this day in crime history: november 17, 1989

On this date in 1989, drug dealer and mobster Costabile “Gus” Farace, Jr. was shot and killed in his car in Brooklyn, NY. Joseph Scalfani, an associate of Farace, was also shot, but survived the attack. Farace, a low-level associate of the Bonanno crime family, was being sought by federal agents in connection with the shooting death of DEA Agent Everett Hatcher, who was killed in Staten Island the previous February. Farace’s murder would remain unsolved until 1999, when two former Bonanno associates, James Galione and Mario Gallo, pleaded guilty to the crime. Bonanno family members reportedly ordered the hit because they feared Farace would turn informant if the feds arrested him for Agent Hatcher’s murder.

Further reading:

Office Down Memorial Page – Special Agent Everett Emerson Hatcher

New York magazine – “Death of a Hood”

New York Times“In Plea Bargain, Two Admit guilt in Mob Figure’s ’89 Killing”

Wikipedia – Costabile Farace

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this day in crime history: november 14, 1957

On this date in 1957, New York State Police in Apalachin, NY interrupted a meeting of about 100 mafia luminaries from the US, Canada, and Italy. The meeting was held at the home of Joseph “Joe the Barber” Barbara, boss of the Scranton-Wilkes Barre, PA mob family. Over 60 of the attendees were detained by police, with an estimated 40 more fleeing into the woods.

Further reading:

Apalachin, NY

Gangsters, Inc. – Mob Meeting at Apalachin: The Big Barbeque

Wikipedia – Apalachin Meeting

this day in crime history: november 12, 1941

On this date in 1941, Murder Inc. associate-turned stool pigeon Abe “Kid Twist” Reles went on a flight. Out the window of room 623 of the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island. It was a one-way trip. And no frequent flier miles for old Abe Reles, who had flipped on his former Murder, Inc. associates, was under police protection at the time. Did he jump, or was he pushed? Did the cops look the other way, or did they take a more “active” role? Did Reles’s fellow snitches occupying the “Squealers Suite” at the Half Moon have a hand in it? Thanks to a thoroughly shoddy investigation by the police and the Brooklyn D.A., we’ll probably never know for sure. But one thing we do know is that “Kid Twist” traded in his nickname for a new one: “The canary who sang, but couldn’t fly.”

Further Reading:

Wikipedia – Abe Reles

J-Grit – Abe “Kid Twist” Reles

The Canary Sang but Couldn’t Fly, by Edmund Elmaleh

this day in crime history: november 4, 1928


On this date in 1928, notorious gambler Aronold Rothstein lost his biggest bet. When Rothstein, thought to be the brains behind the 1919 World Series fix, showed up at room 349 at the Park Central hotel in Manhattan, he was greeted with a bullet to the abdomen. The shooting was allegedly motivated by an unpaid gambling debt. As the story goes, Rothstein–the ultimate gambling fixer himself–thought that the poker game where he lost three hundred large was rigged. As a result, he balked at paying. Another theory has it that the Rothstein hit was perpetrated by rivals looking to take over his rackets. Either way, Rothstein died a couple days later. He refused to name the shooter, and no one was ever convicted of his murder. The case remains officially unsolved.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Arnold Rothstein

DavidPietrusza.com – Rothstein

Gangster City, by Patrick Downey

this day in crime history: october 29, 1964

On this date in 1964, Jack “Murph the Surf” Murphy and his crew pulled off the largest (at the time) jewel heist in US history. Murphy and Alan Kuhn broke into the American Museum of Natural History in New York, while accomplice Roger Clark waited in the getaway car and acted as lookout.

When Murphy and Kuhn broke in, the alarm didn’t sound. It had been turned off to save electricity. They broke into several display cases and stole a number of gems. One of the cases–the one containing the Star of India Sapphire–had a separate, battery-powered alarm. Murphy and Kuhn didn’t realize this until they had already started cutting the glass. They went ahead and finished the job anyway. No alarm sounded. It had a dead battery, as it turned out. A sudden sound in the corridor surprised the thieves, and they beat feet out of the museum.

The crew made tracks for Miami with their swag. The haul of 24 gems included the Star of India, which at 563 carats was the largest sapphire in the world (valued at $410k in 1964). They also stole the Delong Ruby (100 carats), the Eagle Diamond (14 carats), and the Midnight Sapphire.

Once the boys got back to Miami, it was party time. The celebration was short lived. Like most thieves, their plan for the heist was better than their plan for the getaway. The police got a tip from a suspicious bellhop who noticed that they were suddenly flush after a short trip out of town. The cops arrested them 24 hours after the burglary. They say the best parties always seem to end too soon.

The Star of India, the Delong Ruby, and some of the other stolen gems were eventually recovered. The Eagle Diamond was among several that never were. I guess that’s the price you pay for shutting off the building alarm and using cheap batteries in the display case alarm.

Further reading:

Wikipedia article on Jack Murphy

Archived Court TV article on the heist

Murph the Surf, a movie about the heist

this day in crime history: october 25, 1957

madhatter

On this day in 1957, mob chieftain Albert Anastasia was gunned down while getting a haircut in New York City. Anastasia, born Umberto Anastasio in Calabria, Italy, was head of what would come to be known as the Gambino crime family. His resume also included being “Lord High Executioner” of the mob hit squad that had been dubbed Murder, Inc.

On the morning of October 25th, Anastasia arrived at the Park Sheraton hotel to get a haircut. After he sat down in the barber chair, his bodyguard conveniently went for a stroll. Minutes later, two gunmen walked into the barber shop and shot Anastasia several times. The killers walked out the door and disappeared into mid-morning traffic.

The killers were never caught, and several of Anastasia’s former allies–including his underboss, Carlo Gambino–were thought to be behind the hit. The Park Sheraton, back when it was known as the Park Central, was also the place where gambler Arnold Rothstein (architect of the 1919 Black Sox scandal) was murdered in 1928.

Further reading:

American Mafia History – Albert Anastasia

FBI – Albert Anastasia

Utica Observer-Dispatch (October 25, 1957) – Killers Cut Down Albert Anastasia In Barber’s Chair

this day in crime history: october 12, 1978

On this date in 1978, 20 year old Nancy Spungen, girlfriend of former Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious, was found dead in the bathroom of her room at the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan. Spungen had been stabbed in the lower abdomen.  The murder weapon was a knife that belonged to Vicious (real name John Simon Ritchie).

Police arrested Vicious, who gave conflicting accounts of what happened.  Some versions pointed to his innocence, others implicated him in the murder.  There were numerous theories as to who else may have killed Nancy, with most theories involving a drug deal gone bad.

The case never went to trial.  On February 2, 1979, while out on bail, Sid Vicious died of a heroin overdose.  He was 21 years old at the time.

Further reading:

Find A Grave – Nancy Spungen

Wikipedia – Nancy Spungen

Daily MailDid Sid really kill Nancy? Explosive new evidence suggests the punk rocker may have been innocent