26 December 2019

Flamingo opens with three-day gala

On this date in 1946...


The Flamingo casino, financed in large part by underworld investments funneled through racketeer Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, opened its doors for the first time on December 26, 1946.

Cugat and Durante
A three-day opening event, December 26-28, featured entertainment by orchestra leader Xavier Cugat, singer and comedian Jimmy Durante, Broadway performer Tommy Wonder (a veteran of some Our Gang films) and singer Rose Marie.

At the time of the opening, the Flamingo's hotel section was still under construction, and management hoped it would be completed by March 1, 1947. Advertisements for the three-day opening urged southern California visitors to "fly up any day and come back the same night." Chartered planes departed for Las Vegas at 5:30 in the afternoon and returned guests by 1 a.m.

The Flamingo was billed as the "most luxurious night club in the world." Its advertisements vaguely (and somewhat conservatively) placed its construction cost at "better than $5,000,000."

That figure had risen dramatically in the months leading up to the opening, and it would continue to rise. Back in early October, the final cost had been estimated at between $2.5 million and $4 million.

The exterior of the casino was beige and brown. It was lined with bushes illuminated with red and blue lights. Numerous potted palm trees were placed around the establishment. An artificial green lake stood at one side. The large bar had green leather walls with many mirrors, a black ceiling and "tomato-red furniture."

Not the first

Flamingo may have been the "most luxurious night club" at that moment, but it was not the first Las Vegas hotel-casino to cater to wealthy gamblers.

El Rancho Vegas (opened on The Strip in 1941), El Cortez (1941), Nevada Biltmore (1942) and Hotel Last Frontier (1942) were already in operation and reportedly doing good business. Columnist Erskine Johnson noted in June 1946 that those ventures, set in motion before U.S. entry into World War II, remained "jammed" with visitors:

Movie stars, millionaires, socialites and plain John Does are standing two deep at the roulette and dice tables. Every gambling casino in town - and there's one on almost every corner - is grossing from $3000 to $5000 a night. And every night is like New Year's Eve.

Johnson reported rumors that the funding for Flamingo construction was coming from Barbara Hutton, heiress to portions of the Woolworth retail and Hutton financial services fortunes. According to Johnson, Hutton was "sinking a small fortune" into the project, "which will be a gilt casino with hotel attached."

Los Angeles Times, Dec. 24, 1946

Priorities

Flamingo construction was repeatedly delayed for various reasons. At least twice in the summer and fall of 1946, the project was halted for a review by the federal government's Civilian Production Administration (CPA).

The year-old CPA, a postwar version of the War Production Board, was tasked with prioritizing the use of construction resources. In spring 1946, CPA had put a temporary stop on all non-essential commercial building not already started in order to concentrate resources on the housing needs of returning U.S. servicemen.

Columnist Hedda Hopper called attention to the Flamingo construction and a wider building boom in the Las Vegas area in a September 10 column. She also mentioned financial backer Siegel by name:

A huge night club, backed by Bugsy Siegel and called the Flamingo, was started only a few months ago. It features four swimming pools, and reservations are already being taken for a November opening. Yet our returned soldiers can't even find a shed for shelter.

The "only a few months ago" remark was a problem, as it suggested the building effort began after the March 26 effective date of CPA's Veterans Housing Project No. 1 regulation. A federal compliance commissioner reviewed the project in mid-September and announced that work on the night club had started before March 26 and that the planned hotel and connecting shops of the horseshoe-shaped complex were merely phases of the project already underway and not separate projects.

That decision was pushed aside in early October, as the CPA ordered a halt to the project and conducted a further review. At that moment, reports indicated that just $400,000 - about one-tenth of what was then the expected project cost - had been spent on construction.

Focus on casino

Resources appear to have been channeled into the completion of the casino before year-end. The casino was mentioned regularly in the press during the month of December.

  • Columnist Leonard Lyons wrote on December 19 that the movie and radio comedy team of Abbott and Costello had committed to work at the Flamingo for pay of $15,000 a week.
  • Columnist Louella O. Parsons commented a few days later: "Quite a lot of people are goig to Las Vegas the 26th and 27th for the opening of the Flaming." Parsons mentioned that Cugat and Durante had been booked as entertainers.
  • Columnist Hedda Hopper immediately expressed surprise: "I can't believe Jimmy Durante will give a two-week guest shot to the new Flaming gambling casino in Las Vegas."
Benjamin Siegel and George Raft
Opulent playground

One of those covering Flamingo's opening was journalist Bob Thomas. He reported that "a covery of movie names flew over for the opening, including Lon McAllister, George Sanders, Sonny Tufts, Charles Coburn, Vivian Blaine, George Raft, Eleanor Parker and George Jessel."

Thomas said the older hotel-casinos in the area responded to the big-name talent booked at the Flamingo by providing their own entertainment. El Rancho Vegas, he reported, hired comedians the Ritz Brothers and singer Peggy Lee.

He noted that Las Vegas at that moment had "more big-time entertainment than one could find in a week of touring Hollywood night spots."

While the entertainment brought publicity to the Vegas establishments, Thomas reminded his readers that the casinos' wealth was generated through constant gambling. He noted that in the Flamingo casino, patrons at roulette, crap, 21 and chuckaluck tables were busily helping "to defray the $5,000,000 cost of the place." And he confessed, "I made my contribution at a nickel slot machine."

In a United Press report of the opening, the financial backers of the casino were named as Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel; Harry Rothberg, vice president of American Distillers; Billy Wilkerson, publisher of The Hollywood Reporter; and Joe Ross, Hollywood attorney.

Problems ahead

The enthusiastic contributions made by gamblers were not sufficient to please Flamingo's investors. In the weeks following the opening, there were reports that the casino's income was not close to covering its expenses and there was evidence that Siegel was scrambling to keep the business afloat. Newspapers said he took out a $1 million loan in order to pay off a contractor.

Siegel's underworld friends expressed their unhappiness with his management of the casino on June 20, 1947. On that evening, less than six months after the Flamingo's opening gala, Siegel was shot to death.


Sources:

  • "An evening in Las Vegas," Los Angeles Times, advertisement, Dec. 24, 1946, p. 4.
  • "Flamingo hotel permit allowed," Nevada State Journal, Sept. 15, 1946, p. 21.
  • "Las Vegas club building halted," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 1, 1946, p. 6;
  • "Nevada politics," Nevada State Journal, Oct. 20, 1946, p. 19.
  • "New colossus on the desert," Des Moines IA Register, Jan. 1, 1947, p. 5.
  • "State boss of bookmaking slain in south," San Mateo CA Times, June 21, 1947, p. 1.
  • "Work halted on Las Vegas club pending probe," Santa Cruz CA Sentinel, Oct. 3, 1946, p. 8.
  • "Work is halted on Vegas club," Nevada State Journal, Oct. 3, 1946, p. 4;
  • Hopper, Hedda, "Hedda Hopper in Hollywood," Miami News, Dec. 23, 1946, p. 11.
  • Hopper, Hedda, "Looking at Hollywood," Los Angeles Times, Sept. 10, 1946, p. 11.
  • Johnson, Erskine, "In Hollywood," Visalia CA Times-Delta, June 14, 1946, p. 10.
  • Lyons, Leonard, "Broadway Medley," San Mateo CA Times, Dec. 19, 1946, p. 12.
  • Lyons, Leonard, "The Lyons den," Oakland Tribune, Dec. 22, 1946, p. Mag. 5.
  • Parsons, Louella O., "Deborah Kerr and Gable cast in another picture," San Francisco Examiner, Dec. 23, 1946, p. 9.
  • Thomas, Bob, "Las Vegas is called new Barbary Coast," Oakland Tribune, Dec. 30, 1946, p. 6.

23 December 2019

Calamia caught, called killing conspirator

Despite D.A. claims, DeJohn murder remains unsolved

On this date in 1948...

San Francisco Examiner, Dec. 24, 1948.
A fugitive, indicted for conspiring in the May 1947 San Francisco gangland murder of Nick DeJohn, was captured in New Mexico on December 23, 1948.

The FBI and Bernalillo County sheriff's deputies arrested Leonard Calamia, aged thirty-two, on a federal warrant. Acting on a tip received from San Francisco, authorities sought Calamia at his new place of employment, the driver's license department of the New Mexico State Revenue Bureau in Albuquerque, but he was not there. They found him next door in the State Highway Department building adjoining the offices of the New Mexico State Police. They learned that Calamia, under the assumed name of Len Tallone, had held two government jobs in the year and a half he lived in New Mexico.

