Tag Archive: Federal Bureau of Investigation


Dale Bartholomew Cooper is a fictional character, an eccentric Special Agent of the FBI. Cooper was the central figure of the ABC television series “Twin Peaks”, and was played by actor Kyle MacLachlan.

The series was created by legendary film director David Lynch and Mark Frost, and went on to achieve a cult status of its own.

The Man, and His Methods

David Lynch named Cooper as a reference to D. B. Cooper, the unidentified man who hijacked a Boeing 727 aircraft on November 24, 1971. Cooper escaped by parachute, never to be seen, again.

Born on April 19, 1954, the fictional Dale Cooper is a graduate of Haverford College. After joining the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cooper was based at the Bureau offices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was partnered there with the older Special Agent Windom Earle (actor Kenneth Welsh) – a closet psychopath whose various crimes (when they came to light) would return to haunt Cooper, in later years.

Key among these was the case of Earle’s wife, Caroline, who witnessed a federal crime, some time after Cooper joined the Bureau. Earle and Cooper were assigned to protect her; it was around this time that Cooper began an affair with Caroline. One night in Pittsburgh, Cooper let his guard down – and Caroline was murdered by her husband (who had also committed the crime witnessed by Caroline, during a psychotic break). Windom Earle was subsequently sent to a mental institution, from which he would later escape, to wreak havoc in Twin Peaks.

Cooper was devastated by the loss of the woman he would later refer to as the love of his life. He swore to never again become involved with someone who was part of a case to which he was assigned.

An introspective man, Cooper is fueled by a profound interest in the mystical, especially the mythology of Tibetan and Native American cultures. Much of his work is based on intuition and the interpretation of dreams, rather than conventional logic. While working a case, Cooper also dictates regular reports to his (never seen) assistant Diane, using a hand-held tape recorder.

“A hairless mouse with a pitchfork sang a song about caves.”

Okay, this is actually a quote from the “Twin Peaks” parody sketch when Kyle Maclachlan guest hosted Saturday Night Live in 1990. But the fact that it’s not a million miles from the kind of stuff Dale Cooper puts out during his “real” adventures gives an indication of the methods of the man.

At some point in his career, Cooper was placed under the direct authority of FBI Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole (played in the series by David Lynch, himself). Under Cole’s mandate, Cooper was occasionally assigned the mysterious ‘Blue Rose’ cases.

The Town, and Its People

On February 24, 1989, Cooper arrives in the fictional Northwestern town of Twin Peaks, to investigate the murder of local teenager Laura Palmer (actress Sheryl Lee). Here’s a YouTube clip, of Dale’s arrival, from the series’ pilot episode:

It’s a complex case, involving the town’s eccentric characters (like The Log Lady), metaphysical entities, and other-dimensional spaces like the mysterious Black Lodge. During his extended stay, Cooper winds up helping the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department to investigate other cases, as well.

Cooper gains an instant rapport with many of the townspeople – including Sheriff Harry S. Truman (yes, like the President; actor Michael Ontkean) and his junior officers, Deputy Tommy “Hawk” Hill and Deputy Andy Brennan. 18-year-old Audrey Horne (played by Sherilyn Fenn), the daughter of local businessman Benjamin Horne, develops a serious crush on the eccentric FBI man. Over time, a close and affectionate friendship develops, between the two.

And Cooper falls in love with the “damn fine coffee”, and cherry pie, for which the town would become famous. Check out the YouTube clip below, to get a flavor of the place:

The Laura Palmer mystery is eventually “resolved” on an ambiguous note, with Dale Cooper’s evil doppelganger on the loose in Twin Peaks (a fugitive from the Black Lodge; watch the show on DVD, it’s too complex to go into, now), and the dead girl’s spirit vowing that “I’ll see you again in 25 years.”

His Anticipated Return

Now, 25 years on, that promise is to be fulfilled. In 2016, Showtime will be bringing us a sequel to the cult series. The network says that nine new “Twin Peaks” episodes – set in the present day – are going into production soon. And Kyle MacLachlan is set to return, as Dale Cooper – as are several other characters from the original 1990s run.

Showtime’s president, David Nevins, has even persuaded David Lynch to direct all nine episodes.

Fans will no doubt be hoping that the sequel will answer the questions left hanging at the end of season two in 1991. Nevins is keeping quiet on this.

Only time will tell.

Keep watching this space.



Gangsters: Carlo Gambino


Carlo Gambino (August 24, 1902 – October 15, 1976) was a Sicilian mobster, notable for being Boss of the Gambino crime family, which is still named after him.

After the 1957 Apalachin Convention he unexpectedly seized control of the Commission of the American Mafia.

He lived to the age of 74, and died of a heart attack in bed, “In a state of grace” (according to a priest who had given him the Last Rites of the Catholic Church), having never spent a day in prison.

In the 1996 TV film “Gotti”, Carlo Gambino is played by Marc Lawrence.

Video comes courtesy of YouTube:

That’s the Hollywood version.

Here’s the history:

Gambino’s Early Life

Carlo Gambino was born in the town of Caccamo, near the city of Palermo, Sicily. He was born to a family that belonged to the Honored Society.

The Honored Society was slightly more complicated than the Black Hand of America, which was often confused with the American Mafia. The Black Hand – much like the pre-1920s Mafia – was a highly disorganized version of the real European Mafia.

When Italian dictator Benito Mussolini chased a large number of real Mafiosi out of Italy, Italian-Americans such as Gambino benefited from the new, better-organized Mafia.

The young Gambino began carrying out murder orders for new Mob bosses in his teens.

In 1921, at the age of 19, he became a “made man” and was inducted into La Cosa Nostra.


Gambino entered the United States as an illegal immigrant on a shipping boat. He ate nothing but anchovies and wine during the month long trip, and joined his cousins, the Castellanos, in New York City. There he joined a crime family headed by Salvatore “Totò” D’Aquila – one of the larger crime families in the city. Gambino’s uncle, Giuseppe Castellano, also joined the D’Aquila family around this time.

Gangland Links

Gambino also became involved with the “Young Turks”, a group of Americanized Italian and Jewish mobsters in New York which included Frank “Prime Minister” Costello, Albert “The Executioner” Anastasia, Frank Scalice, Settimo Accardi, Gaetano “Tommy Three-Finger Brown” Lucchese, Joe Adonis, Vito Genovese, Meyer Lansky, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Mickey Cohen, and Charles “Lucky” Luciano.

They all became involved in robbery, thefts, and illegal gambling.

With their new partner, Arnold “The Brain” Rothstein, they turned to bootlegging during Prohibition in the early 1920s.

Gambino also made a sizable profit during World War II, by bribing Office of Price Administration (OPA) officials for ration stamps, which he then sold on the black market.

The Castellammarese War

By 1926, Luciano’s immediate superior, Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria was coming into conflict with Salvatore Maranzano, a recent arrival from Palermo who was born in Castellammare del Golfo.

When Maranzano arrived in New York in 1925, his access to money and manpower led him to become involved in extortion and gambling operations that directly competed with Masseria.

On October 10, 1928, Joe Masseria eliminated D’Aquila, his top rival for the coveted title of “Boss of Bosses” (Capo di Tutti Capi). However, Masseria still had to deal with the powerful and influential Maranzano and his Castellammarese Clan.

Gambino was thrown directly into the line of fire.

Masseria demanded absolute loyalty and obedience from other criminals in his area, and killed anyone who gave him anything less.

In 1930, Masseria demanded a $10,000 tribute from Maranzano’s then boss, Nicola “Cola” Schiro, and supposedly got it. Schiro fled New York in fear, leaving Maranzano as the new leader.

By 1931, a series of killings in New York involving Castellammarese clan members and associates caused Maranzano and his family to declare war against Joe Masseria and his allies.

D’Aquila’s family, now headed by Alfred Mineo, sided with Masseria. In addition to Gambino, other prominent members of this family included Luciano associates Albert “The Mad Executioner” Anastasia, and Frank Scalice.

The Castellammarese clan included Joseph “Joe Bananas” Bonanno and Stefano Magaddino, the Profaci crime family, which included Joseph Profaci and Joseph Magliocco, and former Masseria allies the Riena family, which included Gaetano “Tom” Reina, Gaetano “Tommy” Gagliano, and Gaetano “Tommy Three-Finger Brown” Lucchese.

The War raged on between the Masseria and Maranzano factions for almost four years.

Bad for Business

This inter-gang war devastated the Prohibition-era operations and street rackets that the five New York families controlled in parallel with the Irish and Jewish crime groups. The war cut into their profits, and in some cases completely destroyed the underworld rackets of crime family members.

Several Young Turks on both sides started realizing that if the war did not stop soon, the Italian crime families would be left on the fringe of New York’s criminal underworld, while the Jewish and Irish crime bosses became dominant.

Additionally, they felt that Masseria, Maranzano and other old-school Mafiosi (whom they derisively called “Mustache Petes”) were too greedy to see the riches that could be had by working with non-Italians.

With this in mind, Gambino and the other Young Turks decided to end the Castellammarese War and form a national syndicate.

On April 15, 1931, Masseria was gunned down at Nuova Villa Tammaro restaurant in Coney Island by Luciano associates Anastasia, Adonis, Genovese, and Siegel. Maranzano then named himself capo di tutti capi (boss of bosses).

In the major reorganization of the New York Mafia that followed, Vincent Mangano took over the Mineo family, with Anastasia as his underboss and Gambino as a capo. They kept these posts after Maranzano was fatally stabbed and shot on September 10, 1931.

The Commission

In 1931, Luciano created The Commission, which was supposed to avoid big conflicts like the Castellammarese War. The charter members were Luciano, Joe Bonanno, Joe Profaci, Tommy Gagliano and Mangano.

Gambino married his first cousin, Catherine Castellano, in 1932, at age 30. They raised three sons and a daughter.

Gambino became a major earner in the Mangano family. His activities included loansharking, illegal gambling and extorting protection money from area merchants.

Despite this, Gambino lived in a modest, well-kept row house in Brooklyn. The only real evidence of vanity was the license plate on his Buick, CG1.

The Manganos

Mangano was displeased with Anastasia’s friendship with Luciano and Frank Costello, especially since they frequently used Anastasia’s services without Mangano’s permission.

Anastasia had been, since the 1930s, the operating head (“Lord High Executioner”) of the syndicate’s most notorious death squad, Murder, Inc., which was allegedly responsible for some 1,000 murders.

Mangano and his brother, Phil, supposedly confronted Anastasia several times, in front of Gambino. Eventually, Anastasia stopped asking permission for “every little thing” – further angering the Manganos.

On April 19, 1951, Philip Mangano was found murdered.

Vincent Mangano himself vanished the very same day, and was never found.

It is widely presumed that Anastasia killed them both.

Though Anastasia never admitted to having a hand in the killings, he managed to convince the heads of the other families that Vincent Mangano had been plotting to have him killed – a claim backed up by Frank Costello, the acting boss of the Luciano crime family.

Anastasia was named the new boss of the family, with Gambino as his underboss. Shortly afterward, Gambino’s cousin and brother-in-law, Paul “Big Paul” Castellano (Giuseppe’s son), took over as capo of Gambino’s old crew.

Gambino was now one of the most powerful mobsters in the business, making profits from extortion, illegal gambling, hijacking, bootlegging, and murder.


Anastasia’s violent ways could be contained so long as Luciano and Frank Costello acted as a moderating influence, but certain mobsters (most notably Vito Genovese) doubted whether this could go on, forever.

