this day in crime history: june 22, 2011

WnC-Busted

On this date in 2011, Whitey Bulger, the former head of Boston’s Winter Hill gang, was captured after sixteen years as a fugitive. For twelve of Bulger’s years on the run, he was featured on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. Bulger had been indicted on multiple counts of racketeering. The racketeering charges included complicity in nineteen murders.

Bulger, who had worked as an FBI informant since the 1970s, was tipped off to the indictments by his FBI handler, Special Agent John Connolly. Bulger and longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig skipped town and disappeared. The last credible sighting of the couple was in London in 2002.

In 2011, the FBI decided to change its tactics in locating the fugitive mobster. Instead of focusing their efforts on Bulger, they would focus on Greig, in hopes that they might hear from someone who had spotted her. A public service announcement was recorded and aired during daytime television programs. The strategy paid off rather quickly. A woman who had lived in Santa Monica recognized Greig and Bulger as former neighbors. According to the Boston Globe, the tipster was Anna Bjorn, an Icelandic model and actress who was Miss Iceland 1974. Bjorn was reportedly paid a $2 million reward for the tip.

Agents found Bulger at home when they arrived. They used a ruse to lure him from his apartment and placed him under arrest. They then entered the apartment and placed Greig under arrest for harboring a fugitive.

Bulger and Greig were returned to Boston for trial in federal court. Bulger was convicted on multiple counts of racketeering, including complicity in eleven murders. He received two life sentences plus five years. He is currently incarcerated at USP Coleman II. Greig pleaded guilty to harboring a fugitive and identity fraud and was sentenced to eight years. In April 2016, she was sentenced to an additional 21 months for contempt..

Further reading:

National Post – Accused Boston crime Boss Whitey Bulger Arrested

Daily Mail – Whitey Bulger tipster revealed

Wikipedia – Whitey Bulger

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this day in crime history: june 20, 1947

On this date in 1947, Bugsy Siegel got whacked. Iced. Taken out. Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel — who hated that nickname, by the way — was shot while sitting next to a window in the Beverly Hills house he shared with girlfriend Virginia Hill. According to his death certificate, the cause of death was “cerebral hemmorage” (apparently spelling was not a high priority at the L.A. County Registrar’s Office) due to “gunshots of the head” (neither was grammar, I guess). One shot hit Siegel right near his eye. If he saw it coming, he didn’t see it for long.

The murder was never solved, but theories abound. Who was behind it? Was it Meyer Lansky? Lucky Luciano? Some investors who were less than happy about the profitability of the Flamingo Hotel and Casino? Author Warren Hull has a theory about the identity of the trigger man. Check out this interview with Hull.

Further reading:

Crime Museum – Bugsy Siegel

Wikipedia – Bugsy Siegel

Family Secret, by Warren Robert Hull

this day in crime history: february 8, 1932

On this date in 1932, bootlegger, kidnapper, and hitman Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll was gunned down (this would constitute “death by natural causes” in Coll’s line of work) in a drug store phone booth. Legend has it that he was on the phone with Hell’s Kitchen mob boss Owney Madden, and that Madden kept Coll on the phone until the shooter — possibly working with Dutch Schultz — could get in place. The shooter put enough lead into Coll to kill a whole pack of mad dogs. Fifteen bullets were recovered from Coll’s body. A bunch more went right through him. “Can you hear me now?”

Wikipedia – Mad Dog Coll

Find A Grave –  Vincent Mad Dog Coll

Gangster City website – Photo of the phone booth where Coll was gunned down

Gangster City, by Patrick Downey

this day in crime history: december 18, 1931

On this date in 1931, gangster Dutch Schultz finally got his wish. “Ain’t there nobody that can shoot this guy so he don’t bounce back?” Dutch once asked about his rival, Jack “Legs” Diamond. Old Legs, whose other nickname was “Clay Pigeon,” had this annoying habit of surviving assassination attempts.

By 1931, Legs had moved upstate to start bootlegging and narcotics operations. He spent the night of December 17th partying in Albany, after having just beaten the rap in a kidnapping trial. He left his girlfriend, showgirl Marion “Kiki” Roberts, around 11 PM, and went back to the boarding house on Dove Street, where he had been staying. Around 5:30 AM, two men entered the boarding house, went to the second floor room where Diamond was sleeping it off, shot him in the head multiple times and fled the house.

The murder of Legs Diamond remains unsolved, but there were multiple theories about who was responsible. Dutch Schulz was an obvious choice. Lucky Luciano was another likely candidate. Some think it was local Albany thugs, or that the hit on Legs was ordered by Dan O’Connell, the head of the notorious Albany Democratic Machine. The Machine not only controlled politics in Albany, they also ran the local rackets. And they weren’t open to the idea of competition. This being the case, the hit may have been carried out by members of the Albany Police Department. Double-crossed ex-partners are always a good bet too, and Legs had some of those out there gunning for him. The best theory I’ve seen so far can be found in Pat Downey’s book, Legs Diamond: Gangster, available from Amazon in paperback and ebook editions.

The picture above, which I took eight years ago today, is of the house at 67 Dove Street in Albany, where Legs Diamond was killed. It now belongs to author William Kennedy.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Jack Diamond (gangster)

Gangster City – Jack “Legs” Diamond

Brooklyn Daily EagleDIAMOND IS SLAIN AFTER ACQUITTAL

My 2012 interview with author Pat Downey

this day in crime history: december 16, 1985

BigPaulC

On this date in 1985, Gambino crime family boss Paul Castellano and his underboss/bodyguard Thomas Bilotti, were shot dead outside Sparks Steak House in Manhattan. The hit was reportedly carried out at the order of John Gotti, a captain in the Gambino family. Following Castellano’s death, Gotti would take over as the family’s teflon-covered boss. The teflon wore off in 1992, when Gotti was convicted of thirteen counts of murder, including those of Paul Castellano and Thomas Bilotti.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Paul Castellano

Gangsters, Inc. – John Gotti

Sparks Steak House

this day in crime history: december 9, 1935

walter-liggett

On this date in 1935, newspaperman Walter Liggett was murdered in an alley behind his home in Minneapolis. Liggett, editor and founder of a weekly newspaper called The Midwest American, published stories that exposed the links between government officials and organized crime. Liggett persisted, even after multiple warnings that included an assault and a trumped-up prosecution for a rape that never happened. On December 9th, Liggett’s enemies took action to silence him once and for all: they shot and killed him as he returned home from a shopping trip that evening. Liggett’s wife and 10 year old daughter witnessed the shooting. Mob boss Isadore “Kid Cann” Blumenfeld and one of his associates were identified as the shooters, but a (possibly intentionally) sloppy prosecution prevented their conviction.

Further reading:

“Hunt Gang in Slaying of Crusading Editor”Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 10, 1935

Stopping The Presses: The Murder Of Walter W. Liggett, by Marda Liggett Woodbury

Wikipedia – Walter Liggett

Wikipedia – Kid Cann

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