31 August 2018

August 2018 sets new pageview record

The Writers of Wrongs blog crossed a couple of significant milestones in the month of August 2018:

  • The site's total pageviews flew past the 250,000 mark. It is 254,133 as this post is being written. You may recall that the 200,000 plateau was reached in early June
  • The monthly pageview figure topped 20,000 for the first time ever. The 20,000 mark was passed this morning, with most of a day still left in the month. At this moment, the figure stands at 20,492. The previous monthly best figure was 19,961 from March 2018. (The blog was launched in October 2016.)

Thank you all for your continued interest in and support of our work. 

Gangster 'Legs' Diamond shows up in Europe

On this date in 1930...

Legs Diamond
Authorities had speculated for days about the location of notorious New York gangster Jack "Legs" Diamond, when Legs appeared aboard the Red Star Line steamer Belgenland in the English port of Plymouth on Sunday, August 31, 1930. Alerted by New York police to reports that Diamond was sailing for Europe, British and Irish Free State officials pledged to refuse him admittance to their countries. As Diamond made no attempt to disembark from the Belgenland at Plymouth, law enforcement merely noted his presence on the ship.

An international search for Diamond was first noted in newspapers on Tuesday, August 26. At the time, police were investigating the disappearance and likely murder of Harry Western (also spelled Weston), operator of a roadhouse near Kingston in upstate New York, and the discovery of a Diamond-linked arsenal in Brooklyn. (Some newspapers engaged in wild speculation about the bullets, bombs and bulletproof vests found in Brooklyn, insisting that an interstate underworld conflict was about to erupt between a New York gangland army and forces loyal to Chicago underworld boss Alphonse Capone.)

In the afternoon of the twenty-sixth, New York State Police from Saugerties and Troy raided Diamond's summer home in the hamlet of Acra, about thirty-five miles southwest of Albany. They found only Mrs. Alice Diamond, her friend and the friend's young daughter, a maid and nineteen-year-old errand boy William Warring. Warring told police that Diamond boarded a transatlantic liner in New York several days earlier.

Wrong ship

Lucania
Warring's story was initially considered a red herring, but police checked into it. They found that Diamond had purchased a ticket to travel to Europe aboard the White Star Line's Baltic, scheduled to stop at Cobh, Ireland, on August 31, and then at Liverpool, England, on September 1. The police contacted authorities in Ireland and England and managed to send an image of Diamond using radio and transatlantic telephone.

White Star Line contacted the captain of the Baltic, and he reported that no one matching Diamond's description was aboard the vessel. Police had some lingering doubts.

On August 30, the New York Times reported that Jack "Legs" Diamond was aboard the Baltic and accompanied on the liner by four of his henchmen: Salvatore "Charlie Lucky" Lucania later known as Charlie Luciano, Charles "Charlie Green" Entratta, Salvatore Arcidiaco and a man named Treager. The report caught the attention of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and the pre-FBI Bureau of Investigation.

Years later, the FBI made note of the trip in a memorandum:
A confidential circular from the Bureau of Narcotics in the files of the Identification Division reflects that Luciana was an associate of the late Jack Diamond and accompanied him, Diamond, and [name deleted] to Europe in the summer of 1930, when it was believed that a conspiracy existed to smuggle narcotics from Europe into the United States...

Entratta
When the Times report hit the streets, the police had already become convinced that Diamond was not on the Baltic. Concerned that his travel plans were known by too many people, Diamond made a last minute switch and boarded the Belgenland, they reasoned. Belgenland left on the same day and from the same location - New York's North River Pier 60 - as the Baltic. It was due to land at Plymouth before proceeding on to Cherbourg, France, and Antwerp, Belgium.

While British authorities noted the arrival of Belgenland on the thirty-first and the presence of Diamond, reportedly traveling under the name of Jack Nolan, there was no mention in press accounts of the Diamond companions named in the New York Times. Lucania, Entratta, Arcidiaco and Treager possibly were unnoticed. They may have sailed as originally planned on the Baltic or they may not have made the trip at all (despite the later claims of FBN and FBI).

New York Sun, Aug. 30, 1930

In Europe

Diamond remained aboard Belgenland until she docked at Antwerp on September 1. As he disembarked, Brussels officials ordered him detained.

Diamond expressed astonishment when interviewed by the press:
I do not understand what is going on. I embarked from New York under my own name and not for one moment have I concealed my identity. I wonder who imagined I was traveling under the assumed name of Knowland or Nolan. I left the states to take a rest on the continent where I was years ago. I even have a French identity card dating from my first visit three years ago. It is not my intention to remain in Belgium more than a day or so. I am suffering from my stomach and I want to go to Vichy immediately to cure myself.

