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Mob Rats – Abe “Kid Twist” Reles ” Part 5

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 June 6, 2013 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

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Soon after Rosen’s death, with Dewey and his men closing in on Lepke and Murder Inc., Lepke went on the lam for almost four years. While Lepke was hiding in plain sight in Brooklyn, one-by-one his Murder Inc. killers were arrested by the police. Most clammed up, but some started singing to save their own skins.

Happy Maione, Dasher Abbandando, and Mendy Weiss played dumb to the cops. But Blue Jaw Magoon and Allie Tannenbaum were eager to cut deals in order to avoid Sing Sing’s electric chair.

On Jan. 24, 1940, Reles was picked up for the murder of small-time crook, Red Alpert. Reles was smug about the pinch, figuring there was no independent corroboration of his involvement in Alpert’s murder, which had taken place way back in 1933.

Reles was wrong.

Two Murder Inc. flunkies had run to the Feds and implicated Reles in Alpert’s murder: small-time thug Harry Rudolph, who had witnessed the Alpert killing, and car-thief Dukey Maffetore. Both men also connected Happy Maione to the Alpert hit.

Maione, who had been nabbed on vagrancy charge and not yet charged with Alpert’s murder, and Reles were housed together in the Tombs Prison on Center Street. Lying through his teeth, Reles told Maione, “Don’t worry Hap. Everything’s okay.”

On March 21, after a visit from his lawyer in prison, Reles sat down and wrote a letter to his wife, Rose. The letter said: “Dear Rose, Go and see (New York District Attorney) O’Dwyer, and tell him I want to talk with him.”

The next day Rose Reles paid a visit to the New York City District Attorney’s office. There she met Brooklyn assistant District Attorney Burton Turkus.

Rose Reles told Turkus, “I want to talk to O’Dwyer personally. I want to save my husband from the electric chair. My baby is coming in June.”

Turkus nearly broke a leg rushing to tell O’Dwyer about their good fortune. Hours later, Abe Reles signed a “Consent to Be Interviewed” form, and the ball was rolling to put Murder Inc. out of business for good.

 

*****

 

While his world was crumbling around him, Louie “Lepke” Buchalter was in limbo; moving from place to place in Brooklyn and in Manhattan, still hiding from the law. To make matters worse, there was a $50,000 bounty on his head. Things were so bad for Lepke, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, ignoring Adolph Hitler, called Lepke “The Most Dangerous Man on Earth.” New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia added to Lepke’s angst when he ordered his police commissioner, Lewis J. Valentine, to wage a “war on hoodlums.”

The National Crime Commission was in trouble because of Lepke, and they knew it. Word reached Luciano (who was in prison on a trumped-up prostitution charge orchestrated by Dewey) for advice as to how to handle the Lepke situation. Luciano knew there was only two ways for the heat to die down. Either Lepke had to surrender to the Feds, or Lepke had to be killed and left on the streets.

However, convincing Lepke to do the right thing would take serious conniving.

“Dimples” Wolensky was a long-time pal of Lepke’s; whom Lepke trusted without question. The Commission sent Wolensky to meet Lepke in hiding and to convince the fugitive the fix was in. Wolensky told Lepke if Lepke surrendered, he would be tried only on the narcotics charge; netting him five years in prison, at most. Wolensky also told Lepke if Lepke surrendered directly to Hoover, Dewey would then be completely out of the picture.

Lepke was skeptical and he told Wolensky he’d think it over.

Lepke conferred with his closest pal in Murder Inc. – Albert Anastasia. Anastasia told Lepke the plan sounded screwy.

Anastasia told Lepke, “As long as they can’t get you, they can’t hurt you.”

However, the pressure was on from the law, and Lepke knew if he didn’t turn himself in, his pals on the National Crime Commission would do him in instead.

On Aug. 5, 1940, gossip columnist and radio host Walter Winchell received a phone call at his nightly headquarters: the Stork Club, at 3 East 53rd Street. Although he didn’t know it at the time, the voice on the phone was that of Albert Anastasia.

Anastasia told Winchell, “Don’t ask who I am, but Lepke wants to come in. Contact Hoover and tell him Lepke wants a guarantee he will not be harmed if he surrenders to Hoover.”

            The following day, Winchell said on his national syndicated radio show, “Your reporter is reliably informed that Lepke, the fugitive, is on the verge of surrender, possibly this week. If Lepke can find someone he can trust, I am told, he will come in. I am authorized by the G-men that Lepke is assured of safe delivery.”

            On Aug. 24, 1940, Winchell received another phone call at the Stork Club; telling him to go to a drug store on Eighth Avenue and 19th Street and to sit in a phone booth in the back. Winchell did as he was directed. At 9 pm, a customer casually strolled up to Winchell and told him to phone Hoover and to tell Hoover to be on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 29th Street at 10:20 pm. Winchell himself was directed to drive at once to the corner of Madison Avenue and 23rd Street.

Winchell followed the instructions, and at 10:15 pm, Lepke, wearing a mustache, and 20 pounds heavier than Winchell had remembered him, entered Winchell’s car. Minutes later, the two men exited Winchell’s car and walked to a parked black limousine. Hoover was sitting alone in the back seat.

Winchell opened the back door of the limo and said, “Mr. Hoover, this is Lepke.”

Hoover said to Lepke, “How do you do?”

Lepke said to Hoover, “Glad to meet you. Let’s go.”

            Minutes after Lepke had entered the limo, he realized he had been screwed. But there was nothing he could do.

 

*****

           

With Abe Reles and Allie Tannenbaum doing most of the squealing in court, and with Blue Jaw Magoon thrown in for good measure, one-by-one Murder Inc. killers were tried and convicted.

Buggsy Goldstein and Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss were indicted for the murder of small-time hood Puggy Feinstein. At their trial, Magoon, who became Goldstein’s best friend in the mob, testified against Goldstein.

While Magoon was babbling away in front of the jury, Goldstein jumped to his feet and screamed, “For God sake Seymour, that’s some story you’re telling. You’re burning me!”

            Both Goldstein and Strauss were found guilty, and at sentencing, the judge asked Goldstein if he had any final words to say.

Goldstein stood tall and smiled, “Yeah Judge, I’d like to pee up your leg.”

            On the night of June 12, 1941, both Goldstein and Strauss were fried in Sing Sing’s electric chair.

            Partners for life until death, Harry “Happy” Maione and Frank “The Dasher” Abbandando, went on trial next for the 1937 murder of gambler George Rudnick. The main witness against them was Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, who himself was in on the Rudnick murder.

While Reles was on the stand telling intimate details of the Rudnick slaying, Maione’s face turned a deep red at the treachery of his former partner. Several times, Maione jumped to his feet, ready to attack Reles. But court officers subdued him before Maione could do any damage to Reles.

After being convicted of murder and sentenced to the chair, Maione yelled in court, “I don’t mind going to the chair, but I wish I was holding onto Reles’s leg when they put on the juice.”

After several appeals were denied, on Feb. 19, 1942, both Maione and Abbandando were executed at Sing Sing Prison.

While waiting for him to testify at several trials, including those of Albert Anastasia and Bugsy Siegel, the New York City‘s District Attorney’s Office had Abe “Kid Twist” Reles locked under 24-hour police guard at the Half Moon Hotel, in Coney Island. Also there in custody were songbirds Allie Tannenbaum, Sholem Bernstein, and Mikey Syckoff. All four men had separate rooms in the hotel, and all were constantly in the presence of lawmen; even when they slept.

On the evening of Nov. 11, 1941, Rose Reles visited her husband in his sixth-floor room. According to a policeman on duty, Rose and Abe engaged in a heated argument, which the policeman characterized as “quite a fight.”

The following morning, at 6:45 am, the assistant manager of the Half Moon Hotel, Al Litzberg, heard a loud thud from the direction of an extension roof, which lay four stories below Reles’s window.

            According to the Nov. 13, 1941 edition of the New York Times:

“Sometime after daylight yesterday, Abe Reles, squat bulgy-jawed informer against the Brooklyn murder ring, climbed out on a window edge of the sixth floor of the Half Moon Hotel on Coney Island, fully dressed, but hatless. Strong wind from the gray sea tugged at his long, crisp black hair and tore at his gray suit.

“Behind him, in his room, lights still burned. Behind him the little radio that had played all night, still blared and babbled. The informer, looking southward, could see the surf break against the jetties. He could hear the dolorous clanging of the buoy as it rocked in the tide. He could see far down the deserted boardwalk. It was shrouded in the morning mist.

“Reles let the two bed sheets down the hotel’s east wall, two windows north of the hotel’s Boardwalk front. Around one end of the upper bed sheet he had twisted a four-foot length of radio lead-in wire. He had wound the free end of the wire on a radio valve under the window.

“He let himself down on the sheets to the fifth floor. One hand desperately clung to the sheet. With the other, Reles tugged at the screen and at the window of the vacant fifth-floor room. He worked them up six inches. He tugged again with his full 160-pound weight.

“The strain was too much for the amateur wire knot on the valve. Little by little, it came undone. Reles tried to save himself. He kicked towards the fifth-floor window ledge with his left foot, but merely brushed the shoe leather from toe to heal. He plunged to the hotel’s concrete kitchen roof, a two-story extension, 42 feet below. He landed on his back, breaking his spine.”

Of course, this was total nonsense fed to the newspapers by the crooked police, who, in fact, had picked Reles up and flung him, kicking and screaming, out the window (Reles landed 20 feet from the base of the building. If he had fallen accidentally, he would’ve dropped straight down.).

It had been a $50,000 bribe, paid by Italian mobster Frank Costello to stop Reles from testifying at any more Murder Inc. trials, which had induced several New York City officers of the law to act in such an unprofessional manner.

 

*****

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Mob Rats – Abe “Kid Twist” Reles – Part 3

Posted in criminals, crooks, Gangs, gangsters, mobs, Mobsters, murder, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, United Kingdom with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2013 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

Nine days later, on July 19, 1931, Meyer Shapiro was strolling down Church Avenue and East 58th Street in the East New York section of Brooklyn, when a dark sedan pulled up next to him, and three gunmen started firing.

Shapiro jumped into his car and tried to escape; with the dark sedan speeding after him.

Policeman Harold Schreck was driving nearby when he heard gunfire. He rushed to where the shots had come from, and he spotted the dark sedan careening straight toward him.

Not seeing Meyer Shapiro speeding away for his life, Policeman Schreck ordered the driver of the sedan to pull over. But the sedan whizzed past him.

Policeman Schreck made a U-turn and gave chase; his right hand driving and his left hand firing a gun at the speeding sedan.

