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Restaurateur recalls days amidst mob members
Artemis Vourakis
Casually sitting at a dining table in her Tony & Mrs. K’s restaurant, Artemis Vourakis recalls her years as a legal secretary in Chicago and Las Vegas. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

Artemis Vourakis — restaurant owner, legal secretary and a Manteca High grad — grew up on Austin Road and spent years in Chicago and Las Vegas, where she often rubbed elbows with members of the mob before returning to Manteca and opening a small restaurant in her parents’ names: “Tony and Mrs. K’s.”

Artemis sat at one of her dining tables on Fourth of July and reminisced over her life after graduation from MHS when she went to work for the DVI Prison in Tracy as a secretary, saying she had been recently referred to as “Something of a Legend” for her tenure in Las Vegas law offices.  

An employment agency had called and told her there was an attorney in Stockton who was looking for a secretary when she was 18 and just one year out of high school. He wanted someone able to speak Italian and she asked if he would be OK with someone speaking fluent Greek. 

“After I applied for the job, attorney with John Fugazi of Stockton called me for an interview and wanted me to come to his office on Monday but I couldn’t because I had a traffic ticket for speeding,” she said.    Artemis remembered he said to come in on Friday and bring the traffic ticket and he somehow took care of it, she chuckled.  

 “When I went for the interview, he dictated a letter to me and I took it down in shorthand and he told me to go over and type it on an old manual typewriter.  I couldn’t believe what was happening was real and he took the typed letter and put it in an envelope and mailed it,” she recalled, saying she was in awe.

Artemis then said he asked her bluntly if she thought she could do the job.  And, in true Artemis style, she replied, “Well, yeah!”  

That Stockton attorney acted as her mentor in becoming a legal attorney for several years, transforming a high school girl into a legal secretary.   

Her first trip to the Stockton Courthouse was something of an embarrassment when she attempted to file a civil complaint — something she had never done before.  The court clerk asked her for her summons and she asked, “What’s a summons?” 

“Those were the days of the manual typewriters and carbon paper duplicate copies over 50 years ago,” she said. “That law office was all general law and you did everything and you learned everything pretty much on the job.”

Attorney Leroy Parker shared office space with Fugazi, and his secretary, Cash Ruso, “was really the one who helped me along the most,” Artemis added. 

It was on her 30th birthday when she traveled to Las Vegas to interview for a job with A.G. Spanos in 1978 where she met Bill Fillios — now a Manteca developer — and his brother George, who still lives in Vegas.  The Spanos job didn’t pan out and she returned to Stockton where she soon received a phone call from Lake Tahoe referring her to an attorney’s office back in Las Vegas. 

She returned to Vegas to work for attorney Larry Spicer for a year as a legal secretary in Gaming Law but found a better position one floor down in the same building for John Momot who specialized in criminal law.

“John and I started his office with my typewriter in the Oscar Goodman building representing all the mobsters in Las Vegas and Goodman eventually became the mayor of Las Vegas spending a total 8 ½ years in Vegas,” she noted.  

Momot had a near-death experience in 1979 in a questionable car fire when he was only 36 being found late at night on the fourth floor of a parking garage laying in the back-seat of his car suffering from smoke inhalation from a fire in the vehicle’s engine compartment.  

The fact that one window was partially down reportedly saved his life but the fire was questionable because one of his shoes and his shirt was torn and he had a broken hand.  Police were positioned outside his hospital room fearing it might have been an organized hit because of the defense attorney’s client list of mob figures.  His wife also received police temporary protection, Artemis said. The cause of the fire was never determined and suspicions not proven out, according to police reports.

He had told investigators that he had had drinks earlier with colleagues and said he could remember nothing after turning the key in the ignition.    

Friends said his voice had become garbled from the smoke he inhaled that had filled his car but he recovered, dying just last month in his mid-70s after continuing his law practice. Artemis said when he returned to work he was the same gracious gentleman he was known to be prior to the incident.

Momot represented Frank Cullotta starting in 1978 until the hit man turned government witness in 1982 with him telling detectives he had done a good job in representing him in court.  Momot concluded, “None of my criminal cases are involved in the fire — I’m confident of that.”

Artemis returned to Chicago in 2001 where she worked for nearly 15 years for Miles N. Beermann and Howard A. London for seven of those years and with the firm of Beermann & Swerdlove in Matrimonial Law.  

Next, she moved on to join the offices of Robert M. Stephenson who was a criminal defense attorney in Chicago and Prentice Marshall, a retired judge who served as the attorney’s mentor and had also been his law professor, learning much about the judicial protocols in Chicago. 

Artemis owns and operates her small coffee shop today with her brother Hercules running the adjoining car wash at the corner of Cottage and Yosemite avenues. She had attempted to change her hours to cover the dinner hours but has returned to a 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. schedule with a more limited menu. 

To contact Glenn Kahl, email