Benjamin Siegelbaum, better known as Bugsy Siegel is an American gangster known in the 1930s and 1940s. He was killed by order of criminal bosses at the age of 41 years.
Siegel was born on February 28, 1906 in a poor quarter of Brooklyn, inhabited by emigrants. He was one of the five children of Russian Jews Max Siegelbaum and Jenny Rihenthal. Even in his childhood, he joined a gang of street boys, who wielded on Lafayette Street and traded mostly by theft. Then Sigel and his old friend Mo Sidway engaged in small racketeering, forcing street vendors to pay him five dollars a day and threatening to fire their goods with kerosene if they refused. Even at the beginning of his criminal path Siegel, because of his quick temper and habit to act without hesitation received the nickname “Bugsy”. It came from the slang term “go bugs” (approximate meaning – “fly off the coils”), which was used to describe the reckless behavior of those who are easily derailed and who differed in desperate courage.Siegel did not bear this nickname, preferring to be called Ben, and in his presence no one dared to address him differently.
Having grown older, Siegel began to work under the guidance of another beginning criminal Meir Lansky, engaged in extortion, car theft and gambling. The main version of the rise of friendship between Lansky and Siegel says that their acquaintance happened when they were both children. There is a suggestion that for the first time Bugsy and Lansky played the role of hired assassins in 1917, although at that time they were 11 and 15 respectively. Lansky was introduced to Laki Luciano, whom he knew from school. In 1915, he was sent to prison for the distribution of drugs and after a year and a half was avenged: Lansky and Siegel volunteered to deal with the son of an Irish policeman who reported to Luciano. Probably they killed him, since the young man disappeared, and his body was never found.In 1918, Bagsi and his older comrades committed a robbery of one of the local banks and paid $ 8,000.
Soon their teenage grouping attracted the attention of the criminal bosses. At the beginning of 1919, during a dice game organized by Lansky and Siegel, a group of unknown bandits attacked them. After beating all those present, they passed on the words of gangster Joe Massarea, that the profit should be shared. Nevertheless, Bugsy, justifying his nickname, was not going to concede without a fight. He and his gang met with the people of Massarya and, despite the considerable numerical superiority of the opponents, in the fight they won over them. Although the police detained them for violating public order, Bugsy and the others got off with a small fine.
Then Massarea went the other way. He exerted pressure on Luciano, wishing that he would influence Lansky and Siegel, but he chose to join the gang Albert Rothstein, who specialized in organizing underground gambling houses, and after the introduction of the dry law began to sell illegal whiskey. So Lansky and Siegel became bootleggers – Bugsy, in particular, was responsible for the supply of goods and did not shun the interception of liquor from competitors (including his enemy Massarya). Among their partners in this business were gangsters Dutch Schulz, Carlo Gambino and Albert Anastasia. In addition, at that time, Bugsy maintained connections with the famous Al Capone, until in 1919 he was transferred to Chicago.
In 1926, at the age of 20, Siegel was arrested for raping a woman who rejected his courtship in an underground bar. However, he managed to intimidate his victim, and she refused to testify against him. On January 28, 1929, he married Este Krakov’s childhood friend Estee Krakow, the sister of the killer Whitey Krakow, who later gave birth to two daughters.
During the gangster conficts of 1930-1931, the so-called Castellamar Wars, Bugsy and his group were in opposition to Joe Massagee. It is believed that the band Bugsy, Lansky and Luciano was involved in the elimination of Massarea and another important character of that time – the powerful Mafioso Salvatore Maranzano, who was called the boss of the bosses. Also, all three stood at the origins of the grouping Murder, Inc. Then, on the orders of Waxie Gordon (Rothstein’s assistant, who was killed in the unexplained circumstances in 1928), Siegel and Lansky were assassinated. Directed by Gordon the killers threw into the room where the friends were, a hand grenade, but before it exploded, Bugsy threw it out the window. He was affected by the explosion so that he was forced to spend some time in the hospital, after which he dealt with one of Gordon’s mercenaries.In 1932 he was arrested for illegal distribution of alcoholic beverages and organizing gambling, but again went free after paying a fine.
In 1937 Sigel was sent to California, notifying about his transfer of the control of this territory of the Los Angeles gangster Jack Dragan. In the same period he made his assistant leader of one of the Jewish groups named Mickey Cohen. Sigel moved to the west coast and childhood friend Mo Sidway, as well as his family, who knew very little about the true nature of his studies.
Bugsy healed on a broad foot, settling in a 35-room mansion, rented from the singer Lawrence Tibbet for a huge sum of 200 thousand dollars. Being gallant with ladies and attractive outwardly, he liked women and had numerous mistresses. One of them, the secular lady Countess Dorothy DiFrasco, and his friend-actor George Raft introduced him to the cinematographic society. Among his mistresses were starletti Ketti Gallian, Wendy Barry and Marie McDonald, who wore the eloquent nickname “Body.” In addition, he was introduced to the acquaintance of actress Jean Harlow (the godmother of his daughter Millicent) and Loretta Young. Settled in Hollywood, Siegel began by taking control of the union of actors and extras, and through this, he was able to extort money from Hollywood magnates.
