Archive for Albert Anastasia

Joe Bruno on the Mob – Carlo Gambino

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 15, 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 quiet man who dressed inconspicuously and was known to never loose his temper. But there is no doubt, Carlo Gambino, with his huge hawk nose and enigmatic smile, was one of the most powerful mob bosses of all time.

Gambino was born in Palermo, Sicily on August 24, 1902. The area of Palermo, called Caccamo, in which Gambino grew up in, had such a intense Mafia presences, the police and even the military, were afraid to enter into its domain. That left the Mafioso to rule the area with impunity, knowing whatever they did would not be reported to the police, if the police even cared what happened there in the first place.

Carlo’s mother’s maiden name was Castellano, and she used her influence with her family, who were Mafiosos, to introduce Gambino to “Men of Respect” when Gambino was barely a teenager. Gambino, who was slight of built and only 5-foot-7, quietly impressed his superiors with his calmness, his intellect, and his ability to do what was necessary to be done, even if it mean killing someone who needed to be killed.

In 1921 right before his twentieth birthday, Gambino was rewarded for his good work by being inducted into the Mafia, or what was known in Italy as the “Honored Society.” However, because of Benito’s Mussolini’s vendetta against the Mafia (Mussolini had arrested many Mafioso, including top Mafia boss Don Vito Cascio Ferro, who was sentenced to life in prison), many Mafioso, including Gambino, decided that Sicily was too dangerous for them to exist in the manner that they had been accustomed to. As a result, there was a huge exodus of Mafioso to that mountain of gold across the Atlantic Ocean called America.

In late 1921, Gambino left Sicily on the freighter SS Vincenzo Florio, which was headed for America. For the entire trip, Gambino subsisted on nothing but wine and anchovies, which besides olive oil, were the only food substances on the ship.

The SS Vincenzo Florio docked in Norfolk, Virgina, on December 23, 1921, and Gambino disembarked as an illegal immigrant. Wearing a natty three-piece suit and a black fedora, Gambino walked down the gangplank looking for a car, he was told when he left in Palermo, would be waiting for him when he docked in America, with flashing lights at the end of the dock. He spotted the car and when he arrived at it, Gambino saw a Castellano cousin sitting behind the wheel. The two men embraced, and in seconds they were headed to New York City.

When Gambino arrived in New York City he was pleased to discover that his Castellano cousins had already rented him an apartment on Navy Street in Brooklyn, near the waterfront. They also put Gambino to work in a trucking company owned by his first cousins Peter and Paul Castellano. Soon Gambino segued into the illegal bootlegging business, run by his Palermo pal Tommy Lucchese. Prohibition was instituted by the passing of the Volstead Act in 1919, which banned the manufacture, sale, or transport of intoxicating liquors, but not the consumption. On thing led to another, and soon Gambino was a main cog in the crew of Joe “The Boss” Masseria, the most powerful Mafioso in America.

However, another Mafioso had escaped Mussolini’s wrath and arrived in America in the mid-1920’s. His name was Salvatore Maranzano, second in command to Don Vito Cascio Ferro in Sicily. Maranzano figured the Sicilian Mafioso were much superior to those in America, so it was only natural that he should become the top Mafia boss in America. This did not sit well with Masseria, and the result was the Castellammarese War, which flooded the streets of New York City with scores of dead bodies from 1929-31.

Masseria’s crew was soon joined by top Mafia men like Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Albert Anastasia, and Vito Genovese, who were well-connected to Jewish gangsters Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel. However, since Masseria did not like his men doing business with non-Sicilians (Costello, real name Castiglia, was from Calabria), Luciano, Costello, Anastasia, and Genovese bided their time, hoping that maybe both Masseria and Maranzano would knock each other off, so that the younger men could take control of all their operations.

However, it was Gambino who made the first move in rectifying this situation. Sensing that he was on the losing side of the battle, Gambino secretly approached Maranzano and offered to jump to Maranzano’s side. Maranzano readily agreed, and soon Luciano, Costello, Anastasia, and Genovese, also wanted to join Maranzano’s forces. Maranzano accepted their offer, on the stipulation that they do away with Masseria, once and for all. That task was accomplished on April 15, 1931, when Luciano lured Masseria to the Nuova Villa Tammaro Restaurant in Coney Island. While Luciano was taking a bathroom break, Siegel, Genovese, Anastasia, and Jewish killer Red Levine burst though the front door and filled Masseria with lead, rendering him quite dead and ending the Castellammarese War.

Maranzano immediately called for a meeting of all the top Mafioso in the city (reportedly over 500 men) in a warehouse in the Bronx. At this meeting Maranzano said, “Whatever happened in the past is over. There is to be no more hatred between us. Those who lost someone in the war must forgive and forget.”

Maranzano then proceeded to form five families, each with a boss and an underboss. Under the two top men each family would have capiregimes, or captains, who would rule over the rest of the family: soldatos, or soldiers. The five bosses were Joe Bonanno, Joe Profaci, Lucky Luciano, Tommy Lucchese, and Vincent Mangano. Albert Anastasia became Mangano’s underboss, and Carlo Gambino – a captain in Mangano’s family. Of course, Maranzano made himself “Boss of All Bosses” (Capo Di Tutti Capi), which did not sit well with the rest of the young Mafioso.

Despite all the nice talk about “no more hatred between us,” Maranzano had a secret plan to kill Luciano, Genovese, and Costello — men Maranzano thought to be ambitious and a threat to his rule. Maranzano called on vicious Irish killer Vincent “Mad Dog” Cole to eliminate his perceived competition. Maranzano paid Cole $25,000 on the spot, with another $25,000 forthcoming when the dirty deed was done. To set the trap, Maranzano invited Luciano, Genovese, and Costello to his office in Midtown Manhattan.