These doubts resurfaced in 1952, when Anastasia ordered the murder of a young Brooklyn tailor’s assistant named Arnold Schuster, after watching Schuster speaking on television about his role as primary witness in fugitive bank robber Willie Sutton’s arrest.

In killing Schuster, Anastasia had violated a cardinal Mafia rule against killing outsiders.

As Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel once quaintly put it, “We only kill each other.”

The murder brought unnecessary public scrutiny of Mafia business.

Luciano and Costello were horrified, but could not take action against Anastasia, since Genovese was angling to take over the Luciano family as well – and they needed Anastasia to counter Genovese’s growing ambition and power.

Genovese knew this as well, and in early 1957 convinced Gambino to side with him against Anastasia, Costello and Luciano.

On Genovese’s advice, Gambino told Anastasia that they were not making enough money from the casinos in Cuba, which belonged to Meyer Lansky.

When Anastasia confronted Lansky, he was furious, and seemingly threw his support to the Genovese-Gambino alliance.

Shortly thereafter, Genovese moved against Costello by hiring Vincent “Chin” Gigante to assassinate him. The attempt failed, but it frightened Costello enough to ask the Commission for permission to retire – which they granted.


Genovese took over the family, and renamed it the Genovese crime family.

With Costello out of the way, Genovese then moved against Anastasia.

At the time, Gambino was worried that Anastasia was jealous of his wealth and influence, and would have him killed.


Gambino was convinced by Genovese to lend his support, giving the order to “Joe the Blonde” Biondo.

Biondo selected Stephen Armone, Arnold “Witty” Wittenberg, and Stephen “Stevie Coogin” Grammauta to carry out the hit. They allegedly shot Anastasia on October 25, 1957, in the barbershop of the Park Sheraton Hotel (now the Park Central Hotel) in New York City.

Gambino became the new boss of the Mangano crime family – which was renamed the Gambino crime family.

Apalachin: Genovese’s Fall

Genovese believed that with Costello and Anastasia out of the way, and Gambino supposedly in his debt, the way was clear for him to become Boss of Bosses.

However, Gambino had his own ideas. He secretly allied himself with Luciano, Costello and Lansky.

The alliance gained further strength after the Apalachin Conference, which was supposedly set up to formally crown Genovese as Boss of Bosses, but ended in disaster with several prominent Mafiosi being arrested.

Soon afterward, Costello, Luciano, and Lansky met face to face in Italy.

In 1959, Genovese was heading to Atlanta where a huge shipment of heroin was arriving. But when he got there, Genovese was surprised by local police, the FBI and the ATF. He was convicted for selling a large quantity of heroin and was sentenced to 15 years in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. Genovese would later die in prison of a heart attack, in 1969.

Boss of Bosses

From the early 1960s, Gambino expanded his rackets all over the country.

New Gambino businesses were created in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Boston, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. Gambino also (to regain complete control of Manhattan) took over the New York Longshoremen Union, where more than 90% of all New York City’s ports were controlled.

Money rolled in from every source, and the Gambinos became America’s most powerful crime family.

Gambino also made his own family policy: “Deal and Die.”

This was Gambino’s message to every Gambino family member.

Heroin and cocaine were highly lucrative, but dangerous – and would also attract attention. The punishment for dealing drugs, in Gambino style, was death.

The Gambino family now had at least 500 (some sources say 700 or 800) soldiers within 30 crews, making the family a $500,000,000-a-year-enterprise.

In 1962, Carlo’s eldest son Thomas Gambino married the daughter of fellow mob boss Gaetano Lucchese, the new head of the Gagliano crime family. More than 1,000 people, relatives, friends, and “friends of ours”, (amico nostro) were present during the wedding ceremony.

It has been rumored that Gambino personally gave Lucchese $30,000 as a “welcome gift” that same day.

As repayment, Lucchese cut his friend into the airport rackets that were under Lucchese control – especially at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where all unions, management, and security were controlled by Lucchese himself.

After Joe Bonanno was forced into retirement by The Commission, Vito Genovese died of a heart attack, and Tommy Lucchese died of a brain tumor, Gambino’s status and power on The Commission greatly increased.

While the Mafia had abolished the title of “boss of bosses”, Gambino’s position afforded him the powers such a title would have carried, as he was now the boss of the largest, wealthiest, and most powerful crime family in the country, and head of The Commission – a position only Luciano had held before Gambino.

Profaci and the Gallos

In February 1962, the Gallo brothers kidnapped a number of prominent members of the Profaci family, including underboss Joseph Magliocco and capo Joe Colombo.

In return for their release, the brothers demanded changes in the way profits were being divided up, and at first Profaci appeared to agree. But he was simply biding his time.

Gallo crew member Joseph “Joe Jelly” Gioelli was murdered by Profaci’s men in September, and an attempt on Larry Gallo’s life was interrupted by policemen in a Brooklyn bar.

In response, the brothers set about attacking Profaci’s men wherever they saw them, as all-out war erupted between the two factions. Meanwhile, Gambino and Lucchese were putting pressure on the other bosses to convince Profaci to step down from his title and family, but on June 6, 1962, Profaci lost his battle against cancer.

He was replaced as boss of the family by Joseph Magliocco.

Conspiracy Against The Commission

With the Gallos out of the way, Joe Bonanno now hatched a plot to murder the heads of the other three families, which Magliocco decided to go along with.

The assassinations came to the knowledge of Profaci capo, Joseph Colombo, who warned Gambino about Magliocco and Bonanno’s conspiracy against the Commission.

Bonanno and Magliocco were called to face judgement.

While Bonanno went into hiding, Magliocco faced up to his crimes. Understanding that he had been following Bonanno’s lead, he was let off with a $50,000 fine, and forced to retire as the head of the family, being replaced by Joseph Colombo.

One month later, Magliocco died of high blood pressure.

But Gambino had other plans for Bonanno.

The Banana War (1962-1967)

After Magliocco’s death, Bonanno had few allies left.

Many members felt that he was too power hungry. Some members of his family also thought he spent too much time away from New York, and more in Canada and Tucson, where he had business interests.

The Commission members decided that he no longer deserved leadership over his family, and replaced him with a caporegime, Gaspar DiGregorio.

Bonanno, however, would not accept this result.

He broke the family into two groups, the one led by DiGregorio, and the other headed by Bonanno and his son, Salvatore “Bill” Bonanno. Newspapers referred to it as “The Banana Split.”

Since Bonanno refused to give up his position, the other Commission members felt it was time for drastic action.

In October 1964, Bonanno was kidnapped by Buffalo crime family members, Peter and Antonino Magaddino. According to Bonanno, he was held captive in upstate New York by his cousin, Stefano “Steve the Undertaker” Magaddino, who supposedly represented the Commission and Gambino.

After much talk, Bonanno was released, and the Commission members believed he would retire and relinquish his power.

Not so. The war went on for another two years.

Bonanno loyalists were starting to sense victory, but when Bonanno suffered a heart attack, he decided that he and his son should retire to Tucson, leaving his broken family to another capo, Paul Sciacca (who had replaced DiGregorio).

Gambino now stood as the victorious and most powerful mob boss in the U.S.

Vegas, and Sinatra

Gambino was seen at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas on August 2, 1967, where he is supposed to have met Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop, the group known as “The Rat Pack.”

Gambino allegedly gave each of them $10,000 after performing at the Desert Inn, while Gambino was present in the VIP-lounge.

Gambino also allegedly said to Castellano: “I want a picture of me and Frankie”. Sinatra of course, happily obliged and Gambino, Castellano and other mobsters got a picture with Sinatra in the middle.

Sinatra would later testify about this in court, but announced that he didn’t know any Carlo Gambino. However, it got to a point where he had to explain why he was attending the Havana Conference in Cuba in 1946, showing up with $2,000,000 in a silver suitcase and a picture that showed Sinatra, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Albert “The Executioner” Anastasia, and Carlo Gambino having a drink by a pool.

The Colombo Assassination

It has been suggested that Gambino organized the shooting of Joe Colombo, head of the Colombo crime family, on June 28, 1971. Colombo survived the shooting, but remained in a coma until his death in 1977.

The other allegation is that Profaci family rival Gallo organized the attack himself. It seems that the rest of the Colombo family believed the latter theory, as Gallo was gunned down, not long after.

Many powerful members of The Commission were angry with Joe Columbo for having founded the Italian-American Civil Rights League, and glorying in publicity. Gambino in particular hated publicity, preferring to work in the shadows, and was said to have been quite upset with Columbo about this.

Gallo had recently been in prison, where he had formed close associations with black prisoners who could serve as muscle – a fact that was well known to Gambino. Colombo was shot at a CIAO (Congress of Italo-America Organizations; an umbrella organization that included Colombo’s Italian-American Civil Rights League) rally by a black man who was almost instantly shot and killed.

If Gambino was responsible, it was a master stroke. He was rid of a publicity seeking thorn in his side, and had got the Colombo family to eliminate Gallo, whose propensity for disruptive violence also displeased the Don.

Watchful Eyes

From December 1972, on Ocean Parkway, a van was stationed outside Gambino’s home. In that vehicle sat the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Mob squad, with cameras, lip-readers, and audio-surveillance equipment, including microphones and wire-taps that were planted in Gambino’s home. The van was marked “Organized Crime Control Bureau.”

But even though Gambino had every corner of his house bugged, he knew how to maintain discretion.

According to FBI officials, they once recorded a meeting between Gambino, Aniello “Mr. Neil” Dellacroce and Joseph Biondo, where Biondo is alleged to have said: “Frog legs”, to which Gambino simply nodded. Meeting over; business concluded. The recording tapes came out empty.


In the mid 1970s, Gambino, now diagnosed with a weak heart, decided there were to be two underbosses who both reported to him: Aniello Dellacroce, and Gambino’s own brother-in-law, Paul “Big Paul” Castellano.

Castellano took over the white-collar crimes in Brooklyn like union racketeering, solid and toxic waste, recycling, construction, fraud, and wire fraud, while Dellacroce would have free rein over those who carried out more traditional, ‘hands-on’ Mafia activities and blue-collar crimes, such as murder for hire, loansharking, gambling, extortion, hijacking, pier thefts, fencing, and robbery.

This strategic restructuring also created confusion in the FBI as to who the official underboss in the family was. In reality, the Gambino family was split into two separate factions, with two underbosses and one Don.

In his final years, Gambino chose his cousin and capo, Paul Castellano as his successor after his departure.

The Death of Carlo Gambino

Gambino died of a heart attack on October 15, 1976, while watching his beloved New York Yankees at his home.

He was buried in Saint John’s Cemetery, Queens, in New York City, as was Charles “Lucky” Luciano, and more than ten other lifetime friends. His funeral was said to have been attended by at least 2,000 people, including police officers, judges and politicians.

Gambino left behind sons Thomas, Joseph and Carlo, daughter Phyllis Sinatra, and a crime family with a contingent of 500 soldiers.

Quite the legacy.

I’ll leave you, with this.

Till next time.


Gangsters: Carlos Marcello


Carlos “The Little Man” Marcello (February 6, 1910 – March 3, 1993) was a Sicilian-American Mafioso who became the boss of the New Orleans crime family during the 1940s, and held this position for the next 30 years.

Marcello, together with fellow crime bosses Sam Giancana and Santo Trafficante, Jr., has long been suspected of involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy – but no such links have ever been proved.

