Murder Incorporated

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A Tough Jew in Our Generation - Chris Rosenberg

Harvey "Christopher" Rosenberg was a notorious member of a crew run by Gambino soldier Roy DeMeo that is suspected of 125-200 murders in the mid 1970s to the early 1980s. He was said to be violently defensive about his height, and despite his Jewish heritage, felt his killing ability would eventually earn him a button in the Italian-only Gambino crime family.

Christopher Rosenberg grew up in Canarsie on a block dominated by Italian-Americans, and considered his Italian friends his brothers. He too wanted to be Italian and despised his heritage because of it. Rosenberg's criminal career began relatively early, when he began dealing in narcotics at age 13. His first arrest was in 1970 for car theft, which started out as a felony case, but was reduced to a misdemeanor. He walked away with a fine as his only punishment. He was arrested again in 1971 for possession of the drug hashish, then again in 1972 for the attempted stealing of a snowplow. Both cases were dismissed.

Rosenberg was dealing in small amounts of marijuana and hashish when he first met Roy DeMeo at a Canarsie gas station in 1966. DeMeo admired Rosenberg's fearless attitude and immediately took a liking to the teenager, loaning him money so Chris could deal in larger amounts. Roy also recruited Chris to steal cars, which would then be sold off through connections DeMeo had within Canarsie junkyards. Rosenberg was also the first crew member to interact with Roy socially at family barbecues and get-togethers at Roy's house. Between his adept car abilities as well as his fledgling drug business, Chris became successful and opened his own car shop named Car Phobia Repairs, which soon became a hotspot for stolen vehicles. Chris moved into an upscale apartment and had a large amount of disposable income, which he spent on a variety of clothes, cars and other flashy 'toys'. By now Chris had his friends stealing cars for him. Two of these friends were the infamous (in the Canarsie area) Gemini Twins, Joseph Testa and Anthony Senter, who would become two more integral members of Roy DeMeo's crew.

By 1974, then 23 year-old Chris Rosenberg began selling cocaine and quaaludes, again backed by Roy DeMeo. He acquired the quaaludes through a pharmacist connection, as well as the cocaine, which at the time could be prescribed for medical purposes. Through this pharmacist, Chris Rosenberg and the rest of the early DeMeo crew met 22 year-old Andrei Katz, a man who became what was most likely the crew's first murder.

Like Rosenberg, Andrei Katz was of Jewish descent, both of his parents being concentration camp survivors. Despite such a humble background, Katz was flashy and arrogant, dabbling heavily in drugs and women. Chris and Andrei began a business relationship, with Chris providing stolen spare parts for Andrei's car service shop. From this a friendship blossomed between Katz and the early DeMeo crew and the group were often found at Andrei's apartment snorting cocaine. The business relationship strengthened as well, when in the next few months Andrei purchased cocaine, car parts and tag jobs (stolen vehicles), as well as a .38 revolver from the crew. With the early DeMeo crew as his backing Andrei himself also began dealing in cocaine. Things soon became complicated when a friend of Katz was stopped while driving one of the stolen vehicles Andrei had acquired from Rosenberg. The police were led to Andrei, and they arrested him in October of 1974. The police offered him a deal if he cooperated, but he refused and was released on bail. However, Andrei was angry at Chris and blamed him for his arrest. Andrei soon found himself in a confrontation with the crew, who stopped by his shop to make sure he was going to keep his mouth shut. Words became heated and an argument broke out. The following day Chris confronted Andrei again and punched him in the mouth. A few days later Andrie was yanked out of his vehicle and badly beaten by two masked men. He was in the hospital for a few days with horrible injuries from being pistol-whipped and beaten with a blackjack. Once healed, Andrei began carrying a handgun with him and planning revenge.

The revenge came on November 13, 1974, when Chris Rosenberg opened his garage door and was struck with 3 bullets fired from an automatic rifle. Chris survived through sheer luck, one bullet hitting him in the lower jaw, another his right arm and a third that was aimed for his chest merely glancing the target. Despite the fact that he survived what should have been a very fatal shooting, Chris was reportedly furious. The bullet that tore into his jaw had disfigured his face, and reconstructive surgery did little to alleviate this anger. For the rest of his short life Rosenberg wore a beard to mask the scars that resulted from this attack.

The man who had shot Chris that morning was never seen but it was correctly assumed that the shooter had to be Andrei Katz. After this incident, and while Rosenberg was still in the hospital recovering from his gunshot wounds, the rest of the Canarsie men who made up the still-formative DeMeo crew made sure to travel together and always armed. During this time, the Gemini Twins Joseph Testa and Anthony Senter were arrested for carrying loaded handguns, but were soon released. Around this time, another core crew member emerged onto the scene, Henry Borelli. Once the Gemini Twins were released and Chris was out of the hospital following the shooting, a meeting was called with Roy DeMeo to figure out what to do about the situation. Having since murdered for his superior, Anthony Gaggi, Roy wasted no time coming up with a solution: kill Andrei Katz.