However, Luciano caught wind of the plot through an informer close to Maranzano, believed to be Tommy Lucchese. Instead of showing up at Maranzano’s office, Luciano sent four Jewish killers to the proposed meeting, led by Red Levine, one the men who had offed Masseria. The four men, posing as detectives, bulldozed their way past Maranzano’s bodyguards in the outer office. Then they blasted into Maranzano’s office, where they stabbed and shot him to death. On the way out of the building, the four killers ran into “Mad Dog” Cole. They told him not to bother — that Maranzano was dead and the police were on the way. Cole did an about face, whistling a happy tune, having made a $25,000 payday without firing a single shot.

Luciano soon called the bosses of the other four Mafia families and told them the title of “Boss of All Bosses” was eliminated with Maranzano. Luciano then formed a National Crime Commission, which included Jewish mobsters Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, and Dutch Schultz.

Gambino, now firmly entrenched as a captain in the Mangano family, became the biggest money-maker in all the New York Mafia. And in the Mafia, money brings prestige.

In 1932, his pockets bursting with cash, Gambino married his first cousin, Catherine Castellano Carlo and Catherine Gambino eventually raised three sons and a daughter. (Marrying a first cousin was common in Italy, and not frowned upon in the United States as it is today. In fact, marrying a first cousin is now illegal in most, but not all, states. Editors note: My grandparents on my father’s side were first cousins, married in Sicily in the early 1900’s.)

When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, Gambino was already set to cash in on the now legal booze business, but he did so in an illegal way. While Prohibition was booming in illegal sales for the Mafia, Gambino planned for the days when he knew Prohibition would end. To achieve his goals, Gambino scooped up as many illegal stills that he could; in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and even as far as Maryland. When Prohibition ended and the price of alcohol blasted through the roof, Gambino had the largest illegal liquor distribution system on the East Coast of America. And since he was producing the booze himself and not paying any government taxes, Gambino could undercut the legal distributors, thereby making himself, and the Mangano family, a small fortune all through the mid-to-late 1930’s.

The start of World War II gave Gambino another opportunity to make even more illegal cash, through his wartime rations stamps racket. With war imminent against both Germany and Japan, on August 28, 1941, the United States government created the Office of Price Administration (OPA), whose job it was to print and distribute rations stamps to the American public. Without these stamps, people could not buy gasoline, tires, shoes, nylon, sugar, fuel oil, coffee, meats, and processed foods. Gambino figured the only way he could get his hands on ration stamps to sell on the black market was to steal them outright.

Gambino sent his best safe-crackers and second-story men to the vaults inside the Office of Price Administration, and they emerged with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of ration stamps. When certain low-level employees of the OPA realized the ration stamps were being stolen by the mob, they decided to cut themselves in on the deal, by stealing the ration stamps themselves and selling them to Gambino and his boys, of course, at bargain-basement prices. Gambino figured why take a chance of stealing the ration stamps, with the possibility of getting caught. So he took the crooked OPA employees offer, and started buying the rations stamps from them in droves.

The beauty of this scheme was that Gambino already had a ready-made distribution network in place: his network of illegal booze distributors. In October 1963, Mafia informant Joe Valachi testified before Arkansas Senator John L. McClellan’s Investigative Subcommittee on Government Operations, that in one rations stamp deal alone, Gambino made a profit of over $1 million.

Being the savvy businessman he was, Gambino knew he could not live the high life without reporting substantial income to the government. So Gambino invested the money he made from his illegal operations, estimated to be several millions of dollars, in legal businesses such as meat markets, pizza parlors, olive and cheese importers, carting companies, dress factories, bakeries, and restaurants.

By 1951, the Mangano family, thanks to Gambino’s incredible ability to generate income, was one of the most prosperous in the Mafia. The problem was Mangano did not get along with his underboss Anastasia. Mangano was jealous of Anastasia’s closeness with the other bosses, like Frank Costello and Lucky Luciano, who was in exile in Italy; a stipulation of the pardon agreement he received from the United States government after serving 9 years in jail on a trumped-up prostitution charge. Several times Mangano physically attacked Anastasia, a silly move since the younger and stronger Anastasia easily beat his boss in a fistfight.

With rumors abounding that Mangano was plotting to kill Anastasia, Anastasia, with the blessing a crime boss Frank Costello, decided to strike first. On April 19, 1951, the body of Phil Mangano, the brother of Vincent Mangano, was found in the marshes near Sheepshead Bay. He was shot five times in the head. When the police investigating the murder tried to contact Vincent Mangano about his brother’s death, they could find no trace of him. Vincent Mangano’s body was never found.

Within days, Anastasia sat down with the other bosses and explained that he killed Mangano before Mangano could kill him. With the backing of Costello, Anastasia was bumped up to the boss of the Mangano Family, and the name was changed to the Anastasia family. Anastasia made Frank Scalise and Joe Adonis his underbosses, and he gave his capo Carlo Gambino more men, and more power within the organization.

However, Anastasia’s reign lasted less than seven years. Anastasia continually butted heads with vicious crime boss Vito Genovese, who was looking to take over all the rackets in New York City, even if it meant killing the other bosses one by one. Anastasia received a terrible blow when his underboss Joe Adonis was deported back to Italy as an undesirable alien. Anastasia knew his days were numbered, when in early 1956 Frank Costello was shot in the head by Genovese henchman Vincent “The Chin” Gigante. Costello survived the shooting, and at Gigante’s trial, Costello, true to the Mafia code of “omerta,” refused to name Gigante as his assailant.

However, this greatly diminished Costello’s power in the Mafia, and at the insistence of Genovese, Costello was booted out as one of the fives bosses on the Mafia Commission. This left Anastasia without his closest ally, and put Anastasia in a vulnerable position. Soon after, Anastasia other underboss Frank Scalise was gunned down while shopping for fruits and vegetable on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.

The final shoe dropped, when on October 25, 1957, Anastasia was shot to death while sitting in a barber chair in the Park Sheridan Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. With Anastasia now dead, Genovese called for a sitdown with the other bosses, and proposed that Carlo Gambino, whom he had let in on his plot to kill Anastasia, should take over Anastasia’s family. The commission agreed and they renamed the family the Gambino Family.

