In the aftermath of the Murder Inc. trials, the National Crime Syndicate had to especially careful with their illegal conducts. In order to keep operations under radar, Lansky and Luciano decided it was best to send the free spirited and unpredictable Bugsy Siegel to Los Angeles, California to supervise Syndicate proceedings on the West Coast. With his movie star looks and social charms, Siegel quickly flourished under the Hollywood spotlight, indulging in extravagant parties and often hosting festivities at his Beverly Hills home. Although Siegel rubbed elbows with Hollywood starlets, he began to buck heads in gangland, eventually leading to his murder on the night of June 20th, 1947. Siegel thus had the distinction of being the first member of the Syndicate’s board of directors to be executed by one of his own. The actual case surrounding Siegel’s murder remains unsolved; we do not know who pulled the trigger that night. However, what is known is that a lot of people had strong motives for exterminating “Bugsy,” who burned his last bridges in his final years.
Upon Siegel’s arrival to California, he was initially instructed to collaborate with Los Angeles Crime Family head, Jack Dragna. However, due to Siegel’s Syndicate status, Dragna was forced to take a submissive role. Feeling increasingly threatened as profits skyrocketed under Siegel’s robust leadership, Dragna grew even more resentful after he was forced to relinquish control over his horse racing wire service to the Brooklyn native. During this time, a gangster by the name of Mickey Cohen was transplanted to LA from Cleveland, Ohio. Siegel quickly took Cohen as his friend and body guard. Following Siegel’s murder, Cohen was given control over West coast gambling and began racketeering where “Bugsy” left off. During the time of Siegel’s murder, his body guard was apparently not doing his job.
While in LA, Siegel became reacquainted with a not so old flame Virginia Hill, an aspiring actress and criminal mind. Hill was a notorious woman, who climbed the ranks of the Chicago’s underworld, after fleeing her home in Marietta, Georgia. Hill earned the title of “Mob Queen,” beginning as a courier and betting money on horses as instructed, before moving on to money laundering. She transported cash, jewels, and other valuables across state lines and often made trips to Switzerland, stashing money in Swiss bank accounts for the gang. Hill became a liaison between Al Capone’s Chicago Outfit and New York’s Luciano Crime Family, where she became the girlfriend of Joe Adonis who served on the board of the Syndicate along with Siegel. Both Adonis and Siegel were egotistical and each felt threated by the other. Hill was dating Adonis when Siegel seduced Hill in the hopes of humiliating Adonis, who naturally became infuriated. Their one night stand in NY transformed into a passionate romance in Hollywood, inspiring Siegel to leave his wife and two daughters in pursuit of the criminal goddess. Hill was conveniently on a shopping spree in Europe at the time of Siegel’s murder. He was killed in her Beverly Hills, home. Following the murder, she denied any relationship with Siegel.
In the years leading to his murder, Siegel placed himself in charge of a Syndicate project to build a hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, where gambling had become legal. He decided to call it the Flamingo Hotel, after a pet name for Hill. While Siegel was a renowned killer, he proved a miserable businessman, exceeding the Syndicate budget by millions of dollars (much more today). His construction workers were reportedly steeling supplies and reselling them back to Siegel. Investors were upset, and Lansky made a personal trip to warn his childhood friend that the fruitless spending must stop. The warning came too late; Siegel moved up the opening date before the hotel was finished, hoping to reclaim some of his lost expenditures. Though some Hollywood socialites were present, the Flamingo’s opening weekend was a disaster with a combination of bad weather and construction.
The Syndicate was furious and despite Lansky’s reported defense of Siegel, Luciano and the Syndicate board allegedly marked Siegel for death. Merely twenty minutes after Sigel met his bloody demise, two Syndicate members stormed into the Flamingo, demanding control. Though, no actual gunman was convicted, the late hitman, Eddie Cannizzaro, is now thought to have been the behind the trigger. It is presumed that all of these suspects collaborated in the perfectly executed murder of one of the world’s most infamous Jewish gangsters.
For Further Reading
- The Real Jewish Gangsters of NYC
- General Theodore Bingham vs. The Jews
- The Eastman Gang
- Big Jack Zelig: The “Big Yid” of the Lower East Side
- The Becker-Rosenthal Trial
- Detective Abraham Shoenfeld Infiltrates Jewish Criminal Underworld
- Arnold Rothstein: The Modern Jewish Gangster
- The National Crime Syndicate
- The Murder of “Bugsy” Siegel
- The Kefauver Committee and Aftermath
- Jewish Gangsters Today
Table of Contents
Murder of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel
- Michael B. Druxman, The Mystery is solved! (Earth Link)
- Mark Gribben, “Bugsy Siegel: the End” (Crime Library)
- Patrick Healy, “Cold Case: How a Babe May Have Helped the Mob Rub Out Bugsy” (4 NBC: Southern California)
- Willie Martin, “So you thought the Mob was run by Italians” (The Bird Man: John Bryant)
- Ann W. O’Neill, “Who Killed Bugsy Siegel? 50 Years Later, Still a Mystery” (Los Angeles Times)
Virginia “Mob Queen” Hill
- Mark Gribben, “Virginia Hill: Girlfriend to the Mob” (Crime Library)
- “Virginia Hill” (LACNDB: La Cosa Nostra Database)
- “Virginia Hill: Mob Queen” (Panche Report)