John Birges – Mastermind of the Harvey Casino Bomb Heist

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Speaker 1 Hey man. Hey married man. I just got married by the time you hear this well not you. You're here. Pretty time you the listener. I will be holding Well, man. Unknown Speaker Yeah, hopefully we need an intro. Unknown Speaker Alright, let's record it. Cut this out right Speaker 1 yeah, here we go ready? All right hey single band looks like you're still she left me Unknown Speaker oh man, I really Speaker 2 love to listen back. Yeah. Connor a thumbs up or thumbs down before this goes live. It works. Unknown Speaker We're good. Oh wow. Well yeah, so that's the thing that's a good life. Speaker 3 That's fantastic. Well I'm talking about oh yeah, we're talking about the Harvey resort hotel in Lake Tahoe actually scaling stick like Nevada it's near Lake Speaker 1 Tahoe it's on the Nevada Lake. Towers. Yeah, Speaker 3 I understand that aside. Yeah, yeah. Okay. Speaker 1 That's a fun bit. We record these weeks in advance. That's a good time. Oh, is it a heist? Unknown Speaker Three men dressing? Speaker 1 By love a good heist. Because in the FBI, they can tax it do. taxes are so high dude. People are always like, Oh, I can just ransom a casino. Right. And I'll make out with three after the government takes the 70% of that. learned last night Speaker 3 okay, hold on. I need my time. I don't we're very prepared. So here's the deal. Speaker 1 My time so, Lake Tahoe, which is beautiful, by the way, Unknown Speaker not anymore. It's in the water is going away. Speaker 1 It's gone. Well, by the time this goes up. Connor yes or no. There's still a lake there. That's Phil, but just in case. Unknown Speaker God cool. Speaker 1 It was such a beautiful Lake Tahoe. God rested. Well, this is actually a good thing. The lake is gone. Because I guess her plan one was to drown me and leave me in there. Yeah. But within that being there, she decided to just leave. Yep. Yep. She ran off to Vegas. Speaker 3 The Wild Thing is I heard that the Pacific Ocean is draining back in and refilling it with saltwater. Yep. And Speaker 1 now it's California. Oh, through the woods, to Lake Tahoe we go. Unknown Speaker Pacific Ocean isn't magical thing. Speaker 1 Pretty wild how nature works. So Lake Tahoe, which may or may not exist. So there's for those who don't know where it is? Northern California. Yeah, is on the border of California and Nevada. Speaker 3 Yeah. And on the Nevada side, there's a town called state line, aptly named because it's on the state line. But it's a popular town. It's popular tourist destination because it's on the state line of Lake Tahoe, a popular tourist destination where in Nevada, it's legal to gamble. That's true. They put up a whole bunch of casinos. And people go Tahoe it up for a little bit. And then they're like, You know what makes the lake even better losing all your money. Speaker 1 That's what so it's interesting how Kansas is legal to do that. And Missouri isn't? Yeah, so when I place my bet on the Super Bowl, yeah. Am I allowed to talk about this? I don't know. Speaker 3 I think you are I don't see why. Okay, I'm not there's there's a reason there was a legitimate reason. Yeah, Speaker 1 I'm not a gambler. far enough away that I think it's fine for me to say yeah, I had a brand deal that if the Chiefs had lost, you got the deal. I was going to get to like, you know, they're gonna pay me some money to post on Instagram and be like, Oh, they lost but Good thing I have this brand to make me happy or whatever. But then I realized, well, I'm going to make this amount of money if I win if I if they lose, but no money if they win, but you obviously wanted them to win. Yeah, I was so conflicted. I don't want to go to the Super Bowl party, and be like, all decked out in my chiefs gear and be like, Let's go fly eagle fly or whatever. And so I so I, I wanted to place a bet on the chiefs to win that way. Either way. I want to make that amount of money that way. You want to be conflicted. So I had to take an Uber. Did I tell you this part? Yeah. Where I took an Uber just to the Kansas side to a parking lot in Kansas to place my bet. And then and took it home as a sound the back of the room. I was like, just pull over here. This is fine. It was super sketchy. Unknown Speaker Do you think he'd that I did a lot? Speaker 1 Oh yeah. Next when I was little driver, I would do that it would be gambling people would take where I would drive people to Kansas had to place bets. Or I would drive people from the Kansas side to the Missouri side to buy cigarettes or alcohol. Because Kansas doesn't sell alcohol on Sundays. Yep. So Sunday, I would drive people over to the Missouri side, there's a very specific gas station down on 435 and 103 130. I mean, that people go to to buy all their cigarettes and, and drinks. Unknown Speaker Like Kansas discount. Speaker 1 But it really it was such a big deal that there would be like other Uber drivers. We were resolved the Speaker 3 parking lot like people bought their cigarettes. No. Interesting. Yeah. Speaker 1 Anyway, it's a thing. It's a thing. People go to stay line. Yeah, yeah. I mean, I totally get Yeah, yeah, they go there. Speaker 3 And I mean, at the end of the day, like this was a popular tourist destination to begin with. And someone somewhere along the line was like, Oh, why not make more money off of this tourist destination, which was the owner of the Harvey resort and hotel. He was their hotel was the first hotel or their casino was the first casino to capitalize off this. The name or the owner's name was Harvey gross, which is a great name for Casino. Speaker 1 Yeah. But even better, not even his real name. He changed it to that. Well, even Speaker 3 better, because his original occupation was he was a butcher. BUTCHER Harvey gross. Speaker 1 BUTCHER Harvey gross, and he hit your comma. Harvey gross, but Unknown Speaker butcher comma gross comma Harvey. Unknown Speaker Harvey butcher gross. Unknown Speaker Harvey bushing. He's a budget Speaker 1 Listen, the problem with the bleeping bit is it makes it seem like you did say something really bad. And then we rarely clarify. And when I listened back, I don't remember what you Unknown Speaker said. It's like, wow, what did he say? Speaker 1 So he was a butcher. He was got into the hotel game. That's a big leap. Now here's what I'm sorry, casino game. Here's what was Speaker 3 going on. So Stateline at the time, this was like the 50s or 60s was not a gambling town. It was a normal town on the edge of Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe got really popular with the tourists. Yeah. And he had a butcher shop in town. Unknown Speaker The Chevy named their SUV accurate. Unknown Speaker It was like I wonder what this truck is named? Unknown Speaker new Chevy Tahoe. Speaker 3 And everyone's like, well, I don't know. Can I fly? Speaker 1 The Chevy Tahoe may or may not exist by the time this comes out? Speaker 3 Well, a lot of people don't realize that's why Malibu is so popular. Speaker 1 That's what I'm saying. Yeah. Know his wife was looking for this town called Sanada. Speaker 3 I've been I've been