Calamia admitted his identity and his criminal history - he was an ex-convict, former narcotics peddler and Chicago hoodlum. Police determined that Calamia returned to Chicago briefly after the DeJohn murder and then relocated to Albuquerque, adopting his wife's maiden name of Tallone as his own surname.

He was placed in the Bernalillo County sheriff's office lockup. Bail was set at $50,000. Calamia waived a removal hearing and was turned over to San Francisco police on December 29.

Nick DeJohn
The plot against DeJohn

Calamia was one of five men indicted one month earlier for conspiring in the DeJohn murder. Two of his codefendants, Sicilian immigrants Sebastiano Nani and Michele Abati, were arrested in November. Two others, Frank Scappatura and Tony Lima, remained at large. (There were rumors that Lima was prepared to surrender to authorities at Johnstown, Pennsylvania, but that did not occur. Scappatura and Lima were never arrested in connection with this case.)

According to prosecutors, Nick DeJohn, a former member of the Capone Outfit in Chicago, had been trying to take over underworld rackets in the San Francisco area and was killed by rivals. DeJohn's body was found stuffed into the trunk of his Chrysler Town & Country convertible on May 9, 1947. Evidence indicated he had been strangled to death two days earlier.

Prosecutors believed that Calamia, known to be a close friend of DeJohn, was called upon to serve as the "finger man" in the murder, leading DeJohn to his killers. Calamia reportedly spent much of May 7, 1947, with DeJohn. The Calamia and DeJohn families had dinner together at the Calamia residence. Leonard Calamia and Nick DeJohn went out for drinks to the Poodle Dog restaurant and bar at 1125 Polk Street and then to LaRocca's Corner at 957 Columbus Avenue in the North Beach section. They parted at LaRocca's Corner. DeJohn was last seen alive as he was walking from the tavern.

Reports, later disputed, claimed that at the time of DeJohn's murder, Calamia was home having coffee and cake with DeJohn's son.

Calamia had been arrested almost immediately after the discovery of DeJohn's body. But he had been released May 31, 1947, due to insufficient evidence.

Authorities insisted for some time that the DeJohn murder was essentially solved. They claimed to know where DeJohn was killed, why he was killed and who was responsible. But assembling a convincing case proved to be a problem.

Trial

Prosecutors thought they had a winning case when Calamia, Nani and Abati were brought to trial. But they found that some of their important witnesses were unreliable and could not withstand cross examination.

Leonard Calamia
As jury deliberations started in early March 1949, the district attorney admitted that he did not believe the testimony of some of his own witnesses. Judge Preston Devine denounced witnesses from both sides for giving obviously false testimony.

After thirty hours of deliberations, the jury stood deadlocked and Judge Devine declared a mistrial.

No retrial

The most inconsistent prosecution witness also was the key witness in the grand jury proceedings that resulted in the original indictments.

Mrs. Anita Rocchia Venza claimed that she had overheard the five men plotting to kill DeJohn. She was in a basement apartment near La Rocca's Corner at the time and heard the conversation from an adjoining room. She claimed that the plotters learned of her presence and offered her $500 to forget what she heard and leave the state.

When her statements were determined to be unreliable, the original indictments were quashed, any chance of a retrial was lost and the fugitive warrants against the two at-large defendants, Scappatura and Lima, were voided.

The murder of Nick DeJohn remained officially unsolved.

See also:
Valin, Edmond, "Former San Francisco boss supplied info to federal agents," Rat Trap, mafiahistory.us.

Sources:
  • "Calamia arraigned here with two other suspects in De John slaying," San Francisco Examiner, Jan. 1, 1949, p. 5.
  • "Calamia ask high court for freedom," San Mateo Times, Jan. 20, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Calamia faces further quiz," San Francisco Examiner, June 1, 1947, p. 3.
  • "Calamia loses plea," San Mateo Times, Jan. 21, 1949, p. 5.
  • "Calamia silent in S.F. prison," San Mateo Times, Dec. 31, 1948, p. 4.
  • "DeJohn case jury dismissed; stood 7 to 5 for acquittal," San Francisco Examiner, March 9, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Delay asked in trial of Nani," San Mateo Times, Dec. 28, 1948, p. 5.
  • "Delay granted in DeJohn trial," Oakland Tribune, Dec. 30, 1948, p. 17.
  • "FBI nabs Calamia, accused as 'finger man' in DeJohn case," San Francisco Examiner, Dec. 24, 1948, p. 1.
  • "Five indicted for De John murder; woman testifies that she overheard plot," San Francisco Examiner, Nov. 30, 1948, p. 1.
  • "Hunt pushed for trio in DeJohn case," San Mateo Times, Dec. 1, 1948.
  • "New evidence in Nick DeJohn case," Santa Rosa CA Press Democrat, April 2, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Police hunt 4 suspects in De John case," San Francisco Examiner, Nov. 24, 1948, p. 1.
  • "Police move to wind up De John case as 'solved,'" Oakland Tribune, Nov. 22, 1948, p. 7.
  • "S.M. man held brains of Nick DeJohn murder," San Mateo Times, Nov. 22, 1948, p. 1.
  • "State to use Calamia story to police at gangland trial," San Francisco Examiner, Feb. 7, 1949, p. 17.
  • "Third DeJohn fugitive caught," San Mateo Times, Dec. 23, 1948, p. 1.
  • "U.S. warrants issued for 2 in DeJohn hunt," San Francisco Examiner, Nov. 23, 1948, p. 1.
  • "Warrants voided in DeJohn case," Santa Rosa CA Press Democrat, April 20, 1949, p. 5.
  • Pearce, Dick, "Calamia dislosures key to De John trial," San Francisco Examiner, Jan. 29, 1949, p. 1.

22 December 2019

Jury convicts six Outfit leaders, associate

Found guilty of extorting money from movie executives

On this date in 1943...


Six members of the Chicago Outfit and one associate were convicted December 22, 1943, of conspiring to extort more than a million dollars from the movie industry.

Concluding ten hours of deliberations, a federal jury in New York City returned guilty verdicts against Chicago racketeers Louis "Little New York" Campagna, Paul "the Waiter" Ricca (Felice DeLucia), Johnny Rosselli (Filippo Sacco), Philip D'Andrea, Charles Gioe and Francis Maritote, and Newark, New Jersey, union business agent Louis Kaufman. Judge John Bright scheduled a sentencing hearing for December 30.

The trial, which began October 5, established that the defendants were behind the extortion activities of Willie Bioff and George Browne. Bioff and Browne, convicted in 1941 of using their influence over the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE) to force payments from movie studios, were prosecution witnesses in the 1943 case. (Bioff's betrayal of the Outfit apparently resulted in his car-bombing murder in 1955.) The witness list also included Hollywood executives.

Nine men were originally indicted in March 1943, including Frank "the Enforcer" Nitti and Ralph Pierce. Nitti, the Outfit leader believed to have been Bioff's strongest supporter, committed suicide upon learning of the indictments. Nitti is believed to have given assurances to other underworld bosses when they feared Bioff would betray them. Pierce was acquitted during the trial due to insufficient evidence against him.

On December 30, Judge Bright sentenced Campagna, DeLucia, Rosselli, D'Andrea, Gioe and Maritote to ten years in prison and sentenced Kaufman to seven years in prison. He fined each of the defendants $10,000.

See also:

18 December 2019

Gunman in green car decimates Matrangas

On this date in 1917...

Los Angeles Times, Dec. 20, 1917.
A southern California underworld feud and the continued effectiveness of a traveling gunman in a green car resulted in the December 18, 1917, death of a leading figure in the Matranga Mafia faction.

That evening, fruit merchant Pietro Matranga was walking on Eastlake Avenue, heading to his home at 1520 Biggy Street in the northern portion of Los Angeles's Boyle Heights neighborhood (since taken over by county office and court buildings and USC science and medical facilities), when a large, green automobile with a black convertible top pulled up behind him, near the intersection of Eastlake Avenue and Henry Street.

Witnesses said only one man, the driver, was visible in the automobile at that time. Matranga went to the car and conversed with the driver for several minutes. The meeting seemed friendly. Matranga adopted a leisurely posture, placing a foot on the vehicle's runningboard. When the conversation was over, Matranga turned from the car and continued on his way home.

