Hear All About It

PROHIBITION

It was the introduction on 16th January 1920 that was forever marked as the red letter day’ for
Organised Crime.

The Volstead Act of 1920 called ‘the Noble Experiment’ was passed by Congress as the Eighteenth
Amendment to the Constitution which prohibited the sale and manufacture of alcohol for commercial
purposes across America.

From 1920 until repeal in 1933 the criminal community enjoyed an unprecedented bonanza simply
because the majority of the American people ‘Just wanted a drink’.

Organised Crime, unknown at the beginning of the 1920s now mushroomed all across America. In
New York City alone some 15,000 bars were closed but approximately 32,000 sprung up to replace
them. Across the United States it has been estimated that there were over 200,000 illegal
establishments (known as speakeasies) all desperate for supply. It was not for nothing that this
decade was known as the Roaring Twenties’.

Gang rivalry erupted into street warfare with various factions fighting to achieve supremacy for the
right to control alcohol distribution not only in local communities but also across entire cities and
even whole states.

…and then there were the Kiddush Wine Wars. During the early 1920’s there was a split between
the Reform and Orthodox Jewish Communities as to whether Jews as American citizens should take
advantage of the concessions in the law that allowed the use of wine for sacramental purposes.

The Reform were firmly of the opinion that the Jews should set an example and just rely on grape-
juice. The Orthodox did not agree and eventually won the ‘argument’.

In Chicago A1 Capone was in his element as the ‘King of the Bootleggers’, but he was seriously
inconvenienced by that legendary Law Enforcement Agency known as ‘The Untouchables’. Contrary to
common myth Eliot Ness and A1 Capone never met.

By the mid 1920’s A1 Scarface’ Capone was the undisputed power across the mid-western states but
like many others he thought that this bonanza would last indefinitely.

By the time Prohibition was repealed in 1933 Capone was a busted flush, serving an eleven year
sentence at Alcatraz for not paying income tax on his illegal profits.

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The 1910 Mann Act

From the beginning of the twentieth century areas such as the Lower East Side populated by mainly Eastern European immigrants were under the control of Jewish gangsters.
As an alternative to working in sweatshops in these ghetto areas, young Jewish women who wanted to try and escape from the slum tenements found themselves in the hands of pimps ‘who put them to work’.

Before the First World War areas such as Allen Street and Canal Street in New York City were notorious areas of vice and no matter how quickly the girls were arrested and put out of business then, there would always be ‘myriad’s’ to replace them. There was no shortage of customers either because of the many male immigrants who had arrived in the United States in advance of their families.

It was the era of the ‘Madam’ who ran brothels and houses of relaxation for their gentleman clients and as long as the authorities were taken care of then these establishments assumed ‘official status’ and could continue to operate in the comfort that there would be no problems with the law.

This ‘female slave trade’ caused such a public outcry that Congress was compelled to pass the ‘Mann Act’ in 1910 prohibiting ‘the import of women across state lines for immoral purposes.’

The 1910 Mann Act

There will never be another Al ‘Scarface’ Capone. Over seventy years have passed since he was at the height of power as the most famous gangster of all time and even though more than half a century has passed since his death there is no sign that his notoriety and fame will ever fade.

Commencing professional life as ‘Muscle for Hire’ Capone was transferred from New York City to Chicago with the help of Jewish friends following some inconvenience with the police over a couple of murders and under the tutelage of an old time mobster Johnny Torrio. Al Capone started to reinvent himself and he was in no doubt that he was heading in only one direction.

By the early 1920’s Capone had already ruthlessly clawed his way to the top of the gangster tree of Chicago by removing his bosses and rivals and anyone else who stood in his way.

Big Jim Colosimo. the main man in Chicago at that time was only interested in vice as an important source of income but for Capone the future was in illicit alcohol banned in 1920 under the Volstead Act which prohibited the sale and manufacture of alcohol across the United States. Colosimo was shot to death and no one was charged with his murder.

Next to go was Dion O’Banion, chief of the Irish Gangs in Chicago. He was shot dead at close range by a couple of customers in his flower shop in 1924 and again no charges were brought.

Barely out of his mid twenties, Capone established his illegal activities generating sales approaching one hundred million dollars a year and at his peak there would have been as many as a thousand gangsters under his control.

‘When I sell liquor it is called criminal activity’ Capone was fond of saying. ‘but in the White House they call it hospitality’.

Capone achieved something never done before or since when he annexed part of the United States as his own private fiefdom. the town of Cicero located just outside of Chicago. Capone loved to show off his power as was demonstrated on one occasion when he kicked the Mayor down the stairs of City Hall whilst the police looked the other way.

Violent opposition was still coming from the Irish remnants led by George ‘Bugs’ Moran who had joined in an alliance with Hymie Weiss. a Polish Catholic gangster of psychopathic tendencies.

Weiss was rubbed out in an ambush in 1926 and the Moran mob sought revenge attempting several times to hit Capone.

On 14th February 1929 seven members of the Moran gang were slaughtered in the immortalised St Valentine’s Day Massacre but the Chicago public had enough and the outcry that followed started Capone on his downward spiral.

Al Capone considered himself invincible and never thought he could ever be successfully prosecuted for dealing in illegal liquor.

He was right.

In 1932 Capone was convicted for tax evasion and sentenced to eleven years in a Federal Penitentiary from where he was then transferred to the impregnable Alcatraz prison just a few miles off the coast of San Fransisco.

Released from prison in 1947 on compassionate grounds, Alphonse Capone, with his mind half gone from a venereal related decease, died in Miami in 1947.

He was only forty eight.

Dutch Schultz

The one and only Dutch Schultz, a gangster who lived by his own standards which meant no standards at all.
His real name was Arthur Flegenheimer, born in the Bronx, New York in 1903.

He called himself Dutch Schultz after a leading member of the Frog Hollows, a gang operating in New York City during the 1850’s, because as he say ‘Dutch Schultz looks better in the headlines than Arthur Flegenheimer’.

The Dutchman, the ultimate maverick, was simply much too powerful for the other gangs to mess with so the New York City mobsters gave him wide birth and he was pretty much left to his own devices during the late 1920’s although he did have to pay lip service to the Mafia so as to guarantee himself some form of official approval.

However Schultz just could not help getting himself involved in a series of battles with other Mobs especially those lower down the scale. At one time or another he was fighting groups led by ‘Legs’ Diamond, Vincent ‘Mad Dog’ Coll and even the notorious Amberg brothers who ran their empire out of Brownsville, a suburb of New York City.

Italian, Jewish or Irish, it made no difference the Dutchman but the publicity surrounding his conflicts meant that by the early 1930’s Schultz was already attracting attention from Law Enforcement.

Schultz, was well equipped to wipe out his enemies and was confident enough to install himself as the ‘Beer Baron of the Bronx’ following up on his ambitions by muscling out the black gangsters running the numbers racket in Harlem.

In 1935 the Dutchman faced an enemy that even he could not handle in his usual manner. Thomas Dewey, the newly appointed District Attorney for New York was at the age of thirty five was a man of ambition and he saw Dutch Schultz as a target to improve his public standing in the quest to achieve the highest possible office in the United States.

Schultz was eventually able to escape justice after two trials but not the final judgement of his peers. Although born a Jew he requested that he be baptised as a catholic on his death bed.

Arnold Rothstein

Born in 1882 into a religious Jewish family, Arnold Rothstein grew up to become the spiritual father of Organised Crime in the United States.

