Albert Anastasia also known as the "Mad Hatter" and "Lord High Executioner", was a Mafia boss chiefly remembered for running the contract-killing syndicate known as Murder, inc.
Born Umberto Anastasio in Italy, – one of nine brothers – Anastasia moved to NYC around '19. He became active in Brooklyn's waterfront operations and rose to a position of authority in the longshoreman's union. It was here that Anastasia first demonstrated his penchant for homicide at the slightest provocation, killing a fellow longshoreman in the early '20s – an offense which led to an 18-month sentence he served at the famed Sing Sing Prison . However, he was released early, being granted a new trial which would never take place, as four important witnesses turned up missing – a situation that proved permanent.
Early in his prganized crime career, Anastasia served in a gang led by Joe the Boss Masseria,Anastastia was always a devoted follower of others, primarily Lucky Luciano and Frank Costello. His devotion to Luciano knew no bounds.
In '30, Luciano finalized plans to take over crime in America by destroying the two old-line Mafia factions headed by Massria and Salvatore Maranzano; he outlined his plot to Anastasia. Anastasia joined Luciano and Bugsy Seigel in the plot, and assured Luciano that he would kill everyone for Luciano to be on top. Anastasia, always hungry for power, knew that if Luciano were head of the Syndicate that he would eventually get a "piece of the action." Anastasia was personally part of the four-man death squad that mowed down Masseria in Nuova Villa Tammaro, a Coney island restaurant, on April 15, '31 during the Castellammarese war.
The outcome of the Castellammarese War and the subsequent murder of Salvatore Maranzano was that Luciano assumed control of organized crime across America. In order to avoid the power struggles and turf disputes that led to the Castellammarese War, Luciano sought to establish the Syndicate (more familiarly known as the "Commission") consisting of the bosses of major families around the country, including especially the so-called "five families" of New York. This "Commission" would serve as a deliberative body to solve disputes, carve up and distribute territories, and regulate lucrative illegal activities such as prostitution, racketeering , gambling and bootlegging.
For his loyalty, Luciano placed Anastasia in a position of power, combining his talents with those of Lepke Buchalter the nation's leading labor racketeer, as the operating heads of the Syndicates enforcement arm, Murder Inc. Murder Inc. was a group of mainly Jewish killers that operated out of the back room of the Brownsville candy store Midnight Rose's. Some estimates have it that Murder, Inc. may have taken, in a decade of operation, a toll estimated at between 400 and 700 victims. Many of these murders remain unsolved. Unlike Lepke and many other members of Murder, Inc., Anastasia was never prosecuted for any of the murders. When indictments and trials loomed, key prosecution witnesses would disappear.
Murder, Inc. maintained its power until the early 1940s. After his arrest, hit man Abe Reles. made a deal granting him immunity from prosecution for testimony that helped convict many of the group's hit men, including co-boss Lepke Buchalter, Anastasia promised a $100,000 reward for his death, and Reles mysteriously fell to his death from a guarded hotel room at Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island on November 12, '41.
After the arrest and executionof Buchalter in '44, Anastasia became the sole leader of Murder Inc. ,which shortly faded away as contract killings were arranged within individual crime families.