The greedy Genovese called for a meeting of all the crime bosses, underbosses, captains, and respected Mafia men in America, which was to take place in the sleepy town of Apalachin, New York, at the home of Joseph Barbara, a capo in the crime family of Buffalo crime boss Stephano Magaddino. There were several items on Genovese’s agenda, but the prime one was that Genovese would announce himself as the “ Capo Di Tutti Capi,” or “Boss of All Bosses,” a title that had been vacant since the death of Salvatore Maranzano.

On November 17, 1957, scores of mobsters made their way to Barbara’s home. Included in the group were crime bosses John Scalish, from Cleveland, Sam Giancana from Chicago, Frank DeSimone from California, Santo Trafficante from Florida, Gerardo Catena and Frank Majuri from New Jersey, and Carlo Gambino, Joe Profaci, Tommy Lucchese, and Vito Genovese from New York City.

However, before the festivities got under way, state Sergeant Edgar Roswell, along with a dozen state troopers, stormed the house. Roswell later said that he became suspicious when he saw Joseph Barbara Jr. make hotel reservation for a dozen or so out-of-towners. Roswell said he then drove by the Barbara residence and saw dozens of parked luxury car parked in and around Barbara’s estate. Roswell said he called for heavy backup, and when his troopers arrived, they made their move.

Another rumor later circulated that it was Meyer Lansky himself, no big fan of Vito Genovese, who had tipped off the state troopers about the impending Mafia convention.

Be that as it may, when the troopers stormed the house, Mafioso, like in a Chinese fire drill, scattered in all directions. Men in expensive suits jumped though open windows, and if they could not make it to their cars, they hightailed it on foot through the woods, ruining their patent-leather shoes. Sam Giancana safely escaped by fleeing through the woods, as did Bonnano underboss Carmine Galente. But both men were a mess; their suits destroyed by thorny bushes. Some cars made it off the property before a roadblock was put in place, but most didn’t. When the dust cleared 58 members of the Mafia were detained and told to empty out their pockets. A total of $300,000 in cash was found on the 58 men, making the state police all the more suspicious about the meeting.

What was notable about the meeting was the men who chose not to attend. Besides Lansky, those absent were Frank Costello, Carlo Marcello from New Orleans, and Lansky’s pal Joseph “Doc” Stracher.

Of the 58 men detained, 27 were indicted on obstruction of justice, 20 of whom were convicted of refusing to answer questions about the purpose of the meeting. One of the men convicted was Gambino’s cousin Paul Castellano, who wound up doing a year in the slammer as a result.

The aborted meeting, more than anything else, led to the downfall of Vito Genovese. Not only did he not get the exalted title of “Boss of All Bosses,” but he became a pariah in the Mafia; ridiculed as being stupid and greedy for calling so many important men to the same place at the same time for his own purposes.

The day after the raid, the entire nation’s newspapers ran front page stories about the incident. No longer could Mafia men claim that the Mafia did not exist. The police, and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who for years denied the existence of the Mafia, went on a rampage, putting extreme pressure on the Mafia’s operations.

Although at first, Carlo Gambino seemed to be a victim of circumstances, the wily mob veteran plotted to turn the incident to his advantage. In fact, there was speculation that Gambino knew about the raid in advance, and went there purposely so that no would would suspect him of being in on the treachery; which would make sense in light of further developments.

With Genovese still stewing from his loss of face, Gambino colluded with Frank Costello, Meyer Lansky, and Lucky Luciano (still in exile in Italy, but able to move freely into Cuba to meet with his pals) to get Genovese up to his neck in a multi-million dollar international drug deal. Even thought dealing in drugs was forbidden by the Mafia, the greedy Genovese could not resist the urge to make a ton of dough.

When the time was right, Gambino tipped off the Narcotics Bureau about the drug deal, resulting in Genovese’s arrest. At Genovese’s trial, Gambino paid a false witness named Nelson Cantellops, who insisted on the witness stand that Genovese was not only involved in this particular drug deal, but was, in fact, involved in dozens of drug deals throughout the years. As a result, Genovese was sentence to 15 years in prison. Genovese served a little more than ten years of his sentence, before he died in prison on February 14, 1969.

With Anastasia dead, Genovese in prison, Luciano in exile, Frank Costello basically out of the Mafia loop, Joe Profaci getting older and weaker, and Joe Bonanno having a relatively small crime family, Carlo Gambino became undoubtedly the most powerful Mafia boss in America. His crew of over 500 made men out in the streets included his underboss Joe Biondo, his consigliere Joseph Riccobono, and capos Armand “Tommy” Rava, Aniello “Mr. Neil” Dellacroce, Paul Castellano, Carmine “The Doctor” Lombardozzi, Joseph “Joe Piney” Armone, and Carmine “Wagon Wheels” Fatico.

Gambino expanded his enterprises all over the United States. Besides New York City, Gambino had his fingers in the pot in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Boston, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. Gambino also ruled the powerful International Longshoremen Union, which controlled all the docks in New York, the main port for imports into America.

After Joe Valachi became the first known Mafia informer, Gambino reinforced the rule that forbade the sale of drugs in his crew. Gambino’s rational was that the penalties for selling drugs were so severe, men might turn rat when arrested, rather than do their time in jail like the “real men” of the Mafia had done in the past. The Gambino family policy was “Deal and Die,” and he enforced this rule with no exceptions.

Riding on top of the Mafia heap, Carlo Gambino became a popular figure in New York’s neighborhood streets of Little Italy. While the other bosses barricaded themselves in their mansions, with armed bodyguard, burglar alarms and electrified fences, Gambino walked the streets with impunity, stopping to talk with old friends, while be bought vegetables and fruits from street vendors. Gambino went to Ferrara’s on Grand Street, between Mulberry and Mott, for pastries. Then he would stroll down the block to get his Italian meats, cheeses, and Italian delicacies from Aleva’s, on the corner of Mulberry and Grand.

