"It's a big world," as Joey Lombardo likes to say. Survival is a matter of knowing your place, especially if your place is in Joey's organization.

The FBI calls it La Cosa Nostra. It is still widely known as the Mafia. The Chicago branch, which is believed to have several hundred members, is styled "the Outfit."

Its power here, in Las Vegas, and elsewhere has come under examination for the past four weeks in a federal courtroom where Lombardo and Teamsters President Roy Lee Williams are awaiting sentencing with two other men for conspiring to bribe a United States senator.

Their ties to the mob -- which would have been "prejudicial" if alleged during their trial -- have now become pertinent because of a growing inclination of the courts to consider such factors cause for stiffer- than-usual punishment upon conviction for federal crimes.

At one point during the sentencing hearings here, the Teamsters Central States Conference held a closed-door meeting at a posh Chicago hotel where the assembled delegates gave Williams a prolonged standing ovation. It was a testament to the union hierarchy's chronic corruption. They had elected Williams their international president, and given him a raise, less than two weeks after his indictment in 1981. Now here they were, cheering him on after his conviction for conspiracy and related crimes that could put him in prison for the rest of his life.

For the Teamsters, in short, nothing has changed in the last 25 years, except for the documentation. The old McClellan Committee assailed the union back in 1958 as "a hoodlum empire," but it was a controversial report denounced by some for "antilabor bias." In the court hearings here, government prosecutors have presented a wide-ranging selection of tapes and testimony showing the enormous influence that organized crime has wielded over the Teamsters Union present-day leadership.

The tapes played at the sentencing hearings speak for themselves. One prime exhibit shows mobsters meeting in an office at the Teamsters building here and talking of using Williams to regain control of the multibillion-dollar Central States Pension Fund, of being able to catapult him into the union presidency, with a jovial time out to count out the "skim" money just delivered from Las Vegas.

"Don't be bashful," Lombardo says at one point. "You want 10, 20, 30, 40, 50."

"Keep going, keep going," responds "The Outfit's" man from Vegas, Anthony (Tough Tony) Spilotro.

"Fifteen hundred, that's it," Lombardo declares with a laugh as he slaps something down on a table.

And when Lombardo is heard on another FBI tape lecturing a Las Vegas casino operator about how important it is to "know where you belong," it quickly becomes clear that he is not simply engaging in theological musings. The mob likes to talk in terms of "owning" people and it apparently means just that.

Take Allen Dorfman, for example. Murdered in gangland fashion in January following his conviction with Lombardo and Williams, the 60-year- old Dorfman was long regarded as a powerful middleman between mob figures and the Teamsters Union. A protege of the late Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa, Dorfman was for many years the primary mover of loans from the union's mammoth Central States Pension Fund, many of which, authorities say, went to fronts for organized crime.

What was less well known was that Allen Dorfman, a lavish-living millionaire, jumped when Joey Lombardo barked.

Several FBI tape recordings, compiled during the 1979 bribery investigation and played in court here in recent days for the first time, attest to that. Lombardo's nickname is "Joey the Clown," but government witnesses over the past four weeks have painted a darker picture, describing Lombardo as a high-ranking captain in "the Outfit" and a sort of Lord High Executioner as well.

"The Outfit's" principles of ownership were also painted in bold relief on a tape of a May 22, 1979 meeting between Dorfman, Lombardo and Morris Shenker, a longtime Hoffa lawyer who operates the Dunes Casino in Las Vegas.

Dorfman and Lombardo had already primed themselves for the get- together before Shenker arrived. With an FBI room bug planted near the telephone, Dorfman complained at length about how Shenker allegedly had been holding back monies Dorfman had coming to him for years, apparently as kickbacks in return for pension fund loans.

(A 1975 Labor Department study said Shenker had become "a millionaire as a result of his dealings with the Pension Fund.")

According to Dorfman, the Teamster money went to a company called IJK Nevada -- named after Irving J. Kahn, a San Diego promoter associated with Shenker -- and other corporations, and some of it was used to buy the Dunes. From the day that Kahn and Shenker came in for their first loan (in 1966), Dorfman asserted, Hoffa and Dorfman were entitled to 25 percent of "everything." But Kahn had died a few years later and "for the last 12 years," Dorfman complained, "we have received absolutely nothing."

"Looks like ya got about $40 million coming, just about," Lombardo calculated after Dorfman ticked off a number of items he felt he had coming, including a big interest in "IJK Nevada . . . which . . . became the Dunes Hotel."

Shenker didn't see it that way, insisting when he arrived at Dorfman's insurance agency in the Teamsters building here, that Dorfman "never had an interest in IJK, Nevada, never."

At length, Lombardo interrupted with his lessons for the day.

