The Chicago Outfit Makes Its Move

Oct 14, 2009 - by Ron Chepesiuk - 0 Comments

September 7, 2007

Salvatore Giancana
Salvatore Giancana

by Ron Chepesiuk

Editor's Note: "Policy" is a form of lottery in which a ticket is purchased and numbers selected, with the winning numbers announced at a drawing. No one knows for sure how the policy game began, but the Sixteenth century European countries were using the lottery to raise money for the state. In the United States, Virginia first introduced a lottery game in the Seventeenth century, and it spread across the country during the next century.

The policy game first appeared in the 1880s in New Orleans, and then spread to New York, Chicago and other cities with large African-American populations. Some historians believe that the name "policy" derives from the practice of blacks playing the game with money meant for insurance policies.

In the policy game, 78 numbers (1 to 78) are wrapped in special containers and dropped in a drum-shaped container or "wheel" from which numbers are drawn. The player selects a certain amount of numbers, the most common being three numbers, or a "gig," betting that the combination of numbers chosen will "fall" or win in the next drawing of winning numbers. The policy operator was known as a "banker" and the games they ran as "banks."

Once back on the streets, Sam "Mooney" Giancana wasted no time pursuing his take over plan for the Black Belt policy racket. He followed up on Ed Jones's jailhouse offer to help set him up in policy and arranged a meeting with Ed's brother, George, at the family's Ben Franklin store. The following evening, he met with Paul Ricca and Jake Guzik, two leading members of The Outfit, Chicago's powerful white mafia.

Giancana was confident that the mob bosses would see the light. "Once those guys see there's money in this. Money…big money…Well, shit. I'll be on my way," Sam told his brother Chuck.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Ricca and Guzik were part of the so called "Big Six" who ruled The Outfit. The other heavyweight godfathers included Joe Adonis, Frank Costello, Meyer Lansky and Longy Zwillman. As a young and ambitious gangster, Guzik developed a close relationship with Al Capone, who came to depend on him while organizing the Chicago underworld. Guzik was the Chicago mob's financial wizard for nearly two decades, and his role in arranging payoffs to police and politicians was so valuable that his mob colleagues nicknamed him the "Greasy Thumb."

Estes Kefauver, the chairman of the U.S. Senate's Special Committee on Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce – the Kefauver Committee – that held hearings in Chicago in 1951, described the Greasy Thumb at 64 years of age as "a pouchy-eyed little man – with a ravaged face that looks as if it were made of wax left too long near a hot fire."

Guzik's boss, the handsome, square jawed Paul Ricca, was a slick operator whose smooth style cloaked a history of violent criminality. Born Felice DeLucia in Italy in 1897, Ricca was sent to prison in 1915 for killing Emilio Perillo, his sister Amelia's boyfriend, for dishonoring his family. The insult: the Perillos did not approve of Amelia and told Emilio to stop seeing her. When DeLucia was released from prison, he killed the only witness to the crime and then fled to the U.S., leaving behind in Italy a trail of least two dozen murders.

DeLucia ended up in Chicago, where he took the name of Paul Ricca and went to work for gangster Diamond Joe Esposito, running moonshine and working as waiter in Esposito's Bella Napoli restaurant. This humble employment gave Ricca the nickname "The Waiter." As Ricca climbed the organized crime ladder, he aligned himself with Al Capone and eventually worked as Scarface's emissary on the East Coast, that is, until an IRS investigation sent Capone to Alcatraz for tax fraud 1931.

With Al Capone in prison, Frank Nitti appeared to be The Outfit's "boss of bosses." At least that is the way it looked to the public. Nitti later became famous as the criminal adversary of FBI agent Elliott Ness in the popular TV series, "The Untouchables." In December of 1932 two police officers raided Nitti's office and shot the godfather, but Nitti survived. Mayor Anthony Cermak was suspected of ordering the hit because he wanted more malleable gangsters in place as he pursued his political agenda. Less than two months later, Italian marksman Guiseppe Zangara shot Cermak in the chest at a public appearance he made with President-Elect Franklin D. Roosevelt in Miami. Cermak died three weeks later.