Starting in March of 1970, Gambino started having trouble with the law. While he was strolling down a Brooklyn street, Gambino was surrounded by New York City police and members of the FBI. They arrested Gambino and charged him with masterminding a scheme to steal $30 million in cash from an an armored truck company located in the Bronx. Gambino was eventually indicted, but the case was dropped due to lack of evidence.

This forced the Feds to try another tactic to take Gambino off the streets. In 1966 the government had issued a deportation order on Gambino, but for some reason the order was never implemented. In early 1971, after Gambino’s wife Catherine had died of cancer, the Feds did indeed try to implement this order, but on hearing about his imminent danger, the wily Gambino faked a serious heart attack. The Feds were incensed at Gambino’s ploy, so they had the U.S. Public Health Service give Gambino a complete physical. The Feds were aghast when it was determined that Gambino indeed had a severe heart condition. This was confirmed in 1972, when Gambino was rushed from his home at 2230 Ocean Parkway, in Brooklyn, to the Columbus Hospital in Manhattan with a massive heart attack. Why a hospital in Brooklyn was not suitable for Gambino was never revealed.

While recuperating at home, Gambino broke one of the laws he decreed himself — “Deal Drugs and Die.” Acting Genovese boss Thomas “Tommy Ryan” Eboli approached Gambino with a “can’t miss” proposition to broker a multi-million dollar drug deal with Louis Civillo, considered by the Feds to be the biggest narcotics dealer in America. The problem was, Eboli, a former boxing manager and notoriously bad gambler, did not have the $4 million needed to proceed with the operation. Gambino fronted Eboli the $4 million, but he lost it all when the Feds arrested Civillo, and confiscated the drugs and money. When Gambino approached Eboli about his missing $4 million, Eboli turned his pockets inside out, indicating he was flat broke.

This did not please Gambino too much. As a result, at approximately 1 a.m., on July 16, 1972, Eboli was shot five times while he was leaving his girlfriend’s apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Eboli died on the spot, and Gambino had enough influence in the Mafia Commission to order that his close pal, Genovese captain Frank “Funzi” Tieri, would now be the new boss of the Genovese Family. And so it was done.

Gambino had another setback, when in early 1973, his 29-year-old nephew Emmanuel “Manny” Gambino was kidnapped for ransom. This same gang had previously kidnapped a Gambino Crime Family captain, Frank “Frankie the Wop” Manzo for $100,000. After that amount was paid for Manzo’s safe return, the gang got more ambitious with the Manny Gambino kidnapping — this time asking for $200,000. Gambino tried to bargain, offering them only $50,000. Soon after, the body was Manny Gambino was found in a sitting position in a New Jersey dump near the Earle Naval Ammunition Depot. On June 1, 1973, degenerate gambler Robert Senter plead guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Apparently, Senter had fallen in debt to Gambino and it was easier to kill Gambino then to pay the debt.

After the death of his nephew compounded the agony of the death of his wife, Gambino became a recluse in his house on Ocean Parkway. He surrounded himself with family members, most notably his cousin Paul Castellano. By 1975, it was clear Gambino’s heart condition would not allow him to live much longer. So he began to plan for his succession as the head of the Gambino Crime Family. Wanting to keep power in his own family blood, Gambino anointed his cousin Paul Castellano to succeed him.

This did not go over well with the rest of the Gambinos, who expected longtime Mafioso Aniello Dellacroce to be the natural successor to Gambino. To appease Dellacroce, Gambino gave him all the Manhattan rackets controlled by the Gambino Family. And that was a big gift indeed.

On October 15, 1976, Carlo Gambino took his last breath, as his heart finally gave out. Gambino’s funeral was one of the most elaborate ever to take place in the borough of Brooklyn. More than 100 cars took part in the funeral procession, which ended at the Saint John’s Cemetery in Queens, New York City; the same cemetery his lifelong friend Charles “Lucky” Luciano had been buried at.

In the 1985 film “Prizzi’s Honor,” directed by John Huston and starring Jack Nicholson, actor William Hickey played Don Corrado Prizzi, a character based on Don Carlo Gambino.

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 – Vito Genovese

Posted in bootleggers, Cosa Nostra, criminals, crooks, Drug dealers, Drugs, FBI, Gangs, gangsters, labor unions, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, murder, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, police, Sicily, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 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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Racket-buster and future New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey called him the “King of the Racketeers.” And there is no doubt Vito Genovese was one of the most vicious, conniving, and treacherous bosses in Mafia history.

Genovese was born on November 27, 1897 in the tiny town of Risigliano, located in the Province of Naples in Italy. He reached the equivalent of a fifth grade education in Italy, when in 1913 he traveled to New York City to hook up with his father, who had come to America a few years earlier. The Genovese family settled in the Greenwich Village area of Manhattan, and soon Genovese was working for an young up-and-coming gangster named Charles “Lucky” Luciano. Genovese also became tight with Mafia thugs like Frank Costello, Joe “Adonis” Doto, and Albert Anastasia. But he didn’t particularly like to associate with Jewish gangsters like Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel.

The first time Costello introduced Genovese to Lansky and Siegel as their partners in various criminal enterprises, Genovese said, “What are you tying to do. Load us up with a bunch of Hebes?”

Costello snapped back, “Take it easy, Don Vitone? You’re nothing but a fuckin’ foreigner yourself.”

Because of the inclusion of criminal mastermind Lansky and the muscle provided by Siegel, the Prohibition era of the Roaring Twenties was very profitable for the Italians mobsters. They also hooked up with Irish mobsters Owney “The Killer” Madden and his partner Big Bill Dwyer, who was known as the “King of the Rum Runners,” and was the biggest distributor of illegal booze in the entire United Sates of America.