He had taken just a few steps, when a second man, previously concealed, rose up in the back seat of the auto, pointed a shotgun at Matranga's back and fired twice. Matranga had already fallen to the ground, mortally wounded, as the second shot was fired. Slugs from that discharge tore through two fences and shattered a window at 808 Eastlake Avenue. The green vehicle then sped away, turning down Biggy Street toward downtown Los Angeles.

A resident of Biggy Street watched as a green, six-cylinder automobile roared by. The witness later told police there were two men in the car, a driver and a passenger in the rear seat.


Eastlake Avenue and Henry Street
Matranga, hit in the back and shoulders by ten slugs, remained alive for a short time. He was taken to County Hospital and questioned by police. Authorities were convinced that he knew who shot him, but he would not divulge the name. Before he succumbed to his wounds, Matranga was visited by a cousin. Detectives guessed that the cousin obtained the name of the killer and would be seeking revenge.

The Matranga name was known around the city and particularly well known in the northeastern section around Lincoln Park, where a number of Matrangas and their relatives lived, worked and engaged in criminal enterprises.

Family members had recently been targeted by gunmen of a rival underworld faction. Six weeks earlier, on November 5, Pietro Matranga's brother (or cousin) Rosario "Sam" Matranga was murdered. He returned home, 1837 Darwin Avenue, at an early morning hour, and was driving his automobile toward the garage behind his residence, when he was hit in the back by a load of buckshot fired at close range. According to one press account, the blast nearly took his head off his body. His wife found him dead behind the wheel of his still running vehicle. A year before that, Matranga cousin Tony Pariese was shot in the back by a gunman firing from the rear seat of a large green automobile.

Authorities speculated that the Matrangas were targeted because they had provided information to police on the activities of their underworld foes, a violation of the Mafia's code of silence. It was said that Pariese gave information about a Mafia enforcer named Mike Marino. Police said Marino was working for Mafia interests back East. Pariese's murder occurred one month after he talked with detectives. Rosario Matranga reportedly gave police information about Pariese's killers just days before he became the next murder victim. (One source reported that Rosario informed on a group of arsonists back in 1914-1915, causing three men to be sentenced to prison terms.) Pietro Matranga, a former Black Hand extortion racketeer, supposedly provided information on extortion rackets to police just before he was eliminated by the gunman in the green car.

Police attempted to locate Mike Marino, hoping to charge him with the killings of both Matrangas and Pariese. They said Marino also was wanted in New York, Chicago, Seattle, San Diego and other cities in connection with other gangland murders.

About a year later, authorities learned that the Matrangas had been engaged in a violent feud with a Mafia faction led by Joseph Ardizzone. That became apparent when one Tony Matranga, sixty-five years of age, was accused of taking shots at Ardizzone's brother Stefano with a high-powered rifle in an effort to avenge the earlier killings.

Sources:
  • "International gunman sought in Mafia case," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 20, 1917, p. II-1.
  • "Last Matranga arrested," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 17, 1918, p. II-1.
  • "Mafia gunman being sought," Long Beach CA Daily Telegram, Dec. 20, 1917, p. 6.
  • "Murdered by Black Hand?" Los Angeles Times, March 18, 1917, p. II-1.
  • "Police seeking Mafia as alleged slayers," Los Angeles Evening Express, Nov. 5, 1917, p. 1.
  • "Second in one family victim of Black Hand," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 19, 1917, p. II-1.
  • "Slayer suspects silent," Los Angeles Evening Express, Nov. 6, 1917, p. 10.
  • "Still hunt gunman," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 21, 1917, p. II-2.
  • "Unknown thug kills Los Angeles Italian," Long Beach CA Press, Nov. 5, 1917, p. 4.
  • California Death Index, 1905-1929, State of California Department of Public Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics and Data Processing, p. 6903.

15 December 2019

Extortion victim turns tables on 'The Gimp'

New York Sun
On this date in 1912...

Aniello Prisco, leader of a Neapolitan "Black Hand" extortion band based in East Harlem, was killed by gunshots to the head on the evening of December 15, 1912.

The thirty-two-year-old Prisco was known in the Little Italy community around East 108th Street between First and Second Avenues as "Zoppo" (Italian for "lame") or "the Gimp." These nicknames resulted from a 1909 gunshot wound that shattered a bone in his left leg. When Prisco recovered from the shooting, his healed left leg was inches shorter than his right, causing a pronounced limp.

Threatening Italian business owners into making regular protection payments had been Prisco's primary occupation. The local press referred to him as "Zoppo the Terrible" and "the Terror of East Harlem."

Prisco death certificate

A meeting with Gallucci

Gallucci
In mid-December of 1912, he boldly and unwisely targeted Giosue Gallucci, a wealthy bakery and coffeehouse owner who had strong underworld and political connections.

Prisco had a fearsome reputation. He was believed responsible for numerous acts of violence, including the killing of Gallucci's brother Gennaro several years earlier and the March 1912 murder of Pasquarella Spinelli, owner of the infamous Murder Stable. But apparently he lacked cunning.

Prisco demanded that Gallucci bring payment to a Sunday, December 15, meeting at the DelGaudio barbershop on East 108th Street. When the time came for the meeting, Gallucci sent an apologetic message, claiming that he was ill and could not go out as planned. Gallucci invited Prisco to come to his coffeehouse and residence at 318 East 109th Street to collect his payment.

When Zoppo arrived, he was escorted into a back room with Gallucci and some of his aides. The only reports of what occurred next came from Gallucci's side, as Prisco did not survive the meeting. Police, summoned by Gallucci, arrived near midnight to find the notorious gang leader dead in the coffeehouse with two bullet wounds in his head.

Self-defense

Prisco
The following day, Gallucci's nephew John Russomano walked into the office of New York County Coroner Herman Hellenstein and confessed to fatally shooting Prisco. He claimed that Prisco had drawn a firearm, pointed it at Gallucci and demanded a hundred dollars. Russomano pulled a handgun from a desk drawer. When Prisco turned his weapon toward Russomano and warned him, "Keep out of this, or I'll kill you," Russomano fired. Prisco hit the floor before he could get a shot off.

(Early reports in the New York Evening World and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle told a substantially different story, though their source was not made clear. Those newspapers said that someone in the coffeehouse grabbed Prisco's shooting hand or arm as he entered the back room, leaving him helpless as Russomano pointed a handgun at his forehead and fired.)

Russomano was charged with homicide and placed in the Tombs Prison. He was later released in bail of $5,000.

Prisco's funeral arrangements were handled by D. Scocozza of 2074 First Avenue in East Harlem. He was buried on December 18 at Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York.

On December 20, Russomano was discharged by Hellenstein, after a coroner's jury was convinced that the killing of Prisco was done in self-defense.

As far as law enforcement was concerned, the matter was closed. But a bloody feud continued in East Harlem's underworld for years.

Read more about Aniello Prisco and the 1910s Italian underworld of East Harlem:
"Owner's killing is start of Murder Stable legend," Mafiahistory.us.

Sources:
  • "35 are caught in Black Hand bomb round-up," New York Evening Telegram, July 26, 1913, p. 3.
  • "Blackhand king shot dead when he demanded $100," Bridgeport CT Evening Farmer, Dec. 16, 1912, p. 3.
  • "Blackmailer killed as he made threat," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec. 16, 1912, p. 4.
  • "Man is found dead with bullet holes in his head," New York Press, Dec. 16, 1912, p. 3.
  • "Notorious gunman arrested," New York Call, Oct. 4, 1912, p. 3.
  • "Prisco, lame gunman, meets death at last," New York Sun, Dec. 17, 1912, p. 16.
  • "Record of deaths in murder stable," Niagara Falls Gazette, April 12, 1916.
  • "Silencer is used on rifle to kill Harlem gunman," New York Evening World, Feb. 18, 1913, p. 9.
  • "Slayer of 'Zopo' freed," New York Evening World, Dec. 20, 1912, p. 9.
  • "Slayer of 'Zopo' freed," New York Tribune, Dec. 20, 1912, p. 16.
  • "'Zopo the Gimp,' king of the Black Hand, slain," New York Tribune, Dec. 17, 1912, p. 16.
  • "'Zopo the Terror' dies as he draws weapon to kill," New York Evening World, Dec. 16, 1912, p. 6.
  • Aniello Prisco Certificate of Death, registered no. 35154, Department of Health of the City of New York, date of death Dec. 15, 1912.
  • Critchley, David, The Origin of Organized Crime in America: The New York City Mafia, 1891-1931, New York: Routledge, 2009.
  • Thomas, Rowland, "The rise and fall of Little Italy's king," Fort Wayne IN Journal-Gazette, Dec. 12, 1915, p. 33, Pittsburgh Press, Dec. 12, 1915, Sunday Magazine p. 4.