Nitti became a legend. In reality, though, Frank Nitti was just a figurehead, and by the mid 1930s, Paul Ricca was actively involved in running The Outfit's affairs, often traveling to the East Coast to meet and discuss business with the Commission, La Cosa Nostra's board of directors, and doing it without Nitti's knowledge.

Mooney told his brother that The Outfit propped up Nitti as part of its clever ruse to keep the likes of Elliott Ness confused as to the mafia's true power structure. "Those on the inside knew better," Mooney told Chuck. "Paul Ricca ran the show."

At the time Giancana met with Ricca, the godfather was overseeing The Outfit's day-to-day operation with the help of his close ally, the swarthy, bear-like, Frank Accardo. Like his pal Ricca, Accardo worked his way up the mob's ranks, beginning as a vicious enforcer for Al Capone at the tender age of 16. In the mid 1920s, Accardo earned the moniker of "Batters' or "Joe Batters" from his skillful use of a baseball bat on those who displeased his mob bosses. He became so reliable an enforcer that Capone made him one of his personal bodyguards. During his long criminal career, Accardo ran up a string of arrests for murder, extortion, gambling and kidnapping.

Accardo, police believed, played a key role in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, helping to set it up and renting the car that the hit men used. Nothing, however, was ever proven, although by 1931, the Chicago Crime Commission had identified Accardo as one of the Windy City's top 25 mobsters. During the 1930s, Accardo continued to gain power, as The Outfit's leadership died off or retired. The mobster was known for the flying dove tattooed in the crease between his thumb and trigger finger of his right hand. When Accardo squeezed his finger, it looked as if the dove was flying.

Fortunately for Giancana, he was in tight with Ricca, Guzik and Accardo, who liked the young hood, even though he was volatile and had a trigger temper. Giancana was a loyal mafia soldier, who would do as he was told and do it well. He was particularly valuable as a wheelman known to have nerves of steel and for being adept at escaping the scene of a crime or avoiding a hit.

In arranging the meeting with Ricca and Guzik, Giancana knew that a major problem was consuming their time and energy. The U.S. government had uncovered extensive corruption involving the mob shakedown of the movie industry. Starting in the mid 1930s, The Outfit had been extorting money from the Hollywood studios. If a studio did not pay up, the mob controlled movie industry union would go on strike and shut down their operations until it did. In 1943, William Morris "Willie" Bioff, a one time pimp who headed the movie industry union, was indicted for tax evasion, extortion and racketeering. Rather than take the rap, Bioff agreed to testify against his co-conspirators, which led to the indictments of Nitti, Ricca and several other mobsters.

Ricca, now in complete control of The Outfit, devised a scheme to take the heat off him and his associates. "Frank, you are going to plead guilty and take the rap," Ricca ordered Nitti. "You will go to prison and be out in a few years."

But in the early 1930s, Nitti had spent 18 months behind bars for tax evasion and the thought of going to the slammer again actually made him stammer. Nitti balked; Ricca pushed. On March 19, 1943, the day after Ricca gave Nitti his marching orders, Nitti was last seen walking along the railroad tracks in Chicago. Soon after, the mobster pulled out a gun and blew his own brains out.

Nitti's suicide did not prevent the inexorable. In October, 1943, Ricca and several other Outfit mobsters were convicted in the Hollywood studio scandal and each received 10 years in prison. Tony Accardo became the acting boss of The Outfit and then permanent boss in 1946. The Accardo-Ricca relationship was such that Accardo regularly visited Ricca in prison by posing as his lawyer. Later, Accardo stepped down and accepted Ricca as The Outfit's chairman of the board, or consigliere, after Ricca's release from prison in 1947.

Ricca was still out of prison at the time Giancana came to him with his proposal to move in on the Black Belt policy racket; Ricca and The Outfit were looking for new ways to expand their lucrative gambling interests across Chicago. Giancana got the green light and was told to see what he could do for The Outfit in the Black Belt policy racket.

It was a good time for Mooney Giancana to make his move. Grand jury investigations had led to indictments of several leading Black Belt policy kings, and the racket was under increasing pressure from community leaders. Those indicted included Ed Jones, who was still in prison; his brothers McKissack and George; Ily Kelley; and Big Jim Martin. On Feb. 2, 1942, 26 of Chicago's major policy operators turned themselves in to authorities and posted a $5,000 bond.

