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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Done in by cheapness

A few days late with this entry. All November dues will be repaid to all DGIS members in good standing. November 25, 1933 saw one of New York City's most important gangland executions. The murder of Alexander "Red" Alpert. Even though his death barely made the news at the time it would prove to be one of the most significant in New York history because “Red's” was the slaying that started the whole Murder Inc. investigation in 1940, which resulted in the downfall of the Brownsville and Ocean Hill Combination, not to mention the deaths of most of the major players.

By the age of nineteen “Red” was already a seasoned hoodlum with a number of arrests but no convictions. He was known as a cop hater and his disdain for the officers of the law was so great, the authors of Murder Inc. tell us, that he wouldn’t even wear a blue suit. His end came after he pulled off a jewel heist and had a collection of gems worth probably upwards of $10,000.

Not having the connections to move the merchandise himself "Red" went to Brownsville and paid a visit to Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss. “Red” showed the Murder Inc. executioner his jewels and told Strauss he could have them at the bargain rate of $3000. Strauss in turn offered only $700. Alpert in no polite terms told Strauss what he could do with his offer and went on his way.

Strauss sent two guys to bring “Red” back but Alpert was wise and managed to elude them. Still wanting the gems Strauss had Abe Reles and Buggsy Goldstein pay the youthful crook a visit. The two killers told Alpert that Strauss wanted the jewels and he wanted them for the $700 he originally offered but the stubborn “Red” told Reles and Goldstein they could go to hell with Strauss. This of course sealed his fate and the contract was given to Walter Sage, whom Alpert knew and had no reason to fear. The next day Sage met “Red” at the latter's house and the two men walked off together. After they had gone about a block Sage drew a gun and killed the young hoodlum. Seven years later one of Red's friends went to the authorities and told them the story. The usual suspects were picked up and this time Reles sang.

An interesting thought to ponder. If Strauss had paid the the 3 Gs Red wanted, would Murder Inc. have gone on for years to come? No Reles out the window, no hot seat for Lepke and all the others, no movie for Peter Falk, no time for a summer rain, no time for my watch and chain. Ah, the what ifs.

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