Louis "Lepke" Buchalter/Murder Inc. FBI Files - Photos
203 pages of FBI files and 15 photos related to Louis "Lepke" Buchalter.
Louis Bookhouse, also known as Louis Buchalter or Louis "Lepke" Buchalter was born on February 6, 1897, in New York City. Lepke means "Little Louis" in Yiddish. He became a member of the street gang, Amboy Dukes, based in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. Buchalter was first arrested September 2, 1915, on a burglary charge. Buchalter along with Jacob "Gurrah" Shapiro ran protection and union rackets in the garment industry on the lower east side of New York. Buchalter was known to be more violent than others in the collection of protection money, quicker to kill someone for not paying up. His criminal success caught the attention of top mob bosses.
Lucky Luciano co-founded a crime cooperative that became known as the National Crime Syndicate, or the "Commission," made up of major crime bosses from across the country and the Five Families of New York. The Syndicate divided and regulated the illicit markets around the nation. Each gang in the Syndicate had its own franchise, such as gambling, drugs, or prostitution. One section of the Syndicate enforced the Syndicate's business and performed murders for hire and was known as "Murder, Incorporated." For decades the FBI denied the existence of such an organization as the "Syndicate." When Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky moved on to the west coast, Luciano put Buchalter in control of Murder, Inc. Luciano gave this authority to Buchalter as a reward for his assistance during the Castellammarese War, in which mob bosses Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano were murdered and Luciano rose to the top of the underworld. Murder, Incorporated also featured the talents of Albert Anastasia. Murder Incorporated operated out of a candy store called Midnight Rose's, in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. Crime researchers believe that Murder Inc. was responsible for between 400 and 800 murders.
In 1935, Dutch Schultz was facing a tax evasion prosecution. The investigation was led by federal attorney Thomas E. Dewey, who was brought in as a special prosecutor. Schultz wanted Dewey dead and went to the Commission to encourage a hit on Dewey. The Syndicate's Murder Inc. at first planned the hit, however the Syndicate canceled the plans, fearful of the repercussions of killing Dewey. An outraged Schultz declared that he would do it himself. Buchalter told the Commission that to protect the Syndicate, Schultz should be killed before he could have a chance to kill Dewey. Buchalter put two of Murder Inc.'s. best hit men on the job, Mendy Weiss and Charlie "The Bug" Workman. They shot Schultz and members of his crew at the Palace Chop House and Tavern, in Newark, New Jersey. In the two days it took Schultz to die from the gunshots he received in the bathroom of the Newark steakhouse, he refused to reveal who had shot him. After Schultz's death, Lepke Buchalter took over many of Schultz's rackets.
Louis Buchalter was convicted on federal racketeering charges. Buchalter was denied an appeal bond, however, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Martin T. Manton overruled the decision, and Buchalter was released on $3000 bail. Judge Manton would later be removed from the bench, because of his shady dealings. In 1937, Lepke Buchalter sensed that his connections were not going to save him from going to prison. Buchalter went underground, and sought to have witnesses and potential witnesses killed. It is believed that in 1939, Lepke Buchalter arranged for Murder Inc. hit men to kill at least 12 low-level mobsters, who might testify against him. This caused some fearful low-level mobsters to cooperate with the law.
Murder Inc. hit man Abe Reles was arrested in 1939 for the murder of Red Alpert. Reles realized that Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney Burton Turkus was putting together a case against him, through the use of cooperating witnesses, which would stick. Reles cooperated with the legal authorities to receive immunity instead of the electric chair. For two weeks Reles, also known as "Kid Twist", gave detailed information about 85 murders committed by Murder Incorporated. Abe Reles's testimony led to Harry "Pittsburgh Phil" Strauss, Martin "Buggsy" Goldstein, Mendy Weiss, and Harry "Happy" Maione being put to death in Sing Sing's electric chair. Abe Reles gave information about the 1936 murder of a Brooklyn candy store owner named Joseph Rosen. Rosen was a former garment district truck driver who Buchalter feared was talking to the police. Reles gave information that implicated Buchalter in three other murders. It is believed that Albert Anastasia put out a $100,000 contract on Reles. On November 12, 1941, while in the protection of six police officers, Reles mysteriously fell to his death from a window of the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island.