looking for f150. I know, his wife was like, Hey, we got all these tourists in town. You've got your butcher shop. And that's cool. Whatever. You know, it's cool to sell meat. Sure. Oh, his wife had the idea. Yeah, but his wife was gross. Yeah, Miss gross said. Hey, Mrs. Mrs. Sorry. I will correct Madame gross. Let's, let's madam it. What's the point of that? Is that Mrs. Singleton Speaker 1 isn't married, ma'am. Is a contraction to get rid of madam right? Unknown Speaker I think so. Is madam is madam. I like Speaker 1 that we always look to Alex to be like your show starters. Speaker 3 And he normally doesn't say a word. He just looks away. Normally like Don't look at me. Speaker 1 So, okay, well, we'll look at the origin of May. I'm in mme later, I guess. Speaker 3 I guess. We have no way of looking. So she says, Hey, we could hear me out. Buy a couple slot machines for people while they're waiting for their meats. Okay, and then maybe in the backroom, put in a poker table and have it be Harvey's wagon wheel butcher and Casino. And Speaker 1 he's like, okay, so you're saying we got to spend money on slot machines to spend money on a poker table, and also a lot of money on a huge sign that huge. Wagon Wheel, butcher and casino faith. Do you know how many hours it took 100 hours for every letter? That's so many letters. And that's it does that's longer than the original Twitter character limit? Can you please just trim it down a little bit? Speaker 3 So they did this And lo and behold, the casino made way more money than the meet that yeah, for sure. And so then they just tore down the shop and build Speaker 1 stations have also taken this model where that Yeah, every gas station I saw in Montana has a casino and Speaker 3 yeah, there's one actually right by my house that has a couple of slot machines in it because it's right next to the hill. Yeah, Speaker 1 obviously the lake Oh, cuz it's like body of water laws. That's so weird. The Missouri's like that. Yeah. Yeah, I know they made a big deal of that in the show Ozark but it's what a stupid law. Yeah, if you're right off in my feet. Right. And my question is, does it have to be like it's not natural water? Right? Like you can just make a lake? Can you do like a parking lot water feature? You know? Does my does my inflatable hot tub count? Does it have how much is a body of water? Unknown Speaker That's an interesting question that I don't have the answer to. Speaker 1 When you come to my apartment, I got a slot machine. But yeah, they gotta come. Running a new marathon out of my apartment is just run back and forth in my living room. You didn't even reply to that thread just for this. That was really funny. I love 1000 laughs We had a conversation but be warned. No one's ever finished. Speaker 3 Yeah, we had a one of our patrons just completed a marathon. Unknown Speaker Marathon. It was a half marathon. Unknown Speaker It was a half marathon, but I was gonna give them full marathon. Speaker 1 Quick giving people credit for that. You know, Sam, thank you. Seriously on credit, people, for whatever reason, marathons is a huge accomplishment. And then somewhere along the way, someone was like, what if I did half the sticker on your car. And now all of a sudden we're just like, that's actually that's the achievement. Half Marathon. Speaker 3 Yeah, Spider Man's ran half a marathon. And I loved it because Speaker 1 I ran half a successful business once. The other half caught up to me eventually, and I didn't lost everything. But like, half it was running. Well. Speaker 3 Well, che immediately responded. He posted it and che one of our patrons immediately responded and said, Can I do a full marathon quitter behavior. Speaker 1 That's it right there. The real Alpha move is at the end of the half marathon. Turn around run it again. Speaker 3 Yeah, and they just gone. I'm, I'm doing this just for personal like, yeah, it's not working out and you're Speaker 1 looking at every single person you pass on because they're still going the other way. Yeah, no, yeah, I'm Unknown Speaker better than you. Yeah, I'm Speaker 1 doing too. Even if you were dead last. Finishing the half marathon. It's been four days. It took you a long time to go 13.1 miles. Speaker 3 Oh my gosh. Yeah. But I loved I loved the fact that he asked or he said he was listening back to figure out how many laps he did in your in your living room. And we had a website for that. How many laps and journeys living Speaker 1 I forget how many domains we've got. Yeah. Which if you want to know how many laps Speaker 3 in his living or something is we have a website called Gerrans living There you go. I'll tell you how long anyways, Speaker 1 have we set up like a marketing funnel on any of those sites? And we'll use that shortly there. Can they give can they put their email on there? Speaker 3 I don't think they can put their email on there. It does. There is a redirect to back to the podcast in there. But let's be honest, no. Unknown Speaker I'm saying no one's stumbling on it. Speaker 3 I mean, I don't know some people. We are getting a lot of money out of that. Speaker 1 I know that I want to know which good business I was running my fell. That falls into the bad business half for sure. Unknown Speaker That's yeah, that's definitely just a waste. But it's funny. So anyways, Speaker 1 that's my bio good jobs. It's a waste but it's funny. Speaker 3 Talking about this all right. So so this casino got really successful. Sure they established 190 room hotel, gee, Mike, Unknown Speaker jump to go from a butcher shop to a casino. Speaker 3 Well, it was it was gradually he didn't just like Speaker 1 build one hotel room at a time where I'm saying like, no, no, I'm saying to pivot from a person who runs a casino or runs a butcher to be a person who runs for casino is a huge jump. Unknown Speaker Yeah, that's a different that's a very difficult period to get Unknown Speaker into a gradually Speaker 3 Yeah, there was some growing pains there. But yeah, Harvey got super rich running this business for sure. Unknown Speaker So did Madonna. Well, they Speaker 3 got a divorce. Oh, I'm kidding. I'm kidding. That was a I don't know she got a really important Unknown Speaker one. He got his 13.1 Speaker 3 and because he became hugely successful, that's the point of the story. Right one of the biggest ones in the city. There's a few other casinos and towns are Speaker 1 called wagon wheel. Is it still called Harvey's wagon wheel butchering Casino. Unknown Speaker No, it's Is Harvey's resort? Unknown Speaker They got good meat though. Speaker 3 Yeah, well, I don't know what they sell me anymore. But anyways, on the morning of August 26 1980 Unknown Speaker Oh, is it a heist? Unknown Speaker Three men dressed in Speaker 1 ties? Oh, I love a good heist. Three men dressed in pig costumes came in when they said, butcher butcher, where are you? Speaker 3 You know what I found out the other day that I didn't know was that. And then we found this out of the draft because everybody at the draft like they had the section down in the draft where you could go. Speaker 1 So curious what the image of three men dressed as giant pigs conjured in