Diamond
While Vichy was mentioned to the press, Diamond also expressed an interest in visiting Magdeburg, Germany, and in conferring with German medical specialists about his stomach problems. United States officials believed that his trip was related either to securing a source of high quality liquor for New York bootlegging operations or to establish narcotics supply connections with European pharmaceutical companies.

Officials at Antwerp found his travel papers in order and released him. They quickly changed their minds about Diamond and took him again into custody and insisted that he leave Belgium. Because he was found to possess a valid visa for Germany, he was allowed to exit the country at the German border.

German police arrested him as he entered that country. The United States embassy suggested to German authorities that Diamond was a wanted criminal in New York. That was not entirely true. While New York police had been looking for the gang leader, they publicly stated that there were no current charges against Diamond.

Germany decided that Diamond was an undesirable alien and ordered him out of the country. On September 6, he was driven by detectives to the port of Hamburg and placed aboard the freighter Hannover bound for the U.S.

'Clay pigeon'

Three weeks after his return to the U.S., Diamond was seriously wounded by gunmen who broke into his room at Manhattan's Hotel Monticello. Doctors saw little chance that he would survive. But Diamond managed to recover from his wounds and walked out of the hospital before the end of the year.

Near the end of April 1931, he was shot several times outside a roadhouse near Acra. Again he recovered.

As Diamond was charged with bootlegging offenses that summer, the often-targeted gang leader was referred to in the press as "the clay pigeon of the underworld." The bootlegging case resulted in a conviction and a prison sentence, but Diamond remained free pending legal appeal.

Several bullets to the skull, fired as Diamond was asleep in a cheap Albany roominghouse, ended the gangster's life on December 18, 1931.


Sources:

  • "'Legs' Diamond to be barred from Ireland," Brooklyn Standard Union, Aug. 29, 1930, p. 14.
  • "Asserts Diamond is on the ocean," New York Sun, Aug. 27, 1930, p. 2.
  • "Britons think 'Legs' Diamond is in London," Syracuse NY American, Aug. 31, 1930, p. 2.
  • "Charles Luciana, with aliases," FBI memorandum, file no. 39-2141-X, Aug. 28, 1935, accessed March 2017.
  • "Diamond held upon arrival at Antwerp," Malone NY Evening Telegram, Sept. 1, 1930, p. 1.
  • "Diamond home Catskill raid gives no clue," Albany Evening Journal, Aug. 27, 1930, p. 1.
  • "Diamond in Antwerp detained for checkup," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sept. 1, 1930, p. 1.
  • "Germany arrests 'Legs' diamond, American gunman," Saratoga Springs NY Saratogian, Sept. 2, 1930, p. 1.
  • "Ireland will refuse landing to Diamond," New York Times, Aug. 30, 1930.
  • "Irish Free State bans Legs Diamond, New York gangster," Niagara Falls NY Gazette, Aug. 30, 1930, p. 18.
  • "Jack Diamond shot 5 times by gunmen in a 64th St. hotel," New York Times, Oct. 13, 1930, p. 1.
  • "Legs Diamond hiding out, New York police believe," Buffalo Courier-Express, Aug. 27, 1930, p. 5.
  • "Legs Diamond is now believed to be passenger on Belgenland," New York Sun, Aug. 30, 1930, p. 1.
  • "Sails from Hamburg," Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 7, 1930, p. 8.
  • "The four-year sentence...," Boston Globe, Aug. 14, 1931, p. 18.
  • Berger, Meyer, "'Legs' Diamond slain in sleep at Albany by two assassins," New York Times, Dec. 19, 1931, p. 1.
  • Reynolds, Ruth, "And Legs came sailing home," Catskill NY Recorder, Sept. 19, 1930, reprinted from New York Sunday News, Sept. 11, 1930.
More about "Legs" Diamond:


Legs Diamond: Gangster by Patrick Downey.

29 August 2018

Trial of king's killer takes just one day

On this date in 1900...

Bresci
Gaetano Bresci, accused assassin of Italy's King Umberto I, stood trial August 29, 1900, in Milan's Palace of Justice. The trial was concluded in a single day. A jury unanimously found him guilty. Bresci was sentenced to life in prison (the greatest punishment then allowed under Italian law), with the first seven years to be spent in solitary confinement and the rest to be spent in penal servitude.