Big Jim Martin, Ed Jones's old friend, was the biggest policy king on Chicago's Westside, and, together, they controlled gambling in black Chicago. Born on March 8, 1883, in Stanton, Tenn., Martin migrated to Chicago at age 14. Fired by ambition and drive, Martin became a real estate magnate in 1920s and acquired extensive holdings in apartment buildings and commercial properties. By the 1930s, Martin was running his own gambling business from his café, Martin's Corner, at 1900 Lake Street. Customers could either play cards, craps, roulette and the slot machines on the ground floor or climb one floor and see if the policy wheels had spun their numbers.

Being a high profile, big-time policy king in Chicago like Jones or Martin, though, did have its risks. In October, 1940, police officers found a bomb hidden under a newspaper in front of Martin's tavern at 1904 Lake Street. The officers dropped the bomb in a pail of water, and waited for the police bomb squad to arrive. In opening the bomb, the squad found six sticks of dynamite. The subsequent investigation revealed that a bomb had destroyed the home of Charles Bartels, Martin's political associate, the month before, and that Big Jim had received kidnapping threats.

Police picked up 52-year old Joseph Murray, a white ex-con who had served a nine-year sentence for shooting a sheriff. Murray confessed to planting five homemade dynamite bombs in an attempt to extort $20,000 from Big Jim. He did not know Martin, Murray said, but he had learned that the policy king was wealthy. Martin said he firebombed Bartel's home because "I wanted some of the political leeches near Martin to put pressure on him and force him to pay the money."

The following May, three gunmen, posing as police officers, forced Martin's car to a curb near his Maywood home. The gunmen disarmed Ike Knox, Martin's chauffer, and then drove Martin's car to a safe house. They threatened to kill Martin's wife, who was in the car with him, and demanded $50,000. They ended up stealing $300 from Martin before releasing him. Martin was able to identify one of his three kidnappers, Harvey Rogers, from police photos.

Kidnapping and violence were not the only threats facing the policy kings in the early 1940s. They were under increased community pressure. The Chicago Urban League and the National League of Justice petitioned the Chicago Crime Commission to help them stamp out Chicago's policy racket, which they claimed was corrupting the public's morals and taking millions of dollars from black families on the Southside, many of whom were on welfare. Those were familiar charges, but the anti-vice movement was gaining momentum. The Rev. Joseph Evans, the pastor of one of Chicago's most influential black churches, joined with the two civic groups, and they created an umbrella organization that eventually included more than 100 ministers and civic leaders

The group printed a brochure which provided some "amazing' facts about policy on the Southside. There were 38 policy wheels and 400 policy stations and blacks spent approximately $600,000 on policy racket each month, with between 17 to 20 percent of that amount coming from welfare and relief funds. The pamphlet stated: "The taxpayers of Chicago have a legal weapon whereby they can get justice over the heads of the dormant law enforcing bodies. The answer is the grand jury."

Under community pressure, the authorities began convening grand juries to investigate the policy racket. It was mainly the testimony of Ezra Leake, the gambler who had a long running feud with the Joneses, which convinced the grand jury to vote for the indictments of 26 alleged members of the policy racket. Leake wrote a letter to the court asking that he be allowed to speak before the grand jury and give testimony that would prove beyond a doubt that Ed Jones and the other indicted individuals entered into a conspiracy to "circumvent" the law.

The court granted Leake's request, and he testified that he once paid bag man Billy Skidmore $250 in the presence of a well known Southside politician. Leake also claimed that he made payments to Skidmore sometimes twice daily. As the defendant, Skidmore, who would soon join Giancana and Jones in prison, sat through the trial. When Leake asserted that that he paid huge sums for protection, Skidmore leaned over to his lawyer and said in a hoarse whisper: "Why he never has as much as two dollars in his life."

But when 12 of the defendants went to trial, Leake stunned the court by refusing to testify on the grounds that he could incriminate himself. "I expected Leake to fire a cannonball when he took the stand, but instead he only blasted a cap pistol and took the state by surprise," said William Crawford, Illinois State Attorney General. In May 1943, charges against the 12 people that Leake was to testify against were dismissed for a lack of evidence. Leake was fined $500.

