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.