Here’s some footage of the man testifying before the U.S. Congress, in the wake of the Kennedy assassination (Video comes courtesy of YouTube):

And here’s what history has to tell us about the man, himself:

Marcello’s Early Life

Born as Calogero Minacori (or Minacore) to Sicilian parents in Tunis, Tunisia, Marcello was brought to the United States in 1911.

His family settled in a decaying plantation house near Metairie, Louisiana.

Carlos turned to petty crime in the French Quarter. He was later imprisoned for masterminding a crew of teenage gangsters who carried out armed robberies in the small towns surrounding New Orleans.

At the time, local newspapers compared him to the character of Fagin from Charles Dickens’ novel “Oliver Twist”.

This conviction was later overturned. However, the following year Marcello was convicted of assault and robbery, and was sentenced to the Louisiana State Penitentiary for nine years. He was released after five years.


In 1938, Marcello was arrested and charged with the sale of more than 23 pounds of marijuana. Despite receiving another lengthy prison sentence and a $76,830 fine, Marcello served less than 10 months in prison.

Upon his release, Marcello became associated with Frank Costello, leader of the Genovese crime family, in New York City.

At the time, Costello was involved in transporting illegal slot machines from New York to New Orleans. Marcello provided the muscle, and arranged for the machines to be placed in local businesses.

Louisiana Crime Boss

By the end of 1947, Marcello had taken control of Louisiana’s illegal gambling network. He had also joined forces with New York Mob associate Meyer Lansky, in order to skim money from some of the most important casinos in the New Orleans area.

According to former members of the Chicago Outfit, Marcello was also assigned a cut of the money skimmed from Las Vegas casinos, in exchange for providing “muscle” in Florida real estate deals.

By this time, Marcello had been selected as the “Godfather” of the New Orleans Mafia, by the family’s capos and the Commission. He was to hold this position for the next 30 years.

Marcello continued the family’s long-standing tradition of fierce independence from interference by Mafiosi in other areas. He enforced a policy that forbade Mafiosi from other families from visiting Louisiana without permission.

Crime and Politics

On March 24, 1959, Marcello appeared before a United States Senate committee investigating organized crime. Serving as Chief Counsel to the committee was Robert F. Kennedy; his brother, Senator John F. Kennedy, was a member of the committee.

In response to committee questioning, Marcello invoked the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, refusing to answer any questions relating to his background, activities and associates.

In 1960, Marcello donated $500,000 through Teamsters Union president Jimmy Hoffa, to the Republican campaign of Richard M. Nixon, challenging the Democrat John F. Kennedy.

Deportation to Guatemala – Or Not

After becoming President, John F. Kennedy appointed his brother Robert Kennedy as U.S. Attorney General. The two men worked closely together on a wide range of issues, including the attempt to tackle organized crime.

In March 1961, under Attorney General Robert Kennedy – acting on requests which had first been made to the Eisenhower administration by former Louisiana state police superintendent Francis Grevemberg – the CIA abducted Marcello and forced him to jump from a C-130 aircraft (at night) over Central America.

Their plan backfired when Marcello reappeared in New Orleans just two weeks later.

On April 4, of that year, Marcello was arrested by the authorities and taken forcibly to Guatemala.

Once again, he reappeared in Baton Rouge, two weeks later.


Undercover informants reported that Marcello made several threats against John F. Kennedy, at one time uttering the traditional Sicilian death threat curse, “Take the stone from my shoe”.

In September 1962, Marcello allegedly told private investigator Edwin Nicholas Becker that, “A dog will continue to bite you if you cut off its tail…,” (a reference to Attorney General Robert Kennedy.), “…whereas if you cut off the dog’s head…,” (meaning President Kennedy), “… it would cease to cause trouble”.

Becker allegedly reported that Marcello, “clearly stated that he was going to arrange to have President Kennedy killed in some way”.

Marcello allegedly told another informant that he would need to take out “insurance” for the assassination by, “…. setting up some nut to take the fall for the job, just like they do in Sicily”.

Just before Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby allegedly made contact with Marcello, and Tampa, Florida boss Santo Trafficante, about a labor problem he was having with the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA).

G. Robert Blakey, Chief Counsel and Staff Director to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, published, “The Plot to Kill the President” in 1981.

In the book, Blakey argues that there was a conspiracy to kill John F. Kennedy. Blakey believes that Lee Harvey Oswald was a shooter, but also believes that there was at least one other gunman involved.

Blakey came to the conclusion that Marcello, Trafficante, Jr., and Chicago Outfit boss Salvatore “Sam Mooney” Giancana were complicit in planning the assassination.

On January 14, 1992, a New York Post story claimed Marcello, Trafficante, Jr., and Jimmy Hoffa had all been involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.

Frank Ragano was quoted as saying that at the beginning of 1963, Hoffa had told him to take a message to Trafficante and Marcello concerning a plan to kill Kennedy. When the meeting took place at the Royal Orleans Hotel, Ragano told the men: “You won’t believe what Hoffa wants me to tell you. Jimmy wants you to kill the President.” He reported that both men gave the impression that they intended to carry out this order.

In his autobiography, “Mob Lawyer” (1994), (co-written with journalist Selwyn Raab), Ragano added that in July 1963, he was once again sent to New Orleans by Hoffa to meet Marcello and Santo Trafficante, concerning plans to kill President Kennedy.

When Kennedy was killed, Hoffa apparently told Ragano, “I told you that they could do it. I’ll never forget what Carlos and Santo did for me.” He added: “This means Bobby is out as Attorney General.” Marcello later told Ragano, “When you see Jimmy (Hoffa), you tell him he owes me and he owes me big.”


After Kennedy’s assassination, the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated Marcello. They came to the conclusion that Marcello was not involved in the assassination.

On the other hand, they also stated that they, “… did not believe Carlos Marcello was a significant organized crime figure,” and that Marcello earned his living, “… as a tomato salesman and real estate investor.”

As a result of this investigation, the Warren Commission concluded that there was no direct link between Ruby and Marcello.


In 1966, Marcello was arrested in New York City after having met with the National Commission.

The meeting was reportedly called because Marcello’s leadership was being challenged by Santo Trafficante Jr. and Anthony Carolla, the son of Marcello’s predecessor as boss of the New Orleans Combine, Sylvestro Carolla.

The Commission had reportedly ruled in Marcello’s favor just before the police burst in.

Marcello was charged with consorting with known felons.

After a long, drawn-out legal battle, Marcello was convicted of assaulting an FBI agent whom he had punched in the face, on his return to Louisiana. Sentenced to two years in prison, he served less than six months, and was released on March 12, 1971.

The BriLab Indictment

In 1981, Marcello, Aubrey W. Young (a former aide to Governor John J. McKeithen), Charles E. Roemer, II (former commissioner of administration to Governor Edwin Washington Edwards), and two other men were indicted in U.S. District Court in New Orleans for conspiracy, racketeering, and mail and wire fraud, in a scheme to bribe state officials to give the five men multi-million dollar insurance contracts.

The charges were the result of a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe known as BriLab.

U.S. District Judge Morey Sear allowed the admission of secretly-recorded conversations that he said demonstrated corruption at the highest levels of state government.

Marcello and Roemer were convicted, but Young and the two others were acquitted.

Marcello stayed out of prison for BriLab while his conviction was being appealed.

He finally reported to prison in 1983, when his appeal was denied.

The Death of Carlos Marcello

Early in 1989, Marcello suffered a series of strokes that left him severely disabled, and by the end of March, he was showing obvious signs of Alzheimer’s disease. At times he became so disoriented that he thought he was living in a hotel, and could not recognize family members who visited him.

In July, in a surprise move, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out his BriLab conviction. One judge denied this reversal, but his decision in turn was overruled.

In October – after having served six years and six months of his sentence – Marcello was released.

He returned to his white marble, two-story mansion overlooking a golf course in Metairie.

Here, he lived out the last years of his life, cared for by a group of nurses, and watched over by his wife and family. Apparently, he lost the power of speech and regressed to his infancy.

He was never seen in public again, and died on March 3, 1993.

The Marcello family and its descendants still own or control a significant amount of real estate in southeast Louisiana.

Nice work, if you can get it.

That’s all, for this one.

I hope you’ll join me, for our next story.

Till then.


Gangsters: Sam Giancana


Salvatore Giancana (born Salvatore Giangana; June 15, 1908 – June 19, 1975), better known as Sam Giancana, was a Sicilian American mobster and boss of the Chicago Outfit from 1957–1966. Among his other nicknames were, “Momo”, “Mooney,” “Sam the Cigar,” and “Sammy.”

Giancana was at the height of his power when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated – and has been depicted in popular conspiracy theory folklore as one of the background movers of that event.

The 1995 TV film “Sugartime” depicts Giancana’s relationship with singer Phyllis McGuire of The McGuire Sisters. In the movie, Sam Giancana is played by John Turturro.

Video comes courtesy of You Tube:

So much for Hollywood.

Here’s what history has to tell us:

Giancana’s Early Life

Giancana was born as Salvatore Giangana to Sicilian immigrants in Little Italy, Chicago.

His father, Antonino (later simplified to Antonio) Giangana, owned a pushcart and briefly owned an Italian ice shop, which was later firebombed by gangland rivals of his son.

Criminal Ties

Sam Giancana joined the Forty-Two Gang (the 42ers), a juvenile street crew answering to political boss Joseph Esposito.

Giancana soon developed a reputation for being an excellent getaway driver, a high earner, and a vicious killer.

After Esposito’s murder (in which Giancana was allegedly involved), the 42 Gang was transformed into a de facto extension of the Chicago Outfit.

The Outfit was initially wary of the 42ers, thinking them too wild. However, Giancana’s leadership qualities, the fact that he was an excellent “wheel man” with a get-away car, and his knack for making money on the street gained him the notice of higher-level Cosa Nostra figures like Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti, Paul “The Waiter” Ricca, and Tony “Joe Batters” Accardo.

In the late 1930s, Giancana became the first 42er to join the Outfit.

In 1942, Giancana also allegedly forced jazz musician Tommy Dorsey into letting singer Frank Sinatra out of his contract early, so that Sinatra could expand his career.

Family Life

On September 23, 1933, Sam married Angelina DeTolve, the daughter of immigrants from the Italian region of Basilicata. They had three daughters: Antoinette, Bonnie and Francine.

Angelina died in 1954, and left Sam to raise his daughters.

Sam never remarried after becoming a widower and was known as a good family man (despite frequent infidelities), and held his late wife in high regard and respect during their marriage and after her death.

All of the Giancana daughters have married at least once.

As of 1984, at least one daughter, Antoinette, had taken the “Giancana” name again.

Giancana’s Rise to Power

In 1945, after serving a sentence at the Federal Correctional Complex, Terre Haute, Indiana (during which time he told his children he was away “at college”), Giancana made a name for himself by convincing Accardo (then the Outfit’s enforcement chief) to stage a take-over of Chicago’s African-American “policy” (lottery) pay-out system for The Outfit.

Giancana’s crew is believed to have been responsible for convincing African-American mobster Eddie Jones to leave this racket, and leave the country.

Giancana’s people were also responsible for the murder on August 4, 1952 of African American gambling boss Theodore Roe.

Both Jones and Roe were leading South Side “Policy Kings”. However, Roe had refused to surrender control of his operation as the Outfit had demanded.

To further complicate matters, on June 19, 1951, Roe had fatally shot Lennard “Fat Lennie” Caifano, a made man in Giancana’s organization.