A direct hit was reportedly considered by the crew to be risky given all that had happened, so a woman friend of Henry Borelli's was used to successfully bait Katz to a location where he could be directly confronted, under the pretenses that Borelli and crew wanted only to discuss an outstanding loan with him. Arriving at the woman's apartment complex, Andrei was forcefully abducted by Chris, Henry Borelli, Joseph Testa and Anthony Senter and taken to the meat department of a grocery store, where Roy DeMeo was waiting. It was this night, Friday, June 13, 1975, that the DeMeo crew is first known to have been involved with murder and dismemberment. While first-hand accounts of the incident are unavailable, the remains of Andrei Katz held clues that were used by law enforcement and reporter/author Jerry Capeci to reconstruct the events. First, Andrei was stabbed multiple times in the heart with a butcher knife, presumably by Chris Rosenberg in revenge for the shooting that had put Chris into the hospital and ruined his face. Andrei's body was then stripped of its clothes and dismembered by Roy DeMeo and Joseph Testa, both former butcher's apprentices, while Chris and Anthony Senter bagged the body parts.

The crew then left the plastic bags filled with the dismembered remains in the grocery store's dumpster, failing to realize that the garbage wasn't picked up on weekends at that particular location. Because of this oversight, the remains sat there until that Sunday, when a pedestrian walking his dog near the store discovered a human leg lying near the curb. Presumably it was initially taken out of the dumpster by a homeless man who mistook the package to be spoiled meat and then fled when he realized the truth. The police reported to the press that a grisly, brutal killing had occurred, but that was the extent of the information given. The body was identified as that of Andrei Katz two days later through the use of dental records. Almost immediately after learning of the murder, the woman friend of Henry Borelli, who acted as bait left New York for a vacation, disposing of the clothes she wore on the day she was seen with Katz. While out of town, she was informed by a friend that she was linked to Andrei Katz and his final day seen alive, and that law enforcement officials were seeking her for questioning. This led to her returning to New York in early July 1975 and immediately confessing her role in the murder, leading police to Henry Borelli and Joseph Testa, who were both arrested. The day after Testa and Borelli's arrest, police told the press that "two or three" other men were being sought for the crime. However, the woman was unable to identify Rosenberg or Anthony Senter so no charges were brought against them.

At Testa and Borelli's trial, the defense lawyers succeeded in making the woman's testimony seem inaccurate and unreliable. This, coupled with the lack of physical evidence linking either of the men to the crime scene, secured an acquittal for both crew members. No retaliation was brought towards the woman who turned them in, and she went on to testify a second time against them, for the very same crime, in the late 1980s when the FBI had finally built up a solid case against the DeMeo crew. By this time, however, Rosenberg would not be around to worry about it.

As the 1970s continued, Chris Rosenberg along with the rest of the DeMeo crew would allegedly contribute to many more killings in the next couple of years which included suspected informants and other mobsters Roy DeMeo and his followers were contracted to kill. Rosenberg would also deal more and more heavily in narcotics, particularly in cocaine and the Colombian marijuana trade. At one point during this time, an associate of Rosenberg claimed he had many contacts to whom he could sell cocaine. After Rosenberg fronted the man an amount to sell off, the man claimed his house was broken into and the drugs stolen. Chris allegedly shot the man dead on the spot.

The majority of murders committed by the crew however followed what came to be known as the "Gemini Method", named so because the main location where the victims were killed and then dismembered was the Gemini Lounge, the headquarters of the DeMeo crew through much of the late 1970s. The Gemini Method usually consisted of the victim entering the apartment in back of the Lounge, dubbed 'The Clubhouse' by crew members. At this point, a crew member (almost always Roy DeMeo according to crew member turned government witness Frederick DiNome) would approach them with a silenced pistol and shoot them in the head, then wrapping a towel around the victim's head wound like a turban in order to staunch the sudden flow of blood. Immediately after, another member of the crew would stab the victim in the heart in order to prevent any more blood from pumping out of the gunshot wound. By then the victim would usually be dead, at which point other crew members would assist with the dismemberment after a short period of time spent waiting for the victim to bleed out or for the blood to congeal in order to make the process of taking apart the corpse as clean as possible. The body parts would be put into bags, boxed and then sent off to the Fountain Avenue Dump among other places. Crew members who became witnesses all contend that during the time period that Rosenberg was alive, he was always the crew member chosen to stab the victim after they had been shot in the head. These same witnesses also claim that Rosenberg usually did the stabbings (and subsequent dismemberment) in his boxer shorts or underwear in order to avoid staining the often expensive clothes he wore.

More murders committed by Chris and members of the DeMeo crew were attributed to the drug business, notorious for its shady participants and nonstop violence resulting from deals gone bad. It was one of these drug scams, committed by the DeMeo crew themselves, as well as Rosenberg's habit of introducing himself as Italian, that ultimately sealed his fate.

The origins of the fateful drug deal actually began in the early 1970s, when one Charles Padnick, owner of a body shop in Flatlands, became one of Roy's loan customers. Padnick soon moved to Florida, only to borrow more money from Roy when his business there floundered. Charles Padnick then entered the cocaine business, like many otherwise legitimate citizens did in the 1970s and 1980s, to continue paying off Roy's loans. It was through the drug business that Charles Padnick, as well as his son Jamie, got closer to Chris Rosenberg who by the late 1970shad become very successful and wealthy through narcotics. The Padnick's sold Chris pounds of cocaine, who in turn sold it for a higher price and reaped a huge profit.

