CHAPTER 1

The Hot-Tub Highwaymen

TED WENDLING

As companions, William Lassiter and Larry Evans appeared to be an unlikely pair. An urbane, college-educated entrepreneur, Lassiter had carved out a lucrative niche in the domestic snow-removal market by patenting a durable, carbide snowplow blade guard that extended the blade’s cutting edge, thereby increasing its life span. In contrast, Evans was a high-school dropout, a crude, overweight, uncultured laborer who liked to hunt and fish. Evans’ grooming habits included a weekly toilette that he conducted in the privacy of his dingy office at the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) in which he would cut his fingernails and toenails, leaving the yellowed clippings strewn under his desk.

Dissimilar as Lassiter and Evans were, fortune had cast them into an economic symbiosis that made them fast friends: Evans, the equipment superintendent at ODOT’s Cleveland district office, awarded millions of dollars in business to the Lassiter Blade Company. In turn, Lassiter treated Evans to all-expenses-paid trips to Las Vegas and spent thousands of dollars on fishing excursions aboard “Captain Larry’s” private Lake Erie charter fishing boat, the Walleye Warrior.

As the men bobbed together in Lassiter’s hot tub on a warm summer night, surrounded by other ODOT vendors and dancers from Lips & Sips, a Cleveland strip club, they toasted to their mutual success. Lassiter’s summertime soirees, dubbed “Fat Man Soup” parties by some of the dancers, were ...

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