It was said that he fixed the World Baseball Series in 1919 so as to cash in on the record bets placed on the outcome and he then graduated to the position of foremost gambler in America.

On 16th January 1920 the Volstead Act’ became law in America making it a criminal offence to manufacture or sell alcohol for commercial purposes.

Rothstein was smart enough to take advantage by masterminding and financing the smuggling of illegal liquor which then flourished into a multi-hundred million dollar business that continued for thirteen years.

Shortly after the introduction of Prohibition he had been approached by a couple of small-time hoods (Waxey Gordon and Max Greenberg) and introduced to the possibility of making a ‘few dollars’ if he would finance the import of a shipment of illegal scotch whisky from the United Kingdom.

Rothstein quadrupled his investment in a couple of months and was now in the liquor business.

Also known as the ‘Big Bankroll’ or ‘The Brain’, Rothstein was well placed to have police, politicians and judges on his personal payroll. This ensured proper protection from all those in authority who could cause him difficulties.

Rothstein was also an undisputed spotter of talent and he recruited into his fold characters that became legends including ‘Lepke’ Buchalter, Frank Costello, ‘Legs’ Diamond, Meyer Lansky, Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano, Dutch Schultz and Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel. He trained them well.

On 4th November 1928 Arnold Rothstein was dealt into a poker game at the New York Sheraton Hotel where he lost heavily. He declined to meet his losses and a few hours later he was found dying from a gunshot wound to the stomach.

When asked by the police who shot him, Rothstein lifted himself slightly from his deathbed and just put his fingers to his lips.

On 6th November 1928 Rothstein was dead. No charges were ever brought.

The Mafia in Cuba

Cuba, approximately ninety miles off the coast of Miami was to the Mafia during the 1940’s a paradise-in-waiting.
Partnership with Government was a maxim of the Mafia going back to at least to 1932 when it attempted to influence the nomination of Al Smith as President of the United States.

During the 1950’s Meyer Lansky reached an accommodation with Fulgencio Batista, the Cuban dictator allowing the development of casino/hotels on the Island.

By that time gambling operations in Las Vegas were already up and running and Meyer Lansky was able to persuade his syndicate friends that Cuba was another prime attraction and that there was a government ready and able to co-operate with ‘its hand open’.

There were fortunes to be made in Cuba during the 1950’s and with the direct assistance of Santo Trafficante, the boss of the Tampa Mafia Family in Florida, he put together these glorious monuments to capitalism within ‘spitting distance’ but out of reach of the United States.

All concerned were anxious to avoid the problems of 1946 when ‘Lucky’ Luciano had arrived on the Island as a means to get back into his adopted homeland of America after being deported to Italy the year before. The US government exerted heavy pressure on Cuba by refusing to send medical aid unless Luciano was evicted back to Italy and the Cuban Government had no option but to buckle as it was heavily reliant on such supplies.

Meyer Lansky, left alone to run the operation, could have generated significant profits to be shared with all his partners but his dreams and those of his Mafia friends came to nothing on 1st January 1959 when Fidel Castro effected a bloodless coup resulting in Fulgencio Batista, President of Cuba, being thrown off the Island with his gangster pals.

Castro then passed on the opportunity to enjoy ‘partnership’ with Organised Crime.

Israel and the Mafia

Gangsters they were but nevertheless they were keenly aware of their Jewish heritage to the extent that during the 1940’s significant assistance was provided by the Jewish mob in the supply of funds to the Resistance that eventually brought about the establishment of the State of Israel.

At the time the Mafia even entertained thoughts about having a grateful state to call upon for ‘favours’ but David Ben Gurion (first prime minister of Israel) although ‘thankful’ for past help decided he could do without this type of ‘sponsorship’.

Doc Stacher a senior criminal figure in American Organised Crime had arrived in Israel in 1964 to settle under the Law of Return and was able to do so without any fuss. He encouraged his very good friend Meyer Lansky to do the same when it became known that three serious charges were being considered against Lansky by the American Government.

On 27th July 1970 Meyer Lansky landed in Israel but did not make any immediate attempt to become an Israeli citizen under the Law of Return as he wanted to avoid any attention but it was only when the American Government eventually decided to proceed with these criminal charges that he took local advice and put forward his application for citizenship that was promptly turned down by the Yosef Burg the Minister of the Interior.

Lansky’s appeal in March 1972 lasted five days following which the High Court of Israel reserved its decision. On 11th September 1972 judgement was handed down confirming the refusal to have Lansky approved for citizenship on the grounds that it was not for the Court to interfere with decisions of this type taken by the Interior Minister. Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel at the time had already expressed her own sentiments to Yosef Burg when she informed him that there was to be ‘no Mafia in Israel’.

It was not as though Lansky had any serious convictions against him as he only had one blemish for gambling back in the early 1950’s which was hardly a basis to reject an application from him to settle in Israel under the Law of Return. Nevertheless he appeared to take the decision against him in his stride and suddenly left Israel on his own accord on 5th November 1972 before he could be physically thrown out. Now he had to find somewhere to go as long as it was not the United States. No country would accept him even though certain South American Countries were offered financial incentives. Even Paraguay, an acknowledged safe haven for Nazis did not want to know.

After two days of exhausting travel he arrived at Miami Airport on 7th November 1972 and was immediately placed under arrest by the FBI and then rushed to hospital suffering from heart and breathing difficulties.

The three charges against Lansky were either dismissed/dropped for lack of evidence but he was still unable to return back to the land of his birthright although he did make a written application to Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1977.

He was told that if he left a financial deposit with the Israeli Government he might be allowed in as a tourist but enough was enough for Lansky who said he was deeply insulted and dropped the whole idea.

Meyer Lansky passed away on 15th January 1983, at the age of 81 never to have the opportunity of fulfilling his wish to be buried in Jerusalem where his grandparents had been laid to rest many years earlier.

Omerta

Salvatore Maranzano, a Mafia Chief from Sicily, arrived in the USA in the early 1920’s and reintroduced the Oath of Omerta believing that this would only draw members much more closely into their adopted Family.

The procedure would commence with the candidate led into a darkened room blindfolded surrounded by his peers.
He held out his left hand which would be cut with a stiletto knife and into which would be placed a picture of a saint smeared with his blood. The picture was then set on fire.

As the fire burned he would chant in Italian ‘as I live by the gun and the knife, may I die by the gun and the knife and if I betray my brotherhood may I burn in hell like this saint’.
The fire was extinguished, the blindfold removed and each of the men that stood in the circle approached and kissed him on both cheeks.

This new Mafioso had made the decision to follow a way of life from which death was the only release.

A ‘Made Man’ had to abide by three rules.

Punishment for the breach of any of these rules was instant, terminal and with no appeal.

Drug dealing without consent was forbidden by the American Mafia because a member under arrest for ‘possession’ would make it difficult for a mob lawyer to gain an acquittal. A conviction for drug dealing would automatically draw a lengthy sentence that could tempt a Mafioso to inform on his Family thus gaining a reduced sentence. If the cause of arrest was an automatic death sentence from the Mafia then in theory, at least there should be no problem.

For any Mafioso who did want to ‘turn’ there was the Witness Protection Programme providing an opportunity to leave his old life behind and start afresh with a new identity. To qualify the candidate had to fully confess to all his crimes and be prepared to give evidence in court against his former ‘friends’.