12 December 2019

Exit of Hoffa foe, 'Tony Pro' Provenzano

On this date in 1988...

Courier-Post, Dec. 13, 1988

Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano, a longtime New Jersey labor racketeer and suspect in the 1975 disappearance of Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa, died December 12, 1988, while in federal custody in California.

Provenzano was moved from the Federal Correctional Institution at Lompoc, California, to Lompoc District Hospital for treatment of congestive heart failure. He died at the hospital following a heart attack. His remains were transported back to his family in New Jersey for burial.

Breaking with its own recent policy, the Roman Catholic Church permitted a Funeral Mass for the longtime crime figure. A church official explained that Provenzano requested Catholic Last Rites while he was in the hospital, made his Confession and obtained Absolution at that time. Those actions, the official argued, restored him as a member of the church.

At the Provenzano family's request, Father George Rutler was brought in from Manhattan to celebrate the mid-morning December 27 Mass at St. Andrew's Church in Clifton, New Jersey. Less than a mile from Provenzano's longtime home, 47 Lockwood Place in Clifton, St. Andrew's had also been the site of Provenzano's 1961 Catholic wedding ceremony with second-wife Marie-Paul Migneron (they were officially married earlier in a civil ceremony). Father Rutler's funeral homily focused on religious themes and did not discuss the details of Provenzano's life.

"May God give him merciful judgment and forgive all his sins," the priest said. "May he gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven and be happy forever in the presence of the eternal king."

The service was attended by less than one hundred people. Provenzano's widow was conspicuous in the small crowd. She wore a fur coat, walked stiffly and was supported between two men as she entered the church. Provenzano's first-wife, Eunice Butts Provenzano, was not noted at the service.

After a one-hour Mass, Provenzano's bronze-colored casket was loaded into a hearse, which led a procession of black limousines on a dozen-mile journey to Saint Joseph Cemetery in Hackensack. The casket was placed at the family burial plot, where Provenzano's Sicilian immigrant parents had been interred. Just before noon, after the last of the mourners had left, the casket was lowered into the ground.

Early life

Provenzano was born May 24, 1917, in New York City, to Rosario, a subway construction laborer, and Giuseppa Dispenza Provenzano. The family home was located at 27-29 Monroe Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Tony Pro attended Public School 114 but did not finish grade school. At age fifteen, he went to work as a driver's helper. He became a truck driver at age eighteen.

About five years later, he moved from Manhattan to Valley Stream, Nassau County, Long Island. He soon married Eunice Butts. During the 1940s, the Anthony Provenzano family grew to include two children - years later, Eunice told authorities that these were children of her cousin and were informally adopted by her and her husband. The family relocated to Huntington Station, Suffolk County, in 1945.

Anthony separated from Eunice about 1950, moving to 70 Catalpa Avenue in Hackensack, New Jersey. She filed for divorce in April 1961, charging desertion, and was awarded a final divorce decree at the end of May. The divorce seemed timed to permit Provenzano's second marriage. The FBI noted that a couple who testified for Eunice in the May 1961 divorce seemed to be the same people who witnessed Tony Pro's application for a marriage license in June 1961.

Records indicate that Provenzano was living with Marie-Paule Migneron in a seven-room home on Clifton's Lockwood Place for several years before their marriage.

He began working as a full-time organizer for Local 560, based in Union City, New Jersey. Around 1956-1957, he began living with Marie-Paule Migneron at 47 Lockwood Place, a seven-room house, in Clifton, New Jersey.

Labor racketeer

Provenzano
A soldier in the Genovese Crime Family and pal of Jimmy Hoffa, Tony Pro began working as a full-time organizer for Local 560 in Union City, New Jersey, about 1950. During that decade, he gained control of the powerful local. He became its president in 1958, following the resignation of William Madison for "reasons of health."

His rise to the position of local president was quickly followed by an arrest for bribery and increase scrutiny from law enforcement. In 1959, he was called to testify before the U.S. Senate's McClellan Committee and pleaded the Fifth Amendment forty-four times. He was indicted in 1961 for taking a $5,000 bribe from a Hoboken trucking company to ensure labor peace. The cases against him were unsuccessful.

Though repeatedly charged with criminal offenses related to his union role, including bribery, extortion and the murder of a rival, he continued to win reelection and to gain power over time. At a Teamsters convention at Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1960, Hoffa named Provenzano as one of 13 vice presidents of the Teamsters International. Provenzano also became leader of regional Teamster Council 73. He was widely considered the second most powerful leader of the Teamsters.

Provenzano was convicted June 11, 1963, of extortion. He was sentenced the following month to seven years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He remained free during his legal appeals, which continued to May 1966. He entered the federal penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, on May 6.

The conviction legally barred Provenzano from participating in union business for the length of his sentence plus five years. But, during that time, his brother Salvatore became president of Local 560 and Council 73, and his brother Nunzio became secretary-treasurer of Local 560, allowing Tony Pro to maintain control over the region's Teamsters.

Falling out with Hoffa

Hoffa
Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa was incarcerated at Lewisburg beginning in 1967, following his unsuccessful appeals of 1964 convictions for jury tampering and fraud. While Hoffa and Provenzano were both at that institution, the old friends had a serious falling out. Some sources say they argued over Provenzano's desire to have Hoffa use influence to secure him a Teamsters pension. One report indicates that the conflict became physical and that Hoffa broke a bottle over Provenzano's head.

Provenzano was paroled from Lewisburg in November 1970. He immediately became close with Frank Fitzsimmons, who Hoffa had selected to succeed him as Teamsters International president. Fitzsimmons made Tony Pro's brother Salvatore Provenzano a vice president and general organizer for the International the following year.

At the end of 1971, Hoffa was released from prison through a commutation from President Nixon. The former Teamsters president began to maneuver to regain control of the union. Mending fences with the powerful and well connected Tony Pro was necessary.

When last seen on July 30, 1975, Hoffa was reportedly on his way to a meeting with Provenzano at a restaurant outside of Detroit. Hoffa's wife told authorities that she was aware of threats made by Provenzano against her husband and against their grandchildren.

The investigation of Hoffa's disappearance focused on Provenzano and his aides within Local 560. An informant indicated that Salvatore and Gabriel Briguglio and Thomas and Stephen Andretta, all connected to Local 560, knew what happened to Hoffa. A grand jury in Detroit was unable to resolve the matter.

End of the road

In December of 1975, the five-year ban on Provenzano union activity ended. Salvatore Provenzano resigned as Local 560 president. Nunzio Provenzano moved from secretary-treasurer to president and immediately appointed Tony Pro as the new secretary-treasurer.

Almost immediately, Tony Pro was indicted for conspiring to arrange a financial kickback from a Teamsters pension fund loan. About half a year later, he was charged, along with Salvatore Briguglio and others, with conspiring in the 1961 kidnapping and murder of union rival Anthony "Three-Finger" Castellito. Castellito had been a leader of a dissident faction within the Teamsters local. He vanished on July 5, 1961. Investigators with an Organized Crime Task Force later learned that Castellito had been severely beaten by Provenzano underlings and garroted to death.

Provenzano's career was quickly coming to a close. Two cases for racketeering conspiracy went against him in 1978 and 1979. The first, tried in New York's Southern District, resulted in four-year prison sentence. The second, tried in Newark, New Jersey, federal court, resulted in a twenty-year sentence.

Tony Pro managed to remain free during his legal appeals until late in 1980. His prison terms and the final stage of his life began on November 18, 1980.

