They were the ultimate villains. They lived life king size and ruled kingdoms with iron-fisted methods. They made more money than is imaginable and spent it on decadent luxuries and glittering parties. Their cruelty is legendary. Everyone from judges, policemen to senators and presidents were in their pockets. They knew that real power lay with them and were not afraid to use it. Gambling, drugs, prostitution, rackets…. The worst excesses of human behavior were their thriving grounds. Their lives are the stuff movies are made of. And indeed many movies have been made on these enigmatic characters who, despite their downfall, have retained their charismatic positions in American history forever. These are the deadliest gangsters that America has ever seen. They make Godfather, the movie, look like child’s play. Read the list and be glad that you weren’t around when these fearsome creatures walked the earth.
10. Sam Giancana
Born on 15th June 1908 as Salvatore Giancana, he later shortened his name to Sam when he started working for mobsters. He got his start in the crime world by driving getaway cars and undertaking contract killings with the mob gang popularly known as Forty Two. He had an affinity for making money and this quality endeared him a great deal to the Chicago mafia boss Tony Accardo. He later succeeded Accardo in taking over the windy city from 1957 to 1966. It has been recently revealed that the Kennedy government had recruited him into the CIA to help assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro. In fact, Giancana shared a mistress with the President, Judith Campbell Exner. However, soon after he was arrested in Mexico and deported to USA where he expressed willingness to testify against other gangsters as well as shed light on the Kennedy assassination. Though he was kept under strict police protection, on 19th June 1975 he was brutally shot in his Oak Park home in Illinois. The unknown killer took no chances in leaving him alive, shooting him in the head and body many times over.
9. Carlo Gambino
Carlo Gambino was born in a mafia family in Sicily in 1902 where he learned to use guns before he could walk. He confidently carried out murders while in his early teens and was a fully fledged gangster by the time he turned nineteen. However, with Mussolini gaining power in Italy, he found his monopoly in Sicily to be severely restricted. He came to America in 1921, aided by his cousin Paulo Costello another well known American gangster. He freelanced his services to several New York mafia families before permanently taking up a position with Lucky Luciano. Albert Anastasia became the boss of Luciano’s gang after the former was extradited in the 1940’s. Soon after, Gambino had Anastasia killed in order to gain power. He assumed the position of the head of the family and ruled over New York sinisterly till his death in 1976. He died of natural causes.
8. Meyer Lansky
Meyer Lansky was born Maier Suchowljansky in 1902 in Russia. He moved to America at the age of nine and while still in school befriended other would be criminals Charles Luciano and Bugsy Siegel. While still in their teens, they formed a deadly partnership that came to be known as Murders Inc. Lansky was a financial whiz and developed the National Crime Syndicate and Commission of America, the first nod to the great tradition of organized crime that was going to become synonymous with American culture. He mostly made his money through gambling and money laundering and had operations in Vegas, New Orleans, Switzerland and Cuba. A true gangster, he never let anything personal get in the way of business. When his lifelong friend Bugsy failed to generate a profit for him in his gambling business, he had him shot.
7. John Gotti
John Gotti was nicknamed “Dapper Don” by the media because of his extravagant fashion and lifestyle choices. One of the most dangerous crime bosses of his time, Gotti had a simple personality and straightforward manner. He was born in 1940 to Italian parents living in New York. He murdered Paul Castellano, who was the head of the Gambino crime family, and took over the position for himself in 1985. However, he was arrested by the FBI in late 1990 and charged with thirteen murders, tax evasion, loan sharking, racketeering and umpteen other crimes which saw him sentenced to life imprisonment. He died in prison of throat cancer in 2003.
6. Charles Luciano
Born in 1897, Charles Luciano is considered to be the father of modern organized crime in America. He had earned a ruthless reputation while still in his teens and did the dirty work for crime lord Guisseppe Masseria. He then founded his own crime family, the Luciano crime family which later was called the Genovese crime family. All kinds of criminal activity occurred under the umbrella of this organization. However, he was deported to Sicily in 1946 where he was forced to live the rest of his life. He died of a heart attack in Naples at the age of sixty-four.