In the wake of this setback, angry Southside leaders demanded that the authorities do something. After the Chicago Sun published an expose about the "$10 million a year policy racket," G.W. Lambert, a former Pullman porter and head of the Citizen's Crime Commission, urged more grand jury action, complaining that civic organizations had been fighting the policy racket for more than seven years. "We are accustomed to opposition and the efforts of the authorities had come to no avail…apparently because of the alliance of crime with politics," Lambert charged.

Lambert, however, did concede that some progress had been made. Only nine of 28 major policy wheels were still doing business and less than 400 stations were open and accepting gigs. After the Chicago Sun expose, the authorities were indeed putting pressure on the racket. Chicago Police Commissioner James Allan issued an order closing, at least temporarily, all the policy wheels and stations in the Black Belt.

That situation would change, though, if Giancana and The Outfit could get their way. When Ed Jones got out of prison, Giancana continued to cultivate their relationship, and they met several times at Jones's Ben Franklin store and at his home, where the rough-edged, white mobster was impressed with the rich black policy king's lifestyle.

In 1944, tragedy struck the Jones family when McKissack "Mac" Jones died in a freak accident after leaving a party with friends. His car was hit by a drunk driver speeding on the wrong side of the road. In one of Chicago's largest funerals, 15,000 people attended the service for Jones at Monumental Baptist Church, and Sam Giancana sent flowers. Jones's estate was worth an estimated $150,000 at the time of his death, but in March 1948 it closed in probate court at $444, 826.77.

Ed Jones not only kept his promise to help Giancana enter the policy racket, he also went into business with him. As Giancana biographer William Braschler described the arrangement. "Eddie bankrolled Giancana with $100,000, ostensibly to branch out in the vending machine and the juke boxes and musical record racket. His (Giancana's) plan was to place vending machines and juke boxes in taverns and clubs throughout the (Chicago) suburbs and then go into the city (Chicago) itself."

With the backing of Jones, Giancana now had enough money to move up the criminal ladder, from small time hood to criminal entrepreneur. World War II was raging, and he was already making a lot of money counterfeiting gas and food rationing stamps.

Giancana's stature in The Outfit was growing, so he needed an under boss or right hand man. Giancana chose Fat Leonard Caifano, a happy go lucky 400-pound, fifth-grade drop out, who played a key role for the mob as an accountant and already had some experience in the policy racket. In the past few months, he had moved in on some of the smaller wheels on the edge of the Southside.

Giancana and Fat Leonard started buying vending machines, and within six months they had 12,000 of them. They did so well that they had 500 employees citywide. While the machines were legal, the products they sold out of them – the records, candy, soda and cigarettes – were stolen from warehouses and delivery trucks around Chicago. Eventually, the racket brought in a staggering $8 million annually. Giancana had the books fixed so that it looked as if he was repaying the loan to Ed Jones, but there is no evidence the mobster made any payments.

Giancana had his way with the Jones brothers, but that was not the case with one of their major allies: Teddy Roe, a brash and cocky policy king who operated his wheel in alliance with Ed Jones. Like many policy operators in the Black Belt, Roe did not like or trust the white mob. He was often on Ed Jones's case about his close ties with Giancana and could not understand why the policy king was always kissing the Italian American mobster's behind. He regarded Giancana as a snake who had been thrown into the backyard of the Black Belt to cause harm.

Born on August 26, 1898, in Galliana, La., the son of a tenant farmer, Teddy Roe moved to Little Rock, Ark., as a young boy. It's unclear whether he served in World War I, but by the 1920s, it is certain that he was still in Arkansas working as a bootlegger. In 1923, Roe married and moved to Detroit to work in the auto industry. After losing his job, Roe migrated to Chicago where he settled in the Southside and got a job working in a tailor shop that the Jones brothers owned. In reality, the shop was a front for their Harlem-Bronx policy wheel where Roe worked as a full-time book keeper while, pulling numbers on the side at a drawing held at another policy wheel five blocks to the south on South Indiana.

In one way, Teddy Roe was a lot like Ed Jones; he, too, had a fondness for the finer things in life. He wore custom made suits, monogrammed silk shirts, alligator shoes, painted ties and wide brimmed hats. By the early 1950s, Roe was doing so well as a policy king that he could spend $50,000 to decorate his flat at 5239 South Michigan.