his brain to go speaking of. Speaker 3 So they had all the people dressed in like, I think what every team did at the draft was they were like, Hey, you're weird fan who comes to every game? We're gonna fly you out to be in the front row. Great draft. And so everybody had all their weird fans in the front row by the Chiefs weird fan. Superman. Speaker 1 No. There's a couple of guy with a wolf costume. I forget what they call it. Unknown Speaker The mascot, Casey. Oh, Speaker 1 no, the guy who's got like a really bad wolf costume. You don't know about this? Speaker 3 I don't know. remember there being a weird chiefs fan there actually was a weird like they were decked out but I don't remember we I Speaker 1 forget his name. But he was like big on Twitter or whatever. He robbed a bank in his like cars used? Because it's all Yeah, he was the way he was affording to go to all these chiefs games was that he was robbing banks. Not even like, like, you know, oh, I got into their system. Just like straight up. Like get rid of money. You know? Go buy tickets. Go buy tickets. Go look up to the catch. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah, cuz he just quit tweeting one day. Yeah. And he quit going to games and people were like, What the heck happened? And then they were like, Oh, guys. Yeah, he's in prison. Jail. Speaker 3 Yeah. That's hilarious. No, yeah. So everybody was wearing their costumes. Well, not getting three men dresses. Pigs, walked in and went all the way to the front. Can you pick a team pick a team in the NFL that you think might wear pigs costumes? Speaker 1 Hold on. Let me get there. I could not. I was like, why you can't do it. Hold on. Well, I saw it. So Speaker 3 I know. Because they were wearing the jerseys too. But I was like, What is the connection? I don't understand the connection. Oh, it doesn't make sense. It doesn't make any sense at all. Speaker 1 Okay, hold on. Let me guess. I'm going through all the teams in my head. The Jets Speaker 3 you know, like kinda looks like a jet pigs. As the commanders there under, I looked at their official mascot now as a pig, author, the commander's but their mascot is a pig. I don't understand. I don't know where that came from. It's, it's pretty strange. Unknown Speaker Okay, Speaker 3 the only thing I could come up with was maybe pig skin. Because that's what some people call the footballs. And that's the only connection I could think of. Unknown Speaker But yeah, very weird decisions for that whole. Speaker 3 That whole organization is a mess. But anyways, so yeah, three Washington commanders fans walk into the walk. It's a three men walk into the casino wearing blue coveralls. And they're pushing a large object with a lightly overalls Unknown Speaker or cover like the like, okay. Speaker 3 And they're pushing this large object that's on wheels that's got like a blanket over it. And an IBM logo. Sure. And so they push their stuff. Yeah. And everyone's just like, oh, it's probably a printer or like, some Speaker 1 single sheet of paper with computer stuff written in Sharpie. Official stuff is what it says, Don't mind us. Unknown Speaker Nobody does or just bring it in some official stuff. Speaker 1 I mean, it's got so many pieces of paper. This is official stuff, computer things. If you really want to be specific about it. Please don't ask us what we're doing. We're from Speaker 3 a Thursday, June 29. At 630 we are doing a another patron hangout. These are super fun opportunities for us to just hang out on a zoom call with our patrons get to know you a little bit better find out what's going on in your life. And it's and have a lot of fun. Sometimes you might have seen some of these clips. They are absolutely wild. You guys do some crazy stuff in these videos like pull ups or eat pizza. It's bonkers. And we'd love to have you on there. Thursday, June 29 630 tekstil into 66866 to become a patron and join us Unknown Speaker so they're walking in, Speaker 3 they roll this thing into the lobby and they take off the like the curtain or the cloth Whatever. And then they just leave. And they get in their van and they drive away. What everybody there thought was like some kind of computer that the hotel ordered their local computer. I mean, it was this big metallic computery looking thing. I got a picture of it. Oh. So everyone was like Unknown Speaker I would immediately I'd see this and I go look at all those air holes. Unknown Speaker This is a real Trojan horse. That's, uh, Speaker 1 I mean, is that the Statue of Liberty that a horse looking thing I've ever seen in my life. Speaker 3 Yeah, so they just put it in the hotel and then one of the security guards after like, a half an hour, I was like, hey, it's gonna be like, looked at that thing to see what it is. And everyone's like, No. And so he goes over and sitting on the top of it is a note. And the note says, this is a bomb. And it says if you don't give me $3 million, it will detonate and this is the most sophisticated bomb you've ever seen. You will not be able to. Speaker 1 If you don't give me $3 million it'll detonate This is the most sophisticated bomb. I have all the bombs. It sounds like a like a Trump's speeches everything. It does actually the most sophisticated bomb Speaker 3 like brags about how sophisticated this bomb is. It's a three page document detailing. Okay, that's all I'm saying. It's sophisticated a bomb. Speaker 1 It's a bomb. A sophisticated Bob are really complicated. Bob, you don't understand. I promise. It's a bob. Like Unknown Speaker it's three pages. But it's 40 size font. Speaker 1 Yeah, it's one letter per page. You figure out which order it goes. You know the three pages just say it's a bomb. It's a bomb. Speaker 3 What is bomb a it's mean. I don't understand bomb. It's a bomb. It's a I don't understand why. There's no words on top of it. Yeah, it has instructions for the ransom. It's $3 million ransom. Okay. And basically says, Okay, go to this specific parking lot. Pick up the payphone. Go to this Speaker 1 machine. You hit the button four times. Yeah, put 20 down there know what is happening the person on behalf for the get go. And but I'm gonna try to win $3 million. Speaker 2 Don't put like $200 on read on Unknown Speaker $3 million. And if you don't, and if you don't, Unknown Speaker it blows up. You better be very sophisticated. Speaker 3 be lucky and so sophisticated. So he he he outlines this whole this whole or the no outlines of evacuate the building? Yeah, obviously. So they immediately evacuate the hotel. Who doesn't Speaker 1 like that? Gamblers? They are aggressive. Unknown Speaker That's pretty fair. Speaker 1 I told you about the private detective that was at a church show once I was talking with. And he said AB he's in Oklahoma. Yeah. I mean, I was trying to be like, Oh my gosh, you're like a pie, huh? Yeah. See, like, follow people around and do like, you know, you stake out and do all this stuff. As I tell what's like, what's the craziest thing you've seen? He said, Honestly, man. 90% of my job is wives asked me to tell their husbands. And then I watched them gamble at casinos all day. And he goes, and they are so addicted to gambling, that