Joe Bruno on the Mob — Virginia Hill – Part Five

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After Siegel was whacked, Virginia Hill stood safely in Paris. When contacted by the local authorities about Siegel’s death, Hill, already involved  a torrid affair with wealthy 21-year-old heir Nicholas Fouilette, denied she was Siegel’s mistress.

“If anyone or anything was his mistress, it was that Las Vegas hotel,” Hill told French authorities. “I never knew Ben was involved in all that gang stuff. I can’t imagine who would shoot him, or why.”

Afraid she was targeted for death, Hill attempted suicide four times in the next two months; first in France, then in Monaco, in France again, and finally in Miami, Fl. How serious she was about killing herself is problematic, since she failed four times, and that’s hard to do if you’re serious about entering the afterlife.

After traveling extensively in South America, in the spring of 1948, Hill put down roots in Mexico City where he formed a sexual relationship with the famous Dr. Margaret “Mom” Chung. Chung, the first American born Chinese-American physician, gained notoriety in the 1930’s and 1940 for her patriotic work with the Allied Forces, particularly Americans. Chung adopted literally thousands of American orphans, whom she encouraged to go into the armed forces and fight against the Japanese invasion of China. Besides Hill, Dr. Chung also had affairs with the writer Elsa Gidlow, and American entertainer Sophie Tucker, who was called “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas.”

Hill’s fling with Chung was short-lived and she trekked back to Nevada. There she met ski instructor Hans Hauser, 38, the 1934 World Downhill Racing Champion, who had been previously arrested and jailed in 1942 for being a Nazi spy. Hauser taught skiing to a diverse set of celebrities; including Henry Ford and Ernest Hemmingway. Hill and Hauser were married on March 20, 1950, in Elko, NV and spent their honeymoon in Sun Valley. The United States Department of Immigration and Naturalization Service took immediate notice, since Hauser was not a United States citizen.

In June of 1950, Hill and Hauser moved to Bar Harbor, Maine, where she bore a son to Hauser, named Peter.

By November, the Hausers had enough of the North East and moved into a tony home in Spokane, Washington. That’s when the IRS started getting interested in the Hausers, since neither had the visible monetary means to live such a lavish lifestyle.

On March 16, 1951, Hill was summoned before the Kefauver Committee, which was investigating organized crime. At this time, the FBI, under J. Edgar Hoover, flatly rejected the notion of organized crime and Hoover said that the Mafia in America was a myth.

Before Hill was brought before the committee, the committee had held hearings in 14 states. The long list of people who were interrogated by the committee included Chicago’s Tony “Joe Batters” Accardo and Hill’s old pal Jake “Greasy Thumb” Guzic, Frank Costello, Louis “Little New York” Campagna, West Coast mob boss Mickey Cohen, and Siegel’s lifelong pal – Meyer Lansky. The televised hearings made Hill, who was previously known only in mob circles, a nationwide celebrity. She stole the show with her snappy, salty, and sometimes vulgar answers.

Hill was interrogated by committee attorney Rudolph Halley and their back and forth verbal barbs had the people in court, and the millions watching on television, alternately astonished and amused. The interview went as such, with minor points paraphrased or eliminated. Also, Hill’s use of the English language wasn’t quite grammatically correct.

 

Halley: Do you think you would like to tell the committee the story of your life, so far as it involves contacts you may have had with known gangsters?

Hill: The men whom I was around gave me things, but they were not gangsters, or racketeers or whatever you call these other people. The only time I ever got anything out of them was going out and having fun, and maybe a few presents. For years I have been going down to Mexico. I went with a lot of fellows down there. And like a lot of girls, they gave me things and bought me everything I wanted. And when I was with Ben, he gave me everything.

Halley: By “Ben” you mean Ben Siegel.

Hill: Yes and he gave me some money too, and bought me a house in Florida. And he gave me money to gamble the horses. And when I won, I paid taxes on my winnings. I never owed any businesses, so whatever I have ever had in life, outside betting horses, was given to me.

Halley: Tell the committee, under oath, have these men who gave you money had any acquaintance with gangsters that you ever knew?

Hill: Never.

