He was a mafia insider whose ex-friend Louie "Lepke" Buchalter "decided he knew too much to live in. As a result, Harry" Big Greenie "Greenberg fell victim to the first mafia attack ever in sunny California.
Harry Greenberg, who also went by the names Harry Schacter and Harry Schober, grew up in lower eastern Manhattan along with Lepke and Lepke's longtime partner Jacob "Gurrah" Shapiro, affectionately known as "Gorilla Boys," and then, as they became more prosperous, the "Golden Dust Twins." Greenberg was close to the two murderers, and was a partner in various dressing and scamming businesses. he must have known about the killings and why they were committed. Maybe Greenberg even knew who committed those murders. It turned out to be not such a good thing in the evil world of Louis "Lepke" Buchalter.
Greenberg hung out with Lepke and Shapiro and spent most of the summer with them at Loch Sheldrake Village Club in Catskills, New York, owned by legal businessman Sam Tannenbaum. Tannenbaum himself had a son, a teenager, Allie, who worked at the hotel, either waiting tables or setting up chairs on the beach by the lake. Sam hoped that Allie would be his successor at the hotel when Sam decided to retire, but Allie was destined for bigger and better things.
Or so Allie thought.
In the late summer of 1931, Tannenbaum was walking Broadway in Manhattan when he ran into Greenberg.
Greenberg asked Tannenbaum, "Do you want a job?"
"I could use it, if it pays off," Tannenbaum said.
Greenberg smiled. "This one's for Lepke. You know what the job will be."
Greenberg inadvertently just helped hire one of his killers.
As time went on, Tannenbaum was climbing the ranks in Lepke's "Murder Incorporated," which was an affiliate of mobsters whose sole purpose was to kill anyone who is top mafia bosses in New York, and later mafia bosses throughout. America, she said she should be killed.
Things began to go south for Lepke when, in 1936, Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey, who was already in prison for the 30-year sentence of Lucky Lucian, Lepke's partner with the National Crime Syndicate, was jailed for 30 years. directly to Adhesives. Dewey took care of the rackets for Lepke's clothes, and Lepke's earthquake "Baker's Union." However, these scams were a small potato compared to what Dewey really had in mind for the Leps. Convicted drug dealers have always spent considerable time in prison, so Dewey persuaded the Federal Narcotics Bureau to launch a case against Lepke, in a massive drug smuggling operation. Realizing he was facing a big time, Lepke headed for the goal. Lepke was hidden in several Brooklyn hiding places by his co-director, Murder Incorporated Albert Anastasia, while Lepke's rackets were held by other Union leaders.
While Lepke was hiding, he began to think about who knew enough about his rackets, to put Lepke in jail for a very long, if not straight, electric chair. Lepke told all his murderers and everyone in the know to "Either get out of town or die." Lepke's thinking was that if any of his men were arrested, he could get mad at him to get the best deal for himself. It turned out that Lepke was right about that, which is why in the spring of 1939, Lepke sent a message to "Big Greenie" Greenberg to escort him out of town.
Greenberg took Lepke's "advice" to his heart and put it up to Montreal, Canada. While I was in Montreal, Greenberg was thinking, "Hey, I'm up here in Canada, and I can't even make decent money. These guys better start taking care of me."
As a result, "Big Greenie" Greenberg did something very stupid. He sent a letter to Mendy Weiss, who was Lepke's second in command at Murder Inc., saying, "I hope you guys don't forget about me. You better not." He then asked Weiss a reported $ 5,000 to help him fight the cold weather in Canada.
Greenberg was waiting for an answer, or money, or both. When he got none, he thought again. "Hey, maybe sending that letter wasn't such a great idea."
By this point, after hanging out with Lepke, Weiss had already ordered Tannenbaum to go to Canada and remove Big Greenie from Lepke's "people to worry about" list. But when Tannenbaum arrived in Montreal, Big Greenie had already flown a plane and was officially a "lamer", not only from the law, but also from guys he thought were his best friends.
Greenberg figured they would take this all the way to Detroit, where the Purple Gang, another affiliate of the National Crime Syndicate, might be nice enough to invest a few bucks for him, and maybe even give Greenberg a safe place to hide. The purple gang, run by Sammy Coen, whose nickname was Sammy Purple, was very handsome to Greenberg; too green thought Greenberg While waiting for some money from the cast, Big Greenie started thinking again and the idea came to him that the Purple Gang had delayed him so that the New York killers could travel there to do big work on Big Green.
"They must have checked the New York office," Greenberg mused. "The New York guys certainly told them that, and hold it until we bring some boys upstairs. & # 39;"
Greenberg was right. Tannenbaum and two other guns were heading for Detroit at exactly the right time when Greenberg decided to seek the advice of Horace Greeley and "Go Western Young."
