Murder Incorporated

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Meyer Lansky

Meyer Lansky, born in 1902 in Poland to Jewish parents, grew up on the Lower East Side of New York. He was a virtuous and law abiding teen until one day, as he was walking home from his apprenticeship as a toolmaker, he heard a woman screaming in a deserted building. When he went in to investigate, he stumbled upon a 14-year-old Benjamin Siegel fighting a young Charles Luciano over the free services Siegel had been receiving from one of Luciano's prostitutes (the screaming woman). Not knowing either person, Lansky decided to come to the aid of Siegel, and beat Luciano over the head with a monkey wrench. After this unusual introduction the three men would become close friends and business partners. Lansky soon decided that there was more money to be made in gambling than in tool making, and started a floating crap game together with Siegel. His games proved so successful that within two years he was approached by Luciano, who asked him to join in his plans for a national crime syndicate.

By this time Lansky's mob of enforcers had grown to considerable strength, and had come to be known as the Bug and Meyer Mob. In return for his cooperation, Luciano steered a lot of business Lansky's way. During the 20's Lansky, as many of his contemporaries, grew incredibly wealthy from the rackets he was involved in. When Luciano's syndicate became reality towards the end of the decade, Lansky was appointed a position on the board of directors. He was mostly in charge of financial matters, arranging for the millions of dollars in income to be laundred, but also headed the gambling rackets. After Luciano was sent to prison for a long term stay, Lansky arranged for his cooperation in the Allied invasion of Sicily, and got his friend an eary parole. Lansky was left in charge of the day-to-day affairs of Luciano's empire when he was deported to Italy. Around that time also, Siegel had gotten himself in trouble by squandering syndicate money on his venture in Las Vegas, and although Lansky considered Siegel "his closest friend", he agreed to Siegel's elimination after the latter refused to cooperate with syndicate orders. By the 60's Lansky's gambling rackets had extended half-way across the globe, with departments all over South America , and even as far as Hong Kong. When in 1970 the federal government was plan ning to charge Lansky with tax evasion, he fled to Israel, where he lived in Tel Aviv. Israel revoked his visa under pressure from the US, however, and Lansky was made to stand trial. Reportedly he managed to escape conviction because his power stretched to the highest level of government. Eventually he settled in Miami, Florida, where his health declined and he finally died of a heat attack in 1983. At the time of his death, his fortune was estimated to be worth over $400 million.


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