Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Roger "The Terrible" Touhy

Roger Touhy (September 18, 1898 – December 16, 1959) was an Irish-American mob boss and prohibition-era bootlegger from Chicago, Illinois.

He is best remembered for having been framed for the 1933 faked kidnapping of gangster John "Jake the Barber" Factor, a brother of cosmetics manufacturer Max Factor, Sr.

He earned his nickname during a gang war with Al Capone.

With the onset of Prohibition, Touhy and his brothers began distributing illegal beer and liquor in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Touhy and his partners were soon selling 1,000 barrels a week at $55 a barrel (for a profit of 92 percent).

In 1926, Touhy expanded into illegal gambling and installed slot machines in saloons throughout the northwest Chicago suburbs. By 1926, his slot machine operations alone grossed over $1 million a year ($ 15m per year in todays' dollars)
By 1929, Al Capone was ordering hundreds of barrels of beer a week from Roger Touhy. Envious of the stranglehold Touhy had on the northwest suburbs and unwilling to pay Touhy the high per-barrel cost of his quality beer, Capone wanted to take over Touhy's organization.

The John Factor kidnapping was a frame-up. Factor and Al Capone had arranged to fake the kidnapping and produce evidence implicating Touhy in order to eliminate him, so as to assume control over his organization.

Roger Touhy and three of his top aides went on trial for the John Factor kidnapping on January 15, 1934. Despite unreliable testimony, some from Factor himself, the jury convicted Touhy and his three associates on February 22. Touhy was sentenced to 99 years in prison.

On November 13, 1959, Touhy was granted parole. He left prison on November 24, 1959 – 25 years and nine months to the day after his incarceration.

22 days after his release from prison, Roger Touhy and his bodyguard were gunned down by mob hit men. While being rushed to a hospital, Touhy told a newsman, "I've been expecting it. The bastards never forget!" Touhy was taken to St. Anne's Hospital, where he lived for an hour before dying of shock and loss of blood.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bartholomew Roberts - "Black Bart"

Bartholomew Roberts (17 May 1682 – 10 February 1722), born John Roberts, was a Welsh pirate who raided ships off America and West Africa between 1719 and 1722.

He was the most successful pirate of the Golden Age of Piracy, as measured by vessels captured, taking over 470 prizes in his career.
Roberts was quoted as saying ... "In an honest service there is thin commons, low wages, and hard labour. In this, plenty and satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty and power; and who would not balance creditor on this side, when all the hazard that is run for it, at worst is only a sour look or two at choking? No, a merry life and a short one shall be my motto."
On 5 February 1722 HMS Swallow, commanded by Captain Chaloner Ogle, came upon Robert's three pirate ships, the Royal Fortune, the Ranger and the Little Ranger. The Swallow veered away to avoid a shoal, making the pirates think that she was a fleeing merchant ship. The Ranger, commanded by James Skyrme, departed in pursuit.

Once out of earshot of the other pirates, the Swallow opened her gun ports and opened fire. Ten pirates were killed and Skyrme had his leg taken off by a cannon ball, but refused to leave the deck. Eventually, the Ranger was forced to strike her colors and the surviving crew were captured.

On 10 February, the Swallow returned to Cape Lopez and found the Royal Fortune still there. On the previous day, Roberts had captured the Neptune, and many of his crew were drunk.

At first, the pirates thought that the approaching ship was the Ranger returning, but a deserter from the Swallow recognized her and informed Roberts.

The pirates' plan was to sail past the Swallow, which meant exposing themselves to one broadside. Once past, they would have a good chance of escaping.

However, the helmsman failed to keep the Royal Fortune on the right course, and the Swallow was able to approach to deliver a second broadside. Captain Roberts was killed by grapeshot, which struck him in the throat while he stood on the deck. Before his body could be captured, Roberts' wish to be buried at sea was fulfilled by his crew, who weighed his body down and threw it overboard after wrapping it in his ship's sail.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

"Don" Carlo Gambino

"Don" Carlo Gambino (August 24, 1902 - October 15, 1976) was a Sicilian mobster, notable for being Boss of the Gambino crime family.

After the 1957 Apalachin Convention he unexpectedly seized control of the Commission of the American Mafia.
Carlo Gambino began carrying out murder orders for Mob bosses in his teens. At the age of 19, he became a "made man", and was inducted into Cosa Nostra. He was the brother-in-law of Gambino crime family mobster Paul Castellano.

Gambino rose steadily in the ranks and after organizing the murder of Anastasia became the new boss of the Mangano crime family, which was renamed the Gambino crime family.

Gambino secretly aligned himself with Luciano, Costello and Lansky against Vito Genovese. Soon after the Apalachin Conference disaster, Costello, Luciano and Lansky met face to face in Italy. Luciano came up with a plan which would get rid of Genovese for good.

In 1959, Genovese was going to Atlanta where a huge shipment of heroin was arriving. When he arrived, Genovese was surprised by local police, the FBI and the ATF. He was convicted for selling heroin and was sentenced to 15 years in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary.

