Archive for Albert Anastasia

Joe Bruno on the Mob – Albert “The Mad Hatter” Anastasia

Posted in Cosa Nostra, criminals, crooks, FBI, Gangs, gangsters, Italy, labor unions, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, murder, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, police, Sicily, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 10, 2011 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 2 - New York City

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 2 – New York City

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He was a violent killer, and along with Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, the head of Murder Inc. The way he lived his life, Albert Anastasia must have thought he was bulletproof: until he made one too many trips to his barbershop.

Albert Anastasia was born Umberto Anastasio on September 26, 1902 in Calabria, located in the southern part of Italy. When he was 15, Albert and his brother Tony hopped on an Italian ship and snuck off illegally on the docks of Brooklyn, New York. It was said that Albert was so poor, he arrived in America with no shoes. Albert lived with a relative in Brooklyn until he finally found work on the Brooklyn docks as a longshoreman, alongside his brother Tony.

Albert Anastasia had a violent temper, and it was manifested in 1920, when he was arrested for killing fellow longshoreman Joe Torino. Anastasia strangled and stabbed Torino, over who had the right to unload ships with the most precious cargo. Anastasia was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. It was at this time he changed his last name from Anastasio to Anastasia, he said, “not to sully his family’s name.” His brother “Tough Tony,” who later ruled the Brooklyn docks, kept the last name of Anastasio.

Anastasia had spent eighteen months waiting to be executed in Sing Sing Prison, when his lawyer was somehow able to obtain a new trial. At the second trial, several witnesses to Torino’s murder changed their statements as to who the killer was, and four more witnesses disappeared from the face of the earth, never to surface again. With no evidence against Anastasia, the prosecutors had no choice but to drop their case, and Anastasia became a free man. Anastasia would use this tactic of “eliminating witnesses” several more times throughout the years to avoid prosecution for murder.

Upon his release from prison, Anastasia joined the gang of Joe “The Boss” Masseria, considered the top Mafioso in America. During this time, Anastasia became tight with fellow mobsters Charles “Lucky” Luciano and Frank Costello, and it became clear that Anastasia was more of a follower than a leader.

In 1930, Luciano formed a plan to get rid of his boss – Masseria – then get rid of Masseria’s successor – Salvatore Maranzano. Luciano’s ultimate goal was to unite all the crime families in America: Italian Mafia members, Irish gangsters like Owney Maddon, and Jewish gangsters like Meyer Lansky, into one National Crime Commission.

When Luciano told Anastasia about his plans, Anastasia was ecstatic. He told Luciano, “Charlie, I’ve been waiting for this day for at least eight years. You’re going to be on top, if I have to kill everyone for you. With you up there, that’s the only way we can have any peace and make real money.”

With Anastasia’s help, Luciano did what he set out to do. Anastasia, along with Bugsy Siegel, was one of the four gunman, who in 1931, shot Masseria to death in a Coney Island restaurant. With Masseria out of the way, Luciano formed the remaining made mafia men into five separate crime families. As a reward for his good work, Luciano made Anastasia the underboss in the family of Vincent Mangano.

After Luciano’s takeover, things ran smoothly for the Nation Crime Commission. The Commission made money in bushels, from running illegal liquor during prohibition, and from the old mob standards like bookmaking, gambling, hijacking, and the distribution of drugs. Of course, in order to keep the cash flowing in, sometimes people had to be killed. As a result of Anastasia’s loyalty, Luciano, along with Meyer Lansky, put Anastasia and Louie “Lepke” Buchalter in charge of what the press called “Murder Incorporated.”

This group of killers, which numbered over 100, was also called “The Boys From Brooklyn.” With Anastasia being the exception, Murder Inc. was comprised of mostly Jewish killers, including Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, Allie Tannenbaum, Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss, and Gurrah Shapiro. It was estimated that under Anastasia and Buchalter’s direction, anywhere from 500-1000 murders were committed throughout the country, and only a handful were ever solved. While bodies were piling up all over America, Anastasia was ostensibly working a honest job. The business card he always carried in his breast pocket said he was a “sales representative” for the Convertible Mattress Corporation in Brooklyn.

In the late 1930′s, Murder Inc. dissolved when it top killers were arrested, tried, and convicted on numerous murder changes. With Reles and Tannenbaum agreeing to testify in exchange for a lighter sentence, several Murder Inc. perpetrators were fried in the Sing Sing Electric Chair, including Buchalter, who was the only crime boss ever executed by the government.

Anastasia avoided prosecution for a while, until it was discovered that Reles was set to testify as to Anastasia’s and Bugsy Siegel’s involvement with Murder Inc. Reles was under 24-hour police guard at the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island. Police were stationed to guard Reles, even when he was sleeping.

