Moving Up

"Don’t wait for the Last Judgment. It takes place every day."

-- Albert Camus

In the late 1930s the government stepped up its war on organized crime in Chicago. The attitude was: If New York City’s humorless District Attorney Thomas Dewey was able to imprison a once-considered-impregnable gangster like Lucky Luciano, was there a viable reason why Chicago’s wiseguys couldn’t sputter and fall?

Terrible things were happening in Europe and foreign thugs like Adolf Hitler and Hirohito were enough to contend with, so before possibly taking on Germany and Japan, there was a resolve to clean up the thuggery at home first -- at least a little.

Some of the vice that Chicago knew about in the first place was suddenly attacked. Union dealings were investigated and specific names began to appear on who’s who lists; Momo’s illegal whiskey operations were inadvertently unearthed and chiefly because the government had not yet been able to nail who they really wanted -- Nitti or Guzik -- Momo received a four-year trip to Leavenworth. His arrest and imprisonment temporarily satisfied the crusaders.

Temporarily, while he was away, the scene continued to reshape in the Windy City -- and this time not as the Outfit planned. The Chicago Syndicate had engineered a takeover of one of the fastest-growing unions in the country, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Motion Picture Operators. Frank Nitti was in charge of the project and had appointed two men, Willie Bioff and George Brown, to do the muscling-in work in Hollywood. But, when the federal authorities arrested the duo on labor racketeering charges, Nitti found himself in a mess. Ricca, Guzik and Humphreys reminded him that he had sponsored the pair and was liable for -- and expected to take -- full blame should the boys talk. Nitti went home and blew his brains out. Which left Paul Ricca defenseless. When Bioff and Brown did indeed jabber, Ricca’s real authority was identified and he was dished a 10-year sentence.

By the time Momo was released in 1943, a new boss was in charge in Chicago. His name was Anthony Accardo, a former wheelman and killer for Capone who had worked alongside Momo on several hits including, it was alleged, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

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Tony Accardo (AP)

Accardo, therefore, already knew of Momo as a guy to get things done quickly and, more so, without leaving a messy trail. He wasn’t surprised then when this enterprising Giancana returned from Leavenworth with what seemed like a novel idea to further empower the Chicago mob. In prison he had befriended a Negro named Eddie Jones and from him learned about the numbers policy racket, which Jones operated and to date had been run only in black areas. Jones promised him that, for a percentage, the white syndicate could help spread it into other parts of the city. He wanted Momo to promote it with the powers that be.

"It’s a lottery game," he told Accardo. "Capone was offered the same chance years ago and turned it down, losing millions. With a nickel you can win five bucks or as much as a thousand on a two-dollar bet. It’s a game played by everyday people, and everybody plays it. It’s all about volume! Pennies make nickels, nickels make dimes, dimes make dollars."

The deal was set and Momo was given the green light. When Eddie Jones was released himself from Leavenworth, he and Momo mapped their strategy together. It took some convincing to ensure the reticent black policy men that Momo could be trusted; the majority feared that once in the hands of the Sicilian Mafioso the black population would lose total control of the game. Eddie Jones told them not to worry.

Eddie Jones couldn’t have been more wrong. Only months after the relationship began, and after Momo learned the mechanics of the racket, he kidnapped him and brought him to the basement of the yet-unfinished home he was having built in Oak Park, Illinois. His offer: was a no-winner for Eddie: turn over a $250,000 ransom fee and the entire policy operation, then get out and stay out of Chicago. Within a week the former policy king had not only left the city -- he left the country.

Jones’ right-hand men balked when they heard what had happened, and they fought back. But, their guns were no match for Momo’s killing machines. The most defiant and last of the lot to hold out was Teddy Roe, a Robin Hood among his own people. By the time Thompson guns blew him to quivering matter in 1952, the war had claimed the life of Momo’s long-time Patch stalwart, "Fat Leonard" Caifano.

But, the policy rackets now belonged completely to Momo. To illustrate the amounts of money that the rackets delivered to the Chicago Syndicate, Chuck Giancana tells a story in Double Cross about accompanying brother Momo one night in 1946 to the home of policy organizer Tom Manno. In Manno’s basement he found "money stacked from one end to the other -- not waist-deep, but to the ceiling."

There was no holding back Momo from this point on...as if there ever had been. He was made Underboss to Tony Accardo as a reward for the Eddie Jones affair. In pursuit of other prizes, other industries from which to make a buck, he traveled to Cuba, New York, Florida and California. Money poured in from bought alliances -- from narcotics, unions, pinball machines, jukeboxes. His new home in Oak Park was nothing short of a mansion. Opening the Boogie Woogie Club in Chicago’s black belt -- "Chicago’s answer to the Cotton Club," said Momo -- he drew the top entertainers of the day, a regular headliner being Nat King Cole.

The gangster Giancana was becoming the celebrity Giancana. And he loved the sensation.

1. Fondless Memories

2. Born in Hell

3. Killin' for Capone

4. Changing of the Guard

5. Moving Up

6. Eyeing the World

7. Kennedy Connection

8. Wayward Politics

9. Betrayal

10. Marilyn Monroe

11. Nov. 22, 1963

12. Downfall

13. To Die in Hell

14. Bibliography

15. The Author
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