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Meyer Lansky

Lansky was one of the premiere treasurers, advisors, Godfathers, and masterminds of the Mafia, but also one of the most understated, least recognized characters in the history of organized crime. That's how it's done, after all. Who's going to suspect a yahoodi from Poland named Maier Suchowljansky?

Anyone who did suspect him met Bugsy Siegel, one of the most violent gangsters of the day. Lansky and Siegel were longtime friends, and constantly saved each other's lives. Siegel's psychotic nature meant that Lanksy rarely needed to kill. This did not preclude himself, nor his wife Jane, from driving while Siegel performed drive-bys.

Lansky's brilliance was finance; he was a money-making machine, architecting the money laundering and financial network essential to organized crime. In concert with the strong-armed Lucky Luciano, both halves of the finance-violence yin-yang of the Mafia were complete.

Desperate to take the miled-mannered Lansky down, the United States government brought him up on tax evasion in 1970. Lansky fled to Israel, but was forced to return after visa complications mysteriously developed. He avoided conviction by exercising his ties with the highest levels of power, and died in 1983 a rich old Jew in Florida. Go figure.

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