For these men, it came down to a choice: fight to uphold the law or fight to tear it down.
It was a choice that many would die for. Throughout The Mob Museum, you’ll see how these choices played out and the often brutal consequences that followed. Choose a side now for a quick glimpse at just a few of the infamous figures investigated at The Mob Museum.
Name: Alphonsus Gabriel “Al” Capone
Born: Jan. 17, 1899 in Brooklyn, NY
Died: Jan. 25, 1947 (Aged 48)
Cause of Death: Stroke followed by pneumonia
“You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.”
The most famous mobster of all, Al Capone created an empire that soaked the city of Chicago in blood and alcohol. Although born into poverty, he rose through the underworld to become a national figure. He was seen by some as a modern-day Robin Hood fighting for personal freedoms during Prohibition, but his bloody involvement in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre along with the appearance of The Untouchables eventually spelled his downfall.
Exhibits to Witness:
- The actual wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, one of the most prized artifacts in the history of organized crime
- Profile exhibit on Capone, detailing his rise and eventual fall
- A look at prostitution which served to jump start Capone’s crime career
- From Capone to Gotti, a film treatment of the havoc that Mob violence has wreaked on society
Name: Salvatore Lucania
Alias: Charles “Lucky” Luciano
Born: Nov. 24, 1897 in Sicily, Italy
Died: Jan. 26, 1962 in Naples, Italy (Age 64)
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
“There’s no such thing as good money or bad money. There’s just money.”
There have been many Mob bosses, but Lucky Luciano is considered the true father of modern organized crime. After having his rivals gunned down, including his own boss, Luciano assumed control of his crime family and with the help of Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel created the National Crime Syndicate. By the end, he had become so powerful even the U.S. government asked for his help during World War II.
Exhibits to Witness:
- Exhibit on District Attorneys who were able to bring down Luciano
- Exhibit on Prostitution that helped Luciano rise to power and eventually led to his downfall
- Exhibit on Operation Underworld, the government project used to bring Luciano and other crime bosses in to aid against Nazi spies
Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel
Name: Benjamin Siegel
Born: Feb. 28, 1906 in Brooklyn, NY
Died: June 20, 1947 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Age 41)
Cause of Death: Homicide
“We only kill each other.”
Some say he was a visionary. Others say a fall guy. Bugsy Siegel’s lust for extravagance set the scene for modern-day Las Vegas, but in the end, it was that same lust that cost him his life. Siegel became most known as the man who oversaw the construction and operation of the Flamingo Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. When the opening went bad and money went missing, however, Siegel was shot to death in his own home – never getting a chance to see what Las Vegas would soon become.
Exhibits to Witness:
- Exhibit on the Mob’s West Coast interests including the city Siegel helped build
- Exhibit on the Race Wire that Siegel used to connect the coasts
Name: Meyer Lansky
Alias: “The Mob’s Accountant”
Born: July 4, 1902 in Grodno, Russia
Died: Jan. 15, 1983 in Miami Beach, Fla. (Age 80)
Cause of Death: Lung Cancer
“We’re bigger than U.S. Steel.”
Meyer Lansky was not from Italy. He was, however, very good at what he did. After forming the National Crime Syndicate with Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Siegel, Meyer used his management and mathematical skills to develop very successful gambling operations in New Orleans, Florida, Cuba and Las Vegas. With an empire stretching from coast to coast and an estimated worth of $300 million, he was at a time considered one of the most powerful men in the country.
Name: Momo Salvatore “Sam” Guingano
Born: June 15, 1908 in Chicago, Ill
Died: June 19, 1975 in Oak Park, Ill. (Age 67)
Cause of Death: Homicide
“I own Chicago. I own Miami. I own Las Vegas.”
Sam Giancana used his violent tendencies to quickly rise to the highest ranks of the Chicago Mob. Knowing real power rested in the government’s hands, he even began to dabble in politics. Many historians believe his stuffing of ballot boxes led to John F. Kennedy’s election in 1960, and he was even subpoenaed to testify about a possible CIA/Mafia plan to assassinate Fidel Castro. Before he could take the stand, however, he was shot to death in his home. Whether it was the CIA, a rival Mob boss, or one of his many estranged ex-girlfriends who pulled the trigger, we will most likely never know.