Soon, Schreck was joined by another police car manned by policemen Joe Fleming, with his partner Harry Phelps riding shotgun. The two police cars chased the sedan onto the streetcar tracks.

The sedan skidded all over the road, almost tipping over several times, but it remained straight on the tracks. At one point, Policeman Schreck spotted a pistol being flung from the car into an empty lot on Sutter Avenue.

The chase ended at Livonia and Howard Avenues; where the three gangsters sprang from the car and tried to flee on foot. The cops jumped out of their two cars and caught all three men before they could get too far.

The three men turned out to be Abe Reles, Harry Strauss, and Dasher Abbandando (who had diminished skills at “dashing”). The cops also found a sawed-off shotgun near the sedan, which had been stolen six days earlier at the corner of Pitkin and Stone. It was obvious the hot shotgun had recently been discharged.

The cops arrested the three thugs and took them to the station house. But all three refused to squeal.

The police had information Reles and his boys were “out to get” Meyer Shapiro, but Shapiro, only slightly wounded, went into hiding. With no dead body, and no one to issue a complaint, Brooklyn District Attorney Geoghan was forced to let Reles and his men go.

That made it 20 times Meyer Shapiro had survived a Reles-led pistol attack.

As a consolation prize, a few days later, Reles and Happy Maione cornered Joey Silvers on a Brownsville Street corner, and up close, they blew his head almost completely off his shoulders.

But, Meyer Shapiro was still on the loose; with Reles and his boys in hot pursuit.

Meyer Shapiro decided Brooklyn was too hot for him, so he holed up in Manhattan where he figured he was safe. Shapiro figured he could establish himself in Manhattan; a little loansharking, a few slot machines, and maybe even a speakeasy on the side. While attempting to set up shop in Manhattan, Shapiro exposed himself to the underworld element; not a smart thing to do for a man with a bullseye on his back.

On Sept. 17, 1931, Meyer Shapiro stopped in a Manhattan speakeasy for a drink. It’s not clear who spotted him first, but soon Kid Twist Reles, Happy Maione, and Buggsy Goldstein abducted Shapiro and took him to a Lower East Side cellar, located at 7 Manhattan Avenue.

The next morning a newsboy found Shapiro’s body. He had been shot once behind the left ear at close range, verified by deep powder burns where the bullet had entered Shapiro’s skull. As was his plan, Reles fired the fatal bullet. Even Abe Reles couldn’t miss with his gun pressed up against Shapiro’s noggin.

Scratch Shapiro brother No. 2.

 

*****

 

Now all that was left of the Shapiro gang was Willie Shapiro, who had been making noise he was out to get Reles and his crew, despite the fact Willie had disappeared from the streets of Brownsville.

Willie Shapiro was considered the weakest of the Shapiro brothers, and was not a top priority on the Boys from Brownsville’s list of things to do. Reles and Happy Maione were too busy strengthening their organizations to put much effort in locating Willie, who by this time had embarked on a career as a prizefighter. Unfortunately for Willie Shapiro, he spent most of his ring time on his back staring at the overhead lights.

By 1934, Willie Shapiro knew he was dead if he insisted on going after the men who had killed his two brothers.

He told his sister Rose, “What’s the use? I can’t make it alone. I’m out of the rackets. I’m going to forget about those bums.”

It turned out Willie had waited too long to announce his retirement from a life of crime.

Although Reles and his boys were not actively seeking Willie Shapiro, he was still unfinished business, and Reles hated unfinished business.

On July 18, 1934, the day after Willie Shapiro had spoken to his sister Rose, Vito Gurino met Reles and Strauss on a Brownsville street corner.

He told them, “I just spotted Willie going into a place near Herkimer. You know, we’ve got nothing to do now. Why don’t we take him tonight and be done with it?”

Reles and Strauss agreed with Gurino’s assessment, and a few hours later they abducted Willie Shapiro from a Brownsville bar and brought him to the basement of a bar-and-grill on Rockaway Avenue, which Gurino owned with Happy Maione and Happy’s brother-in-law, Joe Daddonna.

The hulking Gurino, Happy Maione, Pep Strauss, and the Dasher beat the crap out of Willie Shapiro. When Willie had been rendered unconscious, Happy put a stop to the festivities.

“This bum’s done for,” Happy told his pals.

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That was the cue for Strauss to demonstrate his neat rope trick.

“Pittsburgh Phil” trussed up Willie Shapiro like a Thanksgiving turkey; then the killers watched Willie’s dance of death. When Willie stopped struggling and fell limp, the killers stuffed Willie into a laundry bag to make it easier to transport his body. They flung the laundry bag into the trunk of their car, and drove to the sand dunes in a secluded area of Canarsie Flats. There they dumped the laundry bag containing Willie’s body onto a sand dune, and commenced digging.

A Canarsie resident, who was having trouble sleeping, decided to go for a stroll near the sand dunes. He was startled when he thought he had detected movement on top of one of the dunes. The stroller crept closer, and he spotted four men digging in the sand.

Suddenly, Happy lifted his head and spotted the witness. He whispered to his pals, “Somebody made us.”

The four killers sprinted to their car, jumped in, and sped back to Brownsville.

The witness ran over to where the men had been digging, and he noticed the laundry bag in the half-dug hole. He bent down, pulled open the top of the bag, and there was Willie, all trussed up and not looking too chipper.

The witness ran to the local police station, and when the police arrived at the dunes, Willie Shapiro was declared dead. His body was brought to the Medical Examiner, who discovered sand in Willie’s lungs; meaning Willie had been buried alive.

Scratch Shapiro brother No. 3.

 

Mob Rats – Abe “Kid Twist” Reles – Part 2

Posted in criminals, crooks, Gangs, gangsters, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, murder, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2013 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

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So the alliance was created, and Abe Reles’s and Happy Maione’s gangs merged into one formidable group of killers. The Shapiros had a few proficient gunslingers of their own, but with the addition of Reles’s new torpedoes, the tide seemed to be turning in Reles’s favor.

Word spread quickly through Brownsville about Reles’s and Maione’s ambitions and Meyer Shapiro was not too happy.

“Brownsville belongs to us,” Meyer told his brothers. “Nobody moves in here.”

Reles’s first order of business was to approach a young punk named Joey Silvers (Silverstein); one of the dupes the Shapiros used to do their dirty work. Reles paid Silvers, and he paid him well, to tip off Reles whenever there was an opportunity to ambush the Shapiros and kill all three brothers at one time. Soon, Silvers contacted Reles, and he told Reles the three Shapiros were holed up in a gambling house and would be leaving shortly, making them naked to a sneak attack.

Not having time to assemble the rest of the crew, Reles and Buggsy brought along a new confederate named George DeFeo. When they arrived at the gambling house, the Shapiros’ car was parked right out front. Reles’s plans were to icepick the tires, and then nail the Shapiros as they approached their car.

However, before Reles could even pull out his icepick, the Shapiros opened fire from the safety of the house. Buggsy took a bullet in his nose, and Reles absorbed another one in his stomach. After taking a single bullet in the head; DeFeo was dead.

Reles and Buggsy made it to safety, and with the help of a mobbed-up doctor, they licked their wounds and began figuring out how to take out Silvers for his betrayal, along with the Shapiros.

However, Reles had underestimated the depravity of Meyer Shapiro.

One cool autumn night, Meyer Shapiro jumped into his luxury sedan and scanned the streets of Brownsville, looking to hurt Reles where it hurt most: below the belt. Meyer Shapiro spotted the pretty young thing while she was window shopping at a local clothing store. She was the 18-year-old girlfriend of Abe “Kid Twist” Reles.

Shapiro swerved his car to the curb, and before the girl knew what was happening, she was in Shapiro’s car, kicking and screaming, but no match for a hardened thug like Shapiro.

Shapiro drove with one hand, and with his free hand he slapped and punched the girl into submission.

Shapiro then sped to a secluded area on the outskirts of Brownsville and raped Abe Reles’s girlfriend. As an added message to Reles, Shapiro pummeled the young girl’s face with both fists, as if she were a man.

Finished with his assault, Shapiro opened the passenger door and kicked the young girl to curb. She lay there for a while, and then dragged herself to her feet and staggered back to Brownsville, where she told Reles what had happened.

Reles was incensed; women were supposed to be off limits.

His anger intensifying, Reles plotted his revenge.

 

*****

 

Reles’s first order of business was to recruit another strong-arm for his crew. He picked a beaut in Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss, destined to be the most deranged killer in the history of Brownsville, if not in the entire United States of America.

Strauss, who had never been to Pittsburgh (he just liked the name), was called “Pep” by his friends. It was later said Strauss enjoyed committing murder so much (it was reported he killed anywhere from 100 to 500 people), he often volunteered for murder contracts because, as District Attorney William O’Dwyer once said, “Just for the lust to kill.”

Strauss was a connoisseur in the art of killing. He used whatever weapons available. But his favorites were the ice pick (for immediate death), and a length of rope, which Strauss used to truss up his battered victims backwards from ankles to throat, and then watch them struggle as they strangled themselves to death.

Reles said, “When we got Pep it was like we put on a whole new troupe.”

Reles also recruited a nasty Irish killer named Seymour “Blue Jaw” Magoon, who got his moniker due to the fact he had a five-o’clock-shadow all day long.

After he healed from his wounds, Reles called for a meeting with Happy and both crews.

            “Now what happens?” Happy said.

“Well, the Shapiros have to be hit,” Reles said. “We can’t just muscle them out; they got to go. And remember, the first one is Meyer. I got something to square him for.”

The Shapiros knew they were hunted men. But they were lucky Reles and his crew couldn’t hit the Statue of Liberty with a scattergun at five paces.

For the next year, Reles and his boys stalked the streets of Brownsville looking for the Shapiros; especially Meyer Shapiro. They spotted Meyer 18 times, and 18 times their bullets missed their mark. On the 19th try, Reles wounded Meyer Shapiro and two innocent bystanders. But Shapiro’s wound was superficial and he escaped.

In early July of 1931, Irving Shapiro convinced his brother Meyer they should relax and take a ride for the day to Monticello in the Catskill Mountains to visit old pal, Jack Siegal, who was on trial for running illegal slot machines.

“You look a little jumpy, Meyer,” Irving said. “We can run up and see if we can do anything for Jack. The ride will do you good.”

Since he was tired of being a clay pigeon for Reles’s shooting gallery, Meyer agreed to take the day off to breathe the clean, fresh, upstate air.

