Robert Maheu

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Robert Maheu
Robert Aime Maheu

(1917-10-30)October 30, 1917
DiedAugust 4, 2008(2008-08-04) (aged 90)
EducationHoly Cross
Georgetown University

Robert Aime Maheu (October 30, 1917 – August 4, 2008) was an American businessman and lawyer, who worked for the FBI and CIA, and as the chief executive of Nevada operations for the industrialist Howard Hughes.[1]

Early life[edit]

Maheu was born in Waterville, Maine, the son of Christine and Ephrem Maheu, who were of French-Canadian descent.[2] He held degrees from Holy Cross and Georgetown University. In 1941, during his law studies at Georgetown, he was hired by the FBI and worked as a counter-intelligence officer in Europe during World War II.[3] He left the FBI in 1947 and opened Robert A. Maheu and Associates, a private detective firm in Washington, DC.[4][5]

Howard Hughes[edit]

Maheu's contract with the Hughes company started in 1955, after Howard Hughes hired him to investigate an alleged suitor of his fiancé Jean Peters.[6]

Although Maheu was for years a close confidant of Howard Hughes, he never met Hughes face-to-face, as they worked via memo and telephone. He was dismissed in 1970. As part of the power struggle with Frank William Gay, Hughes “Mormon Mafia” chief, to get rid of Maheu, Hughes wrote a manuscript letter to Chester Davis and Bill Gay which was published in facsimile by Life in January 1971; this publication provided Clifford Irving with a sample of Hughes' handwriting which he later used to attempt to forge Hughes' autobiography.[7] Maheu sued Hughes for defamation of character for $50 million.

In the conference call on January 7, 1972 in which he denounced Irving's supposed autobiography of him as a hoax, Hughes was also asked why he fired Maheu, to which he replied:[8]

Because he's a no-good, dishonest son of a bitch, and he stole me blind. ... you wouldn't think it could be possible with modern methods of bookkeeping and accounting and so forth for a thing like the Maheu theft to have occurred, but believe me, it did, because the money's gone and he's got it.

Hughes was asked later in the conference call how he felt about Maheu, to which he replied:[9][10]

Bitterly is a mild way of putting it. Note, everything [Maheu] has done, everything short of murder, as a result of being discharged. I don't supposed any disgruntled employee who was discharged has even come close to Mr. Maheu's conduct. ... In light of that litigation and the struggle and harassment he has embarked up on, it's very, very difficult for me to tell you precisely the motives that led to [my leaving Las Vegas] without having some effect on the devastating, horrifying program of harassment that Maheu and his associates have launched against me.

As a result of the first set of statements by Hughes, Maheu sued the Hughes Tool Company (which had Hughes as its sole owner) once again, this time for libel; he won the suit, and was paid $2.8 million.[11] However, this settlement was later overturned upon appeal.[8]

According to Maheu associate John Gerrity, he and Maheu were summoned to Vice President Richard Nixon's office in 1954 at the behest of the National Security Council. Nixon gave Maheu a green light to employ a series of dirty tricks to wreck a pending agreement between Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis and the king of Saudi Arabia.[12][13][14]

Central Intelligence Agency[edit]

Maheu also worked for the Central Intelligence Agency. He would later recall: "The CIA was my first steady client, giving me 'cut-out' assignments [those jobs in which the Agency could not officially be involved]."[15] Maheu's investigative agency was said to be the model for the television series, Mission Impossible.[16]

In the summer of 1960, the CIA recruited Maheu to approach the West Coast representative of the Chicago mob, Johnny Roselli. When Maheu contacted Roselli, Maheu hid the fact that he was sent by the CIA, instead portraying himself an advocate for international corporations. He offered to pay $150,000 to have Castro killed, but Roselli declined any pay. Roselli introduced Maheu to two men he referred to as "Sam Gold" and "Joe." "Sam Gold" was Sam Giancana; "Joe" was Santo Trafficante, Jr., the Tampa, Florida boss and one of the most powerful mobsters in pre-revolution Cuba.[17][18] Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post explained: "After Fidel Castro led a revolution that toppled a friendly government in 1959, the CIA was desperate to eliminate him. So the agency sought out a partner equally worried about Castro—the Mafia, which had lucrative investments in Cuban casinos."[19]

In testimony before the Church Committee in 1975, Maheu confirmed his role in the assassination plot against Castro, saying that he thought the United States "was involved in a just war."[20][21] CIA documents released in 2007 provided additional details of the plot.

