Short answer: No, but they did have some business with Murder Inc. Longer answer follows:

Jewish gangsters dominated urban rackets in the Twenties. But by the early Thirties, even before Prohibition was repealed, some of the big shots like the Bronfmans, Louis Rosenstiehl and Moe Annenberg went legit. Others, like Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, Moe Dalitz and Abner (Longy) Zwillman, transitioned to running big-time gambling. The rest fought ceaselessly for a share of the remaining rackets.

Brooklyn NY was one such scene of endless gang wars in the early Thirties. Among the winners were a mob that included Abraham (Kid Twist) Reles, Allie (Tick-Tock) Tannenbaum, Harry (Pittsburgh Phil) Strauss, Martin (Buggsy) Goldstein and Mendy Weiss. They hung out at Midnight Rose’s candy store on the corner of Saratoga and Livonia Avenues in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn (where I worked as an adolescent; neither I nor the candy store’s owners were aware of its shady past). They were basically small-timers, whose distinguishing feature was their utter ruthlessness, operating in a big population--Brownsville was New York’s most densely populated neighborhood, cramming 290,000 people into 1.5 square miles.

Enter Louis (Lepke) Buchalter:

Lepke, whose biography appears here:


was the biggest gangster in America in the mid and late Thirties—maybe the biggest in history. He needed an army to protect and enforce his Garment Center-based criminal empire. His partner, Jacob (Gurrah) Shapiro, born in Russia, grew up in Brownsville. They reached out for the Midnight Rose crowd (who were dubbed “Murder Inc.” by the press years later).

Lepke, a sharp businessman as well as a vicious thug, put them on salary rather than pay them per hit. The arrangement enabled them to pursue their own rackets when they weren’t doing violence for Lepke. And it tied them to Lepke, keeping them from his rivals.

Lepke also made alliances with Mafiosi. He cut Charlie Luciano into some of his Garment Center action; Luciano in turn doled out portions of his share to other Families, which cemented their loyalty to him. Lepke also had an arrangement with Albert Anastasia, an underboss in Vincent Mangano’s family whose turf was the Ocean Hill neighborhood to the north of Brownsville. Albert A shared in some of Murder Inc.’s revenues. In return, he supplied Mafia shooters (Harry “Happy” Maione, Frank “the Dasher” Abbandando, Louis Capone) and was one of their biggest customers. Another customer was Luciano: when he decided to whack Dutch Shultz before he could assassinate special prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey, Lucky gave the contract to Murder Inc. A hit squad headed by Charles “The Bug” Workman nailed Shultz in a Newark, NJ restaurant. So, Lucky and Albert A did business with Murder Inc., but did not found, run, or belong to the gang.

Nor did Lansky and Siegel. That myth stems from their closeness to Luciano. When Lucky ended the Castellemmarese War of 1930-31 by whacking the “Moustache Petes” Joe Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano, he reached for his boyhood chum Lansky to arrange the murders. Siegel and Anastasia were among the Masseria shooters (Joe Adonis may have been the third). Samuel (Red) Levine headed the squad that did in Maranzano. But those assassinations had nothing to do with Murder Inc.—they went down in 1931, years before Lepke formed the Brownsville gang in to Murder Inc.

Siegel’s brush with Murder Inc. occurred in 1939 when Harry (Big Greenie) Greenberg, a dimwitted NYC thug, tried to rat out several mob big shots and fled to the West Coast to escape them. Siegel was the Commission’s point man on the Coast. Luciano and Adonis ordered him to eliminate Greenie. They sent him two shooters: Tick-Tock Tannenbaum and Frankie (Mr. Gray) Carbo, who later ran the fight rackets for the Mafia in NYC. Bugsy planned the hit, found Greenie and drove the getaway car. Tick-Tock and Mr. Gray were the triggermen.

Early in 1940, Bill O’Dwyer, the Brooklyn DA, and his assistant, Burton Turkus, picked up Kid Twist, Tick-Tock and several other Murder Inc. killers and charged them with several assassinations. They turned rat. One of the hits they ratted out was Greenie’s. The Los Angeles DA arrested and indicted Siegel for the crime. But O’Dwyer refused to let Tannenbaum testify, fearing (no doubt correctly) that he’d never make it back from California alive. Then Twist, who was being held in “protective custody” in a Coney Island hotel, “jumped or fell” from a sixth-floor window while being “guarded” by eleven policemen—five of whom were in the room with him at the time of the “accident” (earning Twist the timeless sobriquet, "the canary who could sing but couldn't fly"). With no witnesses, the case against Siegel evaporated. He high-tailed it to Vegas, got interested in the hotel business, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Twist had a photographic memory. Before his “accident,” he gave Turkus’s stenographers 5,000 pages of notes, and resolved more than 50 murders—five of which involved Lepke. That info enabled Dewey to convict Lepke and send him to the chair in 1944—the only mob boss executed by The Law instead of by his peers.

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