Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel (February 28, 1906 – June 20, 1947) was a Jewish American mobster. Siegel was known as one of the most "infamous and feared gangsters of his day".Described as handsome and charismatic, he became one of the first front-page-celebrity gangsters. He was also a driving force behind the development of the Las Vegas Strip.Siegel was not only influential within the Jewish mob but, like his friend and fellow gangster Meyer Lansky, he also held significant influence within the Italian-American Mafia and the largely Italian-Jewish National Crime Syndicate.
Siegel was one of the founders and leaders of Murder, Incorporated and became a bootlegger during Prohibition. After Prohibition was repealed in 1933, he turned to gambling. In 1936, he left New York and moved to California. In 1939, Siegel was tried for the murder of fellow mobster Harry Greenberg. Siegel was acquitted in 1942.
Siegel traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada where he handled and financed some of the original casinos. He assisted developer William Wilkerson's Flamingo Hotel after Wilkerson ran out of funds. Siegel took over the project and managed the final stages of construction. The Flamingo opened on December 26, 1946 to poor reception and soon closed. It reopened in March 1947 with a finished hotel. Three months later, on June 20, 1947, Siegel was shot dead at the Beverly Hills home of his girlfriend, Virginia Hill.
Benjamin Siegel (Born Benjamin Siegelbaum) was born in 1906 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to a poor Jewish family from Letychiv,Podolia Governorate of the Russian Empire, in modern Ukraine. However, other sources state that his family came from Austria. His parents, Max and Jennie, constantly worked for meager wages. Siegel, the second of five children, vowed that he would rise above that life. As a boy, Siegel dropped out of school and joined a gang on Lafayette Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He committed mainly thefts, until he met Moe Sedway. With Sedway, Siegel developed a protection racket where pushcart merchants were forced to pay him a dollar or he would incinerate their merchandise. Siegel had a criminal record that included armed robbery, rape and murder dating back to his teenage years.
Bugs and Meyer Mob
Main article: Bugs and Meyer Mob
During adolescence, Siegel befriended Meyer Lansky, who formed a small mob whose activities expanded to gambling and car theft. Lansky, who had already had a run-in with Salvatore Lucania, saw a need for the Jewish boys of his Brooklyn neighborhood to organize in the same manner as the Italians and Irish. The first person he recruited for his gang was Ben Siegel.
Siegel became a bootlegger and was involved in bootlegging within several major East Coast cities. He also worked as the mob's hitman, whom Lansky would hire out to other crime families. The two formed the Bugs and Meyer Mob, which handled contracts for the various bootleg gangs operating in New York and New Jersey – doing so almost a decade before Murder, Inc. was formed. The gang kept themselves busy hijacking the liquor cargoes of rival outfits. The Bugs and Meyer mob was known to be responsible for the killing and removal of several rival gangdom figures. Siegel's gang mates included Abner "Longie" Zwillman, Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, and Lansky's brother, Jake; Joseph "Doc" Stacher, another member of the Bugs and Meyer Mob, recalled to Lansky biographers that Siegel was fearless and saved his friends' lives as the mob moved into bootlegging:
Bugsy never hesitated when danger threatened," Stacher told Uri Dan. "While we tried to figure out what the best move was, Bugsy was already shooting. When it came to action there was no one better. I've never known a man who had more guts.
He was also a boyhood friend to Al Capone; when there was a warrant for Capone's arrest on a murder charge, Siegel allowed him to hide out with an aunt. Siegel first smoked opium during his youth and was involved in the drug trade. By age 21, Siegel was making money and flaunted it. He was regarded as handsome with blue eyes and was known to be charismatic and likeable. He bought an apartment at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and a Tudor home in Scarsdale. He wore flashy clothes and participated in the night life of New York City.