Murder, Inc. (or Murder Incorporated) was the name the news media gave to organized crime groups in the 1930s and ’40s that acted as the enforcement arm of the Italian-American Mafia, Jewish mob, and connected organized crime groups in New York and elsewhere. The groups were largely composed of Italian-American and Jewish gangsters from the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Brownsville, East New York, and Ocean Hill. Originally headed by Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, and later by Albert “The Mad Hatter” Anastasia, Murder, Inc. was believed to be responsible for between 400 and 1,000 contract killings, until the group was exposed in the early 1940s by former group member Abe “Kid Twist” Reles. In the trials that followed, many members were convicted and executed, and Abe Reles himself died after suspiciously falling from a window. Thomas E. Dewey first came to prominence as a prosecutor of Murder, Inc. and other organized crime cases.
The Bugs and Meyer Mob was the predecessor to Murder, Incorporated. The gang was founded by New York Jewish American mobsters Meyer Lansky and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel in the early 1920s. After the Castellammarese War and the assassination of U.S. Mafia boss Salvatore Maranzano, Italian mafioso Charles “Lucky” Luciano created the Commission. Soon after, Siegel and Lansky disbanded the Bugs and Meyer gang and formed Murder, Incorporated.
Most of the killers were Italian and Jewish gangsters from the gangs of the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Brownsville, East New York, and Ocean Hill. In addition to carrying out crime in New York City and acting as enforcers for New York Jewish mobster Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, they accepted murder contracts from mob bosses all around the United States. In his biography The Valachi Papers, Mafia turncoat Joe Valachi insisted Murder, Inc. did not commit crimes for the Mafia, but this is contradicted by other sources, and Albert Anastasia was also head of a Mafia crime family.
Based in part in Rosie “Midnight Rose” Gold’s candy store at the corner of Saratoga and Livonia Ave in Brooklyn, Murder Inc. hit men used a wide variety of weapons, including ice picks, to murder their victims. Though the group had a number of members, Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss was the most prolific killer, committing over 100 murders (some historians put the number as high as 500).
The killers were paid a regular salary as retainer as well as an average fee of $1,000 to $5,000 per killing. Their families also received monetary benefits. If the killers were caught, the mob would hire the best lawyers for their defense.
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