Name: John Gotti
Alias: “The Teflon Don”
Born: Oct. 27, 1940 in South Bronx, NY
Died: June 10, 2002 in Springfield, MO (Age 61)
Cause of Death: Cancer while incarcerated
“I never lie because I don’t fear anyone. You only lie when you’re afraid.”
John Gotti’s flamboyant lifestyle made him a household name. After having his own boss killed in 1985, Gotti became head of the Gambino crime family in New York where he focused on drug trafficking, gambling, extortion and stock fraud. Under his leadership, it was estimated the family made more than $500 million. Of course, his success came at a price. He was brought up on multiple charges, but he always managed to escape conviction leading to the nickname “The Teflon Don.” It was when his own underboss, Sammy The Bull, finally testified against Gotti, that he was found guilty and sentenced to life without parole.
Name: James Joseph Bulger, Jr.
Born: Sep. 3, 1929 in Dorchester, Mass.
Current Status: Captured
“Every day out there is another day I beat them. Every good meal is a meal they can’t take away from me”
Although now captured, Whitey Bulger was on the FBI’s Most Wanted List since 1999, right under Osama Bin Laden. He was a major player in the Boston crime scene, but he was also an FBI informant. He worked closely with the FBI, feeding them information about the dangerous Patriarca crime family, while organizing his own crime network behind the scenes. In 1994, he fled the area to escape an upcoming indictment after being tipped off by a former FBI contact. He remained at large for 16 years, until he was eventually hunted down by a special FBI task force in 2011.Today, he remains in custody awaiting trial for 48 different charges, including 19 counts of murder.
Name: Elmer Irey
Occupation: First Chief of the Intelligence Unit, Internal Revenue Service
Born: March 10, 1888 in Kansas City, MO
Died: July 19, 1948 in Shady Side, MD (Age 60)
Elmer Irey’s Intelligence Unit of the Internal Revenue Service used the art of money and income tax laws to do what many couldn’t at the time: bring justice to an unprecedented amount of kingpin gangsters and corrupt government officials. Irey, under the directive of President Herbert Hoover, ended Al Capone’s notorious reign over Chicago by convicting him for tax evasion. During his long and celebrated career, Irey and his team also convicted some of the nation’s largest underworld leaders, including Waxey Gordon, Dutch Schultz, Leon Gleckman, Nucky Johnson, Johnny Torrio and Tom Pendergast, in addition to helping solve the Lindbergh kidnapping and taking down the infamous Huey Long Gang. Irey’s epic accomplishments and unwavering character won him admiration and congratulations from many higher officials, including several presidents. To many, Irey was an American hero, the last defense against a criminal underworld that threatened the American public.
Name: Harry Anslinger
Occupation: First Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics
Born: May 20, 1892 in Bern, Switzerland
Died: November 14, 1975 in Altoona, Pennsylvania (Age 83)
“The first federal law-enforcement administrator to recognize the signs of a national criminal syndication and sound the alarm was Harry J. Anslinger.” – Ronald Reagan, 1986
What the government doesn’t allow, the Mob is usually willing to provide. In the times of Prohibition, they sold alcohol. When it was repealed, some crime families turned to selling drugs. Harry Anslinger is credited as being the first to recognize the Mob’s involvement with drugs. As commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Anslinger created a list of 800 suspected Mob men and named them all in a little black book he titled Mafia. This was the first federal study of organized crime that stretched across the country, and it was a huge step in understanding how big the Mob really was and how to begin taking it down.
Giuseppe Joseph Petrosino
Name: Giuseppe “Joe” Petrosino
Occupation: Lieutenant in the NYPD
Born: August 30, 1860 in Pedula, Italy
Died: March 12, 1909 in Palermo, Italy (Age 48)
Joe Petrosino was one of the first officers to give his life in the war against the Mob. A fierce rival and proud Italian, Petrosino took it upon himself to stand up against the Italian mobsters that terrorized New York. He created his own task force of officers, and was able to deport over 500 criminals back to Italy. During his investigations however, he discovered dangerous mob ties trailing back to Sicily. Fearless and determined, he sailed to Sicily to uncover the truth but was ambushed and murdered shortly after reaching port. A selfless hero and a pioneer in the battle against the Mob, Petrosino’s funeral was attended by over 250,000 people on April 12, 1909. Many of the crime fighting techniques he devised at the turn of the century are still being used to this day.
