He started his criminal “career” on New York’s Lower East Side during the early-1920s as a pint-sized young street hoodlum by the name of Meyer (Bugs Meyer) Lansky. By the time The Great Depression and the Prohibition eras had ended, he was already a millionaire.
Born of Jewish extraction in Grodno, Poland on July 4, 1902, this former street urchin and unremarkable gunman, who had partnered with his boyhood buddy Benjamin Siegel to form the “Bugs and Meyer Mob,” had become a gangster of some note. But in future years, Lansky proved himself to be much more than that.
By the 1940s, he was handling untold millions of dollars annually. Both for himself and his Jewish mob contingent as well as for his Mafia benefactors who had entrusted “The Little Man,” as he was often called, with their hard-earned racket money to invest in legitimate ventures…Meyer never let them down!
During the early years and throughout their later expansion, Lansky and his crew of Jewish and Italian associates were knee-deep in nearly every racket available. Alcohol bootlegging, garment industry racketeering, slot machines, jukebox and vending machines, horse and sports bookmaking, policy numbers, floating dice games, shylocking, labor union infiltration, extortion, police bribery and official corruption, narcotics smuggling and wholesale distribution, strong-arm tactics and murder, business infiltration and legalized gambling casinos, etc.
After Prohibition ended, by the mid-1930s, and all throughout the 1940s, he and the mob started to infiltrate and heavily reinvest their illicit racket dollars into the legitimate business sector. “Little Meyer” was front and center as the mob’s primary point man and master architect for that massive underworld drive.
They became entrenched in a wide swathe of legitimate industries through him. They purchased huge tracts of oceanfront property and other real estate through legitimate frontmen. He and his mob associates, and their minions, later built a series of major hotels, resorts and spas, motels, restaurants, nightclubs, and entertainment venues all along the Miami Beach waterfront. Lansky soon expanded his efforts to include the construction of similar types of businesses in Broward County and elsewhere throughout South Florida.
Meyer Lansky and His Mob
Lansky was a true underworld visionary who is largely credited with having helped invent and finance what later became known the world over as the gambling Mecca of Las Vegas, Nevada. He further expanded the mob’s legalized gambling empire with similar moves to various Caribbean destinations like Puerto Rico and Nassau, Bahamas, and island nations such as Havana, Cuba, and Haiti. He even started up casino operations in several European countries.
Lansky’s underworld cabal of minions included more than a few contract killers and strong-arm men available to do his bidding. But this type of underworld expansion was often much better served by college-educated button-down types like lawyers, accountants, wealthy businessmen as investors, and legitimate frontmen with no criminal record whatsoever, who could pass muster for casino and liquor licensing and bank loan applications.
But regardless of any ostensibly squeaky-clean backgrounds and lofty positions within the legitimate business community, or their lack of a criminal arrest record and gritty underworld experience, most of these so-called “legitimate” individuals were greedy for money. All of these ostensibly “legit” individuals, in one form or another, nonetheless, served Lansky and were complicit in his criminal schemes and can themselves be viewed as crew members of Lansky’s criminal syndicate.
In the later decades of his career, the 1950s through 1970s era, Lansky and his men were entrusted with the “washing” and “laundering” of hundreds of millions of dollars of the mob’s money, which they later reinvested into various legitimate industries.
He is generally credited with having been the master puppeteer and visionary of the underworld’s effort and subsequent success in this field of endeavor.
In fact, much of South Florida’s and several island nations’ later development, construction, and expansion can be traced back to Lansky and the myriad of corporations and business investment groups he and his associates spearheaded and controlled.
The list below reflects some of the major business entities he secretly owned or held stock in, invested in, or controlled. And this is just a smidgeon of all the unknown investments he and the mob made over the years to “wash” their illicit loot.
• Singapore Motel, Miami Beach
• Windrift Hotel, Miami,
• Carousel Motel, Miami, FL
• Hawaiian Isle Motel, Miami, FL
• Crown Hotel, Miami Beach, FL
• Deauville Hotel, Miami, FL
• Eden Roc Hotel, Miami, FL
• Marco Polo Hotel, Miami, FL
• Versailles Hotel, Miami, FL
• Seacoast Towers, Miami Beach, FL
• Waikiki Hotel, Miami, FL
• Chateau Motel Inc., Miami, FL
• Sands Hotel & Casino, LV
• Fontainebleau Hotel, Miami, FL
• Flamingo Hotel & Casino, LV
• Fremont Hotel & Casino, LV
• Thunderbird Hotel, LV
• Executive House Apartments, Inc., Miami, FL
• Hotel Havana-Riviera & Casino, Cuba
• Montemartre Nightclub & Casino, Cuba
• The San Souci, Cuba
• Varadere International Hotel-Casino, Cuba
• Savilla-Biltmore, Cuba
• Monte Carlo Casino, Freeport, Grand Bahamas
• The Sands Hotel & Casino, LV
• The Horseshoe Hotel & Casino, LV
• Algiers Motel, LV
• El Cortez Hotel, LV
• Aztec Motel Inc., Miami, FL
• Miami International Airport Hotel, Miami, FL
• Carlsbad Spa, Broward County, FL
• Colonial Inn, Broward County, FL
• La Boheme Club, Broward County, FL
• Club Green Acres, Broward County, FL
• The Shore Club, Broward County, FL
• South Pacific Polynesian Restaurant, Hallandale, FL
• The Colony Club, London, England
• Mary Carter Paint Company
A Deceiving Appearance
And although he may have started out as a simple street thug and gunman, from the 1940s forward, Lansky had taken on more the appearance and persona of a legitimate businessman and corporate investor, rather than that of an underworld hoodlum and gangster.
Since 1918, Meyer Lansky, FBI #791783, had been arrested at least nine times, on charges ranging from disorderly conduct, narcotics, felonious assault, National Prohibition Act (bootlegging liquor), homicide, forgery, conspiracy, and common gambling (90 days in jail and a $2500 fine).
Furthermore, the diverse far-flung “crew” that Lansky headed could best be defined as a “loose confederation” of mostly New York-based Jewish hoodlums who were former bootleggers, gamblers, garment district racketeers, extortionists, and killers, who first allied together during the Prohibition Era. After the repeal of The Volstead Act in 1933, Lansky was pivotal in further amalgamating them into a nationwide syndicate to take control of the fast-growing illegal gambling rackets. By the early 1940s, Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel expanded considerably with their “brainchild” of “legalized” gambling in Las Vegas, Nevada.
And although Bugsy Siegel would never live to see it, their collective “brainchild” would become a multi-zillion dollar gambling empire that became renowned the world over as simply “Las Vegas.” The hidden investments of organized crime would eventually pour into the development of future Las Vegas hotels and casinos from many Cosa Nostra Families throughout the United States.
Along the way, they infiltrated and corrupted big business and government on a grand scale, dominated labor unions, and developed and ran “legal” casino operations.
They had a “chutzpah” the likes of which had never before been witnessed in this country, or after, for that matter. This vast “network” (for lack of a better word) was operated under the umbrella and protection of Meyer Lansky, and, by extension, his Cosa Nostra allies, namely New York’s Luciano/Costello/Genovese Family. His “Italian Rabbi” and lifelong partner was none other than legendary mafioso Vincent (Jimmy Blue Eyes) Alo.
Button Guys has painstakingly created “The Meyer Lansky Syndicate” chart below. This unique hierarchy chart recreates, lays out, and lists most of Lansky’s better-known crew subordinates and criminal associates who served either directly or indirectly, under his orders. Many of his better-known “legitimate” business partners and frontmen are also listed here as well.