5. Louis Buchalter
While most gangsters choose to make their money through gambling, loan sharking and other financial rackets, Louis Buchalter came up with the quick and convenient method of doing murders for hire. He was the boss of Murdsers Inc, which also included other powerful mob bosses of the time like Charles Luciano and John Gotti. Under this organization, he kept thousands of killers for hire on payroll. Whenever any gangster from New York or Chicago were irritated by someone or wanted to finish off someone, Louis Buchalter was their go to man. Such people were hunted and killed and Louis Buchalter a cent percent success rate. However, his crimes eventually caught on with him and he was imprisoned and given the death penalty. On 4th March 1944, when he was electrocuted, he became the only major mafia head in the history of USA to have been executed.
4. Albert Anastasia
Albert Anastasia was nicknamed Mad Hatter by fellow gangsters and the media because of his insanely hyper ambitions and psychopathic tendencies. He killed a longshoreman at a very young age and was arrested and put on trial. However, the witness to the crime never showed up (presumably killed by Anastasia’s cohorts) and he ended up spending only eighteen months in Sing Sing prison. After his release, he began climbing the mafia ladder with a ruthless agenda. He was a valued employee of the Murders Inc corporation and won top points for getting rid of Giuseppe Masseria, the then leading crime boss in New York City. He ruled the Gambino crime family from 1951 to 1957 till he was assassinated in his own hotel room by two cloaked gunmen.
3. Frank Costello
Born Francesco Castiglia in 1891, Frank Costello was nicknamed the Prime Minister of the Underworld. A protégé of the Harlem Mafia boss Ciro, he later joined the ranks of Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky and carried out criminal activities of that stature. After Luciano was sent to prison in 1936, he became the acting boss of the Luciano crime family and took its notoriety to new heights. Thought the police pursued him relentlessly, he was clever enough o hide his tracks and could not be convicted of anything more than tax evasion. He enjoyed a long happy life, dying at the ripe old age of 82 in 1973.
2. George Clarence
The most dreaded gangster next to Capone, George Clarence was nicknamed Bugsy because both the Police and the public considered him completely demented. He was sadistic to the point that he enjoyed violence. Not bothered about the dangers he was inviting upon himself, he went about openly shooting ordinary people as well as Mafioso rivals. Anyone who bothered him in the slightest was silenced with a gunshot. It was as simple as that. He was Al Capone’s most fierce-some enemy and killed his best friend Pasquialion Lolordo. He also kidnapped Capone’s bodyguard and hung him upside down, crushed his testicles and burned his eyes with a cigarette. He then castrated him and sent the remains to Capone. That’s how ruthless he was. Though Capone tried to murder him many times, he escaped not because of power but because of sheer luck. In 1930, after prohibition was lifted, he witnessed a severe decline in power and was arrested many times. He died of cancer in Leavenworth.
1. Al Capone
Not only is he the most famous gangster of America, Al Capone is unarguably the most famous Mafioso in the world. Born Alphonse Gabriel Capone in 1899, he earned the nickname Snorky growing up because of his quick temper and sociopathic behavior. He attacked a female teacher in school when he was just fourteen years old. This got him expelled and he adopted a life of crime straight away. He moved to Chicago where John Torrio mentored him in the ways of crime. He became addicted to making money. This was made easiest through smuggling alcohol, which was banned in the United States during the years of prohibition. This apart gambling, prostitution and many other illegal operations made him one of the richest mobsters in American history. Anyone who tried to cross him ended up tragically. He loved being the number one and would resort to any means of violence to hold onto that untenable position. He went as far as to order the Saint Valentine’s Day massacre of 1929 to put an end to his enemies once and for all. This violent man did not come to a good end in life himself. He died in 1947 of syphilis. However, witnesses claim he had gone mad long before, swimming about naked in pools and laughing maniacally.