What Chris didn't know at the time was that Padnick's cocaine contact was a Cuban man named William Serrano. Serrano's connection was a man known only as "Pepon", who in turn was connected to man who was a member of a Colombian organized crime family, whose only known alias was "El Negro". Through these contacts, "El Negro" was alerted of the Padnick's wealthy Italian connection that was on the lookout for a huge shipment of cocaine. After a 1-kilo dry run to ensure things would run smoothly, a 12-kilo deal was arranged between the Padnick's contact William Serrano and Christopher Rosenberg. Charles Padnick, William Serrano and two associates of "El Negro" booked a flight to New York and promptly disappeared, murdered in a violent shootout ambush with the DeMeo crew, who ripped off the cocaine in order to gain a multiple hundred thousand dollar profit. The ambush did not go entirely smooth however, as Chris Rosenberg suffered two superficial bullet wounds, one to his head and the other on his hand. Charles Padnick's son, Jamie Padnick, then flew to New York to investigate the disappearance of his father and was killed by the crew as well, most likely ending up alongside many of the other DeMeo crew victims somewhere in the Fountain Avenue Dump in Brooklyn.
This would have been the end of the treacherous dealing, if not for a terrible mistake Rosenberg committed. Knowing he would be killing William Serrano in short time, but not knowing Serrano was only the middle man brokering the cocaine deal, Christopher Rosenberg had introduced himself to Serrano as "Chris DeMeo". Thus, El Negro knew that his associates were ambushed and killed in New York, and by an Italian named DeMeo. Naturally all of this drama led back to Roy DeMeo and subsequently the Gambino crime family and the ultimatum was passed on by the Colombian drug cartel: a violent war could be stopped if Christopher Rosenberg was murdered, and only if the murder was in a newspaper as proof. It took weeks to play out, but after ever-increasing pressure from his superiors, Roy DeMeo got the crew (minus Chris) together for an emergency meeting and explained the situation. Rosenberg never knew about the tumultuous drama going on behind his back, therefore had no reason to suspect anything from his closest friends and crew members. Thus, on May 11, 1979, Christopher Rosenberg went to the regular nightly meeting with his crew. He walked in, greeted his friends and sat down at the table with the rest of them, at which point Roy DeMeo pulled a pistol out of a brown bag sitting on the table and shot Chris in the head, wounding but not killing him. Anthony Senter then stood up and shot Chris four more times in the head. The violent criminal career of Christopher Rosenberg had ended just a few years after it truly began, and as expected in an equally violent way as many of his victims.

Rosenberg's body was then placed in his car, which was driven and left parked on a street near the Gateway National Recreation Area in New York City. Crew member Frederick DiNome then drove by the vehicle while Henry Borelli raked it with machine gun fire, to ensure the murder was a blatant enough assassination to guarantee it a spot in the local newspaper. The Colombians had their proof of revenge and the crisis was averted, at the cost of Roy DeMeo's closest and most loyal crew member.

Joseph Rosenzweig

Joe "The Greaser" Rosenzweig was a New York labor racketeer in the early 1900s as an ally of "Dopey" Benny Fein during the labor slugger war from 1914-1917.

Controlling labor slugging in New York's Lower East Side, Rosenzweig's organization of around one hundred acted mostly as strikebreakers, specializing in breaking up union picket lines, demonstrations and other protests.

With political protection from Tammany Hall Rosenzweig maintained complete control of strikebreaking and labor slugging well into the early 1910s.

Rosenzweig's dominance was challenged in 1913, when Philip "Pinchey" Paul began a war with Rosenzweig, lasting over several months. The war ended with Paul's death the following year, when he was killed by Rosenzweig and several gunmen, including Jacob Heiseman, Benjamin Snyder, and Hyman Berthstein. When he was later arrested for the murder Rosenzweig agreed to testify against the other gang members. Despite his testimony Rosenzweig was sentenced to ten years imprisonment, along with Snyder, to Sing Sing Prison in December 1915.
Upon Rosenzweig's release in 1925 he returned to Manhattan to find his gang had long since disappeared. After he received a warning from ex-lieutenant Waxey Gordon against attempting to reform his gang he soon left New York retiring from crime thereafter

Harry Horowtz

Harry Horowitz better known as Gyp the Blood, was the leader of the notorious Lenox Avenue Gang in New York City during the early part of the 20th century. Legend has it that, on a small bet from one of his colleagues, he would grab passers-by and break their backs over his small feat by a man only 5 feet 7 who weighed only about 140 pounds.

Gyp the Blood, along with three of his gang members, became part of gang lore in 1912 when they pulled off the spectacular murder of gambler Beansie Rosenthal outside the Metropole Hotel. The four shot Rosenthal to death on the orders of Police Lt. Charles Becker, who was enraged that Rosenthal was blabbing to anyone who would listen about Becker's ties to criminals and gambling houses.

Gyp the Blood and his co-conspirators were convicted in a highly publicized trial and put to death in the electric chair in 1914. The next year, Becker also was executed for the crime, making it five lives exchanged for the elimination of a rather marginal one.

Jack Zelig

"Big" Jack Zelig was a New York gangster and one of the last leaders of the Monk Eastman Gang.

Born Zelig Harry Lefkowitz in 1888, Zelig became a well known pickpocket and thief as a teenager on New York's Lower East Side as a member of Crazy Butch's pickpocket gang before joining the Eastman Gang in the late 1890s. Rising up the ranks Zelig became leader of the Eastman Gang after "Kid Twist" Max Zwerbach's death in 1908. With lieutenants Jack Sirocco and Chick Tricker the gang had over seventy-five members including gangs such as the Lenox Avenue Gang led by "Gyp the Blood" Harry Horowitz.

