Only in Las Vegas.

The death of one of the biggest drug dealers in American history, who arranged the murder of a federal judge, is being met with tears. Why? Because he was a GREAT tipper and a degenerate gambler.

Jimmy Chagra was known as one of the most prolific pot dealers ever. The saying goes if you smoked marijuana in the 60’s or 70’s, chances are you got it from Jimmy Chagra. Chagra was the “undisputed marijuana kingpin of the Western world.”

 When Chagra was eventually nailed by the Feds he had over $100 million dollars in foreign accounts. The government took it all. Las Vegas casinos loved Chagra because he laundered that money through them.

Chagra was known as one of the biggest high rollers in Las Vegas history. He often lost millions of dollars (of drug money) in a single night. Chagra may also have been one of the most generous tippers in Las Vegas history. He was such an extravagent tipper that journalist George Knapp tells the story of how the card dealers at Caesar’s Palace once bought Chagra a giant trophy in honor of the “gargantuan” tips the drug kingpin left.

One of the most interesting aspects of Chagra’s death was his connection to Charles Harrelson. Harrelson was the father of actor Woody Harrelson and known as one of the most famous hitmen and murderers in American history. He was convicted of killing federal judge “Maximum John”  Wood. Harrelson once confessed to having a role in the Kennedy assassination (which he later recanted.) Conspiracy theorists have said Harrelson was one of the “Three Tramps”  hiding in a box car on the railroad tracks behind Dealey Plaza just after Kennedy’s shooting.

Charles Harrelson died in the federal Supermax prison while serving a life sentence. Chagra, who confessed to hiring Harrelson to kill Wood, was acquitted of murder charges after hiring defense attorney Oscar Goodman. Goodman is now the mayor of Las Vegas. In later years Chagra tried denying hiring Harrelson. The fact is Chagra’s wife was arrested delivering $250,000 to him. Chagra was also on tape talking about hiring Harrelson for the hit while he was in prison (a tape Goodman got thrown out of court.)


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  1. Matt Says:

    I’ve been doing some random looking into this event [the murder of Judge Wood and such around it], mostly due to the involvement of my aunt in the process. She was alleged to have bought the weapon, but even more [unless I’m getting my facts mixed up] was married to Charles Harrelson during the incident. Her name at the time was apparently Jo Ann Harrelson [maiden name Fojtik].


    In the end she was sentenced to a total of twenty years imprisonment and served all of them.

    This is not an event my folks are very talkative about so I’m still finding myself surprised at all the facts I dig up. To think that my nice old aunt had gotten tangled up in such scandalous endeavors is, well, pretty exciting.

    I wish I could talk to her more about it, but unfortunately she’s not doing so well lately, and I’m not sure this is a section of her life she’d be greatly pleased to recount.

    All that aside, your journal is just one of many sites I’ve recently come across with any information regarding the incident. I’m appreciating everything I find.

    What spurred you to write this, if I may ask?

    • jon Says:

      Matt, I hope at some point you read this message – I lost contact with jo and really need to touch bases with her – can you please ask her to give me a call, the last time I was at her house the little girls were still playing softball and her & bobby were not doing so great with the illness, I pray she is well. please contact me if you can at jon@ejpemp.com thanks

  2. John Says:

    I was friends with Jimmy. I can’t condone what he did in the 70’s but he was my friend after his parole. He wasn’t a monster, he was a man.

  3. James Bello Says:

    I was unaware that Jimmy has passed away. I’m sorry to hear that about him. I was his neighbor in Florida right before the time of their arrest. Regardless of what they were acused of, him and his wife were wonderful people. Our Government is notorious for its lies , and cheating ,using people they manipulate in hopes of getting a guilty verdict on someone else. I’m against murder, but I’m sure the penalties that the Chagras ,and Harrelsons were facing for Importation and Distribution of Marijuana ,had pushed them into a desparate decision. Murder may have seemed like the only remedy to win their charges and not spend the rest of their lives in jail. May they all rest in peace.

  4. Lynda Chagra Says:

    Jimmy Chagra was my husband and I will miss him dearly. I did not know the man who went to prision but I new the man who came out and it is very hard for me to relate the two. He was a kind man and a wonderful husband. My life will never be the same without him.


  5. Guest Says:

    If anyone who is familiar with the case or family who has heard the name or knew Deborah Sottosanti (possibly Geraci) who lived in San Antonio between 1977/1978 and now resides in OH, please email me .. tfindley604@yahoo.com
    (I’m looking to track down info. on my mother while she lived in San Antonio to located my dad … a family member told me to look into this story)

  6. Lynda Chagra Says:

    It has been over four years since my husband has passed away and a day has not gone by that I have not thought about him. I miss his laugh, I miss playing poker with him, I miss our long talks about our future but most of all I miss his love.

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