On the night of November 12, 1941, Reles was supposedly under police guard and sleeping in his room, when inexplicably he fell to his death from his 6th story window. The official report said Reles died while “attempting to escape.” Years later, Luciano said that Frank Costello, in order to save Anastasia and Siegel’s hide, paid the police $50,000 to look the other way, while Costello’s men flung Reles from the window. Other stories said that the cops did the flinging of Reles themselves. Either way, according to District Attorney William O’Dwyer, “His case (against Anastasia and Siegel) went out the window with Reles.”

In 1936, Luciano was arrested, tried, and convicted on a trumped-up charge of prostitution, and given a 30-year prison sentence. Luciano claimed he had been set up by Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey, and there’s evidence that Luciano may have been right. The witnesses against Luciano were all pimps and prostitutes, who later said they lied on the witness stand, rather than being thrown in jail by Dewey.

In 1942, with Luciano languishing in jail, Anastasia, with the help of his brother Tony, devised a scheme to spring Luciano. It was in the middle of World War II, and the plan Anastasia hatched was based on the old mob “protection racket.” With Tony controlling the docks, it was quite easy for his men to sabotage ships on the New York waterfront. And that’s exactly what they did.

After several ships were bombed and burned (the most famous being the French Luxury Liner S.S. Normandie, which was being converted into a troopship, when it was burned and capsized in New York Harbor), Anastasia offered assistance to the United States government, to protect the waterfront from saboteurs (from themselves, of course). The payback from the government was when the war ended, Luciano was to be released from prison, as payment for waterfront protection services rendered. And that’s was exactly what happened, when in 1946, Luciano was released from prison, and deported back to Italy, where he ran his crime family until his death from a heart attack in 1962.

Anastasia had worked successfully as Vincent Mangano’s underboss for 30 years, when in 1951, Anastasia suddenly got ambitious. Over the years, Mangano had grown resentful of Anastasia’s closeness to Luciano and Frank Costello. Many times, Anastasia bypassed his boss Mangano and had, for one reason or another, gone directly to Luciano, or Costello. Several times, Mangano physically attacked Anastasia, which was a foolhardy move, since Anastasia was younger, and stronger, leading to Anastasia beating up his own boss in self defense.

Things in the Mangano family were not going well for Anastasia, when Anastasia asked permission from Costello, now the big boss with Luciano in exile in Italy, to whack Mangano. On April 19, 1951, Mangano’s brother Philip was riddled with bullets and dropped in a swamp in Sheepshead Bay. Later that same day, Vincent Mangano disappeared, and his body was never found. In a few days, after he was sure Mangano was indeed dead, Costello appointed Anastasia the head of the former Mangano crime family, thereby making Anastasia part of the five-man Commission

Costello had a personal reason for why he wanted Anastasia on the Commission. After fleeing to Italy because he was wanted on a murder charge, Vito Genovese had returned to the United States. Genovese was angry because he thought that he, and not Costello, should be the head of the Commission. (Before escaping to Italy, Genovese was the Commission boss. With Genovese out of the country and Luciano still in jail at the time, Luciano then appointed Costello as top man on the Commission.) Genovese was known as a brutal man, who killed first and asked questions later. With Anastasia on Costello’s side, Costello felt the had someone just as tough as Genovese, who could protect Costello’s high ranking.

What Costello did not envision was that Anastasia was a bloodthirsty, homicidal maniac, who would kill anyone, for any reason, real or imagined. Anastasia’s madness manifested itself one day when he was watching television. On the news, a 24-year old Brooklyn salesman named Arnold Schuster was basking in the limelight, as the person who was the main witness in the arrest of legendary bank robber Willie Sutton. Schuster had been riding the subway, when he spotted Sutton. Schuster followed Sutton after Sutton left the subway, and tracked him to a nearby garage. Sutton called the police and Sutton was arrested.

Seeing Schuster being treated like a hero by the press, Anastasia freaked out. “I can’t stand squealers,” Anastasia told one of his killers Fredrick J. Tenuto. “Hit that guy!” And that Tenuto did just that, gunning down Schuster on a Brooklyn street, not far from where Schuster lived.

Realizing that Tenuto was the only person who knew Anastasia had ordered Schuster’s murder, Anastasia took care of Tenuto himself, filling Tenuto with bullets, before Tenuto could spill the beans about Anastasia’s orders.

However, the word was already out that Anastasia, now called “The Mad Hatter,” had gone overboard and had disobeyed one of the Commission’s biggest rules, “We only kill each other.”

As far as Genovese was concerned, Anastasia had made mistake #1. From this point on, Genovese began plotting Anastasia’s demise.

