National Crime Syndicate

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"Crime syndicate" redirects here. For other uses, see Organized crime.
National Crime Syndicate
Founder Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano
Founding location Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.
Years active 1929–1960s
Territory United States; mainly active in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, California, Nevada and Florida
Ethnicity Mainly people of Italian and Jewish descent
Membership At least 14 criminal organizations
Criminal activities Racketeering, rum-running, extortion, bribery, drug trafficking, illegal gambling, pimping, robbery, fraud, money laundering, fencing, loan sharking
Allies Murder, Inc., American Mafia
Rivals Several gangs in the all country

The National Crime Syndicate was the name given by the press to a multi-ethnic American confederation of several crime organizations. Its origins are uncertain.

According to writers on organized crime, the Syndicate was an idea of Meyer Lansky[1] and was founded or established at a May 1929 conference in Atlantic City, attended by leading underworld figures throughout the United States, including Lansky, Johnny Torrio, Lucky Luciano, Al Capone, 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.[2] Others described the Atlantic City meeting as a coordination and strategy conference for bootleggers.[3]

According to the findings of the U.S. Senate Special Committee in the 1950s chaired by Estes Kefauver, it was a confederation of mainly Italian and Jewish organized crime groups throughout the United States.

The enforcement arm of the Syndicate was dubbed by the media as Murder, Inc., a gang of Brooklyn mafiosi who carried out murders in the 1930s and 1940s for various crime bosses. It was headed by Buchalter and Anastasia, who reported to commission members Lepke and Adonis, and included many infamous mobsters.

In his 1991 biography of Meyer Lansky, Little Man, journalist Robert Lacey argued 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.[4]

Although many of its members were imprisoned and some were executed, 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 Jacob "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[edit]

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, and the film Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Howard Abadinsky, Organized Crime, Cengage Learning, 2009, p.115.
  2. ^ Carl Sifakis, The Mafia Encyclopedia: second edition (Checkmark Books).
  3. ^ Dennis Eisenberg, Uri Dan, Eli Landau, Meyer Lansky: Mogul of the Mob Paddington Press, 1979.
  4. ^ Robert Lacey, Little Man: Meyer Lansky and the Gangster Life, (Little Brown & Co., 1991), pp. 200-207.