"Lavish," explained the Chicago Defender, was the only word to describe the apartment. Dominating the living room was a fireplace made completely of mirrors and a six-foot-high television set, which sat on a turn table that could be made to face any part of the room with the mere touch of a button. The large kitchen had all the modern conveniences, as well as a cooler for rare liquor and fine champagne. One could get lost in the master bedroom or almost intoxicated smelling the beautiful flowered patterned rugs or the wallpaper above the twin beds that displayed pink roses.

But Teddy Roe was a tough guy, the type of ally the more easy-going Jones needed. Roe had a short fuse and was mouthy, but he could back his rap with his fists. And he never backed down from a fight. Giancana got frustrated when he realized that sweet talk and intimidation, the carrot and the stick, would not work on the brash policy operator. He could not manipulate Roe the same way he did Jones. In 1945, Giancana tested Roe's mettle by trying to shake him down, warning him that Giancana had the full weight of The Outfit behind him. But Roe just laughed at him, vowing never to knuckle under to any white gangster.

Roe and Giancana butted heads several times, and on one occasion, an incident almost led to fireworks. It happened at an old storefront building on Roosevelt near Paulina on the Westside black district, in a bar that Giancana owned and called the Boogie Woogie. The nightclub became a popular destination for Roe and other members of Chicago's black criminal elite, who came to hear Nat King Cole and other popular black musicians.

One night, as he was leaving his bar, Giancana almost bumped into Roe as the policy king entered with his entourage.

"What are you doing in a black bar?" Roe asked Giancana.

"I own it." Giancana replied. "And one day I'm going to own you. Tempers flared and Roe turned into a raging bull, grabbing Giancana's coat lapels and shouting: "Why you dirty motherfucker, I'll fuckin' kill you!"

But before Roe could follow up on his threat, Sam's brother Chuck and Jimmy New York, the bar manager, stepped up and put their guns into Roe's ribs, "You're over your head," Sam Giancana told Roe, as he swaggered out of the bar.

Giancana finally had enough of Roe's stubborn bravado. One night, he told Chuck. "I've had it with Roe; he is a no good son-of-a-bitch."

"And Eddie (Jones)?" Chuck asked. Sam replied: "He's seen his day, too. Shit. I kind of like the guy. I don't want to take him out, but he won't move over and let us in. I got to do something about him."

That something happened in 1946 when Giancana master minded what has been described as "the first major kidnapping of a Negro in Chicago history." On May 11, 1946, at about 11 p.m. Eddie Jones, along with Mrs. Frances Myles, his accountant, finished tallying the daily receipts at the Ben Franklin store. Then Jones, together with his wife, Lydia, and his chauffeur Joseph Brock, drove Mrs. Myles to her home at 4338 South Parkway. The chauffer pulled the car up to the curb in front of Myles house, getting out with Mrs. Myles and escorting her to the door. Nobody notice the two cars parked across the street.

Brock returned to the car and was about to drive off when two white men from one of the cars across the street came up to Jones side of the car and jerked open the door. They wore hats and long overcoats; white handkerchiefs covered the lower parts of their faces. Each man carried a sawed off shot gun.

"Is this Ed Jones?" One of the strangers asked.

"Yes, I'm Ed Jones. Why?

"Come on, get out. We wantcha? They commanded.

Jones hesitated, then demanded. "Why are you doing this?

The gun men ignored his question. "Come on, get out. We are in a hurry. We mean business."

Lydia, who was seated in the back seat behind her husband, leaned forward and threw her arms around her husband's neck. Then she screamed: "You're not going to take my husband." In desperation, she lunged at one of the gun men, but he shoved her away.

The kidnappers struck Jones on the back of the neck with a gun as they dragged him from his car. Picking him up bodily, the kidnappers threw Jones in the back seat of their car and slammed the door.

Lydia Jones screamed again: "They're kidnapping my husband! She bravely tussled with one of the gun men, but he pushed her away. The kidnappers jumped in their car and sped off.

Lydia's screams attracted the attention of a police cruiser that happened to be passing. Policemen Michael Durrance and William Barber took up the chase, while Jones's car followed close behind. The kidnappers smashed the rear window of their speeding vehicle and let loose a volley of shot gun blasts that wounded Officer Durrance. Barber gave up the pursuit, but radioed ahead to let their fellow officers know that the kidnappers were traveling west on 46th Street. Still, the kidnappers got away.