Besides Costello, one of Anastasia’s closest allies was Jewish mobster Meyer Lansky. Lansky, for a while, turned a deaf ear to Genovese’s pleas to kill Anastasia. Lansky was big into the gambling industry on the island of Cuba. As all good mob bosses should, Lansky was cutting in the other Commission members for a piece of the pie on what he was raking in in Cuba. However, Anastasia wanted more. He approached Lansky about giving him a bigger slice, and when Lansky refused, Anastasia began plotting to open up his own gambling operation in Cuba.

That was a bad mistake on Anastasia’s part. Lansky had agreed to the killing of his childhood friend Bugsy Siegel, when it was discovered Siegel had been skimming off the top in the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. Money was sacrosanct to Lansky, and Anastasia was threatening to take money out of Lansky’s pocket.

Make that mistake #2 for Anastasia.

Anastasia’s mistake #3 materialized when Genovese found out Anastasia, in order to induct new made members into this family, was charging proposed members $50,000 apiece for induction into the Honored Society. This was a definite no-no in the Mafia. Men waited years, sometimes even decades, to “get their buttons.” In addition, the rule at the time was that each proposed member had to have been involved in at least one murder to even be considered for induction. Genovese said Anastasia had devalued the entire Mafia organization by taking cash payments from men, who were not qualified to be inducted into the “La Cosa Nostra,” as mob informer Joe Valachi later said insiders called their sacred group.

On October 25, 1957, Anastasia’s chauffeur parked Anastasia’s car in the underground garage of the Park Sheridan Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. Instead of waiting inside the garage for his boss to return, the chauffeur decided to take a little stroll out of the building. Anastasia took a little stroll of his own, and he wound up sitting in chair No. 4 in the Park Sheridan Hotel barbershop. Sitting next to Anastasia in chair No. 5 was his old friend Vincent “Jimmy Jerome” Squillante. Anastasia sat with his eyes closed, appearing to have nary a care in the world. Soon he would be right.

Suddenly, two men walked into the barbershop. One was carrying a .38-caliber pistol; the other a .32 caliber pistol. One of the men told barbershop owner Arthur Grasso, “ Keep your mouth shut if you don’t want your head blown off.”

Then the two men commenced shooting. One bullets lodged in the back of Anastasia’s head and two shots hit him in the left hand. Another bullet hit him in the back, and another blasted through the right side of his hip. Anastasia stagged to his feet, facing the mirror of the barbershop. Seeing the refections of his two killers in the mirror, Anastasia lurched toward the mirror. The killers kept firing until their guns were empty, and Anastasia fell on his back, between two barber chairs, quite dead.

Squillante didn’t know whether to cry, or go blind. Seeing the dead Anastasia on the floor, he screamed to no one in particular, “Let me out of here!” Then he exited stage right, into lobby of the Park Sheridan Hotel, and disappeared.

According to manicurist Jean Wineberger, one shooter was a white male, around 40 years old, 5-feet-10-inches, with a sight built, and a blond pompadour haircut. The second shooter was also a white male, around 45 years old, stockily built, and about 5-feet-7-inches. Wineberger thought the shooters looked Italian, but she said they could have been Jewish also.

No one was officially charged with Anastasia’s murder and about a dozen people over the years have claimed they had been involved in Anastasia’s killing. The most likely scenario was that Mob boss Joe Profaci was given the hit by the other Commissioner members. Profaci subcontracted out the actual shooting to his underling, the unpredictable “Crazy” Joe Gallo, from the Red Hook section of Brooklyn.

Gallo was not shy about taking the credit for the Anastasia hit. Soon after the hit, Gallo was talking to a crime associate Sidney Slater. Gallo told Slater that he, Sonny Camerone, Ralph Mafrici, Joe “Joe Jelly” Gioelli and Frank “Punchy” Illiano comprised the Anastasia hit-team.

The buttons on his shirt bursting in pride, Gallo told Slater, “You can call the five of us the barbershop quintet.”

The most telling comment about Anastasia’s murder was uttered by Anastasia’s brother “Tough Tony” Anastasio.

“Tough Tony” told a mob associate, “I ate from the same table as Albert and I came from the same womb. But I know he killed many men and he deserved to die.”

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 2 - New York City

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 2 – New York City

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Joe Bruno on the Mob – Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro – The Brawn Behind Lepke’s Brains.

Posted in criminals, crooks, Gangs, gangsters, labor unions, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, murder, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2011 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 - New York City

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 – New York City

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He was a gorilla of a man, with a chest like a circus strongman and the temperament of a killer, which was exactly what he was. Yet, Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro had the intellect of a rock, which is why he needed the “brains” of one of the best criminal minds of all time — Louis “Lepke” Buchalter to help him succeed in a life of crime.

Shapiro was born on May 5, 1899, in Odessa, Russia, the son of Russian Jews. His family immigrated to America and settled on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Shapiro spoke with a thick Russian/New York accent, like his mouth was full of marbles. His favorite expression was “get out of here.” But the way he said it sounded like “Gurrah dahere,” hence his pals shortened that to “Gurrah,” a nickname that stood with him the rest of his life.