they're so afraid they're going to miss the jackpot that they pee in the seats. That's disgusting. So think about that when you're in Vegas. Next. Yeah, that's pretty nasty. Yeah, just bring wet wipes with you. That's Speaker 3 why all the seats are leather. Yeah, yeah. wipe them down before you not even just for COVID for me. Yeah. Well, they need to have like a gym mentality, like have wipes everywhere. So you can wipe them down after you use Speaker 1 them permission. You know, that feels like it would enable the problem more than it would Oh, yeah. People will just delete those wipes their honey. Speaker 3 Yeah, that's. Anyways, so they evacuate the building. And the FBI shows up. And the FBI is like, Okay, let's go ahead and and get them the ransom because they they look at the bomb, and they're like this bomb is pretty sophisticated. Unknown Speaker It's like a subway freezer. Unknown Speaker It's a really bad ice. Yeah. Speaker 1 For anybody who's listening. It's literally to silver blocks on top of each other. There's nothing about this that looks sophisticated to me. Well, Speaker 3 the FBI looks at it and determines this is very sophisticated. Sure. And so they said, Speaker 1 Well, it's because the 50s the FBI was like, what two years old? That point? Speaker 3 Well, this is the 80s now Oh, okay. So this is the prime of the FBI honestly, the FBI house this is when they were FBI and yeah, this was yeah, this was when the FBI was cool. And so they like Okay, let's get this ransom put together because this is pretty sophisticated. He told us we want them to disarm it for us and get us the money. But the process was gonna be a little intense like they had to go to that place make the phone call, and they were gonna get some coordinates that they were supposed to fly a helicopter to full gas and drop the helicopter full of the $3 million off At that locations drop off. Yeah. And then they were supposed to leave. And then this guy knows how to fly a helicopter, Unknown Speaker allegedly. Okay. Speaker 3 And so they're going through the process, they load, they go get 1000 bucks and a bunch of Speaker 1 wooden you just drop the helicopter off one betting this guy's gonna crash it like we can we can sacrifice helicopter. But if he can if he can fly, yeah, shoot it down. Speaker 3 I mean a helicopter is probably worth more than $3 million. Right? True. I mean, depending on the helicopter in the 80s, though. Yeah, I don't know how much our helicopter I Speaker 1 don't know how much or like FB has inflation really hit the helicopter market? Speaker 3 I mean, the 70s was super inflation. So by the 80s like it was probably pretty decently inflated as a blow up helicopter. Speaker 1 Sure. So where did they end up doing that? Speaker 3 So what they did is they actually went to Harvey and they're like, do you want to pay the ransom? And he was like, No, I'm not gonna pay that. He's like, Speaker 1 how would I pay the ransom? We know you run the casino. You are exactly. He's like, my wife runs a casino. I don't. I just I just got in there meet. You know, Speaker 3 and so and then the FBI was like, well, we're gonna pay this ransom. But we're not gonna pay this ransom. You know, so they just get $1,000 cash. And then they fail. Speaker 1 Why they give them the option? Just wanna pay it up? Like, he'd be like, oh, yeah, sure. Whatever. Cool. Case closed another day at the FBI. Why did it why was that an option? Speaker 3 Because then the FBI, they could then tax it? I don't know. I don't know. Sure. Look it up for the duty. Speaker 1 taxes are so high, dude. People are always like, Oh, I can just ransom a casino. Right? I'll make out with three. After the government takes the 70% of that. We don't say and like, then you're left with what like $900,000. And so that's just quick math. So like, what are you going to do with it? And then I mean, on top of that you're not in a financial investor. You know how to make sophisticated bombs. You don't know how to make good investments. This year to blow through 900,000 so fast. Speaker 3 Yeah, this is sophisticated bomb not a series for next year. Yeah. Unknown Speaker Any like every survivor winner Speaker 3 should we film that bit just in case actually right here? In case Yeah, we can we can leave this in or cut it. Just in case we get it. Go survive. I forgot. I forgot that we applied. Jared are in a brand new TV show. Speaker 3 Yeah, we're flying out in a month. We're gonna spend a month on a desert island. Speaker 1 I think that's what it is. We Geez. Yeah, you'll know Unknown Speaker for this I don't know if we're gonna get it. Oh, well, I Speaker 1 mean, like, now we know we got Yeah, now we know. We know. We got it. Well, we can cut this out. That we did that. I forgot that. They emailed me. And they said we got it. Oh yeah, maybe. That would be insane. And by the time this comes out, we've been cast. We do need to apply to more like Speaker 3 dumb reality TV shows low reality. Speaker 1 Wonderful. Amazing. Watched? Well, TV shows. Yeah, probably we need to do like amazing race. Yeah, yeah. Because I just love the idea that they're just like these two podcasters Unknown Speaker I love the idea that they put struggling podcast. Speaker 2 We're like no, just say podcasters. But in quotation marks. Speaker 1 Like I love the celebrities do amazing raise when their careers dying. And we're doing it to try to guess is dying dice are like yeah, this thing's over. If you don't want tell him to die. By the way, I don't know cameras on my camera. If you don't want to own the dice person on Patreon. That's the only way these episodes come out. And so we're just really grateful for the people who support us. And if you don't support us, one day, you might have to take the drive you're on right now. Without us in your ears. Get imagine could you imagine what that life would be like? Anyway, wretched. I would pay $3 million to never live that life. So Speaker 3 the FBI, they get a bunch of crinkled up newspaper and they fill a bunch of bags of the screen clips newspaper, they take $1,000 cash and they just lay it over the top real carefully so you can't see the crinkled up newspaper underneath it. So it kind of feels Yeah, movie proud. Yeah, it feels it feels like a bag of cash. But like if you like go past the first layer, you're like, This is the news. Speaker 1 And it's all about me. Which is like kind of an ego boost. You know? Honestly, this is better than the money. Thanks, guys. Thanks, guys. I just wanted to be a front page of of Lake Tahoe News. both sides. Sa Rata and Speaker 3 GM Ford Yeah, even that little community underwater Unknown Speaker Okay, the TA heeds Speaker 3 you haven't heard of that that all right. So they do that they get in the beginning the helicopter, they fly out to the location to do the job. Sure they get there and there's nobody there. The obviously the plan was the brand summer was going to be on the ground with a strobe light just holding it up at the sky. So they'd be like, Oh, there he is his land and give him his money now and there was no strobe light they circled around for a couple hours, couldn't find them came back and they're like, well, he's