"My name is Joey," he told Shenker. As for Dorfman, Lombardo continued, "Allen belongs to Chicago. Now you know what I mean when he belongs to Chicago? . . . What he's got coming, the people in Chicago got coming. . . . Whatever he's got coming, half comes to the people here. . . . You'll have to make a payoff plan."

Shenker tried to laugh it off. "I couldn't pay you anything now," he claimed. "I'm like this." Besides, he said, alluding to Lombardo's outfit, "I never did business with them. . . . I did business with Hoffa."

Lombardo tried again. He said it was up his superiors to order Shenker to pay up, but he cautioned Shenker not to defy any "message" to that effect.

"You say you're 72," Lombardo declared. "I'm just telling ya. If they come back and tell me to give you a message and if you want to defy it, I assure you that you will never reach 73."

Shenker was still not impressed. "So what?" he told Lombardo. "From me, they've got nothing coming."

". . . Well, we got a piece of Allen," Lombardo persisted. "If Allen can't get it, they'll reach out and get it for him. . . . Allen is meek and Allen is harmless. But the people behind him are not meek and harmless."

Shenker insisted that he still didn't owe Dorfman anything for the Dunes and Lombardo wound up suggesting that Dorfman document his claim.

Dorfman said he could do it, but there was no evidence presented in the court hearings that Shenker ever did have to make any of the talked- about payments. According to government witness James Fratianno, once an acting Mafia boss on the West Coast, Shenker "belonged to (the late) Tony Giordano," the crime boss in St. Louis.

"If Shenker had any problems," Fratianno testified at one of the hearings here, "he would go to Tony Giordano and Tony Giordano would take care of them."

What if Shenker got a threat against his life? Fratianno was asked.

"I don't think anybody'd threaten him -- if they knew what I knew." But if he did get a threat, Fratianno allowed, "Shenker would go to his man."

Cautionary notes were also voiced by Lombardo himself at a taped May 1, 1979 meeting with Dorfman and others, including Lombardo's lieutenant Spilotro, who was recently indicted for two 1962 torture-murders that allegedly featured the placing of one victim's head in a vise. Lombardo pigh Exeresided and called for a report from Dorfman on a recent get- together Dorfman had had in Kansas City with Roy Williams and Kansas City crime boss Nick Civella.

Among other things, Dorfman said he had been amazed to learn on the trip that Shenker -- who was repeatedly described in obscene terms -- "doesn't belong" to Civella, as Dorfman had thought.

"That's true," Lombardo agreed. "He don't belong to Nick. . . . But the guy that's got 'im never got a (expletive deleted) penny from 'im either." Lombardo indicated that he had talked to Giordano about Shenker in blunt terms, and told Giordano to "either (expletive deleted) or get off the pot" in regard to Shenker.

For his trouble, Lombardo said, he had been lectured by "the Old Man," a nickname for Lombardo's superior, Joseph Aiuppa, the boss of the Chicago "Outfit." Aiuppa warned him such talk could touch off mob warfare, Lombardo recalled.

"The 'Old Man' says, 'What is this with you? (Expletive deleted) or get the pot? You can't talk to those guys like that.' He says, 'They're the same people like we are. . . . You can't start, you'd have a (expletive deleted) war going through this country.' "

Now 76, Shenker sounded hale and hearty when contacted by phone at the Dunes. But he insisted that he couldn't remember ever meeting Joe Lombardo -- at Dorfman's insurance agency or anywhere else.

"To the best of my recollection," Shenker said, "I have never met Joe Lombardo in my life."

What about the tape of the May 22, 1979, meeting which clearly showed a man who answered to the name of "Morris" talking about how he had acquired his interests in the Dunes?

"To the best of my knowledge, it (the meeting) did not take place," Shenker replied.

As for being "owned" by Giordano, Shenker said, "Giordano was a client of mine for years. I represented him in many criminal cases." However, Shenker declared: "No one owns me. No one owns Morrie Shenker."

Lombardo, who is currently being held in custody in lieu of a $2.5 million cash bond, expressed a contrary understanding in his May 22, 1979 conversation with "Morris."

". . . you know where you belong, and he (Dorfman) knows where he belongs and the other guy knows where he belongs -- we all belong to certain people you account to -- it's a big world," Lombardo philosophized at one point. Then towards the end of the conversation, he told Shenker:

"You know, you're a lawyer, you've been around St. Louis a long time."

Shenker: "Yeah, a long time."

Lombardo: "You got a place to go for help, ya know what I mean?"

Shenker: "Well, I don't think I -- I need any help."

Lombardo: "Listen, if you don't owe nothing, you got nothing to worry about."

Shenker indicated he had plenty of obligations. "I owe everybody," he said, twice.

"You will reach 73 then, you've no problems," Lombardo advised.