During the mid 1920’s, the biggest Italian mob boss in New York City was Joe “The Boss” Masseria, a porcine-looking thug, barely five feet tall, who was said to have the table manners of a “drooling mastiff.” Masseria took Luciano, Costello, and Genovese under his wings, and he inserted Luciano as his second in charge, or “Underboss.” The problem was, Masseria didn’t like his men associating with anyone who wasn’t a Sicilian, specifically mentioning Lansky, Siegel, Madden, and Dwyer. Masseria was not too fond either of Genovese, who was from Naples, and Costello (real name Castiglia), who from Calabria. However, Masseria tolerated both men because, after all, they were Italians. But Masseria would not elevate Genovese and Costello to anything above being a mere Mafia soldier. And this did not set too well with Luciano and his pals, Italian or otherwise.

In 1927, Benito Mussolini basically chased the Mafia out of Sicily; jailing some and killing others. Salvatore Maranzano, from the area around the Bay of Castellammare in Sicily, escaped to the United States with another group of Mafia exiles. Maranzano’s boss Don Vito Cascio Ferro had been imprisoned for life by Mussolini and his Chief of Police Caesar Mori. So Maranzano, figuring the American Mafia was inferior to the Sicilian brand, decided he would be able to take over all the rackets of Masseria and his cohorts without too many problems. Or at least, problems he couldn’t handle. This led to what historians called the “Castellamarese War.”

A mobster who met Maranzano soon after Maranzano arrived in America later said, “When we arrived it was very dark. We were brought before before Maranzano, who seemed absolutely majestic, with two pistols stuck in his waist, and about ninety boys who were also armed to the teeth surrounding him. I thought I was in the presence of Pancho Villa.”

From 1927 to 1930, the Castellamarese War raged all over New York City. Men were killed in and in front of pool rooms, Italian members-only clubs, all-night diners, bars and restaurants, and even in the streets as they emerged from their cars. The killers fired their guns from moving cars, roof tops, and darkened doorways. When the dust cleared, 50 bodies were piled up in the streets, which made Luciano consider the wiseness of his allegiance to Masseria. Lansky, who was the closest to Luciano, cautioned Luciano to “Wait the war out. Let the bosses kill each other, then we can step in and take over.”

It is not clear who’s idea it was first, but in the spring 1931, Luciano and Lansky had a secret meeting with Maranzano in Maranzano’s midtown office. At this meeting it was decided that Luciano and his cohorts would switch sides in the Castellamarese War and back Maranzano. Of course, this meant taking out Masseria, which Luciano had no compunction doing.

Luciano figured the best set-up was to entice Masseria into a situation the usually-cagey Masseria would feel totally comfortable with. And this, of course was scarfing down food in a four-star Italian restaurant.

According to Rick Cohen’s fine book on Jewish mobsters Tough Jews, on April 15, 1931, Luciano asked Masseria out to lunch in Brooklyn, far away from Masseria’s stronghold in Manhattan’s Little Italy. Luciano told Masseria, “We’ll go over to Scarpato’s in Brooklyn. Scarpato fixes sauce like in the old country, with the clams and the good olive oil.”

The mere mention of food caused drool to flow down Masseria’s lips, so he readily agreed to Luciano’s request. The two men took Masseria’s bullet-proof limousine from the lower east side of Manhattan to Brooklyn, and sat at a table in the back of Scarpato’s. In just a few short hours, Masseria consumed more food than the average man could eat in two days. When his belly was full, Masseria requested a deck of cards so that he and his best pal Luciano could play a little poker.

At around 3 p.m., Luciano excused himself and went into the men room. Seconds later, four men burst through the front door of the restaurant. They were comprised of the eclectic group of Genovese, Anastasia, Siegel, and a very capable Jewish killer named Red Levine. They reportedly fired 20 bullets at Masseria; some of them actually connecting with their intended target. Masseria rolled flat on his back, as dead as the card hand he was holding. In photos in the next day newspapers, all that was visible was Masseria’s right bloody hand, palm up, holding the ace of diamonds. From that point on, mobsters considered the ace of diamonds a curse. Some even sent the ace of diamonds to an enemy, warning him he was about to join Masseria in that hot place downstairs with no air conditioning.

With Masseria now quite dead, the four gunmen rushed to a waiting car, with the very nervous Ciro Terranova behind the wheel. Terranova was shaking so hard, he was unable to get the car into gear. Siegel angrily pushed Terranova aside, and drove the getaway car himself. A few years later, Terranova was banished from Luciano’s mob, because Luciano agreed with Siegel, Levine, and Genovese that Terranova had no guts.

When Luciano finally exited the men’s room, he found several nervous waiters, bullet holes in the walls and tables, and a dead Masseria on the floor. When the police arrived soon after, Luciano told the law that he didn’t see anything because, “I was in the bathroom taking a lead. And I take long leaks.”

Since the waiters clammed up, and the police themselves had an extreme dislike for Masseria, no one was ever arrested for Masseria’s murder, and it is doubtful that the police ever even looked for his killer.

When Maranzano heard about Masseria’s demise, he was beside himself with glee. Maranzano immediately named himself the winner of the Castellamarese War and the new boss of the Mafia. He immediately made Luciano his right-hand man.

A few weeks after Masseria’s demise, Maranzano called a meeting of every Mafioso in New York City, reportedly to be over 500 made men. The meeting took place in a large warehouse in the Bronx, near the Harlem River. At this meeting Maranzano divided these men into five separate crime families. As the five bosses of these families, Maranzano named Lucky Luciano, Albert Anastasia, Tommy Luchese, Joe Profaci, and Joe Bonnano. Maranzano also appointed each family a second-in-command, or “Underboss,” and he named Genovese as the “Underboss” of the Luciano Family.

Of course, Maranzano also named himself the “Boss of All Bosses,” or the” Capi de Tuti Capi,” and this was not palatable to Luciano and the other Mafia leaders, who were tired of always having someone lording over them, taking a big piece of their pies.