not there and so they asked the governor of Nevada to go on the news and put out a statement be like hey, we got your $3 million dollars if you want it. I call us back and we'll find you if you want Speaker 1 3,000,100 government gov Unknown Speaker and helicopters still in play at this point? Speaker 3 It's well that helicopter still like exists. I don't know if I would say in play it didn't have to land is it what do you say? Unknown Speaker If you call in to get the money, you Speaker 3 know, this isn't a Pepsi jet scenario. This is a helicopter This is a Hara Hara cop, Harrah's, Harrah's helicopter. I'm trying to make a connection that I got you there. It wasn't here as across the street actually, though. So cool. Anyways, so the governor makes a statement tries to get the people to be like, Hey, this is where we are. Come bring us our money. And then making that statement, the rest of like, Nevada and California and a lot of other states in the area, were like, Hey, hold on, what are you talking about? Like what's going on over there? So this starts to make national news. Yeah, it's that there's a bomb in this hotel that is barricaded in this hotel and the FBI is looking for the guy trying to give them the ransom. And so people travel from all over the country Speaker 1 their own bombs. Gonna give out the only barber and we're all barbers too. So Oh, because the spatula people are traveling in so Speaker 3 this becomes a thing everybody at the casino strip in state line is packed. Everyone's here to see the Speaker 1 business. Honestly, I've been thinking about this. I've been thinking about faking a bombing to drum up some business for what we're doing you know to great marketing tactic. Speaker 3 Well, they can see those they start placing bets on when the bombs gonna go whenever Speaker 1 I own a barbecue business and this was the bad side of the business was I called it a bomb threat to my competitors and that's just out of town Italian restaurant and that was This was the other rest I don't know what you're talking about. I didn't do anything that grenade was already there when I bought the building all right. It was somebody else's grenade and it was a very sophisticated grenade Speaker 3 you've ever seen know all the other casinos in the area they started holding like having bets for when the bomb was gonna go home care home Unknown Speaker and I was like Hey, make bets Oh yeah, Speaker 3 of course. Yeah, they're like winds up I'm gonna go off place your bets now and a couple of the casinos started printing T shirts here's another one Wait, did it blow up over the building behind them? I survived the bomb Unknown Speaker you accidentally went you actually went ahead of the story with that Speaker 3 is my personal favorite t shirt. I got bombed at heart Unknown Speaker Well walk the building is Speaker 3 shut your eyes I didn't look at these printscreen I realized was blown up in my little mini screen like computer screens a two inch screen I gotta tell make it big I realized Speaker 1 we go back in time and we stopped the bombing let's let's cut a version in case that happens. Yeah, it was great because great because those T shirts the t shirt stopped the bomb. They used to teach more. Bob is not the bomb can these tips. So mad that he spoiled his own story. He's spoiled his own story. He was so mad. All right, go ahead Speaker 3 anyways, yeah, so people were selling these T shirts. Yeah. And people I love our whole family there. I know. It's it's super suburban family too Speaker 1 big. They came from the burbs for this? Yeah, Speaker 3 these this is an Ohio family. Yeah, sure. Yeah. Like came Speaker 1 to Utah family. Look at him. Look at the dad's haircut. You He's Speaker 3 like a fan. Yeah. So anyways, so this became a spectacle, people are traveling from all over the place to be a part of grappling here. Meanwhile, the police and the FBI they can't figure out they have no leads on who the bomber is, or how to get them their fake ransom. So they say, well, we need to try to figure out how to disarm the sophisticated bomb. And so they spend 33 hours with it trying to figure it out. And Speaker 1 so tell me about your childhood 33 hours in an interrogation room with a bomb they couldn't they couldn't Speaker 3 drag it no well the bomb the bomb was pretty the bomb really was sophisticated had motion sensors on it. So if it moved at all, it would erupt there was I think was erupt. Machine Unknown Speaker releases the baking soda. Speaker 1 In one of the papers just says b plus b plus grade school he's like I give us this again. He's that's his his grade school teachers married today. Okay, I've been in a madam gross. I see you've moved on to bigger things. Speaker 3 And there was a series of switches all over it. That's actually what you thought were airholes those are switches. Oh, and so you have to like turn all the switches in the right order to disarm it really was a very sophisticated bomb that to this day, the FBI studies because of how sophisticated it was. Okay. And one Junior FBI agent had the solution that they were like this is probably the only thing that's gonna work Unknown Speaker blow it up. He said we take a claymore he's like what if we took one of our own Speaker 3 literally it was like he's like if we take a little bomb near the head of the bomb, put it near the big bomb and we just point it to the explosion goes right to the right part of the bomb. Then maybe it'll just blow up that part of the bomb and not the whole bomb. And they're like that's a pretty good idea there Johnny. And so they they literally drew straws, and had one person who drew the short straw go set the bomb on top of the bomb it was like I guess I'm gonna go put a bomb on the bomb. This pot is so sophisticated our parliamentary our bombs Speaker 1 blame the stupid bomb sophistic on top of this magnificent beautiful huge Unknown Speaker so they put it out they put it on the bomb one guy fell Unknown Speaker in love with it was so sophisticated. Oh, I get big advice on nice bombers. Yeah, Speaker 3 the guy went back to put a bomb to put their bomb there and they found another letter on a love letter to the bomb. Yeah, the most sophisticated bomb in the West got Unknown Speaker my heart erupting. Speaker 3 Hey, thanks for checking out this episode. If you like it, make sure you subscribe so you don't miss any future episodes. Speaking of future episodes, we have a ton of past episodes. We have a back catalogue of well over 100 episodes. So check those out. My current favorite is Nelly Bly. She was a journalist from the early 1900s, who totally changed the industry, especially for women in the industry. Super cool story, but also kind of crazy. Some of the things that she did. We had a lot of fun in that episode. So check that out. Don't forget to subscribe but ultimately just thanks for being here Unknown Speaker so they put a tiny bar where they put Unknown Speaker a tiny Bob on top of the sophisticated Unknown Speaker in the in the Unknown Speaker lobby of the casino. Speaker 1 Okay, I'm sure I'm triggered because the carpets orange. Speaker 3 This is not in the casino. This is a recreation in a