A brief stint in Ely, Nevada, where Ferguson met Vera Magness, a prostitute who wanted to set up her own brothel, led the two to Vegas in late 1924. Despite being illegal, gambling, prostitution and bootlegging were really starting to take off.
New to the scene, Ferguson was able to look at it from a fresh perspective. Current members of the Clark County Grand Jury were unhappy with the illegal activities, going as far as issuing a report in February 1925 that outlined the weaknesses of local law enforcement. The result? Ferguson used it to his advantage when he and Magness opened their first brothel in the city’s red-light district.
His plan was to overthrow his rival Al James, who owned and operated the Arizona Club. A rather public assault on James landed Ferguson in county jail for four months, but he succeeded in pushing James out and quickly became in charge of all illegal activity in the desert.