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GANGSTERS DURING PROHIBITION

  • Given the demand for alcohol, the Prohibition created a black market for the illegal commodity.
  • Powerful criminal gangs illegally organized bootlegging, speakeasies, corrupted law enforcement agencies, and racketeered providing the gangs with a steady flow of income.
  • Instead of Prohibition's original intent to reduce crime, it created a market that became a battleground between warring bootlegging factions.
  • In a study of over 30 major U.S cities during the Prohibition years of 1920 and 1921, the number of crimes increased by 24%.
  • Theft and burglaries increased by 9%, homicide by 12.7%, assaults and battery rose by 13%, drug addiction by 44.6% and police department costs rose by 11.4%.
  • While most cities across the nation had crime syndicates that controlled the flow of illegal alcohol, certain names garnered more respect and notoriety, and would become synonymous with the Prohibition Era's crime problem.

WHO WERE THEY?

Al Capone:

The most renowned gangster of the time, considered "Public Enemy Number 1." by the state. At one point in his career Capone made $100 million a year, from booze smuggling, gambling, racketeering, prostitution, and other illegal trade. Capone was never convicted of illegal smuggling, but was convicted of tax evasion by the IRS.

Lucky Luciano:

Lucky Luciano imported scotch, whisky, and rum directly from Scotland, Canada and Caribbean respectively. Prohibition helped Lucky establish a base for becoming the richest gangster in the world during his time. In 1936, he was convicted of running the largest prostitution ring ever in history.

Meyer Lansky:

Meyer Lansky headed one of the most violent gangs during the Prohibition Era with his partner Bugsy Siegel. Lansky was the person responsible for Lucky Luciano's rise to power in 1931. Lansky preferred to keep low and was mostly engaged as a financial advisor to Luciano.

Johnny Torrio:

Created the empire that Al Capone took over. During Prohibition when Torrio's boss refused to take up booze smuggling fearing cop intervention, Torrio had him murdered at his own restaurant. Torrio is considered one of the founders of modern organized crime in America.

Arnold Rothstein:

The only gangster who cashed in just when the Prohibition Era was beginning. Rothstein was also the only gangster who tried to take the violence out of a business situation. He was a hard core gambler and was murdered after reneging on a $300,000 loss.

Bugs Moran:

Arch rival of Al Capone and Johnny Torrio. Moran was willing to go to any lengths to prove his mettle. Murdered Capone's associates and ruled for almost a decade.

Enoch "Nucky" Johnson:

Ran Atlantic City for thirty years allied with Arnold Rothstein, Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Johnny Torrio and others to make Atlantic City one of the largest hot spots for booze smuggling. Controlled people through both his fear and charm. Nucky had enormous stature in the Republican party and used his political clout to his business advantage.

Bugsy Segal:

Was a preferred hit man for his clean hits. Around the 1930's he began to build ties with Lucky Luciano and eventually rose up to a decent membership post in the Mafia families. Segal had ties with the construction industry and was able to procure material from the black market.