By this time, Abe Reles had his long tentacles stretched throughout Brownsville and his ears planted to the ground. Minutes after Irving and Meyer Shapiro left town, Reles knew about their country excursion. Realizing this was an excellent opportunity to whack the Shapiros, Reles assembled his crew and presented his plan.

“There’s a card game at the Democratic Club on Sheffield Avenue tonight,” Reles said. “Those rats are sure to be back for it. They figure to leave Monticello around four-five o’clock. That would get them down here about eight. They’ll eat and be at the club, say, ten-eleven o’clock. We’ll be there when they come out.”

Reles was almost exact in his calculations.

Around 1 am, with Reles and his crew loaded for bear, Irving and Meyer Shapiro exited the Democratic Club and headed for their cars. However, about a dozen other card players exited at the same time, forming a shield around the Shapiro brothers. Before Reles and his crew could get off a clean shot, the Shapiro brother were in their car and gone.

“Quick, over to their house,” Reles told his crew. “They’ll head there.”

Reles and his men sped over to 691 Blake Avenue; the apartment building where the Shapiros lived. The Shapiros’ car was nowhere in sight.

“Good, we beat them here,” Reles said. “Now we go in the hall and wait. Remember, Meyer goes first.”

They snuck into the hallway of the apartment building, removed the overhead light bulb, and waited in the dark. No other residents entered the apartment building, and luckily for Meyer Shapiro, he had decided he needed a nice rubdown at a nearby bathhouse.

“I don’t think I’ll go home,” Meyer had told Irving in the car. “I’m still jumpy. Drop me off at the Cleveland Baths. I’ll stay there overnight. Maybe it will loosen me up.”

Irving Shapiro did as his brother said, and after he parked his car near the entrance to his apartment building, Irving entered the darkened vestibule.

Reles hesitated; realizing it was Irving and not Meyer Shapiro. But before Reles could say anything, the rest of his crew commenced firing.  When the shooting stopped, Irving Shapiro, hit 18 times, lay dead on the tiled floor.

Scratch Shapiro brother No. 1.

Excerpt # 9 – Murder and Mayhem in the Big Apple – From the Black Hand to Murder Incorporated

Posted in criminals, crooks, Gangs, gangsters, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, murder, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, police, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2012 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

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Now all that was left of the Shapiro gang was Willie Shapiro, who had been making noise that he was out to get Reles and his crew, despite the fact that Willie had disappeared from the streets of Brownsville.

Willie Shapiro was considered the weakest of the Shapiro brothers and not a top priority on the Boys from Brownsville’s list of things to do. Reles and Happy Maione were too busy strengthening their organization to put much effort in locating Willie, who by this time had embarked on a career as a prizefighter. Unfortunately for Willie Shapiro, he spent most of his ring time on his back staring at the overhead lights.

By 1934, Willie Shapiro knew he was dead in the water if he insisted on going after the men who had killed his two brothers.

He told his sister Rose, “What’s the use? I can’t make it alone. I’m out of the rackets. I’m going to forget about those bums.”

It turned out that Willie had waited too long to announce his retirement from a life of crime.

Although Reles and his boys were not actively seeking Willie, he was still unfinished business, and Reles hated unfinished business.

On July 18, 1934, the day after Willie Shapiro had spoken to his sister Rose, Vito Gurino met Reles and Strauss on a Brownsville street corner.

He told them, “I just spotted Willie going into a place near Herkimer. You know, we’ve got nothing to do now (meaning killing). Why don’t we take him tonight and be done with it?”

Reles and Strauss agreed with Gurino’s assessment, and a few hours later they abducted Willie Shapiro from a Brownsville bar and brought him to the basement of a bar-and-grill on Rockaway Avenue, which Gurino owned with Happy Maione and Happy’s brother-in-law, Joe Daddonna.

In the basement, working over Willie pretty good, were the hulking Gurino, Happy, Strauss, and the Dasher. The beating was most brutal, and when Willie was finally rendered unconscious, Happy put a stop to the festivities; at least for a while.

“This bum’s done for,” Happy said.

That was the cue for Strauss to perform his neat rope trick.

“Pittsburgh Phil” trussed up Willie Shapiro like a Thanksgiving turkey; then the killers watched Willie’s dance of death. When Willie stopped struggling and fell limp, the killers stuffed Willie into a laundry bag to make it easier to transport his body. They flung the laundry bag into the trunk of their car and drove to the sand dunes in a secluded area of Canarsie Flats. There they dumped the laundry bag containing Willie onto a sand dune and commenced digging.

Shortly after, a Canarsie resident, who was having trouble sleeping, decided to go for a stroll near the sand dunes. Suddenly, he was startled when he thought he detected movement on top of one of the dunes. He crept closer and spotted four men digging in the sand.

Suddenly, one of the men lifted his head and spotted the witness. It was Happy and he yelled, “Somebody made us.”

The four killers sprinted to their car, jumped in, and sped back to Brownsville

The witness ran over to where the men had been digging and he noticed the laundry bag in the half-dug hole. He bent down, pulled open the top of the bag, and there was Willie, all trussed up and not looking too chipper.

The witness ran to the local police station, and when the police arrived soon after, Willie Shapiro was definitely dead. His body was brought to the Medical Examiner, who discovered sand in Willie’s lungs; meaning Willie had been buried alive.

Scratch Shapiro brother No. 3.

 

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Excerpt # 8 – Murder and Mayhem in the Big Apple – From the Black Hand to Murder Incorporated

Posted in criminals, crooks, Gangs, gangsters, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, police, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2012 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

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Nine days later, on July 19, 1931, Meyer Shapiro was strolling down Church Avenue and East 58th Street in the East New York section of Brooklyn, when a dark sedan pulled up next to him and three gunman started firing.

Shapiro jumped into his car and tried to escape, with the sedan speeding after him.

Policeman Harold Schreck was driving nearby when he heard the gunfire. He rushed to where the shots had come from and spotted the dark sedan careening straight toward him.

Not seeing Shapiro speeding away for his life, Policeman Schreck ordered the driver of the sedan to pull over, but the sedan whizzed past him.

Policeman Schreck made a U-turn and gave case; his right hand driving and his left hand firing a gun at the speeding sedan.

Soon, Schreck was joined by another police car manned by policemen Joe Fleming, with his partner Harry Phelps riding shotgun. The two police cars chased the sedan onto the streetcar tracks.

The sedan skidded all over the road, almost tipping over several times, but it always regained its balance. At one point, Policeman Schreck spotted a pistol being flung from the car into an empty lot on Sutter Avenue.

The chase ended at Livonia and Howard Avenues, where the three gangsters sprung from the car and tried to flee on foot. The cops jumped out of their two cars and caught all three men before they could get very far.

The three men turned out to be Abe Reles, Harry Strauss, and Dasher Abbandando, who had obviously lost his skills at “dashing.” The cops also found a sawed-off shotgun near the sedan (which had been stolen six days earlier at the corner of Pitkin and Stone). It was obvious; the hot shotgun had recently been discharged.

The three thugs were arrested, but they refused to talk.

The police had information that Reles and his boys were “out to get” Meyer Shapiro, but Shapiro, only slightly wounded, went into hiding. With no dead body and no one to issue a complaint, Brooklyn District Attorney Geoghan was forced to let Reles and his men go.

That made it 20 times that Meyer Shapiro had survived a Reles-led pistol attack.

As a consolation prize, a few days later, Reles and Happy Maione cornered Joey Silvers on a Brownville Street corner, and up close, they blew his head almost completely off his shoulders.

However, Meyer Shapiro was still on the loose, with Reles and his boys in fiery pursuit.

Meyer Shapiro decided Brooklyn was too hot for him, so he holed up in Manhattan where he thought he was safe; and he was – for a while.

While in Manhattan, Shapiro, his gang shrinking quickly, figured maybe he could establish himself in Manhattan; a little loansharking, a few slot machines, and maybe even a speakeasy he could call his own. While attempting to set up shop in Manhattan, Shapiro exposed himself to the underworld element; not a smart thing to do for a man with a bull’s-eye on his back.

On Sept. 17, Shapiro stopped in a Manhattan speakeasy for a drink. It’s not clear who spotted him first, but soon Kid Twist, Happy, and Buggsy abducted Shapiro and took him to a Lower East Side cellar located at 7 Manhattan Avenue.

The next morning a newsboy found Shapiro’s body in that cellar. He had been shot once behind the left ear at extremely close range, which was verified by deep powder burns where the bullet had entered Shapiro’s skull. As was his plan, Reles fired the fatal shot himself, and even Reles couldn’t miss with his gun pressed up against Shapiro’s noggin.

Scratch Shapiro brother No. 2.

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Excerpt # 6 – Murder and Mayhem in the Big Apple – From the Black Hand to Murder Incorporated

Posted in criminals, crooks, Gangs, gangsters, mobs, Mobsters, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, police, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2012 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

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They started out as punk kids looking to make a small score anyway they could. However, the Boys from Brownsville advanced to being the right arm of Murder Incorporated; the most blood-thirsty organization in the history of America.

In the early 1920’s, the Shapiro brothers controlled the illegal activities in the Brownville section of Brooklyn with an iron fist. Meyer was the second-oldest and he ran the show. Nothing was beneath Meyer and he once claimed he owned 15 brothels in Brownville, with no partners except his brothers to share in the proceeds.

“I’m the boss of Brownsville,” Meyer said to anyone who doubted his clout.

Irving was the oldest Shapiro brother; not as bright or as tough as Meyer, but still considered the second-in-charge. Willie was the youngest of the three – not too bright and not too tough – not a good combination in the means streets of Brownsville. Willie was basically considered a joke and lucky to have been born into the Shapiro family.

Besides running broads, the Shapiro brothers cornered the market in Brownsville on illegal booze and illegal slot machines. To continue to operate untouched, Meyer was smart enough to pay tribute to the bigger mob bosses from the other parts of Brooklyn (Meyer didn’t consider them partners; just the cost of doing business).

“We got everything straightened out our way,” Meyer told his brothers. “As long as we stay in our own backyard, we’ve got nothing to worry about.”

Then, a young street punk named Abe “Kid Twist” Reles started having ideas.

Reles’ father, Abraham, was an Austrian Jew; a humble man who had come to America to seek a better life. Upon his arrival in the “Mountain of Gold,” Abraham Reles supported his family by doing piece work in Manhattan’s Garment Center. Soon, he had saved enough money to start his own business – selling knishes on the streets of Brooklyn with his mobile stand, which Abraham Reles pushed from street corner to street corner, looking for the busiest spot.