Shapiro first met Lepke when they were two crooks trying to steal from the same pushcart. Shapiro, then 18, decided that this kid Lepke, who was two years younger than him, was the perfect partner for someone like him, whose answer to all problems was “let’s just kill the bum.”

Lepke decided there was big money to be made in the labor union rackets. So he enlisted the brawn of Shapiro to terrorized certain union locals into submission, which meant Shapiro was usually beating someone to a pulp, which he enjoyed immensely. When enough union members had been corrected, Lepke and Shapiro, who were then known as the “Gorilla Boys,” took control of the union. As union bosses, they would skim union dues off the top, and take kickbacks from the business owners, who wanted to avoid labor strikes.

Lepke, with Shapiro’s help, strong-armed his way to the top of the national crime syndicate. With partners like Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz, Albert Anastasia and Meyer Lansky, the “Gorilla Boys” were making so much money shaking down the unions, they became known as the “Gold Dust Twins.” Of course, in these types of endeavors, to keep everyone in line, sometimes someone has “to go,” or get killed. Lepke was put in charge of what the press called “Murder Incorporated, with Anastasia and Shapiro being his main weapons. When Shapiro wasn’t killing people himself, he was in charge of recruiting more killers for the cause.

In the mid 1930′s, Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey went on a mission to end the national crime syndicate. Dutch Schultz called an emergency meeting of the nine-member crime commission syndicate, where he said the only way for him and his pals to stay out of jail, was to whack Dewey. Shapiro and Anastasia agreed with Schultz, and Lepke was pretty much undecided if this was the proper course of action. Yet Lansky and Luciano’s logic prevailed, and the final vote was 8-1 against killing Dewey. Schultz objected, saying he would take care of the matter himself, and for this, he was gunned down two days later, before he could cause any more trouble with the law. This decision not to kill Dewey haunted Shapiro as long as he lived.

In 1936, Dewey indited Lepke and Shapiro for violating the Sherman Ant-Trust Act. Dewey accused the duo of conspiring to restrain trade in rabbit skins through their Protective Fur Dressers Corporation. Dewey claimed Shapiro and Lepke used threats of violence, and sometime violence itself, to fix prices and reduce competition.

The trial, which took place in October 1936, was merely a formality. Shapiro and Lepke were both convicted, but not jailed. They were out on bail, and while they fought for an appeal, both decided to take a powder. Strangely enough, Lepke’s appeal was upheld and a new trail ordered. But Shapiro’s conviction stood.

While Lepke was hidden in Brooklyn by Anastasia, Shapiro laid low in New Jersey; then he took a trek out to the Mid West. Without Lepke to console and control him, Shapiro was a broken man. All he knew how to do was administer beatings and kill people. Suddenly, Shapiro started getting severe chest pains and panic attacks. Not being able to go back to his old life, and too sick to continue in his new life, on April 14, 1938, Shapiro inexplicably turned himself into the authorities. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, with no chance of parole.

While Shapiro was locked up in a federal penitentiary in Atlanta, and Lepke on death row in Sing Sing Prison in New York, after being convicted of murder, Shapiro somehow smuggled a note to Lepke. It said, “I told you so,” meaning they should have killed Dewey when they had the chance.

Shapiro died in prison of a heart attack in 1947, utterly convinced the worst mistake he and Lepke ever made was not killing one more person.

Joe Bruno on the Mob – Dutch Schultz – The Nuttiest Mob Boss Ever

Posted in criminals, crooks, FBI, FBI, Gangs, gangsters, labor unions, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, murder, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2011 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

Mob bosses come in all shapes and sizes. Some are brilliant. Some are just plain dumb. Almost all are homicidal maniacs. But only one was a certified lunatic, and his name was Dutch Schultz.

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 2 - New York City

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 2 – New York City

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Schultz was born Arthur Flegenheimer to German/Jewish parents in 1902 in the Bronx. His father abandoned the family at an early age, and young Flegenheimer took assorted jobs, including one at the Schultz Trucking Company. But despite his legitimate work at the trucking company, young Flegenheimer took up with a gang of crooks, who during Prohibition, did a little illegal importing of hooch from Canada to New York City on the side.

When he was pinched for the first time by the cops, Flegenheimer gave his name as Dutch Schultz, which was the name of the son of the boss of the Schultz Trucking Company. Later the headline-happy Schultz would tell the press that he changed his name to Dutch Schultz because it fit in the newspaper headlines better than Arthur Flegenheimer. “If I had kept the name of Flegenheimer, nobody would have ever heard of me.”

