National Crime Syndicate

"Crime syndicate" redirects here. For other uses, see Organized crime.
National Crime Syndicate
Founded by 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, to a lesser extent Irish-American gangsters, African-American gangsters, Polish-American gangsters, and other organized crime groups
Membership (est.) 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 the multi-ethnic, loosely connected American confederation of several criminal organizations, a confederation that mostly consisted of the closely interconnected Italian-American Mafia and Jewish mob but also included to various lesser extents Irish-American criminal organizations, African-American criminal organizations, Polish-American organizations, and other ethnic crime groups. The name's origins are uncertain.


According to writers on organized crime, the Syndicate was an idea of Meyer Lansky and Johnny Torrio,[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, Torrio, Lucky Luciano, Al Capone, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, Frank Costello, Joe Adonis, Dutch Schultz, Abner "Longie" Zwillman, Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, Gambino crime family head Vincent 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 media dubbed the enforcement arm of the Syndicate "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 Lansky and Adonis, and included many infamous mobsters. 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.

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 Lansky, continued to operate as affiliates of Italian groups.

In popular culture

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.

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 in the film Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.

Along with the lives of its main members, the fictionalized founding of the Syndicate was depicted in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire.

The National Crime Syndicate features heavily in Thomas Steadman's book The Flames of the West.

See also


  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.
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