The Rest of the Story

THE ARIZONA PROJECT

The State of Arizona

Arizona is a pristinely beautiful and sparsely settled state of just 2.3 million. Outside of metropolitan Phoenix(pop.975,000) and Tucson (pop.360,000) there are no other large cities in the state. The rest of Arizona is mostly uninhabited, consisting of desert and mountains. About a quarter of the acreage is taken up by nineteen different Indian reservations. Some eighteen percent of the state's total land is privately owned. The remainder belongs to the federal or state government.

Thus even in the last half of the 1970's, most of the state was as it had always been open and wild.

Phoenix was a small, sleepy cowboy town until the post-World War 2 years brought the cost of air conditioning within the reach of the average person. In 1940, fewer than 65,000 persons lived there. From 1950 to 1960, the population increased threefold, to just over 400,000. By 1970, it was nearing 600,000 and was the fastest growing city in the 48 contiguous states. By 1980, Phoenix is expected to surpass 800,000 city residents. Tucson, though half the size of Phoenix has experienced similarly dramatic growth.

But the shimmering glass skyscrapers and creeping pollution just beginning to settle in the mountain valleys of the state's two metropolises in 1976 belied their true roots. While the cities looked modern and grown-up, the old west lifestyles and attitudes were still present. It was not unusual for a well-to-do Phoenician to take his wife out on the town, dressed in an expertly tailored four-hundred-dollar Western Suit and wearing an old-fashioned six -gun on a carved leather belt, the holster-tied gunfighter-fashion to his leg. In the daytime, in the heart of the city's financial district near the impressive Rosenzweig Center, shiny Mark IV's and silver Mercedes bear anti-gun control bumper-stickers attesting to the fact that"No One Ever Raped A .38." In a downtown gun store the special of the week is advertised supermarket-style in boldly painted strips of window paper. One of the more favored sale items is the snub-nosed .22. a gun totally useless to sportsmen or target shooters.

Of the continental states, Arizona was the last to be admitted to the Union. Thus, "old family," an Arizona term of high respect, applies to those who were there before 1912, when it was known as the Arizona Territory. Like Texans, Arizonians like superlatives. It is a state that boasts "the world's tallest fountain" in one desert land development and "the Original London Bridge" in another. And on the edge of Phoenix, in the middle of what recently was just desert, Phoenicians have built "Big Surf," a giant swimming pool equipped with mammoth fans capable of making ten-foot waves suitable for surfboarding. There is Tombstone, Arizona, "the town too tough to die," and Del Webb's Sun City, "the world's largest retirement village."

Arizonans don't like boat rockers. In 1976, when a couple of young families with children moved into the over-fifty community of-believe it or not- Youngstown, they were literally run out of town by elderly citizens who threatened to put rattlesnakes in the childrens rooms and burn their houses down.

Even the young people of Arizona seem of a different age. At night, particularly on a weekend, North Central Avenue in Phoenix is used for drag-racing by the city's teenagers, who congregate on street corners in American Graffiti scenes reminiscent of the 1950's in other American cities.

Phoenix began in the early 1860's as a small settlement along the banks of the salt River, a rough and tumble town of drifters, miners, and cowboys. Back then, the river flowed full in the winter and spring, and its lush green banks were like a vertical oasis slashing through the broad desert valley that gave birth to the town. A few decades later, the river was diverted thirty miles to the northeast and a series of canals, originally etched out by the Indians hundreds of years before, were widened and expanded, thereby bringing water across the valley. Those same canals are in use today and the river, one of Arizona's most reliable, still provides the bulk of Phoenix's water supply, filling swimming pools, greenling golf courses, and irrigating the desert.

Perhaps the state's most colorful character of the early years-besides the famous Indians, Geranium and Cochise, and the gun fighters, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday-was a reclusive miner by the name of Jacob Walz, "The Dutchman." It was Walz who allegedly discovered, in the Superstition Mountains some fifteen miles due east of Phoenix, a gold mine so fabulously rich that it is still the object of expeditions. Walz was a strange character. After his partner was killed by Apaches at the mine site, he went a bit daft. While he would return to his mine from time to time, he never fully developed it. Instead he would take only enough gold to pay for his needs, though government records show the amount totalled over a quarter of a million dollars during one six-year period And Walz never told a soul exactly where the mine was. Nevertheless, word of his discovery spread far. From the late 1860s to the mid 1880s, his ramshackle home on the edge of the Salt River was surrounded by a tent colony of gold seekers determined to find the old man's claim. When Walz went out in the desert, he was followed by hundreds of them, some on horseback, others riding mules, some on foot. Several dozen of his pursuers died violently over the years. Invariably, the cagy old Dutchman would lose his trackers at nightfall, only to reappear in Phoenix a few days later with a new supply of nuggets from his mysterious find in the Superstitions. Walz took his secret to the grave in 1891, and even today the Phoenix Police Department gets an occasional report from the area where Walz's home once stood that people are digging around in the middle of the night, searching for a clue to the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine.