In California, Sigel also had a constant passion – the beautiful brunette Virginia Hill, who was involved in smuggling. Their romance was quite stormy, accompanied by countless quarrels and reconciliations and lasted until the death of the gangster in 1947. Although officially the marriage of Esta Krakow and Sigela was not terminated, there were rumors that he and Virginia had just married in Mexico City shortly before his death. It is known that Hill helped him to establish ties in Mexico, after which Bugsy was for some time engaged in the supply of heroin from Mexico to California.
November 22, 1939 Sigel, his son-in-law Krakow and two of their accomplices killed one of the members of their group Harry “Greene Greenie” Greenberg. He was suspected of being ready to report on her activities to the police, so the head of Murder Inc. Lepke Buchalter sentenced him to death. Bugsy was arrested. His stay in prison was more than comfortable – Bugsy ate steaks and dishes from pheasant meat, got liquor and took the ladies. However, this time he failed to bring charges, as two witnesses died unexpectedly before they were brought to trial, and the case was closed.
At that time, there were two large telegraph companies used by bookmakers when they needed to quickly transfer the results of the races to customers. The task Bossi entrusted to his bosses was to force Continental Wire Service out of this market and transfer the monopoly of Trans America Wire, which Al Capone controlled. To implement this plan, Siegel, who worked in contact with the people of Dragne, it took almost six years.
According to the popular myth, the idea to engage in legal gambling business came to Bugsy in the early 40’s, when he drove past Las Vegas and supposedly decided to turn it into the second Monte Carlo. At that time, Las Vegas was nothing remarkable – it was just a city in the desert – but he was in the state of Nevada, where gambling was allowed. Sigel already had experience managing several floating casinos that were 3 miles off the American coast, and thus did not fall under the jurisdiction of the law. One way or another, he was fascinated by the idea of opening his own casino and doing business in Nevada as a legal business.
In 1945, businessman Billy Wilkerson, sharing Bugsy’s apprehension about the great future of Las Vegas, conceived the idea of building a luxurious casino hotel building there. However, soon he spent all his money, and Bugsy, after exerting pressure on him, bought the site. He decided to name the hotel “Flamingo” – presumably in honor of the mistress of Virginia Hill, who wore such a nickname. Funded the construction of the mafia. First Lansky, Luciano and others invested in the project about a half million dollars, but this amount quickly increased to six million – mainly because of Siegel’s ambitious plans and fraud of his suppliers, who, using his complete ignorance of the nuances of construction, sold the gangster alone and the same materials several times.
By December 1946, a year after the construction began, the limit of funds that the mafia was willing to spend on this project was exhausted. Lansky, Luciano, Frank Costello, Vito Genovese and Joey Adonis held a meeting in Havana (this so-called Havana conference took place in Cuba, as Luciano was deported from the United States by that time) and came to the conclusion that the budget exceeded all conceivable limits because Siegel appropriated some of their money. Their suspicions were confirmed also by the fact that Virginia Hill often visited Zurich, where she transferred money to bank accounts. In fact, Bugsy was sentenced. However, Lansky, mindful of his long acquaintance with Sigel, suggested postponing the violence and waiting for the opening of the casino, so that his ward had a chance to return the money.
The casino started functioning on December 26, 1946, but unfortunately for Sigel, his project turned into a huge failure. Since the decoration of hotel rooms was not completed, guests, including several Hollywood stars and popular musicians, spent some time at card tables and went to spend the night in neighboring hotels. Two weeks of casino was empty, and then Sigel closed it to finish the construction. The second opening ceremony took place in March 1947. This time everything went well, and the casino began to make a profit.
Despite the fact that the affairs of the Flamingo went smoothly, Siegel’s bosses eventually did not forgive him for embezzlement and, ignoring Lansky’s opinion, gave the order for his removal. In the evening of June 20, 1947, Bugsy was in a bungalow in Beverly Hills, which served as his meeting place with Hill, and sitting on the sofa reading the newspapers. About half past ten the killer (presumably Eddie Cannizaro) produced from the M1 carbine several shots in the open window. One of the bullets hit Bugsy near the bridge of the nose and knocked out an eye, four others pierced his body and caused instant death. The police investigation was at an impasse, and this murder remained unsolved.
At the funeral of Siegel came only a few relatives – none of his former accomplices wanted to attend, as did Virginia Hill, which at that time was in Europe. His casino in the 80’s was completely rebuilt and now belongs to the corporation Harrah’s Entertainment.