Tuesday, August 1, 2017


There is a large contingent of historians who believe there should be a landmark to Jewish gangster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, on a plaque somewhere in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The plaque would symbolize his contribution to what Las Vegas has become.  They often believe that Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel is the one man who is responsible for Las Vegas.

They also believe for some reason or another that Las Vegas was solely his idea. They are all wrong.  What they fail to understand is
history.  The mafia's inclusion into the gaming industry really became prevalent in Cuba.  They wanted a land-lock on legal gambling way before Las Vegas was introduced.  To say that Bugsy Siegel was the sole man behind the idea is pretty laughable.  Poor Meyer Lanksy can't get any respect even today. But before we get into the details we have to know who Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel was, and just how he and Lansky came together.

Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel was born February28, 1906 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to Russian Jewish parents. He was the second of five children.  He grew up poor and like many of  of his predecessors
and vowed to himself that he would not live his entire life poor.  When he had the chance, he quit school, and joined his first gang.  He began to run with some street hoodlums off Lafayette street on the lower east side of Manhattan. They mainly stole goods and would intimidate store owners for small protection money.  Along the way Siegel was charged with theft, rape, armed robbery, and murder.

It was during his teenage years that he met Meyer Lansky. Together they formed more protection rackets, auto theft rings and more.  It was through Meyer Lansky that Benjamin met Charles "Lucky" Luciano, who at the time believed that all gangsters should profit from activities and rather than exclude the "Jews from Williamsburg," allowing them to form their own groups.  It was a two fold reason for Luciano to go with that idea.  On one hand it made more sense for everyone to get along and prosper, and two Luciano could essentially control them, and use their skill set to his advantage. Luciano was impressed with Siegel's willingness to kill, and brought him on board into his crew.

Siegel put his hands into bootlegging, and ended up controlling some cities along the eastern seaboard.  He also would lend his skill set to murdering people on behest of the five mob families in New York City.  Meyer Lansky would avail Siegel's skills to anyone who needed some "work" done.  Among some of Siegel's  contemporaries were Abner "Longie" Zwillman, Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, Jake Lansky(Meyer's brother).

Perhaps another reason for Siegels rise, had to do with a childhood friend he protected from getting arrested.  You may know him by the nickname Scarface.  Al Capone.  There had been an arrest warrant for murder for  Al Capone, and Siegel hid Capone out until the heat died down.  He was considered by everyone to be a "stand up guy."

It wasn't until 1929, that a peace accord between the Italian's and Jews began.  At a sit down in Atlantic City, attended by Johnny Torrio, Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano,  and Benjamin Siegel it was officially decreed that any violence against one another would end and they even discussed a new organized structure that would eventually become the commission.

One of the bigger mob hits that Siegel was directly involved with was the hit on Joe "The Boss" Masseria.  He was one of four gunmen(the other three were Albert Anastasia, Vito Genovese, Joe Adonis) that ended the life of Masseria and the Castellammarese War.   That hit was followed a few weeks later by the assassination of Salvatore Maranzano which Siegel was also a shooter.  Shortly after Lanksy and Luciano would form the National Syndicate, which was followed in turn by the commission.

Siegel was the architect for Murder, Inc.  He was the one who put that together and it wasn't until after his rise that he and Lansky handed off the reigns of Murder, Inc to Louis Buchalter and Albert Anastasia, and we know what Anastasia did with that crew. Mayhem.


It was business usual for Lansky and Siegel, when Benjamin Siegel fucked up.  Between 1931-32 Siegel had a beef with associates of Waxey Gordon, those being the Fabrizzo brothers.  Gordon hired the Fabrizzo brothers from prison after Lansky and Siegel handed the IRS information which led to Gordon's arrest and imprisonment.  In turn the Fabrizzo brothers attempted to kill Lansky and Siegel and failed. In turn Siegel killed them both.  It was after the death of his two brothers that the 3rd sibling Tony began to write a memoir.   His plan was to out Siegel as the director of Murder, Inc.  Siegel was tipped off, checked himself into a hospital and later that night snuck out, and with two associated posed as detectives and knocked on the door of Tony Fabrizzo.  As he opened the door he was shot and killed.  Siegel's alibi for the night was that he was in the hospital, but it wouldn't hold up very long.

The alibi wasn't holding and Siegel knew he was in trouble.  Rivals wanted retribution.  In an effort to save him he was sent to California.  Benny was familiar with California as he had been out there multiple times to help devise a way to make money gambling in the state with then boss Jack Dragna. Almost as soon as Siegel arrived he brought on Mickey Cohen as his underboss, and essentially overtook Jack Dragna's position as boss.  It was only because of Luciano and Lansky's power that Siegel could do this.  Soon after arriving in Los Angeles, he took over the numbers rackets and funneled money to help the mob establish a drug trafficking route from the United States, to Mexico and back to Chicago.  Even if Dragna had sat back, he wouldn't for long.

In 1942, half a million was coming in from bookmaking wire operations.  Everything seemed good.  However by 1946, people were growing tired of Siegel.  In fact the Outfit(Chicago) felt that giving money to "a jew boss, in an Italian organization was sickening.," so they ended up taking over the very lucrative Continental Press and funneled the percentage of the money(from racing wire) to Jack Dragna, infuriating Benny Siegel.    While aggravating,
Siegel still controlled off shore gambling and still was a valuable asset to the mob as his incredible earning capacity outweighed any small disagreements.

Perhaps the bigger problem with Siegel was his ego.  He began to cavort in Hollywood circles and could be seen nightly enjoying the spotlight with Tony Curtis, Frank Sinatra, Louis B. Mayer, Jack L. Warner, Jean Harlow, and many others. Through his associations he began to believe he could begin to extort the movie studios.  He took over the unions, and even went as far as to borrow large sums of money from celebrities without any intention of paying them back.