In 1962 Joseph Valachi became possibly the most important informer that Law Enforcement has ever had and he ‘turned’ in exactly the circumstances under which the original rules were drafted to prevent.

Facing a long spell in prison for drug dealing, Valachi, a soldier in the Genovese Crime Family, decided that at the age of sixty he would be better off assisting the police especially as he was convinced that he was now marked out for a contract handed out against him by his boss Vito Genovese who himself was in jail serving a fifteen year sentence for narcotics offences.

Joseph Valachi revealed that when Charles ‘Lucky Luciano was elevated to the position of Boss of Bosses in 1931 he expressed contempt for the Mafia tradition of swearing the Oath of Omerta. He was persuaded that this formality should remain as it would generate loyalty amongst the new members cementing a bond with the Brotherhood that was acknowledged as only being severed by death. For Luciano that was good enough.

By the 1970’s, Jimmy ‘the Weasel’ Fratianno (an eleven hit veteran for the Mob), was unhappy with his lot and a natural to be recruited by the police and just like Valachi he was able to provide invaluable information.

Both Valachi and Fratianno escaped Mafia justice and died in their beds but it was not for lack of trying that the Brotherhood failed to have these two turncoats hit.
In 1992 Sammy ‘the Bull’ Gravano, underboss to John Gotti – Capo of the Gambino Family, crossed over to the other side. Gravano was already much disillusioned with life in the Gambinos made even worse when the FBI played him tapes of John Gotti talking about him in a somewhat disparaging manner.

Gravano confessed to nineteen murders in all and provided sufficient information to not only put John Gotti away for the rest of his life but to also bring down many other crime family members plus corrupt union officials and others in authority. In exchange for his testimony Sammy ‘The Bull’ was handed a reduced five year sentence but as he had been in prison since 1990 he was out on the street by 1995.

Gravano had so far been able to avoid Mafia justice but did not seem to have learned his lesson having been picked up later on drug dealing charges plus other serious offences which put him right back into prison.

Valachi, Fratianno and Gravano were able to avoid retribution from their former friends in the Mafia but many others were not so fortunate.

Jimmy Hoffa

Jimmy Hoffa in confrontation with Robert Kennedy photographed in 1958. Kennedy was chief counsel for the Senate Rackets Committee investigating allegations of ties between Teamster Union Boss Hoffa to Organised On 30th July 1975 Jimmy Hoffa left his home in Detroit to attend a meeting at a local restaurant. During the afternoon he was seen leaving the eatery and getting into a car with three men.

That was the last time James R Hotta was seen in public. What caused most surprise was that it took so long for him to ‘vanish’.

Jimmy Hoffa had been for many years the head of the Teamsters, the largest union in the United States.

The Union Pension Fund was regarded as the jackpot by the Mafia and Hoffa was not the sort to disappoint and for year after year during the 1950’s and early 1960’s he presided over the looting of the Fund and he no doubt comforted himself that with his ‘protection’ he was immune from criminal prosecution.

Despised by the Kennedy brothers, Hoff a was a special target for Law Enforcement during the 1950’s and he had many unpleasant encounters with Robert Kennedy who headed the Senate Investigations into Organised Crime with particular emphasis on corruption of unions.

Elected President of the United States in 1960, John Kennedy appointed his brother Robert as Attorney General and the Get Hoffa Campaign’ could now begin in earnest.

In 1964 Haifa was convicted of fraud involving millions of dollars in pension funds promarily used for the development of the mob controlled casino industry in Las Vegas for which he received a lengthy prison sentence commuted a few years later in 1971 by the then President of the United States. Richard Nixon. No satisfactory explanation was given.

The early release of Hoff was explicitly conditional on him having nothing further to do with union life and whilst on the surface he complied with this fundamental requirement. he simply continued control of the Teamsters Union through ‘stooges’.

It was only his permanent retirement organised by his former friends that brought the colourful career of Jimmy Hoffa to its inevitable conclusion at the age of sixty two.

Jimmy Hoffa

The fabulous John Gotti – the Teflon Don – so called because for many years the US Government could not make any charges stick against him.

He was probably the last ever great Mafia Chief.
However the problem with John Gotti was that he ended up believing in his own publicity and broke the cardinal rule for all Mafia Dons which is ‘keep your head down and your mouth shut’.

This was not a route that could be followed by the dapper John Gotti.

Born in New York City in 1940, by his early twenties he was very much involved with the local crime family having spent his teenage years running with street gangs and even then he was already marked out as a future leader.

Gotti performed his first contract as a hitman in 1972 on one James McBratney who had committed the lunatic offence of kidnapping the nephew of Carlo Gambino Boss of the powerful crime Family that carried his name.

In October 1976 the legendary Carlo died in his bed and leadership devolved upon his brother-in-law Paul Castellano. It was still much too early for John Gotti who anyway was in prison at the time.

In 1980 a neighbour, John Favara, drove the car that ran over and killed Frank, the twelve year old son of John Gotti.
Favara was warned by his friends and even the police to move away from the area but he just did not believe that anything could happen to him with all the publicity surrounding the accident. A few months later he left home on his way to work never to be seen again.

The word on the street was that the fifty-one old Favara was chainsawed to death, dumped in a car which was then put through a compressor leaving a one square foot block which was kept as a momento in the local mob hangout.
The mystery of the disappearance of John Favara was never officially solved.

Now that he had reached his forties Gotti was considered very much a leader-in-waiting and it was now only a matter of time before he was ready to make his move.

By the mid 1980’s Paul Castellano, Capo of the Gambinos was approaching his seventieth year  following charges of various criminal offences, any one of which would have him locked up for the rest of his life.

Gotti and his friends considered that Castellano might ‘talk’ and there was now an opportunity to remove this obstacle to his ambitions.

Gotti was banking on receiving recognition from all the Mafia Families (not only the Gambinos) for the seizing of the initiative by removing such a danger to all Organised Crime in New York City and beyond.

His opportunity arrived when on 2nd December 1985 the underboss to Castellano, Aniello ‘Mr Neil Dellacroce a much respected old time Mafia figure died of cancer. In normal circumstances Paul Castellano as the Boss of the Family would visit the house of the deceased to pay his respects but
with pressure being put upon him by Law Enforcement, he took the advice from his lawyers not to attend thus avoiding the possibility of being caught on camera consorting with ‘undesirables’.

This was just what Gotti needed to make his move. The word was put around that not only was Castellano a threat to the Family but that he had been disrespectful to his underboss. Immediate action was required.

On 16th December 1985 Paul Castellano and his bodyguard Thomas Billoti at the wheel of his limousine were heading for a secret ‘sit down’ with other Families in the back room of Sparks Restaurant in Manhattan. As Castellano was getting out of the car four men all dressed alike in hats and coats with scarves covering their faces appeared out of the early evening throng of Christmas shoppers. As a bonus not only was Castellano shot to death but his dangerous bodyguard, Billotti was also taken out. ‘No-one saw a thing’.

By 1992, Gotti thought himself able to walk on water but his ability to obtain continuous acquittals was mainly due to witnesses either ‘losing their memory’ or ‘disappearing’.
Police pressure on his lieutenant Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano caused him to ‘turn’ which was not in any way hindered by being forced to listen to the FBI tapes of Gotti ‘slagging him off’.