museum. Okay, got it. Yeah, got it. So they they set the bomb and then remotely detonated. And it didn't work. It blew up the whole thing. blew a giant hole in the side of holy Unknown Speaker cow on the Speaker 3 side of the hotel. And it was it was the most significant bomb ever detonated in the US until the Oklahoma City bombing. In terms of size, and you know, Speaker 1 it's the FBI having pictures of this moment, which is what makes people go that's convenient. Speaker 3 Well, I mean, this has been going on for like two or three days. They've got like 24/7 cameras because everyone's got the beds going to everyone's out here watching. There's actually a video of this detonating and everybody cheering because then they won the bet. I mean, they came to watch this hotel, blah blah. So that's why they're here. Okay, no one was in there. No one was injured. A bunch of windows got blown out of the hotel across the street. Speaker 1 Yeah, who pays for it? Does the FBI paid for This I think they would Unknown Speaker love maybe the insurance company Speaker 1 of a Marvel movie where it's like the heroes destroyed a lot of stuff. Yeah, who pays for it? Unknown Speaker I mean you should have insurance ideally insurance covers this right Unknown Speaker do you think State Farm showing up and taking care of this? Speaker 3 Yeah I mean State Farm does not have a sophisticated bomb clause so I feel like they would they have an unsophisticated was Unknown Speaker stupid little stupid bombs that you're good but yeah, so what you're saying is the FBI was like there's a bomb. They were like the only thing that will fix it is another bomb has struck the two bombs. Unknown Speaker The only thing stopping a bad guy with a bomb is a good guy. Unknown Speaker Golly, it's so good. I hate it. Speaker 3 So this blue a nine story hole on the side of the hotel. Yeah, I Speaker 1 can see it goes all the way up. Yeah. And Zeus is such an insanely stupid solution. That's what I'm just so beside myself on because this is so dumb that they would be like, let's do that. Yeah. So Speaker 2 did the guy that suggested this get fired or promoted, he got promoted. Speaker 3 Two days later, they reopened, not fixed. They just quartered off these sections of the Unknown Speaker breezeway. Feel the outdoors. Speaker 3 I mean, it's the 80s. Let's be honest, like, of course, they reopened two days later. And then the FBI was like, sweet, we don't have to give the money away anymore. But they also had no leads. And so the FBI interviews 500 people Oh, Speaker 1 sweet, we don't lose our $1,000 and crumpled up newspaper Speaker 3 those newspaper. So they interview 500 People that have no leads absolutely no idea how to lead this. Yeah, I couldn't you want to? Absolutely no idea who did this, right. So they interviewed 500 different people. And eventually they hit a break when someone imagine Speaker 1 working with a casino finding out that it blew up. Yeah. And then your boss calls you and say hey, you coming in tomorrow? Unknown Speaker The casino blew up. Speaker 1 Oh, talking about Yeah, your shift starts at nine. We expect you to be there. Okay, if the chipotle by my house blew up. I would still go. I be like, Guys, I mean, come on. The clock was not great today. Unknown Speaker Yeah, you can make better veggies on that. Unknown Speaker Get it together. Speaker 3 So they interview all these people. They find a motel owner who says you know what? I did see a white van stay the night the night before the bomb arrived through sketchy and so they they checked the security camera footage, they found the license plate number they ran the license plate number and it came back for a John Burgess Jr. Okay. So they went and they found this John versus Jr. It was a guy who lived in Fresno, California. He lived with like five roommates. And they he did not fit the description of a person who would do something like this. Yeah, they interviewed him they couldn't find out he was Speaker 1 wearing and I survived the bomb shirt. And they were like, we might have our guy he Speaker 3 might have he was like, he's like, I'm gonna buy a shirt. Like I didn't get my money, but I'm gonna get a shirt, of course. So they interviewed him they couldn't make Speaker 1 shirts, they that's and that's protecting your investment. You know, I'm saying like if you know, if you don't get the $3 million, Unknown Speaker at least I made Speaker 1 some money on the shirts, souvenir shirts, you know. So I crossed the state line, put in my shirt order order Speaker 3 because they don't sell shirts in Nevada and they don't you gotta go to California for that. So they couldn't connect him to it though. They didn't have any solid proof that he was connected. They just knew he had a fan there the night before the bomb showed up. Okay. But he said he wasn't there. He's claiming he wasn't. He wasn't a part of that. And so they're doing some more digging and eventually, they find this man's ex girlfriend Unknown Speaker who's gonna watch out for this is now Speaker 3 like three or four years later, they find this Oh, wow. This man's ex girlfriend. Who's dating another guy. They've got to They've got a worn out. They've got a reward. Is Unknown Speaker it relevant that she's dating another guy? Or is that just like she's dating another guy. Speaker 3 No. Yeah, so she's dating this other guy, and they've got a reward out for anyone who's in the back to this other guy. Guys. Like, hey, my girlfriend told me about this bombing that her ex did it her ex's dad did. And so see what you're gonna say? Write it down. Unknown Speaker My exes dad has done. We should frame him for something. He can afford legal fees. Does he listen? No. Yeah. But do you get listed in prison? That's kind of nice. Speaker 3 So no. So his dad a little bit of story about John versus Burgess, senior senior John Burgess, senior, he wrote a memoir. And it is memoir. No, it's a Unknown Speaker bomber. It's called a manifesto. It's not a memoir. Speaker 3 So we don't know if this is true. But according to memoir, he was born in 1922 in Hungary, and he flew for Nazi Germany in the war, as apologies. After the war, he was arrested by Soviet Union, the Soviet Soviet Union, you know, the one and he spent eight years in a camp in Soviet Union. They released him, she's and he got away for a couple years and then they got him back and put them back in prison for a few more years. Finally, in 57, he escapes and moves to Fresno, California, where he worked a couple jobs and then him and his wife, they opened a restaurant. And then he opens a landscaping company and strikes a big as the biggest landscaper in Fresno, California. And they become millionaires. He owns a private jet, you know, sports cars, they hail a mansion. Like they're living. They're living the American dream and the late 60s, early 70s. Wow, okay, California. Well, when their children, they got two sons get to high school, him and his wife start having marital issues. They start having a lot of disagreements or even say eventually divorce. And she starts dating somebody else. Well, she moves pikiell literally to a trailer on in the backyard of his mansion. This is a strange