Murder Incorporated

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

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 .


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