With Gravano as a material witness for the prosecution even the Government could not fail and in 1992 Gotti was convicted of the murder of Castellano as well as other charges involving racketeering and was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison without any possibility of parole.
Gotti was taken to the maximum federal penitentiary at Marion, Illinois where he was kept underground in a cage on wheels but despite solitary confinement he was still able to pass instructions across to the Gambino Family through the once-a-month visits from his son John Junior natural heir to his throne.

In the late 1990’s John Gotti dying of throat cancer, was transferred to the Federal Medical Facility at Springfield, Missouri, still held under the closest possible security where he died on 9th June 2002.

Unfortunately John Gotti Jnr. would not have any immediate chance of ascendance to power as he was still serving a six year prison sentence.

The Mafia in Hollywood

Hollywood was ‘custom made’ for the Mafia … in the eyes of the public, the glamour of show business was equally matched by gangsters becoming household names through tabloid newspapers and movies.

Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel arrived in Hollywood during the 1930’s and found it very much to his liking and did whatever he could to exploit available opportunities.

Movie stars of that time were all for the extra publicity gained by being seen and photographed with characters such as Seigel who of course took full advantage to ingratiate himself with the ‘people who mattered’.

But beneath the glittering surface, his racketeering activities continued to flourish from running national bookmaking activities graduating into the control of the local unions attached to the movie industry with the occasional murder thrown in.

Without full co-operation of the unions, the entire industry would grind to a halt and Mafia involvement was an accepted fact of life from the 1930’s until well into the 1950’s.

Top entertainer Frank Sinatra was already indebted to the Mob from early in his career and until his
death in 1998 was established as the favourite entertainer of the Mafia’.

Sinatra, commenced life in 1916 in Hoboken, New Jersey and shortly after the start of his career was already becoming a local favourite in clubs controlled by his great friend his crime boss Willie Moretti of the New Jersey Family.

Moretti demonstrated his friendship by jamming a gun into the mouth of bandleader Tommy Dorsey as an inducement to release Sinatra from his performance contract and said afterwards ‘I told Dorsey that in one minute either his signature of his brains would be on the contract’.

Moretti was assassinated by his Mafia friends in 1951 as a ‘goodwill gesture’ as his degenerating mental illness was causing him to shoot his mouth off and the Mafia justified the hit by saying ‘that this was what Willie would have wanted’.

Frank Sinatra had by then allied himself with Sam Giancana, Capo in the Chicago Family and remained good friends with him until Giancana himself was rubbed out in 1975.

The Mafia and Adolf Hitler

Whilst Adolf Hitler was busy persecuting the Jews in Germany during the 1930’s he really was not too bothered as to who it was that was being ‘taken care of.

It was therefore of little concern to Hitler that amongst those individuals he eliminated were wealthy German Jewish criminals who had been financing the import of narcotics into the United States.

With the finance chain cut, drugs that had been brought into America in abundance were beginning to dry up and by 1937 there was a real scarcity of supply across the country.

The drug dealers in the US were suffering considerable difficulties and arrangements had to be made to find another pipeline of finance and supply.

Jacob ‘Yashe’ Katzenberg, acknowledged as a real expert in that field was deputed to organise a new ‘trail’ from the Far East later to become known as the ‘Golden Triangle’.

Angelo Greco, a well known hoodlum operating in the narcotics trade in New York City during the 1930’s was very much involved in attempts to organise the new drug pipeline into the United States. He had been arrested ten times but had only two convictions including one for the illegal sale of alcohol and the other for possession of narcotics.

The headquarters for his business activities was a cafe located in the heart of Little Italy district of New York City and it was there that he was found shot to death on 17th November 1939. Angelo Greco had simply just made too many enemies for the police to even think about questioning suspects.

J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI

What a great break for the Mafia when J. Edgar Hoover was appointed Director of the FBI in 1924 at the age of twenty nine.

To have one of the most powerful men in the United States for more than forty years refuse to acknowledge that there was any such thing as ‘The Mafia’ let alone the concept of Organised Crime, was indeed a welcome bonus.

The Mafia was originally concerned not to draw too much attention to itself by carrying out inter-gang feuding or performing hits on public figures as such action could only bring bad publicity which did not help ‘business’ especially if the law was forced by the public to try and do something about it but there was no cause for worry.

Hoover seemed only interested in chasing bank robbers who might turn out to be nothing more than impoverished farmers suffering from the Depression of the 1930’s and when that novelty wore off Hoover’s FBI shone the spotlight on Communists and the Mafia to breathed a further sigh of relief. Under his rule at the FBI, Organised Crime continued to flourish. If there had been another Director at the helm at the FBI life would have been that much more difficult for the Organised Crime.

There have been rumours of Hoover’s sexuality (he was never married) and that the Mafia had a hold on him because of that possibility. Although there has never been proper evidence to justify such talk there was indeed ’cause to wonder’.

Even J.Edgar Hoover was forced to admit that there might be something to this ‘Organised Crime’ business following an event that occurred in the thirty third year of his reign over the FBI when on 14th November 1957 New York State Troopers accidentally stumbled on a conference of Mafioso at the home of suspected mobster Joseph Barbara in the small town of Apalachin, Upstate New York.

The Mafia summit degenerated into a shambles when the attending mobsters panicked at the sight of police officers apparently staking out the conference and in their mistaken impression that there was about to be a raid. most just dashed out of the house to escape. The police managed to round up sixty three middle aged/elderly gentlemen later discovered to have between them some seven hundred plus criminal charges or convictions.

What could Hoover do but reluctantly admit that there might be something to this ‘Organised Crime’ but he continued to insist that the title ‘Mafia’ was just a myth not helped when John Kennedy was elected President of the United States in 1960 and appointed his younger brother, Robert, Attorney General with a brief to eliminate Organised Crime. Despite pressure from the Kennedys Hoover continued to resist providing anything like the full cooperation that might have seriously inconvenienced the Mafia.

At the age of seventy seven, J. Edgar Hoover died in the satisfaction of knowing that he had outlived John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, both objects of his intense hatred. It was only after he had passed away that the FBI was able to come out of the shadows to properly reform and equip itself to combat Organised Crime in America.

The All Jewish Purple Gang

Has there ever been a more violent mob than the all Jewish Purple Gang of Detroit? … and just where did that name come from? Two reasons have been given.

A gang member called Silverstein had a penchant for purple sweaters copied by his friends or alternatively it was said that a local trader described gang leader Sammy Cohen as being ‘off-colour’, sort of purple’ meaning he was no good and his nickname ‘Purple’ was adopted his pals.

Irrespective of the origin of the name this assortment of young thugs brought terror to Detroit, Michigan from the late 1920’s into the 1930’s and they seemed to have a charmed life as each vicious exploit topped another without any interference from the law.

The Purple Gang did not tolerate any opposition in their quest to become the foremost bootlegging operation in Detroit during the Prohibition Era (when it was a criminal offence to manufacture and supply liquor for commercial purposes in America) and they were not even above bringing in out-o• town Italian hitmen to deal with opposition particularly its most fiercest rivals the ‘Little Jewish Navy’.

It did not matter to the Purples as to whether the opposition were of the same ethnic background or not, a rival was a rival and would have to dealt with accordingly.

When the National syndicate was formed by Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky at the beginning of the 1930’s the Purple Gang could not be ignored and it was invited to become a ‘Mafia associate’.

Not being part of the Mafia, the Purples were free to expand operations from dealing in Illegal alcohol and onto robbery, drug dealing, extortion, union abuse and general mayhem Just so long as such activities remained confined to Detroit.