King Umberto was shot to death in front of numerous witnesses at Monza on July 29. As the monarch concluded an appearance at an athletic awards presentation, three bullets were fired from point-blank range into his neck and chest.

Bresci, with a smoking revolver still in his hand, was attacked by the crowd. A force of carabinieri police rushed in to take custody of Bresci, likely saving him from a beating death at the hands of the angry mob.

The authorities identified their prisoner and learned that he was born in Prato, near Florence, on November 10, 1869. Though raised in a family with no known Leftist leanings, Bresci reportedly was influenced by the teachings of Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta and became a radical opponent of the political and religious establishments of his day. Records showed that he was imprisoned for about two weeks in 1892 after disregarding police instructions during an Italian labor strike.

Further radicalized in U.S.

La Questione Sociale HQ
He subsequently sailed for America, settling in the Paterson, New Jersey, area, then the center of the United States textile industry as well as of a growing anarchist-communist movement. Paterson was the home of the Gruppo Diritto all'Esistenza (Right to Existence Group) anarchist organization. The organization's newspaper, La Questione Sociale (The Social Issue), had an international readership.

Bresci worked in New Jersey silk mills, married mill worker Sophie Knieland and started a family during the few years he was in America. He spent much of his free time with the Gruppo Diritto all'Esistenza.

His political thinking in the period moved further Left, leaving behind the teachings of Malatesta. He aligned himself with the political philosophy of recently deceased Carlo Cafiero and La Questione Sociale editor Giuseppe Ciancabilla. That philosophy called for individual acts of violence against the establishment - referred to as "propaganda by the deed" - in an effort to trigger a worldwide worker revolution.

With little advance notice or explanation, Bresci said goodbye to his wife and young daughter in May 1900 and set sail back across the Atlantic to his native Italy. He was determined to energize the anarchist cause through a bloody deed of propaganda.

At trial in Milan

Umberto I
Bresci's defense counsel at his August 29 trial was the influential radical Francesco Saverio Merlino. As the trial began, Merlino stated that his defense strategy would be to show why Leftists like Bresci considered the assassination of the king to be essential to curing social, economic and political ills in Italy. The attorney planned to recount the crimes of Umberto against his people and to portray Bresci's action as justifiable retaliation.

The court refused to allow Merlino to make any such arguments.

Bresci went to the witness stand in the afternoon. His testimony only aided the prosecution. He admitted to returning to Italy for the purpose of murdering the king. In the time between his return and the assassination, he practiced his marksmanship and prepared special bullets by carving notches into their tips and filling them with dirt, which he believed would make their wounds more deadly.

He readily admitted firing three shots into King Umberto "to avenge the misery of the people and my own." Bresci insisted that he planned and carried out the assassination "without advice or accomplices."

When the jury returned its guilty verdict, Bresci stated, "Sentence me. I am indifferent. I await the next revolution."

After sentencing, Bresci was taken from Milan to an old Bourbon prison on the island of Santo Stefano in the Tyrrhenan Sea. He was to serve his sentence there.

Martyr to anarchism

Bresci's "life" prison term lasted less than nine months. On May 21, 1901, he was found dead in his prison cell. Officials attributed his death to suicide. It was reported that he used a towel to hang himself. Guards discovered the word, "Vengeance," scratched into his cell wall.

Sophie Bresci
Despite the official report, Leftists around the globe believed that the Italian authorities were responsible for Bresci's death.

Back in New Jersey, Sophie Knieland Bresci had recently given birth to a second child and, with the support of local radical organizations, had opened a boarding house in Cliffside Park. The young widow refused to accept the suicide account. She told the press that her husband had recently written to her and told her that prison guards were trying to talk him into killing himself. She said he was too strong to succumb.

(Shortly after Bresci's death, Sicilian Mafia leader Vito Cascio Ferro traveled to the United States. A political radical in his homeland, Cascio Ferro reportedly met with Sophie Knieland Bresci in New Jersey.)

Two strong anarchist groups in the region, Gruppo Diritto all-Esistenza and Gruppo L'Era Nuova (New Age Group) echoed Sophie's position. La Questione Sociale openly accused the Italian government of deliberate murder.

Bresci became a martyr to the anarchist cause. The philosophy of initiating revolution through individual violent action won many converts. A young anarchist group based in East Harlem, New York, expressed its high regard for him by naming itself the Gaetano Bresci Circle. A short time later, that group waged war on the United States government and on prominent capitalists through a wave of terror bombings.

Read more:



Wrongly Executed? The Long-Forgotten Context of Charles Sberna's 1939 Electrocution" by Thomas Hunt

Visit:
Wrongly Executed? website.