Sources:

  • "Anthony Provenzano," Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 100-12-5957, birth May 23, 1917, death December 1988.
  • "Anthony Provenzano, mobster, suspect in Hoffa disappearance," Camden NJ Courier-Post, Dec. 13, 1988, p. 18.
  • "Anthony Provenzano, New Jersey crime figure," Morristown NJ Daily Record, Dec. 13, 1988, p. 13.
  • "Tony Pro's name appears on tape," Passaic NJ Herald-News, Jan. 7, 1970, p. 2.
  • California Death Index, 100-12-9557, death Dec. 12, 1988.
  • Donnelly, Frank H., "Anthony Provenzano aka Tony Pro," FBI Report, file no. 92-7195-2, NARA no. 124-10221-10186, Dec. 20, 1963.
  • Edelman, Susan, "100 attend 'low-keyed' funeral for 'Tony Pro,'" Hackensack NJ Record, Dec. 18, 1988, p. 1.
  • Kelly, Mike, "The legacy of Tony Pro," Hackensack NJ Record, Dec. 13, 1988, p. B1.
  • New York City Birth Index, certificate no. 26086, May 24, 1917.
  • Pienciak, Richard T., "Tony Pro indicted" 'I'm just a truck driver,'" Bridgewater NJ Courier-News, Dec. 11, 1975, p. 1.
  • Social Security Death Index, 100-12-5957, death December 1988.
  • United States Census of 1930, New York State, New York County, Assembly District 1, Enumeration District 31-22.
  • United States Census of 1940, New York State, New York County, Enumeration District 31-74.
  • Windrem, Robert, "Two sides of 'Tony Pro,'" New Brunswick NJ Home News, June 24, 1976, p. 1.
  • Yost, Pete, "Stephen Andretta faces grand jury in Detroit," Bridgewater NJ Courier-News, Dec. 11, 1975, p. 1.

08 December 2019

Vitale dinner holdup sparks investigations

Incident leads to city magistrate's removal,
mayor's resignation, Tammany Hall's defeat

New York Times
On this date in 1929...
 
Seven gunmen entered a Bronx, New York, testimonial dinner for city Magistrate Albert H. Vitale early in the morning of December 8, 1929, and robbed the guests, including political leaders, well known hoodlums and one off-duty NYPD detective.

The testimonial, begun Saturday night, December 7, was drawing to a close at about 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning, when Vitale rose to make some remarks. At that moment, the seven men, who had quietly entered and positioned themselves at the rear of the second floor banquet room of Roman Gardens, 2401 Southern Boulevard near 187th Street, drew handguns and politely instructed the fifty attendees to turn over their valuables. One of the seven had a handkerchief wrapped around the lower half of his face. The others were not masked. Some accounts indicated that the partly masked gunman was the leader of the group. Working at a leisurely pace, they gathered several thousand dollars' worth of cash and jewelry and departed the restaurant at one o'clock.

Vitale
Little is known of what occurred at the restaurant immediately after the robbery. The incident was not officially reported to police until about 2 a.m. The delay in reporting raised numerous questions and eventually cost Detective Johnson his job.

Hours later, the service revolver taken by the robbers from Johnson was returned through Vitale at Vitale's office in the Tepecano Democratic Club, 187th Street, in the Bronx. Published reports indicated that much of the rest of the loot taken in the robbery also was returned. Rumors suggested that the influence of organized criminals, in league with Vitale, forced the robbers to send back the stolen items.

The robbery occurred just a month and a half after the Black Tuesday stock market collapse, when the U.S. was beginning to sink into the Great Depression and Americans were beginning to blame rampant lawlessness and official corruption for their economic woes.

After the robbery and related oddities were reported in the press, investigations were launched into Vitale's associations with crime figures. Special attention was given to the testimonial dinner and to reports that underworld boss Ciro Terranova and several of his men were in attendance. The situation also sparked a New York State Senate investigation (known as the Hofstadter Committee and as the Seabury Investigation) into corruption within the Tammany Hall-aligned administration of Mayor James Walker.

Suggestions of Vitale wrongdoing in connection with that event were unproven. Vitale's explanations for the presence of gangsters in the Roman Gardens restaurant hosting his dinner and for the return of the service revolver were accepted as plausible. But other examples of faulty judgment came to light.

Roman Gardens
The Bar Association found that Magistrate Vitale had acted improperly in accepting a large 1928 loan from underworld financier Arnold Rothstein (a charge first leveled by mayoral candidate Fiorello La Guardia late in his unsuccessful 1929 campaign) and in discharging a thief represented by a Rothstein-retained attorney. It recommended Vitale's removal from the bench.

In March 1930, the five justices of the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division agreed that the Rothstein loan brought "the court into public disrepute and suspicion." The justices made Vitale an ex-magistrate but stopped short of disbarring him.

Vitale returned to a private law practice, while investigations led to the removal of a number of corrupt officials, to a reform of the city courts and to an end of Tammany Hall's domination of city government. Mayor Walker resigned in late summer 1932. He was immediately succeeded by Tammany nominee John P. O'Brien. After a year, La Guardia and a reform administration was brought in through the 1933 municipal election.

05 December 2019

Chicago Gangster Hazed By Frat Brothers

James Clark is familiar to most crime buffs as a member of Chicago's North Side Gang during Prohibition. A capable, all-purpose muscleman and assassin, Clark joined the North Siders in the early 1920s. He acted as a pallbearer at the November 1924 funeral of his boss Dean O'Banion and was suspected by Chicago police of being one of the killers (along with Frank Foster and Pete Gusenberg) of Pasquale Lo Lordo, càpu of Chicago's traditional Sicilian Mafia burgàta and president of the Italo-American National Union (formerly known as Unione Siciliana).

Chicago gangster James Clark

However, Clark is probably best known for being slaughtered in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929, when he and six of his colleagues were lined up against the north wall of the S.M.C. Cartage garage at 2122 North Clark Street and mowed down by hitmen masquerading as police officers. Most people do not know that nineteen years before Clark got his fatal love letter from a pair of Thompson submachine guns, he botched a burglary at a University of Chicago fraternity house and got a whole lot more than he bargained for in the process. The details of Clark's bungled crime are darkly funny, as if they were ripped from the pages of the script for Animal House.

Albert Rudolph Kachellek was born in Krojanke, Germany (present-day Krajenka, Poland) on February 25, 1889, and landed in America with his mother Anna and siblings a month after his fourth birthday. While growing up in Chicago, he quickly fell in with the wrong crowd. By the age of sixteen in 1905, he did a four-month jail sentence in the Bridewell for robbery. That same year, he also drew a four-year sentence for burglary. By this point, Kachellek started calling himself "James Clark"; his sister stated that "he did not want to hurt my mother's feelings." While he was destined to eventually become a professional gangster, James Clark in the winter of 1910 was a twenty-one-year-old ex-convict who was firmly planted at the bottom of Chicago's criminal totem pole. Clark began setting his sights on houses in the affluent South Side neighborhood of Hyde Park which bracketed the University of Chicago. A few of the stately homes in the district acted as rooming houses for fraternities at the nearby college. For a tough skel who had done hard time at Joliet, surely those college kids would be easy marks.


Alpha Tau Omega was established at the Virginia Military Institute on September 11, 1865 by Otis Allan Glazebrook, Erskine Mayo Ross, and Alfred Marshall as a means of using Christian brotherly love as a way of fostering reconciliation after the Civil War. The fraternity is noted for holding several retreats and training conferences; Altitude, Encounter, Valiant, President's Retreat, and Emerging Leader's Conference. All had specific goals; Altitude was meant to challenge members physically, mentally, and emotionally and currently entails a rigorous hike into the Rocky Mountains and the attainment of a 14,000 foot summit; Valiant puts roughly 100 members through a values-based curriculum that emphasizes effective leadership, communication, ethics, goal setting, and teamwork.

By the winter of 1909-10, Alpha Tau Omega had over one hundred chapters all over the United States and outside many major universities. The University of Chicago's chapter featured about twenty young men from such diverse states as Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, North Dakota, Texas and Louisiana. Most of the young students who were members of the fraternity lived in a house at 923 East Sixtieth Street that fronted Midway Plaisance Park. It was a quiet residence in a generally quiet neighborhood that houses one of the best colleges in the state of Illinois. It was towards this house that James Clark went in the early morning hours of March 6, 1910.

Although it was still technically winter in Chicago, the weather was quite mild and a harbinger of the coming spring; the temperature peaked at sixty-three degrees earlier that afternoon. Around five-thirty on that Sunday morning, Clark approached Alpha Tau Omega frat house on Sixtieth Street. Standing outside the dark and silent building, and with no one to be seen or heard in the pre-dawn stillness, Clark jimmied open a downstairs window. Whether Clark acted on impulse or pre-planned the burglary is unknown; the former seems likely, as he brought nothing to hold his loot. Once inside the quiet frat house, Clark moved with the noiseless stealth of the long-term burglar.