Schultz quit the trucking business and decided he could make a mint off the Harlem numbers rackets, where it was reported that the locals bet a staggering $35,000 a day. Schultz set up a gang that included crazed killer Bo Weinberg, mathematical genius Otto “Abbadabba” Berman and Lulu Rosenkrantz, who could kill with the best of them too. Schultz and his crew invited the black gangsters, who ran the numbers show in Harlem, to a meeting. When the black gangsters arrived, Schultz put a 45 caliber pistol on the table and informed them, “I’m now your partner.” And that cemented the deal.

Yet Schultz was not happy with just making a ton of cash off the numbers in Harlem. He wanted to make ten tons of cash, or maybe even more. So he enlisted the genius mind of Abbadabba Berman to rig the Harlem numbers game so that he could achieve his goal. The “Harlem Age” newspaper, instead of using the New York Clearing House Reports for its daily three-digit number, instead used Cincinnati’s Coney Island Race track to post the winning numbers. The only problem was that Schultz owned that particular race track. So all Berman had to do, was go over the thousands of slips bet that particular day, and before the seventh race at the track, he knew which numbers Schultz did not want to win. Then one phone call to the race track, and like magic, the final numbers were altered for Schultz’ monetary benefit.

Schultz had one simple rule that helped propel him to the top. If someone stole a dime of his cash, that person would soon disappear. His long-time lawyer J. Richard “Dixie” Davis, who was Schultz’ conduit to the crooked politicians who protected Schultz’ flank, once said, “You can insult Arthur’s girl. Spit in his face. Push him around — and he’ll laugh. But don’t steal a dollar from his accounts. If you do, you’re dead.”

Two such men, who were deposited into the hereafter by Schultz, were Vincent “Mad Dog” Cole, who was ventilated by a dozen bullets in a New York City phone booth, and Jack “Legs” Diamond. After Schultz’ men pumped several bullets into Diamond’s head in an upstate hotel, Schultz said, “Just another punk caught with his hands in my pocket.”

The killings of Diamond and Cole propelled Schultz into the big time, and soon he became an equal in a syndicate of gangsters that included Lucky Luciano, Louie Lepke, Meyer Lansky, Albert Anastasia and Joe “Adonis” Doto. While all the rest of the crew were immaculate dressers, Schultz dressed one step above a Bowery bum. Even though he was raking in millions, Schultz never paid more than $35 for a suit and $2 for a shirt. Lucky Luciano once said of Schultz, “Dutch was the cheapest guy I ever knew. The guy had a couple of million bucks and he dressed like a pig.”

As for his insistence on not dressing up to his mob stature, Schultz said, “I think only queers wear silk shirts.”

As time passed, the rest of the syndicate grew weary of Schultz’ erratic ways. One such example of his lunacy, was when Schultz, in order to beat a tax-evasion case in upstate Malone, New York, converted to Catholicism in order to butter up the all-Catholic jury. His scheme worked and he was acquitted on all counts.

Another time, at a syndicate meeting, Schultz became upset over a wise crack Joe Adonis made about Schultz’ chintzy clothes. Schultz, who had a bad case of the flu, grabbed Adonis in a headlock and blew hard into his face. “See you (expletive) star. Now you’ve got the flu too.” Adonis did indeed catch the flu from Schultz, which did not make him and the rest of the syndicate particularly happy.

Schultz’ downfall was his insistence that the syndicate kill New York City Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey, who was on a mission to crack down on all the mobs, especially Schultz’. Schultz called a meeting of the nine-member syndicate and demanded Dewey’s head on a plate. The other members thought killing Dewey was a horrible idea, because they were convinced if Dewey was offed, an avalanche of criminal investigations would surely fall down on their heads. Schultz’ proposal was voted down 8-1.

Schultz stormed from the meeting, saying, “I still say he ought to be hit. And if nobody else is going to do it, I’m gonna hit him myself. Within 48 hours.”

The other syndicate members, knowing Schultz was not one to bluff, immediately voted unanimously that Schultz was the one who had to go. And quick, before Dewey was dead.

On October 23, 1935, the day following the fateful votes, Schultz, Berman, Lulu Rosenkrantz and Abe Landau sat in the Palace Chop House and Tavern in Newark, New Jersey, ostensibly to discuss how best to do away with Dewey. Schultz was in the bathroom, when Charlie “The Bug” Workman and Mendy Weiss burst through the front door — shooting. Berman, Rosenkrantz and Landau got it first, each being shot several times, before expiring. Then realizing Schultz was not at the table, Workman rushed into the bathroom and plugged Schultz once in the middle of the chest, right above the stomach.

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 - New York City

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 – New York City

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Schultz was rushed to the hospital and lay delirious for two days. His spouted such idiocies as, “Oh Duckie, see we skipped again.” And, “Please mother, crack down on the Chinaman’s friends and Hitler’s commander.” And, “Louie, didn’t I give you my doorbell?”

