November: "Gilbert Coskey, cashier in the hotel casino cage, came to Tihista with a check from a customer to determine whether or not it should be cashed. According to Coskey, the customer wanting to cash the check had no previous credit. However, Coskey stated that the man was from Dallas and owned a nightclub in that city. He believed Coskey had stated the man's name was Ruby. Tihista stated that apparently this incident occurred on a weekend since they were unable to contact the customer's bank, and therefore, did not accept the check."

Gilbert Coskey, Dec. 2 -- The Stardust hotel cashier related the story of how someone from Dallas he believed to be Ruby approached the resort's credit department about four weeks earlier and attempted to have a check cashed. "Coskey recalled that the man talked about owning the Vegas Club and another nightclub in Dallas," the FBI stated. Coskey told the FBI he took the check to Tihista, who refused to cash the check since the customer had no previous credit with the hotel. The FBI concluded that Coskey "could recall nothing more concerning this incident, but after seeing a photo of Ruby in the paper and reading about his background, he was certain that Ruby and the person attempting to cash a check at the Stardust were one and the same."

Gordon Kent, Dec. 3 -- A Las Vegas television commentator, Kent claimed to have a source he wouldn't identify who told him Ruby had been in Las Vegas on Nov. 16 and 17, a week before the Kennedy and Oswald shootings. The source alleged that Ruby golfed at the Tropicana Country Club, completed a credit application at the Stardust resort and also had credit with the Riviera hotel. Kent said he used this information in a newscast on Nov. 29.

Richard Chappell, Dec. 3 -- The Riviera manager said that after he heard Kent's Nov. 29 broadcast, he found nothing connected to Ruby or Rubenstein in the hotel's credit and registration records. "Mr. Chappell stated that he knows of no reason why any hotel in Las Vegas would conceal the fact that Ruby had been a guest or had held a credit card," the FBI reported.

Ruby in 1964 was sentenced to death for Oswald's murder, but a Texas appellate court reversed the conviction in 1966 on grounds that the trial court should have granted his request for a change of venue. Ruby, though, died of lung cancer at age 55 in 1967 before a new trial could be conducted.

The Warren Commission, whose members included Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren and future President Gerald Ford, concluded that Oswald acted alone in assassinating Kennedy. The commission also concluded that while the Dallas Police decision to transfer Oswald to the county jail "in full public view was unsound," there was no evidence to suggest that police assisted Ruby in the killing of Oswald.

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