Benny Bugsy Siegel
The 1940s Flight of the New York Mobsters
Bugsy Siegel (1906-1947) was one of the most ruthless killers in the Mafia. He began his rise in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, and ended up planting the seeds for the growth of the Las Vegas gambling industry and the mob’s involvement there.
He also had a love for Hollywood and a face for the movies.
Siegel was a member of Murder Incorporated, which include Albert Anastasia, Harry Greenberg and Louie Lefty.
New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia launched an assualt on gambling and the mob, participating in celebrated TV clips showing him wielding a sledge hammer to destroy slot machines. Working with District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey, they taregtted Dutch Shultz (born Arthur Flegenheimer), the man in charge of the rackets in the Bronx and parts of Manhattan from the mid-20s through the 30s. Schulz had helped to corrupt New York’s Mayor Jimmy Walker. Corruption in the Walker administration helped propel LaGuardia into office.
“We’ll not only clean the Streets of this city, but I’m going to clean every department of every grafting Tamminy politician and appoint honest mena nd women int heir place,” LaGuardia vowed during his campaign.
Dewey so harassed Shultz that the mobster turned to Murder Incorporated and asked that they take out Dewey. Anastasia, Siegel and the New York mob bosses considered the request, but decided secretly that it would be easier and result in less heat if they took out Shultz.
Believing that Dewey would soon be killed, Shultz went to the Palace Chop House in New Jersey for a nice dinner, when Murder Incorporated killers stormed into the restaurant and blasted Shultz and his friends as they ate.
Dewey eventually put away Luciano, who was sentenced to prison, Prisoner Number 92168.
Dewey had launched his presidential career in 1948 against Harry Truman partly as a result of the success of his anti-mafia crime campaign.
The heat brought on by Dewey forced New York’s remaining mobsters to seek refuge. Meyer Lansky fled to Havana Cuba, where he helped build gambling casinos under the control of Cuba’s dictator Batista.
Frank Costello, a dead ringer for actor Jack Klugman, fled south to New Orleans under the pressure of the Dewey anti-crime bust.
Ben Bugsy Siegel headed west to Hollywood, and then later expanded into Las Vegas where he built the Flamigo Casino and Hotel.