Even though Maranzano promised that his new organization, which he dubbed “Cosa Nostra,” or “Our Thing,” would keep peace and prosperity in the forefront of their operation, Maranzano secretly felt quite differently. He immediately drew up a list of people he wanted dead, because he felt their ambition was a threat to his leadership. Luciano, Costello, and Genovese were on that list. Maranzano invited Luciano, Costello and Genovese to a meeting in Maranzano’s midtown office. At this meeting, Maranzano planned to have Vincent “Mad Dog” Cole, an especially vicious Irish killer, execute all three men. Maranzano paid Cole $25,000 in advance, with another $25,000 payable after the dirty deed was done.

However, Luciano had a mole inside Maranzano’s inner circle, allegedly Tommy Luchese, and Luchese tipped Luciano as to the set-up. On the day of their intended demise, neither Luciano, Costello, nor Genovese were anywhere near Maranzano’s office. Instead, Luciano sent four Jewish gangsters, selected by Meyer Lansky and headed by Red Levine (who was also one of the shooters in the Masseria killing) to Maranzano’s office. The four killers posing as police detectives, bullied their way past Maranzano’s bodyguards in the outer office, and busted into Maranzano’s inner office, where they shot and stabbed Maranzano to death.

The four killers then hurried out of Maranzano’s office, followed by Maranzano’s ex-bodyguards, who were now looking for new jobs. The men sprinted down the stairs and barreled right into “Mad Dog” Cole, who was carrying a machine gun in a violin case. They told Cole that Maranzano was already dead, and to beat it before the cops showed up. Cole did an about face and followed the killers out of the building, having just received a $25,000 pay day without firing a shot.

With Masseria and now Maranzano out of the way, the five Mafia families thrived. However, Genovese, along with Anastasia the most vicious killers of the bunch, began an out-of-control killing spree.

First, Genovese’s wife (name unknown) suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth. The word on the streets was that Genovese had killed his wife and made her body disappear, because he had fallen in love with a woman named Anna. The only problem was, Anna was already married to a man named Gerard Vernotico. Now this was merely a small obstacle to Genovese, who killed Vernotico on a tenement rooftop, then married Anna two weeks later, on March 30, 1932.

In 1934, things started falling apart for Genovese, when he was involved in an extortion plot gone awry. One of his co-conspirators in the plot was Ferdinand Boccia. Genovese, fearful that Boccia was the weak link and would squeal, murdered Boccia himself. This would later come back to haunt Genovese.

In 1936, special prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey set his sights on organized crime, and on Luciano and Genovese in particular. After Luciano was convicted on a trumped-up charge of prostitution, allegedly orchestrated by Dewey himself, Luciano was sentenced to 30 to 50 years in prison. Before he left to do his time, Luciano named Genovese as the boss of Luciano’s family. But in 1937, Genovese was indicted for the murder of Boccia that had happened three years earlier. Instead of being fed the same fate as his pal Luciano, Genovese escaped to Sicily, one year after Genovese had become an American naturalized citizen. With Genovese unable to supervise the Luciano family, Luciano, from prison, degreed that Frank Costello was now the head of the Luciano Family.

While Genovese was in Sicily he was a very busy man indeed. Having reportedly taking $750,000 in cash with him, Genovese put this money to work for him on the streets. Of course this was impossible to do without the friendship and cooperation of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who was intimately involved in Word War II, as an enemy of the United States. Genovese paid for the construction of a power plant for Mussolini in Nola, located in Southern Italy. Then Genovese contributed $250,000 for the construction of a Municipal building that Mussolini wanted built. Whenever Genovese got a little short of cash, he contacted his wife Anna in America, who was handling Genovese’s business operations while he was in his self-imposed exile. During this time, Anna Genovese made frequent trips to Italy to replenish her husband coffers.

To show his gratitude for Genovese’s largess, Mussolini awarded Genovese the Order of the Crown of Italy, a high civilian honor. And because one good turn deserves another, in 1943, Genovese arranged for the murder in New York City of Mussolini’s chief nemeses, Italian newspaper editor Carlo Tresa, who was stirring up the pot against Mussolini in his radical Italian newspaper Il Martello, which was sold in Italian communities in America. The hit was allegedly done by up-and-coming mobster Carmine Galente, who shot Tresa in the back of the head as Tresa was strolling down Fifth Avenue near 13th Street.

In 1944, Mussolini’s empire was crumbling. Genovese, seeing the handwriting on the wall, switched sides and began working for the United States Army, basically as an informer, who led the Army to a slew of black market operators, whom Genovese had been doing business with. Soon, the Army got wise to why Genovese was working with them so readily. It seemed that every time the Army shut down a black market operation that Genovese had led them too, Don Vitone took over that operation himself.

With the war over, and all of the witnesses against Genovese either dead or disappeared, Genovese made his way back into the United States. With no evidence against Genovese, the prosecutors simply dropped the Boccia murder case against him.

Genovese immediately tried to gain back control of the Luciano family, but Costello, with the help of Lansky and Anastasia, was too firmly entrenched. So Genovese bided his time. He moved with his wife to a luxurious house in Atlantic Highland in New Jersey and took the guise of a civic-minded businessman who gave heavily to numerous charities, including the Boy Scouts of America. In fact, Genovese was heavily involved in the narcotics business, raking in millions and building up his war chest to fight his way back to the top.

Genovese had a minor setback, when in 1953, Anna Genovese, claiming physical and emotional distress, sued Genovese for divorce. During their divorce trial, which was reported daily in the press, Anna Genovese said that her husband had stashed millions of dollars in European accounts, and that he grossed between $20,000-$30,000 a week from the Italian lottery games. This caused Genovese much dishonor amongst his Mafia cohorts, and delayed his planned coup d’état for control of the Mafia families.

Genovese waited until 1957 to make his attack. Since his return from Italy, it was estimated that Genovese, through drug dealing, Italian lotteries, and his activities with corrupt labor unions, had accumulated about $30 million of “play money” to invest in treachery. His three main obstacles to achieve his mission of Mafia control were Frank Costello, Albert Anastasia, and Meyer Lansky. Since Lansky was Jewish and therefore not eligible to be in the Mafia, Genovese figured if he took out Costello and Anastasia, Lansky would have no other choice but to fall in line.