Halley: Are you positive?

Hill: I am positive. Outside of one man I met in Chicago, who I introduced to some people in Chicago. But none of that’s connected to me.

Halley: How long have you known Joe Fischetti?

Hill: About seven or eight years. (Editor’s note – Hill met Fischetti as far back as 1935)

Halley: And is he a good friend of yours?
Hill: Well, he’s a friend, but I don’t know how good.

Halley: Is he one of the people who has given you money?

Hill: (Defiantly) He has never given me any money!

Halley: When did you last see Joe Fischetti?

Hill: In Chicago before I went to Sun Valley (for her honeymoon).

Halley: At that time Fischetti went to Miami?

Hill: That’s right.

Halley: You called him quite frequently, did you not, while he was in Miami?

Hill: That’s right.

Halley: Did you have business with him?

Hill: I had no business with him. Just called cause I wanted to call.

Halley: We have the phone records that you called him almost every day; is that right?

Hill: If that’s what it says, that’s right.

Halley: While you were in Sun Valley (on your  honeymoon) we discovered you spent over $12,000; is that right?

Hill: Something like that.

Halley: And we discovered that only $1,500 of that money was paid by check. All the rest you paid in cash. In the six weeks you were in Sun Valley, you averaged spending over $2,000 a week. Is this your normal way of living?

Hill: Well, no. It isn’t.

Halley: In the past year you have traveled quite extensively. You’ve been to Maine and New England. You’ve also been to Sun Valley and the State of Washington.

Hill: Yes, that’s right.

Halley: And you’ve been to Reno, Nevada, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago.

Hill: Yes.

Halley: And where did you get the money to finance all this spending?

Hill: It was money I had saved before. I gave it to my accountant and when I needed the money he would send it to me.

Halley: Your accountant is Joe Epstein, isn’t he?

Hill: Yes.

Halley: And you always stay at the best hotels?

Hill: Well, I try.

Halley: How much of your saved money have you spent in the last year?

Hill: Maybe $30,000 to $40,000.

Halley: And this was money Joe Epstein sent you?

Hill: I told you it was my money. He was just holding for me and investing it for me.

Halley: You bought a house too: with cash. How much did you spend for that house?

Hill: I put $16,000 down.

Halley: In the past few years you have been earning some substantial amounts of money, and I note you have been earning them by wagering, is that right?

Hill: That’s right!

 

For the next several hours Halley badgered Hill about how much she earned from 1947 until 1950. Hill insisted she didn’t know the exact amounts she earning betting the horses. She insisted Joe Epstein took care of all her financials, after she forwarded her horse track winnings to him. Halley noted than in the years 1945 and 1947 she claimed exactly $16,000 as winnings betting on sporting events. Hill said Joe Epstein took care of her accounting and a Mr. Ross did her income tax returns. She said if that’s what they said she made those years, then that’s what she made.

Halley also pulled out of Hill the fact that the IRS has been asking her the same questions, and she told them the same answers. As for the proof of these winning, Hill claimed she never kept any records.

The more Halley questions asked, the bigger the hole Hill dug for herself. She admitted Bugsy Siegel gave her $49,000. However, when Halley asked her if she ever received any money from Joe Adonis, she firmly said no.

Then Halley turned his attention to Hill’s involvement with mobster Frank Costello, who had just testified before the Committee. Hill claimed she knew Costello though Joe Adonis, but she only met him in restaurant when she was with Adonis. And she insisted the only so-called mobster who gave her any money was Siegel.

 

Halley: Did you ever get any money from Costello?
Hill: No.

Halley: Did you ever get any money from Meyer Lansky?

Hil: No. I never got money from any of those fellows

Halley: No money from Fischetti?

Hill: I’ve only met him a couple of times. I don’t even speak to him, and I don’t like him.

Halley: I have a note from an IRS agent that you were, on occasion, asked to carry cash from Chicago to New York.

Hill: That is not true! And if they told you that, they told a lie. I never carried anything for anybody, and if anyone said that, it’s a big lie.

Halley then asked Hill about the circumstances that led her to fly to France just before Siegel was murdered. Hill said she was planning to go to France long before Siegel was killed. She also said that Siegel had tried to persuade her not to go to France because he knew she had a boyfriend in France.

