Albert Anastasia was considered by most who knew him to be a complete psychopath. Known for his hair-trigger temper. He was the de facto leader of Murder Incorporated in the mid to late 30′s. He had his own agenda however and wanted to be a boss. In the fifties, he ascended to the head of the Gambino organized crime family. Anastasia s calling card was murder and as head of Murder Inc, running this cadre of killers for Lucky Luciano. Although Lepke Buchalter was the original creator of Murder Inc.
Anastasia was born on September 26th, 1902 in Tropea, Calabria, Italy. Anastasia s father was a railway worker who died at the end of World War two leaving behind 3 daughters and 9 sons. In 1919 Anastasia and three of his brothers got work on a freighter ship headed to New York City. When the ship arrived, the three brothers abandoned the ship and entered New York City as illegal aliens, they soon found work as longshoremen on the Brooklyn docks. An organization that Anastasia would have a long relationship with.
On March 17th, 1921, Anastasia was convicted in the murder of George Turino, who he killed after they had an argument that escalated into a fight. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the Sing Sing electric chair. He won a new trial in 1922 on a technicality. By the time his new trial was set to begin, all 4 witnesses for the prosecution had vanished. With no one to testify in the case against him, Anastasia was set free. On June 6th, 1923 Anastasia was convicted of possession of a firearm and given two years in prison.
By the late twenties, Anastasia had become a big member of the International longshoremen’s Union (ILU). His brother controlled six local union chapters in Brooklyn. During this time he also made key friendships and alliances with people such as Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria, Joe Adonis, Lucky Luciano, Vito Genovese, and Frank Costello. These relationships would prove valuable in the future as Luciano began his rise to power with the deaths of Salvatore Maranzano and Giuseppe Masseria the old “Moustache Pete’s”. In 1928 Anastasia was again charged with murder, however, there were no witnesses to testify in the case and he was again set free. Anastasia decided to help Luciano rise to power by killing people who were in the way, he was looking forward and realized if Luciano ran things he would get a piece of the action as well. He supported Luciano and others in their quest to get rid of Maranzano and Masseria and remake organized crime in their own image. It is alleged that Anastasia was present at the murder of Giuseppe Masseria in a Coney Island restaurant. Later in 1931, after the death of Masseria and Maranzano effectively in charge, he let his guard down and was killed in September of 1931. No one was ever charged in the Masseria murder, although many thought Luciano was responsible for ordering it.
After Luciano’s rise to complete power, he then reorganized organized crime, establishing “The Commission”, a ruling body that would mediate any issues that arose between any of the five families. This body as well carved up and distributed territories to families as well as regulated profitable industries like gambling and prostitution etc. In 1932 Anastasia was again indicted for murder for killing a man with an ice pick and again in 1933 for killing another man who worked in a laundry, both cases were dropped due to lack of witnesses. Luciano put both Lepke Buchalter and Albert Anastasia in charge of the Commissions enforcement arm, Murder Incorporated, a kill squad of Jewish assassins who killed in unorthodox ways that confounded authorities for years. Some of the implements they used were rope, ice picks, knives, and sometimes firearms.
Some of the most famous killers in Murder Inc. were Phil “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss, and Abe Reles who would later inform his friends in Murder Inc. and take the whole operation down in the late 30′s and early 40′s. Frank “The Dasher” Abbandando and Happy Maione rounded out the nucleus however there were many other killers associated with Murder Inc. Their base of operations was a candy store in their area that they controlled the Brownsville section of Brooklyn which at the time was a Jewish slum of over 300,000 Jews. Anastasia managed to avoid prosecution for any of Murder Incorporated’s murders. Figures on how many people were killed by Murder Inc. are not clear, many people agree it was a figure in between 500 and 1000 but the true number will never be known.
On June 7th, 1936 Lucky Luciano was sentenced to over 50 years in prison on various charges. Anastasia was rumored along with Meyer Lansky Lucky’s old friend to work behind the scenes on his behalf.
In 1942 Anastasia joined the United States Army and was released from duty two years later. He then became part of the Mangano crime family run by Vincent Mangano. He didn’t get along with Mangano and Anastasia had his own plans to take over the family. He had Mangano killed in 1951 seizing control of what would later be the Gambino Crime Family.
Anastasia was known to enjoy killing, he sometimes oversaw some of the killings for murder inc and was the “Finger” or the one who most of the time gave the go-ahead for a murder. Anastasia was slain in one of the most audacious killings the underworld had seen up to that point.
On October 27th, 1957, Anastasia went to the Park Sheraton Hotel to get a shave. As he sat in the barber’s chair, two armed men stormed into the barbershop shooting and killing him. Before this, in 1954 the government began to go after Anastasia trying to deport him in 1954 and bringing him up on tax evasion charges later that same year. Anastasia would go down as one of the most violent and feared bosses that organized crime had seen in a long time.