Genovese tried to take the first bite of the apple, when in 1957, he sent hulking ex-boxer Vincent “The Chin” Gigante to ambush Costello in the lobby of Costello’s Park Avenue apartment building. Gigante pointed his gun and said, “This is for you, Frank!” But the bulled Gigante fired simply grazed Costello’s head. A quick rush to the hospital emergency room and Costello was back in his own bed that same night. True to the code of omerta, when Gigante was captured and brought to trial, Costello refused to identify Gigante as his attempted assassin.

Genovese’s second upwardly mobile move was more successful. On October 25, 1957, Genovese arranged for the murder of Anastasia, who was filled with lead by two men as he sat in the barber chair in the Park Sheridan Hotel. Genovese originally gave the murder contract to his ally Joe Profaci, the head of one of the Mafia five families, and Profaci allegedly subcontracted out the hit to Crazy Joe Gallo’s Red Hook Brooklyn crew. Anastasia’s murder was never solved and over the years several men have privately took credit for the hit, including Gallo.

With Genovese still angling for his Mafia takeover, Costello and Lansky, with the approval of Luciano who was now exiled in Italy, devised a scheme whereby they could put Genovese out of commission for good without killing him. They enlisted the aid of an ambitious mobster named Carlo Gambino, who was looking for a rise to the top himself. Gambino approached Genovese about a proposed mutimillion international drug deal that would net them tons of money. Even though Genovese had outlawed drug dealing in his own crew, Don Vitone didn’t figure this ban extended to him, so he greedily agreed. Then Gambino, though his crooked connections in law enforcement, arranged for Genovese to be arrested on a drug conspiracy charge. However, the Feds needed proof before they could try and convict Genovese.

The wily Gambino knew a convicted minor drug dealer rotting in Sing Sing Prison named Nelson Cantellops. He approached Cantellops though an intermediary and suggested if Cantellops would testify in court that he had witnessed Genovese involved in several big money drug deals, Gambino would arrange for Cantellops to be paid the whopping sum of $100,000, a suspended sentence, and a release from prison. To accomplish this, Costello, Lansky, and Luciano would contribute $50,000, and Gambino would kick in the other $50,000.

Luciano later said about the sting, “We had to pay him (Cantellops) pretty good.”

Cantellops thought about the proposition for about two seconds and he agreed to take the bribe.

Then an anonymous tip was called in to the New York Narcotic Bureau saying that Cantellops would be willing to trade information on Genovese for his freedom. With Genovese being such a big fish, and Cantellops hardly a minnow, the government readily agreed.

In 1958, Genovese and twenty four member of his crew were arrested for violating the new Narcotics Control Act.

In 1959, at Genovese’s trial, Cantellops was the star witness for a full four weeks. Cantellops said under oath that he had personally witnessed Genovese and his underlings over the years making numerous drug buys. He also said that for two years he had acted as a courier for Genovese, carrying heroin from New York City to various other cities around the country. Cantellops testified that on one occasion he had accompanied Genovese to a meeting in the Bronx where it was discussed how to divvy up the heroin-selling territories.

Based almost exclusively on the testimony of Nelson Cantellops, Genovese and all 24 of his cohorts were found guilty. Genovese was sentenced to 15 years in prison, to be served at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia.

While in prison, Genovese continued to run his crime family though intermediaries. Mobster Joe Valachi later testified before the John L. McClellan’s Subcommittee that while in jail Genovese, because he knew he had been framed, became extremely paranoid. Genovese trusted no one, and even ordered the execution of his top aide Tony Bender, just because he suspected Bender, wrongfully of course, in being involved in the set-up.

In prison, Genovese developed nervous symptoms and severe heart problems. Vito Genovese died of a heart attack on February 14, 1969, while still in prison. He is buried in Saint John’s Cemetery in Queens.

In the 1972 movie The Valachi Papers, staring Charles Bronson, Genovese was portrayed by actor Lino Ventura. And in the 2001 TV movie Boss of Bosses, Genovese’s part was played by actor Steven Bauer.

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

Posted in biography, Book Reviews, Cosa Nostra, criminals, crooks, Drug dealers, Drugs, Gangs, gangsters, labor unions, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, murder, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, police, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 28, 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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While researching “Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks, and Other Creeps – Volume 2 – New York City,” I realized that I have a long way to go to even scratch the surface of presenting a complete list of all the miscreants who have roamed the streets, of what we now call “The Big Apple.”

“Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks, and Other Creeps – Volume 1 – New York City” started in the time period of around 1825, when the first New York City street gang, named the Forty Thieves, ruled what was then called the “Five Points Area.” The time period in Volume 1 ended around 1940.

However, while researching Volume 2, I found tons of information about various reprobates that started around 1824 (The Sawing Off of Manhattan Island), and ended in the time period around 1960. So it’s truthful to say that trying to write a series of books on this subject in chronological order is virtually impossible, because the more research I do, the more bad people I turn up in past time periods. So I’m not even going to try to write my books about criminals in New York City under that premise again.

Future volumes on this subject (There will be at least two more volumes covering just New York City, before I move on to other areas of America) will again highlight deviant subjects who lived in the 1800’s up until the present time.

Now for the good news. In “Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks, and Other Creeps – Volume 2 – New York City,” I’ve uncovered some real dillies.

Of course, no book on this subject would be complete without the prerequisite Mafia entries. So this book contains bios of men like the “Prime Minister of the Underworld” – Frank Costello, Albert “The Lord High Executioner”Anastasia, Joseph Bonanno, and the Mafia Killing of Police Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino.

Irish gangsters are also well represented here, starting with the first New York City Irish Mob Boss – Isaiah Rynders, and continuing with little ditties on Big Bill Dwyer – the “King of the Rum Runners,” James Farley – “King of the Strikebreakers,” and Joseph P. Ryan – President of the International Longshoremen Association – Port of New York.