arrangement. Okay. And then, like a nice true. I don't know, the nothing said it just said a trailer. So trailer. Okay. Trailer. And then allegedly, we say allegedly because it's very alleged. Yeah, he's Morris has all this. Yeah, that well, allegedly, she took her own knife it two years after the divorce in this trailer. Speaker 1 Oh, it sure pretty likely that he killed her that he killed her. Speaker 3 But that's the but that's what he wanted more. Well, he didn't write that in the memo. That's like public. That that was what it was ruled as. But it does. It seems she write about her death in the memoir, not in the market. And so he He then goes on to continue running the businesses, but he's very clearly kind of fractured. Sure. And so he starts making some questionable business decisions in the restaurant, which was ran by his ex wife. And so the restaurant gets into some some financial trouble. Okay. And then peculiarly, in the late 70s, like 78, the restaurant burns down and gets a $325,000 insurance settlement. Around the same time, three or four years before then. Burgess SENIOR Yeah, he develops a gambling habit. And his location of choice is the Harvey Casino. And Speaker 1 how far away is that from where from Fresno? A couple hours. Speaker 3 It's not, it's close. So he drive over, he would drive over, he would stay there. And he built the reputation as a high roller at the casino, he would show up and they would roll out the red carpet for him. He was sweet. He's Unknown Speaker a very sophisticated man. Speaker 3 He's so sophisticated. And he was he was such a presence at this hotel. And he was he was a wealthy person to begin with. But he he spent so much that the hotel really brought up rolled out the red carpet get free free meals free locations. He developed a relationship with Harvey gross, the owner. Yeah. And they became pretty good friends. His issues are getting bigger and bigger. It right seems pretty clear that he spent that entire insurance settlement at the casino. And he starts to build up some debts that he can't pay. Even with the amount of money that he has the fortune that he has built up over his life. And one day he approaches his sons and he says, Hey, Unknown Speaker I'm gonna borrow money because Speaker 3 I'm out of money, and I owe the casino. A lot of money. And so we're gonna get our money Speaker 1 from the casino So I can pay the casino back. So he's like, I need to get $3 million, 2 million in the hole. Yeah. And then a million to gamble. Speaker 3 Yeah, a little bit of interest. Sure. And so he says, here's what I need you guys to do. He's like, You got that white van that I bought you a little while ago. He's like, Yeah, that that was a weird gift. Speaker 1 That's Red flag number one if your dad buys you a white van. Hey, kids. Hey, I got you. So did you give me a gift? I know it's not your dream car. But it's got wheels a car, it's got enough room for crime and for what crying for crying inside for Unknown Speaker cry. So he says I want to drop his bomb off what? Speaker 3 So he says he says I a couple nights ago went over to this construction site. And it was really easy to just sneak in. And I stole a whole bunch of dynamite. Like just a ton of dynamite. Like so much dynamite. And then like, Dad, that's, that's like a lot of Speaker 1 title. That's so sketchy. A ton of dynamite. That so? And he's like, Dude, I gotta believe this was gonna. Yeah, believe it. Speaker 3 And so he says, I'm gonna, I'm gonna run the casino. Here's the plot. And his sons are like, Dad, no, we're not gonna be a part of that. And he's Speaker 1 like, Well, now you know too much. So why don't you Speaker 3 guys come to the casino with me on August 28. Let's just Speaker 1 go just go there, like they're already an accomplice had no. Speaker 3 And so they know about this. But they refuse to be a part of this. Because they didn't have a great relationship with their father. He was the relationship that he was abusive, not a great father, you know. And so he hires a couple of his former landscaping employees for the Reports vary between $202,000. So I think what it was was one of them got one Unknown Speaker or two got 400 hours each. Speaker 3 To roll up and drop this thing off at the casino, they were told, hey, it's really fragile. It's computer device. Here's how you need to handle it. It's just super fragile. Like make sure you drop it off, and you're good. So they go drop it off. And then there was this other woman that he hired that used to like run reception for him that was going to be answering the phones. Is this all allegedly? Or is this what happened? This is what happened. Wow. And so he hires this other woman. And so she was going to answer the phones. So she wrote the note. And then she was going to tell them the location to travel to but she gave them the wrong coordinates. So the guy was sitting there with a strobe light. Was he really out there? Yeah, he was out there with a strobe light to get the ransom. And his plan was they're gonna land a helicopter all overpower the pilot, and I'll take the helicopter, and I'll fly south of the border. Yes. My highlights are Speaker 1 pretty overpowered, will ya? When you're pretty weak, they're built that way. They're built to be overpowered have to Speaker 3 be light, their bone density is really thin so that way they can fly just like birds. Yeah. What they did what he didn't account for was the fact that Speaker 1 the fight and my robot every day, really preparing to Unknown Speaker their final Rockem sockem robot. Speaker 1 Yeah, that was him. For some reason. He let it win. Sometimes he has confidence. So I don't want to quit fight me. It's got to have some victories. Speaker 3 Dad, why are you better to this Rockem sockem robot than you were to us? Well, boys, I learned my lesson with you, son. Speaker 1 This thing doesn't ask me for money all the time. I saw the way you turned out and I thought, Man, I'll tell you what, this rocker Messiah robot will put a bomb in a casino for me. Not even asking that much. So that's what you got to hold them and you got to raise them on the right path. And you know, that's the only hope as a parent, is that your kids will bomb a casino for you. Speaker 3 Yeah, exactly. So he was out there. Yeah. What he didn't account for was the fact that the FBI was going to have somebody else in the helicopter. He didn't know Yeah, he was just again, they'll just fly one. What he said was to just have one person in there. He didn't anticipate that they would, you know, not do that. So his plan was pretty flat. He built an incredible bomb to this day an incredible bomb study. Unknown Speaker So they arrested him like a bomb. Unknown Speaker Let me let me tell you, there's bomb ology Unknown Speaker a bomb experts Speaker 3 to this day say that we don't think our technology today could have cracked this bomb. We think that the only solution was text like execute the ticket with the solution was to execute the plan. Okay. So yeah, so they they ended up tracking this guy down they arrested him. They gave him a life sentence in prison, which he served. He did 14 years and then he died. And was he a Nazi? I