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Morris Shenker, 82; Hoffa Attorney, Ex-Dunes Owner

August 10, 1989|From Staff and Wire Reports

ST. LOUIS — Morris Shenker, an attorney best known for representing Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa, and a former owner of the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas has died, it was reported Wednesday.

A spokesman for his firm said Shenker, 82, who had recently undergone heart surgery and who wore a pacemaker, died Tuesday night in Santa Monica, where he had been visiting his daughter. He had been hospitalized briefly for pneumonia.

Shenker, a Russian immigrant who grew up in north St. Louis, first made a name for himself as a young lawyer by doing free legal work for the poor and getting involved in Democratic politics.

He had been recurrently in the national spotlight since representing gambling figures before the Estes Kefauver hearings on organized crime in the early 1950s.

Hoffa, his most famous client, had links to organized crime and disappeared in 1975. He is presumed dead.

Because of his Teamsters connection, Shenker, who operated the Dunes Hotel and Casino in the 1970s, ran afoul of the Nevada Gaming Commission. (Shenker's name had also surfaced often in connection with loans from the Teamsters Pension Fund.)

Despite state and federal investigations, however, Shenker escaped indictment until this year.

In February, a federal grand jury accused him of conspiring to conceal hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Internal Revenue Service and bankruptcy creditors. The money supposedly was diverted from a California partnership owned by his children to individuals in Canada and then back to Shenker's secretary in Las Vegas in an elaborate scheme to avoid creditors. Shenker denied any wrongdoing.

Shenker had filed for bankruptcy in 1984 after a $34-million court verdict against him for money he borrowed from the Culinary Workers Pension Fund for resorts in Southern California and other projects. He had been involved in court battles over his finances ever since.

Survivors include a daughter, a son and two granddaughters.

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