After being arrested in 1911 for robbing a brothel, Sirocco and Trick attempted to gain leadership of the gang refusing to bail out Zelig. Zelig was later released due to his political connections however he was informed by a member that Sirocco and Tricker were planning on murdering him upon his release. The assassin, a gunman named Julie Morrell, was lured by Zelig to a Second Avenue nightclub where Morrell was killed, possibly while intoxicated, by the gang leader on December 2. The next year however Zelig was killed by "Red" Phil Davidson, following an altercation during a card game at a local cafe, on October 5, 1912 while on a Thirteenth Street trolley.
It has been suggested that Zelig's murder was an attempt to keep Zelig from testifying against Charles Becker in the Rosenthal murder case involving the Lenox Avenue Gang. Shortly after Zelig's death New York detective Abe Shoenfeld wrote "Jack Zelig is as dead as a door nail. Men before him -like Kid Twist, Monk Eastman and others- were as pygmies to a giant. With the passing of Zelig, one of the most 'nerviest', strongest, and best men of his kind left us."

William Lipshitz

William Lipshitz also known as William Levine, was a New York street gang leader under strikebreaker and labor racketeer "Jack the Dropper" during the early 20th Century.

Born in New York in 1901, little is known of Lipshitz before he joined Jack the Dropper's street gang in the 1910s. However by 1922 he had risen to become one of Dropper's top leaders.
When Dropper gang member Benjamin Levinski left to form a rival gang, Lipshitz was ordered to kill Levinski.
On December 5, 1922 Lipshitz shot Levinski as he entered a building on Broadway. Arrested shortly thereafter, Lipshitz pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Gus Greenbaum

Gus Greenbaum was a member of the Chicago Outfit and syndicate accountant for Las Vegas casino operations.

An associate of Meyer Lansky, Greenbaum joined his organization on New York's Lower East Side sometime during the mid to late 1910s. During Prohibition, Greenbaum began working with the Chicago Outfit managing the southwest division of the Trans-America wire service in 1928. Sent to Las Vegas shortly after WWII, Greenbaum gained control over syndicate gambling operations, with Morris Rosen and Moe Sedway, following the death of Bugsy Siegel in 1947.

Taking over as manager of the Flamingo Hotel, Greenbaum brought the struggling casino out of debt within several months, eventually controlling several other syndicate casinos and bookmaking operations in Arizona within several years. As a leading syndicate leader in Las Vegas, Greenbaum would later order the deaths of Tony Brancato and Tony Tombino after robbing a syndicate hotel. Shortly after becoming manager of the Riviera Hotel, Greenbaum's excessive gambling, womanizing, and drug habits eventually caused him to begin skimming from casino operations. However, his embezzlement was soon discovered by the Chicago syndicate, and on December 3, 1958, both he and his wife were found in their Phoenix home with their throats slashed.

Benny Fein

"Dopey" Benny Fein was an early Jewish gangster who dominated New York labor racketeering in the 1910s.

Born Benjamin Fein in New York City, New York in 1889, Fein grew up in a poor neighborhood on Lower East Side becoming a petty thief and pickpocket as a child. A talented organizer Fein had formed his own gang of robbers in 1905 and during the next 5 years Fein would be sent to Elmira Reformatory several times particularly serving 3 1/2 years for armed robbery.
Soon after his release in 1910 Fein joined "Big" Jack Zelig's organization soon becoming involved in labor union and extortion of the garment district. Fein also used his gang as labor sluggers, renting his gang out to either unions or companies, dominating much of New York's East Side eventually earning $20,000 a year. In 1913 several minor labor slugger gangs formed to break the monopoly held by Fein and rival Joseph Rosenzweig in which a large shootout took place on Grand Street and Forsyth Street lasting several hours, although few were killed, beginning the New York Labor slugger war which would last almost 4 years. Arrested for assault in 1914, Fein agreed to testify against several members involved in labor slugging when his political connections refused to help Fein resulting in the indictments of 11 gangsters and 21 union officials however none would be brought to trial. That same year Fein was again arrested for the murder of court clerk Frederick Strauss, who was killed in the crossfire during a shootout near St. Mark's Place, however he was later released when witnesses could not identify Fein at the scene.
After his release in 1917 for labor slugging Fein's power had declined and by the end of the gang war, with Rosenzwieg in prison for manslaughter, Fein decided to retire becoming a successful garment businessman where he later disappeared from public records sometime after 1927 .

William Bioff

William Morris ("Willie") Bioff was an American organized crime figure who operated as a labor leader in the movie production business from the 1920s through the 1940s. During this time, Bioff extorted millions of dollars from movie studios with the threat of mass union work stoppages.

Bioff was born and briefly raised in a kosher Jewish household in Chicago, but his father kicked him out on the street when he was eight years old. Bioff soon became involved in criminal ventures, beginning with petty theft, then minor protection rackets and working his way up to pimping in Chicago's Levee vice district, of which he was later convicted in 1922. Bioff later worked for Harry and Jake "Greasy Thumb" Guzik where, through Guzik, Bioff met Al Capone and later Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti.

In the 1930s, Nitti sent Bioff to California as an enforcer for Mafia controlled Union
leader George Browne who later became President of the Alliance of Theatrical Stag Employe and Motion Picture Operators. Eventually, Bioff, aided by John "Handsome Johnny" Rosselli, became the collector for the Syndicate-controlled unions in Hollywood, extorting millions of dollars from major motion-picture studios, and keeping several hundred-thousand for himself. However, as one source notes, "Amusingly, Bioff, a glorified Chicago thug, went Hollywood in a big way with his sudden wealth. But his fancy suits and solid gold business cards made him too high profile ... -hence the indictment.
Bioff later threatened a strike against New York movie theaters by demanding two projectionists in each theater. When owners complained they would go broke under the terms he demanded Bioff agreed to an arrangement for two projectionists in exchange for reduced pay, much of which went to Bioff. By the late 1930s a newspaper campaign began bringing attention to the Bioff-Browne extortion operation creating a huge scandal in Hollywood. He was exposed by conservative newspaper columnist Westbrook Pegler, who was trying to prove that criminal corruption was rampant in labor unions.

