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A bag man (or bagman), is a person designated to collect dirty money, e.g. in a protection racket. A bag man may also be known as a delivery boy or running man. Originally the term applied only to Mafia members collecting for mob bosses, but the term later spread to use in corrupt police precincts for patrolmen who picked up and delivered bribes from the local mob(s) to the precinct captain.
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The bagman may receive a fraction of the money collected. The term can also be used for a person who performs small tasks for the Mafia, such as chauffeuring or transporting goods.
In the UK, bagman is used to simply mean assistant, as Lewis is Inspector Morse's 'bagman' in the Inspector Morse series, and Morse himself is Fred Thursday's 'bagman' in the prequel series Endeavour.
Bagman in popular culture
James Caan's character was referred to as "a bagman" in Christopher McQuarrie's film The Way of the Gun. George Clooney's character was referred to as "a bagman" in Tony Gilroy's film Michael Clayton. The first season episode 6 of Law & Order was called "Everyone's Favorite Bagman." In Oliver Stone's film JFK, the character of David Ferrie (Joe Pesci) alleges that Jack Ruby "was a bagman for the Dallas mob." In John Luessenhop's film Takers, Paul Walker's character, John Rahway, is considered the "bagman" of the group of bank robbers. A song on the album Picaresque by indie rock band The Decemberists' is titled "The Bagman's Gambit," and describes romance and espionage during the Cold War.
Perhaps the most famous Hollywood depiction of a police corruption and its "bagmen" is in the 1973 drama Serpico starring Al Pacino. In this film the lead character, based on the experiences of the real life Frank Serpico, is faced with exposing the corruption of his Police Department and is shown going along with corrupt partners collecting money for their precinct's protection racket. Various partners during the film refer to themselves as "bagmen", and significant time is given over to why they collect and what the criminals paying receive in return, namely being allowed to continue in their criminal activity without fear of arrest.
- "Colin Dexter reveals his inspiration for Endeavour Morse and Lewis", David Brown, RadioTimes, 14 April 2013. Consulted 22 July 2014.
- "Roger Allam is the seasoned old copper who takes Morse under his wing -and gives him his first ale- in new prequel Endeavour", Maureen Paton, The Daily Mail, 12 April 2013. Consulted 22 July 2014.
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