Robert Maheu was born in Waterville, Maine, in 1918. After graduating from the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, in 1940, he joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation. During the Second World War he posed as a Nazi-sympathising Canadian and infiltrated New York's German-American Bund, passing disinformation to spies who were eventually arrested.
In 1947 Maheu established his own investigative company. Maheu also worked for the Central Intelligence Agency. He was later to admit "The CIA was my first steady client, giving me `cut-out' assignments (those jobs in which the agency could not officially be involved)." This work brought him into contact with Howard Hughes and in the late 1950s worked for him on a freelance basis. This included intimidating would be blackmailers and obtaining information on business rivals.
In 1954 Maheu was hired to deal with a starlet attempting to blackmail Howard Hughes after their relationship had soured. Hughes also employed Maheu to spy on Ava Gardner. While working for Hughes he met Edward Bennett Williams, who in turn introduced him to Johnny Rosell, the mob's frontman in Las Vegas. Maheu and Roselli became close friends.
Maheu served as Hughes's bagman and among those who received money was Bebe Rebozo, a close associate of Richard Nixon. Hughes via Maheu also provided $205,000 to the politician's brother, Donald Nixon in January 1957.
In 1960 Richard Bissell and Allen W. Dulles decided to work with the Mafia in a plot to assassinate Fidel Castro. Maheu was employed by the CIA to organize the conspiracy. The advantage of employing the Mafia for this work is that it provided CIA with a credible cover story. The Mafia were known to be angry with Castro for closing down their profitable brothels and casinos in Cuba. If the assassins were killed or captured the media would accept that the Mafia were working on their own.
In August 1960, Colonel Sheffield Edwards contacted Maheu. As Maheu explained in 1995: "In the winter of 1959-60, however, the CIA still thought it could pull off the invasion (of Cuba). But it thought the odds might be better if the plan went one step further - the murder of Fidel Castro. All the Company needed was someone to do the dirty work for it. Professional killers. A gangland-style hit."
Maheu offered the contract to Johnny Rosell. He in turn arranged for a meeting on 11th October, 1960, between Maheu and two leading mobsters, Santo Trafficante and Sam Giancana. As Maheu pointed out, "both were among the ten most powerful Mafia members" in America. Maheu told the mobsters that the CIA was willing to pay $150,000 to have Castro killed.
On 12th March, 1961, Maheu arranged for CIA operative, Jim O'Connell, to meet Roselli, Trafficante and Giancana at the Fontainebleau Hotel. During the meeting O'Connell gave poison pills and $10,000 to Rosselli to be used against Fidel Castro.
Maheu began full-time work for Howard Hughes in 1966. He moved to Las Vegas where he ran Hughes's casinos. Maheu explained later what his role was in the operation: "When he came here, he wanted to tie up all the property on the Strip to develop it properly. He didn't want it to be honky-tonk or like Coney Island. Hughes was a catalyst in the city cleaning up its act." Maheu arranged for Hughes to become Nevada's third-largest landowner. Maheu once said: "He was the King of Vegas and as his surrogate, I wore the crown."
After losing his job with Howard Hughes in 1970 Maheu eastablished a new company in Las Vegas called Robert A. Maheu and Associates. In 1972 Hughes accused Maheu of being "a no-good son of a bitch who robbed me blind". Maheu sued for defamation and Hughes settled out of court.
In 1993 Maheu published the book, Next to Hughes. According to Michael Carlson he"became one of Las Vegas's leading citizens.
Robert Maheu died of congestive heart failure at Desert Springs Hospital in Las Vegas on 4th August 2008.