Schultz’ temperature rose to 106 degrees, and on October 25, he fell into a coma and died. His former pals on the syndicate, overjoyed and a more than little relieved, divided Schultz’ prosperous operations equally amongst themselves.

Joe Bruno on the Mob – Abe “Kid Twist” Reles – The Canary Who Could Sing, But Couldn’t Fly

Posted in criminals, crooks, FBI, Gangs, gangsters, labor unions, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, murder, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2011 by Joe Bruno's Blogs


He was a vicious killer from the time he was 18 years old, but Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, was no man’s man. When it came down to push and shove, he was nothing but a yellow-bellied canary, who ratted out his best friends to save his own skin.

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 2 - New York City

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 2 – New York City

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Abraham Reles was born in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York on May 10, 1906. His father was an Austrian Jew, who had immigrated to American to seek a better life. But after working for years as a lowly piece worker in the garment trade, he wound up selling knishes on the streets of Brooklyn from a mobile stand.

Quickly realizing his father’s life was not for him, the five-foot-two-inch Reles, quit school after the eight grade. He soon worked as a gofer for the powerful Shapiro brothers, Meyer, Irving, and Willie, who ran the rackets in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. Reles was reduced to running errands and doing light work for the Shapiros, for sometimes as little as five bucks a pop. One of these errands consisted of watching over one of the Shapiro’s many slot machines, and for this, Reles took a bullet to his back, which caused nothing more than a flesh would, but a big blast to Reles’ ego. It was about this time that Reles reportedly took the nickname “Kid Twist,” in honor of a previous New York City Jewish mobster named Max “Kid Twist” Zwerbach, who strangely enough, was also killed in Coney Island.

Annoyed, and not wanting to keep on getting the short end of the stick from the Shapiros, Reles formed his own small gang, consisting of childhood friend Bugsy Goldstein, and the Italian duo of Happy Maione and Dasher Abbendado. Soon sadistic killer Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss joined the crew, and Reles announced, at the ripe age of twenty, that he and his boys were going to take Brownsville and all its rackets away from the Shapiros. Reles named his motley crew of killers “Brooklyn Inc.”

“Why do we have to take the left-overs?” Reles asked Goldstein. “We should cut a piece. The hell with those guys.”

When word got back to the Shapiros what Reles was planning, Meyer, the boss of the clan, was furious. “Brownsville belongs to us,” Meyer Shapiro said. “Nobody moves in here.”

Meyer Shapiro fired the first salvo in the war for control of Brownsville by snatching Reles girlfriend off the street, and brutally beating and raping her. Now it was personal to Reles, and he and Goldstein stalked the streets of Brownsville, looking to kill the all three Shapiros, but Meyer mostly, because of the indignity of him desecrating Reles’ girlfriend. During an entire year, Reles and Goldstein shot at Meyer Shapiro nineteen times, but only wounded him only once. Then one night, figuring they had Meyer Shapiro and his two brother ambushed in front of their apartment building on Blake Avenue, Reles was chagrined to find only Irving had bothered to show. As soon as Irving Shapiro entered his fifth-floor apartment, Reles and Goldstein emptied their guns, first hitting Irving twice in the face and then sixteen more times in the back.

A few days later, Reles and his boys cornered Meyer Shapiro on the streets of Brooklyn. A single bullet into Meyer Sharpiro ‘s ear fired by Reles, dislodged Shapiro as boss of the Brownsville rackets. It took Reles three years to finally eliminate Willie Shapiro, who had been threatening all along to kill Reles and his pals. After abducting Willie Shapiro in a bar, they brought him to a Brooklyn basement, beat him unmercifully, then buried him in a shallow sand dune in Canarsie Flats. Willie Shapiro’s body was soon found, and the Medical Examiner doing the autopsy, located sand in his lungs, meaning he had been buried alive.

Reles and his boys’ triumph over the Shapiro brothers caught the eye of Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, and soon Brooklyn Inc. became a sub-corporation of Murder Incorporated. It was said, Lepke had several dozen killers on his payroll, and in the decade of the 1930′s, police estimated Murder Incorporated was responsible for as many as five hundred hits throughout the country.

Yet nothing good ever lasts forever. On February 2, 1940, Reles, Goldstein and Anthony “Dukey” Maffetore were arrested for the 1934 murder of petty hood named Red Alpert. Maffetore was the first to turn states evidence against his crew, but the biggest rat jewel for New York District Attorney William O’Dwyer was Reles, who was the highest ranking member of Murder Incorporated under Lepke. At Lepke’s trial, which also included Mendy Weiss and Louis Capone as defendants, Reles, who had a photographic memory, gave intimate details of over over 200 murders the defendants were involved with. All three of Reles’ former pals were subsequently convicted and fried in the Sing Sing electric chair.

