National Crime Syndicate
According to writers on organized crime, the Syndicate was born from an idea of Johnny "The Fox" Torrio and was founded or established at a May 1929 conference in Atlantic City, attended by leading underworld figures throughout the United States, including Torrio, Lucky Luciano, Al Capone, Meyer Lansky, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, Frank Costello, Joe Adonis, Dutch Schultz, Abner "Longy" Zwillman, Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, Vince Mangano, gambler Frank Erickson, Frank Scalice and Albert "Mad Hatter" Anastasia. Others describe the Atlantic City meeting as a coordination and strategy conference for bootleggers.
As revealed by the findings of U.S. Senate Special Committee in the 1950s chaired by Estes Kefauver, it was described as a confederation of mainly Italian and Jewish organized crime groups throughout the United States.
The enforcement arm of the Syndicate was what the media dubbed Murder, Inc., a gang of Brooklyn mafiosi who carried out murders in the 1930s and 1940s for various crime bosses. It was headed by Jacob "Gurrah" Shapiro and Anastasia, who reported to commission members Lepke and Adonis. It included many infamous mobsters such as Bugsy Siegel.
In his 1991 biography of Meyer Lansky, Little Man, journalist Robert Lacey argues that no National Crime Syndicate ever existed. "The idea of a National Crime Syndicate is often confused with the Mafia. Yet they are not the same thing.", probably referring to the American Mafia.
The demise of the organization is as uncertain as its origins. By the late 1940s, Murder Inc. and most of its non-Italian components were defunct. Some individuals, such as Meyer Lansky, continued to operate as affiliates of Italian groups.
Murder Inc. consisted of two factions, The Jewish Brownsville Boys headed by Abe "Kid Twist" Reles (who reported to Lepke Buchalter and Gurrah Shapiro), and the Italian Ocean Hill Hooligans led by Harry "Happy" Maione who reported to Albert Anastasia. Bugsy Siegel was involved in many of Murder Incorporated's murders, but as a leading figure instead of a soldier.
The National Crime Syndicate in popular culture
The National Crime Syndicate was the subject of numerous movies, mostly in the 1950s, some of which were inspired by the Kefauver hearings. Among them were The Phenix City Story, which described the real-life takeover of a southern town by organized crime, and 711 Ocean Drive, which focused on the nationwide gambling syndicate.
The National Crime Syndicate features heavily in Thomas Steadman's book The Flames of the West.
A variation on the National Crime Syndicate (simply called 'The Syndicate') is the main antagonist in most of the later seasons of Mission: Impossible.
- Howard Abadinsky, Organized Crime, Cengage Learning, 2009, p.115
- Carl Sifakis, The Mafia Encyclopedia: second edition, (Checkmark Books)
- Dennis Eisenberg, Uri Dan, Eli Landau, Meyer Lansky: Mogul of the Mob Paddington Press, 1979
- Robert Lacey, Little Man: Meyer Lansky and the Gangster Life, (Little Brown & Co., 1991), pp. 200-207.