Thursday, July 9, 2015

Making Of The Mob: Recap "A Rising Threat," Ep 104

Dewey and Eunice Carter

Lucky Luciano orders the hit on Dutch Schultz to get Thomas Dewey to back off from the mob. The most uncontrollable gangster is killed, and the threat to the New York mob is elminiated. By 1935, Luciano and his crew are living the high life and making the modern equivalent of over a hundred million dollars a year.

The mob begins to expand. Meyer Lansky revolutionizes the gambling rackets inventing the first modern casinos by transforming low-rent gambling dens into high-class establishments. Vito Genovese's heroin racket pulls in millions of dollars a year, but he decides to diversify into poker games which are fixed in his favor. He lures in unsuspecting businessmen, but makes sure he always wins. Bugsy Seigel makes sure the money is collected and that the mob's authority is understood. As a member of Murder, Inc., he carries out the orders sent down by the commission. Frank Costello keeps the authorities at bay using his connections with corrupt politicians and law enforcement to make sure business runs smoothly. They paid off politicians. Lucky Luciano was a creative genius who understood how to run a business.

Luciano meets a showgirl that catches his eye. They begin seeing each other.Luciano moves into a residential suite at the Waldorf-Astoria, the City's fanciest and most expensive hotel. He begins to settle down and build a life with his new girlfriend, a 20-year-old Broadway dancer named Galina "Gay" Orlova.

Luciano decides to diversify his own operation by taking advantage of the illegal business of prostitution. He wants a cut of the brothels. He streamlines the prostitution business. He soon has a citywide network of 200 brothels,  madams and prostitutes paying a percentage to the Mafia. He is making 12 million a year, the modern day equivalent is 200 million. Lansky advises Luciano against his dirty business. He tells them these girls get diseases, they need doctors. Luciano is annoyed. So Lansky asks him if he is okay dealing with all these drug addicted women who would turn him in for some heroine? Or an army of pimps who would sell him out? He tells Lucky he is risking everything they have built. Luciano ignores the warnings of his trusted friend. Within months he's living a double life, spending days with his girlfriend and nights at his brothels. His favorite brothel is run by a madam named Cokey Flo.

Prosecutor Thomas Dewey has named Luciano his number one target for years. Luciano's rackets are so well organized that bringing him down is nearly impossible, but Luciano is about to play right into his hands. Dewey brings in an ambitious young investigator named Eunice Carter, an assistant district attorney and the first African American in New York City to serve in that capacity. Carter quickly discovers that more than half the city's prostitutes are connected by the same bail bondsmen, a known criminal with ties to the mob, and the same attorney. It's enough of a break for Dewey to bring in a booker tied to Luciano's prostitution ring, Vincent Pastore, but the questioning leads to a dead end. Pastore refuses to break the mob's code of silence and swears he has never seen Luciano before. Lansky tries to warn Lucky again that Dewey is coming after him and has half the city council's support. Lucky tells him it's a good thing they have the other half. Lansky tells him he can't buy Dewey, but Lucky answers everybody's got a price.

The wiretap that is the beginning of Luciano's arrest

Carter decides to use the latest technology in wiretapping to try to trap Luciano. Dewey's investigators listen to hundreds of hours of calls, and finally hear a booker mention Luciano by name. This gives Dewey the evidence he needs to issue a warrant. Dewey organizes a citywide raid on Luciano's brothels, arresting dozens of prostitutes and madams, but he fails to find Lucky. Lucky escapes. Dewey interrogates one prostitute. Dewey tells her he has a long list of charges against her which he is willing to expunge for information on Luciano. She reluctantly agrees to cooperate. Dewey sends his people out to find Luciano no matter what it takes.

In order to avoid arrest, Luciano takes his girlfriend Gay, to Hot Springs, Arkansas, the perfect hideout for mobsters. There the corrupt police force has transformed the small town into a mob haven, filled with casinos and gamblers. Dewey issues a nationwide manhunt. Luciano feels safe, but has the misfortune of bumping into a New York detective on the street, who recognizes him and brings Luciano into custody. The most powerful gangster in America has finally been arrested.

Luciano doesn't want to go to trial in New York, and feels he has a better chance of bribing someone in Arkansas. Luciano uses his mob connections to keep himself in the Arkansas jail. He calls Frank Costello, who assures him they are calling in all their political favors. The bribes pay off. The local sheriff, paid off by the mob, refuses to hand Lucky over to Dewey. From a jail cell in Arkansas, Luciano and his gang continue to run their rackets. Vito Genovese continues his heroine operation. Meyer Lansky is overseeing the largest casino racket in the country. Costello keeps using his connections to keep Luciano out of Dewey's reach. And Lucky is still in full control of his empire.

Dewey decides to put pressure on Arkansas officials. He takes his case to the media and names Luciano public enemy number one. He gets the press involved and accuses Arkansas authorities of being afraid to release him into his custody. Luciano becomes exposed nationwide as a notorious gangster. To counteract Dewey's negative attack, Luciano launches his own press campaign denying any and all connections to prostitution. The media war goes on for days. Luciano believes he will be released, it's only a matter of time. However, Dewey's press campaign has paid off.

Dewey orders a team of heavily armed state troopers to Hot Springs to force Luciano to surrender and to take him back to New York on April 4th, 1936. Luciano tries to bribe the cop taking him back to New York with $10,000. It doesn't work. Lucky gets out on bail and meets with his lawyers and his crew. Luciano has just days to prepare for a trial facing charges of forced prostitution. They are worried that nothing will stop Dewey. Dewey has spent three years building his case against Luciano and now, on May 13, 1936, they come face to face in the New York State's Supreme Court. The prosecution of Luciano was the first time a high ranking mafia boss was facing trial in a courtroom.

Thomas Dewey launches into his case by calling a prostitute to take the stand. She testifies that plenty of girls who talked got burned with cigarettes, tongues cut. She says she would see 15 to 20 men a day. Another prostitute testifies she didn't even know what heroine was and that at first it was free and then it wasn't free any more. Dewey calls 68 witnesses. The jury appears to be outraged. Luciano is unphased. He believes it will take more than the testimony of prostitutes to take him down. Then Dewey calls Florence Brown to the stand. She says she is called Cokey Flo because she likes to use cocaine. She says she gets her cocaine from different sources and, when pressed by Dewey, she points to Lucky Luciano as one of her sources. Dewey asks if this cocaine was a gift or a token of Luciano's generosity? She answers, not exactly. She adds, "He knew I was an addict, he knew it was my weakness, so he used it to control me and my girls . . . he said he wanted to run whorehouses like grocery stores . . . people come in, they pay for the merchandise, they leave happy. He wanted to get as many customers in and out as quickly as possible." Things are looking good for the prosecution, but Luciano is determined to make a come back. Against his lawyer's advice, Luciano decides to take the stand in his own defense. A move that could destroy everything.

Watch The Making of the Mob on Monday night at 10 PM ET on AMC, There are four episodes left to the series but you can catch up on the first four online or on demand.

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