Archive for Louis Capone

Mob Rats Abe “Kid Twist Reles” Part 6

Posted in Cosa Nostra, criminals, crooked cops, crooks, Gangs, gangsters, labor unions, mobs, Mobsters, murder, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2013 by Joe Bruno's Blogs



With Murder Inc. depleted of 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 that point in time, Abe Reles was still very much alive and singing. On the stand, Reles testified he knew Lepke had ordered the Rosen hit. This corroborated the testimony of Allie Tannenbaum, who testified he heard Lepke give the order to Max Rubin to have Joe Rosen killed (from a room next to Lepke’s office. Lepke had uncharacteristically left the door open between the two rooms).

At 10:15 pm, Nov. 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.

As he pronounced sentence, Justice Taylor stood at the bench and cast a steely gaze which bore right through Lepke’s eyes.

 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 death sentence to both Louis Capone and Mendy Weiss.

For the next four years, Lepke used every trick in the book to delay his and his two men’s executions. But it was to no avail.

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 Sing Sing’s electric chair a few minutes after midnight, effectively ending Murder Incorporated’s reign of terror in the United States of America. Buchalter remains the only mob boss ever executed by the government.

Yet, it had been one of Murder Inc.’s most prolific killers, Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, who had been most responsible for Murder Inc.’s demise. If Reles hadn’t squealed, Happy and the Dasher, as well as Lepke, may have never been convicted, let alone executed.

The government later admitted if Reles hadn’t been tossed out the hotel window in Coney Island, they had enough evidence against Albert Anastasia and mad-dog killer Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel to put them in the electric chair too.

According to New York City District Attorney William O’Dwyer, “When Reles went out the window, our cases against Anastasia and Siegel went out the window too.”



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

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.

Joe Bruno on the Mob – Evelyn Mittelman – The Kiss of Death.

Posted in biography, criminals, crooks, Gangs, gangsters, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, murder, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, police, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2012 by Joe Bruno's Blogs


It’s never a good thing when a femme fatale is called the “The Kiss of Death.” Yet never has this moniker been more appropriate than in the case of Evelyn Mittelman, a little lass from the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

Little is known about Mittelman’s early life except that at the tender age of 16, she was already one of the most sought-after broads in the entire borough of Brooklyn. In 1941, after Mittelman had been thrust into the spotlight as a material witness in the trial of her boyfriend, Murder Incorporated’s Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss, veteran New York Daily Mirror columnist Eddie Zeltner said, “I knew Evelyn ten years ago, when she was barely sixteen. She was a gorgeous blond who used to come from Williamsburg to Coney Island to swim, and dance in the cellar clubs which are grammar schools for gangsters.”

Two years later, Evelyn surfaced in California with a beau named Hy Miller. Hy was crazy about Evelyn, but Evelyn was not so crazy about Hy. One night, Hy took Evelyn to a dance and she met another young chap who thought she was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Because she was obviously flirting with the newcomer, whose name is unknown, Hy said something to this fellow, and something even worse to Evelyn. The anonymous chap took umbrage at Hy insulting Evelyn, and the final result was that Hy became very dead. It is not known if Evelyn took up with the victor for any period of time, or not. Still, Hy was the first notch on the “Kiss of Death’s” garter belt.

A few years later, Evelyn showed up in Brooklyn with her new love: Robert Feurer. It was at a dance she attended with Feurer that she met up with a nasty piece of work named Sol Goldstein, known in the rackets as “Jack.” Goldstein was famous on the docks of New York City as one of the biggest fish wholesalers in the business. Of course, in order to keep being prosperous on the docks, Goldstein went up against, and aligned himself with, people as nasty as he was; some even nastier. But we’ll get to that later.

As Goldstein cozied up to Evelyn at the dance, smoke began to blast from Feurer’s ears. One word led to another, and soon Feurer said a few things to Evelyn that were not quite so nice. Goldstein burst to Evelyn’s rescue, and when the dust settled, Feurer was now quite dead too (see a pattern here?).

This is getting a little tiresome, but one night Goldstein brought Evelyn to another dance, where she met Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss (called “Pep” by his friends). Strauss, considered a tall, dark and handsome lug by the opposite sex, was the top killer in a cozy little group called Murder Incorporated, run by Louis “Lepke Buchalter and Albert “The Lord High Executioner” Anastasia. It was said, that although Strauss was paid tidy sums for killing people, whom his bosses said needed to be killed throughout America, he was so good at what he did because, as Brooklyn District Attorney William O’Dwyer once said, “Strauss killed people just for the lust to kill.”