The South Side “policy”-game takeover by the Outfit was not complete until another Outfit member – Jackie “the Lackey” Cerone – scared “Big Jim” Martin to Mexico, with two bullets to the head that did not kill him.

From then on, the lottery money started rolling in for The Outfit.

After this gambling war, the amount that this game produced for The Outfit was in the millions of dollars a year, and brought Giancana further notice. It is believed to have been a major factor in his being “anointed” as the Outfit’s new boss when Accardo stepped aside from being the front boss to becoming “consigliere,” in 1957.

However, it was generally understood that Accardo and Ricca still held the real power. No major business transactions (and certainly no hits) took place without Accardo and Ricca’s approval.

Giancana was present at the Mafia’s 1957 Apalachin Meeting at the Upstate New York estate of Joseph Barbara.

Later, Buffalo crime boss Stefano Magaddino and Giancana were overheard on a surveillance tape saying that the meeting should have taken place in the Chicago area. Giancana claimed that the Chicago area was “the safest place in the world” for a major underworld meeting, because he had several police chiefs on his payroll. If the syndicate ever wanted to hold a meeting in Chicago, Giancana said, they had nothing to fear because they had the area “locked up tight.”

Alleged CIA connections

It is widely reputed – and partially corroborated by the Church Committee Hearings – that during the Kennedy administration, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recruited Giancana and other mobsters to assassinate Cuban president Fidel Castro. Giancana reportedly said that the CIA and the Cosa Nostra were “different sides of the same coin.”

The association between Giancana and JFK is indicated in the “Exner File” written by Judith Campbell Exner. Exner was reputed to be mistress to both Giancana and JFK – and claimed she delivered communications between the two, regarding Fidel Castro.

However, Giancana’s daughter, Antoinette, has stated her belief that her father was running a scam, in order to pocket millions of dollars in CIA funding.

Cuba and Castro

According to the recently-declassified CIA “Family Jewels” documents, Giancana and Tampa / Miami Syndicate leader Santo Trafficante, Jr. were contacted in September 1960 by a go-between from the CIA, Robert Maheu, about the possibility of an assassination attempt.

After Maheu had contacted Johnny Roselli – a Mafia member in Las Vegas, and Giancana’s number-two man – Maheu had presented himself as a representative of numerous international business firms in Cuba that were being expropriated by Castro.

He offered $150,000 for the “removal” of Castro through this operation. The documents suggest that neither Roselli, Giancana, nor Trafficante accepted any sort of payments for the job.

According to the files, it was Giancana who suggested employing a series of poison pills that could be used to doctor Castro’s food and drink. These pills were given by the CIA to Giancana’s nominee, Juan Orta – whom Giancana presented as being a corrupt official in the new Cuban government, and one who had access to Castro.

After a series of six attempts to introduce the poison into Castro’s food, Orta abruptly demanded to be excused from the mission, handing over the job to another, unnamed participant.

Later, a second attempt was mounted through Giancana and Trafficante using Dr. Anthony Verona, the leader of the Cuban Exile Junta, who had, according to Trafficante, become “disaffected with the apparent ineffectual progress of the Junta”.

Verona requested $10,000 in expenses and $1,000 worth of communications equipment. However, it is unclear how far the second attempt went, as the entire program was canceled shortly thereafter due to the launching of the Bay of Pigs Invasion in April 1961.


At the same time, Giancana (according to the “Family Jewels”) approached Maheu to bug the room of his then-mistress Phyllis McGuire – whom he suspected of having an affair with comedian Dan Rowan.

Although documents suggest Maheu acquiesced, the bug was not planted, due to the arrest of the agent who had been given the task of installing the device.

According to the documents, Robert Kennedy moved to block the prosecution of the agent and of Maheu (who was soon linked to the bugging attempt), at the CIA’s request.

Giancana and McGuire, who had a long lasting affair, were originally introduced by Frank Sinatra. During part of the affair, (according to Sam’s daughter Antoinette), McGuire had a concurrent affair with President Kennedy.

Giancana’s Downfall

Giancana’s behavior was too high profile for Outfit tastes, and attracted far too much federal scrutiny. He also refused to cut his underlings in on his lavish profits from offshore casinos in Iran and Central America.

Both of these factors resulted in much bitterness among the Outfit’s rank-and-file.

Giancana was also the subject of many hours of wiretap surveillance. On one recording, he was heard to say “We’re whacking a lot of the wrong guys lately.”

As a result, Giancana was deposed in the mid 1960s by Ricca and Accardo as day-to-day boss, and replaced by Joseph “Joey Doves” Aiuppa.

After about seven years of exile inside a lavish villa in Cuernavaca, Mexico, Giancana was arrested by Mexican authorities in 1974 and deported to the United States.

He arrived back in Chicago on July 21, 1974.

The Death of Sam Giancana

After his return to the U.S., Giancana joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a witness in the prosecution of organized crime in Chicago.

The police detailed officers to guard his house in Oak Park, Illinois.

However, on the night of June 19, 1975, someone recalled the police detail.

A gunman later entered Giancana’s kitchen and shot him in the back of the head as he was frying sausage and peppers.
After Giancana fell to the ground, the gunman turned him over and shot him six more times in the face and neck.

Investigators suspected that the murderer was a close friend whom Giancana had let into the house. One reason for this suspicion was that Giancana, due to his heart problems, could not eat spicy foods. Therefore, he might have been cooking for the friend.

Giancana was interred next to his wife, Angelina, in a family mausoleum at Mount Carmel Cemetery, in Hillside, Illinois.

Conspiracy Theories

Giancana was killed shortly before he was scheduled to appear before a U. S. Senate committee investigating supposed CIA and Cosa Nostra collusion in plots to assassinate President John F. Kennedy.

Some commentators have alleged that the CIA killed Giancana because of his troubled history with the agency. However, former CIA Director William Colby has been quoted as saying, “We had nothing to do with it.”

Another theory is that Trafficante crime family boss Santo Trafficante, Jr. ordered Giancana’s murder due to mob fears that Giancana would testify about Cosa Nostra and CIA plots to kill Cuban president Fidel Castro.

Trafficante would have needed permission from Outfit bosses Tony Accardo and Joseph Aiuppa to kill Giancana. Johnny Roselli – whose body was found stuffed in an oil drum floating off Miami – was definitely killed on Trafficante’s orders.

Most investigators believe that Aiuppa ordered the Giancana murder. Giancana was still refusing to share any of his offshore gambling profits with the Outfit. In addition, Giancana was reportedly scheming to become Outfit boss again.

According to former Mafia associate Michael J. Corbitt, Aiuppa seized control of Giancana’s casinos in the aftermath of the murder, strategically sharing them with his caporegimes.

Longtime friend and associate Dominic “Butch” Blasi was with Giancana the night he was murdered, and was questioned by police as a suspect. FBI experts and Giancana’s daughter, Antoinette, do not consider him Giancana’s killer.

Other Mafia suspects are Harry Aleman, Charles “Chuckie” English, and Charles Nicoletti.

Within days of Giancana’s murder, Willow Springs police chief and Outfit associate Michael J. Corbitt discussed the murder with capo Salvatore Bastone.

Bastone told him, “You know, Sam sure loved that little guy in Oak Park… Tony Spilotro…. Tony was over to Sam’s house all the time. He lived right by there. Did you know Tony even figured out a way where he could get in through the back of Sam’s place without anybody seeing him? He’d go through other people’s yards, go over fences…”

When Corbitt asked for a reason for Giancana’s death, Bastone quipped, “Let’s just say that Sam should’ve remembered what happened to Bugsy Siegel.”


A cautionary tale.

And one I hope will sustain you, till our next one.



Louis “Lepke” Buchalter (February 6, 1897 – March 4, 1944) was an American mobster and head of the Mafia hit squad Murder, Inc. during the 1930s.

In 1936, Murder, Inc. killers, acting on Buchalter’s orders, gunned down a Brooklyn businessman and candy store owner named Joseph Rosen – a crime for which Buchalter was executed in 1941.

Buchalter became the only major mob boss to have been personally convicted and sentenced to receive the death penalty in the United States, after being convicted of a specific murder.

The 1975 film “Lepke”, starring Tony Curtis in the title role, was based on Buchalter’s life.

Video comes courtesy of YouTube:

That’s the Hollywood.

Here’s the history:

Lepke’s Early Days

Buchalter took the nickname “Lepke” at an early age. The name was an abridgment of the diminutive “Lepkeleh” (“Little Louis” in Yiddish) that his mother had called him as a boy.

After his father died, his mother’s health began to fail. The doctors recommended she move to Arizona to improve her health, and Buchalter was left as his sister’s responsibility.

Immediately after Buchalter’s mother left New York, he ran away from his sister and never saw her again.

Buchalter began, at an early age, to work the streets of New York City.

When arrested as a child for breaking and entering, he was wearing stolen shoes – both for the same foot, and an unmatched pair. He was sent to the Catholic Protectory and labeled incorrigible.

By 1919 – at age 22 – Buchalter had served two terms in Sing Sing Prison.

On The Rise

Upon Buchalter’s release, he started working with his childhood friend, mobster Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro.

Through force and fear, they began gaining control of the garment industry unions on the Lower East Side. Buchalter then used the unions to threaten strikes and demand weekly payments from factory owners, while dipping into union bank accounts.

Buchalter’s control of the unions evolved into a protection racket, extending into such areas as bakery trucking. The unions were highly profitable, and he kept a hold on them even after becoming an important figure in organized crime.

Buchalter and Shapiro moved into new and fashionable luxury buildings at 135 Eastern Parkway.

Murder, Inc.

In the early 1930s, Buchalter joined Charles “Lucky” Luciano and other Mob bosses to form the “National Crime Syndicate.”

Luciano’s associates Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and Meyer Lansky formed Murder, Inc., the enforcement arm of the organization. Originally a band of Brooklyn killers, they were used to fulfill many Mob murder contracts.

Buchalter and his partner, Albert “the Executioner” Anastasia (a.k.a. “Mad Dog”), would take control over Murder, Inc. when Siegel and Lansky’s business endeavors became national.

Buchalter was responsible for contract killings throughout the country, including that of famous Mob hitman and bootlegger Dutch Schultz.

Lepke’s Downfall

Buchalter’s downfall began in the mid-1930s, when he went underground to elude the Federal Bureau of Investigation (which wanted him on a narcotics charge), and New York City special prosecutor Thomas Dewey, who wanted him tried for Syndicate activities.

Lepke surrendered to the federal government, in exchange for not being turned over to Dewey. An urban legend spread that he surrendered to both the famed news columnist Walter Winchell and FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover.

Buchalter was sent to Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas for 14 years, for narcotics trafficking.

After he was convicted on the narcotics trafficking charges, Buchalter was turned over to Thomas Dewey on racketeering charges – which resulted in a sentence of 30 years to life.

Out of the Frying Pan…

Even more serious legal problems and consequences followed in 1940.

The state of New York indicted Lepke for a murder committed four years earlier, on September 13, 1936. On that day, Murder Inc. killers, acting on Buchalter’s orders, gunned down a Brooklyn candy store owner named Joseph Rosen.

Rosen was a former garment industry trucker whose union Buchalter took over, in exchange for ownership of a Sutter Avenue candy store. Rosen had provoked Buchalter’s wrath by failing to heed warnings to leave town.

Although no proof exists that Rosen was cooperating with the District Attorney, Buchalter nevertheless believed it to be true, and sanctioned his death.

