|“||Bugsy never hesitated when danger threatened. While we tried to figure out what the best move was, Bugsy was already shooting. When it came to action there was no one better. I've never known a man who had more guts.||„|
|~ Joseph Stacher on Siegel.|
Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel (February 28, 1906-June 20, 1947) was an Israeli-American Jewish mobster from Brooklyn, New York City. He was closely affiliated with the Italian-American Mafia and to a lesser extent, the Russian Mafia. He was also a close friend of an Ashkenazi Jewish mobster named Meyer Lansky. His life ended when he was assassinated.
Benjamin Siegel was born on February 28, 1906, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, the second of five children of a poor Jewish family that emigrated to the U.S. from the Galicia region of what was then Austria-Hungary. His parents, Jennie (Riechenthal) and Max Siegel, constantly worked for meager wages.
As a boy, Siegel left school and joined a gang on Lafayette Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He committed mainly thefts until he met Moe Sedway. Together with Sedway, Siegel developed a protection racket in which he threatened to incinerate pushcart owners' merchandise unless they paid him a dollar. Siegel soon built up a lengthy criminal record, dating from his teenage years, that included armed robbery, rape and murder.
He was know to be a boyhood friend of Al Capone.
Siegel began his career extorting money from Jewish pushcart peddlers on New York’s Lower East Side. He then teamed up with Meyer Lansky about 1918 and took to car theft and, later, bootlegging and gambling rackets in New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. He and Lansky also ran a murder-for-hire operation, the forerunner of Murder, Inc. In 1931 he was one of the four executioners of Giuseppe Masseria, alongside Vito Genovese, Joe Adonis, and Albert Anastasia.
On September 10 of that year, Charles Luciano hired four gunmen from the Bugs and Meyer Mob (some sources identify Siegel as being one of the gunmen) to murder Salvatore Maranzano in his New York office, establishing Luciano's rise to the top of the Mafia and marking the beginning of modern American organized crime.
Following Maranzano's death, Luciano and Lansky formed the National Crime Syndicate, an organization of crime families that brought power to the underworld. The Commission was established for dividing Mafia territories and preventing future gang wars. With his associates, Siegel formed Murder, Inc.
After he and Lansky moved on, control over Murder, Inc. was ceded to Buchalter and Anastasia, although Siegel continued working as a hitman. Siegel's only conviction was in Miami; on February 28, 1932, he was arrested for gambling and vagrancy, and, from a roll of bills, paid a $100 fine.
During this period, Siegel had a disagreement with the Fabrizzo brothers, associates of Waxey Gordon. Gordon had hired the Fabrizzo brothers from prison after Lansky and Siegel gave the IRS information about Gordon's tax evasion. It led to Gordon's imprisonment in 1933. Siegel hunted down and killed the Fabrizzos after they made an assassination attempt on him and Lansky.
After the deaths of his two brothers, Tony Fabrizzo had begun to write a memoir and gave it to an attorney. One of the longest chapters was to be a section on the nationwide kill-for-hire squad led by Siegel. However, the mob discovered Fabrizzo's plans before he could execute them. In 1932, after checking into a hospital to establish an alibi and later sneaking out, Siegel joined two accomplices in approaching Fabrizzo's house and, posing as detectives to lure him outside, gunned him down. In 1935, Siegel assisted in Luciano's alliance with Dutch Schultz and killed rival loan sharks Louis "Pretty" Amberg and Joseph C. Amberg.
In 1937 the syndicate leaders sent him to the West Coast to develop rackets there. In California the handsome gangster successfully developed gambling dens, gambling ships (offshore beyond the 12-mile [19-km] limit), narcotics smuggling, blackmail, and other illegal enterprises and equally successfully cultivated the company and friendship of Hollywood stars and celebrities.
He developed a nationwide bookmakers’ wire service and in 1945 began realizing his dream of a gambling oasis in the desert northeast of Los Angeles. In that year he built the Flamingo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, originally budgeted at $1,500,000 but costing eventually $6,000,000, much of it in syndicate funds from the east. The cost overruns involved extensive skimming by Siegel, who had his girlfriend Virginia Hill deposit the money in European banks; he also began writing bad checks to cover construction costs. Such actions and other duplicities angered Lansky and other eastern bosses.
In the late evening of June 20, 1947, Siegel was killed in his palatial Beverly Hills home, brought down by a fusillade of bullets fired through his living-room window. At almost the same moment, three of Lansky’s henchmen walked into the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas and declared that they were taking over.