Abe Reles was a stocky 5-foot-2-inch menace, with the large and powerful hands of a 6-footer, and he abhorred his father’s honorable way of life. Reles quit school after the eighth grade and went to work as a go-fer for the Shapiros. The Shapiros used Reles for the most menial of tasks; running errands and sometimes keeping an eye on one of the many Shapiro-brothers-owned slot machines.

One day, Reles took a bullet to his back while minding a Shapiro slot machine (a mere flesh wound), but this got Reles to thinking.

He told his childhood pal Martin “Buggsy” Goldstein, “Why do we have to take the left-overs? We should cut a piece. The hell with those guys.”

            (It was about this time that Reles took  the nickname “Kid Twist,” in honor of a previous New York City Jewish mobster named Max “Kid Twist” Zwerbach, who was killed in front of a Coney Island dance hall in 1908. Ironically, both Kid Twists met their end in Coney Island.)

Reles was the pied piper and Goldstein was his follower. Whereas Reles was a tough runt who could kill with the best of them, the hulking Goldstein was the definition of street muscle. Reles snapped his fingers, and Goldstein jumped to attention and did what Reles told him to do. Reles decided that he and Goldstein should go into business for themselves; nothing big, maybe a few slot machines and a single brothel for starters.

However, Reles knew the Shapiros had too many men on the street and that he needed to make alliances with other street toughs in order to bring his plans to fruition. Reles told Buggsy they should pay a little visit to Happy and the Dasher.

Harry “Happy” Maione and Frank “Dasher” Abbandando were two Italian good-for-nothings who headed the “Ocean Hill Hooligans,” a ruthless street gang which ran the bookmaking and loan-shaking operations in Ocean Hill, Brooklyn, which was adjacent to Brownsville. Maione, the elder of the two, was the boss; Abbandando – his second-in-command.

“Dasher” got his nickname because he had been a dashing baseball player for the Elmira Reformatory, where he had spent most of his youth. In fact, people said the hulking Abbandando could have been a hell-of-a professional baseball player if that had been his bent. The movie-star-handsome Dasher also had a slight problem with woman: he enjoyed raping them. Years later, as he awaited his murder trial, Dasher admitted he had participated in dozens of rapes, but he denied one rape in particular.

“That one didn’t count,” Dasher said. “I married her later.”

Dasher’s usual mode of murder was the ice pick because, “It didn’t make too much noise.”

Happy Maione was short and mean, with beady eyes that seemed to bore a hole into the forehead of the person he was berating. In fact, Happy was called “Happy” because a smile rarely crossed his protruding lips.

Once, in order to kill someone who Murder Incorporated said needed to go, the slender Maione dressed up as a sexy woman and knocked on the apartment door of his mark (after removing the light bulb in the hallway, of course). The sucker eyed what he thought was an attractive dame in the peephole of his door (for once Maione was smiling; his fake eye-lashed eyes were fluttering too). As a result, the mark opened the door with the glee of a schoolboy panting on his first date. As soon as the door flung open, Maione and his accomplice filled the victim with several bullet holes.

Abe Reles figured mean thugs like Happy and the Dasher would be swell partners in a takeover of the Brownsville rackets. He approached the Dasher first.

            “How about we get together for a little bookmaking?” Reles told the Dasher. “We could handle some betting; you here, and me and Buggsy in Brownsville.”

The Dasher was not too sure this was the right thing to do.

“I don’t know. Me and Happy are okay here,” the Dasher said. “And what about those Shapiros? They won’t like it.”

“Let me worry about those bums,” Reles said. “I’m for Kid Reles from here on in.”

Reles set up a meeting between himself and Buggsy, and Happy and the Dasher. Reles got right to the point.

“Those bums can be taken,” Reles told Happy.

Happy was willing to listen, but not too eager to join forces.

“What’s on your mind?” Happy said.

“Listen, if we put a mob together we could take everything over,” Reles said.       

Happy was still unconvinced.  “Look, I’m the boss of Ocean Hill, and I get left alone. Why should I stick my neck out?”

“You throw in with us, and we all move in,” Reles said.

“Where do I fit in if I do?” Happy said.

“Simple,” Reles said. “We take care of the Shapiros; then we take over. Everything goes into the pot: Brownsville, East New York, Ocean Hill – everything. Then we cut down the middle.”

Happy, who secretly hated Reles (and he knew Reles hated Happy, too), told Reles he’d think about it.

Happy then approached his mentor Louis Capone about Reles’ proposition. Capone (no relation to Al Capone) was ostensibly a Brooklyn restaurateur, but was, in fact, a big-time gangster with close ties to Mafioso like Joe “Adonis” Doto and Albert “The Lord High Executioner” Anastasia. Capone was knee-deep in loan-sharking and was also a force in several labor union rackets.

New York City District Attorney William O’Dwyer once told the New York Times, “Capone had his fingers dipped in every dirty crime committed by the organized crime gangs. He was the contact between lesser lights like Reles, Straus, Maione, and Goldstein, and bosses like Anastasia and Buchalter (Louie Lepke). But he was not a real head of the mob.”

Happy figured if Capone gave his blessing for a marriage between Happy and Reles, it must be the right thing to do. So Happy laid out Reles’ plan to Capone.

Without hesitation, Capone told Happy. “It sounds real good, Hap.”

Capone even convinced Happy to take in another Capone protégé, Vito Gurino, a 5 foot-6-inch, 265-pound ox, who could kill someone as easily as eating a meatball sandwich. This gave the Reles-Maione crew one more valuable assassin in their war against the Shapiros.

So the alliance was made, and Abe Reles’ and Happy Maione’s gangs merged into one formidable group of killers. The Shapiros had a few proficient gunslingers of their own, but with the addition of his new torpedoes, the tide seemed to be turning in Reles’ favor.

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Joe Bruno on the Mob – Murder Incorporated

Posted in criminals, crooks, Drug dealers, FBI, FBI, Gangs, gangsters, labor unions, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, murder, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, police, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2012 by Joe Bruno's Blogs


After the Castellammarese War ended in 1931, with both opposing bosses, Joe “The Boss” Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano ending up quite dead due to the treachery of Lucky Luciano, amongst others, Luciano, along with Jewish mobster mastermind Meyer Lansky, formed a nine-member National Crime Commission, which cut across ethnic lines. There was no single boss of this commission, but instead the leadership was divided equally amongst Luciano, Lansky, Lansky’s sidekick Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Frank Costello, Joe Bonanno, Vincent Mangano, Joe “Adonis “Doto, Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, and his right-hand man Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro. (Loose cannon Dutch Schultz – real name Arthur  Flegenheimer – was not a member of the Commission for exactly that reason: he was a loose cannon and could not be trusted with making common sense decisions.)         

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Of course, all corporations need a separation of powers within that corporation, whereas certain people are given duties that do not infringe on the power and duties of other members of that organization. (Make no mistake, the National Crime Commission ran like a well-oiled machine, and indeed operated like an unregistered corporation)                                                           

This is where Murder Incorporated came into play.

It was decided that for the good of the National Crime Commission sometimes distasteful things must be done to keep the Commission nice and profitable. This included killing people who endangered the continued flow of cash into the Commission’s coffers. The Commission decided that they needed to establish a separate branch of the Commission, that was responsible for one thing and one thing only: the murder of those people the bosses said needed to be killed.

Louie Lepke was put in charge of, what the press called Murder Inc., and to assist Lepke in his duties, the Commission appointed Albert Anastasia, nicknamed “The Lord High Executioner,” to be Lepke’s right-hand-man. Lepke would never give a direct order to any of his killers to do a job. Instead, Lepke used trusted men like Mendy Weiss and Louis Capone, to issue the final order and decree to the hit men chosen. By keeping a level, or two, of insulation between himself and the actual killers, Lepke figured nothing could ever be directly pinned on him.

And at first, Lepke was right, until he made one fatal mistake. But we’ll get to later.

The first order of business for Lepke and Anastasia was to assemble a crack hit team to do the actual dirty work. Through Louis Capone, who was close to Anastasia, Lepke had been nurturing a group of homicidal maniacs, some of whom with rather kill that breathe the cool fresh air of Brooklyn. These killers were called “The Boys from Brownsville,” whom we featured earlier in this book. The Boys from Brownsville were hardly the only killers employed by Murder Inc., but they were the foundation which led to as many as 100 freelance assassins being put on a steady weekly salary (of $125 and up), to be ready to kill whenever an order was given. These men were sometimes paid extra for a job especially well-done, and they were allowed to operate in designated territories in the gambling and loansharking businesses, or in any illegal operation, like hijackings, and even kidnappings. But one thing is for sure: even if a member of Murder Inc.  didn’t kill anyone for a month, or two, or three, his killing salary came in steadily every week.

Now let’s get to the cast of characters of Murder Inc.

The first and foremost turned out to be the biggest headache for Lepke: Abe “Kid Twist” Reles. As we discussed earlier in this book, by eliminating the three Shapiro brothers, Meyer, Irving, and Willie, Reles along with his childhood pal Martin “Buggsy” Goldstein, took over all the illegal rackets in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. To do so, Reles enlisted the help of Harry “Happy” Maione and Frank “Dasher “ Abbandando of the neighboring “Ocean Hill Hooligans.” Soon, such cutthroat killers like Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss, Vito Gurino, and “Blue Jaw” Magoon were taken into the fold, and the Boys from Brownsville were a formidable group of killers indeed. The key for their transition from Brownsville to the big time was Louis Capone, ostensibly a Brooklyn restaurateur, who was very close to Albert Anastasia.

When Anastasia, along with Lepke, was entrusted by the Commission to form Murder Inc., Anastasia approached Capone and said, “What about Reles and his boys from Brownsville? Are these guys capable of doing what needs to be done? No questions asked.”

Capone assured Anastasia that Reles and his boys were stone-cold killers, and efficient ones at that. The only problem Capone had was that Reles and Maione, considered to be the number one and number two leaders of the group, hated each other’s guts; and they didn’t trust each other much either.

Despite their petty differences, Reles and Maione worked like a well-oiled killing machine. Under the direction of Anastasia and Capone, the Murder Inc. killers operated in such a manner that was almost foolproof. When assignments were given out by the bosses for killings all over the country, the arrangements were made in a way that detection of the actual killers was almost impossible. The key to their method was the concepts of corroboration and separation of powers. The bosses brought in several men to do different aspects of each job, with one man knowing nothing about the other men, and their involvement. Still, each man was so intimately involved in the operation, he would be considered an accomplice, and his possible corroborating testimony was useless in a court of law, in case he ever decided to turn rat.

