It is not clear how Luciano earned the nickname "Lucky". It may have come from surviving a severe beating and throat slashing by three men in as the result of his refusal to work for another mob boss. On January 17, , the Eighteenth Amendment to the U. Constitution took effect and Prohibition lasted until the amendment was repealed in The amendment prohibited the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages.
Demand for alcohol naturally continued, the resulting black market for alcoholic beverages providing criminals with an additional source of income. By , Luciano had met many future Mafia leaders, including Vito Genovese and Frank Costello , his longtime friend and future business partner through the Five Points Gang. Rothstein served as a mentor for Luciano; among other things, Rothstein taught him how to move in high society. In , Luciano was caught in a sting selling heroin to undercover agents.
Although he saw no jail time, being outed as a drug peddler damaged his reputation among his high-class associates and customers. To salvage his reputation, Luciano bought expensive seats to the Jack Dempsey — Luis Firpo boxing match in the Bronx and distributed them to top gangsters and politicians. Rothstein then took Luciano on a shopping trip to Wanamaker's Department Store in Manhattan to buy expensive clothes for the fight.
The strategy worked, and Luciano's reputation was saved. Luciano soon became a top aide in Masseria's criminal organization. In contrast to Rothstein, Masseria was uneducated, with poor manners and limited managerial skills.
By the late s, Masseria's main rival was boss Salvatore Maranzano , who had come from Sicily to run the Castellammarese clan. Their rivalry eventually escalated into the bloody Castellammarese War.
Masseria and Maranzano were so-called " Mustache Petes ": older, traditional Mafia bosses who had started their criminal careers in Italy.
They believed in upholding the supposed "Old World Mafia" principles of "honor," "tradition," "respect," and "dignity. Some of the most conservative bosses worked with only those men with roots in their own Sicilian village. Luciano, in contrast, was willing to work with not only Italians, but also Jewish and Irish gangsters, as long as there was money to be made. Luciano was shocked to hear traditional Sicilian mafiosi lecture him about his dealings with close friend Costello, whom they called "the dirty Calabrian ".
Luciano soon began cultivating ties with other younger mobsters who had been born in Italy but began their criminal careers in the United States. Known as the Young Turks, they chafed at their bosses' conservatism. Luciano wanted to use lessons he learned from Rothstein to turn their gang activities into criminal empires.
The Young Turks believed that their bosses' greed and conservatism were keeping them poor while the Irish and Jewish gangs got rich. Luciano's vision was to form a national crime syndicate in which the Italian, Jewish, and Irish gangs could pool their resources and turn organized crime into a lucrative business for all—an organization he founded after a conference was hosted in Atlantic City by Luciano, Johnny Torrio , Lansky and Costello in May In October , Luciano was forced into a limousine at gunpoint by three men, beaten and stabbed, and strung up by his hands from a beam in a warehouse in Staten Island.
When picked up by the police after the beating, Luciano said that he had no idea who did it. However, in , Luciano told an interviewer that it was the police who kidnapped and beat him in an attempt to find Jack "Legs" Diamond.
In early , Luciano decided to eliminate Masseria. The war had been going poorly for Masseria, and Luciano saw an opportunity to switch allegiance. In a secret deal with Maranzano, Luciano agreed to engineer Masseria's death in return for receiving Masseria's rackets and becoming Maranzano's second-in-command.
However, Adonis instead warned Luciano about the murder plot. While they played cards, Luciano allegedly excused himself to go to the bathroom, at which point gunmen, reportedly Anastasia, Genovese, Adonis, and Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel , entered the restaurant.
Maranzano called a meeting of crime bosses in Wappingers Falls, New York , where he declared himself capo di tutti capi "boss of all bosses". Luciano appeared to accept these changes, but was merely biding his time before removing Maranzano. Convinced that Maranzano planned to murder them, Luciano decided to act first. They had been secured with the aid of Lansky and Siegel. The other two, aided by Lucchese, who was there to point Maranzano out, stabbed the boss multiple times before shooting him.
Several days later, on September 13, the corpses of two other Maranzano allies, Samuel Monaco and Louis Russo, were retrieved from Newark Bay, showing evidence of torture. Meanwhile, Joseph Siragusa, leader of the Pittsburgh crime family , was shot to death in his home. The October 15 disappearance of Joe Ardizonne , head of the Los Angeles family , would later be regarded as part of this alleged plan to quickly eliminate the old-world Sicilian bosses.