In 1943, Bioff was indicted for tax evasion and related crimes, as well as extortion and racketeering, along with a number of his associates. Rather than face prison, Bioff testified against his companions, including Paul "The Waiter" Ricca, Philip D'Andrea, Charlie "Cherr Nose" Gioe, Johnny Rosselli, Lou Kaufman, and Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti. Nitti committed suicide shortly after Bioff's testimony. Bioff received a reduced sentence along with Browne.
Upon his release, Bioff moved to Arizona and assumed a new identity, "William Nelson," and even reportedly developed a friendship with then Senator Barry Goldwater helping contribute to his reelection campaign fund and even going into business with the senator's son, Bobby. Bioff, however, soon began working for Riviera Casino manager Gus Greenbaum, at the Chicago Outfit-owned Las Vegas casino. Bioff was assassinated on November 4, 1955, through a bombing described as follows:

Bioff walked out of his home and slid behind the wheel of his truck. A moment later, an explosion rocked the neighborhood. Parts of Bioff and his truck were strewn all over the driveway. Police found the remains of a dynamite bomb wired to the starter. The killers were never found.

Otto "Addadabba" Berman

Otto "Abbadabba" Berman is a legendary US Mafia accountant famous for his ability to cook accounting books. He is also known for coining the phrase "Nothing personal, it is just business."
Virtually no information on Berman has survived in the ensuing years since his death. He was born Otto Biederman in or around 1889 in NYC; when he was fifteen, he was arrested and tried for attempted rape but found not guilty. It is thought that his best friend was a man by the name of Brobyn. As an adult he became an accountant, well known for his ability to figure complex mathematical equations and algebraic expressions in a matter of seconds, without the use of paper or pen. A member of the New York nightlife, he met and befriended writer Damon Runyon. Runyon would go on to base his recurring character Regret on Berman, and Berman would be thus immortalized by character actor Lynne Overman when a movie was made out of Runyon's story, Little Miss Marker.

In the 1930s Berman fully enshrined himself in the criminal underworld when he became the accountant for and advisor to gangster Dutch Schultz. In 1935 Berman was having a meeting at the Palace Chophouse tavern in Newark with Schultz and gunmen Abe Landau and Lulu Rosenkrantz when assassains hired by Lucky Luciano burst into the room. Berman suffered several bullet wounds and buckshot from a twelve gauge shotgun, and was the second of the four men to die. A photo of his bullet-riddled body appeared alongside a photo of Schultz undergoing surgery in the next morning's newspaper, under the headline, "Schultz, Five Pals Shot" (itself a misnomer; the only people attacked that night were Berman, Landau, Rosenkrantz, and Marty Krompier, one of Schultz's lieutenants). That article claimed that Berman was a gunman for Schultz; an angry Damon Runyon quickly submitted an editorial to the newspaper, defending Berman.

Some fifty years after his death Berman became a literary anti-hero as the sage mentor to the main character in the PEN/Faulkner award winning novel, Billy Bathgate.

Monk Eastman

Monk Eastman was the best known aliase of Edward Osterman, a New York City gangster. Other known aliases include Joseph "Joe" Morris, Joe Marvin, William "Bill" Delaney, and Edward "Eddie" Delaney.

Eastman was born in Brooklyn circa 1873, relocated to Lower Manhattan circa 1895, and became one of the "Sheriffs" of New Irving Hall. The corrupt Tammany Hall political machine regularly relied on the 1200+ member Eastman Gang to "Get Out the Vote" at election time. He engaged in a protracted turf war versus Paul Kelly of the Five Points Gang gang. Later, at age 44, he joined the 106th Infantry of the 27th Division of the U.S. Army, "O'Ryan's Roughnecks", and fought in France during World War I. He was killed by a Prohibition agent shortly after his return.

He is featured in a 1933 fictional short story by Jorge Luis Borges called "Monk Eastman: Purveyor of Iniquities". In the P.G. Wodehouse novel, "Psmith In The City", the fictional character Bat Jarvis is largely based on him, sharing his kindhearted streak with regard to animals

Abe Landau

Abe Landau was the chief henchman for New York Gangster, Dutch Schultz. Landau was Schultz's most trusted employee, often given tasks that required coolness and cunning rather than gunfire and brutality. It is very likely that he never actually killed anyone during his gang years.

Landau, along with Schultz, Otto Berman and Lulu Rosenkrantz was shot to death on the night of October 23, '35 in a Newark, NJ diner called The Palace Chophouse. Since fleeing New York, Schultz had converted the back room of the Chophouse into his hideout, and held regular meetings there with his associates.
When ambulances arrived, the first man they found was Abe Landau, still sitting on the trash can, his arms dangling at his sides and blood faintly coming out of his neck. His last bits of strength were used to give the police a fake name and address before he expired of blood loss, shortly after twelve a.m. on the morning of October 24.

As a practicing Orthodox Jew, Landau was given a Hebrew burial at Mount Hebron Cemetery.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Albert Anastasia

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.

Harry "Happy" Maione

Harry "Happy" Maione was an Italian-American hitman for Murder, Inc.(the enforcement arm of the National Crime Syndiacte) during the 30's. His nickname was given to him because he never smiled and his face displayed an eternal scowl.