J. Edgar Hoover
Name: J. Edgar Hoover
Position: Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Born: January 1, 1895 in Washington, D.C.
Died: May 2, 1972 in Washington, D.C. (Age 77)
“The thousands of criminals I have seen in 40 years of law enforcement have had one thing in common: Every single one was a liar.”
Before becoming the director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover was pivotal in the fight against criminal gangs in the early 1930s. As director of the Bureau of Investigation, the precursor to the FBI, Hoover focused his sights on bank robbers in the Midwest. Although there were many failed attempts, the FBI, under Hoover’s leadership, was able to kill or capture a variety of high-profile targets such as John Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly and Alvin Karpis. This unprecedented success in the fight against organized crime convinced politicians to give the Bureau more authority and funding, which allowed it to grow into the Bureau we know today.
Name: Thomas Dewey
Position: Prosecutor, 47th Governor of New York
Born: March 24, 1902 in Owosso, MI
Died: March 16, 1971 in Miami, FL (Age 68)
“The law is bigger than money – but only if the law works hard enough.”
During the height of organized crime in the United States. When the National Crime Syndicate had spread its tentacles across the country, honest, hard-working men like Thomas Dewey were given the almost insurmountable task to bring the Mob to justice. Dewey was so good, he nearly succeeded. He was a tenacious prosecutor. In a span of four years, he obtained 72 convictions out of 73 prosecutions against a variety of New York mobsters. He was even able to convict Lucky Luciano, the head of the National Crime Syndicate, after raiding 80 of Luciano’s brothels. With the Mob severely crippled, Dewey went on to a successful and honest career as the Governor of New York.
Carey Estes Kefauver
Name: Carey Estes Kefauver
Position: United States Senator
Born: July 26, 1903 in Madisonville, TN
Died: August 10, 1963 in Bethesda, MD (Age 60)
Senator Kefauver was known as a crusader for civil rights and antitrust legislation, but he is most famous for exposing organized crime to the entire country. In the late 1940s, the Mob had spread from coast to coast, corrupting politics and threatening entire economies with brutish labor racketeering. The federal government was forced to act and Senator Estes Kefauver was named the head of a special committee created to investigate organized crime. The committee held hearings in 14 cities, including Las Vegas, and received testimony by more than 600 witnesses. The Las Vegas hearing was conducted in the very courtroom of the building that houses The Mob Museum. Most importantly, these hearing were broadcast on TV. For once, these shadowy figures where brought into the light, and Kefauver was right there to turn the screws. When the hearings were over, Kefauver was a national icon and a groundbreaking figure in the fight against organized crime.
Name: Joseph D. Pistone
Alias: “Donnie Brasco”
Position: Undercover Agent for the FBI
Born: September 17, 1939 in Erie, PA
Joseph Pistone is considered an FBI legend. And with good cause. Pistone spent 6 years uncover, infiltrating the Bonanno and Colombo crime families in New York. For 6 years, there was no Joseph Pistone. The FBI had him erased. There was only Donnie Brasco, with a knack for truck hijacking and jewel theft. Although the assignment was only supposed to last 6 months, Pistone was left inside to gain crucial evidence against the families. When the job was finally over, Pistone’s work resulted in over 200 indictments and over 100 convictions. It was a phenomenal blow to the Mafia and cemented undercover work as a crucial tool against organized crime.
Name: Rudolph “Rudy” Giuliani
Position: Prosecutor, Mayor of New York City
Born: May 28, 1944 in Brooklyn, NY
“The era of fear has had a long enough reign.”
Rudy Giuliani is known as the Mayor who cleaned up New York City, but even before then he was helping to keep the streets safe as a federal prosecutor. In 1985, Mob warfare was spilling out onto the streets as men like John Gotti were making plays for power. In an effort to stop the bloodshed, Giuliani indicted 11 high-profile Mob figures. Using evidence obtained by the FBI, he was able to convict 8 of the defendants, dealing an incredible blow to the Five Mob Families of New York. Time magazine called the trial, “the most significant assault on the infrastructure of organized crime since the high command of the Chicago Mafia was swept away in 1943.”