Joe Bruno on the Mob – Virginia Hill – Part Six
Whereas, Hill may have begun the Kefauver Committee hearings relatively unscathed, after she left the stand there was a big target on her back, with both the IRS and the Immigration Department taking dead aim; not to mention the local police departments of any city that Hill dared venture into.
On June 20, 1951, just three months after the Kefauver grilling, John P. Boyd, the District Director of Immigration, issued an order to Hill’s husband, Hans Hauser, who was now living with Hill in Spokane Wash., which directed Hauser to leave the country immediately or be deported. Hauser, who was born in Austria and entered the United States via Chile, had overstayed his work-related visitor’s visa permit. Rather than suffer the wrath of the United States government, Hauser left immediately, along with his Hill’s son, Peter, and moved back to Chili.
With her husband and son now residing in a different continent, Hill went into hiding. However, Hill’s face had been splashed all over the country, both in the newspapers and during the televised Kefauver hearings As a result of her newfound notoriety, Hill was recognized as she hopped off a plane at Stapleton Airport in Denver (now Denver International Airport).
According to the July 7, 1951, New York Times, “Virginia Hill, the friend of gangsters, struck an agent for the Denver District Attorney’s Office and was detained briefly for questioning. Earlier in the day at El Paso, Tex., Hill had slapped one newspaper reporter and hit another with a shoe.
“The slap here (in Denver) came as Miss Hill stepped from an airliner at the Stapleton Airport where she was to pause only until her flight took off for Seattle. Miss Hill said she had made a mistake in hitting the Denver agent. She thought he was a news reporter. Miss Hill apologized to the agent after smacking him.
“The questioning, as brief as it was, caused her to miss her plane for Seattle, where Treasury Department experts have been investigating her income tax returns.”
On July 10, 1951, Hill made the national news again. John T. Jarecki, a Collector for the Internal Revenue, filed a lean in Cook County, Illinois, on the local property of Hill. Jarecki said Hill had underpaid her taxes in the area to the tune of $48,369.44.
The New York Times wrote, “Miss Hill is having similar problems in Spokane, Wash., where the Treasury Department has seized her $35,000 house and most of her personal assets against $160,000 in taxes that West Coast Agents said she owed. The lien prohibits her from disposing of any of her assets until the tax bill is met.”
On August 2, 1951, a fire sale of Hill’s assets took place at a government auction which took place on the front lawn of her home. More than 2,500 people gathered in stifling 90-degree heat to bid on Hill’s former possessions; even going as low as to bid on her garbage cans.
The big catch of the day for bargain hunters was Hill’s silver blue mink coat, which the government estimated at $5,000. The highest bid of $1,550 was given by Michael Feudersinger, a fire equipment sales manager who said it bought it for his wife. Mr. Feudersinger told the press than Hill’s husband, Hans Hauser, once sold fire extinguishers for him and was also his skiing partner.
Also sold at auction was Hill’s .25 caliber pistol with two boxes of shells, which garnered a mere $36. The auctioneer G.T. Gregson said he sold 100 pairs of Hill’s shoes, eight dozen suits, and assorted dresses, silverware, and dishes. The total hall for the government was $14,992, but since Hill owned the government more than $161,000, the auction of her worldly goods barely made a dent in her debt.
On the following day, Hill’s seven-room ranch-style house in an exclusive Spokane residential district went under the gavel. The winner of the auction was Jack H. Vertrees, who bought the house for $30,237; only $237 more than the government’s minimum bid.
At this point, desperate for cash, Hill traveled to New York to meet with former paramour Joe Adonis. She needed money and she needed it bad, but Adonis refused to see her.
On August 21, 1951, the Federal government put Hill’s blue 1950 station wagon, license plate number “Idaho ’50- K-4 477,” up for sale in New York City, where Hill had left the car in storage. The vehicle, which had been idle for months, had 12,000 miles on it. The auctioneer was Joseph R. Murray, and he told the assembled crowd of about 50 people that the interior of the car was real leather and not “leatherette.”
