Jacob Shapiro

Jacob Shapiro

Jacob "Gurrah" Shapiro (May 5, 1899-June 9, 1947) was a New York mobster who, with his partner Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, controlled industrial labor racketeering in New York for two decades and established the Murder, Inc. organization. Shapiro's nickname "Gurrah" apparently came from a tendency to slur his words; he would frequently shout "Get out of here !" as "Gurrah da' here!" to his underlings. "Gurrah" is derived from the Russian translation of hill or mountain.

Early years

Born in Odessa (Russian Empire) in 1899, Shapiro grew up in Manhattan's impoverished Lower East Side and began committing petty thefts in his early teens. During this period, Shapiro encountered his future partner, Louis Buchalter; both boys were attempting to rob the same pushcart. Instead of fighting over the spoils, Shapiro and Buchalter agreed on a partnership. Buchalter would serve as the brains and Shapiro would provide the muscle in an alliance that would last for decades. Shapiro and Buchalter soon become acquainted with future mobsters Meyer Lansky and Charles "Lucky" Luciano, both of whom were protégés of mobster Arnold "The Brain" Rothstein.

Labor slugger

Encouraged by Rothstein, Shapiro and Buchalter would enter the lucrative arena of New York labor racketeering working for Jacob "Little Augie" Orgen. Orgen had previously wrestled control of this racket from Nathan "Kid Dropper" Kaplan in the decade-long labor slugger wars. The gangsters had infiltrated labor unions in the busy Garment District of Manhattan, assaulting and murdering the union leadership to gain control. The gangsters then instituted a system of kickbacks and skimming from union dues while at the same time extorting the garment manufacturers with the threat of strikes.

After working for Orgen for a while, Shapiro and Buchalter started planning to take over his operations. Realizing that Shapiro and Buchalter posed a threat, Orgen allied himself with brothers Eddie and Jack "Legs" Diamond. Shapiro and Buchalter soon made their move. On October 15, 1927, Orgen and Jack Diamond were standing on the corner of Delancey and Norfolk Street in the Lower East Side. Two gunmen (thought to be Shapiro and Buchalter) drove up to the corner. One gunman got out of the car and started shooting while the driver began shooting from the inside the car. Orgen was killed instantly and Jack Diamond was severely wounded. With Orgen's death, Shapiro and Buchalter took over his labor racketing operation. The two partners soon began massive extortions of both labor unions and businesses as they created a massive criminal monopoly in the Garment District.

Murder, Inc.

Shapiro and Buchalter soon formed the infamous Murder, Inc., an organization that performed contract murders for organized crime. Their client was the "National Crime Syndicate", a confederation of crime families created by Luciano and Lansky in 1929. The Syndicate was created to avoid the bloody gang wars of the 1920s by creating an organization with the power to mediate organized crime disputes and punish offenders. Murder, Inc. was to serve as the enforcement arm for the Syndicate. With Buchalter leading Murder, Inc., Shapiro and Albert "Mad Hatter" Anastasia were his most trusted associates. One of its most dedicated members, Shapiro would personally oversee many contract murders and recruit promising gunmen for future membership.

Government Pressure

During the early 1930s, US Attorney Thomas E. Dewey started to prosecute organized crime members in New York City. The pressure created by Dewey was so bad that in 1935 mobster Dutch Schultz asked the National Crime Syndicate to approve Dewey's murder. Shapiro and Anastasia agreed with Schultz, but Buchalter and the rest of the Syndicate turned down his request. Killing a prosecutor went against mob tradition, the majority argued, and would only increase federal investigation into organized crime and possibly expose the Syndicate itself. In fact, the Syndicate was so fearful of Schultz's proposal that they later ordered Buchalter to murder Schultz. On October 23, 1935, Schultz and several associates were gunned down by Murder, Inc. gunmen in a restaurant in Newark, New Jersey.

Shortly after Schutlz's death, Shapiro and Buchalter became the focus of Dewey's investigations. In October, 1936, Shapiro and Buchalter were convicted of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and were both sentenced to two years in prison. After his conviction, Shapiro went into hiding for a year. However, he finally turned himself in to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents on April 14, 1938 and was sent to prison. On May 5, 1944, Shapiro was convicted of conspiracy and extortion and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

Months before his 1944 conviction, Shapiro allegedly smuggled a note to Buchalter, who was then on trial in New York for murder. The note simply read, "I told you so." On March 4, 1944, Buchalter was electrocuted in Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. Until his death in prison from heart attack in 1947, Shapiro remained convinced that had Dewey been killed, he and others would have remained free.

Further reading

*Block, Alan A. "East Side-West Side: Organizing Crime in New York, 1930-1950". New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers 1983. ISBN 0-87855-931-0
*Ellis, Edward Robb. "The Epic Of New York City: A Narrative History". New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2005. ISBN 0-7867-1436-0
*Fried, Albert. "The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Gangster in America". New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1980. ISBN 0-231-09683-6
*Katcher, Leo. "The Big Bankroll: The Life and Times of Arnold Rothstein". New York: Da Capo Press, 1994. ISBN 0-306-80565-0
*Jacobs, James B., Christopher Panarella and Jay Worthington. "Busting the Mob: The United States Vs. Cosa Nostra". New York: NYU Press, 1994. ISBN 0-8147-4230-0
*O'Kane, James M. "The Crooked Ladder: Gangsters, Ethnicity and the American Dream". New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1994. ISBN 0-7658-0994-X
*Peterson, Robert W. "Crime & the American Response". New York: Facts on File, 1973. ISBN 0-87196-227-6
*Pietrusza, David. "Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series". New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2003. ISBN 0-7867-1250-3
*Reppetto, Thomas A. "American Mafia: A History of Its Rise to Power". New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2004. ISBN 0-8050-7798-7
*Sorin, Gerald. "The Nurturing Neighborhood: The Brownsville Boys' Club and Jewish Community in Urban America, 1940-1990". New York: NYU Press, 1992. ISBN 0-8147-7939-5


*Asbury, Herbert. "The Gangs of New York". New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928. ISBN 1-56025-275-8
*Kelly, Robert J. "Encyclopedia of Organized Crime in the United States". Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2000. ISBN 0-313-30653-2
*Sifakis, Carl. "The Mafia Encyclopedia". New York: Da Capo Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8160-5694-3
*Sifakis, Carl. "The Encyclopedia of American Crime". New York: Facts on File Inc., 2001. ISBN 0-8160-4040-0

External links

* [http://www.fbi.gov/libref/historic/famcases/furdress/furdress.htm Federal Bureau of Investigation - Famous Cases: The Fur Dressers Case]
* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6067 Jacob "Gurrah" Shapiro] at Find-A-Grave
* [http://www.mugshots.com/Gangsters/Jacob+Shapiro.htm MugShots.com - Jacob Shapiro]

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