Buchalter’s order for the Rosen hit had been overheard by Abe Reles, who turned state’s evidence in 1940 and implicated Buchalter in four murders.

Returned from Leavenworth to Brooklyn to stand trial for the Rosen slaying, Buchalter’s position was worsened by the testimony of Albert Tannenbaum.

Four hours after they were handed the case, the jury arrived at a verdict at 2 am on November 30, 1941, finding Buchalter guilty of first degree murder – the penalty for which was death by electrocution. Also convicted and sentenced to death for the same crime were two of Buchalter’s lieutenants who had participated in the planning and commission of the Rosen murder: Emanuel “Mendy” Weiss, and Louis Capone (no relation to Al Capone).

Conviction and Execution

The New York Court of Appeals, on review of Buchalter’s case, upheld his conviction and death sentence in October 1942, by a vote of 4-3.

The United States Supreme Court granted Buchalter’s petition to review the case, and in a full opinion affirmed the conviction, 7-0, with two justices abstaining. In the Supreme Court, Buchalter was represented by Arthur Garfield Hays, a leader of the trial bar who was general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and had a private practice consisting of wealthy, powerful clients.

At the time of the affirmation of his conviction, Buchalter was serving his racketeering sentence at Leavenworth Federal Prison.

New York State authorities demanded that the federal government turn Buchalter over, for execution. Buchalter resisted, managing to remain in Kansas and out of New York’s hands until extradited in January 1944.

After his last appeal for clemency was rejected, Louis Buchalter was executed on March 4, 1944 in the electric chair a Sing Sing.
On the same day, a few minutes before Buchalter’s execution, his lieutenants Weiss and Capone were also executed.

Louis Buchalter was buried at the Mount Hebron Cemetery in Flushing, Queens.

And that was all she wrote.

And all I wrote, for this one.

I hope to see you, for our next story.

Till then.


Gangsters: Meyer Lansky


Meyer Lansky (born Meyer Suchowljansky; July 4, 1902 – January 15, 1983), known as the “Mob’s Accountant,” was a Russian-born American organized crime figure who, along with his associate Charles “Lucky” Luciano, was instrumental in the development of the “National Crime Syndicate” in the United States.

For decades he was thought to be one of the most powerful people in the country.

Lansky developed a gambling empire which stretched from Saratoga, New York to Miami, to Council Bluffs, Iowa and Las Vegas; it is also said that he oversaw gambling concessions in Cuba.

Although a member of the Jewish Mob, Lansky undoubtedly had strong influence with the Italian Mafia, and played a large part in the consolidation of the criminal underworld.

The film “Bugsy” (1991) included Lansky as a major character, played by Ben Kingsley – who was Oscar-nominated as Best Supporting Actor for the role.

Video is courtesy of YouTube:

That was the Hollywood vision.

Let’s see what history has to tell us.

Lansky’s Early Life

Lansky was born Meyer Suchowljansky in Grodno (then in Russia, now in Belarus).

Lansky was the brother of Jacob “Jake” Lansky, who in 1959 was the manager of the Nacional Hotel in Havana, Cuba.

In 1911, he emigrated to the United States through the port of Odessa with his mother and brother to join his father, who had left for the United States in 1909, and settled on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York.

Lansky met Bugsy Siegel when they were teenagers.

As a youngster, Siegel saved Lansky’s life several times, a fact which Lansky always appreciated. The two skillfully managed the Bugs and Meyer Mob, despite its reputation as one of the most violent Prohibition gangs.

They became lifelong friends, as well as associates in the bootlegging trade, and together with Lucky Luciano, formed a lasting partnership.

Lansky was instrumental in Luciano’s rise to power by organizing the 1931 murder of Mafia powerhouse Salvatore Maranzano.

Gambling Operations

By 1936, Lansky had established gambling operations in Florida, New Orleans, and Cuba.

These ventures were successful, as they were founded on two innovations:

First, Lansky and his associates had the technical expertise to effectively manage them, based on Lansky’s knowledge of the true mathematical odds of most popular wagering games.

Second, mob connections were used to ensure legal and physical security of their establishments from other crime figures, and law enforcement (through bribes).

There was also an absolute rule of integrity concerning the games and wagers made within their establishments.

Lansky’s “carpet joints” in Florida and elsewhere were never “clip-joints” – where gamblers were unsure of whether or not the games were rigged against them.

Lansky ensured that the staff (the croupiers and their management) actually consisted of men of high integrity.

Contingency Measures

In 1936, Lansky’s partner Luciano was sent to prison.

After Al Capone’s 1931 conviction for tax evasion and prostitution, Lansky saw that he too was vulnerable to a similar charge.

To protect himself, he transferred the illegal earnings from his growing casino empire to a Swiss numbered bank account, whose anonymity was assured by the 1934 Swiss Banking Act.

Ultimately, Lansky even bought an offshore bank in Switzerland, which he used to launder money through a network of shell and holding companies.

The War Effort

In the 1930s, Meyer Lansky and his gang claimed to have stepped outside their usual criminal activities to break up rallies held by Nazi sympathizers. Lansky recalled a particular rally in Yorkville (a German neighborhood in Manhattan), that he claimed he and 14 other associates disrupted:

“The stage was decorated with a swastika and a picture of Adolf Hitler. The speakers started ranting. There were only fifteen of us, but we went into action. We threw some of them out the windows. Most of the Nazis panicked and ran out. We chased them and beat them up. We wanted to show them that Jews would not always sit back and accept insults.”

During World War II, Lansky was also instrumental in helping the Office of Naval Intelligence’s Operation Underworld, in which the government recruited criminals to watch out for German infiltrators and submarine-borne saboteurs.

According to “Lucky” Luciano’s authorized biography, during this time, Lansky helped arrange a deal with the U.S. Government via a high-ranking U.S. Navy official. This deal would secure the release of Luciano from prison; in exchange, the Italian Mafia would provide security for the war ships that were being built along the docks in New York Harbor.

The Flamingo

During the 1940s, Lansky’s associate Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel persuaded the crime bosses to invest in a lavish new casino hotel project in Las Vegas: the Flamingo.

After long delays and large cost overruns, the Flamingo Hotel was still not open for business.

To discuss the Flamingo problem, the Mafia investors attended a secret meeting in Havana, Cuba in 1946.

While the other bosses wanted to kill Siegel, Lansky begged them to give his friend a second chance.

Despite this reprieve, Siegel continued to lose Mafia money on the Flamingo Hotel.

A second family meeting was then called. By the time this meeting took place, the casino had turned a small profit. Lansky again, with Luciano’s support, convinced the family to give Siegel more time.

But the Flamingo was soon losing money again.

At a third meeting, the family decided that Siegel was finished.

It is widely believed that Lansky himself was compelled to give the final okay on eliminating Siegel, due to his long relationship with him, and his stature in the family.

The Killing of Bugsy Siegel

On June 20, 1947, Siegel was shot and killed in Beverly Hills, California.

Twenty minutes after the Siegel hit, Lansky’s associates, including Gus Greenbaum and Moe Sedway, walked into the Flamingo Hotel and took control of the property.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Lansky retained a substantial financial interest in the Flamingo for the next twenty years. Lansky said in several interviews later in his life that if it had been up to him, “… Ben Siegel would be alive today.”

This also marked a power transfer in Vegas from the New York crime families to the Chicago Outfit. Lansky is believed to have both advised and aided Chicago boss Tony Accardo in initially establishing his hold.


After World War II, Lansky associate Lucky Luciano was paroled from prison on the condition that he permanently return to Sicily. However, Luciano secretly moved to Cuba, where he worked to resume control over American Mafia operations.

Luciano ran a number of casinos in Cuba with the sanction of Cuban president General Fulgencio Batista – though the US government ultimately succeeded in pressuring the Batista regime to deport Luciano.

Batista’s closest friend in the Mafia was Lansky. They formed a renowned friendship and business relationship that lasted for a decade.

During a stay at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York in the late 1940s, it was mutually agreed that, in exchange for kickbacks, Batista would offer Lansky and the Mafia control of Havana’s racetracks and casinos. Batista would open Havana to large scale gambling, and his government would match, dollar for dollar, any hotel investment over $1 million – which would include a casino license.

Lansky would place himself at the center of Cuba’s gambling operations. He immediately called on his associates to hold a summit in Havana.

The Havana Conference

The Havana Conference was held on December 22, 1946 at the Hotel Nacional. This was the first full-scale meeting of American underworld leaders since the Chicago meeting in 1932.

Present were such figures as Joe Adonis and Albert “The Mad Hatter” Anastasia, Frank Costello, Joseph “Joe Bananas” Bonanno, Vito Genovese, Moe Dalitz, Thomas Luchese from New York, Santo Trafficante Jr. from Tampa, Carlos Marcello from New Orleans, and Stefano Magaddino, Joe Bonanno’s cousin from Buffalo.

From Chicago there were Anthony Accardo and the Fischetti brothers (“Trigger-Happy” Charlie and Rocco), and, representing the Jewish interest, Lansky, Dalitz and “Dandy” Phil Kastel from Florida.

The first to arrive was Lucky Luciano, who had been deported to Italy, and had to travel to Havana with a false passport.

Lansky shared with the “delegates” his vision of a new Havana, profitable for those willing to invest the right sum of money.

According to Luciano’s evidence (he is the only one who ever recounted details of the events), he confirmed that he was appointed as kingpin for the mob, to rule from Cuba until such time as he could find a legitimate way back into the U.S.

Entertainment at the conference was provided by, among others, Frank Sinatra.

Political Moves

In 1952, Lansky allegedly offered then President Carlos Prío Socarrás a bribe of U.S. $250,000 to step down, so Batista could return to power.

Once Batista retook control of the government he quickly put gambling back on track. The dictator contacted Lansky and offered him an annual salary of U.S. $25,000 to serve as an unofficial gambling minister.

By 1955, Batista had changed the gambling laws once again, granting a gaming license to anyone who invested $1 million in a hotel or U.S. $200,000 in a new nightclub.

Unlike the procedure for acquiring gaming licenses in Vegas, this provision exempted venture capitalists from background checks. As long as they made the required investment, they were provided with public matching funds for construction, a 10-year tax exemption, and duty-free importation of equipment and furnishings.

The government would get U.S. $250,000 for the license, plus a percentage of the profits from each casino.

Cuba’s 10,000 slot machines were to be the province of Batista’s brother-in-law, Roberto Fernandez y Miranda. Fernandez was also given the parking meters in Havana, as an extra.

Import duties were waived on materials for hotel construction, and connected Cuban contractors made windfalls by importing much more than was needed, and selling the surplus to others for hefty profits.

It was rumored that periodic payoffs were requested (and received) by corrupt politicians.


Lansky set about reforming the Montmartre Club, which soon became the “in” place in Havana. He had also long expressed an interest in putting a casino in the elegant Hotel Nacional, which overlooked El Morro, the ancient fortress guarding Havana harbor.

Lansky planned to take a wing of the 10-story hotel and create luxury suites for high-stakes players.

Batista endorsed Lansky’s idea over the objections of American expatriates such as Ernest Hemingway, and the elegant hotel opened for business in 1955 with a show by Eartha Kitt. The casino was an immediate success.

Once all the new hotels, nightclubs and casinos had been built, Batista wasted no time collecting his share of the profits.

Nightly, the “bagman” for his wife collected 10 percent of the profits at Trafficante’s interests: the Sans Souci cabaret, and the casinos in the hotels Sevilla-Biltmore, Commodoro, Deauville and Capri (part-owned by the actor George Raft).