The days passed and the kidnappers made no ransom demands, nor did it appear that they had tried to contact the Jones family. Speculation about the kidnapping was rampant, and the incident dominated the front pages of the newspapers. Inquiring Chicago minds wanted to know: Was Jones kidnapped because he failed to pay off some mobster? Was Jones's kidnapping done for revenge because of some promise Jones had made to some gangsters, but failed to keep them? Or was Jones kidnapped because he was trying to move into the musical record vendor racket, a no-no, since the Outfit considered that racket its exclusive territory? The press revealed that Jones had recently invested $100,000 in a musical record vending company to help an ex-con he met while serving a prison term in Terre Haute, Ind.

The ex-con was obviously Sam Giancana, whom the Chicago Defender newspaper described as a mobster with "a prison record as long as your arm." Sources told The Defender that Jones new business partner was known among associates as the "worse type of double crosser."

The police brought Giancana in for questioning, but he revealed nothing and was released. George Jones and his mother, who were at the family estate in Mexico, flew to Chicago and went into seclusion. If the family knew anything, it was not going to share it with the police.

Then on May 24, the kidnappers released Jones after the family reportedly paid $100,000 ransom. Later, it was revealed that the kidnappers had actually demanded a $250,000 ransom, but George Jones negotiated the amount down to $100,000. George Jones eventually released a list of serial numbers for $15,000 of the alleged $100,000 ransom, but a question arose as to whether any ransom was paid at all. Immediately, the Chicago police and the FBI began a nationwide man hunt for two suspects in the Jones kidnapping: Grover Duliard, a suspect in the killing of Harry "Red" Richmond, a West Side bookie and a former bodyguard of mobster Bugs Moran, and Virgil Summers, who was wanted in a series of bank robberies. Both had prison records.

After meeting with his attorney Aaron Payne, Jones told the press: "I'm the happiest man in the world." He was treated well, Jones said. The kidnappers had blindfolded him with adhesive tape and plugged his ears with cotton, but otherwise they had kept him in a room that had a bed and other conveniences.

Eventually, the true story of the kidnapping got out. Sam Giancana had planned and executed the kidnapping. He sat in the second car while the men from the first one carried it out. The mobster's prime objective was not to extort money, but to scare the hell of Jones and send a message to him and the other policy kings in the Black Belt. The kidnappers took Jones to Giancana's recently purchased home in Oak Park, Ill., and got word to the Jones family that they had him. The family was to follow instructions and keep quiet. Then Giancana gave Ed Jones this blunt ultimatum: "Cooperate or die."

According to Chuck Giancana, "Jones didn't have to be convinced" and agreed to turn his entire policy operation over to Giancana and The Outfit. Exasperated by Ed Jones lack of cooperation and the inability to make headway in the case, Virgil Peterson, the operating director of the Chicago Crime Commission, threatened to call a grand jury to investigate.

Meanwhile, the IRS got interested in the case because if a ransom had been paid, George Jones, who made the alleged payment, would have to fill out the special form number 1099, in which he had to identify to whom he made the payment, or else describe the person or persons to whom he paid it. An interesting process, given that George never admitted paying a ransom.

About two weeks after the kidnapping, the Jones family boarded the Golden State Limited train for Texas and then traveled to their Mexico estate. Ed Jones days as the Policy King of the Black Belt were over: He lived in Mexico for the rest of his life, and reportedly, as part of his agreement with The Outfit, he drew an annual sum of $200,000 in return for staying out of policy permanently.

The Chicago Defender told its readers. "Those in the know stated that in so far as the policy racket is concerned, the Jones brothers are definitely ousted. They are branded as 'too hot' and their presence in the city will only serve to attract 'police heat.'"

Many blacks involved in the policy racket were happy to see Ed Jones leave Chicago. By dealing with the white mob, Jones had brought a veritable plague on the Black Belt. Many policy kings now feared for their future; others wondered if they had any future at all.

