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Meyer Lansky

Meyer Lansky 

Early Life 

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Meyer Lansky in 1958

Lansky was born Meier Suchowlański in Grodno, in the Russian Empire (now Belarus) to a Polish-Jewish family who experienced anti-Semitic pogroms. In 1911, he emigrated to the United States through the port of Odessa with his mother and brother, and joined his father, who had immigrated in 1909, and settled on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York.

Lansky met Bugsy Siegel when they were teenagers. They became lifelong friends, as well as partners in the bootlegging trade, and together with Lucky Luciano, formed a lasting partnership. Lansky was instrumental in Luciano’s rise to power by organizing the 1931 murders of Mafia bosses Joe Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano. As a youngster, Siegel saved Lansky’s life several times, a fact which Lansky always appreciated. The two adroitly managed the Bugs and Meyer Mob with its reputation as one of the most violent Prohibition gangs.

Lansky’s brother, Jacob “Jake” or “Jack” Lansky, in 1959 managed the Nacional Hotel in Havana, Cuba.

Gambling Operations

220px-LuckyLucianoSmallerLucky Luciano, Lansky’s partner in the American Mafia.

By 1936, Lansky had established gambling operations in Florida, New Orleans, and Cuba. These gambling operations were successful as they were founded upon two innovations:

First, Lansky and his connections had the technical expertise to manage them effectively based upon Lansky’s knowledge of the true mathematical odds of most popular wagering games. Second, mob connections were used to ensure legal and physical security of their establishments from other crime figures, and law enforcement (through bribes).
There was also an absolute rule of integrity concerning the games and wagers made within their establishments. Lansky’s “carpet joints” in Florida and elsewhere were never “clip-joints” where gamblers were unsure of whether or not the games were rigged against them. Lansky ensured that the staff (the croupiers and their management) actually consisted of men of high integrity.

In 1936, Lansky’s partner Luciano was sent to prison.

In 1946 Lansky convinced the Mafia to place Siegel in charge of Las Vegas, and became a major investor in Siegel’s Flamingo Hotel.

After Al Capone’s 1931 conviction for tax evasion and prostitution, Lansky saw that he too was vulnerable to a similar prosecution. To protect himself, he transferred the illegal earnings from his growing casino empire to a Swiss numbered bank account, where anonymity was assured by the 1934 Swiss Banking Act. Lansky eventually even bought an offshore bank in Switzerland, which he used to launder money through a network of shell and holding companies.

War Work

Unknown-1In the 1930’s, Meyer Lansky and his gang claimed to have stepped outside their usual criminal activities to break up rallies held by the pro-Nazi German-American Bund. Lansky recalled a particular rally in Yorkville, a German neighborhood in Manhattan, that he claimed he and 14 other associates disrupted:

The stage was decorated with a swastika and a picture of Adolf Hitler. The speakers started ranting. There were only fifteen of us, but we went into action. We threw some of them out the windows. Most of the Nazis panicked and ran out. We chased them and beat them up. We wanted to show them that Jews would not always sit back and accept insults. During World War II, Lansky was also instrumental in helping the Office of Naval Intelligence’s Operation Underworld, in which the government recruited criminals to watch out for German infiltrators and submarine-borne saboteurs.

According to Luciano’s authorized biography, during this time, Lansky helped arrange a deal with the U.S. Government via a high-ranking U.S. Navy official. This deal would secure the release of Luciano from prison; in exchange, the Italian Mafia would provide security for the war ships that were being built along the docks in New York Harbor. German submarines were sinking Allied shipping in great numbers along the eastern seaboard and the Caribbean coast, and there was great fear of attack or sabotage by Nazi sympathizers.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meyer_Lansky

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