With the death of Maranzano, Luciano became the dominant crime boss in the United States. He had reached the pinnacle of America's underworld, setting policies and directing activities along with the other Mafia bosses. His own crime family controlled lucrative criminal rackets in New York City such as illegal gambling, extortion, bookmaking , loansharking , and drug trafficking. Luciano became very influential in labor union activities and controlled the Manhattan Waterfront , garbage hauling, construction, Garment District businesses, and trucking.
Although there would have been few objections had Luciano declared himself capo di tutti capi, he abolished the title, believing the position created trouble between the families and made himself a target for another ambitious challenger. However, Luciano did not discard all of Maranzano's changes. He believed that the ceremony of becoming a " made man " in a crime family was a Sicilian anachronism.
However, Genovese persuaded Luciano to keep the title, arguing that young people needed rituals to promote obedience to the family. In addition, he kept Maranzano's structure of five crime families in New York City. Luciano elevated his most trusted Italian associates to high-level positions in what was now the Luciano crime family. Genovese became underboss and Costello consigliere. Because Lansky and Siegel were non-Italians, neither man could hold official positions within any Mafia family.
However, Lansky was a top advisor to Luciano and Siegel a trusted associate. Later in , Luciano called a meeting in Chicago with various bosses, where he proposed a Commission to serve as the governing body for organized crime. The Commission was originally composed of representatives of the Five Families of New York City, the Buffalo crime family , and the Chicago Outfit ; later, the crime families of Philadelphia and Detroit were added, with smaller families being formally represented by a Commission family.
The group's first test came in , when it ordered Dutch Schultz to drop his plans to murder Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Luciano argued that a Dewey assassination would precipitate a massive law enforcement crackdown; the national crime syndicate had enacted a hard and fast rule stating that law enforcement and prosecutors were not to be harmed.
An enraged Schultz said he would kill Dewey anyway and walked out of the meeting. Upon hearing the news, the Commission held a discreet meeting to discuss the matter. After six hours of deliberations the Commission ordered Lepke Buchalter to eliminate Schultz.
During the early s, Luciano's crime family started taking over small scale prostitution operations in New York City. Lehman appointed Dewey, a U. Attorney , as a special prosecutor to combat organized crime in the city. Carter took measures to prevent police corruption from impeding the raids: she assigned police officers outside of the vice squad to conduct the raids, and the officers were instructed to wait on street corners until they received their orders, minutes before the raids were to begin.
She convinced many to testify rather than serve additional jail time. Luciano associate David Betillo was in charge of the prostitution ring in New York; any money that Luciano received was from Betillo. In late March , Luciano received a tip that he was going to be arrested and fled to Hot Springs , Arkansas.
Unfortunately for him, a New York detective in Hot Springs on a different assignment spotted Luciano and notified Dewey. The next day in New York, Dewey indicted Luciano and his accomplices on 60 counts of compulsory prostitution.
Luciano's lawyers in Arkansas then began a fierce legal battle against extradition. Bailey to facilitate Luciano's case.
However, Bailey refused the bribe and immediately reported it. On April 17, after all of Luciano's legal options had been exhausted, Arkansas authorities handed him to three NYPD detectives for transport by train back to New York for trial.
Louis , Missouri, the detectives and Luciano changed trains. During this switchover, they were guarded by 20 local policemen to prevent a mob rescue attempt.
The men arrived in New York on April 18, and Luciano was sent to jail without bail. On May 13, , Luciano's pandering trial began. In his book, Five Families, longtime New York Times organized-crime columnist Selwyn Raab wrote that a number of scholars have questioned whether Luciano was directly involved in "the Combination. However, Raab wrote, several Mafia and legal scholars believed that it would have been "out of character" for a crime boss of Luciano's stature to be directly involved in a prostitution ring.
Raab wrote that the evidence Dewey presented against Luciano was "astonishingly thin," and argued that it would have been more appropriate to charge Luciano with extortion. Send Feedback. Forgot Password? Sign Out. Email Subscriptions. Redeem Gift Certificate.
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