As the Alpha Tau continued their slumber, Clark's nimble fingers pocketed an array of loot such as brushes, neckties, change purses, gloves, spectacles, a knife, fountain pen, and an open-faced gold watch. With his pockets crammed to capacity, Clark reached for a packet of love letters tied with a maroon ribbon. Just as he was putting the letters in his jacket, Clark's heart leaped up into his throat at the unexpected sound of an angry voice asking him just what he was doing. The voice belonged to Henry Brown, the "porter" of the frat house. The sight and sound of the frightened, muscular Black man seemed to have caused Clark to freeze. In the blink of an eye, Brown struck Clark with a stick and quickly went away to find a gun.

On the third floor of the house, pajama-clad frat brothers were aroused by the commotion and began spilling from their beds. Loud footsteps and numerous voices bombarded the concussed Clark, who despite his befuddlement at the sudden wrong turn the evening's burglary had taken had enough presence of mind to make way. Clark managed to hop right out the window that he had originally entered no more than fifteen minutes earlier. The fleeing thief found his legs and sprinted across the street and down Midway Plaisance with porter Henry Brown hot on his heels.

The roused Alpha Tau frat brothers saw the beginning of the chase and promptly burst out the front door of the frat house and joined Brown in persuing the suspect. While James Clark was in reasonable shape, he wasn't exactly a track-and-field star, and Brown and the Alpha Tau brothers ran him down in the park, about a block and a half away from the house. Clark was pinned into the grass and pummeled with curses, fists, feet, and general righteous indignation. And the Alpha Tau were just getting started.

The frat brothers hauled the dazed and bleeding Clark to his feet, and with Brown marched him back to the house. The adrenalized youths began singing their college songs loud enough to wake residents of the surrounding homes. Once they reached the stone steps of their frat house, the youths punctuated their songs with a unison bellow of "CHICAGO!" They then proceeded to haul their prize catch up the steps and into the house. Said prize catch was probably wondering by this point just what the hell he had gotten himself into.

Exactly what the Alpha Tau brothers did to James Clark in the frat house may never be known. An anonymous Chicago Tribune scribe, tongue planted firmly in cheek, wrote, "…did they place Mr. Burglar in a large leather chair? No. On second thought, they took Mr. Burglar upstairs and put him in the bathtub. They gave the treatment usually accorded unwilling and recalcitrant freshmen. They then called up a doctor to 'fix up' Mr. Burglar. Lastly, they called the police."

At six-thirty that morning, Lieutenant John L. Hogan and Officers Curtin and Loey arrived at 923 Sixtieth Street from the Woodlawn Station. According to the same Tribune reporter their arrival, "saved Mr. Burglar from further punishment à la college." James Clark was booked for burglary while eight of the frat brothers donned buttoned-up sweaters and Dutch trousers to come down to the Woodlawn station in order to identify some of their property if they could. Louis T. Curry claimed a knife and a muffler; Dwight Hill a watch and a change purse; J.M. Sutherland of Marlin, Texas a $5 watch and fifty cents in change; M.E. Seeley from Ohio reclaimed two pairs of eyeglasses while D.T. Long of Indiana claimed his $30 watch and two neckties.

Suddenly the mood turned sour when Lieutenant Hogan decided to hold all the stolen property as evidence against Clark. Young Seeley protested, "…if you don't give me back those glasses, I'll have a deuce of a time. One pair is for reading and the other is for seeing where I'm going. If you don't give 'em back to me, I won't be able to study or find my way back to the frat house." Seeley's pleas went for naught. The only piece of property that the lieutenant failed to get his hands on was the packet of love letters tied with the ribbon. They had mysteriously disappeared in the commotion of the hazing and arrest. The youths pointedly declined to reveal which one of them had written the letters.

James Clark was eventually convicted of burglary and, because this was his so-called "third strike," was sentenced to a term of one year to life in the state prison at Joliet. Clark would not be paroled until 1914.

Six of the seven victims of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Lying perpendicular at the base of the wall is James Clark.
History does not record what became of Henry Brown and the rest of the Alpha Tau Omega frat brothers who made Clark's life a living hell during a burglary gone wrong in the winter of 1910.

Sources:

Chicago Tribune, March 7, 1910.

Keefe, Rose. The Man Who Got Away: The Bugs Moran Story. Nashville, Cumberland House, 2005.

World War I Selective Service Draft Card, Albert Kachellek.

Ellis Island passenger arrivals, 1893.


02 December 2019

KC's Gurera gave info to federal agents

In his latest contribution to the Mafiahistory.us website's "Rat Trap" section, researcher Edmond Valin identifies Mafioso Joseph Gurera as the confidential FBI informant referred to in government reports as "KC-586."

Read:

Joseph Gurera
Gurera possessed a great deal of information on the Kansas City and Milwaukee crime families, as he was well connected to leaders in both organizations. Coming of age within the rackets of Kansas City, there is evidence that Gurera was involved in the 1950 murders of underworld-political leaders Charles Binaggio and Charles Gargotta.

When Milwaukee boss Frank Balistrieri sought new revenue streams for his organization, he brought in Gurera to help shake down operators of illicit enterprises in southeastern Wisconsin. While Gurera's activities generated income, they also brought a lot of "heat" on Balistrieri's crime family. The boss soon ordered Gurera to return to the Kansas City area.

The FBI became aware of goings-on in both criminal organizations through data revealed by informant KC-586. Comparing evidence found in FBI documents with the details of Gurera's life, Valin proves that Gurera served as an informant over a period of a few months before he died of a heart attack in 1967.


01 December 2019

Another month, ANOTHER RECORD!

November 2019 was another record-setting month for the Writers of Wrongs blog. A total of 45,212 pageviews were generated in the month - an average of more than 1,500 views per day.

It was the second consecutive surprising month for the blog. In October, Writers of Wrongs exceeded a 1000 views per day average for the first time, finishing with a total of 37,334.

Through the blog's three years of existence (since October 2016), no monthly total had been better than 26,729. In recent months, pageviews settled in the 22,000 to 25,000 range, and the 30,000 barrier was looking like the crime-history blog version of the four-minute mile.

We send our thanks to the crime-history writers, who provide valuable content to the Writers of Wrongs blog, and to our readers, whose interest and support is expressed in these pageview numbers.

(All figures were acquired through site host Blogger - based on Google algorithms - with the site manager's visits not counted in the totals.)

28 November 2019

Lost his love and then lost his life

How the Gophers got 'Patsy Doyle'

On this date in 1914...


NY Times, Nov. 29, 1914.

William Moore, better known by his Manhattan gangland alias of "Patsy Doyle," was relaxing at his favorite West Side watering hole early Saturday evening, November 28, 1914, when the bartender called him to the telephone. Moore had been chatting with two women but left them to take the phone call at about seven-thirty. The bartender overheard a portion of the brief conversation that followed. It sounded like Moore was arranging a meeting. "That's the man I'm looking for," the gangster said, "and I'll be here."

Committing to remain in a particular location while in the middle of a gang war - effectively putting himself "on the spot" - was not Moore's best idea, but evidently he felt comfortable in his surroundings and considered himself beyond the reach of his enemies in Owen "the Killer" Madden's Gophers gang. The base of Madden's Gophers was nearly a mile away.

A short time later, about eight-thirty, Moore was approached by twenty-two-year-old Margaret Everdeane. Everdeane had recently ended a relationship with Moore's lieutenant, William "Willie the Sailor" Mott, prefering to hang out with Owen Madden's faction and a Madden aide named Arthur "the King" Stein. (Mott was reportedly an active-duty U.S. seaman, who lost Everdeane when his vessel took him from New York harbor into action in the U.S. occupation of Veracruz, Mexico.) Mott was determined either to get her back or punish her in some severe way for her disloyalty. He had just sent her an ultimatum letter and was awaiting a reply.

Owen Madden
Everdeane greeted Moore, slipped him a note and then left the saloon. A more experienced underworld figure might have been alarmed that Everdeane knew his location, particularly given her recent fondness for Madden's Gophers. But this too seems not to have troubled him.

Moore might have thought that the note was intended to be passed along to "Willie the Sailor," a response to the ultimatum, but he found that it was for him, written by his own ex-paramour Frieda Horner, who over the summer had left Moore to become Madden's mistress (Madden was married to another woman, with whom he had a baby girl).

After the loss of Horner, an enraged Moore lashed out at whatever Madden men he happened to find. He beat up several of them. When Tony Romanello, of 431 West Thirty-sixth Street, made the mistake of taunting Moore about the relationship on August 19, Moore stabbed him. Moore would have gone to prison for the stabbing, but Romanello refused to cooperate with prosecutors and went into hiding rather than appear in court.