Greenberg went as far west as possible without swimming, stopping in Hollywood, California, the new hometown of Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, the top boss of Murder Incorporated, and one of the few killers who thoroughly enjoyed doing his job.
Siegel was sent from California in 1937 by the National Crime Syndicate to take control of all illegal activity in the state, which the East Coast mafia considered a virgin territory. After organizing union gambling interests, Siegel decided that he would make big money by joining Hollywood extras.
You could have the biggest movie stars, the best screenplays and top producers and directors, but without the accessories, most movies could never be made. So Siegel unionized the extras and collected tidy sums from each of them for the privilege of appearing, if only for a few seconds, in a Hollywood production. Siegel even became an additional movie.
However, it was a big change from what Siegel really had in mind.
Tall and Hollywood handsome, Siegel plunged into the upper reaches of the Hollywood elite. He dated two starlets, and even had a hot and heavy affair with the Italian Countess. The top actors and actresses of the time were Siegel's best friends, but they quickly learned that being friends with a man known as Bugsy (no one ever called him "Bugsy" in the face) was an easy way to set up a huge dent in your bank account.
Using the same technique he learned from Lepke in the unions, Siegel approached the biggest stars with his smooth sample line. He would romanticize female stars and then scare them with his reputation and a few pointed words. But with male stars, Siegel got right to the point
With a notebook and a pen in Siegel's hands, the conversation would go like this: "Hey, look, man, I'm giving you $ 10,000 for an extra."
"What's the deal?" the actor would protest. "What do I have to do with accessories?"
Siegel would then shake his head, like a father indignant at an unknown child. "I don't think you understand. For example, take a picture of your new picture. Every thing is ready to go. But what happens if the extras strike? This means that the stages also strike because everyone is united. So there's your picture. . "
Without blinking, every Hollywood star Siegel, without exception, came and paid well. In 1940, when the Fed received a warrant for Siegel's Thirty-Fifth Hall Holmby Hill & # 39; s, they found in a safe place a detailed account of the "credit" Siegel received for all top Hollywood names. In just one year, Bugsy Siegel upset actors and actresses to the tune of $ 400,000. And no one complained to the cops. These scared Hollywood suckers even got away with Siegel as he thrust his hands deep into their pockets.
So when word came from the West East that Greenberg was in Hollywood, of course Siegel got a contract. Now, usually the stature man of Siegel would simply issue orders and perhaps help with the planning. But Siegel, against Lepke's advice, insisted on embarking on the actual Greenberg murder.
Bugsy simply liked a good kill.
"We all begged Bugsy to stay away from the shooting," Lepke's Dr. Stracher said years later. "He was too big a man by this point to get involved personally. But Bugsy wouldn't listen. He said Greenberg was a threat to all of us and had been grabbed by cops, he could tell the whole story of our clothes by the 1920s."
At Newark Airport, just before he boarded Hollywood, Tannenbaum gave the boss of an instrument bag the New Jersey boss himself sent: Abner "Longie" Zwillman. Inside this bag were several "clean" rifles, which were to be used at Hollywood's Greenberg Café.
Meanwhile, Siegel was assembling his "hit team," which included Whitey Krakow, Siegel's son-in-law from New York, and Frankie Carbo, a thief from the lower east and operator of Murder Inc., who had already been arrested 17 times and charged with five murders, but none of the charges resulted in Carbo spending significant time in jail. Carbo was also a big fight promoter and manager, and many of his top fighters are suspected of not making the most of their efforts when their boss and his friends placed themselves on another man.
Now the question came about getting a getaway car.
Solem Bernstein, an independent operator from New York, was just vacationing in Hollywood when he decided to visit his old friend Benny Siegel. Soon Bernstein will be sorry that he ever made that visit.
Before the conversation even began, Siegel went over the matter.
"Trim the car," Siegel barked at Bernstein. "Leave it in the parking lot down the street."
Bernstein, a veteran in this matter, seemed confused. Usually, when he clipped his car, he hid it in a private garage, where police couldn't see it.
"Parking?" Bernstein said.
"That's right," Siegel replied. "Just do as I said?"
So Bernstein clipped the car and parked it in the open parking lot, just as Siegel had requested. Almost immediately, the owner of the stolen car filed a police report. As they were searching for the stolen car, officers spotted it outdoors and returned it to its rightful owner.
Despite this accident, Siegel told Bernstein to take off another car. Bernstein said he would, and he even told Siegel how he usually operated. "Then you remove the license plates from another car that you happen to see the owner use only once, like a Sunday driver," Bernstein said. "When the guy finds out, you're done and the cops are looking for him – why are his plates on the hit car. Then you …"
Siegel interrupted Bernstein in the middle of the sentence.
The veins sticking in his neck, Siegel said, "Who the hell are you coming in and telling me how to do a job? It's going my way here. And don't forget it."