Maione was head of the Ocean Hill Hooligans, an Italian street gang in the Ocean Hill section of Brooklyn, NY . His underling in this group was Frank Abbandando. Maione and Abbandando helped Abe Reles and Martin Goldstein exact revenge on the Shapiro brothers Meyer, Irving, and William in '31 for trying to kill the two Jewish hoods and for abducting and raping Reles' girlfriend and future wife. The two Italians were hoping to get a piece of the Shapiro holdings in return.

Maione, Abbandando, Reles, and Goldstein then banded together and created Brooklyn, Inc. the forerunner to Murder, Inc. When joined by other killers, such as Harry Strauss, Mendy Weiss, Albert Tannenbaum, Seymour Magoon, Louis Capone, Charles Workman, and Vito Gurino the group started picking up contracts for the National Crime Syndicate through Syndicate "board of directors" member Joe Adonis. Brooklyn, Inc. soon became the official murder-for-hire squad of the Syndicate, and began to be dubbed "Murder, Inc." by the press. Maione acted as the Italian liaison to the Jewish killers of the faction; Reles was his counterpart on the Jewish side. They operated under the direction of the brutal Lepke Buchalter (another member of the Syndicate board) and the nefarious Albert Anastassia.

When Buchalter was being targeted by New York District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey, starting in the mid-'30's, he waged an all-out war of extermination to eliminate potential witnesses Dewey could use. Murder, Inc. played a major role in this campaign, rubbing out anyone that "Lepke" even suspected of being an informant. Loan shark George Rudnick was one such victim; he was killed by Maione, Abbandando, and Strauss on May 11, '37.

When Abe Reles became an informant for the state in '40, he implicated Maione in the horrific slaying of Rudnick. He reported that when the three hitmen had tried to get the "dead" Rudnick into their car after supposedly killing him, he coughed, apparently still alive. Strauss began hacking away at the body of the victim with an ice pick, Maione putting the final exclamation point on the murder by sinking a meat cleaver into Rudnick's skull.

Reles' information was enough for Maione to be sentenced to death for first-degree murder. He was executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing in Feb, '42.

Frank Abbandando

Frank "Dasher" Abbandando was a hitman for so-called Murder, inc. He is claimed to have killed 30 people in Brooklyn in the 1920s and 1930s. His nickname came from his running speed; in one case he reputedly ran around a house to shoot his victim from behind.

In his teens Abbandando began to extort money from shop owners by threatening to burn their shops if they did not pay. He spent time in a refor, school in Elmira, NY where he demonstrated skill at baseball.

In his twenties, Abbandando worked as a lieutenant for the crime boss Harry Maione in Ocean Hill . He organized gambling and loan shark operations and extortion rackets. In 1932 he took part in the gang war against the rival Shapiro gang in Brownsville to take over their territory. Their gang became Brooklyn, Inc. a forerunner of Murder Inc.

During his stint as a Murder, Inc assassin, Abbandando fulfilled numerous murder contracts for an average fee of $500. In his "free" time he molested young women. He preferred fine clothes and fancy cars.

In the early 40's, Abbandando was arrested due to testimony of his former boss-turned-informant Abe Reles and later sentenced to death for the murder of a loan shark George Rudnick in New York on May, 25, '37 He was executed in the electric chair on Feb. 19. '42.

More on Murder Inc.

In Brownsville, Brooklyn, at the corner of Livonia and Saratoga Avenues, stood a small twenty-four hour candy store named Midnight Rose’s. This wasn’t any ordinary candy store. It housed some of the most lethal for-hire contract killers, consisting mainly of Jews and Italians, that this country has ever known. These men, dubiously named Murder Incorporated by the press, carried out over eight hundred contract murders while sharing egg creams and betting on Dodger games at Ebbets Field.

Charles "Lucky" Luciano and Meyer Lansky established the National Crime Syndicate in the late Twenties, after the murders of then Mafia kingpins, Joe "the Boss" Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano. As gambling, prostitution and drug trafficking businesses grew for the mob, so did the number of wayward gangsters who skimmed profits and took matters into their own hands. Lucky and Meyer needed a way to deal with these rogues from inside of the Syndicate; therefore Murder Inc. operated as a separate entity and designed solely for hits within the organization. The location was ideal. The candy store was located under the elevated train that brought many people too and from Manhattan. There were always kids around from the local rows of attached houses, which provided security in its own way. A street lamp gave enough light for people to see where they were going, and a small window that faced each side of the street, was perfect for a lookout. Albert "the Mad Hatter" Anastasia, long time friend of Luciano, along with Garment District king pin Louis "Lepke" Buchalter were perfect choices for the leadership of Murder Inc. Since it was a separate entity, Murder Inc. supplied its members with lawyers when they needed one and bought their own police protection and politicians.

