The Life and Times of Lepke Buchalter: America's Most Ruthless Labor Racketeer

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Barricade, 2006 - 246 pages
The Life and Times of Lepke Buchalter is the first biography of the only organized crime boss to be executed in the United States. At the height of his power, Louis "Lepke" Buchalter had a stranglehold on the garment industry. His annual income was in the millions and his penchant for murder was notorious. Buchalter's wide, soft, doe-like eyes, masked the cruelty that lurked behind them. During his humble childhood on the Lower East Side, Lepke began his career as a package thief and pushcart terrorist. At the time labor racketeering was a secondary sideline business for Lower East Side gangs, but that would change. By 1930, Buchalter had shifted the racket from simple labor slugging to a sophisticated criminal operation controlling all of the needle trade unions.
In the early 1930s, New York mob bosses decided that a "murder-and-mayhem" department was needed to ensure that all moneymaking ventures operated smoothly. Thus was born "Murder Inc." Lepke Buchalter became the overseer of this notorious killing-on-assignment machine - keeping his killing staff on a yearly retainer to do all of the dirty work. Having people murdered by killers with whom they had no connection seemed foolproof until Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey set his sights on Lepke's garment empire. Buchalter's intense paranoia led to the murder of many potential witnesses during Dewey's investigation. In the end, it was an obscure murder that led to his conviction and execution.
Organized crime historian Paul R. Kavieff has researched this influential criminal, uncovering new details of his sophisticated criminal organization. All the names, dates, and brutal murders are described here, in a unique history of labor unrest in turn-of-the 20th century New York.

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The Life and Times of Lepke Buchalter: America's Most Ruthless Labor Racketeer

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Kavieff's brisk biography of Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, the only major crime boss in U.S. history to be executed, unevenly weaves the labor racketeer's story with that of the bustling early 20th century ... Read full review


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