For instance, let’s say Joe Schmoe from Illiniois was next on Murder Inc.’s hit list. Murder Inc. would hire one man to steal an automobile for the getaway. Then another man would be directed to get as many guns as were needed for the job. Then there would be a third man, who would be the ‘finger-man”: the one who would point out Joe Schmoe to the actual shooters. Then of course, they needed a getaway driver, and a driver of a “crash car”: a legitimately registered car, that would crash into a pursuing police car, or the car of a nosy citizen, after the deed was done. The reason for the legit car was that the driver of the crash car could claim it was just an accident, while the shooters escaped in the stolen car. (For obvious reasons, it was not a smart idea to crash into a police car with a stolen car.)

The beauty of this routine was that each man involved in the murder would have limited knowledge of the other men involved in the hit. The man who stole the car would not know who purchased the guns, or who did the actual shooting,  etc….etc….

Of course, Lepke and Anastasia did not rely entirely on the Boys from Brownsville to do all their dirty work. Other killers were needed to do a variety of jobs in a myriad of places. One killer was enlisted from a unlikely place: the Loch Sheldrake Country Club, in the Catskills, in upstate New York. 

The Loch Sheldrake Country Club was owned by Sam Tannenbaum, who had first owned a grocery store on Orchard Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The Loch Sheldrake Country Club was a ritzy establishment, and it housed many rich Jewish families for their summer vacations. Of course, Lepke and his crew were well-represented at the Loch Sheldrake. Those gangsters who rubbed elbows with the legitimate Jewish businessmen included Lepke, his partner Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro, Shimmy Salles, a bagman for Lepke’s rackets, Curly Holtz, a labor racketeer, and “Big Harry” Greenburg, who was Lepke and Shapiro’s partners in various Garment Center swindles.

Gurrah Shapiro, a thick-chested gorilla-of-a-man, was quite a character himself, and also quite capable, as was Lepke, of pulling the trigger when necessary. Whenever Shapiro was angry, and that was often, his favorite saying was “Get out of here.” Yet, with his gravelly voice, the phrase sounded like “Gurra dahere.” Hence, his pals gave Shapiro the nickname “Gurrah.”

Sam Tannenbaum had a teenaged son named Allie, who Sam eventually was grooming as his replacement when Sam decided to retire. Sam Tannenbaum employed Allie at his hotel, either waiting tables, or setting up beach chairs by  the lake. Sam also did not pay Allie a dime for his work, to ensure Allie didn’t disappear to his old haunts on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, until after the summer season was over. As the owner’s son, the Jewish gangsters invited Allie Tannenbaum to all their parties, and Allie got a fresh taste of what it was like to be around people who had coins constantly jingling in their pockets. This made him a likely suspect to be drawn into their world of  murder and mayhem.

One day, after the summer season of 1931 was over at Loch Sheldrake, Tannenbaum was strolling down Broadway in Manhattan, when he bumped into “Big Harry” Greenberg.

Greenberg asked Tannenbaum, “Do you want a job?”

“I could use one, if it pays,” Tannenbaum said.

Greenberg  smiled. “This one is for Lepke. You know what kind of a job it will be.”

Tannenbaum shrugged, and said he would do whatever it took to earn some fancy cash, so he could spread it around like his Jewish gangster idols.

Little did Greenberg know he was hiring one of his eventual killers.

Tannenbaum started working for Lepke, initially for $35 a week. His job included general assignments like slugging, strikebreaking, and throwing stink bombs where they were needed to be thrown. Tannenbaum later graduated to more important duties, like “schlammings,” which meant he “schlammed,”or cracked the heads of union workers who were not towing Lepke’s line.

As his work production increased, so did Tannenbaum’s salary. In short order, Tannenbaum was intimately involved in six murders, and he helped dispose of the body of a seventh murder victim. As a result of  “making his bones” in the murder department, Tannenbaum started raking in an impressive $125 a week; more than he made in an entire summer at his father’s resort. Because of Tannenbaum’s summer location in the Catskills, Tannenbaum’s job consisted mostly of  murders and extortions in upstate New York. Tannenbaum was a valuable asset to Lepke in Sullivan County, because Tannenbaum was familiar with the back highways and numerous lakes, where bodies could be disposed of.  During the winter, Tannenbaum and his family vacationed in Florida, where Tannenbaum worked as a strong-arm-man in several of Lepke’s gambling joints.

            In the early 1930’s Lepke added another valuable asset to Murder Inc., when he hired Charlie “The Bug” Workman.

“The Bug” was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1908, the second of six children born to Samuel and Anna Workman. Workman quit school in the 9th grade, and began roaming the streets of the Lower East Side, looking for trouble. When he was 18, Workman was arrested for the first time, for stealing a $12 bundle of cotton thread from a truck parked on Broadway. Since it was his first offense, Workman got off with simple probation. The following year, Workman was arrested for shooting a man behind the ear over who-owed-who $20. By this time, Workman’s reputation on the streets was such, the man he shot refused to testify against  him, and even said he couldn’t  truthfully identify Workman as the shooter. Miffed, the cops pulled up his file and decided Workman had violated his parole on the cotton theft. As a result, Workman was sent to the New York State Reformatory. For the next few years, Workman was in and out of prison, for such parole violations as  associating with “questionable characters” and “failure to get a job.”

            In 1926, Workman hooked on as a freelance leg breaker, or schlammer, for Lepke’s union strike breaking activities. Workman did such a good job, in the early 1930’s, Lepke put Workman on his permanent payroll at $125 a week, as a killer for Lepke’s Murder Incorporated machine. Lepke liked Workman’s cool demeanor, and after Workman performed a few exceptional “hits” for Lepke, Lepke gave him the nickname “The Bug,” because a person had to be crazy to kill with the calm detachment Workman displayed when  performing his gruesome tasks. Workman’s other nickname “Handsome Charlie,” was given to him by members of the opposite sex.

For the next few years, Workman was in and out of trouble with the law. In 1932, he was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. In 1933, Workman was arrested again for decking an off-duty police officer after a minor traffic dust-up. All the while, his specialty was  killing whomever Lepke said needed to be killed. After a hit was done, Workman enjoyed the fringe benefit of “sweeping out the pockets” of his victims. Most of the times, Workman earned himself an extra thousand dollars or so for his efforts. And one time he even found a ten-thousand-dollar bonus in the pants pocket of some poor sucker whom he had just whacked.

This bad habit almost got Workman into big trouble, but we’ll get to that later too.

Lepke’s Murder Inc. didn’t limit it’s exploits to the New York City area. Take the case of Abe Wagner, for instance.

Abe Wagner was a lower East side thug/bootlegger who fashioned himself as the quintessential Jewish hood, the new “Kid Dropper,” he told people; Dropper being a tough New York City Jewish gang leader who had bought the ranch himself in 1923. Wagner thought he such a tough guy, he once roughed up the son of Italian mob kingpin  Joe “The Boss” Masseria, then told the kid to go home and show his old man what Abe Wagner had done to him. Luckily for Wagner, Masseria was gunned down before he could avenge his son’s indignity.

Wagner and his brother Allie were making a nice living in the bootlegging business on the Lower East Side, when the Mazza gang, with ties to Lucky Luciano, decided to move in on them and take over their  operations. On February 20, 1932, Wagner was riding down Suffolk street in his brand new car.  As Wagner was weaving slowly past the numerous street pushcarts, a half a dozen shooters appeared from nowhere and opened fire at Wagner. As his car was being shot into Swiss cheese, Wagner somehow was able to roll out the passenger’s door, then escape by dashing though the crowded street.

Not being the bravest of souls like he boasted, Wagner decided to make peace with his enemies; but at a safe distance. Instead of making the trek himself, Wagner sent his partner Harry Brown and Abe’s brother Albie to the Mazza gang’s headquarters at the Hatfield Hotel on the Upper East Side.

            “See if you can pay them off,” Wagner said.

            The two men arrived at the Hatfield Hotel with a huge sum of  “let’s make peace”  money, which the Mazza’s gladly accepted. Then they shot Albie Wagner dead, leaving Harry Brown alive, so that he could deliver the message to Abe that there would be no peace as long as Abe Wagner was alive himself.

Wagner’s mother was mortified her youngest son Albie was murdered and didn’t want the same fate to befall Abe.

“Take Goldie (Abe’s wife) and go away someplace for a while,” Mama Wagner told her son. “Go now so I won’t worry. Hurry.”

Wagner did as his mother requested, and he and Goldie quickly left town. A month later, the Lindberg baby was abducted in Hopewell, New Jersey, and because he was such a low-life thug who had the reputation of stooping to almost anything to make a buck, Wagner immediately came under suspicion.

“We have a tip that Wagner was seen in the vicinity of Hopewell about a month before the kidnapping,” said Colonel H. Norman Schwarzkopf, head of the New Jersey state police.

The cops couldn’t find Wagner, but the Mazza Gang had scores of  eyes, and feet on the ground throughout the country, and they put this apparatus into motion. After Wagner laid low with his wife in various out-of-town locations, he decided to sneak back into New York City to see his mom. He was in his mother’s apartment for a few hours, when word got back to Mama Wagner that her son had been spotted.

“Go quick,” she said. “Don’t wait.”

Wagner picked up his wife and hightailed it out west, stopping at St. Paul, Minnesota. He changed his name to Abe Loeb, and as a ruse, he decided to start a fruit and vegetable retail business. Despite his change of identity, it took only a few weeks for the Mazza Gang to locate Wagner in St. Paul. Luciano contacted Lepke and told Lepke to get two of his finest boys on the case. Lepke, though his usual intermediaries, dispatched two of his most efficient (but not very bright) killers, Joseph Shaefer and George Young, out to St. Paul to lower the boom on Wagner. Both men were on the lam already, for  killing federal agent John J. Finiello, during a raid two years earlier on an Elizabeth, New Jersey illegal brewery. Schaefer and Young knew St. Paul intimately, since it was one of their hideouts during their two years on the run.

On July 25, 1932, after having a prescription filled, Wagner and his new partner Al Gordon left a drug store on University Avenue. They were followed by Schaefer and Young, who were riding in a dark green Packard. Suddenly, the hit-men jumped out of the car and began firing. Gordon was killed instantly, but Wagner was only winged. He ran for his life down University Avenue, then turned onto Snelling Avenue. The gunmen caught up with Wagner as he ran into the Green Dragon Restaurant. There, in front of several witnesses,  they shot Wagner six times, then beat him over the head with their guns,  just because they could. Wagner died a few hours later at Ancker Hospital.

