CRIME Murder. Inc.
The underworld's Gaudy Era, when that wealthy foursome, Lucky Luciano (prostitutes), Joe Adonis (bootlegging), Meyer Lansky (industrial rackets) and Jimmy Hines (politics), played golf at swank Hot Springs, Ark., ended around 1935. Dead was Gangster Vannie Higgins, who had owned and piloted his own airplane. Bootlegger Frankie Yale (Uale), bumped off, had been given a $50,000 funeral. Gunman Legs Diamond had at last been rubbed out, and his flowerlike Kiki Roberts, who had danced in Ziegfeld's Follies, had gone back to dancing in a roadhouse for a living. In 1935 organized crime appeared to have hit the skids. But:
One day late in November, two years before, three men had cornered Alex (Red) Alpert, a Brooklyn, N. Y. hoodlum, in a yard on Van Siclen Avenue, shot him in the back and rode on down the street in a car. . . .
One night in May 1937, George Rudnick, known to the police as a stool pigeon, went riding through Brooklyn in a stolen car with some friends, who suddenly throttled him, stabbed him 54 times with an ice pick. . . .
On a day in July, the same year, the body of a certain Walter Sage was tied to a slot machine, dumped into Swan Lake in the Catskill Mountains of Sullivan County. . . .
One summer morning last year, Irving Penn, a respectable music publisher, who had the misfortune to resemble a man suspected of knowing too much about Louis (Lepke) Buchalter, was shot to death from a passing car. . . .
Those were a few. There had been many another in the past five years. Sullivan County, summer playground of many New York City mobsters, became a dumping ground for corpses. Organized crime had gone underground, but it went on. That was the situation when William O'Dwyer became district attorney for Kings County last January.
Born in County Mayo, Ireland, O'Dwyer had walked a beat as a New York City cop, had studied and practiced law, been appointed a magistrate, elevated to a county judgeship. His brother had been mortally wounded by three gunmen during a Brooklyn café holdup. District Attorney O'Dwyer took office with a deep hatred of gangsters. Forthwith he assigned a staff of men to go back into the murders of Alpert, Sage, Rudnick, Penn.
The "heat" was turned on in Brooklyn. With a shred of evidence here, an informer's tip there, O'Dwyer's men worked quietly & quickly, one by one rounded up a crowd of tightlipped, sullen men & women, took them into custody for questioning. Among them were two whose sullenness had more fear than courage: Abraham (Pretty) Levine, Anthony (Duke) Maffetore. Their fear was that they were going to be double-crossed, left by others to take the rap. They began talking. Foul was their story.
For six or seven years, in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, around certain poolrooms, bars, candy stores where idle young hoodlums gathered to swagger, play the slot machines, a sinister kind of talent had been for sale at bargain prices: anything from roughing up and terrorizing a racket victim to "removing" a State's witness, killing stool pigeons and underworld rivals. The killers worked for small pay: Pretty Levine, who told reporters he joined the gang at the age of 13, confessed he took part in the Sage killing for a net profit of one dollar.