But the Purples just did not know when to stop the violence and after wiping out three Jewish gang chiefs in 1931, in what was to become known as the Collingwood Massacre, the police were galvanised into action albeit a few years too late.

The heyday of the Purple Gang was really over by 1932 and its members even years later were either hunted down by other gangsters or they drew sentences of life in prison which for most meant exactly that.

Civil War Between Jewish Gangs

It was not only the old style Mafia chiefs that were causing problems resulting in a revolution within the brotherhood in 1930.

The Jewish mob were suffering its own difficulties and it was the responsibility of Meyer Lansky to ensure that his co-religionists were also brought into line.

Irving Wexler alias Waxey Gordon was the king pin in Philadelphia during Prohibition (when the manufacture and sale of alcohol was banned from 1920 until 1933 anywhere in the United States). Although both he and Lansky had been part of the Arnold Rothstein organisation in the early 1920’s each vied to eliminate the other.

Waxey Gordon knew that Meyer Lansky and his Italian friends were hijacking his alcohol deliveries whilst Meyer thought that Waxey was to be treated as someone not above selling out his Jewish compatriots to the anti-semetic element within the Mafia.

It took several killings on both sides for Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano, boss of all the Mafia Families, to try and bring about the peace between his allies and having thought it over for maybe a second it was no problem for him to take sides with his boyhood pal Meyer Lansky.

Luciano brought in to help, Longy Zwillman (the New Jersey boss) and his very good friends the Moretti brothers who were all sympathetic to the Lansky cause.

It was now time to involve the US Government and by tipping off the Internal Revenue Service With information, charges of tax evasion were brought against Waxey leaving him to face a lengthy prison sentence. Now that problem was solved. Lansky turned his attention to another rival Charles ‘King’ Solomon of Boston. This particular king had a much shortened reign.

Lansky now reigned supreme over the Jewish mob and kept his promise by delivering to the Mafia a unified Jewish Group all too willing to become involved in the adventure of ‘Organised Crime’.

Lansky added other Jewish gangs from across the nation into the alliance the most predominant being the Purple Gang from Detroit, and the Dalilt outfit from Cleveland.

Meyer Lansky was always someone who could ‘deliver’.

Louis ‘Lepke’ Buchalter

For any organisation to succeed there has to be clear leadership and Murder Incorporated was no exception to the rule.

Louis Buchalter was the commander of Murder Incorporated that elite Squad of hitmen providing exclusive services to the Mafia in the 1930’s and he only ever received the utmost respect from his Peers.

He was born in 1897 into a large Jewish family, and even though he stood only five foot seven inches tall, was Slimly built and appeared totally innocuous, this was one highly violent individual who confessed to a love of ‘hurting people.

He was better known as ILepkw a nickname given by his mother which was supposed to represent a Yiddish term of endearment but in reality he was a character that inspired terror not only amongst his enemies but also his own colleagues.

Lepke rose through the ranks to become the leading union racketeer in America yet he also found time to control day.to day activities of Murder Incorporated and assisted by his very good friend Jacob ‘Gurrah’ Shapiro. he wreaked such havoc during the 1920’s and 1930’s so that by 1939 he had reached the pinnacle as Public Enemy Number One in the United States.

Tricked into surrender by the FBI in 1939, he was shuttled between State of New York and Federal Authorities who both wanted a piece of him but eventually New York State grabbed its prize.

Buchalter made his final journey to Sing Sing Prison with Louis (no relation) Capone and Emanuel Wendy’ Weiss (two executives of Murder Incorporated) to face the execution in the electric chair on 4th March 1944.

‘Lepke’ Buchalter was the first and last Organised Crime boss to be put to death in the United States.

Meyer Lansky

There was only one real Godfather and he was not even Italian but a Jew.

Born in 1902 as Maier Suchowljansky in Grodno, Poland, he achieved lasting fame under the adopted name of Meyer Lansky.

It would have been unheard of for any non-Italian to reach the top echelons of Organised Crime let alone a Jew but even though not a member of the Mafia his influence and power has never been rivaled and it is possible that he was the only person to gain full respect across the whole spectrum of La Cosa Nostra.

There was of course inevitable resentment because he was Jewish but at least in the inner circles of the Mafia, he was a man to be trusted and revered not the least because of his brilliant financial acumen coupled with his well disguised ruthlessness.

‘Listen to Meyer said Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano as part of his farewell speech on being deported to Italy from the United States in 1946. and they listened.

Although small of stature, and with the appearance of a mild mannered banker he, with his boyhood friend Benjamin ‘Bugs Seigel formed the Bug and Meyer Mob, the most vicious of crews of that Prohibition Era of the 1920’s when it was a criminal offence to manufacture and sell alcohol for commercial purposes anywhere in America.

Although not directly involved in the violence (which was left to Seigel) Lansky was indeed the power behind this feared gang of torpedoes and was responsible for the strategy adopted in its wide range of activities from extortion to muscle for hire and from strike breaking to the hijacking of liquor shipments that were supposedly under the protection of his own Bug and Meyer Mob.

Lansky sat in on sessions of the Commission, ruling body of the Mafia, again something which given his origins would now be unimaginable and as the only Jew to be a force in the Mafia after the Second World War, he remained a ‘man of respect’ during the 1950’s and 1960’s.

In New York during the 1950’s, Lansky had allied himself with Carlo Gambino a fast rising mobster in the Mangano Family. There was much bloodshed on the streets of the city during that period culminating in the assassination of Albert Anastasia. a former friend of Lansky from the early days of Murder Incorporated. Not too many tears were shed for Anastasia. hit on 25th October 1957 whilst having a shave the barber shop in the New York Sheraton Hotel. He had himself only ascended to power by eliminating the Mangano Brothers back in 1951.

Carlo and Meyer were now in control and the name of the Family was changed to Gambino without any protest.

By the end of the 1940’s Lanksy had put in place the gambling operation in Las Vegas through his boyhood friend Benjamin ‘Bugsy Siegel eliminated by the Mob on suspicion of siphoning off syndicate funds earmarked for the Flamingo Hotel and Casino.

During the following decade Lansky decided to move on and attempted to organise gambling operations in Cuba seeking the assistance of that Island’s Government but unfortunately this project came to naught following the revolution of 1959 that brought Fidel Castro to power when he lost no time in nationalising the hotel/casinos and also throwing Lansky and his friends off the Island.

In July 1970 Lansky. fearing serious charges involving racketeering and skimming from Las Vegas casinos slipped out of the United States and headed for Israel with the long term view of staking a claim for citizenship under the Law of Return which allowed any Jew to be given the right to settle in Israel which if successful would remove him from the clutches of the American Government.

The application by Lanksy to become a citizen was refused by the High Court of Israel on 11th September 1972 because even at the age of seventy he was thought a danger to the nation.

Rather than face the ignominy of being thrown out of Israel, Lansky voluntarily departed on 5th November 1972. He ended up back in the United States having previously been refused entry by various South American countries (despite financial incentives being offered) which included Paraguay, best known at the time for providing a safe haven for Nazi fugitives.

Meyer Lansky spent the remaining ten years of his life in America and even though all federal charges against him had been dismissed he was still not allowed back into Israel even as a tourist.