In an amazing display of stupidity, the out-of-town Murder Inc. gunmen allowed themselves to be arrested by a passing patrolman on Roy Street just minutes after they exited the Green Dragon Restaurant. Schaefer and Young were tried and convicted of the murders of Wagner and Gordon, and sentenced to life in prison. However, Murder Inc. was well-stocked with operatives, so their operation hardly missed a murderous beat.

All was going fine and dandy for the National Crime Commission until 1935, when Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey set his sights on all the New York City top gangsters. After already putting  Jewish mobster Irving Wexler (a.k.a. Waxey Gordon) behind bars for ten years for income tax evasion, Dewey went after the most visible mobster in New York City: Dutch Schultz. As was mentioned previously, Schultz was not a Commission member, but he had made millions in the illegal booze business (he was called the “Beer Baron of the Bronx), as well as in the Harlem numbers business, where he had pushed out top black operators: Madam Stephanie St. Clair, Bumpy Johnson, and Caspar Holstein. Money brings prestige, and since Schultz was smart enough to cut in  the Commission members on his profits, he did wield some power in their decision making.

Except this one time.

When Schultz (who already beat an income tax case mainly because he had his venue transferred to the sleepy, and gullible town of Malone, New York) heard the mighty Dewey was after him, he became apoplectic. Schultz called for an immediate meeting of the National Crime Commission, where he said, “Dewey will not stop until all of  us Commission members are in prison. We have to take Dewey out!”

The Commission did not immediately reject Schultz’s demands. In fact, the Commission directed Albert Anastasia to determine if Dewey indeed could be taken out without much difficulty. Anastasia went so far as to “borrow” a baby from a friend, then push this baby around in a baby carriage in front and around the streets near Dewey’s apartment building at 214 Fifth Avenue. Using this ruse, Anastasia was able to clock Dewey’s morning movements quite precisely.

It seemed that every morning at 8 a.m. sharp, Dewey exited his apartment building, and, surrounded by a squadron of bodyguards, he strode a few blocks to a neighborhood drug store for his morning cup of coffee, and to make a phone call to his office from the phone booth in the back. Anastasia told the Commission, that Anastasia could wait in the coffee shop for Dewey’s morning arrival. And as Dewey passed him and headed to the phone booth in back, Anastasia could fill Dewey with lead, then kill the drug store owner so that there wouldn’t be any witnesses. Anastasia said that his men out front would take out Dewey’s bodyguards, so that Anastasia could make his safe escape.

The following week, the Commission summoned Schultz to a meeting to discuss their decision on the fate of Dewey. The Commission told Schultz, that although the take-out of Dewey was doable, it was not in their best interest to kill the most famous lawman in the United States of America. If they whacked Dewey, the Commission reasoned, the full brunt of  United States law enforcement would come crashing down on their collective skulls.The lone dissenter on the Commission was Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro, who agreed with Schultz that if Dewey were allowed to live, he would not rest until he put the entire Commission behind bars. However, Shapiro’s lifelong pal Lepke finally convinced Shapiro that a live Dewey was the lesser of two evils. Years later, both Lepke and Shapiro would regret this decision.

When Schultz heard the bad news, he went nuts.

“Dewey’s got to go!” Schultz told the Commission. “I’m hitting him myself in 48 hours.”

By losing his temper, Schultz had just signed his own death warrant.

As soon as Schultz left the room, the Commission decided they could not afford to let Schultz carried out his threats. The ball was handed to Lepke and Anastasia’s Murder Inc. crew, and the two bosses decided, that because Schultz was a Jewish mob boss (Schultz did convert to Catholicism as a ruse to con the Malone, New York yokels into finding him not guilty in his previous income tax case), that Jewish killers, out of respect, would be needed to carry out the hit. The contract was given to Charlie “The Bug” Workman, and Lepke’s close pal Mendy Weiss.

On Oct. 23, 1935, Workman and Weiss were driven to the Palace Chophouse in Newark, New Jersey, in a car driven by a man known as “Piggy” – not a Murder Inc. operative, but just a Newark local who knew the terrain. While Piggy waited outside in the car with the engine running, Workman and Weiss rushed inside. The front bar-room area was empty, but they heard lively chatter coming from the back room where Schultz and his cohorts usually held court. The two gunmen burst into the back room – guns abasing. They blasted bullets at three of Schultz’ henchmen, Lulu Rosencrantz, Abe Landau and Abbadabba Berman, who were enjoying their last supper together. It was reminiscent of a “Wild West” shootout, but the element of surprise worked to Workman’s and Weiss’ favor. Even though Schultz’s men returned fire, when the dust settled, all three men were dead, and Workman and Weiss were not even injured.

It was Weiss who spoke first, “Where’s Schultz? You better check the bathroom.”

Workman rushed into the bathroom with a hot .45 in his hand. The bathroom looked empty, but after Workman kicked in the door of the stall, there was Schultz, pants down and not looking slightly constipated. Workman fired once, but Schultz ducked and the bullet blasted into the wall above his head. Workman lowered his gun a tad, then fired again. This time the slug ripped through Schultz’s stomach, large intestine, gall bladder, and liver, before falling on the floor next to him. The reason Workman didn’t fire again was because he was out of bullets from the back-room shootout.

Workman then made a serious mistake. Instead of hustling out of the bathroom and into the getaway car outside, Workman, as was his habit, decided to roll Schultz for any loose change Schultz might have on his person.

Two bad things happened immediately. First, Workman was dismayed to discover Schultz was dead broke. Then when Workman finally rushed outside, Weiss, Piggy, and the getaway car were nowhere in sight.

With the sound of police sirens piercing the air, Workman hurried into the swamp behind the chophouse. He ditched his blood-stained overcoat, then stomped in the general direction of New York City. After a few hours of slushing through mud, Workman was finally able to locate a set of railroad tracks. He followed these tracks all night long, until he passed under the Hudson River, and found himself in downtown Manhattan, on the other wide of the Holland Tunnel. Workman rushed to a downtown mob-run coffee shop, and he was horrified to discover that Schultz’s murder was the main topic of discussion, and that Weiss was credited with being the lone killer. This ticked off Workman to no end, and he plotted his revenge.

In the meantime, Schultz was found by the police and rushed to a local hospital. There he lay delirious for two days; spouting inanities like: “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?” His temperature rose to 106 degrees before he lapsed into a coma.

On October 25, before he expired, Schultz received a telegram, saying, “As ye sow, so shall you reap.”

The telegram was signed “Stephanie St. Clair.”

After leaving the coffee shop, Workman absconded to a safe house to get a few hours’ sleep. Then he phoned Lepke and demanded a meeting over the disappearance of Weiss from the scene of the crime. The meeting took place a few days later at Weiss’ house at 400 Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn. First, Workman laid out the reasons why he thought Weiss should be disciplined; death being the punishment.

When it was Weiss’s turn to speak, he said,  “I claim hitting the Dutchman was mob business. And I stayed until hitting the Dutchman was over. But then the Bug went back in the toilet to give the Dutchman a heist. I claim that was not mob business anymore. It was personal business.”

Lepke agreed with Weiss’ assessment, and Workman was none too happy. Lepke suggested to Workman that he should travel down to Florida for a cooling-off period, otherwise the air up north might not be too healthy for Workman. Workman did as he was told, and while “vacationing” in Miami, Workman met with Luciano to receive funds for his trip. Workman started to plead his case about Weiss to Luciano, but Luciano would have none of that.

Luciano shoved a stack of bills into Workman’s hands, saying, “Here’s the money. Now stop talking about that other thing.”

Workman took the money, and then he took the hint, and forgot all about Weiss, Schultz, and the entire Palace Chop House incident.

With Schultz now no longer a factor in New York City crime, Dewey set his sights on Lucky Luciano. The only problem was, Luciano had insulated himself from the every-day crimes his men committed on the streets, and as a result, Dewey did not have any concrete evidence with which to indict Luciano for anything. That’s when Dewey came up with the bright idea of framing Luciano, and that’s exactly what Dewey did.

Luciano was living the high life in New York City; living at the push Waldorf Astoria Hotel (room 39 D), under the name “Mr. Ross. Luciano was prancing nightly, in a very public way,  through all the top nightclubs in town, with a beautiful broad on each arm. This irked Dewey to no end, so Dewey decided to do something about it. Knowing he had nothing on Luciano as far as the rackets, and no proof that the murders being committed by Murder Inc. were at Luciano’s bequest, Dewey decided to crack down on prostitution, something Luciano had absolutely nothing to do with.

On January 31, 1936, Dewey ordered his task force to raid more than 80 brothels; pick up every prostitute in sight (even ones walking the streets); arrest pimps of all colors and nationalities, and bring them one-by-one to his offices in the Woolworth Building. The broads were hardened hookers with colorful names like Sadie the Chink, Jennie the Factory, and Polack Francis. The pimps were low-level street hustlers who kicked up their money to mobsters, who in turn kicked it up the ladder, until some of it finally made its way into the hands of  a “Mr. Ross.” All of the arrestees had one thing in common: they did not want to go to jail. 

Dewey asked the right questions, and sometimes even gave the pimps and the hookers the right answers. As a result, Dewey figured he had enough information on Luciano’s “involvement” in the prostitution rackets to obtain an arrest warrant for Luciano. The charge was that Luciano was the top man in a $10 million-a-year New York City prostitution ring. Luciano, incredulous and quite outraged at the charges, bolted town and took refuse in a spa/hotel in Hot Springs, Ark, run by his old pal: bootlegger Owney Madden.

But Dewey was relentless. It took Dewey four months to locate Luciano and obtain the proper out-of-state arrest warrants. On April 17, 1936, Luciano, after fighting for 10 days to be released from Arkansas prison on a writ of habeas corpus, was shackled and escorted on a train to New York City by three New York city detectives who had been dispatched by Dewey.

The trial itself was a slam dunk for Dewey. He paraded onto the witness stand pimp after pimp, and prostitute after prostitute; all with the same story: “Mr. Ross” a.k.a Lucky Luciano, a man none of them had ever met, was the top man in the prostitution ring.

Luciano, disgusted by all the lies, decided to take the stand himself. This turned out to be a disaster for Luciano. Dewey was erudite and a wonderful public speaker; Luciano was a crass street thug, and his coarse manner stood in stark contrast to Dewey’s “Mr. Cool” demeanor. Luciano, even though he admitted to committing just about every crime known to man, steadfastly refused to admit he ever had anything to do with the vile racket of prostitution.