“We got into a big fight,” Hill told Halley. “I was drinking and I left. And I went to Paris when I got mad.”

Halley asked Hill if she had heard anything rumors before she left for France that Siegel was going to be killed by his gangster friends.

“I never heard of anything of the kind, “Hill said.” All I know was that he was worried about the hotel. I told him I hated the place and why didn’t he leave it because it was making him a nervous wreck.”

Halley turned his attention to Hill’s fascination with Mexico.

 

Halley: While you were in Sun Valley, you made a number of trips to Mexico. Do you  have any particular business in Mexico?

Hill: Just fellows I know.

Halley: Do you spend a considerable amount of time there?

Hill: I’ve been going there for 12, 13 years – maybe 11. I don’t know.

Halley: You have friends there; is that right?

Hill: I have lots of friends there.

Halley: Have you ever known anybody who was in narcotics trafficking in Mexico?

Hill: Well, since it’s been in the papers, I didn’t know anyone in the narcotics traffic, but since I’ve been going to Mexico a lot of people have approached me and tried to give me those things. One fellow one time said he had lot of H. and C. – which I didn’t know what it was. When I told him I didn’t know what it was, he told me it was heroin and cocaine. I told him to get out of my house. He told me don’t I know people. I said they’d break my neck if I ever mentioned such a thing. I had people who used to come and say, “Don’t you want some?” I had an awful time getting rid of people down there that offered it to me.

Halley: Did someone once try to get you to help and sell it, and you refused.

Hill: Yes

Halley: And who was that?

Hill: It was an ex-brother–in-law of mine. Valadez-Gonzalez. I don’t know his first name.

Halley: But as far as you know, you never had anything to do with this narcotics traffic.

Hill: No. When he asked me I told him, “What gives you the idea I want any of that stuff?”  He said, “The papers.” I said, “Well, You better not read the papers.” I threatened to break their necks, if they ever come around with that stuff and even mention it.

Halley: Do you think you would be in a position to give the Narcotics Bureau any help in catching the people who came to you about selling drugs?

Hill: I don’t know how I could give them any help. All they (the Narcotics Bureau) have to do is go to Mexico. Everyone knows who uses it. It’s no secret down there.

 

Halley said he had no further questions but Chairman Kefauver certainly did. His voice was decidedly edgy, unlike Mr. Halley’s smooth delivery.

 

Kefauver: Virginia Hill, you didn’t tell us what kind of betting you did with all this money?

Hill: Horses. I used to get tips.

 

Kefauver pressed Hill on where she placed these bets and who she placed them with. Hill said sometimes she went to the track and sometimes she placed the bets with various bookies in several cities. Kefauver asked Hill, since gambling with bookies is illegal, how she was able to locate these bookies. Hill said bookies always seemed to be around. Kefauver was able to get Hill to admit that the horses she bet on, and always won with, were fixed races. However, Hill denied she bet on other sports like baseball, football and basketball. And furthermore, she had quit betting completely

When Kefauver asked why, Hill said, “I don’t want to win anymore. Then they will say I made more money than they did.”

Kefauver went back to the time in Las Vegas right after Siegel was murdered and Moe Sedway, amongst other, took over the operation of the Flamingo. Hill denied that she knew Sedway well, even though she had consorted with him in various illegal enterprises since the 1934 World’s Fair. She said that she had “seen Sedway around,” but she had no idea why Sedway took over the Flamingo after Siegel’s death.

For the rest of her time on the stand, various members of the Kefauver committee asked Hill, if she knew several mobsters, including Lucky Luciano. Hill denied knowing Luciano, and if she admitted she knew certain mobsters, she claimed she had met them through Siegel and had only been in their company once or twice.

In a corridor outside the courtroom, Kefauver marveled at the fact Hill was able to extract so much money from so many bigtime mobsters.

Although there is no official record of this conversation, Kefauver allegedly asked Hill, “How did you possibly get all these men to give you so much money for so long a period of time?”

Hill answered, “Because nobody gives better blow jobs than I do; that’s why.”

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