His take from the Lansky casinos – his prized Habana Riviera, the Nacional, the Montmartre Club and others – was said to be 30 percent. The slot machines alone contributed approximately U.S. $1 million to the regime’s bank account.

What Batista and his cronies actually received in total by way of bribes, payoffs, and profiteering has never been established.

The Castro Revolution

The 1959 Cuban revolution and the rise of Fidel Castro changed the climate for mob investment in Cuba.

On New Year’s Eve of 1958, while Batista was preparing to flee to the Dominican Republic and then on to Spain (where he died in exile in 1973), many of the casinos (including several of Lansky’s) were looted and destroyed.

On January 8, 1959, Castro marched into Havana and took over, setting up shop in the Hilton.

Lansky had fled the day before for the Bahamas and other Caribbean destinations.

The new Cuban president, Manuel Urrutia Lleó, took steps to close the casinos.

In October 1960, Castro nationalized the island’s hotel-casinos and outlawed gambling.

This action essentially wiped out Lansky’s asset base and revenue streams. He lost an estimated $7 million.

With the additional crackdown on casinos in Miami, Lansky was forced to depend on his Las Vegas revenues.

Lansky’s Later Years

In his later years, Lansky lived a low-profile, routine existence in Miami Beach.

He dressed like the average grandfather, walked his dog every morning, and portrayed himself as a harmless retiree.

Lansky’s associates usually met him in malls and other crowded locations.

Lansky would change drivers (who chauffeured him around town to look for new pay phones to contact his associates), almost every day.

Attempted Escape to Israel

In 1970, Lansky fled to Herzliya Pituah, Israel, to escape federal tax evasion charges.

Although the Israeli Law of Return allows any Jew to settle in the State of Israel, it excludes those with criminal pasts.

Two years after Lansky fled, Israeli authorities deported him back to the U.S.

The U.S. government brought Lansky to trial with the testimony of loan shark Vincent “Fat Vinnie” Teresa, an informant with little or no credibility.

Lansky was acquitted in 1974.

The Death of Meyer Lansky

Lansky’s last years were spent quietly at his home in Miami Beach.

He died of lung cancer on January 15, 1983, age 80, leaving behind a widow and three children.

On paper, Lansky was worth almost nothing. At the time, the FBI believed he left behind over $300 million in hidden bank accounts – but they never found any money.

His biographer Robert Lacey concluded from evidence (including interviews with the surviving members of the family) that Lansky’s wealth and influence had been grossly exaggerated, and that it would be more accurate to think of him as an accountant for gangsters, rather than a gangster himself.

According to Hank Messick, a journalist for the Miami Herald who had spent years investigating Lansky, “Meyer Lansky doesn’t own property. He owns people”.

Messick, the FBI and District Attorney Robert Morgenthau all believed that Lansky had kept large sums of money in other people’s names for decades, and that keeping very little in his own was nothing new to him.

$300 million.

He didn’t take it with him.

Anyhow, that’s it, for this one.

Hope you’ll join me, for the next.

Till then.


Gangsters: Ma Barker


Kate “Ma” Barker (born Arizona Donnie Clark; October 8, 1873 – January 16, 1935) was the mother of several criminals who ran the Barker gang from the “public enemy era” – when the exploits of gangs of criminals in the U.S. Midwest gripped the American people, and the press.

In the 1996 Mark L. Lester film “Public Enemies”, Theresa Russell played Ma Barker.

Video comes courtesy of YouTube:

Hollywood glamorized the story, that way.

History tells us this:

Family Life

Arizona Donnie Clark (nicknamed Arrie) was born on October 8, 1873 in Ash Grove, Missouri, in the Ozark Mountains near Springfield. From an early age she was familiar with crime – particularly as one of her greatest thrills was seeing the outlaw Jesse James as he rode past her. She was devastated when he was shot and killed in 1882.

Kate, as she was also known then – never a beauty and leaning towards the plump side – married farm laborer George Barker.

George and Arizona had five boys named Herman, Lloyd, Arthur, Fred and Willmer.

The family lived in an impoverished tar-paper shack in Missouri, and from an early age the Barker boys began to cultivate their criminal careers, becoming known to the local police. Ma would often use her acting skills by playing the distraught mother in order to get her sons out of jail.

The bond between mother and sons was extremely strong – and no doubt Ma wore the trousers in the family, and was the greatest influence on her boys.

Some accounts claim that George Barker was an alcoholic.

It appears from the 1910 to 1930 censuses and the Tulsa City Directories from 1916 to 1928 that he was regularly employed. From 1916 to 1919, he worked for the Crystal Springs Water Co.

In the 1920s, he was variously employed as a farmer, watchman, station engineer, and clerk.

George is last listed with Arrie in the 1928 Tulsa city directory. Whether he was thrown out by Arrie (as some claim), or left on his own accord when life with her and the family became intolerable, is not known – but it is clear that he did not desert his family when the boys were young.

George and Arrie’s son Herman committed suicide on August 29, 1927, in Wichita, Kansas. He shot himself after a shootout with police that lasted hours.

In 1928, Lloyd was incarcerated in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, Arthur “Doc” Barker was in the Oklahoma State Prison, and Fred was in the Kansas State Prison.

Miriam Allen deFord, in her 1970 biography titled “The Real Ma Barker”, wrote, “This was the period when George Barker gave up completely and quietly removed himself from the scene.”

Bloody Mama?

Though her children were undoubtedly murderers, and their Barker-Karpis Gang committed a spree of robberies, kidnappings, and other crimes between 1931 and 1935, the popular image of Kate as the gang’s leader and its criminal mastermind has been found to be fictitious.

Ma Barker certainly knew of the gang’s activities, and even helped them before and after they committed their crimes.

This would make her an accomplice – but there is no evidence that she was ever an active participant in any of the crimes themselves, or involved in planning them. Her role was in taking care of gang members, who often sent her to the movies while they committed crimes.

However, she did battle the FBI to the death with a Tommy gun on January 16, 1935.

Alvin Karpis, the gang’s second most notorious member, later said that:

“ The most ridiculous story in the annals of crime is that Ma Barker was the mastermind behind the Karpis-Barker gang. . . . She wasn’t a leader of criminals or even a criminal herself. There is not one police photograph of her or set of fingerprints taken while she was alive . . . she knew we were criminals but her participation in our careers was limited to one function: when we traveled together, we moved as a mother and her sons. What could look more innocent? ”

This view of Ma Barker is corroborated by notorious bank robber Harvey Bailey, who knew the Barkers well. He observed in his autobiography that Ma Barker “couldn’t plan breakfast”, let alone a criminal enterprise.

Many (including Karpis) have suggested that the myth was encouraged by J. Edgar Hoover and his fledgling Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to justify his agency’s killing of an old lady.

Activities of the Barker Boys, and the Barker-Karpis Gang


In 1910, Herman Barker was arrested for highway robbery in Webb City, Missouri.

On March 5, 1915, Herman Barker was arrested again, for highway robbery in Joplin, Missouri. (Herman and Lloyd Barker were reportedly involved with the Central Park Gang of Tulsa, Oklahoma.)

On July 4, 1918, Arthur “Doc” Barker was involved in an automobile theft in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was arrested, but escaped custody.


In January 1921, Lloyd “Red” Barker was arrested for vagrancy in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

On January 15, 1921, Arthur Barker (a.k.a. “Claude Dade”) was involved in an attempted bank robbery in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and subsequently arrested.

On January 30, 1921, Arthur Barker (a.k.a. “Bob Barker”) was received at the Oklahoma State Prison. He was released on June 11, 1921.

Arthur Barker and Volney Davis were involved in the killing of night watchman Thomas J. Sherrill in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on August 16, 1921. (According to some sources, Thomas J. Sherrill. was a night watchman at St. John’s Hospital in Tulsa.)

On January 8, 1922, the Central Park Gang was involved in an attempted burglary in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. A shootout resulted in one burglar dead, while police Captain Homer R. Spaulding died of his wounds on January 19, 1922. One gang member was sentenced to life in prison, while another had his sentence overturned.

Lloyd Barker was received at Leavenworth Prison on January 16, 1922, after his arrest for robbing mail at Baxter Springs, Kansas. He was sentenced to 25 years, and released in 1938.

February 10, 1922 saw Arthur “Doc” Barker received at Oklahoma State Prison, for the murder of Sherrill.

In 1926, Fred Barker robbed a bank in Winfield, Kansas – an offence for which he was arrested. He was admitted to Kansas State Prison on March 12, 1927.

On August 1, 1927, Herman Barker cashed stolen bank bonds at the America National Bank in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Sheriff’s Deputy Arthur Osborn flagged down Barker’s car. Barker picked up a gun from the vehicle’s seat, and shot Osborn – who died as a result.

On August 29, 1927, Herman Barker committed suicide in Wichita, Kansas after being stopped at a police roadblock.


On March 30, 1931, Fred Barker was released from Kansas State Prison after serving time for burglary. Fred met Alvin Karpis, while in prison.

On June 10, 1931, Fred Barker and Alvin Karpis (alias George Heller) were arrested by Tulsa, Oklahoma Police investigating a burglary. Karpis was sentenced to 4 years, but paroled after restitution was made; Fred Barker also avoided a jail sentence.

On November 8, 1931, Fred Barker killed an Arkansas police chief, Manley Jackson.

On December 19, 1931, Fred Barker and Alvin Karpis robbed a store in West Plains, Missouri and were involved in the killing of Howell County, Missouri Sheriff C. Roy Kelly.

Lloyd Barker was received at Leavenworth Prison on January 18, 1932.

The body of A.W. Dunlap was found at Lake Franstead, Minnesota, on April 26, 1932. Dunlap was killed by Fred Barker and Alvin Karpis.

Fred Barker, Karpis and five accomplices robbed the Fort Scott, Kansas Bank, on June 17, 1932.

On July 26, 1932, Fred Barker, Karpis and an augmented gang robbed Cloud County bank at Concordia, Kansas.

Arthur “Doc” Barker was released from prison on September 10, 1932.

On December 16, 1932, Fred and Arthur Barker, Alvin Karpis and a gang robbed Third Northwestern National Bank in Minneapolis, killing policemen Ira Leon Evans and Leo Gorski, and one civilian.

April 4, 1933 saw Fred and Arthur Barker, Alvin Karpis and the gang robbing a bank in Fairbury, Nebraska.

William Hamm of the Hamm’s Brewery family was kidnapped by the Barker-Karpis gang, in June 1933.
Hamm was released June 19, 1933, after a ransom was paid. It is believed by some that the gang turned over half of the Hamm ransom money to the Chicago Mob under Frank Nitti, after Nitti discovered that they were hiding Hamm in suburban Chicago, and demanded half the ransom as “rent”.

On August 30, 1933, the Barker-Karpis Gang robbed a payroll at Stockyards National Bank of South St. Paul, Minnesota – a caper in which one policeman (Leo Pavlak) was coldly executed, and another one disabled for life.

Two bank messengers were held up by five men identified as the Barker-Karpis gang on September 22, 1933. Chicago policeman Miles A Cunningham was killed by the gang, after their car crashed during the getaway.

On January 17, 1934, the gang kidnapped Edward George Bremer, Jr.
Bremer was released on February 7, 1934 after a ransom was paid.

On March 10, 1934, Barker gang member Fred Goetz (also known as “Shotgun George” Ziegler; a participant in the Bremer kidnapping) was killed by fellow gangsters in Cicero, Illinois.