Meyer Lansky was a visionary saying that ‘We are bigger than US Steer’ when attempting to equate Organised Crime with business but although Benjamin Seigel has been credited with the establishment of gambling in Las Vegas. It was really Meyer Lansky who saw the potential back in the early 1940’s to turn a small town in the Nevada Desert into the gambling and entertainment centre of the world.

His body ravaged with pain. Meyer Lansky  Mogul of the Mob died in Miami Beach on 15th January 1983 in his eighty first year.

Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano

Born Salvatore Lucania in Palermo, Sicily in 1897 he was brought to the United States in 1906. He grew up to become the infamous ‘Lucky’ Luciano, responsible for the creation of the modern Mafia in America.

Even early in his career he recognised the importance of forming an alliance with the powerful Jewish gangs of that era and with their help he carried out the vision of his previous boss, Salvatore Maranzano in cementing the concept of Organised Crime notwithstanding that it was Luciano himself that was responsible for the hit on Maranzano.

He gained his nickname following escape from certain death by surviving a kidnapping by rival gangsters. The scars left on his face were testament as to how ‘Lucky he was to get through that ordeal.

Luciano was the moving force behind the removal of old style Mafia Chiefs at the beginning of the 1930’s and at the age of thirty four stood unopposed as the Capo di Tutti Capi, a title he always hated but he was indeed the Boss of all Bosses.

Although Salvatore Maranzano originated the concept of the creation of gangs into Families responsible for the formation of the Five Mafia Families of New York in 1931, it was the talent and charisma of ‘Lucky Luciano that galvanised Organised Crime as a force that was to last into the next century.

It was inevitable that he would be a target for the law and in 1936 he was arrested and convicted for controlling prostitutes. Even though he protested his innocence sayingthat this was a dirty business that he would not get involved with, he was still sentenced to confinement for thirty to fifty years ending up at the bleak Danmora Penitentiary in Upstate New York. Still he was acknowledged as the true boss of the American Mafia notwithstanding imprisonment.

After the Second World War, Luciano was given credit for using his contacts with the Sicilian Mafia to allow the allied forces to free the Island from German occupation but his early release from prison in 1946, was conditional on being deported to Italy but even from across the ocean he was confident that his power and influence over Organised Crime in the USA could continue.

In that same year he turned up in Cuba hoping to use the Island as a stepping-stone back into the United States but having Luciano in residence barely ninety miles off the coast of Florida did not appeal to the American Government one bit and the threat by Washington to withdraw medical supplies left Cuba with no option but to return the Boss of Bosses’ back to Italy.

Deprived of all power, he finally succumbed to a heart attack at Naples Airport in January 1962 and it was only in death that he was allowed back into the United States for his burial.

Castellammarese Wars

By the late 1920’s two major Mafia Gangs in New York City were in control of their respective territories but the two leaders Salvatore MaranZano and Giuseppe ‘Joe the Boss Masseria ‘just could not get on’.

These old style Mafia Chiefs (called Mustache Petes) originated from Sicily but were rabid ‘anti-Semites and refused to have Jews as part of their organisations, but as much as they hated the Jews they disliked each other even more.

War was inevitable and in 1928 blood flowed in the streets of New York City in what was to become known as the Castellammarese War named after the Sicilian town of Castellammare del Golfo from where the majority of these Mafioso originated.

Masseria could call on those Italian Gangsters that had already allied itself with the Jewish Mob such as ‘Lucky Luciano’, Vito Genovese, Joe Adonis, Frank Costello and Albert Anastasia and others. They were put in charge of their ‘ethnic friends’.

Maranzano was able to recruit the more established Italian Mobsters such as Joseph Profachi, Joe Bonanno, Joe Magiocco and even defectors Tommy Gagiano and Tommy Lucchese who were operating on both sides but no Jews were even allowed to be even indirectly involved.

By beginning of 1929 Mafia warfare was raging across the streets of New York and it was the younger generation of Jewish and Italian gangsters from New York City and other key locations in the United States that decided something had to be done to stop the violence that was causing considerable inconvenience to business and already spiralling out of control.

The Mustache Fetes were allowing their personal bitter hatred of each other to interfere with business and the negative publicity was bringing down heat from all sections of Law Enforcement so a secret underground movement was set up involving the Jewish and Italian Mobsters and in May 1929 a ‘meeting was arranged.

Now referred to as the Atlantic City conference, delegates including Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello. Dutch Schultz and many others from across the nation all turned up and the resolutions that were passed over that weekend stamped an everlasting mark on Organised Crime for the following decades.

On 30th April 1931 Masseria was invited to lunch by his loyal follower’ Charles ‘Lucky Luciano at a favourite Italian restaurant and after the meal they were playing cards when Luciano excused himself saying that he needed the bathroom.

Whilst he was washing his hands four men walked in to the restaurant and put seventeen bullets into ‘Joe the Boss’. It had been Meyer Lansky’s idea to first eliminate friends so that enemies would be lulled into a false sense of security.

Luciano and his friends were of course invited to Join the Maranzano Brigade.

Salvatore Maranzano was a great fan of Julius Caesar and was well acquainted with his classical works including the Gallic Wars and it was his ambition to have Organised Crime run along the same lines as the Legions of the Roman Emperor.

Each city across the nation had its Mafia group converted into a Family with soldiers, liutenants and captains. Each Unit would be advised by a consigliere but New York City because of its special circumstances would have Five families.

The Oath of Omerta was reintroduced and only those of pure Sicilian extract were entitled to become ‘made men’. Maranzano was firm on that.

Had Salvatore Maranzano been prepared to work together with the former enemy all might have been well for himbut he was paranoid about Luciano and his Jewish pals and entered into a contract with the Irish killer. Vincent ‘Mad Dog Coll to take care of these renegades.

On 10th September 1931, Salvatore Maranzano was hacked to death in his office in Manhattan by a select band of Jewish killers.

Maranzano hated Jews with a vengeance but not having met any, he was unable to recognise that the men who arrived at his office posing as tax officials and police were representatives of the Jewish hitman fraternity.

The Castellammarese War had been brought to a sudden and bloody end.

Origin of the Mafia in Sicily

The Mafia originated in Sicily during the latter part of the thirteenth century as a resistance against the French invaders.

Throughout the Middle Ages the Mafia was regarded as an organisation dedicated to helping the poor but by the nineteenth century it had developed into a criminal society of much secrecy that struck fear into the local population.

At the start of the twentieth century the Sicilian community was instrumental in the rebirth of the Mafia in the United States as La Mano Nera (The Black Hand). a criminal secret society which specialised in extortion and violence within the local Italian communities and which was ruthlessly controlled by the fearsome Ignazio Saietta also known as ‘Lupo the Wolf.

It was inbred into Sicilian and Italian immigrants that on no account could the law be brought in for protection so they just suffered in silence.

In 1910 ‘Lupo the Wolf was sentenced to thirty years on counterfeiting charges. Released early in 1920 he discovered that for him there was no place in the rapidly changing crime scene.

By the end of the First World War the power of La Mano Nera had faded and the momentous decision of the US Government to pass The Volstead Act in January 1920 (commonly known as Prohibition) banning the manufacture and sale of alcohol for commercial purposes allowed power to return to the Sicilian Underworld a ‘thousandfold.

The Mafia was now in business.

Although Lupo the Wolf tried attempted a comeback he was well passed his time. Destitute and stripped of all power he returned to back to the streets which he had previously terrorised for many years where he eventually died in obscurity in 1944.

… and just where did the word ‘Mafia’ come from?