When an out-of-town killing was assigned to Lepke, it was usually Strauss whom Lepke entrusted to do the job. When these occasions arose, Strauss packed a bag with a shirt, change of socks, underwear, a gun, length of rope, and an ice pick, just in case. Most times, Strauss didn’t even know the name of his target, and he didn’t care either. As long as the dude wound up dead, that was enough for Strauss.

On the night Strauss met Evelyn at the dance, he told both Evelyn and Goldstein that he considered Evelyn to be his new girlfriend. Evelyn didn’t protest too much, but Goldstein did. Strauss told Goldstein they shouldn’t fight in front of a woman, and would Goldstein agree to go with Strauss to a nearby poolroom to settle the dispute of who should be the top man in Evelyn’s life. Goldstein agreed, and the next thing he knew, Strauss was re-arranging the features on Goldstein’s face with a mean pool stick. The result was — Goldstein was out, and Evelyn was the girlfriend of one of the most sadistic killers in America. For some reason, Strauss let Goldstein live on that occasion, but he would rectify that situation later on, as part of his daily duties for Murder Inc.

Goldstein’s mother was quite happy her son was away from the likes of Evelyn Mittelman. Mom Goldstein was plain giddy, when soon after the dust-up with Strauss, Goldstein met a nice young girl named Helen, who was the daughter of a Cleveland used-car dealer.

Goldstein’s mom told his sister, “Sol is away from the tough boys at last.”

Well, not quite mom.

In the summer of 1936, Mom Goldstein received the wonderful news that her son and Helen had tied the knot and were honeymooning at Glen Wild, a small, romantic place in the Catskill mountains in upstate New York. Weeks went by without hearing from the newlyweds again, and after three months, Mom Goldstein began to fret a bit. After much sleuthing, Mom Goldstein finally found Helen.

“What happened, I haven’t heard from Sol in months,” she said to Helen.

Helen started dripping crocodile tears. “I don’t know,” she said. “We were in our room getting dressed for a Saturday night dance, when the phone rang and he answered it. A little while later some men drove up. Sol said he’d be back in a few minutes. I haven’t seen him since.”

Mom Goldstein decided to make a trip to the Catskills to see if she could find any trace of her son. When she arrived in the Catskills, Mom Goldstein could not find a trace of her son, but she did find Helen hosting a gay party not far from Glen Wild where she had honeymooned with Sol. Mom Goldstein told Helen that Helen was not behaving like an aggrieved wife should behave.

Helen coldly told Mom Goldstein, “Sol is dead. He was thrown in a lake.”

It wasn’t until four years later that Mom Goldstein and the government found out exactly what happened to Sol “Jack” Goldstein.

It all started with Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, one of the higher-ups in Murder Incorporated, becoming a government informer. Abe knew who killed who and how, and with his photographic memory, he told the government about scores of murders, including the untimely demise of Sol Goldstein. Two other Murder Incorporated killers, Allie “Tick Tock” Tannenbaum and Pretty Levine corroborated everything Reles said about the Goldstein hit.

It seemed that the contract on Goldstein was put out by Joe “Zocks” Lanza, the big boss on the Manhattan docks, and the highly-profitable Fulton Fish Market. Lanza had been indicted by a Federal Grand Jury for the “monopolistic control of fish sent to New York City from Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Canada.” Lanza was tried and found guilty, but he won an appeal to have a second trial on the same charges. While planning his defense, Lanza realized that Goldstein, who had some pull on the docks himself, knew enough information about Lanza’s waterfront rackets to put Lanza away for a very long time, if not land Lanza right into the electric chair. Lanza contacted Louis Capone, another Murder Incorporated big shot, to put the process in motion of eliminating Goldstein from the possible witness list at Lanza’s second trial.

At this point in time, Goldstein and Helen were experiencing their first few days of married bliss in the Catskills. Capone (no relation to Al Capone) contacted Pretty Levine and told him, “Go up to Loch Sheldrake in the mountains, where Pep is staying to do some work. Pep will tell you.”

Levine jumped into a car with another Murder Inc. operative named Dukey Maffetore, and drove to the Catskills, where they located Strauss and two more Murder Inc. killers — Mikey Syckoff and Jack Cutler. Strauss knew since his face and reputation were well known to Goldstein, he could not be in on the snatch. But Goldstein had never met Levine, Syckoff, and Cutler, so Strauss told them what to do.

“Just snatch the bum and bring him here,” Strauss told them. “Don’t knock him off.”

