Morris Rudensky

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Morris "Red" (also "Rusty")[1] Rudensky
Macy Motle Friedman

(1898-08-16)August 16, 1898
Lower East Side, Manhattan, New York, United States
DiedApril 21, 1988(1988-04-21) (aged 89)
St. Paul, Minnesota, United States
OccupationBurglar, Loss prevention consultant
Criminal penalty10-to-life

Morris "Red" (also "Rusty")[2] Rudensky (born Macy Motle Friedman; August 16, 1898 – April 21, 1988) was an American prohibition-era gangster, prominent cat burglar and safe-cracker. Later in his life he became an author as well as a spokesman and security consultant for several companies.

Early life & career[edit]

Born to a Jewish family in Manhattan's Lower East Side Rudensky began his career by stealing bagels. At age 13 he was deemed incorrigible and sent to the Elmira State Reformatory. He escaped to make his way to Chicago where he cracked safes for the best price. He worked with both Al Capone's Chicago Outfit and Bugs Moran's North Side Gang but also traveled, cracking safes on consignment in Kansas City, St. Louis and Detroit.[3]

He would later become known as an escape artist, successfully escaping from the Pontiac State Reformatory, where he was serving ten-years-to-life for the robbery of the Argo State Bank. Still a teenager Rudensky organized the theft of $2.1 million in whiskey from a federal warehouse in Kansas City, Missouri, using over fifty men. Rudensky continued to operate a well-organized theft ring in the Midwest robbing various payroll deliveries, distilleries, banks, and trains, and did freelance work for Egan's Rats and Al Capone.

At the age of twenty-one, Rudensky was again in prison, where he was known as "King of the Cons" for frequently getting into fights, and made several escape attempts successfully escaping briefly, after packing himself in a box being taken out of the prison print shop, but was soon caught. Around 1927, Rudensky was sent to Leavenworth, a federal penitentiary in Kansas, where he escaped twice, once crawling into a body bag with a corpse.[3]

He became friends with communist Earl Browder, in prison, who taught him English and encouraged him to write.[3]


During a prison riot on August 1, 1929, Rudensky saved the life of inmate Charlie Ward, the future president of the Brown & Bigelow advertising firm. After befriending Ward, Rudensky became convinced to stop criminal activities, and after being transferred to Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary Rudensky began to work on the prison newspaper, later becoming editor. In Atlanta he became the cellmate of Al Capone.[3] Although Rudensky expected to serve as Capone's subordinate and errand-runner, Capone's failing health and Rudensky's established position in the convict hierarchy led to the latter acting as guardian to Capone in response to hostility from other inmates.[4]

During WWII, he wrote a popular article calling for the prisoners to support the United States and organized the prisoners to help in the war effort. He was later awarded a commendation by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for his efforts.

In 1955, Rudensky was released from prison on parole working as a copy editor from Brown & Bigelow and later became chief consultant for the 3M Corporation Security Systems. In 1970, Rudensky published his autobiography The Gonif, which is Yiddish for thief. During the 1970s and 1980s, he lectured for a time visiting schools in the St. Paul and Minneapolis metro areas, including in the renowned Minnesota educator Dr. Ida Kugler's fifth-grade class at Hancock-Hamline Magnet School, trying to deter students from the life of crime he had followed. In 1975, he made a public appearance as Paul Eakins toured the country with a V-16 Cadillac once owned by Al Capone.[5]

In his later years he formed the Red Rudensky Variety Show, a troupe that toured nursing homes, and he was a regular in the St. Paul Clown Club, entertaining in children's hospital wards.[6]

Red lived in semi-retirement in the Sholom Home, a nursing home in St. Paul, Minnesota, until his death on April 21, 1988.[7][8]


  1. ^ Capone: The Man and the Era, Laurence Bergreen, Simon & Schuster, 1994, pp. 512-13
  2. ^ Capone: The Man and the Era, Laurence Bergreen, Simon & Schuster, 1994, pp. 512-13
  3. ^ a b c d Burt A. Folkart (April 23, 1988). "Former Cellmate of Al Capone : Morris (Red) Rudensky; Criminal Turned Author". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 20, 2011.
  4. ^ Capone: The Man and the Era, Laurence Bergreen, Simon & Schuster, 1994, pp. 512-13
  5. ^ "Al Capone's Car". Carlisle Music Co.
  6. ^ Glenn Fowler (April 23, 1988). "Red Rudensky, 89, Safecracker Who Went Straight". The New York Times.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  • English, T. J. Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster. New York: HarperCollins, 2005. ISBN 0-06-059002-5
  • Sifakis, Carl. The Mafia Encyclopedia. New York: Da Capo Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8160-5694-3

Further reading[edit]

  • Kobler, John. Ardent Spirits PB: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. New York: Da Capo Press, 1993. ISBN 0-306-80512-X
  • Johnson, Curt and R. Craig Sautter. The Wicked City: Chicago from Kenna to Capone. New York: Da Capo Press, 1998. ISBN 0-306-80821-8
  • Kobler, John. Capone: The Life and Times of Al Capone. New York: Da Capo Press, 2003. ISBN 0-306-81285-1
  • David Grann. Killers of the Flower Moon. The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. New York, Doubleday, 2017. ISBN 9780385534246

External links[edit]