Although Bernstein was in Hollywood on vacation, the rules of the mob were when the mob boss tells you to do something, do it, or you're dead. But Bernstein realized, when he returned to New York City and asked to do the job, the mob bosses, because Bernstein was a capable freelancer, let him handle things his own way. Now, since Siegel dictated terms, Bernstein felt he had no obligation to continue the business. So Bernstein got in his car and headed for New York, which didn't end Siegel all the way and made him find someone to steal a car for Greenberg. Furious, Siegel now wanted Bernstein dead.
But about that later.
By this point, surveillance of the Greenberg residence at 1804 N. Vista De Mar Drive had revealed that Greenberg was little more than a desert. He never left home except for a 15-minute night drive each time to get a newspaper in nearby Bel Air. Greenberg told his wife that a small night out "prevented him from rising."
On the night of November 22, 1939, on Thanksgiving, armed gunmen blew him Goldstein.
Immediately after dark, Tamanbaum picked up the stolen car from the parking lot. He then drove Siegel and Carbo to Siegel's home to retrieve Siegel's Cadillac, which was to be used as a car in a collision in case police or stray passersby decided to chase them after the act was done. The two cars, with Carb in Siegel's car, then drove to the site of several houses below Greenberg's residence. They watched as a few hours later, Greenberg got out of his house, looked closely both times (missing two parked cars down the block), got into his car and ran away. Carbo then got out of Siegel's car, ran down the block and hid in the bushes near Greenberg's house.
Like clockwise, just over 30 minutes later, Greenberg turned onto Yucca Street and headed toward 1804 N. Vista De Mar Drive. Greenberg's car passed two parked cars, but both Tannenbaum and Siegel sat in their seats so they couldn't be seen. Fluttering a second later, Tannenbaum flashed his headlights, only for a moment, alerting Carb, who was waiting for his wings ready to exit the stage straight to the scene. While Greenberg was trying to get out of his car, Carbo walked out of the shadows and shot five bullets into Greenberg's head.
Then Carbo ran back to the stolen car and jumped past Tannenbaum. Tannenbaum stormed off, and Siegel ended in his downfall of the Cadillac immediately afterwards. (The colliding car was always a legal registered car, so that after the collision, either with a police car or with a civilian civilian car, he could claim that he had just lost control of his car.) a certain place where they met another co-conspirator who was waiting in a third car. Chapter three turned out to be Champ Segal, a juvenile criminal who was always willing to help the big guys with anything. Segal immediately took Tannenbaum to San Francisco, where, after completing the mission, Tannenbaum jumped a plane east.
Still, Siegel had a stone in his shoes and that stone was named Sholem Bernstein.
There was a system that existed with the National Crime Commission for Dispute Resolution. Bernstein could not touch Siegel unless Siegel had the permission of the chief of Bernstein's territory of New York. The bosses of New York City considered Bernstein one of their best men and they refused to hurt the hair on their heads. But Siegel was hesitant that Bernstein had to die, so this forced Siegel to fly to New York City to pledge his death sentence for Bernstein in his case.
The National Crime Commission is proud of its internal justice system. Any person targeted by death is allowed to plead in a kangaroo court, usually by someone in the organization. The man who took Bernstein's part was none other than Abe Reles, who had not yet turned canary and was still very much alive. As it turned out when he took a stand against his old friends, Reles had a way with words, and he could be very convincing when his urge came, which was quite common given his career.
The sitting took place in a downtown hotel room, with a nine-member council deciding the fate of Bernstein, for whom no appeal was possible. Siegel first pleaded his case, firmly saying that Bernstein was at work, and not only did he not violate direct orders, but left the scene before his job was completed. Siegel pointed out that the punishment for that was death. Period
Now it was Reles & # 39; turn away.
Reles began by saying he did not call witnesses. He also admitted that his client – Bernstein – had indeed fled California before he was able to steal a much needed second car for murder. And then Reles explained why his client was completely innocent of all the charges.
Reles told the panel: "The same day Ben gave him the contract, Sholem received a message from New York that his mom would make money. Sholem is a good boy. Mom is dying; he thinks he should go there. You know how mom is "It's easier for her boyfriend to sit by the bed and say nice things – like he loves her and she gets better and better."
"So Sholem doesn't think of a contract either. He doesn't think of anything. Get out of LA and rush home to be with his mother when she leaves. He drives day and night. He drives everything he wants to keep. He's a good boy."
Reles & # 39; he raised his chin in the air and raised his voice an octave. "And these gentlemen," he said, "that's why Sholem left town. Not to cancel the contract. But because of the bill, his mom starts."
When Reles finished, there was no dry eye in the room; not even Siegel. Bernstein was unanimously released, and Ben Siegel flew back to California, only for his own murder contract to be approved by the National Crime Syndicate, and executed briefly, on June 20, 1947.