Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bugsy Siegel

Bugsy and Scarface

About the time Lansky was meeting with Rothstein to set up the bootlegging operation, Bugsy was helping out an old friend in a jam. Alphonse Capone, a boyhood friend of Bugsys from his days in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, was working alongside Ben as a "schlammer," a goon who, for a price, would intimidate scabs for striking labor unions, or, if the money was right, rough up union organizers as a "favor" for management. Capone wasnt a member of the Bugs and Meyer mob. He worked for and idolized Johnny Torrio, the bantamweight killer who would one day help Luciano and Lepke Buchalter found the Syndicate.

Capone, like Siegel, wasnt afraid to kill. In a career move that foreshadowed one that Bugsy would make two decades later, Capone was forced to move west to avoid the law. The identity of the victim varies depending on the source, but one thing is clear: Capone was wanted for a beating that turned into murder. Before he left town, Capone went to his friend Ben Siegel and asked for help. Ben arranged for Capone to hide out with one of Siegels aunts until things cooled down. It was clear, however, that even with friends like Bugsy, Al would have to leave New York.

"The heat really was on him," Lansky recalled. Al went west to join his mentor Torrio but remained close to Siegel and Luciano. Bens success as a bootlegger would spur on the young Scarface, who was now part of the Big Jim Colosimo gang in Chicago. Like Masseria, Colosimo was a Mustache Pete who didnt like to mix with the "Hebes," as he called them. Big Jim badmouthed Siegel and Luciano and it was all Meyer could do to keep Bugsy from going to the Windy City to shut up Colosimo forever.

"I cant understand why Charlie Lucania (he hadnt changed his name to Luciano yet) mixes with them," Big Jim told Johnny Torrio. "I sometimes have suspicions that he must have some Jewish blood in his veins, otherwise he wouldnt mess with that scum."

Big Jim was even more shortsighted than Masseria. He felt that the old rackets of prostitution and gambling were the way to go and forbid his gang from getting involved in rumrunning. The leaders of the Bug and Meyer mob were afraid that because of Big Jims reluctance to get into bootlegging some other gangs would get into Chicago and lock them out. They hired Frankie Yale to go west and take care of Big Jim.

Once Frankie put a bullet in Colosimos head, Johnny Torrio took over with Al as his lieutenant. They had no reluctance to get into the alcohol business and invited Siegel and Luciano into the city.

Siegel, Lansky and Luciano made sure that they treated their friends in Chicago well. They split the profits equally between the two cities and built up a loyalty that would serve them well into the future.



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