Yet, the government was not through with Reles’ squealing. They wanted him as the prime witness at the upcoming trials of Murder Incorporated big shots Albert Anastasia and Bugsy Siegel. While Reles was awaiting several more trips to court, O’Dwyer hid Reles at the Half Moon Hotel, located on the sandy beaches of Coney Island. Reles was under constant police guard, with no less than six police officers at a time guarding him, even while he was sleeping.

Yet, in the early morning hours of November 12, 1941, Reles fell to his death from the sixth-floor window of the hotel. He was found laying askew on his back, with his suit jacket on, but his white shirt unbuttoned, exposing a fat belly. Several sheets were found tied together, and even though Reles’ body was found twenty feet from the base of the hotel, the official cause of death was listed as “dying from a fall, while trying to escape.” After Reles’ death, O’Dwyer announced that his future cases went “out the window” with Reles.

Years later, it was said by Italian crime boss Lucky Luciano, that $50,000 was paid by Frank Costello, to be spread around in the New York City police department, to see if the man who could “sing like a canary,” could fly like one too.

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 - New York City

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 – New York City

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Joe Bruno on the Mob – Bugsy Siegel

Posted in criminals, crooks, Gangs, gangsters, labor unions, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, murder, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, police, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2010 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel is the man most responsible for the re-birth of the city of Las Vegas, as the gambling capitol of the world.

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 2 - New York City

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 2 – New York City

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Siegel was born Benjamin Siegelbaum on February 28, 1906, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. As a teenager, he crossed the bridge to Manhattan and started a gang on Lafayette Street, which skirted the boarder of Little Italy, with another thug named Moe Sedway. Their main racket was shaking down pushcart owners for protection money, and if they weren’t paid quickly, they burnt down the poor owner’s pushcart.

Soon Siegel teamed up with Meyer Lansky, the man who would shape his life, and eventually, his death. Together they formed the “Bugs and Meyer Gang,” which started out in auto theft, and ended up handling hit contracts for bootleggers, who were having their shipments hijacked. This tidy little killing business was the forerunner to the infamous Murder Incorporated, which handled hundreds of contract murders during the 1930′s.

In the late 1920′s, Siegel and Lansky hooked up with ambitious Italian mobsters Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Joe Adonis, Vito Genovese, Albert Anastasia and Tommy Lucchese. Together they formed a National Crime Commission, which controlled all organized crime in America for many years to come. Siegel was the main hit man for the group, and he led the four-man team, who riddled Joe “The Boss” Masseria’s body with bullets in a Coney Island Restaurant. Siegel developed the reputation as a man who not only killed frequently, but enjoy killing, with a glee of a schoolboy on his first date.

In the late 1930′s, The Commission sent Siegel to California to take over their West Coast rackets, including the lucrative racing wire, which ran horse race results to thousands of bookie joints throughout the country. Siegel pushed aside West Coast mob boss Jack Dragna, who was told by Lansky and Luciano, if he didn’t step down and hand the reins over to Siegel, bad things would happen to him quick. Dragna did as he was told.

While in Hollywood, Siegel, who was movie-star-good-looking, was renowned ladies-man, who sometimes bedding down three or four starlets at a time. He hung around with such movie hunks as Clark Cable, Gary Cooper, George Raft and Cary Grant. The girls he bedded included Jean Harlow, Wendy Barry, Marie McDonald, Virginia Hill and Italian Countess Dorothy diFrasso. Even though Siegel was busy with the broads, he always found the time to do a little killing on the side. In 1939, on orders from New York City Jewish mob boss Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, Siegel whacked Harry “Big Greenie” Greenberg, who was singing like a canary to the feds. Siegel was arrested for murder, but after a witness conveniently disappeared, he was acquitted of all charges.

The bad publicity from the Greenberg trial ruined Siegel’s man-about-town reputation in Hollywood, so The Commission sent Siegel to Las Vegas, to scout locations for a hotel/casino they wanted to build. Siegel found the perfect place, and he convinced the boys from New York City, including his pal Lansky, to invest millions in a opulent night club he dubbed The Flamingo. The building of the The Flamingo was a disaster from the start. His insistence on only the best of everything skyrocketed the costs to a staggering $6 million, which annoyed his partners in New York City more than just a little. Plus, there were concerns that maybe Siegel was skimming a little construction money off the top, to fund his actions with the ladies.

Opening night in December, 1946, was an unmitigated disaster. Siegel had moved up the opening date from March 1947, while the hotel was still in the late stages of being built. Since The Flamingo did not show well (the lobby was draped with ugly drop cloths), the Hollywood crowd stayed away, and in a few months, The Flamingo was more than a quarter of a million dollars in the red. Losing money on gambling was unheard of in the mob, so The Commission made a business decision that Siegel’s days on earth had to end. Longtime pal Lansky had no problem signing off on his childhood pal’s death warrant. Business is business and Siegel was bad for business.