The Jewish and Italian Gangs of New York

It was the Irish Gangs that dominated crime in New York City during the latter part of the nineteenth century.

These criminals had a head start on other ethnic minorities having arrived from Ireland from the 1840’s onwards and under the early twentieth century leadership of gangsters Dinny Meehan. ‘Wild Bill’ Lovett, Richard ‘Peg Leg’ Lonergan and Charlie Higgins, the New York waterfront was held in a grip of fear. They even took the title ‘White Hand’ as a reaction to the Italian Black Hand Society (La Mano Nera) with whom it was constantly at war.

The ‘White Handers’ had the advantage of already securing major contacts with politicians, judges and police and were able to use such influence to crush any opposition.

In the 1920’s the Italian Mob with the help of Jewish allies had ascended to power fuelled by the burgeoning proceeds of the sale of illicit liquor banned by the Volstead Act of 1920 which prohibited the sale and manufacture of liquor for commercial purposes anywhere in the United States.

One by one each of the Irish bosses were assassinated and with the leadership eliminated the rest simply folded.

For the Italian mob, at least there would be supremacy that would last for a hundred years.

The Rise and fall of the Jewish Gangster in the US

Mass immigration into the United States at the turn of the twentieth century spawned the one generation phenomena that was the ‘Jewish Gangster in the USA’.

The natural habitat for many of the early Jewish immigrants arriving in America from Eastern Europe was the Lower East Side of New York City.

During the years immediately preceding the First World War, the entire area was hopelessly overcrowded and for the population, particularly the younger generation. prospects were nil and it was the driving ambition of some that led them away from the unemployment line and into professional criminal life.

Graduating from the great street gangs of pre-First World War America they found themselves immersed in Organised Crime following the introduction of Prohibition on 16th January 1920 which made it a criminal offence to sell or manufacture alcohol for commercial purposes.

The boom In criminal activity during the 1920’s and 1930’s generated violence between not only Jewish criminal gangs but also with outsiders particularly the well established Irish Mob. Sharing the status of new ethnic minority with the Italian gangs, there was an alliance of sorts between them that kept that particular peace.

Those Jewish gangsters who managed to survive certainly had no wish for their sons to follow in their footsteps.

Retirement both voluntary or not and the lack of any natural successors would mean that by the 1940’s there began the inevitable decline of the Jewish Gangster in the United States.

The Mafia , The Kennedy’s and Marilyn Monroe

Joseph Kennedy, father of John and Robert had been well known as a major bootlegger responsible for shipping illegal alcohol into the United States from Canada during the Prohibition Era of the 1920’s when selling or manufacturing liquor for commercial purposes was a criminal offence.

Joe Kennedy had amassed immense wealth and it was natural for the Mafia to assume that his sons could also be corrupted and during the late 1950’s the potential to have its own candidate elected as President of the United States caused great excitement for Organised Crime.

There had been a similar episode back in 1932 when the Mafia unsuccessfully attempted to install Al Smith as Presidential Candidate but that was way back then and John Kennedy was all but already nominated as candidate for the Democratic Party.

Sam Giancana, Capo of the Chicago Mob was the prime mover in this plan and with the help of his very good friend Frank Sinatra introductions were made between the Kennedy brothers and Marilyn Monroe.

A useful • iece of blackmail was in the offin:

Peter Lawford, a Hollywood actor born in England was married to Eunice a sister of the Kennedy brothers which did him no harm at all borne out by his admittance as a fully fledged member of the ‘Sinatra Rat Rack’ and there were therefore no problems in getting the ‘targets’ acquainted.

At one time or another Monroe was infatuated with one or both of the Kennedy brothers but the entire wheeze backfired when Robert Kennedy on his presidential appointment as Attorney General in 1960 carried on with his previous obsession to crush Organised Crime.

Marilyn Monroe suffered from serious depression during the latter years of her life and her many breakdowns were in no small part due to her emotional problems with the Kennedys.

John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe all died in questionable circumstances during the 1960’s and in 1975 Sam Giancana was himself shot dead whilst frying sausages in the basement of his home in Chicago.

It is reasonable to assume that all four could have died because ‘they knew too much’ and with the death of the last member of the quintet Frank Sinatra the entire truth has been buried forever.

Mafia Civil Wars of the 20th Century

Throughout the twentieth century Mafia Families in the United States continued to wage war on each other and have self destructed to such an extent that through the premature death of members at the hands of each other, numbers have considerably diminished leaving the powerbase exposed to Law Enforcement and ethnic predators.

In the later 1920’s war broke out between two old style Mafia chiefs, Guiseppe ‘Joe The Boss’ Masaria and Salvatore Maranzano in the conflict known as the Castellammarese War named after a small town in Sicily from where most of the protagonists came from. This was a battle over distribution rights of liquor during the Prohibition Era when the manufacture and sale of alcohol for commercial purposes was banned.

The disastrous war caused new rules to be drawn up so as to ensure that hopefully such problems could never occur again.

A ruling commission was set up within the Mafia to control such conflicts but it would have been simply too much to expect that individual members of the Commission with their own personal agenda would be entirely neutral in passing judgement.

In the decades following the Second World War there was never a period when there was complete peace until John Gotti in the mid-1980’s attempted to unify the leadership.

Vito Genovese, acting head of the Luciano Family since Charlie Lucky had been sent to prison back in 1936 was known as an arch-schemer against his ‘friends’. Following a narcotics conviction in 1959 Genovese drew a fifteen year sentence and until his death in prison ten years later, he devoted himself to orchestrating warfare against not only other Families but also his own members deemed for whatever reason, to be disloyal.

During the 1950’s Carlo Gambino with his very good friend Meyer Lansky conspired to get rid of the infamous Albert ‘The Mad Hatter’ Anastasia.

Anastasia had taken control of the Mangano Crime Family of New York City in 1951 having eliminated both the Mangano brothers. He was still as ruthless as in his early days when in office as the Lord High Executioner of Murder of Incorporated. It was of no surprise to anyone when two hitmen walked into the barber shop at the New York Sheraton Hotel on the morning of 25th October 1957 and ‘donated’ half a dozen bullets into his body.

There were no arrests for this murder although it was obvious to all concerned as to who might have been responsible when Carlo with Meyer in tow took control of the Mangano Family and changed the title to Gambino. No one spoke a word of protest.

In 1960 the vicious Profachi-Gallo War broke out. Joseph Profachi, one of the original family heads from the early 1930’s continued to insist that every member of his Family pay a $25 a month tax into his ‘slush fund’.

The greed of Profachi caused resentment amongst the younger soldiers who queried why someone who lived on a three hundred acre estate and was a millionaire many times over needed to draw $25 a month from his members.

The three Gallo brothers – Joey/Larry/Albert – never did require much in the way of an excuse to start a fight and the war with Profachi was aimed at taking away his leadership but inevitably this threatened to spiral out of control.

The end result was really here nor there as on 7th June 1962 Profachi died of natural causes and the Gallos having lost many more supporters than the opposition were just glad to have a breather.

Had the Gallos managed to win a clear cut victory they could easily be revolutions against leaderships across America and it was therefore in the interest of the Mafia rulers that the Gallos were taken care of’ but the brothers went to ground and survived.

In 1964 Joe ‘Bananas’ Bonanno, a Capo from the early Luciano days in 1931, was involved in what was probably the last of the great Mafia civil wars when rivalry within his family erupted into violence that ended in stalemate. Bonanno took voluntary leave of absence. He was replaced in 1974 by another old time hood, Carmine Galante who had just got out of prison on parole having served twelve years.