On June 7, 1936, after a four-week trial, Luciano and eight co-defendants were found guilty of 62  counts each of  “suborning prostitution.” As Dewey gloated, Luciano was sentenced to 30-50 years in prison; the longest prison sentence ever rendered for prostitution.

In 1962, just before he died of a heart attack in a Naples airport, Luciano wrote in his autobiography The Last Testament, “After sittin’ in court and listenin’ to myself being plastered to the wall, and tarred and feathered by a bunch of whores who sold themselves for a quarter, and hearin’ that no-good McCook [the judge] hand me what added to a life term, I still get madder at Dewey’s crap than anythin’ else. That little shit with the mustache comes right out in the open and admits he’s got me on everythin’ else but what he charged me with. I knew he knew I didn’t have a fuckin’ thing to do with prostitution, not with none of those broads. But Dewey was such a goddamn racketeer himself, in a legal way, that he crawled up my back with a frame and stabbed me.”

With Luciano in jail for possibly the rest of his life, Dewey set his sights on Louie “Lepke” Buchalter. Dewey initially went after Lepke for his bakery extortion rackets, but Dewey came down harder with the hammer, when he got the Federal Narcotics Bureau to build a case involving Lepke in a massive drug smuggling operation. Figuring he was facing big time in the slammer, Lepke went on the lam. He was concealed in several Brooklyn hideouts by Anastasia, while his rackets were tended to by other members of the syndicate.

Even though Lepke was on the lam, he sent orders to his Murder Inc. operatives, though intermediaries of course, to kill whomever the commission bosses said needed to be killed. But even the contract murders grounded to a halt, when Lepke realized his best killers could be the best witnesses against him in a court of law.

His paranoia increasing by the minute, Lepke ordered several of his top killers to get out of town and go on the lam themselves, or be killed. Blue Jaw Magoon and Buggsy Goldstein, the original members of the Boys from Brownsville, took the advice and went on a cross-country trip that lasted more than nine months. Their journey took them through Canada, Kansas City, California, Mexico, then back east, until they settled in a known mob hideaway in Newburgh, New York, where they were finally captured.

Harry “Big Greenie” Greenberg was not one of Lepke’s Murder Inc. operatives, but Greenberg knew enough about Lepke’s rackets, especially those in the Garment Center, to give Lepke a huge headache. Through Mendy Weiss, Lepke sent word to Greenberg to get out of town fast, or suffer the consequences. Greenberg holed up in Canada for a while, but then he got to thinking. Because he was in hiding, Greenberg’s cash flow had stopped completely. He sent a letter to Weiss which said, “I hope you guys aren’t forgetting about me. You better not.” Then he asked Weiss for a reported $5,000 to help him fight the cold weather in Canada.

Lepke gave the order, through Weiss again, for Allie Tannenbaum to travel to Canada to take Big Greenie out. But when Tannenbaum arrived across the border, Greenberg had flown the coop, first to Detroit, then to as far west as he could go without swimming: Los Angeles, Cal.    

Another big mistake for Big Greenie.

National Crime Commission member Bugsy Siegel had put down stakes in L.A., and was lording over the Commission’s West Coast interests. Without much trouble, Siegel located Greenberg, and with the help of Allie Tannenbaum, who had flown in from the East Coast, and Frankie Carbo, another Murder Inc. killer, Siegel orchestrated Big Greenie’s downfall. On October 22, 1939, in front of Greenberg’s rented Hollywood house at 1804 N. Vista De Mar Drive, Carbo put several bullets in Big Greenie’s head, making Harry “Big Greenie” Greenberg the first victim of a mob hit in the sunny state of California.

            However, although Louie “Lepke” Buchalter had always insulated himself from the men who actually performed his requested hits, Lepke made one big mistake, and he made it before he went on the lam.

Joe Rosen was a hard-working trucker, who though his own initiative, had started a very successful trucking business that catering to non-union, tailoring-contact customers in the Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania area. Because his business was so flush, Rosen was taken in as a partner in the New York & New Jersey Trucking Company; a non-union company. The only problem was, Louie Lepke and his sometimes-partner Max Rubin controlled the Amalgamated Clothing Worker’s Union, and were incensed that Rubin, a non-union man, was doing  business without the benefit of the union’s protection.  In 1932, Rubin and Lepke approached Rosen and demanded that he stop delivering to non-union tailor shops in Pennsylvania.

“But if I lose the Pennsylvania business, I lose everything,” Rosen told them. “I’ve been in the clothing business all my life and now I’m being pushed out of it.”

However, Lepke, with his Murder Inc. men backing him up, could be every persuasive when necessary. Rosen was forced out of business, and was given a job as a lowly truck driver at Garfield Express, a trucking business that Lepke owned 50 percent interest in with his partner Louis Cooper. Eight months later, Cooper fired Rosen and Rosen was out of work for 18 months. Rosen used borrowed funds to open a small candy store in Brownsville, but Rosen was a loud and unhappy camper.  

Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey was making noise about Lepke’s involvement with the  Amalgamated Clothing Worker’s Union, and Rosen was making noise, saying to anyone who would listen, that maybe he and Dewey should sit down and have a little talk about Lepke’s control of the unions.

Max Rubin told Lepke, “This is bad. Joe (Rosen) is around complaining he’s got a family and he doesn’t have anything to eat. We got a desperate man on our hands.”

At first, Lepke figured he throw Rosen a few bucks, and tell Rosen to get out of town, or else. And that Lepke did, through Rubin, who made a trip to Rosen’s candy store. Rubin told Rosen, “Here’s two hundred dollars. Lepke wants you to go away and cool down. You better do what he says.”

Rubin closed his candy store and hightailed it to Reading, P.A., where his son was working as a coal miner. But after a week, Rosen left Reading, went back to Brooklyn, and re-opened his candy store. He also began running his mouth again about having that little chat with Dewey. This infuriated Lepke, and in Lepke’s midtown office , Lepke voiced his displeasure to Rubin. Lepke thought they were alone in his offices, but Allie Tannenbaum, fresh off a successful murder contract of renegade taxi-business owner Irv Ashkenaz in the Catskills, was in an adjoining room, and the door to Lepke’s office was open.

Tannenbaum heard Lepke say to Rubin, “I’ve seen enough of this crap. That (expletives) Rosen, he’s going around shooting his mouth off about seeing Dewey. He and nobody else is going any place and doing any talking. I’ll take care of him.”

On September 13, 1936, Joe Rosen opened his candy store at approximately 7:30 a.m. Waiting in a car across the street from the candy store were a group of Murder Inc. men led, by Harry “Pittsburg Phil” Strauss. As soon as Rosen was inside the store, Strauss and Happy Maione rushed the store and emptied seventeen bullets into Rosen’s body. Four of the shots were fired by Strauss after Rosen was already dead.

By the late 1930s, and with Lepke still on the lam, one by one Murder Inc. killers were arrested by the police. Most clammed up, but some began singing like a canary to save their own skins. Happy Maione, Dasher Abbandando, and Mendy Weiss refused to admit anything. But Blue Jaw Magoon, and Allie Tannenbaum were only too eager to cut deals in order to avoid the Sing Sing electric chair.

But the key for any conviction was corroboration, and this corroboration was provided by the most unlikely of individuals: Abe “Kid Twist” Reles.

On January 24, 1940, with Lepke still on the lam, Reles was picked up for the murder of a small-time crook named Red Alpert. Reles was smug about the pinch, figuring there was no independent corroboration of his involvement in Alpert’s murder, which had taken place way back in 1933. However, Reles was wrong. Two men had come forward and  implicated Reles in Alpert’s murder: small time thug Harry Rudolph, who had witnessed the killing, and Murder Inc. small-timer Dukey Maffetore. These two men also implicated Happy Maione in the Alpert hit.

Both Maione, who had been nabbed on a vagrancy charge and not yet charged with the Alpert murder, and Reles, were housed in the Tombs prison. Knowing the spit was about to hit the fan, Reles told his former partner Maione, “Don’t worry Hap. Everything’s okay.”

On March 21, after a visit from his lawyer in prison, Reles sat down and wrote a letter to his wife Rose. The letter said: “Dear Rose, Go and see (New York District Attorney) O’Dwyer and tell him I want to talk with him.”

The next day Rose Reles paid a visit to the District Attorney’s office. There she met Brooklyn assistant District Attorney Burton Turkus. Mrs. Reles told Turkus, “I want to talk to O’Dwyer personally. I want to save my husband from the electric chair. My baby is coming in June.”

Turkus nearly broke a leg rushing to tell O’Dwyer about their good fortune. In hours, Abe Reles had signed a “Consent to Be Interviewed” form, and the ball was rolling to put Murder Incorporated out of business for good.

While his world was crumbling around him, Louie “Lepke” Buchalter was still in limbo, moving from place to place in Brooklyn and in Manhattan, still hiding from the law, a $50,000 bounty on his head. Things were so bad for Lepke, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, obviously never having heard of Adolph Hitler, called Lepke “The Most Dangerous Man on Earth.”

New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia added to Lepke’s angst when he ordered his police commissioner, Lewis J. Valentine, to start a “war on hoodlums.”

The National Crime Commission was in trouble because of Lepke, and they knew it. Word was sent to Luciano, who was still in prison, for advice as to how to handle the Lepke situation. Luciano knew the only way for the heat to die down was for Lepke to surrender. But convincing Lepke to do so would take some serious conniving.

“Dimples” Wolensky was a long-time pal of Lepke’s, whom Lepke trusted immensely. The Commission sent Wolensky to meet Lepke in hiding and to convince the fugitive that the fix was in. Wolensky told Lepke that if Lepke surrendered, he would be tried only on the narcotics charge, netting him five years in prison, at most. Wolensky also told Lepke that if Lepke surrendered directly to Hoover, Dewey would then be completely out of the picture.

Lepke was skeptical, and he said he’d think it over. Lepke conferred with his closest pal in Murder Inc.: Albert Anastasia. Anastasia told Lepke the whole plan was goofy. Big Al said, “As long as they can’t get you, they can’t hurt you.”

But the pressure was on from the law, and Lepke knew, quite correctly, that if he didn’t turn himself in, his pals on the National Crime Commission would do him in instead.

On August 5, 1940, gossip columnist and radio host Walter Winchell received a phone call at his nightly headquarters: the Stork Club, at 3 East 53rd Street. Although he didn’t know it at the time, the voice on the phone was that of Albert Anastasia. Anastasia told Winchell, “Don’t ask who I am, but Lepke wants to come in. Contact Hoover, and tell him Lepke wants a guarantee he will be not be harmed if he surrenders to Hoover.”