“Doc” Barker and associate Volney Davis get a surprise visit from John Dillinger and Homer Van Meter in April 1934, helping them bury their comrade John “Red” Hamilton, after Hamilton died from gunshot wounds sustained in a shootout in St. Paul, Minnesota.

January 6, 1935 saw Barker gang member William B. Harrison killed by fellow gangsters at Ontarioville, Illinois.

Two days later (January 8, 1935), Arthur “Doc” Barker was arrested in Chicago. Barker gang member Russell Gibson was killed, and his colleague Byron Bolton was captured at another address.

Death Comes Calling

FBI Agents discovered the hideout of Ma Barker and her son, Fred, after Arthur “Doc” Barker was arrested in Chicago on January 8, 1935.

A map found in his possession indicated that the other gang members were in Ocklawaha, Florida.

Ma Barker was discovered by the FBI tracking her letters sent to her other son. She was writing to tell him about a large gator in Lake Weir that everyone had called “Gator Joe”, which led to the name of the local restaurant known as “Gator Joe’s”.

Agents surrounded the house at 13250 East Highway C-25 on the morning of January 16, 1935.

Ordered to surrender, Fred opened fire. Both he and his mother were killed by federal agents after an intense, hours-long gun-battle.

According to the FBI, a Tommy gun was found lying in the hands of Ma Barker.

Their bodies were put on public display, and then stored unclaimed, until October 1, 1935, when relatives had them buried at Williams Timberhill Cemetery in Welch, Oklahoma – next to the body of Herman Barker.

Arthur Barker was killed while trying to escape from Alcatraz Prison on January 13, 1939.

Lloyd Barker was killed by his wife on March 18, 1949. Lloyd by then was manager of Denargo Market in Denver, Colorado. His wife was sent to Colorado State Insane Asylum.

Of the known Barker-Karpis gang and its associates, 18 were arrested, 3 killed by lawmen, and 2 killed by other gangsters.

The Barker deathhouse in Ocklawaha, Florida was listed for sale on August 16, 2012. Offers on the Florida property were being accepted with a suggested minimum of $1 million, furniture included.

Nice work, if you can get it.

I’m out of here.

See you soon, I hope.

Till then.



John Herbert Dillinger (June 22, 1903 – July 22, 1934) was an American bank robber in the Depression-era United States. His gang robbed two dozen banks and four police stations.

Dillinger was the most notorious of all the Depression-era outlaws, standing out even among more violent criminals such as Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Bonnie and Clyde.

Media reports in his time were spiced with exaggerated accounts of Dillinger’s bravado and daring, and his colorful personality.

In the 2009 film “Public Enemies”, John Dillinger was played by Johnny Depp.

Video comes courtesy of YouTube:

Hollywood saw things that way.

History has this, to tell us:

Dillinger’s Early life

John Herbert Dillinger was born on June 22, 1903, in the Oak Hill section of Indianapolis, Indiana, the younger of two children born to John Wilson Dillinger and Mary Ellen “Mollie” Lancaster. Dillinger’s father was a grocer by trade and, reportedly, a harsh disciplinarian.

Dillinger’s older sister, Audrey, was born March 6, 1889.

Their mother died in 1907 just before John’s fourth birthday.

Audrey married Emmett “Fred” Hancock that year and they had seven children together. She cared for her brother John for several years until their father remarried in 1912 to Elizabeth “Lizzie” Fields. They had three children, Hubert, Doris M. and Frances Dillinger.

A Rebellious Youth

As a teenager, Dillinger was frequently in trouble with the law for fighting and petty theft. He was also noted for his “bewildering personality” and bullying of smaller children. He quit school to work in an Indianapolis machine shop.

His father moved the family to Mooresville, Indiana, in about 1920.

Dillinger’s rebellious behavior continued, despite their new rural setting. He was arrested in 1922 for auto theft, and his relationship with his father deteriorated.

He enlisted in the United States Navy, where he was made a Fireman 3rd Class assigned to the battleship USS Utah. He deserted a few months later, when his ship was docked in Boston. He was eventually dishonorably discharged.

Dillinger returned to Mooresville, where he met Beryl Ethel Hovious. The two were married on April 12, 1924.
The marriage ended in divorce on June 20, 1929.

Dillinger was unable to find a job, and planned a robbery with his friend Ed Singleton. The two robbed a local grocery store, stealing $50.

Leaving the scene they were spotted by a minister who recognized the men, and reported them to the police. The two were arrested the next day. Singleton pleaded not guilty, but after Dillinger’s father (the local Mooresville Church deacon) discussed the matter with Morgan County prosecutor Omar O’Harrow, his father convinced John to confess to the crime and plead guilty without retaining a defense attorney.

Dillinger was convicted of assault and battery with intent to rob, and conspiracy to commit a felony. He expected a lenient probation sentence, but instead was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison for his crimes.

En route to Mooresville to testify against Singleton, Dillinger briefly escaped, but was apprehended within a few minutes.

School of Hard Knocks

Dillinger embraced the life behind bars in the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. Upon being admitted, he is quoted as saying, “I will be the meanest bastard you ever saw when I get out of here.”

He soon befriended other criminals, such as seasoned bank robbers like Harry “Pete” Pierpont, Charles Makley, Russell Clark, and Homer Van Meter, who taught Dillinger how to be a successful criminal. The men planned heists that they would commit soon after they were released. Dillinger studied Herman Lamm’s meticulous bank-robbing system, and used it extensively throughout his criminal career.

Outside Moves

Dillinger’s father launched a campaign to have him released, and was able to get 188 signatures on a petition.

Dillinger was paroled on May 10, 1933, after serving nine and a half years.

Released at the height of the Great Depression, Dillinger had little prospect of finding employment. He immediately returned to crime.

On June 21, 1933, he robbed his first bank, taking $10,000 from the New Carlisle National Bank, in New Carlisle, Ohio.

On August 14, Dillinger robbed a bank in Bluffton, Ohio. Tracked by police from Dayton, Ohio, he was captured and later transferred to the Allen County jail in Lima to be indicted in connection to the Bluffton robbery.

After searching him before letting him into the prison, the police discovered a document which appeared to be a prison escape plan. They demanded Dillinger tell them what the document meant, but he refused.

Dillinger had helped conceive a plan for the escape of Pierpont, Clark and six others he had met in prison, most of whom worked in the prison laundry. Dillinger had friends smuggle guns into their prison cells, with which they escaped, four days after Dillinger’s capture.

The group, known as “the First Dillinger Gang,” comprised Pete Pierpont, Russell Clark, Charles Makley, Ed Shouse, Harry Copeland, and John “Red” Hamilton, a member of the Herman Lamm Gang.

Pierpont, Clark, and Makley arrived in Lima on October 12, where they impersonated Indiana State Police officers, claiming they had come to extradite Dillinger to Indiana. When the sheriff, Jess Sarber, asked for their credentials, Pierpont shot him dead, then released Dillinger from his cell.

The four men escaped back into Indiana.

Methods and Means

The Bureau of Investigation (BOI), a precursor to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was brought in to help identify the fugitives – although the men had not violated any federal law. Using their superior fingerprint matching technology, they successfully identified all of the suspects, and issued nationwide bulletins offering rewards for their capture.

But the crooks had methods of their own.

Among Dillinger’s more celebrated exploits was his pretending to be a sales representative for a company that sold bank alarm systems – and then “testing” a bank’s security by carrying out an actual robbery.

He reportedly entered a number of Indiana and Ohio banks and used this ruse to assess security systems and bank vaults of prospective targets.

Another time (allegedly) the men pretended to be part of a film company that was scouting locations for a “bank robbery” scene. Bystanders stood and smiled as a real robbery ensued, and Dillinger’s gang fled.

Dillinger was believed to have been associated with gangs who robbed dozens of banks and accumulated a total of more than $300,000.

To obtain supplies, the gang attacked the state police arsenals in Auburn and Peru, stealing machine guns, rifles, revolvers, ammunition and bulletproof vests.

On October 23, 1933, the gang robbed the Central National Bank & Trust Company in Greencastle, Indiana. They then headed to Chicago to hide out.

The Shanley Case

On December 14, 1933, Chicago Police Department (CPD) Detective William Shanley was killed.

The police had been put on high alert and suspected the Dillinger gang of involvement in the robbery of the Unity Trust And Savings Bank of $8,700 the day before.

Shanley was following up on a tip that one of the gang’s cars was being serviced at a local garage. John “Red” Hamilton showed up at the garage that afternoon. When Shanley approached, Hamilton pulled a pistol and shot him twice, fatally, then escaped.

Shanley’s murder led the Chicago Police Department to establish a forty man “Dillinger Squad”.

As police began closing in, the men left Chicago to hide out first in Florida, later at the Gardner Hotel in El Paso, Texas (where a highly visible police presence dissuaded Dillinger from trying to cross the border at the Santa Fe Bridge in downtown El Paso to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico), and finally in Tucson, Arizona.


On January 21, 1934, a fire broke out at the Hotel Congress in Tucson, where members of the Dillinger gang were staying.

Forced to leave their luggage behind, they were evacuated through a window, and down a fire truck ladder.

Charles Makley and Russell Clark tipped a couple of firemen $12 to climb back up and retrieve their luggage.

One of the firefighters, William Benedict, later recognized Makley, Pierpont, and Ed Shouse while thumbing through a copy of True Detective and informed the police, who tracked Makley’s luggage to a second hideout.

Makley was the first to be arrested. Clark was next.

To arrest Pierpont, the police staged a routine traffic stop and lured him to the police station, where they took him by surprise.

Dillinger was the last to be arrested.

The police found the men in possession of over $25,000 in cash and several automatic weapons.

Tucson still celebrates the historic arrest with an annual “Dillinger Days” festival, the highlight of which is a reenactment of the events.


The men were extradited to the Midwest after a debate between prosecutors as to where the gang would be prosecuted first.

The governor ordered that Dillinger should be extradited to the Lake County Jail in Crown Point for Officer O’Malley’s murder in the East Chicago bank robbery, while Pierpont, Makley and Clark were sent to Ohio to stand trial for Sheriff Sarber’s murder.

Shouse’s testimony at the March 1934 trials of Pierpont, Makley and Clark led to all three of the men being convicted.

Pierpont and Makley received the death penalty, while Clark received a life sentence.

Escape from Crown Point

The police boasted to area newspapers that the Crown Point jail was escape-proof – and posted extra guards, to make sure.

There is still some debate as to what happened on the day of Dillinger’s escape in early March.

Deputy Ernest Blunk claimed that Dillinger had escaped using a real pistol, but FBI files indicate that Dillinger carved a fake pistol from a piece of wood. How he acquired such a thing is still the subject of controversy. Sam Cahoon (the janitor that Dillinger first took hostage in the jail) believed that Dillinger had carved the gun with a razor and some shelving in his cell.

However, according to an unpublished interview with Dillinger’s attorney, Louis Piquett, and his investigator, Art O’Leary, it was later revealed that O’Leary claimed to have smuggled the gun in himself.

What is known is that Dillinger’s wooden pistol was modeled after a Colt .38.

He tricked a guard into opening his cell, took seventeen men hostage, used Deputy Blunk to lure the guards back to the cell block one at a time, locked them in his cell, and fled with another inmate (Herbert Youngblood).

Dillinger stole Sheriff Lillian Holley’s new Ford car (embarrassing her, and the town), and traveled to Chicago.

In so doing, he crossed the state line in a stolen car – breaking the federal Motor Vehicle Theft Act.

