Harry Sagansky

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Harry J. "Doc" Sagansky (January 6, 1898 – January 28, 1997) was a Jewish organized crime figure in Boston who controlled one of city's largest bookmaking operations during the 1950s. He is also the oldest organized crime figure to serve a federal prison sentence at the age of 91.


Growing up in Boston, Massachusetts, to first generation Jewish-American immigrants from Lithuania, Sagansky sold newspapers while working his way through school and eventually graduating in dentistry from Tufts University in 1918. Opening a practice at a pharmacy which doubled as a covert liquor store at Scollay Square, he would become involved in illegal gambling during Prohibition.

By 1931, he began investing in several businesses including part ownership of two Boston nightclubs and operated a loan agency, which authorities suspected was worth an estimated $90 million. In 1943, he was arrested during a police raid on one of his gambling dens. He would later be charged with his role in the gambling syndicate and served a prison sentence[1] for attempting to bribe a city official for political protection for a "Beano game". He was a business partner of Michael Redstone, the father of Sumner Redstone, who is currently the CEO of Viacom.

During the 1950s, his involvement in illegal gambling operations was investigated by the Kefauver hearings, where authorities would claim was "the largest racket kingdom in existence in the city of Boston". By the 1970s he had a close physical resemblance to an elderly United States Senator Barry Goldwater.

Throughout his life, Sagansky was a philanthropist whose donations towards Beth Israel Hospital would help contribute a nursing station and an observation unit as well as his alma mater Tufts Dental School. He was an early, and major, contributor to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba, Israel. He later died of natural causes while at Beth Israel Hospital at the age of 99.

"Doc" was survived by three sons, a daughter, eight grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.


  1. ^ "Heads of Boston Police Indicted in Plot to Permit Gaming Houses; Heads of Police Indicted in Boston" (PDF). The New York Times. March 28, 1943. p. 1. (subscription required)

Further reading[edit]

  • Hersh, Seymour M. The Dark Side of Camelot. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1997. ISBN 0-316-35955-6

External links[edit]