The government had hoped to harvest as much as $5000 for Hill’s car, and Murray said the opening bid would be $1,550. People began bidding in increments of $50 and when the bid reached $1,900, the bidding came to a halt. Although Murray pleaded for more bids, none were forthcoming. Murray banged down his gavel three times, saying, “Going once, going twice, going three times – sold!’
Hill’s car was awarded to Charles Zingraf, a security trader working at 49 Wall Street, and a resident at 4630 Concord Avenue, Great Neck, Long Island.
When the press pressed Zingraf as to why he purchased the car of a notorious mob moll, he said, “That means nothing to me. I have three children and I thought I picked up a bargain.”
A cab driver, who had dropped out of the bidding at $1,700, told the press that indeed Zingraf had paid much less than Hill’s station wagon was worth.
With Hill still in hock to the government for more than $113,000, she fled the country.
In early 1952, Hill, with an Austrian passport under the name of Onie Virginia Hauser, arrived at a fashionable Vienna resort with her husband. They each drove a brand new Mercedes Bends.
With the United States government nipping at their heels, Hill and Hauser traveled all over Europe in search of a spot to build the most luxurious ski resort in the world. They even ventured as far as Hong Kong, but their idyllic resort never materialized. Rumors had it that the two Joes; Epstein and Adonis would not front the money the tapped-out Hill needed for make her dream a reality.
In June of 1954, Hill was indicted in absentia in Los Angeles by a Federal grand jury for income tax evasion. This time her tab was $80,180. The IRS want Hill so bad, they declared Hill the “No. 3 Most Wanted” in America
Then Hill decided to get cagy.
She contacted the United States government and said she’d trade in her little black diary, which she had kept for years detailing the wrongdoings of several organized crime figures, in return for her IRS debt being erased. The United States government nixed the deal, but certain mobsters discovered, through their moles inside the government, that Hill was ready to become a rat. These mobsters filed this information for further reference as Hill tried to enter both Mexico and Cuba, where she had drug contacts. Both countries barred her admittance and Hill, with her husband and son, fled to Salzburg, Austria, where they moved into an apartment owned by Hauser’s brother.
Little is known about Hill’s movements throughout the mid-to-late 1950’s through the mid-1960’s. What is known is that Hill gave Hauser the boot and moved into an apartment in Salzburg with her son Peter. Her only ostensible income was from the money Hill’s son made as a waiter. However, there were rumors, that in her mid-40’s, Hill had resorted to her old ways; making money either on her back or on her knees.
Even though she had been gone from the American public consciousness for over a decade, American tourist in Salzburg often recognized Hill.
“All these jerks watch me like I was an exhibition,” Hill told a friend.
In early 1966, Hill decided to take a shot. She contacted old friends Joe Adonis and Joe Epstein and asked them for money. This was after Hill leaked word though members of the press that she was ready to release information from her little black book in the form of a self-serving autobiography. Adonis, now in exile in Italy, took the bait. He sent Hill money to meet him in Naples.
On March 22, 1966, this meeting took place in one quick day and one very long night. During this tryst, Adonis assured Hill that if she kept her trap shut, he’d continue to send her money. To keep her company, Adonis ordered two of his underlings to drive Hill from Naples back to her home in Salzburg.
What happened next is up for conjecture.
On March 24, 1966, Virginia Hill was found dead in a snow bank outside of Salzburg. She was 49 years old. A note was found next to her body that said Hill was “tired of life.”
First, the local coroner said Hill died of a heart attack and had been dead for two days. However, after the coroner did a toxicology test, it proved conclusively that Hill died of an overdose of sleeping pills.
Hill’s son, Peter, told the press, “I can’t understand why my mother died so suddenly and under mysterious circumstances.”
Did Virginia Hill take the sleeping pills of her own volition or did someone force them down her throat?
My money’s on the latter.