17 August 2018

Mafia boss shot down at Philly's 'Bloody Angle'

On this date in 1936...
Camden Morning Post

Local Mafia boss John "Big Nose" Avena and associate Martin Feldstein were standing in front of 718 Washington Avenue in Philadelphia, a few paces from the intersection with East Passyunk Avenue, at about 2:20 in the afternoon, August 17, 1936. A small sedan approached on Washington. It slowed as it reached them. A gunman inside the vehicle pointed the muzzle of a submachine gun out a window and sprayed the two men with bullets.

Avena appeared to be the gunman's target. He fell with numerous wounds to his chest. Feldstein, a minor numbers racketeer, merely picked a bad moment to stand on the sidewalk with the boss. He was struck by slugs in his arm and midsection.

The sedan turned onto Passyunk and disappeared into the city traffic. Police later found the vehicle abandoned at 7th Street and Watkins, about a half mile from the scene of the shooting. Witnesses saw several men climb out of the car, one seemed to carry a piece of long luggage, and move off in different directions.

Patrol officers and detectives in the area heard the gunshots and rushed to the corner of Washington and Passyunk. It was the southernmost intersection of a one-fifth mile of diagonal-running Passyunk that had been nicknamed "the Bloody Angle" because of the number of murders committed there.


Avena and Feldstein were rushed to Pennsylvania Hospital. Avena was pronounced dead a few minutes later. Feldstein was rushed into emergency surgery. Surgeons extracted several slugs from his body, but the damage was extensive. Feldstein died that night.

Avena
The coroner formally announced that Avena died of gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen. Less formally, newspapers were told that Avena's heart was nearly blasted to pieces by a dozen well-placed slugs.

Following the testimony of witnesses at an inquest, two men were named as suspects in the killing: John Fosco, alias John Martin, and Peter Gallo, alias Peter Wallace. John Amato, chauffeur for gang leader Pius Lanzetti, was later named an accessory to the murder.

Police investigators decided that the murder of Avena was the result of a feud between the Avena Mafia and a gang run by the Lanzetti brothers. The groups had been quarreling over Avena's recent intrusions into Lanzetti numbers rackets.

That Avena was deposed as Mafia leader through a drive-by shooting along the Bloody Angle was widely viewed as appropriate. He had first come to the attention of the public as a suspect in a similar shooting at the northern end of the angle about a decade earlier.


See also:

Sources:

  • John Avena Certificate of Death, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Vital Records, file no. 82485, registered no. 17257, Aug. 17, 1936.
  • "Racketeer, aide killed in Phila. numbers war," Camden NJ Morning Post, Aug. 18, 1936, p. 1.
  • "Suspect gives up in gang slaying; held as accessory," Philadelphia Inquirer, March 21, 1937, p. 2.
  • "Two men slain by rivals in numbers war," Wilkes-Barre PA Evening News, Aug. 18, 1936, p. 9.
  • McCullough, John M., "2 slain by gang in flareup of numbers war," Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug. 18, 1936, p. 1.

16 August 2018

'Dandy Phil' exits in his pajamas

On this date in 1962...

Shreveport Times
Nancy Kemp, a private nurse caring for aging gambling racketeer Philip F. "Dandy Phil" Kastel, was startled by the sound of a gunshot on Thursday, August 16, 1962. The noise came from inside Kastel's ninth-floor apartment at New Orleans' Claiborne Towers, Claiborne Avenue and Canal Street.

Entering the bedroom of her patient, she found a pajama-clad Kastel slumped in a chair, a gunshot wound through his skull and a .38-caliber handgun on the floor beside him.

Kastel's wife Margaret, who had a separate bedroom, was awakened by the shot. She was terribly upset but apparently not surprised by the obvious suicide. Phil Kastel had been distraught by his failing eyesight and a recent discovery of cancer in his abdomen. When police arrived, she told them that her husband had spoken about killing himself.

Police found the bullet that caused Kastel's death embedded in the bedroom wall. A coroner's examination determined officially that the wound was self-inflicted and confirmed the diagnosis of cancer.



Philip Kastel
Government records and press reports indicated that "Dandy Phil," longtime gambling racketeer and close friend of New York-based crime boss Frank Costello, was sixty eight years old at the time of his death. That was probably just an estimate, as available Kastel-related records suggest a range of birthdates spread out across more than a decade.