You want crooked politicians? Well in “Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks, and Other Creeps – Volume 2 – New York City,” you’ll read about the “Ultimate Political Fixer” Jim Hines, crooked New York City Mayor Jimmy “Beau James” Walker, and whom I consider the most abominable politician of all time – Joseph P. Kennedy, Rum Runner Extraordinaire, and the father of United States President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

There is also a little piece on Allie “Tick Tock” Tannenbaum, one of Murder Incorporated’s most prolific killers, who turned canary and ratted out his boss – Louie “Lepke Buchalter. As a result of Tannenbaum’s testimony in court, Lepke got the electric chair, and Tannenbaum got a short prison sentence, then crawled into the woodwork, only to reemerge to testify in several more Murder Incorporated murder trials.

In “Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks, and Other Creeps – Volume 2 – New York City,” there are also pieces on garden-variety crooks like George Appo – “The Most Successful Pickpocket in the History of New York City” and William Sharkey – a vicious murderer who escaped from the Tombs Prison while he was waiting to be hanged.

Included in this book are articles on murderers Harry Thaw, who shot famed architect Sanford White on the rooftop of Madison Square Garden, and Ruth Snyder, who along with weak-kneed lover Judd Grey, brutally killed Ruth’s husband Albert Snyder. I also detail the vicious 1836 murder of Helen Jewett, a well-known New York City prostitute.

The Gay Nineties are well represented here too. You’ll meet Steve Brodie, the man who made a name for himself by jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge. Or did he really? You’ll also read about con- man Chuck Connors, who was called the “Mayor Of Chinatown,” even though the Chinese already had an elected Chinese mayor named Tom Lee. Connors made tons of cash staging bogus tours of Chinatown, resplendent with tall tales of murder and white slavery, and concluded with an excursion to a fake opium den, with fake opium addicts smoking fake opium, and sometimes even smoked molasses.

The Crazy Butch Gang and the Midnight Terrors were two ruthless Gay Nineties adolescent New York City street gangs. Crazy Butch was just that – crazy. Butch taught his dog “Rabbi” to rip the handbag off the arms off unsuspecting women, then run like the wind, until Rabbi met up with Butch latter, to give his master the spoils, in return for a nice meaty bone. Crazy Butch was nothing if not creative in his thievery. Butch used a bicycle to crash into female pedestrians, then when a crowd gathered to see what had transpired, Crazy Butch’s gang of boys, as young as ten years old, picked every pocket in sight, then scattered in all directions to escape arrest.

The Midnight Terrors were the bane of the First Ward, located at south-most point of Manhattan Island. They were called The Midnight Terrors because all of their robberies and muggings took place after dark, while most of the city was asleep. Led by “Chief” Dan Dalton, an incorrigible 14-year-old, the Midnight Terrors decided to start a baseball team. And that they did. And while the Midnight Terrors were causing mayhem on the baseball diamond using their sharpened spikes and an occasional bat to an opponent’s cranium, their non-baseball-playing gang members would roam the stands, robbing spectators at will.

The biggest con job of the late 1800’s was the “Green Good Swindle,” which was “built upon the common desire in human nature to get something for nothing.” Hundreds of thousands of circulars were mailed to targeted individuals around the country, offering, in vague language, huge amounts of counterfeit bills for a fraction of their face value. In these circulars, the word “counterfeit” was never used, but rather terms like “articles,” or “paper goods,” and sometimes even “cigars,” were used instead.

When the greedy suckers arrived in New York City to meet the green goods “operator,” they were shown bills that looked so real, they were, in fact, just that – real paper money. The green goods operator completed the transaction, by taking the dupe’s money, and purportedly giving him a suitcase filled with the counterfeit money. Then, a distraction would take place, and the suitcase would be substituted with an identical one. As a result, the mark was now in the possession of a suitcase filled with useless paper, and sometimes even sand. The “operator” would then hand the mark off to a “steerer, who, aided by the local police who were also in on the scheme, would hustle the mark out of town, on the next train available.

The beauty of the green goods swindle was that if the mark discovered, either on the train, or when he arrived home, that he had been hoodwinked, who could he run to? Certainly not to the police, since he was involved in an illegal transaction in the first place.

There is also an article in this book that is so outrageous, there is some doubt as to whether it actually occurred. It supposedly happened in 1824, when the local newspapers were not quite a reliable source of information. A man named Lozier, who was considered one of the brightest men in town, convinced the locals that the tip of Manhattan Island (which was inhabited by only 150,000 people at the time), because of the weight of the newly-build tall buildings, was sinking into the East River. The only way to save Manhattan, Lozier said, was to was to cut off the island at its north end, in the Kingsbridge region, then turn the island completely around. After this was done, they would need to anchor the sagging end to the north mainland. So in effect, when the task was completed, north would be south, and south would be north, averting the terrible loss of lives and property.

What happened next, you will have to read in the main section of this book, and make your only decision as to if this incident actually occurred, or not.

I believe it did happen.

And no book about crooks and criminals would be complete without an essay on the two crookedest lawyers of all time: “Big Bill” Howe, and “Little Abe” Hummel. The nefarious law firm of Howe and Hummel used every trick in the book, most of them illegal, to get the most vicious criminals of their time (1862- to past the turn of the 20th Century) declared not guilty in a court of law. Howe and Hummel not only defended the worst of criminals in court, but in fact, taught these same criminals how to commit their crimes in advance. And if the criminals got caught by the law, well, don’t you worry. They would be defended in court by none other than the diabolical duo of “Big Bill”Howe and “Little Abe” Hummel themselves.

“Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks, and Other Creeps – Volume 2 – New York City,” which is arranged in alphabetical order, is a labor of love, but it is also a work in progress. Volumes 3 and 4 will again feature the worst criminals in the history of New York City. Then I’ll move on to the rest of America, which, I guarantee you, will take up several more volumes on the subject.

I hope you enjoy reading about some of the most despicable people ever to roam the face of the earth.

I know I enjoyed researching and writing about them.

Joe Bruno

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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