The crime was under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Investigation, who immediately took over the Dillinger case after the car was found abandoned in Chicago.

Youngblood was killed in a police shootout two weeks later.

Dillinger was indicted by a local grand jury, and the BOI organized a nationwide manhunt for him.

On the Run

After escaping Crown Point, Dillinger began living with his girlfriend Evelyn “Billie” Frechette. They proceeded to Saint Paul, Minnesota, met up with Hamilton and a few others, and joined Baby Face Nelson’s gang, composed of Homer Van Meter, Tommy Carroll and Eddie Green.

Three days after Dillinger’s escape, the six men robbed the Security National Bank and Trust Company in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. During the robbery, a traffic cop, Hale Keith, was severely wounded when Nelson shot Keith, through a plate glass window.

A week later, on March 14, the new gang robbed the First National Bank in Mason City, Iowa, intending to get $250,000 but only making off with $50,000 due to the bank manager’s stalling tactics. Dillinger and Hamilton were both shot in their right shoulders and wounded.

The landlord of the apartment Dillinger rented in St. Paul became suspicious, and on March 30, 1934, reported his suspicions to a federal agent. The building was placed under surveillance by two agents, Rufus Coulter and Rusty Nalls.

The next day, Nalls remained with his car while Coulter and a local St. Paul Police detective, Henry Cummings, went up to the apartment. They came face to face with Billie, who alerted Dillinger to the police presence. Dillinger immediately started assembling his submachine gun while the two detectives were kept waiting at the door.

Van Meter showed up, and sensed trouble. After exchanging brief words with Coulter, he headed back downstairs to his car, which he had parked next to Nalls. Coulter followed him down to the ground floor, where Van Meter pulled out a pistol and opened fire on him.

Coulter ran for the car and fired several shots before Van Meter retreated inside.

Dillinger fired through the apartment door upstairs at Cummings, then fled out of a back entrance with Frechette and Van Meter, before back-up could arrive.

They commandeered a truck and drove to Eddie Green’s home. Dillinger was hit in the leg by a ricochet from his own gun and required medical attention.

Federal agents later closed in on the building, and the gang opened fire as they escaped and split up. Eddie Green was shot in the head when agents captured him. He lasted for a week, before dying on April 10.

Meanwhile, Dillinger and Frechette traveled to visit Dillinger’s father in Mooresville, where they remained until Dillinger’s wound healed.

When Frechette returned to Chicago to visit a friend, she was arrested, but refused to reveal Dillinger’s whereabouts. Unknown to the agents, Dillinger was waiting in his car outside the bar where Frechette was arrested, and drove off unnoticed.

Still Making Moves

Dillinger reportedly became despondent after Billie was arrested.

The other gang members tried to talk to him out of rescuing her, but Van Meter knew where they could find bulletproof vests.

That Friday morning, late at night, Dillinger and Van Meter took Warsaw, Indiana police officer Judd Pittenger hostage. They marched him at gunpoint to the police station, where they stole several more guns and bulletproof vests.

After separating, Dillinger picked up Hamilton, who was recovering from the Mason City robbery. The two then traveled to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where they visited Hamilton’s sister Anna Steve.

Upon his return to Chicago, Dillinger again ran into the police in Port Huron, Michigan following a tip that he was checking in on one of his bootlegging operations. Dillinger received a bullet to the left shoulder while avoiding capture.

Dillinger got a tip that federal agents were headed there, and left just days before they arrived.

Little Bohemia Lodge

In April, the Dillinger gang settled at a hideout called Little Bohemia Lodge, in the northern Wisconsin town of Manitowish Waters.

The gang assumed the owners, Emil Wanatka and his family, would give no trouble, but monitored them whenever they left or spoke on the phone.

Emil’s wife Nan and her brother managed to evade Baby Face Nelson, who was tailing them, and mailed a letter of warning to a U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago, which later contacted the Division of Investigation.

Days later, a score of federal agents led by Hugh Clegg and Melvin Purvis approached the lodge in the early morning hours. Two barking watchdogs announced their arrival, but the gang was so used to Nan Wanatka’s dogs that they did not bother to inspect the disturbance.

It was only after the federal agents mistakenly shot a local resident and two innocent Civilian Conservation Corps workers as they were about to drive away in a car that the Dillinger gang was alerted to the presence of the BOI.

Gunfire between the groups lasted only moments, and the whole gang managed to escape in various ways despite the agents’ efforts to surround and storm the lodge. Agent W. Carter Baum was shot dead by Nelson during the gun battle.

Aftermath of Little Bohemia

The next day, Dillinger, Van Meter and Hamilton were confronted by authorities in Hastings, Minnesota, in a rolling gunfight. Hamilton was mortally wounded in the encounter. He died in Aurora, Illinois, three days after the shooting.

Dillinger, Van Meter, Arthur Barker, and Volney Davis (a member of the Barker-Karpis gang) buried him. Dillinger and Van Meter then met up with Carroll.

One week after Hamilton’s death, Dillinger, Van Meter, and Tommy Carroll robbed the First National Bank of Fostoria, Ohio. Van Meter wounded the local police chief, Frank Culp, during the robbery.

Dillinger and Van Meter spent most of May living out of a red panel truck with a mattress in the back.

On June 7, Tommy Carroll was shot and killed by police in Waterloo, Iowa.

Dillinger and Van Meter reunited with Nelson a week later, and went into hiding.

On June 30, Dillinger, Van Meter, Nelson, and an unidentified “fat man” robbed the Merchants National Bank in South Bend, Indiana. The identity of the “fat man” has never been confirmed, although it has been suggested (by Fatso Negri to the BOI) that it was Pretty Boy Floyd.

What is known is that in the robbery, Van Meter shot and killed police officer Howard Wagner as he walked towards the bank from a nearby intersection after being drawn by the sound of gunfire. Van Meter would be shot in the head during a shootout with police that followed the robbery.

The Elusive Mr. Lawrence

By July 1934, Dillinger had dropped completely out of sight, and federal agents had no solid leads to follow.

He had, in fact, drifted into Chicago and went under the alias of Jimmy Lawrence, a petty criminal from Wisconsin who bore a close resemblance to Dillinger’s real self.

What Dillinger did not realize was that the center of the federal agents’ dragnet happened to be in Chicago.

When the authorities found Dillinger’s blood spattered getaway car on a Chicago side street, they were positive that he was in the city.

The Woman in Red

Division of Investigations chief J. Edgar Hoover created a special task force headquartered in Chicago, to locate Dillinger.

On July 21, a madam from a brothel in Gary, Indiana – Ana Cumpănaş, also known as Anna Sage – contacted the police.
She was a Romanian immigrant threatened with deportation for “low moral character”, and offered the federal agency information on Dillinger in exchange for their help in preventing her deportation. The agency agreed to her terms, but she was later deported.

Cumpănaş told them that Dillinger was spending his time with another prostitute, Polly Hamilton, and that she and the couple would be going to see a movie together, the following day.

She agreed to wear an orange dress – which is believed to have appeared red in the artificial lights of the theater – so that police could easily identify her.

She was unsure which of two theaters they would be attending but told the agency their names: the Biograph and the Marbro.

A team of federal agents and officers from police forces outside Chicago was formed, along with a very few Chicago police officers (Federal officials felt that the Chicago police had been compromised and could not be trusted). Among them was Sergeant Martin Zarkovich, to whom Sage had informed on Dillinger.

Not wanting another embarrassing escape, the police were split into two teams.

On July 22, one team was sent to the Marbro Theater on the city’s west side, while another team surrounded the Biograph Theater at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue on the north side.

During the stakeout, the Biograph’s manager thought the agents were criminals setting up a robbery. He called the Chicago police, who dutifully responded and had to be waved off by the federal agents, who told them that they were on a stakeout for an important target.

The Biograph Theater

Dillinger attended the film “Manhattan Melodrama” at the Biograph Theater in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, with Polly Hamilton and Ana Cumpănaş.

Once they had determined that Dillinger was in the theater, the lead agent, Samuel P. Cowley, contacted J. Edgar Hoover for instructions.

Hoover recommended that they wait outside, rather than risk a gun battle in a crowded theater. He also told the agents not to put themselves in harm’s way, and that any man could open fire on Dillinger at the first sign of resistance.

When the film let out, Purvis stood by the front door and signaled Dillinger’s exit by lighting a cigar.

Both he and the other agents reported that Dillinger turned his head and looked directly at the agent as he walked by, glanced across the street, then moved ahead of his female companions.

Dillinger reached into his pocket but failed to extract his gun, then ran into a nearby alley.
Other accounts state that Dillinger ignored a command to surrender, whipped out his gun, then headed for the alley.

Agents already had the alley closed off, but Dillinger was determined to shoot it out.

Three men fired the fatal shots: Clarence Hurt fired twice, Charles Winstead fired three times, and Herman Hollis fired once.

Dillinger was hit from behind, and fell face first to the ground. He was struck three (or four, according to some historians) times, with two bullets entering the chest, one of them nicking his heart, and the fatal shot – which entered Dillinger through the back of his neck, severed his spinal cord and tore through his brain before exiting out the front of his head just under his right eye.

Although three agents shot Dillinger, Winstead was believed to be the man who fired the fatal round, and he received a personal letter of commendation from Director Hoover.

Two female bystanders took slight flesh wounds from flying bullet and brick fragments.

An ambulance was summoned, though it was clear that Dillinger had quickly died from his gunshot wounds.

At 10:50 p.m. on July 22, 1934, Dillinger was pronounced dead at Alexian Brothers Hospital. According to the investigators, Dillinger died without saying a word.

Dillinger’s body was displayed to the public at the Cook County morgue after his death.

He was buried at Crown Hill Cemetery (Section: 44, Lot: 94) in Indianapolis.

His gravestone has had to be replaced several times, because of vandalism by people chipping off pieces as souvenirs.

The Nash Theory of Dillinger’s Escape

In “The Dillinger Dossier”, author Jay Robert Nash maintains that Dillinger escaped death at the Biograph Theater simply by not being there. In his stead was “Jimmy Lawrence” – a local Chicago petty criminal whose appearance was similar to Dillinger’s.

Nash uses evidence to show that Chicago Police officer Martin Zarkovich was instrumental in this plot.

Nash theorizes that the plot unraveled when the body was found to have fingerprints that didn’t match Dillinger’s (the fingerprint card was missing from the Cook County Morgue for over three decades), the body was too tall, the eye color was wrong, and it possessed a rheumatic heart.

The F.B.I. – a relatively new agency whose agents were only recently permitted to carry guns or make arrests – would have fallen under heavy scrutiny, this being the third innocent man killed in pursuit of Dillinger. The Bureau would have gone to great lengths to ensure a cover up.

In shooting “Lawrence”, F.B.I. agents were stationed on the roof of the theater and fired downward, causing the open cuts on the face which were described through the media as “scars resulting from inept plastic surgery.”

The first words from Dillinger’s father upon identifying the body were “that’s not my boy.”

The body itself was buried under five feet of concrete and steel, making exhumation less likely.

Nash produced fingerprints and photos of Dillinger as he would appear in 1960, that were allegedly sent to Melvin Purvis just prior to his own 1960 alleged suicide.

Nash alleged that Dillinger was living and working in California as a machinist, under what would have been an early form of the witness protection program.

Just another aspect of Dillinger folklore?

Who knows?

In any event, this story ends, here.

Hope you’ll join me, for the next one.

Till then.