Census records believed to be of Philip Kastel's family in 1905 and 1910 suggest that he may have been as old as seventy-seven when he passed. A World War II draft registration card shows Kastel's birthdate as April 2, 1891, making him seventy-one. The 1940 U.S. Census suggests a birth year of 1892 or 1893, making him sixty-nine or seventy. During a 1931 trip to Havana, Cuba, Kastel said he was born on March 2, 1893. Social Security records contain a birthdate of April 2, 1893. Those birthdates would have made him sixty-nine.

When Kastel was called to testified before the Senate's Kefauver Committee in 1951, he told the committee that he was born in New York in 1898. If that was true, it would have made him just sixty-three or sixty-four when he breathed his last.

13 August 2018

What happened to girl wounded by stray bullet?

Media quickly lost interest in
Connecticut girl caught up in
New York City underworld hit

When Mafia assassins opened fire in a crowded Manhattan intersection at midday, Aug. 11, 1922, they inflicted a mortal wound on their target but also wounded two bystanders.

The intended victim, Umberto Valente, died an hour later at St. Mark's Hospital. A young girl and a municipal street cleaner - "collateral damage" in the hit - were rushed to Bellevue Hospital for treatment of gunshot wounds.

Agnes Egglinger
Street cleaner Joseph Schepis, forty-two, suffered a wound to his throat that was not life-threatening. Eleven-year-old Agnes Egglinger, a visitor from Connecticut, was more seriously hurt.

Newspapers in New York City and around the country told of Agnes being struck by a stray slug in the right chest. The New York Daily News, "New York's Picture Newspaper," ran a photograph of the girl. The papers said the young girl might lose her life. It appears, however, that no one in the media thought of following up to see whether Agnes survived.

Public records indicate that she did. Federal and state census records show Agnes becoming an adult, and state records appear to show her marriage as well as her death.

Agnes was the third child - and first daughter - born to Harry and Erna Schultz Egglinger of Jamaica, Queens, New York. At least two additional siblings were born after her. Harry worked as a metal lathe operator. The Egglinger family moved in 1919 from Queens to New Haven, Connecticut, first settling at 34 Sylvan Avenue and later moving about a mile south to 42 Hurlbut Street. While in New Haven, Erna's younger brother Reinhold Schultz, Jr., - Agnes' Uncle Reinhold - lived with the family as a boarder.

New York Daily News, Aug. 12, 1922.
Scene of the attack on Valente.

In early August of 1922, the Egglingers went to visit Erna's father, Reinhold Schultz, Sr., at his Manhattan home, 232 East Twelfth Street. They were a few days into their visit when a feud within the New York City Mafia erupted in gunfire at the intersection of East Twelfth Street and Second Avenue.

Agnes and her four-year-old sister Dorothy were playing on the sidewalk, as gunmen loyal to Manhattan gang boss Giuseppe Masseria murdered Umberto Valente. Valente, a trusted assassin of Brooklyn-based Mafia boss of bosses Salvatore "Toto" D'Aquila, had failed in an assassination attempt against Masseria just three days earlier (a half-dozen striking garment workers were wounded - at least one fatally - when their group got in the way of the getaway car and mobsters fired at the ground to disperse them). Little Dorothy was fortunate to escape injury as the bullets flew on August 11; reports stated that a slug passed through the fabric of her dress.

Masseria
The media lost track of Agnes Egglinger after her arrival at Bellevue Hospital. But the 1925 New York State Census showed that Agnes was alive and living with her family at 12009 Baisley Avenue back in Jamaica, Queens. Sometime between the 1922 visit to Manhattan and the 1924 birth of Agnes' little brother Alfred, the family had returned to New York from New Haven, Connecticut. Agnes, eighteen, also appeared in the 1930 United States Census. She was still living with her parents, though their address had changed to 120-19 153rd Street, Queens. Harry Egglinger owned the home at that address. The census placed the home's value at $10,000 and noted that it was equipped with a radio.

A decade later, eighteen years from the shooting that nearly cost Agnes her life, the 1940 U.S. Census found the twenty-eight-year-old in her parents' home on 153rd Street. Her two younger siblings were also still in the household, and an older brother was renting rooms in the house for himself, his wife and their young son. Agnes was working as a clerk in an insurance office.

While available records are not definitive, it appears that the Agnes Egglinger who was accidentally shot in the summer of 1922 was the same Agnes Egglinger who became the wife of Frank Seelinger in Queens in late September of 1946. It could be argued that marriage was a greater threat to her health than a bullet. Records show that Agnes Seelinger died in July 1949 - twenty-seven years after the nearly fatal gunshot wound and less than three years after taking her wedding vows.