Later life[edit]

In 1992, Maheu published his autobiography, entitled Next to Hughes: Behind the Power and Tragic Downfall of Howard Hughes by His Closest Advisor. Maheu died in 2008 at the age of 90 in Las Vegas. The official cause of death was heart failure.[22]

See also[edit]

  • 638 Ways to Kill Castro, a 2006 television documentary
  • Assassination attempts on Fidel Castro
  • Spooks: The Haunting of America: the private use of secret agents, by Jim Hougan, 1978, William Morrow, ISBN 9780688033552.


  1. ^ Levitan, Corey (March 2, 2008). "Top 10 scandals". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved March 3, 2008.
  2. ^ "Casavant Mining Kimberlite International (CMKM) Message Board - MSG: 21092993".
  3. ^ Summers, Anthony. The Arrogance of Power, (New York: Penguin Group, 2000), p. 153. ISBN 0-670-87151-6
  4. ^ "CIA may have used contractor who inspired 'Mission: Impossible' to kill RFK, new book alleges". The Washington Post. February 9, 2019.
  5. ^ Talbot David. The Devil's Chessboard, (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2015), p. 322. ISBN 978-0-06-227617-9
  6. ^ "Robert Maheu Able Opponent in Hughes Row". Los Angeles Times. December 10, 1970.
  7. ^ Stephen Fay, Lewis Chester, Magnus Linklater, "Hoax: The Inside Story of the Howard Hughes – Clifford Irving Affair", Book Club Associates, London, 1972, p. 61-63.
  8. ^ a b Maheu v. Hughes Tool Company, 569 F.2d 459, 12–20 (9th Cir. 1977) ("... we are reversing the liability judgment and damages for Maheu ...").
  9. ^ "Hughes Denounces Writings". Bangor Daily News. January 10, 1972.
  10. ^ "Hughes Ends Seclusion". Toledo Blade. January 10, 1972.
  11. ^ "Howard Hughes Company Must Pay $2.8 Million to Slandered Ex-Aide". The Washington Post. December 5, 1974.
  12. ^ Summers, Anthony. The Arrogance of Power, (New York: Penguin Group, 2000), pp. 195–196. ISBN 0-670-87151-6
  13. ^ Hougan, Jim. Spooks, (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1978), pp. 286–306. ISBN 0-688-03355-5
  14. ^ Babcock, Charles R. (August 2, 1978). "Maheu Admits '54 Anti-Onassis Drive". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 17, 2017.
  15. ^ Stockton, Bayard. Flawed Patriot: The Rise and Fall of CIA Legend Bill Harvey, (Virginia: Potomac Books, 2006), p. 171. ISBN 1574889907
  16. ^ Thomas, Evan (1992). The Man to See. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 158. ISBN 0671689347. Retrieved June 9, 2015.
  17. ^ Memorandum for the Director of Central Intelligence, Subject: Roselli, Johnny, November 19, 1970.
  18. ^ Douglass, James. JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, (New York: Orbis Books, 2008), p. 34. ISBN 978-1-57075-755-6
  19. ^ Kessler, Glenn (June 27, 2007). "Trying to Kill Fidel Castro". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. Retrieved May 23, 2013.
  20. ^ "The CIA: Maheu recruited Mafia to poison Castro". Wilmington Morning Star. Vol. 108, no. 248. Wilmington, North Carolina. July 31, 1975. p. 2. Retrieved May 10, 2015.
  21. ^ "Maheu Relates His Part in CIA Plot to Kill Castro". Los Angeles Times. July 31, 1975.
  22. ^ Goldstein, Richard."Robert Maheu, 90, Surrogate for Howard Hughes, Is Dead". The New York Times.

Further reading[edit]

  • Maheu, Robert with Richard Hack. Next to Hughes: Behind the Power and Tragic Downfall of Howard Hughes by His Closest Advisor. New York, HarperCollins, 1992.
  • Higham, Charles. Howard Hughes: The Secret Life. New York, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1993 and 2004.
  • Drosnin, Michael. Citizen Hughes: In his Own Words, How Howard Hughes Tried to Buy America. Portland, Oregon: Broadway Books, 2004. ISBN 0-7679-1934-3.

External links[edit]