With the support of Costello and Luciano, Gambino was named head of the Commission in 1962.
Gambino ruled his family and the other New York families with an iron fist, while keeping a low profile both from the public and law enforcement.

Gambino died of a heart attack on October 15, 1976. After leading the Gambino crime syndicate for 20 years, and The Commission for more than 15, he left behind a family with 500 soldiers, and he died while watching television at his home.

His funeral was attended by at least 2,000 people, including police officers, judges and politicians.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Vincent Louis Gigante - "The Chin"

Vincent Louis Gigante (March 29, 1928 – December 19, 2005), also known as "the Chin", was a New York Italian-American mobster who was boss of the Genovese crime family from 1981 to 2005.

Gigante was the shooter in the failed assassination of Frank Costello in 1959. After sharing a prison cell with Boss Vito Genovese following his conviction for heroin trafficking, Gigante became a capo, overseeing his own crew of Genovese soldiers and associates that operated out of Greenwich Village.

Gigante quickly rose to power during the 1960s and 1970s. By 1981 he became the Boss of the Genovese crime family. He ordered the failed murder attempt of Gambino crime family boss John Gotti in 1986.

With the arrest of Gotti and various Gambino family members in 1992, Gigante was recognized as the most powerful crime boss in the United States.

Dubbed "The Enigma in the Bathrobe" or "The Oddfather", Gigante often wandered the streets of Greenwich Village in his bathrobe and slippers, mumbling incoherently to himself.

After he successfully averted prison in the late '60s by employing psychiatrists to testify to his insanity, he continued the act.
In 1997, Gigante was convicted on racketeering and conspiracy charges and sentenced to 12 years in a federal prison. Gigante retained control of the crime family and relayed orders through his son, Andrew, who would visit him in prison.

In 2005, Gigante's health started to decline and on December 19 he died.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Enoch L. Johnson

Enoch Lewis "Nucky" Johnson (January 20, 1883 – December 9, 1968) was an Atlantic City, New Jersey political boss and racketeer.

From the 1910s until his imprisonment in 1941, he was the undisputed “boss” of Atlantic City and the Atlantic County government.
Atlantic City was a tourist destination, and its success depended on providing visitors with what they wanted. What many tourists wanted was the ability to drink, gamble and have sex.

The organization inherited by Nucky Johnson permitted the service of alcohol, gambling and prostitution, in exchange for the payment of protection money by operators. Support of the vice industry was to continue and expand under Nucky Johnson’s rule. He also continued other corruption, including kickbacks on government contracts.
Prohibition, which was enacted nationally in 1919 and lasted until 1933, was effectively unenforced in Atlantic City, and, as a result, the resort's popularity grew. The city dubbed itself as "The World's Playground". Most of Johnson’s income came from the percentage he took on every gallon of illegal liquor sold, and on gambling and prostitution operations.

Johnson once said:
“We have whisky, wine, women, song and slot machines. I won't deny it and I won't apologize for it. If the majority of the people didn't want them they wouldn't be profitable and they would not exist. The fact that they do exist proves to me that the people want them.”

Investigators charged that Johnson's income from vice exceeded $500,000 a year.
On May 10, 1939 Johnson was indicted for evading taxes on about $125,000 in income from numbers operators during 1935, 1936 and 1937. A two week trial concluded in July 1941, and Johnson was convicted. He was sentenced to ten years in federal prison and fined $20,000.
After his release from prison in 1945 Johnson lived in Atlantic City until his death on December 9, 1968.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll

Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll (born Uinseann Ó Colla, July 20, 1908 – February 8, 1932) was an Irish mob hitman in 1920s New York City.

On July 28, 1931, Coll unsuccessfully attempted to kidnap Joey Rao, a Dutch Schultz underling. The resulting shootout left a five year old child dead and several children wounded. After this, New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker dubbed Coll “Mad Dog”

Coll retained famed defense lawyer Samuel Leibowitz to fight charges on the Vengalli killing. Leibowitz destroyed the credibility of the prosecution's main witness, George Brecht, a man who made a covert living as a witness at trials.

In December 1931, Coll was acquitted.

Dutch Schultz and Owney Madden put a $50,000 bounty on Vincent Coll's head.

On February 1, 1932, four or five gunmen invaded a Bronx apartment which Coll was rumored to frequent and opened fire with pistols and submachine guns. Three were killed and three others were wounded. Mad Dog himself did not show up until thirty minutes after the shooting.

A week after the Bronx shootings, at 12:30 a.m. on February 8, Mad Dog Coll was using a phone booth in the London Chemists drug store at Eighth Avenue and 23rd Street. He was reportedly talking to Madden, demanding $50,000 from the gangster under the threat of kidnapping his brother-in-law. Madden kept Coll on the line while the call was traced.

Three men soon arrived in a dark limousine. While one waited behind the wheel, two others stepped out. One of them waited outside while the other walked inside, drew a Thompson submachine gun from under his overcoat and opened fire on Coll in the glass phone booth.

A total of fifteen bullets were dug out of Vincent Coll's body at the morgue.