Anastasia and Buchalter were two of the most brutal men ever to walk the streets of New York. When the Syndicate approved a hit it would be sent down to Anastasia and he would make sure it was carried out with the utmost of care. Mistakes, such as killing an innocent bystander, would not be tolerated. Many of their victims ended up murdered, missing, or never to be heard from again. At one point, Anastasia had over one hundred contract killers on the payroll for as little as two hundred dollars a week. Some of the names included: Harry "Pittsburg Phil" Strauss who was the organizations traveling door-to-door salesman who sold death instead of encyclopedias. Martin "Bugsy" Goldstein, Albert "Allie Tick Tock" Tannenbaum, Harry "Happy" Maione the man with the eternal grimace and Frank "The Dasher" Abundando who could have played for the Dodgers because of his speed, hence is nickname. The most infamous of them was Abe "Kid Twist" Reles, nicknamed after a legendary killer from the Lower East Side. Abe’s weapon of choice was an ice pick that he would jam in the contracts’ ear and scrambled their brains. He was so good at what he did that many of his victims’ deaths were deemed as brain hemorrhages. Abe was the acting Jewish liaison and Harry "Happy" Maione for the Italian side of Murder Inc. These men ruled over the Brownsville, Williamsburg and the East New York sections of Brooklyn and their reach was nationwide.

Murder Inc. had strict rules. Luciano and Lansky did not want policemen, judges or district attorneys rubbed out for fear of reprisal against the Syndicate. They felt that any politicians or police personnel that were on the payroll would quickly turn against them. This was an important rule that was carried down from previous generations of Mafiosi.

In order to prevent this type of behavior from occurring, all contracts had to be brought in front of the Commission and voted on. To avoid wiretaps, members of Murder Inc. invented an entire new vocabulary. The hit became known as a "contract," the intended victim became the "bum". Only on one occasion, Arthur Flegenheimer, whose chosen nickname was Dutch Shultz, requested that District Attorney Thomas Dewey be murdered. Dewey was prosecuting many members of the mob at that time and was closing in on Shultz who was fighting extradition to New York. Luciano vehemently denied the Dutchman’s request, and Shultz stormed out of the meeting threatening to do the hit himself. Luciano had to send a message to stem this sort of behavior by members of the Syndicate. The call was made to Anastasia. Shultz was subsequently shot in the Palace Chophouse Tavern in Newark, New Jersey on October 23, 1935, before he could get to the troublesome district attorney. He lingered on for over twenty-four hours before succumbing to his wounds in the hospital. Coincidentally, Murder Inc carried out another big hit on the same day, the murder of Louis "Pretty" Amberg. When he died, the Dutchman’s empire was divided up between, Luciano, Genovese and Buchalter. Years later, Charlie "The Bug" Workman pled guilty to the murder of killing Shultz and received a life sentence because of Reles’ testimony. Workman spent twenty years in prison and was released.
During the decade spanning the Thirties, Murder Inc.’s reach stretched from New York to California and left in its wake a trail of bodies and mayhem. In 1940, Kings County District Attorney William O’Dwyer had Abe ‘Kid Twist’ Reles, the "Terror of Brownsville", picked up on a murder charge based on information supplied by an informant. In order to save himself from a date with the electric chair, Reles decided to turn against his former employers, Murder Inc. It was the first time that law enforcement officials became aware of the closely regarded secret. His testimony on May 16, 1940, supplied enough evidence to help send Louis ‘Lepke’ Buchalter to the electric chair in Sing Sing prison in 1944 for the murder of Joseph Rosen that Lepke planned in 1935. Along with Buchalter, Harry "Pittsburg Phil" Strauss, Mendy Weiss, "Happy" Maione and his childhood friend Martin "Buggsy Goldstein, met similar fates.

A trial was planned for Murder Inc. boss, Albert Anastasia, but the day before he was to testify, ‘Kid Twist’ mysteriously fell from the sixth floor window of room 623, of the Half Moon Hotel, in Coney Island. He would be forever known amongst other mob members as the "Canary that sung, but couldn’t fly."

Monday, June 12, 2006

Insight into Harry "Pep" Strauss

Harry Strauss was frustrated.

Strauss, better known to his chums as "Pep" or "Pittsburgh Phil," was on a contract job in Jacksonville, Florida but the bum he was supposed to take out wasn’t making it easy.
A fashion conscious man who always traveled with a clean shirt and spent an hour with his barber each morning, Pep had flown down from New York at the request of the Florida mob to take care of a wiseguy who had been causing some problems for the underworld. Phil had been told by his local contacts that it would be an easy job.

"He comes out of his house same time every day," the local hoodlum who met Pep’s plane told him. "You’re lucky, it’s an easy pop." But Phil wasn’t convinced. There was no escape route; no hot getaway car; no plan. The man left his house at the same time each day, sure, but it was 11 o’clock in the morning and his house was on a busy street.

"These guys are farmers," he said to himself after dismissing the local hood. They had no idea how an artist like Pittsburgh Phil liked to work. After all, wasn’t he the guy who had mugged Harry Sage with an icepick and dumped his body in an upstate New York lake? And wasn’t he the one who had buried Meyer Shapiro, the boss of the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, while Meyer was still alive?

Yeah, Pittsburgh Phil was a real artist with a taste for blood and a talent for killing. It didn’t matter how the target was killed when Phil was involved. He was an expert with a icepick (that’s how he offed George Rudnick, a New York hood who was suspected of being a stoolpigeon), the gun (he killed Joe Kennedy, another gangster), and rope (he strangled Puggy Feinstein and then set him on fire).

"It’s okay to do murder," Pep once said. "As long as I don’t get caught."
And for a long time Pittsburgh Phil didn’t get caught. He had been arrested 29 times in 13 years and "had never been convicted of so much as smoking on a subway platform," wrote Burton Turkus, the assistant D.A. who finally sent Phil to the chair.

But this Florida bum – gangland victims were always referred to as "bums" by their killers – was making Phil’s job difficult. Phil followed the guy from his house, sat next to him while the man ate lunch and generally turned himself into the guy’s shadow, but the opportunity to do a little murder never presented itself.

