Meyer Lansky, known as the “Mob’s Accountant,” was an American major organized crime figure who, along with his associate Charles “Lucky” Luciano, was instrumental in the development of the National Crime Syndicate in the United States. Take a look below for 30 more interesting and bizarre facts about Meyer Lansky.
1. Associated with the Jewish mob, Lansky developed a gambling empire that stretched across the world.
2. He was said to own percentages in casinos in Las Vegas, Cuba, The Bahamas and London.
3. Although a member of the Jewish mob, Lansky undoubtedly had strong influence with the Italian-American Mafia and played a large role in the consolidation of the criminal underworld.
4. The full extent of his role has been the subject of some debate, as Lansky himself denied many of the accusations against him.
5. Despite nearly 50 years as a member-participant in organized crime, Lansky was never found guilty of anything more serious that illegal gambling.
6. He has a legacy of being one of the most financially successful gangsters in American history.
7. Before he fled Cuba, he was said to be worth an estimated $20 million. However, when he died in 1983, his family was shocked to learn that his estate was worth around $57,000.
8. Lansky was born Meier Suchowianski on July 4, 1902, in Grodno, Grodno Govemorate, Russian Empire.
9. He belonged to a Polish-Jewish family who were victims of anti-Semitic activities.
10. He was born in the Polish Kingdom under Russian rule and considered himself a Polish.
11. His father migrated to the United States in 1909 and, two years later, Meyer joined him along with his mother and brother, Jacob, to settle in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York.
12. His brother grew up to manage the National Hotel in Havana, Cuba.
13. Lansky became a citizen of the United States and was exposed to the harsh street life of Manhattan.
14. He studied till the eighth grade and left school to take up a job as a car mechanic. Here, he got involved in the car theft and resale business that branches off into burglaries, liquor and other forms of crime.
15. Lansky soon became a good friend of gangster, Bugsy Siegel, and became partners in the bootlegging trade.
16. Together, they formed the Bugs and Meyer Mob that became notorious in Manhattan.
17. He also got close to the Italian-American mobster, Charles “Lucky” Luciano and was instrumental in his rise by organizing the murders of Mafia bosses, Salvatore Maranzano and Joe Messeria in 1931.
18. During World War II, he and his gang were actively involved in breaking up pro-Nazi rallies in the United States.
19. He also helped the Naval Intelligence by incorporating criminals to undertake covert operations against German infiltrators.
20. His mafia was instrumental in providing protection to United States shipbuilding docks against sabotage. However, he continued to make money by his illegal activities, which were overlooked by the government during the war.
21. During the mid 1930s, he established gambling in a big way in New Orleans, Florida and Cuba, for which he had the skills as well as connections. He ensured complete integrity within his organization and transferred all of his earnings into Swiss bank accounts.
22. He bribed law enforcing agencies and ultimately bought an offshore bank in Switzerland to launder money.
23. It’s said that Lansky was instrumental in getting his close associate, Siegel, assassinated when the Flamingo Hotel run by him failed to make money. He initially tried to buy time for his friend, but later was ruthless when the decision was imposed upon him by the mafia. This marked the transfer of power from the Five Families of New York to the Chicago Outfit.
24. He was a close friend and business associate of Cuban president and dictator Fulgencio Batista, with the help of whom he gained control over the racetracks and casinos of Havana in exchange for kickbacks to the dictator.
25. He was instrumental in getting Batista back to power by bribing his rival, Carlos Prio Socarras, to step down. Batista in turn, changed the laws of Cuba so as to encourage foreign investment to promote gambling.
26. Taking advantage of his Jewish ancestry, Lansky immigrated to Israel in 1970 in order to escape the federal law on tax evasion. However, the Israeli government deported him back to the United States after two years due to his past criminal record.
27. Lansky was tried in the United States and convicted by the grand jury, but was later acquitted in 1974, partly due to his bad health.
28. Lansky was married to Anna Citron in 1929 and had three kids. The couple divorced in 1947 and he married Thelma Schwarz in 1948.
29. He spent the last days of his life in his home on Miami Beach, where he died of lung cancer on January 15, 1983, at the age of 80. He was buried in an orthodox Jewish ceremony.
30. It’s said that he had over $300 million hidden in bank accounts that were never found after his death.