mean, he fought for it. There's no, there's no sign. Like there's no report anywhere of like, he was like, a Nazi. Because he was already he was just like he was a part of there. So he had to fly. But you know, like it was not there. So yeah, he would have known how to fly the helicopters. So yes, yeah, he was a pilot. He had his own like, he knew how to fly. But yeah, the woman got arrested. She served eight years. The two are the all three of the Unknown Speaker she didn't answer the phone and give them coordinates. Yeah. And she wants Speaker 3 to know, she knew exactly what's going on the three people who dropped off the the they had no idea. Well, they ended up going to jail for a few years for their involvement. And then Harvey gross, collected a very large insurance settlement. And there is still questions about him to this day on his involvement in this. Oh, yeah, cuz they're pals. Yeah, they're good friends. And he got a very fat insurance settlement out of the, the execution of the bomb. But obviously, he didn't go down. Yeah. Unknown Speaker So the butcher never does. Speaker 3 There's a chance that the butcher heard the story about how Burgess got his insurance settlement when his restaurant burnt down, and said, well, Unknown Speaker well, why don't you saw my Casino? Speaker 3 He said Burgess owes us a lot of money. Here's a way to pay your debts. And yeah. Speaker 1 Ah, so how long did he died in prison? Yeah, Burgess Speaker 3 died 14 years after his sentence. Wow. In prison. It's not confirmed whether or not Harvey gross did that or not? Yeah. Unknown Speaker But I would believe it. When did Harvey gross die? Speaker 3 I actually don't know. I don't know if there's any record still with him anywhere? Yeah, he's been alive for 600 years. Wow. But yeah, so maybe sketchy all the way around? Maybe sent you all the way around. But yeah, a lot of people survived the bombing. Everyone did actually except for the bomb. Unknown Speaker Rip, Unknown Speaker rip that bomb. Killing Speaker 1 the only way to stop a bad bomb is a is a good guy with a bomb is an all timeline. That's so good. I hate you for that. I Speaker 3 was proud of that one. Anyway, right. You know, the wildest part of the whole story is though. No. It's crazy to me. You kind of you kind of mentioned it that like, literally within 48 hours this bomb going off. People were employees were getting calls to be like, Hey, show up for your shift. Yeah, for your shift. What's craziest, is that 48 hours after this bomb goes off in the lobby of the hotel phone rings. Unknown Speaker Where you go in the lobby? Unknown Speaker Yeah. Tell me. Tell me more about your Unknown Speaker Hello. A voicemail line goes Hi. I messed up the cord. But we're still interested in receiving our helicopter. Do Unknown Speaker you still have my money? Speaker 1 Do you still have our money? Like you've already executed the bomb? We get Unknown Speaker really sorry about that. There's another bomb. Speaker 1 There's a good there's another. There's another way or the other? Is there? It's right there. This phone has a Speaker 3 look. You better hang up Don't hang up this testicles. 60 miles an hour. Unknown Speaker I don't know. I was trying to fiddle off it was uh, where were you going? Speaker 3 Well, I was trying to as well. But you run to me is that the key? Actually? Because there was so much time between Yeah, this he had? Because he didn't it never got his money. He stole 1000s of pounds of dynamite again and was plotting another bombing when they arrested him. He Unknown Speaker was like, alright, I'll do it again. Yeah, because he was like, he's Unknown Speaker like, Well, I didn't get my money. That didn't work the first time. Let's try. Speaker 1 And that's a lesson if things don't work the first time. Speaker 3 try try try again. Yeah. And that's what they say. Every time you fiddle off the devil. You know when the first time you got an intern Ron Howard talking Speaker 1 with the devil. Things on last night is a production of space Tim media produced by Christian Taylor audio is edited by Alex Garnett video by Connor Betts social media is run by Caleb Walker and graphic design by Caleb Goldberg. Our hosts are Jaron Meyers and Tim stone please follow us on social media at tilam podcast that's ti LL IN podcast, leave a review, comment, subscribe, wherever you are. Thank you for listening to things on the last night. Transcribed by

In 1980, Lake Tahoe, Nevada, experienced a shocking and intricate criminal scheme that astonished law enforcement officials and the public. The Harvey Casino Bomb Heist, orchestrated by mastermind John Birges, captivated the world with its audacity and unforeseen twists.

John Birges’ Background and Planning

Situated on the scenic shores of Lake Tahoe, the Harvey Casino was a renowned destination for avid gamblers. However, John Birges, a seasoned criminal with a troubled past, harbored a deep grudge against the casino’s owner, whom he believed had wronged him. Determined to exact revenge, Birges assembled a team of accomplices to assist him in executing his meticulously planned heist.

The Heist

Birges’ plan centered around planting a bomb inside the Harvey Casino and demanding a hefty ransom of $3 million from the owner. On August 26, 1980, Birges and his team covertly placed the bomb inside a metal box, discreetly leaving it in the casino’s restroom. The bomb was rigged to detonate upon entering a specific code. Following the placement of the explosive device, Birges, and his team contacted the casino’s owner, demanding an exorbitant ransom.

The Aftermath and the Investigation

However, negotiations between the perpetrators and law enforcement officials took an unexpected turn. The FBI was misled by false information regarding the location of the ransom drop-off, resulting in failed negotiations. In response, the authorities opted for a controlled detonation to neutralize the threat. While the explosion caused significant damage to the casino, it miraculously spared any injuries or loss of life.

Surprisingly, the spectacle of the controlled detonation attracted a large crowd, including curious tourists who began taking bets on the event’s outcome. The incident swiftly gained international attention, transforming it into a bizarre form of entertainment amidst the chaos.


The Harvey Casino Bomb Heist is a testament to the audacity and unpredictability of criminal acts. John Birges’ unwavering determination to seek vengeance against the casino’s owner led to an elaborate plot resulting in a failed negotiation, a controlled detonation, and an unexpected spectacle that drew crowds of onlookers. While justice was served through the arrest and sentencing of those involved, the Harvey Casino Bomb Heist remains an unforgettable chapter in the annals of criminal history.

Things I Learned Last Night is an educational comedy podcast where best friends Jaron Myers and Tim Stone talk about random topics and have fun all along the way. If you like learning and laughing a lot while you do, you’ll love TILLN. Watch or listen to this episode right now!




Harvey Casino Bombing – Wikipedia

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