It frustrated Phil, but he wasn’t ready to give up. "Even if it takes all day, I’ll tail him and find the right spot," he pledged. Finally, the mark went into a movie theater. It was crowded, but Phil was up to the challenge. He wasn’t carrying his gun on him and this wouldn’t be the right place for an icepick or rope job. Phil looked around...there, against the wall was his weapon: a fire axe. "I take the axe and sink it in the guy’s head in the dark," he thought. That would cause a huge racket and in the ensuing commotion, Phil – who was a stranger in Jacksonville – would just run out with the rest of the panic-stricken crowd. Typical Pittsburgh Phil brilliance.
But, as Pep would later tell his friends, the guy was "a seat-hopper." Just as Phil was ready to do the job, the man jumped up and moved to a better seat. For Phil, that settled it. This was a bad job and he wanted nothing to do with it. He left the theater, flew home to Brooklyn and admitted failure.

Whether that meant a reprieve for the man who had brought down the wrath of the Florida mob will never be known. Phil might have been disappointed on this trip to Florida, but he certainly got more than his fair share of kills. According to Turkus, Phil killed more than 30 men in a dozen cities. He begged for contracts and took great delight in a job well-done. Pittsburgh Phil wasn’t a serial killer, though. He was just another slayer in the stable of Murder, Inc., the enforcement arm of America’s crime Syndicate. With mobsters like Bugsy Siegel, Joey Adonis, Albert Anastasia, and Kid Twist Reles, "Pittsburgh Phil" formed the firing squad of a national underworld cartel that controlled gambling, unions, loansharking and narcotics from the end of Prohibition through the 1950s.

This is the story of Murder, Inc. from its beginning as the brain child of Johnny Torrio and Lucky Luciano to the death of Albert Anastasia, the "Lord High Executioner" of the Syndicate in 1950s.

At the height of its efficiency, Murder, Inc. was probably responsible for a thousand killings from coast to coast. Guns and knives were used, of course, but so were more imaginative methods like cremation, slow strangling, quicklime and live burial. Some killers liked the icepick – properly inserted into the ear, a skilled killer could scramble a bum’s brains and make it look like a cerebral hemorrhage. One gangster who had cheated his compatriots out of their take of a gambling operation was stabbed and then tied to a pinball machine and dumped into a lake. Until it was broken by a stool pigeon with first-hand knowledge of dozens of killings, Murder, Inc. operated quietly and ruthlessly, rubbing out gangsters who had run afoul of the cartel and lawmen who threatened its existence.

An Overview

Murder, Incorporated was run by two of the toughest individuals to come out New York City. Ever. Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, the nations leading labor racketeer andAlbert Anasrassia, a member of the National Crime Syndicate ran a group of mainly Jewish killers out of the back room of the Brownsville candy store, Midnight Rose's.

Murder, Inc. was the enforcement arm of the Syndicate. They only killed when "contracted" to do so. Contracts had to be approved unanimously by the Commission, along with some members who claimed to have no vote (Meyer Lansky wanted no connection to the actual voting, but no one ever made a move without his approval). The set up: contracts were issued from various cities throughout the nation. If a contract needed to be completed in Baltimore, they'd hire someone from Cleveland or Los Angeles, bring them in for a week to study the "bum's" routine, and then off them in various ways - car accidents, strangulation, or as simple as gunning them down on a quiet street. One thing was certain, if a contract was issued, it was definitely carried out.

No one outside the organization was ever rubbed out, their motto being "we only kill our own," which was generally true. Most of the contracts were carried out with such detail that there was no way to trace a hit. People ended up dead or missing, some of which have remain unsolved to this day. No one knows who actually killed Bugsy Siegel, but some how everyone, including the general public, knows who ordered it done and why. As for taking care of their own, the Syndicate's most famous killing was of Dutch Schultz when they were taking care of Thomas Dewet, DA that was bringing down all the crime lords in New York. Dewey was going after Schultz with reckless abandon for tax evasion and anything else he could get on the wildly tempered Dutchman. Schultz in turn, presented a contract for Dewey to the Syndicate. The contract was denied based on the fact that if they should rub Dewey out, when there was already too much press on what was going on in the underworld, they would be making a martyr out of Dewey rather than just a DA. Kill Dewey and there would be no hiding from the justice system and every judge and politician in the state would run. Schultz would not hear their arguments, he stormed out and swore he'd take Dewey out himself.

Instead, he doomed himself. Murder, Inc. was called in. Mendy Weiss and Charlie "The Bug" Workman, two of Murder, Inc.'s most notorious killers, were given the job. On October 23, 1935, the two walked into the Palace Chop House and Tavern in Newark, NJ and shot three of the Dutchman's men and shot him in the stomach while he was in the bathroom. Abbadabba Berman, Lulu Rosenkrantz and Abe Landau died on the spot while Dutch Schultz lingered for 24 hours in the hospital blubbering nonsensically. He died without ever revealing his killers.
His death wouldn't go unsolved though. Bug Workman would eventually be tried during the "Kid Twist" Reles trial and was sent to jail by A.D.A. Burton Turkis. The Bug did 23 years for the murder.

For about ten years, Murder, Inc. was reportedly responsible for anywhere between 500 to 700 murders nationwide, from Connecticut to California. Below, you will find a number of Jewish and Italian members of Murder, Inc. Some were convicted, some were executed themselves, but they were probably the toughest guys to walk around the streets of New York City, and didn't need a license to kill, just a contract.