A $50,000 reward was put out for the fugitive Lepke. A worldwide search was in effect to find Buchalter. Buchalter had never left Brooklyn. Louis Buchalter feared that the search for him might make him a liability to the Syndicate. Someone he knew since childhood, Moey Dimples, went to Lepke and told him that a deal was made with the Feds. Buchalter was told that if he surrendered himself to J. Edgar Hoover, the feds would try him, but not turn him over to New York authorities. Buchalter figured he was facing a maximum 15 years federal sentence. Buchalter was driven from his safe house on Coney Island into Manhattan. Lepke went into a waiting car at the corner 0f 28th Street and Fifth Ave, with columnist and broadcaster Walter Winchell in back. They were later joined by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover told Buchalter that he had been set-up and that there was no deal. Moey Dimples would be killed in a 1943 shot-out in a New York restaurant.
In March of 1940, Louis Buchalter was sentenced to a term of 15 years to life in federal court. Lepke was sent to Leavenworth Penitentiary in April 1940. Louis Buchalter brought legal challenges to prevent him to being sent back to New York. In 1941, he was sent back to New York to face trial for the murder of Joe Rosen. Buchalter was convicted that December. In 1942, Buchalter lost his last appeal. At the time he was in federal custody. He fought being turned back over to New York authorities, trying to call in favors from those in the justice system with whom he had prior dealings. In January 1944, Buchalter was sent to New York's Sing Sing prison.
Buchalter was scheduled to be executed on March 2, 1944 at 11:00 PM, along with his associates Louis Capone and Mendy Weiss. Moments before the executions, Thomas E. Dewey, now governor of New York, ordered a 48 hour stay for more time for court review of the case. Two other prisoners who were scheduled to die that night, Joseph Palmer and Vincent Sallami, convicted of the murder of Brooklyn police detective Joseph Miccio, had their electrocutions performed that night. Louis Buchalter had let it be known that he had information that could bring down New York City elected officials, national labor leaders, and public office holders. There was speculation in the newspapers that Buchalter could finger someone in the President Roosevelt administration. This could help Dewey in his anticipated presidential campaign. Dewy decided not to engage with Buchalter.
After the last appeals were rejected on March 4, Buchalter had his wife read a message from him. It stated that he did not offer to talk and give information in exchange for any promise of commutation of his death sentence. On March 4 at 11:00 PM, Louis Capone was taken to the death chamber, Capone was declared dead at 11:05 PM. Mendy Weiss was strapped to the chair next and died in three minutes. Weiss was declared dead at 11:10 PM. Louis Lepke Buchalter died in the electric chair at Sing Sing Prison on March 4, 1944 at 11:16 PM. Buchalter was the first and only mob boss ever to be legally executed.
Files date from 1935 to 1966. Material includes summaries of Buchalter's background, criminal history, relatives, and associates. Information about labor racketeering and extortion in the 1930's New York City garment industry. Files include examples of newspaper accounts during the period.
NEWS SERVICE PHOTOS
Fifteen photos taken by news service photographers of Lepke Buchalter. Photos of Louis Buchalter in police custody from 1933 to 1943. Includes: A photo of Lepke handcuffed to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, after being tricked into surrendering. A photo taken in court while being sentenced to death.
ABE RELES FBI FILES
In addition to the material above, the disc contains 197 pages of FBI files concerning Abe Reles, also known as "Kid Twist." Files date from 1940 to 1970, and contain approximately 55 pages of discernable memos. Contains information on the FURDRESS investigation into racketeering in the New York garment industry, the Bureau's recommendation that Reles receive immunity in exchange for testimony and the number of cases he could be called on to give testimony.
The disc contains a text transcript of all recognizable text embedded into the graphic image of each page of each document, creating a searchable finding aid. Text searches can be done across all files on the disc.
Lepke hears death sentence s second time. Photograph shows Louis "Lepke" Buchalter arriving at the Court of Appeals in Albany, New York; standing on the left is Albany detective Joseph Nowak holding a machine gun. Photo taken on July 20, 1943.