Born in Letichev, Ukraine around 1902, Stacher (who shortened his name from Oystacher) immigrated with his family to the United States in 1912. As a teenager living in Newark, New Jersey he became known as a pushcart thief, later befriending future Jewish gangsters such as Meyer Lansky and Abner Zwillman. He "was the fat boy that every gang needs. Short and boastful, Joe Stacher shared Meyer's fondness for craps, and he had no hesitation in claiming to be the better player."
By the 1920s Stacher was running much of Zwillman's gambling operations.In 1931, Stacher helped Meyer Lansky organize a conference of Jewish organized crime leaders at the Franconia Hotel, which later would see the alleged merging of the Jewish and Italian Mafia into a national crime syndicate. Running West Coast and Caribbean gambling operations for Lansky during the 1930s, as well as becoming a silent partner of movie studio Columbia Pictures in the late 1930s, Stacher would later supervise gambling in Las Vegas, Nevada, particularly the Sands and Fremont Casinos.
Stacher continued running Mafia gambling operations until 1964, when Federal authorities arrested him for tax evasion. While the US government was in favor of deporting him to his native Poland, federal law prohibited deporting anyone to a communist-controlled country. However, because of the "Law of Return", Stacher was allowed citizenship in Israel and successfully immigrated there in 1965.
While living in Israel he served as the primary source of Israeli journalists Dennis Eisenberg, Uri Dan, and Eli Landau for a biography of Meyer Lansky. Stacher continued living in Israel until his death. He died, according to some reports, under mysterious circumstances[clarification needed] in a Munich, West Germany, hotel room on February 28, 1977. His death was reported as a heart attack and his body shipped back to Israel. He was buried secretly and the nameplate of his grave was altered to hide his burial site. Only eight men were at the funeral, so the family had to ask a reporter and photographer to join the ceremony in order to attain a minyan.
- Sifakis, Carl: The Encyclopedia of American Crime: Second Edition Vol. II (K-Z). New York: Facts On File, 2001.
- Englisch, T.J.: Havana Nocturne. How the Mob Owned Cuba...and Then Lost It to the Revolution; New York Times 2007,2008; ISBN 978-0-06-171274-6
- Chapin, David A. and Weinstock, Ben, The Road from Letichev: The history and culture of a forgotten Jewish community in Eastern Europe, Volume 2. ISBN 0-595-00667-1 iUniverse, Lincoln, NE, 2000, p. 475-477.