Would be Gangsters

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Criminal gangs had run amok in American cities since the late 19th-century, but they were mostly bands of street thugs running small-time extortion and loansharking rackets in predominantly ethnic Italian, Jewish, Irish and Polish neighborhoods. In return, the politicians and police chiefs would turn a blind eye to illegal gambling and prostitution rings.


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But the underworld power dynamics shifted dramatically with the onset of Prohibition and the overnight outlawing of every bottle of beer, glass of wine and shot of booze in America. With legitimate bars and breweries out of business, someone had to step in to fuel the substantial thirst of the Roaring Twenties. And no one was better equipped than the mobsters. The key to running a successful bootlegging operation, Abadinsky explains, was a paramilitary organization. They could protect illegal breweries and rum-running operations from rival gangs, provide security for speakeasies and pay off any nosey cops or politicians to look the other way.

As the money kept pouring it, these formerly small-time street thugs had to get smart. They had to hire lawyers and accountants to launder the millions in ill-gotten cash piling up each month. They had to start thinking about strategic partnerships with other gangs and shipping logistics and real estate investment.

Mobsters Hired Lawyers

Mafia gangster Dutch Schultz, seen bottom left, in the District Attorney's office after being questioned about a shoot-out with Detectives. Before Prohibition, criminal gangs were local menaces, running protection rackets on neighborhood businesses and dabbling in vice entrepreneurship.

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But the overwhelming business opportunity of illegal booze changed everything. For one thing, sourcing and distributing alcohol is an interstate and even international enterprise.

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Prohibition was the catalyst. Unfortunately, he could not bribe the IRS who convicted him of tax evasion in and sentenced him to 11 years in prison. He is the head of the Sinaloa cartel which smuggles in billion of dollars from Colombia through Mexico and into the United States. Guzman became rich enough to make Forbes list of wealthiest people in the world as well as their top 60 most powerful people in the world, with a net worth of over 5 billion dollars.

In Salermo was convicted of racketeering charges and was sentenced to 70 years in prison. Lehder was one of the founders of the Colombian Medillin Cartel.

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Lehder would eventually be extradited to the United States and sentenced to life in prison which was reduced after he agreed to testify against former Panamanian President, Manuel Noriega in Lansky was a Jewish immigrant from Poland who would make a fortune of gambling, both legal and illegal. Lansky would later turn to focus on gambling setting up operations in Florida, Las Vegas and Cuba before the Cuban revolution.

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In , Forbes would name him as one of the richest people in America. Lansky would be indicted for tax evasion and fled to Israel. He would later return to the U. Lanksy would die a free man in Miami at age One of his sons became President, another District Attorney and presidential candidate and another a Senator. At his peak Kennedy was one of the richest men in America but as the saying goes behind every great fortune, there is a great crime.

Kennedy was already in the liquor business before prohibition but according to several books and gangsters , became a bootlegger with ties to the New York and Chicago underworlds after liquor was made illegal.

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After prohibition was ended Kennedy made a fortune off selling legitimate liquor as well as through Hollywood and the stock market. Escobar is perhaps the most notorious drug lord of the modern era.

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