In 1864, the noted traveler and journalist J. Ross Browne visited Arizona. What he found was "... a place of resort for traders, speculators, gamblers, horse thieves, murderers, and vagrant politicians." There are those who find the appraisal still appropriate in 1976. "Arizona is the native home of the scorpion, the rattlesnake, and the real estate speculator," goes a well known and oft-cited local saying.

No one is quite sure when the modern version of the land scam started, though Don Bolles used to say that between the late 50s and early 70s over one billion dollars had been fleeced from un suspecting Midwesterners and other cold-state residents who bought worthless chunks of desert touted in the land hustlers ads as "sun-drenched estates." What is known is that of the nearly six million acres sold by the land hustlers, few, if any, are habitable. "It's really rather pitiful to see what's happened to people who think they've bought a piece of paradise out here," said a Mohave county planner in 1973. "Were always having a little old couple from some place up north walk in and say they bought a lot in one of those desert developments and now they want to build on it but can't find it. We tell them if they have a helicopter, they can probably get to it. If not they'll just have to hike in. But they'll have to bring in plenty of water.

Using the standard planning figure of three persons per household, if just half of the lot owners who purchased land in desert developments suddenly showed up in Arizona, the state's population would triple over night, according to a study done by a University of Arizona researcher. Since the state's water table is dropping by as much as a foot each decade, there is barely enough water for the present population.

How does the scam work? A hastily formed land company purchases a huge chunk of wilderness, maybe 10,000 acres for $100 an acre. The next step is the bulldozing of crude dirt roads and the plotting of land into lots. The 10,000 acres become 40,000 quarter-acre lots. Then through fancy advertising and lots of slick blueprints, those 40,000 lots are sold nationwide for 1,000 a lot. That's a $40 million return on a $1 million investment. By the time sales commissions have been paid, engineering and planning costs met, and the heavy advertising budget absorbed, the actual profit is closer to $20 million.

The desert between Phoenix and Tucson is criss-crossed with narrow roads that neatly bisect each other to the horizon. The roads go nowhere and no one except Mexican aliens sneaking up from the border to pick Arizona citrus travels them. The roads are mute testimony to the promises of the land hustlers. The utilities, country club golf courses, and other amenities that lure the unsuspecting buyers seldom materialize. Arizona land companies have a long history of conveniently going bankrupt before it's time to deliver.

That's land fraud on its most basic level. But in Arizona, the practice has reached new levels of sophistication. In some cases, the same desert lot has been sold to as many as three different buyers. Sometimes the outfits don't even own the property they sell. Mortgage companies are often duped right along with the original lot buyer, extending loans to land purchasers who don't even exist. It's a grand hustle, made easy by notoriously lax real estate laws. Traditionally, Arizona has led the states in the list of land fraud complaints received by the Interstate Land Sales division of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Then there are the hoodlums. No one knows how many have emigrated to Arizona in recent years, though Don Bolles once wrote a series on organized crime called "The Newcomers" that put over 200 Mafia members or associates in the state. Basically, hoodlums moved to Arizona for self-preservation.

Law enforcement back east had become extremely tough since the early sixties. Grand juries and special task forces of eager young federal prosecutors were locking up dozens of organized criminal hoodlums a year. The heat was heavy.

Arizona a state already filled with legitimate immigrants from the east and midwest, was a perfect spot for many of the harassed hoodlums to resettle. Besides the dramatic growth-which offered lots of "action" in the traditional mob money-making rackets of gambling, prostitution, and loan sharking-there was the more relaxed, less troublesome attitude of the state's citizenry. As in the days of the old west, a strangers business was his own. It was a state whose land laws were virtually a license to steal. The only heat the hoodlums had to worry about in Arizona came from the desert.

There were plenty of threats to Republic reporters like Don Bolles, Paul Dean, and Al Sitter, who investigated organized crime and land fraud. And the unmistakably western heritage of the cow-town suddenly grown up did not fit with the tactics of investigative journalism. Paul Dean remembered the threats. Once when he and Bolles were working on an investigative piece together, someone sent him a letter in the mail. It stated that if he wanted to learn his fate, he should place the paper under a kitchen tap and turn on the water. Dean followed the instructions-and the paper burst into flame.