In the note passed by Everdeane, Frieda Horner expressed an interest in returning to Moore. What Moore thought of the idea was never revealed; he had no time to express it.

At about eight-forty, three Madden men, reportedly John Vincent "Hoppo" McArdle (also called Thomas McArdle, some say he became known as "Hoppo" or "Hoppy" because of opium use, while others suggest the nickname sprang from a leg disability), Arthur "Jimmy Ward" Bieler and William Mulhall, entered Otner Brothers saloon (also known as Nash's saloon), 640 Eighth Avenue just north of Forty-first Street. McArdle pointed out Moore, and Bieler drew a pistol and fired two bullets into Moore's chest.

The Madden men quickly left the saloon, headed south on Eighth Avenue, turned west on Thirty-ninth Street and disappeared into some tenements near Ninth Avenue.

In his final seconds, Moore turned, moved through a side door and staggered up a stairway leading to apartments over the saloon. He collapsed and fell dead on the stairs.

Early accounts
Early accounts of the "Patsy Doyle" killing contained a number of details later shown to be errors.

New York County Coroner Israel Lewis Feinberg repeatedly pulled the investigation in an incorrect direction by insisting that the shooting death of Moore was connected somehow with the murder of independent poultryman Barnet Baff at West Washington Market a few days earlier. Feinberg's efforts resulted in a number of confused press accounts. The local press proved itself capable of confusing things all on its own.

The morning after the murder, the Brooklyn Standard Union reported that Moore was killed following a drunken squabble over the Great War, recently erupted in Europe.

Brooklyn Standard Union, Nov. 29, 1914.
The New York Times reported that Moore was killed as he was on his way out of the saloon and that he was attacked by five gunmen. The idea that Moore was leaving probably grew out of his final position on the stairs. Feinberg later resolved the issue by indicating that Moore moved out of an unconscious reflex after being shot.

The New York Sun described the attack as a two-way gunfight, in which Moore's attackers were fired upon and wounded by some of Moore's men.

Investigation
While the coroner continued to try to link the Moore and Baff murders, the police were convinced that Moore was killed as the result of West Side gang warfare. They initially took six witnesses in for questioning. These included saloon staff and proprietor Morris Otner (Morris partnered with his brother Oscar in a number of alcohol-related businesses in Manhattan). These witnesses were released after questioning.

Detectives then began rounding up Gophers gang members. By the end of the month of November, nine gang members were in custody, held at the West Thirty-Seventh Street Police Station as material witnesses. Police attention then turned to several women who had knowledge of the Moore killing.

These women were Horner, nineteen, of 355 East Eighty-first Street; Everdeane, of 355 West Forty-third Street; Mrs. Edwin Hill, twenty-six, of 2299 Eighth Avenue; Mary O'Donnell, twenty-six, of the same Eighth Avenue address; and Josephine Moore of West Twentieth Street.

Hill and O'Donnell appear to be the women who were speaking with Moore at the saloon when he was summoned to the telephone call. Horner and Everdeane were the women who had jilted Moore and Mott in favor of Madden gangsters. Josephine Moore identified herself as the widow of the slain man.

Fear, jealousy and a bit of chivalry merged into detectives' working theory of the case, though vengeance and underworld rivalry were probably bigger factors. Detectives reasoned that Horner and Everdeane had been threatened by their ex-lovers. They and Buckley communicated the threats to Madden's gang. Madden supposedly sought to protect the women - and avenge harms previously done to them - by acting against Moore and Mott. Madden hoped to use the women to locate his targets and hold them in place while he dispatched gunmen to eliminate them.

Looking into Moore's background, police found that he previously lived in Brooklyn, where he was briefly associated with the Red Onion Gang of Myrtle Avenue. He reportedly had been convicted of selling narcotics (one source says he was convicted of carrying firearms) around 1912 and served a prison sentence. Following his release from prison, he moved to Manhattan's West Side, where some said he associated with the Hudson Dusters gang and others indicated his membership in a branch of the Gophers at war with Madden.

On December 16, 1914, indictments for first-degree murder were returned against Owen Madden, Arthur Bieler and John McArdle. William Mulhall had escaped. The indictments were announced by Assistant District Attorney Walter Deuel at a long-delayed inquest presided over by Coroner Feinberg.

Owen Madden
 First trials
The first Gopher defendants to be tried were Bieler and McArdle, charged with direct involvement in the killing of Moore. Their cases went before Judge Thomas Crain in General Sessions Court early in 1915.

Bieler employed a bit of trickery to ensure that neither he nor McArdle would be convicted of first-degree murder and face the death penalty. He offered to make a full confession and assist in the prosecution of the other defendants in exchange for a plea deal on the lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter.

The deal was arranged. and Bieler was convicted and sentenced to eighteen years in prison. He was brought to the witness stand to testify about McArdle's role in the crime. But Bieler's testimony put the entire blame for the Moore murder on himself. He claimed that McArdle, unaware of Bieler's anger toward Moore and unaware that Bieler was armed, merely pointed out Moore for him. Bieler stated that he was carrying a pistol not intending to use it against Moore but for personal safety at a dance later in the evening. (Gang violence frequently erupted at dances, also known as "rackets.") When he approached Moore, Bieler said, a shot was fired at him and he drew his weapon and fired it in self-defense.

McArdle was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to thirteen years in prison. Bieler was received at Sing Sing on March 26. McArdle was received there on April 7.

NY Evening World, May 24, 1915

Madden trial
Owen Madden's murder trial began May 24 in General Sessions before Judge Charles Nott. He was charged with ordering and supervising the murder of Moore. He was represented by attorney Charles Colligan, a former prosecutor.

Assistant District Attorney W.H.L. Edwards delivered the opening statement for the prosecution. In it, Edwards said Madden set out to kill Moore because he considered him "a rat." According to Edwards, Madden was known to have said, "I have had it planned to croak Patsy Doyle because he is a squealer... When he had a fight he called a cop and I wouldn't dare trust him."

The state's key witnesses were "Willie the Sailor" Mott, Margaret Everdeane and Frieda Horner. While they had sought Madden's protection from Moore and Mott, Everdeane and Horner evidently did not want to see anyone killed. Their feelings about Madden and his gang changed abruptly following Moore's death.

Mott testified that he personally saw Madden waiting across the street from the saloon where Moore was shot. Everdeane and Horner told of their changing relationships with West Side gangsters. Everdeane said she responded to Mott's threatening letter by going to Madden's gang hangout, a lunchroom at Thirty-third Street and Tenth Avenue and speaking about it directly to Madden. Madden then hatched the plan to attack Moore and Mott in the saloon.

According to her testimony, Mott saw her in the saloon and immediately took her outside. That may have saved his life.

Horner testified about the conflict between Moore and Madden. She said that, when Moore was released following the Romanello stabbing, Madden sent him a note revealing that "Madden had got him out of trouble..., so that he could have the pleasure of getting Patsy himself."

Horner admitted that she telephoned Moore at the saloon the night he was killed.

On cross examination, prosecutors established that Horner had altered her story between the McArdle and Madden trials. Horner said that she lied in the earlier case but was being truthful in the Madden trial.

Madden (back row, center) and his Gophers.

Bieler and McArdle were brought from Sing Sing by the defense to testify that Madden was not near saloon when Moore was shot. Madden gangsters Owen Lawlor, "Dodie" Fitzsimmons and Martin Ellis testified that Madden had not been aware of Mulhall, Bieler and McArdle heading out to the saloon because Madden was not at his lunchroom headquarters that night.

As the defense brought its case to a close on May 31, Madden took the stand in his own defense. He claimed that he had not been involved in the Moore shooting and had not been near his lunchroom or the saloon that night. That Saturday night, he went to a dance at Park Avenue and Fifty-first Street and then to another dance in the Bronx. He returned to Manhattan about two o'clock the next morning.

Madden got into an argument with prosecutor Deuel during cross examination. He stood up and accused the assistant district attorney of trying to frame him: "I'm not getting a fair chance. Why can't you give me a fair show? You might as well take me out and kill me and get it over with!" The gang boss completed his outburst by kicking over the witness chair. Judge Nott ordered that Madden be taken out of the courtroom and then called a recess.

The defendant was more composed when court resumed. He answered most of the questions put to him on cross examination by claiming he did not remember.

Madden's jury went into deliberations on June 2. After seven hours, the verdict was returned.

NY Tribune, June 3, 1915 (shows Madden, Everdeane, Horner).

