Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder, Inc.

A Summit is Held

Wiith Prohibition gone, the mobs had to turn to new ways to make a buck. Lepke was making a mint extorting money from labor unions and business; Dutch Schultz was doing well with a restaurant protection racket and everyone was running gambling houses. Narcotics was big, too. The Bugs and Meyer Mob was cleaning up as an unofficial murder-for-hire organization.

Johnny Torrio, who had gotten his start in the New York rackets, moved to Chicago and then turned that operation over to Al Capone, had an idea: the time had come for a national crime Syndicate. Before a group of the most powerful mobsters in the country, Torrio shared his vision.

"See what you think of this," he told the assembled hoods. "Why don't you guys work up one big outfit?"

Wait a minute, came the reply. Didn't we just go through two top bosses in less than a year? We're independents, the mobsters argued. We don't work together. One big gang wouldn't change anything and no boss wanted to take a backseat now.

"You don't have to throw everything into one pot; each guy keeps what he's got now, but we make one big combination to work with," Torrio countered.

Lepke Buchalter
Lepke Buchalter

Lepke and Luciano jumped on the idea. In order for such an idea to work, the inter-gang warfare had to stop. No independence would be sacrificed, and no one would be the capo di tutti capo — the boss of bosses.

The Syndicate would work like a corporation of sorts. There would be a board of directors where everyone was equal and such a board would moderate disputes between gangs, set general policy and have the final say over inter-mob dealings. Each mob would have its own territory, its own soldiers and its own rackets. Inside the mob's territory and operations, the head of the gang ruled supreme. No killings would be allowed unless he gave his okay, and no one could crowd in on his action unless he approved. The only time when the boss's word was not inviolate was when he was overruled by the board of directors. And even then, no decision would be made until after that boss had presented his side of the beef.

Lucky, Frank Costello, Lansky and Siegel, Joey A., Longy Zwillman and Lepke Buchalter all signed on to the new cartel. The only one left out was Dutch Schultz, who was regarded by his colleagues as a loose cannon who could not be trusted and whose "mad dog" reputation would only bring down heat on the new Syndicate.

Later, meetings would be held around the country and everywhere the response was the same. Detroit signed on and the Purple Gang was integrated into the Syndicate. Kansas City joined up, so did Chicago, Cleveland, St. Louis, New Orleans. The Syndicate quickly went nationwide. It was a brilliant set up, one which Burton Turkus called a "more perfect union — for crime."


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