Golfer Phil Mickelson was once bilked out of $500,000 by a flamboyant Michigan bookie with close ties to the Detroit Partnership, the local Mob outfit.
That’s according to transcripts from the 2007 racketeering trial of alleged Detroit Mafia boss Jack “Jackie the Kid” Giacalone, uncovered this week by Detroit News.
The bookie was Don “Dandy Don” DeSerrano, who died in April in Las Vegas of natural causes, aged 75. He was testifying as a government witness in the trial.
DeSerrano was the uncle of Derek Stevens, who has spearheaded the revitalization of Downtown Las Vegas in recent years through his D Casino and Circa Resort.
In 2007, Federal prosecutors believed Dandy Don was being extorted by Giacalone’s crew after he fixed a series of poker games at one of the Detroit Partnership’s underground casinos.
They wanted DeSerrano to paint a picture of Giacalone to the jury as a threatening and frightening mobster who was extorting the bookie.
Ultimately, DeSerrano refused to play ball, which helped Giacalone to walk free. But early in the trial, Giacalone’s lawyer, Neil Fink, wasn’t taking any chances. He tried to discredit DeSerrano by bringing up Mickelson’s name.
According to court documents, DeSerrano first pretended he had never heard of Mickelson, before acknowledging he had booked the golfer’s action, but had failed to pay him $500,000 when he won.
“I wouldn’t say I cheated him,” DeSeranno said in court. “I couldn’t pay him.”
Dandy Don and The General
Prosecutors believed the high-rolling, fashion-conscious bookie was a Mafia associate. According to FBI files, DeSeranno placed millions of dollars in bets with Allen “the General” Hilf, who controlled the Detroit Partnership’s bookmaking operations and was best friend and adviser to Jackie Giacalone.
Together, DeSeranno and Hilf organized high-roller junkets from Detroit to Las Vegas. In the 1990s, DeSeranno was a host for the Las Vegas Hilton, now the Westgate Las Vegas.
Giacalone, incidentally, is the son and nephew, respectively, of Vito and Anthony Giacalone, aka “Billy Jack” and “Tony Jack.” The brothers were two high-ranking members of the Detroit Partnership, and also major suspects in the disappearance of Teamsters Union President Jimmy Hoffa.
Mickelson’s lawyer described the revelation of his client’s interaction with DeSerrano as “old news” in a statement to the Detroit News Tuesday.
He added his client knew nothing of the bookie’s background when he placed bets with him, and emphasized Mickelson had done nothing illegal.
“Phil and a bunch of his buddies back then were betting on sports, and Phil was the guy placing the bets,” Cohen said. “They got this guy’s name and had no idea what his background was.
“The guy didn’t pay him,” Cohen added. “Phil says it was a significant amount. He never got paid, and that was it.”
This was the first time avid sports gambler Mickelson’s name had been mentioned in a court case related to illegal bookmaking, but not the last — although he has never been accused of breaking any law.
Mickelson also became embroiled in the insider-trading trial of legendary Las Vegas handicapper Billy Walters.
Federal authorities never charged Mickelson with a crime, although they ordered him to surrender nearly $1 million he made from stock market trades based on Walters’ insider tips.
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