True crime story includes Dodge Ridge heist

Gary Linehan, The Union Democrat

A new book that exposes the story of the Mafia in the West and how it fell begins with a case in Tuolumne County.

"A Rookie Cop vs. The West Coast Mafia," written by William G. Palmini Jr. and Tanya Chalupa, is set amid the turmoil of the early 1970s subculture of free love, drugs, robbery and murder, orchestrated by organized crime in locations throughout California, Nevada and Colorado.

At the time, Palmini was the youngest detective in Marin County. A series of local crimes, including a robbery at the Trident Restaurant in Sausalito, led to his association with notorious organized crime operatives, in particular a mastermind thief and hit man, William Floyd Ettleman.

Palmini eventually gained Ettleman's trust and together they followed a lead from the San Diego District Attorney's Office to the fearsome San Diego mob boss, Frank "The Bomp" Bompensiero.

The book includes an array of characters like former San Francisco Madame Sally Stanford, who went on to become mayor of Sausalito, Colorado crime boss Scotty Spinuzzi and Jimmy "The Weasel" Fratianno.

Palmini is now chief of the Department of Public Safety at the University of California, Hastings, College of the Law in San Francisco. Chalupa, formerly of Davis, now resides in the Washington, D.C., area.

After a recounting of the Trident Restaurant robbery in October 1971, the book shifts to Tuolumne County, where Dodge Ridge Ski Area in Pinecrest was hit by safecrackers in the early hours of March 9, 1970.

The method of operation was similar to the Trident heist, and the perpetrators included some of the same people, including Ettleman.

The book devotes an entire chapter to Dodge Ridge, detailing how the crime occurred and the ordeal four of the resident employees endured.

From there, the book follows a complex trail of crimes that culminates in Palmini's part in bringing down the West Coast Mafia.

"A Rookie Cop" is published by New Horizon Press. It covers 312 pages and sells for $24.95 in hardback.

The Union Democrat
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