It was approximately 9 p.m. on August 3, 1936, when Goldstein received a phone call in the honeymoon cottage he was sharing with wife Helen. Even though Goldstein was dressed to the nines, as was Helen for that night’s dance, whatever the caller told Goldstein was enough for him to leave the side of his lovely bride, for what he thought would only be an few minutes at most. At least, that’s what Goldstein told Helen. Helen spotted a car driving up to the cottage with three men sitting inside. She watched as her husband got into the back seat next to Levine.

Within a few seconds, Levine had laid Goldstein out cold with a hammer. Soon, the three men deposited Goldstein at Strauss’ lakeside cottage, where Strauss personally killed Goldstein, tied him up with rope, and wrapped him in a blanket. The men then dragged Goldstein’s dead body to the lake’s shore, where Tannenbaum and Jack Drucker, another Murder Inc. operative, were waiting in a rowboat. The two men rowed out to the deepest part of the lake and dropped Goldstein’s body into the drink.

In cases like this, it was quite unusual for a man like Strauss to order the murder victim be brought to him alive, so that Strauss could finish him off personally. But this was personal to Strauss, not just business. Goldstein had been Evelyn’s boyfriend, and Strauss liked it better when Evelyn’s ex-boyfriends were rendered quite dead. Not that Strauss feared Evelyn would ever go back to Goldstein, but why not eliminate the possibility anyway?

Chalk up Goldstein as Evelyn Mittelman’s dead boyfriend number three.

The next five years passed by without any more dead boyfriends. Evelyn was quite devoted to Strauss, so much so, to please Strauss, she dyed her blond hair to raven brunette.

In 1940, Strauss was arrested on information given to the feds by Abe “Kid Twist” Reles. District Attorney Burton Turkus had enough evidence to implicate Strauss in at least six murders, but the most solid case Turkus had on Strauss was the murder of a nobody named George Ruddick, who was rumored to have been talking to the law.

While Strauss stewed in jail, he received repeated visits by a woman described by Turkus as “a striking brunette,” who signed herself in as Strauss’ sister “Eve.” Turkus as his crew noticed absolutely no family resemblance between Strauss and “Eve,” so on her next visit, they picked her up and found out that “Eve” was none other than Evelyn Mittelman. At the time of her arrest, Evelyn was wearing three diamond rings and a diamond bracelet.

“Pep (Strauss) gave them to me,” Evelyn told Turkus. Then she said something so remarkably stupid, Turkus couldn’t believe his ears. “And I have several more trinkets like this in a bank vault.”

Turkus checked, and sure enough, there was enough jewelry in the safety deposit box to open up a small jewelry store. Turkus immediately held Evelyn as a material witness, with bail set at $50,000, and he commenced getting as much information out of her as he could. However, Evelyn immediately lawyered up, and subsequently clammed up. Turkus figured, with all she knew about Strauss and his pals at Murder Incorporated, she was as good as dead if she were set free on the mean streets of Brooklyn.

At her bail haring, her lawyer argued fiercely for a bail reduction.

“She’s a good decent girl,” her lawyer said.

Turkus told the judge, “She knows all there is to know about how the syndicate works.”

Her lawyer countered with, “Can’t your honor conceive that this young lady, even though she may be the sweetheart of this man, might be the one person in the whole world who would know nothing at all of what he is doing?”

The judge said he could conceive of no such thing, so Evelyn’s bail stood at $50,000. No one rushed to put up the money to get her out, so Evelyn stood in jail a full six weeks while Turkus cemented his case against Strauss.

As Strauss’ trial neared, Evelyn realized that the only way she could save her man was to convince Strauss to do what Reles had done: become an informant. Evelyn asked Turkus for permission to speak to Strauss to try to convince him to turn canary. Amazingly, Strauss agreed to do exactly that, on one condition: “I got to walk out clean.”

Turkus knew it was impossible to set a man free after he had committed as many as 50-100 murders himself, so Strauss’ offer to sing was rejected.

During Strauss’ trial, he acted like a lunatic. Strauss refused to shave and came into court with a long, scraggly beard, looking like a bum on the Bowery. Strauss even went so far as to chew on his lawyer’s briefcase straps. But it was to no avail.Strauss was found guilty of the murder of Puggy Feinstein, who Strauss set on fire after he strangled him to death (Turkus said he could have tried Strauss and have him found guilty of at least six other murders). And as a result, Strauss was sentenced to sit in the electric chair at Sing Sing Prison.

On June 12, 1941, the day of his execution, Strauss’ last visitor was Evelyn Mittelman. Evelyn kissed Strauss goodbye, and soon he was dead too.

And as far as we can determine, Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss was the fourth and final victim of “The Kiss of Death.”