Murder, Inc.

It was Lansky who opened up what was for a time the Syndicate’s greatest source of income, gambling in Havana. He personally handled negotiations with the dictator Batista. Luciano was pleased with this money machine and never stepped on the toes of Meyer Lansky and listened to him intently. It was Meyer who had the brains of the outfit, but it was a group of remorseless hired killers who had the muscles to keep the ship running. Known infamously as Murder, Incorporated.

The mob never had any of society’s misgivings about the justification of the death penalty. They decided it would be very businesslike to set up a special troop of killers that the Syndicate could call on for rub-outs. By doing this, they felt it would eliminate animosity and conflict of interest in killing each other’s members. Under the rules, Murder, Inc., killed only for pressing business reasons, and was never to be brought into action against political figures, prosecutors or reporters. Bugsy Siegel probably best summarized the top gangsters’ attitudes toward Murder, Inc., when he informed construction executive Del Webb, rather philosophically, that he had nothing to fear from the mob because "we only kill each other."

Dutch Schultz.GIF (30164 bytes)
Dutch Schultz
The principal that "we only kill each other," was never better illustrated than in the rubout of New York numbers king, Dutch Schultz, himself a founding ruler of the Syndicate. In 1935, Schultz had become the prime target of special prosecutor, Thomas E. Dewey, and he demanded that Murder, Inc., hit Dewey. This was in direct violation of the founding rules of the organization, and Schultz was voted down. Then Schultz stormed out of the meeting with Luciano, Lansky, Costello and Adonis, insisting he was not bound by such a decision and that he would handle the hit himself.

Immediately, a new vote was taken, and the principle of law and order prevailed. Schultz got the death penalty. The job was carried out shortly thereafter in a Newark chop house.

Albert Anastasia is often described as the "Lord High Executioner", or operating commander of the troop, but he took orders from Louis Lepke, the country’s number one labor racketeer and a member of the Syndicate’s ruling circle. Lepke later earned the distinction of being the only top Syndicate member to be executed by a state or federal body, when he died in Sing Sing’s electric chair. At times, Joey Adonis also issued orders. However, none of the estimated 500 murders believed to have been committed by Murder, Inc., ever went ahead without the concurrence of Luciano, Lansky or Frank Costello.

Albert Anastasia.GIF (32715 bytes)
Albert Anastasia
Directly below Anastasia, Lepke and Adonis were a number of lieutenants, including Louis Capone (no relation to big Al), Mendy Weiss and Abe "Kid Twist" Reles. Instructions for specific assignments came from Luciano, Lansky or Costello and then passed on to the underlings. This way it could not be proved in any criminal prosecution that the men at the top were involved.

In 1940, Murder, Inc. unraveled when a number of lesser mob members were picked up on suspicion of various murders. Also picked up was Abe Reles. He became known as the "Canary of Murder, Inc.," and eventually gave details on some 200 killings in which he personally participated or had knowledge. He died while in police custody under mysterious circumstances. He "fell" 75 feet out a hotel window.

1. Cosa Nostra

2. A Gangster is Born

3. The Long Ride

4. Castellammarese War

5. My Friend Meyer

6. Murder, Inc

7. Living Large

8. Not So Lucky

9. Lucky Factor

10. Bibliography

11. The Author
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