NYPD mugshot of Waxey Gordon
January 19, 1888
New York City, New York, United States
|Died||June 24, 1952
Alcatraz Island, California, United States
|Cause of death||Heart attack|
|Criminal penalty||10 years, 25 years|
|Conviction(s)||Tax evasion, Narcotics trafficking|
Waxey Gordon (born Irving Wexler; January 19, 1888 – June 24, 1952) was an American gangster who specialized in bootlegging and illegal gambling. An associate of Arnold Rothstein during prohibition, he was caught up in a power struggle following Rothstein's death. Fellow Rothstein associates Charles Luciano and Meyer Lansky provided authorities with evidence that led to his imprisonment for ten years.
Youth and early career
He was born Irving Wexler to Polish Jewish immigrant parents in New York's Lower East Side on January 19, 1888. Gordon became known as a pickpocket and sneak thief as a child, becoming so successful he earned the nickname "Waxey" for supposedly being so skilled in picking pockets it was as if his victims' wallets were lined with wax. In 1914, he participated in a gang fight that resulted in the death of a court clerk named Samuel Straus. Wexler was put on trial for the crime but acquitted by a jury in February 1917.
Joining "Dopey" Benny Fein's labor sluggers in the early 1910s Gordon helped organize Fein's operations before being noticed by Arnold Rothstein, who hired him away from Fein and put him to work as a rum-runner during the first years of Prohibition.
Prohibition and decline
Gordon's success later led him to run all of Rothstein's bootlegging on most of the east coast, specifically New York and New Jersey, and importing large amounts of Canadian whiskey over the Canada–United States border. Gordon, now earning an estimated $2 million a year, began buying numerous breweries and distilleries as well as owning several speakeasies. Gordon began to be known to live extravagantly, traveling in limousines and living regularly in prominent Manhattan hotel suites, as well as owning mansions built for him in New York and Philadelphia.
Rothstein died in 1928 and Gordon's position began to decline. He made an alliance with future National Crime Syndicate founders Charles Luciano, Louis Buchalter, and Meyer Lansky. Gordon, however, constantly fought with Lansky over bootlegging and gambling interests and soon a gang war began between the two; several associates on each side were killed. Lansky, with Luciano, supplied interim United States Attorney Thomas E. Dewey with information leading to Gordon's conviction on charges of tax evasion in 1933.
Gordon had a large million-dollar operation that included many trucks, buildings, processing plants, and associated employees and his business front could not account for this ownership and cash flow and he paid no taxes on it. Gordon was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment. At this time he was married to a rabbi's daughter and their son was in medical school. This son died in a weather-related automobile accident while traveling from an out-of-town college planning to plead with the judge for leniency with his father's sentence. Gordon had tried to insulate his otherwise respectable family from his organized crime career and after this incident a wall of cultural shock descended over their relations and great stress was put on his deteriorating marriage.
Upon Gordon's release from prison, he found his gang long since disbanded. Ignored by his former political connections, he reportedly remarked to a journalist, "Waxey Gordon is dead. Meet Irving Wexler, salesman." He moved to California, a single man, and during World War II he was able to obtain 10,000 lbs of scarce, coupon-rationed sugar to sell on the black market. FBI investigations revealed he had high-level international narcotics connections, and was given the U.S. West Coast as a protected territory for distribution of imported illegal drugs since he lost his bootlegging business on the East Coast.
In 1951, Gordon was arrested for selling heroin to an undercover police officer. The 62-year-old gangster reportedly offered the detective all his money in exchange for his release. When the detective refused, Gordon jokingly pleaded with the detective to kill him instead of arresting him for "peddling junk." Gordon was later convicted, and due to his long criminal record was sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment in Alcatraz, where he died of a heart attack on June 24, 1952.
In popular culture
- "'Waxy' Gordon goes free". New York Times. February 17, 1917. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
- "Gangsters Shoot Arnold Rothstein. Notorious Gambler in Serious Condition After Attack on New York Street". The Atlanta Constitution. Associated Press. November 5, 1928. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
Arnold Rothstein, millionaire gambler and race track man, was seriously wounded by a shot fired from a passing automobile tonight as he was walking up Seventh avenue near Fifty-fifth street.(subscription required)
- "Waxey Gordon Says He Paid Income Tax. Racketeer Is Nervous in Court as He Pleads Not Guilty. Says 'Sir' to Police. Heard Two Aides Shot. Tells of Noise in Jersey Hotel at Time of Murders. Fails to Get $100,000 Bail.". The New York Times. May 23, 1933. p. 11. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
Irving Wexler, better known as Waxey Gordon, wealthy beer distributer and all-round racketeer, pleaded not guilty to income-tax evasion yesterday. He appeared before Judge Goddard in Federal Court and was held in $100,000 bail until June 5, when a trial date may be set. ...(subscription required)
- "Narcotics Agents Nab Waxey Gordon. Racketeer, 3 Other Men Held After 8-Month Investigation. Had Heroin in His Hand.". The New York Times. August 3, 1951. p. 1. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
Waxey Gordon, beer baron of prohibition days, was arrested last night with three other men as a narcotics law violator.(subscription required)
- Almog, Oz, Kosher Nostra Jüdische Gangster in Amerika, 1890–1980 ; Jüdischen Museum der Stadt Wien ; 2003, Text Oz Almog, Erich Metz, ISBN 3-901398-33-3
- Chiocca, Olindo Romeo. Mobsters and Thugs: Quotes from the Underworld. Toronto: Guernica Editions, 2000. ISBN 1-55071-104-0
- Fried, Albert. The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Gangster in America. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1980. ISBN 0-231-09683-6
- Kelly, Robert J. Encyclopedia of Organized Crime in the United States. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2000. ISBN 0-313-30653-2
- Messick, Hank. Lansky. London: Robert Hale & Company, 1973. ISBN 0-7091-3966-7
- Phillips, Charles and Alan Axelrod. Cops, Crooks, and Criminologists: An International Biographical Dictionary of Law Enforcement, Updated Edition. New York: Checkmark Books, 2000. ISBN 0-8160-3016-2
- Sifakis, Carl. The Encyclopedia of American Crime. New York: Facts on File Inc., 2001. ISBN 0-8160-4040-0
- Sifakis, Carl. The Mafia Encyclopedia. New York: Da Capo Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8160-5694-3
- Crime Magazine - Waxey Gordon's Half Century of Crime, by Allen May.
- The Wexler/Gordon Story by Allan May