Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder, Inc.

Lepke Gets Crossed

Lepke Buchalter was on the run, both from the feds, who wanted him for a narcotics charge, and the New York authorities, who were desperate to nail him for his Murder, Inc. and Syndicate activities. From time to time reports would surface that Lepke was in Cuba, or that he had been seen in South America on a yacht or in Poland at a spa. There was a $50,000 reward out for Lepke, but for two years he remained free. Once he had escaped a sure pinch when ignorant cops busting a nickel-and-dime bookmaking operation didn't recognize him. As police around the world searched for Lepke, he was hiding out right under their noses, for Judge Louis had never left Brooklyn.

Then, Lepke turned himself in.

The authorities were confounded. Why would a smart guy like Buchalter do something so stupid? After all, his New York activities could land him in the death house.

Lepke was a cool customer as he hid out with Reles and Albert Anastasia. Unlike many mobsters who tended to get a little buggy when they were on the lam, Lepke was smart enough to know that as long as he kept a level head, controlled who had access to him and tied up loose ends, he would be all right. But Lepke was also smart enough to know that he was causing a lot of gangsters a lot of discomfort. As long as he was hiding out, doing Syndicate business was hard. Many of his friends were already in custody and others were forced into hiding by the pressure that Dewey and J. Edgar Hoover were applying. Sooner or later, the Syndicate board would have to give him up. After all, the cartel was a utilitarian organization — the good of the many clearly outweighed the good of the one. And even if that one was Louis Buchalter, the guy who helped Lucky Luciano build the Syndicate, the national crime cartel would survive at any cost.

Moey Dimples, the Saratoga numbers man who had been a friend to Lepke since their days strong-arming cart vendors, was one of the few people who Lepke still trusted. So Lepke had little reason to doubt Dimples when he approached Judge Louis with some good news.

"A deal has been struck," Moey told his old pal. "If you surrender to Hoover, the feds won't turn you over to Dewey."

Lepke was ecstatic. He was facing a ten-to-15-year sentence in Leavenworth if he gave up to the feds, but that sure beat the electric chair. He agreed to turn himself in directly to the FBI.

With Albert Anastasia at the wheel and Louis Capone's sister-in-law and her son as cover, Louis "Lepke" Buchalter left his Coney Island hideout and traveled over the Brooklyn Bridge through the Manhattan warehouse district. It was a hot August evening and to any observers the quartet looked like a group of city dwellers out for a ride. Anastasia, who had cautioned Lepke against surrendering, navigated through the streets until he spotted the car he was looking for. Anastasia pulled over and parked.

Lepke walked over to the waiting car and sat in the back. Waiting for him was Walter Winchell, the syndicated columnist for the New York Daily Mirror. From nearby, a heavy set man joined the newspaperman and the racketeer in the car. It was J. Edgar Hoover, himself.

Then the other shoe dropped. Hoover informed Lepke that he had been set-up; Dimples never worked out a deal with the feds and that it was very likely that once Lepke finished his term in Leavenworth, the sovereign state of New York would be waiting for him.

Moey Dimples, the man who had been with Lepke from the beginning, had sold his friend a bill of goods. He owed Lepke, and it was a debt Judge Louis would make sure was paid with interest. Lepke was on death row when it happened, but one evening in 1943, a gunfight erupted in a New York restaurant and a man would die. Moey Dimples and Louis Buchalter finally were even.


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