Conviction and sentence
Reporters noted that Madden seemed anxious about the verdict and then relieved to learn that he was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter. That conviction called for a lengthy prison sentence but removed the possibility of an end in the electric chair.

He was sentenced on June 8. Before announcing the punishment, Judge Nott spoke to Madden, discussing his foreign birth (he was born in Leeds, England, to Irish parents) and his youth in New York City. Two versions of the judge's remarks were published in the press.

The New York Sunday News quote - containing an error about Madden being born in New York -  read:
You are a young man, only 23 years old. You were born and brought up in a great city with good schools for your education and every chance to be a comfort to your family, but you chose deliberately a career of crime. Such a course brings its own reward and you are to receive it now. You meet the fate of all who choose to make of themselves menaces to the public welfare and nuisances to the citizens of New York.

The New York Press recalled the statement differently but perhaps more correctly:
The sentence I am about to pronounce is going to be such that I hope it will be a warning to men of Madden's class. He had all the advantages of an education in this city, coming here as a small lad, but he disregarded those advantages. He belongs to a class that has for years terrorized the section in which he lives. He did not work, and in some way or another he lived. I have examined the testimony in the case thoroughly and I find no extenuating circumstances. Madden has been such a pest in the neighborhood and an annoyance to God-fearing and honest citizens that I feel, however disagreeable the circumstances, I must give him the limit.

Judge Nott sentenced Madden to the maximum penalty allowed under the law, a period of ten to twenty years in prison. Madden began his term at Sing Sing on June 16.

Perjury
But the story of the "Patsy Doyle" murder case does not end there. In October, the state's key witnesses against Madden changed their views of events and supported Madden's request for a new trial.

Interestingly, Margaret Everdeane and Frieda Horner, the women who had been involved with Moore the faction and then switched to the Madden group and then testified against Madden at trial, went to Judge Nott and admitted to lying on the stand. (This was a more troublesome position for Horner, who had admitted to lying in the McArdle matter before reversing herself in the Madden case.)

Even Moore's buddy, "Willie the Sailor," recanted. He claimed that he lied about seeing Madden near the saloon when Moore was killed. He did so, he told Judge Nott, because that is what Assistant District Attorney Deuel wanted him to say. Willie Mott, removed from duty in order to participate in the case, was prepared to say whatever was necessary in order to get out of the trial and back aboard his ship. Mott revealed that Deuel paid him $60 before the trial as compensation for the pay he was losing as a Navy gunner.

Everdeane and Horner told the judge that they, too, were compelled to testify falsely by Deuel. Everdeane claimed that Deuel wrote out her testimony and delivered it through a Marian M. Goldman, who instructed her to memorize it.

Judge Nott saw no reason to believe the recanting witnesses. On November 4, he denied Madden's request for a new trial and denounced Everdeane, Horner and Mott for falsely accusing public officials of wrongdoing. That day, Everdeane and Horner were arrested on perjury warrants and locked up in the Tombs prison. They were indicted on charges of perjury a few days later. (The outcome of the perjury cases is unknown.)

Madden
Owen Madden did not serve his entire prison term at Sing Sing. His registration card for the U.S. World War I draft was filed from Auburn State Prison. He was soon transferred back to Sing Sing and then was paroled from there in 1923, after serving about seven years of the ten-to-twenty-year sentence.

His time in prison kept him from the underworld hazards and the underworld rewards of the opening years of the Prohibition Era. But he was released just at the dawn of the Harlem Renaissance. Madden became a part owner of a number of popular Harlem entertainment spots, including the famous Cotton Club. It is said that he became involved in organizing bootlegging activity and gambling.

In the early 1930s, Madden was sent back to Sing Sing for a year as a parole violator. Following his release in July 1933, he turned his attention to the spa city of Hot Springs, Arkansas. That city - specifically 506 West Grand Street - was his home for much of the rest of his life. He died of lung disease at Hot Springs on April 24, 1965.


Sources:

  • Asbury, Herbert, The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld, Garden City, NY: Garden City Publishing, 1928, p. 352-355.
  • Levins, Peter, "Justice versus Owney Madden," New York Sunday News, Nov. 6, 1932, p. 52.
  • "Arthur Bieler," World War I Draft Registration Card, No. 606, Sing Sing Prison, Westchester County, New York, June 5, 1917.
  • "Doyle witnesses give Baff clues," New York Tribune, Dec. 7, 1914, p. 12.
  • "Dry padlocks snapped on nine wet doors; 'Owney' Madden's 'Club' is one of them," New York Times, June 23, 1925, p. 23.
  • "Gangsters seek writs to gain their freedom," New York Evening World, Dec. 14, 1914, p. 4.
  • "Gangsters take stand to prove alibi for Madden," New York Evening World, May 28, 1915, p. 12.
  • "Girl acted as lure in a gang killing," New York Times, May 27, 1915, p. 20.
  • "Girl admits luring a man to his death," New York Press, May 27, 1915, p. 3.
  • "Girl death Delilah to 2 gang Samsons," New York Press, May 28, 1915, p. 12.
  • "Girl says she lied when told to do so at murder trial," New York Evening World, Oct. 7, 1915, p. 2.
  • "Girl tells how gang victim was lured to death," New York Evening World, May 27, 1915, p. 3.
  • "Girl tells jury she gave signal for gang murder," New York Evening World, May 26, 1915, p. 1.
  • "Girl's taunt sent gunmen to killing," New York Times, May 28, 1915, p. 6.
  • "Girls arrested for perjury in murder case," Brooklyn Standard Union, Nov. 4, 1915, p. 10.
  • "Girls in Owney Madden case indicted," New York Evening World, Nov. 8, 1915, p. 3.
  • "Girls link murders of Baff and Doyle," New York Sun, Dec. 7, 1914, p. 12.
  • "Guards district attorney," New York Times, May 29, 1915, p. 11.
  • "James Ward," Sing Sing Prison Receiving Blotter, no. 65324, received March 26, 1915.
  • "John McArdle," Sing Sing Prison Receiving Blotter, no. 65887, received April 7, 1915.
  • "Killed gunman and then danced, Bielder asserts," New York Evening World, March 18, 1915, p. 8.
  • "Madden convicted of manslaughter," New York Sun, June 3, 1915, p. 14.
  • "Madden gets limit for gang murder," New York Press, June 9, 1915, p. 14.
  • "Madden gets ten to twenty years," New York Tribune, June 9, 1915, p. 16.
  • "Madden on trial as promoter of murder," New York Sun, May 25, 1915, p. 11.
  • "Owen Madden," World War I Draft Registration Card, No. 255 (No. 123 N.Y. City is written on top), June 5, 1917.
  • "Owen Madden sentenced," New York Sun, June 9, 1915, p. 7.
  • "Owen V. Madden," Sing Sing Prison Receiving Blotter, no. 66164, received June 16, 1915.
  • "'Owney' Madden arrested in Baff murder quest," New York Tribune, Dec. 1, 1914, p. 14.
  • "Owney Madden goes on trial for murder," New York Evening World, May 24, 1915, p. 3.
  • "Owney Madden is put on defensive," New York Sun, May 28, 1915, p. 5.
  • "Owney Madden, 73, ex-gangster, dead," New York Times, April 24, 1965, p. 1.
  • "Owney Madden, found guilty in gang killing, escapes chair by manslaughter verdict," New York Tribune, June 3, 1915, p. 14.
  • "Owney Madden's girl witnesses held for perjury," New York Evening World, Nov. 4, 1915, p. 8.
  • "Says love led to band murder," New York Herald, May 25, 1915, p. 6.
  • "Shot dead by five men," New York Times, Nov. 29, 1914, p. 13.
  • "Shot dead in row over armies of war," Brooklyn Standard Union, Nov. 29, 1914, p. 1.
  • "Slayer, he tells jury, but it finds his friend guilty," New York Herald, March 19, 1915, p. 6.
  • "Takes back testimony against Owen Madden," New York Sun, Oct. 19, 1915, p. 5.
  • "Ten trapped in Baff murder," New York Tribune, Dec. 17, 1915, p. 5.
  • United States Census of 1920, Westchester County, Town of Ossining, Enumeration District 159, Sing Sing Prison.
  • "William Moore," New York City Extracted Death Index, certificate no. 33926, Nov. 28, 1914.
  • "Woman held as Doyle witness; hunt gangmen," New York Sun, Nov. 30, 1914, p. 5.
  • "Woods to direct detective bureau," New York Tribune, Dec. 10, 1914, p. 3.