Sources:
  • "1 dead, 2 shot, as bootleggers again fight on East Side," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 11, 1922, p. 1.
  • "Bootleggers at war," Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 2.
  • "Cloakmaker, victim of gunman, dies; 3 more in hospital," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 9, 1922, p. 20.
  • "East Side bad man killed as shots fly," New York Herald, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 16.
  • "Eight men shot in mysterious battle on street," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 8, 1922, p. 1.
  • "Gang kills gunman; 2 bystanders hit," New York Times, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 20.
  • "Gunman's volley fatal to striker," New York Times, Aug. 10, 1922, p. 13.
  • "Gunmen shoot six in East Side swarm," New York Times, Aug. 9, 1922, p. 1.
  • "Man dies from bullet, girl is seriously hurt," New York Evening Telegram, Aug. 11, 1922, p. 1.
  • "Mystery in rum street battle near solution," New York Tribune, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 16.
  • "New Haven girl wounded in New York bootleggers' feud," Bridgeport CT Telegram, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 1.
  • "One killed, two shot in pistol battle," Brooklyn Standard Union, Aug. 11, 1922, p. 1.
  • "One man killed, two wounded, in gang war," New York Call, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 4.
  • "Three shot down in crowd in East Side gang warfare," New York Evening World, Aug. 11, 1922, p. 1.
  • "Valente's arrest balked by murder," New York Evening World, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 3.
  • New York City Death Index, certificate no. 8666, July 3, 1949.
  • New York City Marriage License Index, license no. 10522, Sept. 28, 1946.
  • New York State Census of 1915, Queens County, Jamaica village, Assembly District 4, Election District 27, Ward 4.
  • New York State Census of 1925, Queens County, Baisley Park village, Assembly District 4, Election District 36, Ward 4.
  • United States Census of 1920, Connecticut, New Haven County, City of New Haven, Enumeration District 505.
  • United States Census of 1930, New York State, Queens County, Baisley Park, Assembly District 4, Enumeration District 41-376.
  • United States Census of 1940, New York State, Queens County, Enumeration District 41-1287B.

See also:

10 August 2018

Dallas gambling chief ends his own life

On this date in 1932...

Warren Diamond, fifty-five-year-old Prohibition-Era gambling czar of Dallas, Texas, ended his own life at his Highland Park West home on August 10, 1932.

Austin American Statesman
Diamond had been a patient at St. Paul Hospital (formerly St. Paul Sanitarium, located at the western corner of Bryant Street and Hall Street). Early on the morning of Wednesday, August 10, he decided to leave the hospital. He called for a taxi and rode three and a half miles to 4224 Armstrong Parkway, the large home he shared with his wife Nellie. A surprised and uneasy Nellie greeted him at the door. Diamond brushed past her and proceeded to his upstairs bathroom. Knowing that her husband had been despondent over his health issues, Nellie quickly summoned George Foote, Diamond's longtime friend and business associate.

A short time later, a gunshot was heard.

Foote entered the bathroom and found Diamond dead of a bullet wound to the head. An automatic pistol was on the floor a couple of feet from Diamond's body. A coroner's investigation determined that Diamond committed suicide at about 8:45 a.m.

Newspaper reports of his death referred to the gambling racketeer as a "sportsman and philanthropist" and as a former druggist. Later reports revealed that he suffered from an untreatable cancer of the prostate and his deteriorating condition drove him to suicide.

Diamond death certificate
Diamond's funeral was held on the morning of Friday, August 12. The Rev. Louis Harrington, pastor of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, conducted the services. Diamond was interred in a family mausoleum he earlier constructed at the Grove Hill Cemetery. His pallbearers included two of his known lieutenants, F.L. "Dub" McClanahan and Ben Whitaker.

(Findagrave.com)
Diamond's gambling empire, assembled over decades, was dismantled after his death. George Foote, his top aide, reportedly took over the Dallas-area policy (numbers) rackets. Ben Whitaker, who also dabbled in bootlegging, assumed control over the bookmakers and wire news service. Dub McClanahan took the popular no-limit craps games.

Gambling operations within Diamond's old headquarters at the St. George Hotel, between Main Street and Commerce Street, were taken over by Dallas Mafioso Joseph Civello. Civello's operation, which included craps, bookmaking and a race wire service, was said to be under the protection of the local police department.

