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Spying alleged at Casino Royale
y Jeff German
Thursday, Dec. 26, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
The Frontier hotel-casino extended its spying on workers to the Casino Royale, former security officers allege.
The Casino Royale, next to Harrah's hotel-casino on the Strip, is owned by Frontier General Manager Tom Elardi, who's been at war with striking Culinary Union workers at both Strip properties the past five years.
James Lockhart, a 27-year-old ex-surveillance agent at the Casino Royale, said a communications technician in the summer of 1995 showed him a listening device secretly planted in the ceiling of the dealers' break room.
Lockhart said he was shown another bug installed in the casino's surveillance room, where he and other officers watched video cameras that monitored gaming operations and striking workers.
The bugs, Lockhart charged, were linked to the office of the Casino Royale's general manager.
"There was a lot of paranoia over the strike," said Lockhart, who left the Casino Royale in December 1995 after a year there.
Lockhart said Elardi often would order the surveillance room to watch the strikers outside the casino and ignore the gaming operations for long periods.
Now a UNLV student, Lockhart said he stepped forward after reading SUN reports of interviews with Wayne Legare, the former head of a Frontier spy squad that allegedly engaged in dirty tricks on strikers.
The squad was overseen by Elardi's brother, John Elardi, a licensed Frontier executive.
Lockhart said he found Legare to be forthright and a professional.
Legare has alleged he was ordered to lie to a county grand jury investigating a picket line beating and that videotapes of strikers given to the courts were doctored to favor the Frontier.
John Patton, the Frontier's former personnel manager, has charged in court depositions that the Frontier wiretapped its own phone lines to secretly listen in on employees.
Patton also alleged that Frontier lawyer, Steve Cohen, once ordered a phony derogatory letter be written and given to the Nevada Equal Rights Commission to justify the firing of a longtime pit clerk.
Tom Elardi and Cohen originally denied any wrongdoing at the Frontier. But neither has commented about subsequent stories.
Elardi could not be reached for comment today, and his brother has never returned phone calls.
Legare, meanwhile, said in his latest interview that the Frontier shared intelligence with the Casino Royale and helped it spy on employees.
He said he was called to the Casino Royale whenever it needed help with its surveillance equipment.
Legare redesigned the Casino Royale's surveillance room in the summer of 1995, he said.
One time, Legare explained, John Horton, the Frontier's electronics expert, had told him that eavesdropping devices had been planted inside the Casino Royale.
"They felt they might have a problem in the surveillance room," Legare said.
The Frontier's own surveillance room had a direct phone line to the Casino Royale and was able to view live footage from a high-tech microwave camera mounted on top of the sister casino.
Legare said the Frontier's powerful "eye in the sky," on top of the 16-story Frontier, also had the capability of zooming in for close-ups of the picket line at the Casino Royale.
Legare also confirmed the Frontier maintained secret dossiers on key Culinary Union officials.
The dossiers were kept in a "mug book" that included photos of the union officials that the resort had secretly acquired from Metro Police, he said.
"Any information we could find, we put in there," Legare said. "We went at it like it was a war."
Lockhart said he used a copy of the mug book at the Casino Royale and showed the SUN copies of some of the photos.
Among those featured were Culinary Staff Director D. Taylor, Political Director Glen Arnodo and Strike Coordinator Joe Daugherty. Underneath the photos of the three men are the words "known troublemaker."
Lockhart also provided the SUN with an edited copy of Casino Royale surveillance tapes that he said showed questionable conduct by security officers.
In one incident in April 1995, officers were observed leading an uncooperative handcuffed man into a back alley outside the view of the camera. The man, who said on the tape he was a criminology student, had been detained for arguing with a dealer.
Lockhart alleged the student was beaten in the alley.
"They knew we didn't have cameras in the back alley, and they used to take people there," he said.
The tapes show a rare glimpse of life inside the little-known world of private security on the Strip.
Other incidents videotaped showed gaming employees stealing from the casino, Lockhart said.
Lockhart explained that the casino handled those matters internally rather than notifying the State Gaming Control Board.
"They didn't like to cooperate with police agencies," he said.
At the Frontier, meanwhile, Legare said John Elardi once wanted to bug a conference room, where state health and safety inspectors wanted to meet.
But the inspectors, who ultimately levied a hefty fine on the resort, decided against conferring in the room and no listening devices were planted.
Top labor leaders and state lawmakers have urged law enforcement authorities to investigate the Frontier allegations.
Control Board Chairman Bill Bible said criminal laws may have been broken, but his agency should not take the lead in pursuing a probe.
No law enforcement agency so far is known to have launched an investigation.
Clark County Sheriff Jerry Keller and U.S. Attorney Kathryn Landreth said they are waiting for victims to step forward.