            The following day, Winchell said on his national syndicated radio show, “Your reporter is reliably informed that Lepke, the fugitive, is on the verge of surrender, possibly this week. If Lepke can find someone he can trust, I am told, he will come in. I am authorized by the G-men that Lepke is assured of safe delivery.”

            On August 24, 1940, Winchell again received a phone call at the Stork Club, telling him to go immediately to a drug store on Eighth Avenue and 19th Street, and to sit in a phone booth in the back. Winchell did as he was told, and at 9 p.m., a customer casually strolled up to Winchell and told him to phone Hoover, and to tell Hoover to be at Fifth Avenue and 29th Street at 10:20 p.m. Winchell himself was directed to drive immediately to Madison Avenue and 23rd Street.

Winchell did as he was told, and at 10:15 p.m., Lepke, wearing a mustache and twenty pounds heavier than Winchell had remembered, entered Winchell’s car. Minutes later, the two men exited Winchell’s car, and walked over to a black limousine. Hoover was sitting alone in the back seat. Winchell opened the back door of the limo, and said, “Mr. Hoover, this is Lepke.”

Hoover said to Lepke, “How do you do?”

Lepke said to Hoover, “Glad to meet you. Let’s Go.”

            Almost as soon as Lepke got into the limo, he knew he had been screwed, but there was nothing he could do about it.

            With Abe Reles and Allie Tannenbaum doing most of the squealing in court, and with Blue Jaw Magoon thrown in for good measure, one by one Murder Inc. killers were tried and convicted. Buggsy Goldstein and Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss were indicted for  the murder of small-time hood Puggy Feinstein. At the trial, Magoon, who was Goldstein’s best friend, put the nails in his former co-worker’s coffins.

While Magoon was babbling away in front of the jury, Goldstein jumped to his feet and screamed “For God sake, Seymour, that’s some story you’re telling. You’re burning me.”

            Both Goldstein and Strauss were found guilty, and at sentencing, the judge asked Goldstein if he had any final words to say. Goldstein stood tall and smiled, “Yeah Judge, I’d like to pee up your leg.”

            On the night of June 12, 1941, both Goldstein and Strauss were fried in the Sing Sing electric chair.

            Partners for life, Harry “Happy” Maione and Frank “The Dasher” Abbandando went on trial next for the 1937 murder of gambler George Rudnick. The main witness against them was Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, who himself was in on the Rudnick murder. While Reles was on the stand telling the intimate details of the Rudnick slaying, Maione face turned a deep red at the treachery of his former partner. Several times, Maione jumped to his feet, ready to attack Reles, but the court officers subdued him before any damage could be done.

After being convicted and sentenced to the chair, Maione yelled in court, “I don’t mind going to the chair, but I wish I was holding onto Reles’ leg when they put on the juice.”

After several appeals were denied, on February 19, 1942, both Maione and Abbandando were executed in Sing Sing Prison. But not before they had some measure of satisfaction knowing that Abe Reles would be waiting for them in hell.

While waiting to testify at several trails, including those of Albert Anastasia and Bugsy Siegel, the New York City Police Department had Reles under 24-hour police guard at the Blue Moon Hotel in Coney Island. Also there in custody were songbirds Allie Tannenbaum, Sholem Bernstein and Mikey Syckoff. All four men had separate rooms in the hotel, and all were constantly in the presence of lawmen, even when they slept.

On the evening of November 11, 1941, Rose Reles visited her husband at his sixth-floor room. According to a policeman on duty, Rose and Abe had a heated argument that the policeman characterized as “quite a fight.”

At 6:45  a.m. the following morning, the assistant manager of the hotel, Al Litzberg, heard a loud thud from the direction of an extension roof, which lay four stories below Reles’ window.

            According to the November 13, 1941 edition of  the New York Times,  “Sometime after daylight yesterday, Abe Reles, squat bulgy-jawed informer against the Brooklyn murder ring, climbed out on a window edge of the sixth floor of the Half Moon Hotel on Coney Island, fully dressed, but hatless. Strong wind for the gray sea tugged at his long, crisp black hair and tore at his gray suit.”

“Behind him, in his room, lights still burned. Behind him the little radio that had played all night, still blared and babbled. The informer, looking southward, could see the surf break against the jetties. He could hear the dolorous clanging of the buoy as it rocked in the tide. He could see far down the deserted boardwalk. It was shrouded in the morning mist.”

“Reles let the two bed sheets down the hotel’s east wall, two windows north of the Hotels’ Boardwalk front. Around one end of the upper bed sheet he had twisted a four-foot length of radio lead-in wire. He had wound the free end of the wire on a radio valve under the window.”

“He let himself down on the sheets to the fifth floor. One hand desperately clung to the sheet. With the other, Reles tugged at the screen and the window of the vacant fifth-floor room. He worked them up six inches. He tugged again with his full 160-pound weight.”

“The strain was too much for the amateur wire knot on the valve. Little by little, it came undone. Reles tried to save himself. He kicked towards the fifth-floor window ledge with his left foot, but merely brushed the shoe leather from toe to heal. He plunged to the hotel’s concrete kitchen roof, a two-story extension, forty-two feet below. He landed on his back, breaking his spine.”

Of course, this was complete nonsense fed to the newspapers by the crooked police, who actually picked Reles up and flung Reles out of the window (Reles landed 20 feet from the base of the building. If he would have accidentally fallen, he would’ve fallen straight down.). It was a $50,000 bribe paid to the cops by Italian mobster Frank Costello to stop Reles from testifying at any more Murder Inc. trials, which induced the cops to act in such an unprofessional manner.

With Murder Inc. depleted of it most of its top killers, Louie “Lepke” Buchalter, Louis Capone, and Mendy Weiss went on trial in late 1940 for the 1936 murder of Joe Rosen. At this point in time, Abe Reles was still very much alive and singing. Reles testified he knew Lepke ordered the Rosen hit. And so did Allie Tannenbaum, who testified he heard Lepke give the order to Max Rubin to have Joe Rosen killed. But the final nail in Lepke’ coffin was pounded in by Max Rubin himself.

In late 1936, after being told by Lepke, through Weiss, to get out of town, Rubin did just that; disappearing for nine months. But in 1937, Rubin came back to New York City without permission from Lepke to do so. Soon after, Rubin met with Lepke and begged Lepke to let him stay in New York City with his family.

Rubin told Lepke, “Louis, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to see my wife and child. You know how it is, Louis.”

Lepke looked at Rubin with doe-like eyes. “But Max, you came back without permission.”

“Don’t get any ideas,” Rubin told Lepke. “No one knows I’m in town. I didn’t talk to anybody.”

Lepke smiled, “By the way Max, how old are you?”

“I’m forty-eight, Lep,” Rubin said. “Exactly.”

“That’s a ripe old age, isn’t it,” Lepke replied.

In late 1937, Rubin exited the subway in the Bronx and headed up Gun Hill Road. Suddenly, a gunman ran up to Rubin and shot him once in the back of the head. Miraculously, the bullet went completely trough Rubin’s head and exited between his nose and right eye. For 38 days Rubin lay dying in the hospital, thinking every day of Lepke’s last words to him: “Forty-eight is a ripe old age, isn’t it?”

Rubin recovered, but the nerves in his neck had been shattered, and his head was left permanently crooked. He wanted revenge against Lepke, and he wanted it bad.

When Rubin appeared on the witness stand, after Reles and Tannenbaum had already testified Lepke had ordered the murder of Joe Rosen, Lepke knew his days as a free man were over. Rubin testified that it was Lepke who ordered the murder of Joe Rosen, and that Lepke  gave that order to Rubin himself. Rubin relayed the message to Louis Capone, who forwarded it to Mendy Weiss. Weiss then rounded up his top killers, including Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss, to do the dirty deed.

At 10:15 Saturday night, November 1941, the jury was sent out to decide the fates of Lepke, Capone, and Weiss. At 2:30 am, the judge was told the jury was ready with its verdicts. After the jurors were seated, and the defendants returned to the courtroom, Charles E. Steven, the foreman of the jury rose and said, “We find the defendants, and each of them, guilty of murder in the first degree, as charged.”

The penalty, by law, was death.

On Monday morning, Justice Taylor stood at the bench and cast a steely gaze that bore right through Lepke’s forehead. Judge Taylor said, “Louis Buchalter, alias Lepke, for the murder of Joseph Rosen, whereof he is convicted, is hereby sentenced to the punishment of death.” Judge Taylor also gave the same pronouncement to both Louis Capone and Mendy Weiss.

For the next four years, Lepke used every trick in the book to delay his execution. When all appeals failed, two days before he was schedule to die, Lepke asked for a meeting with Manhattan District Attorney Frank Hogan. Lepke claimed he had information that would:

  1. Implicate a prominent labor leader on a murder charge
  2. A noted public official on a conspiracy charge.
  3. And information that a close relative of a very high public officeholder was a “front man” for at least two of the ganglords who are credited with controlling crime in the United States.

“If I would talk,” Lepke said, “a lot of big names would get hurt. When I say big, I mean big. These names would surprise you.”

Hogan met with Lepke, and after they spoke, Hogan immediately contacted the Governor of New York State: Thomas E. Dewey. Dewey gave the three men on death row a stay of execution of two more days, so that Dewey could contemplate the significance what Lepke had told Hogan. At this point, Dewy was a candidate for the Presidency of the United States.

Burton Turkus said in his book Murder Incorporated, “Obviously, then, Lepke’s information must have had, at least in his own convictions, a powerful and significant relationship to Dewey’s aspirations. The facts and the deductions all pointed unerringly in one direction: Lepke had an offer of information on politics which he felt was so national a sensation that, if publically disclosed during a close presidential campaign, could put Dewey in the White House!”

The New York Mirror wrote the day after Dewey was told of Lepke’s revelations, “It is said Lepke offered material to Governor Dewey that would have made him an unbeatable presidential candidate.”

Governor Dewey, however, could not be swayed, and he rejected Lepke’s offer.

That same day, Lepke received a letter from his old pal Gurrah Shapiro, which said, “I told you we should have taken Dewey out when we had the chance.”

On March 4, 1944, Louis “Lepke” Buchalter,  as befitting the boss, took the long walk down the last mile first, followed in minutes by Louis Capone and Mendy Weiss. All three were jolted in the Sing Sing electric chair a few minutes after midnight, effectively ending Murder Incorporated’s reign of terror in the United States of America.

 Other murders would be committed by organized crime figures in the future, but never again would a group of killers be united into one mighty organization (and on a steady weekly salary, no less) for the sole purpose of killing whomever their bosses said needed to be killed.