Galante, on achieving power, acted no differently then those before him leaving his ‘friends’ with no option but to have him shot to death whilst eating lunch at his favourite restaurant on 12th July 1979. His ever present cigar was still gripped in his mouth by rigor mortis.

Earlier the year 1970 saw the Gallos (minus Larry who had died in 1968) under the control of the youngest brother Albert as his elder sibling Joey was stuck in prison on some offence or other. Even he could not remember some of the time.

The Gallos now picked a fight with the Columbo Family headed by Joe Columbo Jr. obsessed with personal publicity in the promotion of his Italian Unity organisation dedicated to combating adverse news comments about the Italian community.

Joey Gallo although in confinement was still considered a powerful force but was not considered at that time to be of any particular threat given his present predicament.

On 18th June 1971 Joe Columbo attended his rally at Columbus Circle in New York City to promote his Italian Unity Day.

Surrounded as he was by thousands of people plus many personal bodyguards, a black gunman Jerome Johnston still got close enough to put three bullets in his head and neck before anyone realised what was happening. The bodyguards reacted a split second later shooting Johnston dead on the spot. Columbo was barely alive and paralysed and he remained a vegetable until his death seven years later.

Joe Gallo had befriended black gangsters whilst in prison and was the prime suspect. On 7th April 1972 whilst celebrating his forty third birthday at his favourite restaurant he was blasted to death.

The Gallo mob hit back but although the war continued throughout 1972 claiming many lives it soon became clear that perhaps the victims had become involved for reasons not on the original agenda.

The police were torn between letting the Mafia get on with this culling or to try and bring some semblance of order notwithstanding that it was always the policy of the Mafia to avoid injury to an innocent member of the public.

In 1985 the powerful Gambino Family was at odds with itself and the resulting conflict climaxed with

Murder Incorporated

Could it really be true that from 1931 until 1940 an army of hitmen could operate nationwide scoring some one thousand hits without the law having any idea what was going on.

Yes it could.

Charles ‘Lucky’ Lucinano on achieving power approaching the end of 1930 understood immediately that if powerful Jewish Gangsters were not allowed to become part of the National Crime Syndicate then this would lead to trouble because whilst the Mafia only admitted Sicilians (it later was to take in those of Italian extract), there would be a real problem in allowing powerful Jewish mobs to run amok especially as its numbers were at least equivalent to that of the Mafia.

With the help of Meyer Lansky the problem was partially resolved by setting up a specialist squad of elite gunmen from the Jewish ranks (with a few Italians thrown in) who would be solely responsible to the Mafia for In house’ enforcement. Each job was negotiated separately hence the term ‘contract killing’. No private killings would be allowed.

Throughout the 1930’s this battalion of triggermen was dispatched all around the country on exclusive ‘contracts’ issued through Mafia Bosses.

So professional were these killers that even though bodies were turning up all over the United States. no one in Law Enforcement had the slightest clue that these murders were being controlled out of a candy store in Brooklyn called ‘Midnight Rose’.  Headquarters of the squad later enshrined in legend as Murder Incorporated.

It could not last of course and in 1940 the combination of informers and good detective work started to unravel this unique band of assassins.

Following a series of trials, seven of this lethal crew was sent to the electric chair during the early 1940’s.

The principle stoolpigeon that the police called upon to testify was the worst of the lot named Abe ‘Kid Twist’ Reles who was to achieve legendary status as ‘the Canary that could sing but could not fly.

Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel and The Jews who Built Las Vegas

Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel’, the bullet that killed him made him immortal.

He was without doubt the most charismatic of all gangsters standing head and shoulders above the legendary Mafia figures operating in the United States before and just after the Second World War.

Ben Siegel (no one ever called him Bugsy to his face) was already immersed in criminal activity by 1919 when he was not even fifteen years old.

He joined forces with his childhood friend Meyer Lanksy to form the Bug and Meyer Mob during Prohibition when it was a criminal offence to manufacture and supply liquor anywhere in the United States for commercial purposes throughout the 1920’s until repeal in 1933.

There was also a close association with another pal from his boyhood who was later to achieve his own style of greatness • Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano.

Siegel, Lansky and Luciano, three childhood friends, formed a triumvirate and with the help of another mutual pal Frank Costello they were unbeatable and they knew it.

There was no criminal activity that Siegel would not become involved in and by the time he was in his early twenties he had already faced charges on the widest variety of outrages ranging from murder to white slavery and from extortion to the bootlegging of illegal alcohol. He was not above carrying out his own hits rather than rely on contract killers.

His Mafia friends were however becoming increasingly concerned that he was drawing too much attention being to himself and by the mid 1930’s he was relocated to the West Coast of America to operate the franchise for the Mafia in Los Angeles supplying the racing wire to the nation’s bookmakers.

Using the power and influence he had gained following his move to California, expansion was inevitable which he achieved by muscling in on the local movie unions and appropriating funds from studios in the direction of his Mafia friends.

The local Mafia Chief in Los Angeles, Jack Dragna just did not know what hit him but eventually he was just happy and relieved to remain in second place.

With his good looks and great charm, Siegel became a massive success in Hollywood and his notorious reputation did him no harm at all as this only made him appear that much more glamorous to the movie set.

He had left his wife and children behind on the East Coast of America and took up with Virginia Hill. a good time girl who had hung around the Mob all her adult life,  and despite the most tempestuous of relationships, she remained his one true love.

Seigel told everyone who listened (no one dared not to) that Las Vegas was going to be the everlasting monument to his name, notwithstanding that the original inspiration was provided by Meyer Lansky.

Although gambling had been legal in the State of Nevada since 1931, it was Benjamin Seigel who had the vision to push forward the promotion of the Flamingo Hotel and Casino situated on what is now the Las Vegas Strip and called after the ‘legs of his girlfriend’. Virginia Hill.

This lush establishment finished to the highest possible standard and due to open in 1946 would attract high rollers from across the United States who wanted a place to gamble freely without any legal hassles.

The project ran in to trouble almost from the beginning and the Mafia back in New York were suspicious that Benny was skimming from money set aside for the building work not the least because it had been noted that his girlfriend Virginia Hill was making frequent visits to Switzerland carrying ‘a lot of luggage’.

The rumblings of dissatisfaction within the Mafia and immense financial pressure forced Siegel to open the Casino on 26th December 1946 even though the Hotel was still incomplete.

However his plans for the grand opening party was crippled by poor weather in Los Angeles that prevented his Hollywood friends from attending the bash as planes were unable to take off on the night. The opening of the Flamingo proved to be such a disaster that Siegel was forced to shut down the entire operation to allow the Hotel complex to be completed.

Following a desperate flurry of activity work was more or less finished by March 1947 so that the property could reopen the following month and although it was apparent from the beginning that finances were moving into positive expectation, it was clear that Benny had just made too many enemies amongst his ‘very good friends’.

Del. E. Webb, constructor of the Flamingo Hotel and Casino was worried for his own personal welfare when a cheque from Siegel bounced but was told not to be too concerned because ‘we only kill each other.

There could only be one possible way for Benjamin Seigel to leave the stage and the ‘Bugsy Watchers’ were not disappointed. His murder in 1947 is just another unsolved mystery consigned to history although have been no shortage of theories.