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Trump cabinet nominee's local ties to Mafia

Rancho Peñasquitos developer was partner with Andew Puzder's boss

Morris "Mo" Shenker, a St. Louis-based hoodlum lawyer and casino owner, has been in the news lately even though he died in 1983. He was featured in a front-page story in the New York Times on February 3 and in Politico on January 31.

Shenker, lawyer for late Teamsters mobster Jimmy Hoffa as well as numerous other racketeers, had great influence over the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund, which was a source of unsecured loans for Mafia figures, often pursuing projects in Las Vegas.

Irvin Kahn

Irvin Kahn

The Teamsters fund was tapped by the late San Diego lawyer Irvin Kahn, a close Shenker friend. Kahn used the dirty capital for, among other things, developing Rancho Peñasquitos and parts of University City and Clairemont, along with several bowling alleys.

Kahn and Shenker owned the 47-acre Murrieta Hot Springs resort, just over the San Diego County border. Hoffa is said to have been seen at Murrieta 48 hours before his disappearance in 1975. There is still debate whether Hoffa might have been buried at Murrieta or at Carlsbad's La Costa, which was developed by Vegas mobsters.

Shenker is in the news because Andew Puzder has been named by president Donald Trump to be Secretary of Labor. Right out of law school, Puzder joined Shenker's law firm. By that time, Shenker wasn't practicing law; he was concentrating on his Vegas casino, the Dunes. Thus, Puzder had some choice cases, despite his youth. At age 30, Puzder defended Shenker in a major case. Shenker was said to be a mentor to Puzder, who left law to head CKE Restaurants.

Kahn was the son of a bootlegger and initially wanted to be a criminal defense lawyer. Then he got into real estate, lapping up the tainted Teamsters money. Some say that at one point Kahn's developments involved 25 percent of the developable land in San Diego. Not surprisingly, since dirty money is so prominent in pro sports, Kahn was one of the owners of the Padres when they were a minor-league team. So was C. Arnholt Smith, the banker and "Mr. San Diego," according to the San Diego Union, who was an early financier of La Costa and other dubious projects.

Puzder's congressional hearings have been canceled four times. They were scheduled for February 7 before another delay was announced.

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Mike Murphy: Oh no -- not just local. The Teamsters fund made many investments on projects headed by Mafiosi -- heavily in Las Vegas, but in other places outside of San Diego, too. Irvin Kahn tapped into filthy Teamsters/Shenker money for San Diego, which was one of the larger recipients of Teamster bucks. Best, Don Bauder

The Teamsters Central States Pension Fund loaned pension money for projects and real estate projects which, for the most part, made money and the money loaned was returned to the CSPF. It was not "dirty or filthy" money it was money that was paid into the pension fund. The problem was that the pension fund was not allowed by law to invest in speculative real estate or or speculative projects even if those projects and real estate investments made money. Pension funds are not dirty money but the misuse of those funds led to convictions for many involved.

AlexClarke: The Central States fund was definitely dirty money in several ways. First, it was used for highly-speculative investments -- particularly Vegas casinos -- for mobsters. This is not a proper use of pension fund money. The fund was controlled by Shenker, a mobbed-up lawyer who represented Jimmy Hoffa, among other gangsters.

Pension funds become dirty money when the money is loaned to dubious characters making highly anti-social and speculative investments, such as in gambling casinos. Best, Don Bauder

The money is not "dirty" as it was negotiated for deposit in the pension plan. The misuse of the money was improper but the money itself was legit. Drug money is "dirty" from the beginning as much of it is gained by illegal means and used for illegal means.

AlexClarke: Teamsters union members elected one after another corrupt heads: Dave Beck, Jimmy Hoffa, Frank Fitzsimmons, Jackie Presser, ad nauseam. The membership knew of the mob associations of those heads, and knew the money they deposited was going to dirty purposes. Best, Don Bauder

AlexClarke: You will see below that I repeat the post above. That does not reflect a strong opinion; it reflects my inability to get a computer to do what I want it to do. Best, Don Bauder

AlexClarke: I hope you are not suggesting that the Teamsters members did not know where their money was going. They kept electing organized crime-connected people as heads of the union: Dave Beck, Jimmy Hoffa, Frank Fitzsimmons, Jackie Presser, ad nauseam. The membership, which elected these dubious characters, had to know that the money was going for dirty purposes. Best, Don Bauder

Is this how the term "Scam Diego" was coined or was that something else?!

Murphyjunk: From the beginning of San Diego's development in the 19th century, the city would have deserved the "Scam Diego" moniker. Real estate was one of the initial industries; that is generally a scam haven. Also, prostitution was a major early industry. It serviced sailors in port, and there were no doubt lots of scams connected therewith. Best, Don Bauder

SportsFan0000: To the best of my knowledge, "Scam Diego" was termed around the time of the J. David Dominelli Ponzi scheme in the 1980s. People said that I was the first to use it in one of my San Diego Union columns.I'm sure I used it, but I do not remember if I used it first. Also, it is difficult for a writer to say that he or she coined a word or phrase. Best, Don Bauder

Flapper: At the time of the "Scam Diego" controversy, I was writing a newsletter for a company. The publication had nothing to do with the U-T and I had permission to do it. One of the things I was told to do -- and did -- was write an item denouncing the use of "Scam Diego." So I used it several times in my U-T column and also wrote the rebuttal. (My name was not attached to the newsletter, so nobody noticed it.) Best, Don Bauder

PUZDER IS OUT AS NOMINEE FOR SECRETARY OF LABOR. Puzder is no longer in the running for Secretary of Labor. I never heard any discussion about his relationship with the late mobbed-up Mo Shenker, who provided dirty Teamster money for much of San Diego's development. Puzder was strongly opposed by organized labor, and there were revelations about past domestic behavior. Best, Don Bauder

I read somewhere that Trump used NYC and NJ mob money in some of his development projects...And, that a Mob Boss lived for awhile in Trump Tower to keep an eye on Trump and to give him his "marching orders"?! True?! False?!

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