In 1939, on the behest of Louis Buchalter, Siegel killed Harry "Big Greenie" Greenberg. Greenberg had threatened to rat out Buchalter as the boss of Murder, Inc.  Those involved in the murder of Greenberg were Frankie Carbo, Ben Seigel, Whitey Krakower, and Albert Tannenbaum.   The problem was when questioned Tannenbaum folded like a tent and confessed.  He also agreed to testify against Siegel and others.  Both Siegel and Carbo were indicted for murder.  Krakower was whacked before he could be indicted.

What made matter worse for Siegel was that he was given special treatment in prison. He would only eat food they brought in and call girls were brought in to service Siegel.  It began to draw the ire of the mob.  Siegel couldn't stay out of trouble or out of the limelight. During the trial two of the state's witnesses disappeared.  Without anyone else willing to step forward both Carbo and Siegel were acquitted.

What is told inaccurately is that somehow at that point Siegel decided to go to Vegas.  The problem was the mob wanted Siegel out of Los Angeles and away from the limelight and problems he seemed to keep having.  Back in the 30's Lansky had sent Siegel to Las Vegas to look around and see if there was a way to establish a legitimate gambling operation.  Lanksy had already had been bid rigging and controlling contracts for the Hoover Dam.

William R. Wilkerson had ownership of the Flamingo Hotel.  Siegel saw it as an opportunity and joined forces.  Shortly after Siegel realized what it could be and forced Wilkerson to hand over complete control of the hotel.

 Siegel believed with a core business plan of the finest dining, booze, celebrities and gambling they could make s substantial amount of money.

He also realized it was close to Los Angeles and he could draw from vacationers as well as celebrities. Where he might have had the idea, he needed the backing of his friends back east.

Lansky was satisfied with the idea, and the mob began to funnel Siegel money.  He began to spend as if the money would never end.  Delays, and overspending the Flamingo Hotel and Casino was way behind schedule.  What was supposed to be a $4 million dollar revamp turned into a $6 plus million dollar project(close to $80 million today)  As costs began to rise, and rumors of Siegel pilfering money off the top began to rise suspicions.

The Flamingo would eventually be opened in December of 1946.  However only the lounge, theater and restaurant were completed, much to the anger of the mafia.  They had been pouring money into the casino, knew Siegel still had massive amounts coming in from controlled rackets in Los Angeles.  The other issue was opening night, nobody showed up.  It looked like n epic failure.  While the mob expected a huge profit that first night, they took a huge loss.  By the end of the second week the tables were losing.  They found themselves -$275,000.  It infuriated the mob, and the casino was shut down.

Siegel was given a second chance, and with a few upgrades and some decent press, the Casino began making a profit.  The problem was Siegel wouldn't stop gallivanting in Hollywood circles.  He wouldn't stop telling others he ran Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.  His ego would get the better of him.

On the night of June 20, 1947, Siegel was sitting on the couch of his paramour Virginia Hill with Allan Smiley. An assailant opened up with M1 Carbine, killing Siegel where he sat.  To this day nobody has ever been charged with that murder.  It ended the reign of Siegel, and ended any issues the mob had in Vegas.

Lansky is the one who made the call. Lansky realized  few things.  He knew that Siegel was getting to big for his britches, and he knew his cohorts would only tolerate so much more bad press and agitation.  He also knew, that Siegel wouldn't stop creating headlines and that his childhood friend has become too greedy and visible.

The fact that Siegel was pilfering funds, making waves, was enough to get him killed.  The fact that while in Cuba his assassination was openly discussed with Luciano and others, is very telling.  While Siegel had once been an asset, his ego and greed took over.

One facet that isn't often discussed is that Lansky was afraid that if it came down to Las Vegas becoming big, he knew Siegel would likely become a big problem, and didn't want to risk a war with him.  Easier to get rid of him, take over Vegas(which is exactly what he did) and move on.

Conspiracy theorists often come up with different scenarios including a lovers spat, Virginia Hill being complicit, and the list goes on and on and on.  The pure fact is, Siegel reached the end of his road with the mob, and was no longer as asset but a huge problem for them.  If you believe that Lansky didn't consider money as a reason, you'd be wrong.

While Siegel couldn't exactly be controlled this had more to do with money than anything.  The mob doesn't like sharing, and there was no way that Lansky was going to share with Siegel.  In fact, I will go so far to say that Lansky was a coward.

Why a coward?  He didn't do any dirty work.  He was the grandfather of earning, and was responsible for Vegas completely.  The ONLY reason why Lansky survived is because he made money.  It wasn't respect, or fear of physical violence, because Lansky would never get his hands dirty.  If he didn't make the mob a dime, believe me he would have been killed.  Lansky didn't do the hard work, but because of his earning capacity and friendships he was able to control Siegel, and the minute he saw he lost control and the second it looked as if Vegas was going to be a huge money maker, he swiftly asked for permission to hack Siegel whacked.  Money, nothing more nothing less.

History will look back on Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel as a Hollywood goodfella, however he was a killer, a money machine, exactly what the mob in those days was.  However, like those after him, he courted the press, and it eventually led to his demise.  Even if he had been a shut in, and stayed out of the camera's lenses, his mouth, and greed would be his undoing.  Even if he hadn't of stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars, he still would have been killed.  Why?  The amount of money Vegas could and would produce was reason enough.  Don't believe me?  They ask yourself who took over Vegas as soon as Siegel was whacked.  Meyer Lansky.

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