Harry Strauss, Martin Goldstein, Abe Reles and Harry Maione
- Daily News, March 19, 1940
This was merely the tip of the iceberg.
The men arrested were part of what the press
later dubbed Murder, Inc., the enforcement arm of the Mafia. Though
they were based out of Midnight Rose's candy store in Brownsville,
their reach was national. More than 400 killings across the country
would eventually be laid at the doorstep of these men.
The idea behind Murder, Inc. was a simple
one. When Meyer Lansky and Charles (Lucky) Luciano formed a national
syndicate of crime (essentially organized crime franchises under
a ruling board known as the "Commission"), they realized
the need for a body of men to keep order and enforce decisions
of the syndicate committee. Thus Murder, Inc. was born. Under
the Commission's guidelines, Mobsters from around the country
had the right to ask for a Murder, Inc. killer to come and take
care of whatever problem they faced, though there were restrictions.
Murder, Inc. could not be used to kill civilians,
only those involved with the Mafia. It was felt that killing innocent
people, corrupt politicians, police officers and reporters generated
too much heat, and might interfere with other mob ventures.
O'Dwyer had no idea what he had caught a
piece of, until one of them started to talk.
- Daily News, May 16, 1940.
Once a lieutenant in Murder, Inc., Reles was charged with murder by police in 1940. He feared other mobsters who were behind bars would sell out first, so he started singing his lungs out. In a short time he told authorities the details of over 200 mob sanctioned killings. But before he could testify against the Mafia's top players, Reles went out the window of the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island under mysterious circumstances.
He became known as the canary who sang, but
According to a yellowing folder in the Daily
News morgue, Murder, Inc. included:
Mendy Weiss, a vicious killer with
eyes of stone.
Abe (Kid Twist) Reles, a name he
took from a vicious killer of an earlier generation.
Frank (The Dasher) Abbandando, who
got his nickname from a botched job where he ran around the
block from his victim so fast he caught up with him from behind
and pumped three bullets into him.
Seymour (Blue Jaw) Magoon, a killer
who always looked like he needed a shave.
Martin (Buggsy) Goldstein, earned
his name the same way Bugsy Siegel did, by being a a little
crazy, or "buggy."
Vito (Chicken Head) Gurino, earned
his moniker because he used chickens for target practice.
Harry (Happy) Maione, a man who wore
a perpetual scowl.
Harry (Pittsburgh Phil) Strauss who,
as far as anyone knew, never spent time in Pittsburgh. He killed
so callously that he didn't know who his victims were. Often,
he would pick up the paper after a job to find out who he had
killed and why.
Oscar the Poet, so called because
he was arrested while reading poetry in the park.
Leaders of the group, who were notorious
in their own right, have their own folders in the News archive.
Menlike Lepke Buchalter, Albert Anastasia, and
Not all killers have a particular m.o., and
many of the members of Murder, Inc. were quite versatile in their
killing methods. Below are some of the implements they used for
The ice pick, often used to conceal the cause of
death. By sticking the ice pick into the
ear of the victim it was possible to scramble the brains and
make the death look very much like cerebral hemorrhage. The
small puncture wound often went unnoticed by authorities.
sometimes used to slit a throat quickly, sometimes used to slowly
of all sorts, although the Thompson submachine gun is by far
the most famous of Mafia weaponry.
achieved by hand, piano wire, or rope.
by fist, pipe or baseball bat, usually resulted in death for
Estimates of the number of people slain by
Murder, Inc. range from 200 all the way to 1,000, in a six year
period. The upper end figure my seem ridiculous, but it comes
from the man who prosecuted the killers.
Two of the most famous victims of Murder,
Inc. are Louis (Pretty) Amberg (left), a notorious gangster and
killer himself, and Dutch Schultz, a member of the syndicate.
There are hundreds of other victims attributed to Murder, Inc., many of them never found and most of them anonymous to history.