Even after Bolles was cremated-his funeral attended by the entire Arizona State Legislature-the reporters working the story were given cause to be afraid. John Winters returned home from a vacation weekend to find that his car had been burned in what looked like a case of arson. There was no way to discern whether the damage was in retaliation for his work on the Bolles case or just the work of random vandals. Al Sitter, who had been doing most of the Republic's investigative pieces on land fraud, felt he had been followed on several occasions after the Bolles bombing. Then there were the "sickies," the anonymous calls from disturbed people telling whoever answered the city desk phone-"you're next." The fears- both real and imagined- caused the police to add extra patrols to the neighborhoods of some of the reporters. City editor Early ordered extra security guards for the Republic and Gazette building and instituted a rule that reporters must go in pairs when interviewing news sources. All such meetings were to be held in public places whenever possible.

The involvement of wealthy rancher Kemper Marley and his sidekick, Max Dunlap, the land contractor who had tried to set up an Adamson defense fund, offered Republic reporters still another theory for the homicide. Bolles had been interested in Marley, as evidenced by his background stories which detailed the prominent rancher's political connections and questionable dealings. How far had the reporter dug into Marley's past? Was he, at the time of his death, delving into the old man's current activities?

Kemper Marley, born in 1906 on a cattle ranch, was a well respected and prominent Arizonan. He presided over a score of business from liquor to land, and owned cattle and sheep herds numbering in the tens of thousands. He was "old family," a Phoenician term of high respect. And in his ever present Stetson, the tall, thick waisted Marley clearly loved his John Wayne image.

But there was a lot more to Marley than met the public eye. A Phoenix police background profile completed a week after the Bolles bombing contained information which would have embarrassed a number of Marley's current business and political pals. According to intelligence sources of the Phoenix police, Marley was at one time directly connected to remnants of the old Al Capone mob, operating a national wire service for bookmakers. The service, first known as Transamerica Publishing and news service, was originally established in 1941 for Capone's heirs by a long time Phoenix gambler named Gus Greenbaum.

Greenbaum was a close pal of mobsters Bugsy Siegel, Jack Dragma, and Mickey Cohen, and with the assistance of the three hoodlums' contacts in Las Vegas and California, he set up Transamerica to compete with the James M. Ragen line, which enjoyed a virtual monopoly with the bookmakers west of Chicago. Greenbaum was an efficient gambler, and the line soon prospered even beyond the dream of the Chicago hoods. By 1946, it was so successful that Greenbaum turned its day-to-day operations over to Marley, whom he had brought in as an assistant, and a gambler known as Alex G. "Fats" Cohen. Greenbaum then commuted between his Phoenix home and Las Vegas, where he concentrated on establishing such hotels and casinos as the Riviera, Dunes, Flamingo, and Royal Nevada. Phoenix police traced Marley and the wire service to two hotels and a bottling company before the service eventually disbanded in the 1950s, when improved mass communications made the odds and racetrack winners instantly known.

In 1958, Gus Greenbaum and his wife were found in bed with their throats cut in their Phoenix home. This double murder inaugurated a series of grisly gangland-style slayings in the city.

Marley's alleged criminal background had never surfaced in print, and so he was able to intersperse his gambling activities with a number of political jobs. Bolles had come across allegations of wrongdoing in the way Marley acted in his old government posts. But did the reporter also know the initial source of Marley's power? Was he about to expose it?

The reporters trying to uncover the motive for Bolles's killing had no way of knowing. But they did know about two separate chains of murders. There had been eight obvious mob hits beginning in 1958 with the passing of Greenbaum and ending the previous November with the bombing of Louise Bombacino's car in Tempe, and there had been eleven mysterious deaths linked to Arizona land fraud.

And now Don Bolles, a newspaper reporter who had spent ten years of his life trying to expose the states shabby side, was dead. "With the assassination of Don Bolles, the city of Phoenix realizes it has come of age." editorialized the Arizona Republic. "The slimy hand of the gangster and the pitiless atrocities of the terrorist are part of the current Arizona scene."

The editorial was somewhat misleading. For the ills were not sudden. They had festered for decades, and by 1976, they had become so much a part of the state that Arizona was rotting from within.

The story was too big for any one newspaper.





Notice: TGS HiddenMysteries and/or the donor of this material may or may not agree with all the data or conclusions of this data. It is presented here 'as is' for your benefit and research. Material for these pages are sent from around the world. If by chance there is a copyrighted article posted which the author does not want read, email the webmaster and it will be removed. If proper credit for authorship is not noted please email the webmaster for corrections to be posted.