Behind the scenes, a former Warren Diamond apprentice was scheming to take control of it all. Benjamin "Benny" Binion reportedly broke away from the Diamond organization in the latter half of the 1920s and established his own organization at Dallas's Southland Hotel. His operation was said to be protected by Galveston-based mob boss Sam Maceo.

St. George Hotel on Main Street (smu.edu)

Just a few years after Diamond's death, Binion was regarded as the top man in Dallas gambling. In 1936, he started to force independent bookmakers to make protection payments to him. Control of policy rackets was nailed down with the fatal shooting of holdout independent operator Ben Frieden in September of that year. The St. George Hotel gaming rooms fell under his control when Joseph Civello was arrested on a federal narcotics charge (local police protection was little help). Years later, Civello was released from prison and pardoned after evidence surfaced that his own attorney and his trial judge conspired to remove him from the Dallas gambling scene through a narcotics frame-up.

Political changes in the late 1940s made Dallas an unfriendly place for Benny Binion. He moved on to become a key figure in the growth of gambling casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Sources:
  • Cartwright, Gary, "Benny and the boys," Texas Monthly, October 1991, p. 137.
  • Edgerton, Harold J., "Joseph Francis Civello," FBI report, file no. 92-2824-137, NARA no. 124-10290-10440, May 17, 1968, p. 26-29.
  • Glass, Mary Ellen, excerpts of interview of Lester Ben "Benny" Binion, "World Series of Poker: A retrospective," University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Center for Gaming Research, May 20, 2009, accessed Aug. 9, 2018. (https://gaming.unlv.edu/WSOP/BennyBinion.html)
  • Kuykendall, Leo E., "Lester Benjamin Binion," FBI report, file no. 92-3241-7, NARA no. 124-90088-10054, Feb. 28, 1958, p. 11-12.
  • Reid, Ed and Ovid Demaris, The Green Felt Jungle, Cutchogue NY: Buccaneer Books, 1963.
  • Death certificate of Warren H. Diamond, Texas State Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, certificate no. 33744, Aug. 1, 1932.
  • John F. Worley Directory Co.'s Dallas City Directory 1925, Dallas: John F. Worley Directory Co., 1925, p. 866.
  • Worley's Dallas City Directory 1929 Vol. XLII, Dallas: John F. Worley Directory Co., 1929, p. 361.
  • Worley's Dallas City Directory 1932 Vol XLV, Dallas: John F. Worley Directory Co., 1932, p. 615.
  • "Warren Diamond ends life after leaving hospital," Dallas Morning News, Aug. 11, 1932, p. 1. Funeral announcement, Dallas Morning News, Aug. 12, 1932.
  • "Wealthy sportsman found dead at Dallas," Austin American Statesman, Aug. 10, 1932, p. 1.
  • McCormick, Harry, "Crime in Texas III: Benny Binion Dallas' gift to racket ranks," Dallas Morning News, Feb. 13, 1951, p. 1.

06 August 2018

Unlucky date for Steel City underworld bosses

August 6 has been a bad date
to be a Pittsburgh Mafia boss.

On that date in 1929, thirty-nine-year-old underworld chief Stefano Monastero was murdered as he went to visit an ailing henchman at St. John's General Hospital on Pittsburgh's North Side. 



Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Calogero Spallino (also known as Sparlino), free on bail as he awaited trial for an attempt on the life of Monastero rival Joe "Ghost of the Hill" Pangallo, went into St. John's for appendix surgery. Stefano Monastero drove to the hospital in an armored automobile, featuring steel plating and three-quarter-inch bulletproof glass windows. But he had to leave the protection of the vehicle to enter the building. When he emerged, shotguns erupted from a nearby parked car.

Pangallo
Monastero was knocked down by the shots. One of his assailants then approached with a handgun and fired into the boss's head to finish the job. The murder remained unsolved, but Joe Pangallo was generally believed responsible.

Stefano Monastero rose to power about 1925, assuming control of a regional underworld network in western Pennsylvania assembled largely by the linked Calderone and Landolina families. Monastero and his older brother Salvatore ran a produce business but earned considerably greater income through North Side stores that provided ingredients and equipment for bootleggers. Monastero had been fighting a gang war with Pangallo since about 1927. (In September of that year, the local press reported on a car bombing that threw Pangallo twenty feet into the air but failed to kill him.)

Monastero's Mafia pedigree was noteworthy. He was the son of Pietro Monastero, a Caccamo native who was among those charged with the 1890 Mafia murder of Police Chief David Hennessy in New Orleans. Stefano Monastero was very young, living with his mother and brothers in Sicily, when Pietro Monastero was killed by a lynch mob at Orleans Parish Prison in 1891. The family relocated to New Orleans following Pietro's killing and moved from city to city in the U.S. before settling in the Pittsburgh area.