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 - New York City

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 – New York City

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On June 20, 1947, in Beverly Hills, Siegel was sitting on the living room couch, in the home of his girlfriend Virginia Hill, reading the Los Angeles Times. Suddenly, two rifle bullets fired from an open window struck Siegel straight in the face. One bullet hit his right cheek and settled in his brain. The second hit him in the nose and pierced his right eye. The eye was found on the floor, fifteen feet from Siegel’s lifeless body.

Joe Bruno on the Mob — Joe “The Boss” Masseria

Posted in criminals, crooks, FBI, Gangs, gangsters, Mobsters, murder, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, police, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2010 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

Joe “The Boss” Masseria, an uncouth man who enjoyed killing as much as he enjoyed eating, and he enjoyed eating immensely, was the undisputed boss of the Italian Mob in New York City, starting in 1916 and all through the Roaring Twenties. In 1903, the five-foot-two-inch menace had fled Sicily because he had murdered someone and was not cool about cooling his heels in a Sicilian jail. He landed in New York City and immediately became part of the vicious Morello Gang, America’s first organized crime family.

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 2 - New York City

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 2 – New York City

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The Morello gang was headed by Nick Morello and his brothers Antonio and Joe, three killers so proficient, the reportedly were responsible for scores of murders themselves. They also employed two other vicious henchmen, Lupo “The Wolf,” real name Ignazio Saietta, of the Black Hand fame, and Ciro Terranova, who later became the “Artichoke King” in New York City.

Yet the greedy, ambitious and treacherous Masseria did not like taking a back seat to anyone. So after Lupo The Wolf, Joe Morello and Terranova were sent to prison for various misdeeds, including a counterfeiting charge, Masseria planed to snatch the reins from the Morello brothers.

Masseria pulled the trigger himself, killing several Morello loyalists. And after his brother Joe was gunned down in 1916, Nick Morello was killed by another rival faction, leaving Masseria in charge of the local rackets.

For the next few years, there were several hit attempts on Masseria’s life, but he always came out unscathed. In 1922, Masseria left his apartment at 82 Second Avenue with two bodyguards. He was met by a hail of bullets at close range fired by two men, one of whom was Rocco Valenti. Masseria’s two bodyguards were shot dead, but Masseria fled into a millinery shop next door. Amazingly, even though the two gunman had emptied their guns at Masseria, he was able to bob and weave and avoid any contact with the lead.

Soon after, Masseria set up a meeting with Valenti, ostensibly to make peace, at a restaurant on East 12th Street. Valenti arrived with two bodyguards, but three of Masseria’s men were waiting in ambush. They wounded Valenti’s bodyguards, while Valenti made a mad dash across the street. He jumped on the running board of a passing taxi and was firing back, when he was shot dead, reportedly by a young Lucky Luciano, a man who would later play a big part in Masseria’s demise.

To keep his empire running smoothly, Masseria hired young gangsters like Luciano, Vito Genovese, Joe Bonnano and Thomas Lucchese. In fact, Masseria was so fond of Luciano, he made him his second in command.

Problems started when Luciano started doing business with two Jewish gangsters, Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel, and Frank Costello, who was an Italian from the mainland of Italy. Masseria had a strict rule. He and his men could only do business with fellow Sicilians. This did not please Luciano too much, and he waited for the right time to take out Masseria and gain control of his rackets.

In 1927, Masseria encountered a new threat to his supremacy in the name of Salvatore Maranzano, who came over from Sicily as the underboss of Don Vito Cascio Ferro, the most powerful Mafia leader in Sicily. What happened next was the Castellammarese War between Masseria and Maranzano. For the next four years, Luciano and his pals ostensibly stood loyal to Masseria, but they finally decided to throw their lot in with Maranzano.

On April 15, 1931, Luciano lured Masseria to the Nuova Villa Tammaro Restaurant in Coney Island. After Masseria had stuffed his belly with enormous amounts of Italian food (he was said to have the eating habits of a “drooling mastiff”), he and Luciano sat down to play cards.

At 3:30 Luciano excused himself to go to the bathroom. While he was taking care of business, four men busted through the front door. They were Vito Genovese, Bugsy Siegel, Albert Anastasia and Joe Adonis. The four men fired repeatedly at Masseria, hitting him six times, before he dropped dead to the floor, holding the Ace of Spades in his right hand.

When the police arrived minutes later, Luciano said, since he had been in the bathroom, he did not see who had done all the shooting.

Makes sense to me.

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 - New York City

Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks and Other Creeps-Volume 1 – New York City

Buy from Amazon


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