On the same date three years later, recently installed Pittsburgh boss John Bazzano was called to a meeting of the nation's Mafia leaders on Hicks Street in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. He was to answer for his involvement in the recent murders of Wilmerding, Pennsylvania, racketeers John, James and Arthur Volpe. Bazzano did not leave the August 6, 1932, meeting alive.

Pittsburgh Press
The Volpes, under the protection of New York underworld power Vito Genovese, were gunned down within Bazzano's Rome Coffee Shop on Pittsburgh's Wylie Avenue on July 29. Genovese, suspecting that the Volpes were victims of an anti-Neapolitan conspiracy among Calabrian and Sicilian Mafiosi in Pittsburgh, New York and Cleveland (including Bazzano and Nick Gentile in Pittsburgh; Albert Anastasia, Joe Biondo and Vincenzo Mangano in New York; Frank Milano in Cleveland), assembled the disciplinary hearing for Bazzano.

During the meeting, the forty-four-year-old Bazzano did not deny responsibility for the murders of the Volpes. Instead, he called on other Mafia leaders to join in a war to exterminate the Neapolitans in their organization.

Bazzano's words and recent deeds presented a threat to the still-shaky underworld alliances that emerged from the bloody Castellammarese War concluded one year earlier. His punishment was immediate. He was gagged and tied with rope, while his body was punctured more than twenty times with ice picks. Some of the wounds reached his heart, causing a fatal hemorrhage. The body was found August 8, wrapped in burlap near the intersection of Centre and Clinton Streets in Red Hook. It could not be identified until relatives from Pittsburgh arrived in New York looking for Bazzano.

Authorities subsequently learned of an assembly of U.S. Mafiosi at New York City and rounded up fourteen underworld figures from Brooklyn (Albert Anastasia, John Oddo, Cassandro Bonasera, Ciro Gallo, Joseph Traina) and Buffalo, New York (Paul Palmeri, Salvatore DiCarlo); Pittsburgh (Calogero Spallino, Michael Bua, Michael Russo, Frank Adrano) and Pittston, Pennsylvania (Santo Volpe, Angelo Polizzi); Trenton, New Jersey (Peter Lombardo). The suspects, represented by attorney Samuel Leibowitz, were quickly released for lack of evidence.

More on these subjects:

03 August 2018

Eight "Black Sox" players banned from baseball

On this date in 1921...

Landis (center) as he is appointed commissioner

Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis announced on August 3, 1921, that eight players involved in the "Black Sox" scandal would never again be permitted to play organized baseball.

His announcement came one day after a jury found the players not guilty of conspiring with gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series to the underdog Cincinnati Reds:
Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player that throws a ball game, no player that entertains proposals or promises to throw a game, no player that sits in a conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers, where the ways and means of throwing games are discussed, and dares no tell his club about, will ever play professional baseball.
Freeport IL Journal-Standard

The players banned from the game for life were
  • Eddie "Knuckles" Cicotte, pitcher
  • Oscar "Happy" Felsch, outfielder
  • Arnold "Chick" Gandil, first baseman
  • "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, outfielder
  • Fred McMullin, utility infielder
  • Charles "Swede" Risberg, shortstop
  • George "Buck" Weaver, third baseman
  • Claude "Lefty" Williams, pitcher

Landis, a veteran federal judge. had been given broad powers to protect the game when he was appointed baseball's first commissioner late in 1920. Major league ballclub owners feared at the time that the Black Sox scandal, just coming to light, would do permanent damage to the reputation of baseball.

Though there had been rumors about the 1919 World Series being "fixed" through the influence of gamblers, the 1920 regular season was almost finished when grand jury investigation was launched. Charles Albert "Commy" Comiskey, president of the White Sox ballclub, suspended the seven suspects who were still on his team (Gandil was no longer with Chicago at the time). This action was taken despite the White Sox remaining in contention for the 1920 American League pennant.

Eddie Cicotte appeared before the grand jury and admitted he was part of a conspiracy to throw the World Series in exchange for cash. Joe Jackson made a similar confession. Eight players were indicted for conspiracy in October 1920. They were placed on baseball's "ineligible list" for the 1921 season and  went to trial that summer. By the time of the trial, the Cicotte and Jackson confessions were missing, and the players were denying any cooperation with gamblers.

See also:

White Sox players indicted for throwing Series (Writers of Wrongs, Sept. 28, 2017)