The Black Belt's policy kings had every reason to worry. It was open season on them in the weeks and months following Jones's flight. The opening salvo came when assassins shot Robert Wilkins, a leading figure in the policy racket in the back of the head in mid September 1946. Wilcox operated the Wabash Electric Welding and Auto Repair Company, but he serviced policy wheel operators as a sideline. Wilcox was reportedly a partner of Teddy Roe in the Boston Club, a gambling establishment located on the second floor of a building at 4234 Wabash Avenue.

At the time he was murdered, Wilcox was manufacturing a wheel for the Belmont and "Old Reliable" policy books. The police found some slips with imperfections in the spelling of "Belmont" on the machine and surmised that Wilcox was trying to correct them.

Every Chicago newspaper had it own theory about why Wilcox was killed. The Chicago Defender reported that the black policy kings killed Wilcox because he was going to sell policy equipment to The Outfit. The Sun Times, on the other hand, wrote that The Outfit had murdered Wilcox because he refused to sell equipment to mobster Paul Labriola. The Daily Tribune, however, reported that Wilcox made the 'grave error of talking to the investigators about the mob's encroachment into policy." It was a lot wild speculation, but one thing remained certain: Wilcox murder was never solved.

Police Sergeant Carl Nelson, who headed the murder investigation, said he believed robbery was the motivation. "Wilcox was not a high powered racketeer," Nelson explained. "He was simply a machine operator and probably his only connection with any racket was as a repairman of the machinery used in the game. No guy would have to rub him out or try to muscle in. We are working on the stick-up theory.

Rumors swirled that Teddy Roe, Wilcox's alleged policy partner, had narrowly escaped a kidnapping. The alleged attempt came a week before Wilcox's murder. Those in the know said Roe left the Boston Club at 8 p.m., got into his Cadillac and drove south toward Wabash. As he approached 47th St., he noticed a car was following him. He turned east and floored his car's accelerator.

Roe screeched his car to a halt near 47th and Vincennes Avenue, got out and started running. The sedan following him pulled up the curb. Four men jumped out and gave chase, but Roe managed to escape through an alley.

Roe later denied that any such incident occurred." I can walk down any street, day or night, without fear of being bothered by hoodlums," he told anybody who would listen. But a confidential source told the Chicago Crime Commission that four shots were fired at the fleeing Roe. According to sociologist Robert M. Lombardo, 'the informant predicted the end of the black control of the policy racket in Chicago. Chicago was the only city left in the nation that allowed blacks to continue to control the game."

Blacks were not the only policy kings the Outfit was after. On April 23, 1947, a dynamite bomb blasted white policy king Leo Benvenuti's home at 3311 Loomis Boulevard; five days later, a bomb exploded in front of the home of Leo's brother Cesar at 511 South Christiana Avenue. Later, a rumor circulated that The Outfit took the Erie-Buffalo policy wheel; Accardo and Guzik made $280,000 profit on it in the first year.

Wheel after policy wheel in Chicago was taken down either through intimidation or persuasion. The Outfit offered a standard shakedown arrangement. It would get 40 percent "off the top of the policy," meaning the gangsters would get a percentage of the wheel's gross income before payment was made to winners, workers and corrupt officials and to cover other expenses.

Historically, Gary, Ind., had a close association with Chicago's policy racket, and the mob flexed its muscles there as well. On June 18, 1948, Gary policy King Louis Buddy Hutchens had stopped by Jack Doyle's Casino to make his regular bet on the horses. Jack Doyle, the owner, told Hutchens something that made him real nervous, according to police witnesses. Hutchens looked desperate as he tried to call Charles Cole, an associate who was at the Pershing Hotel, but Cole was not there. Hutchens left the casino and headed for his policy station at Washington and Adams.

A man wearing sunglasses traveling in a Dodge Roadster called out: "Hey Buddy." Hutchens turned to look and saw a man pointing a .38 pistol at him. The policy king tried to run away, but Sunglasses emptied his gun into Hutchens's back. The killer then strolled to his car and reloaded his .38 before he walked back to Hutchens's body and pumped four more rounds into his head. An estimated 20,000 people attended Buddy Hutchens's funeral.

In 1950, Big Jim Martin became the next big policy king to be toppled. Martin was a political power in the 28th ward as long as anyone could remember, even though the ward was mostly white at this time. He was one of the most effective workers for George D. Kells, a Democratic alderman and ward committeeman. His political position and connections would protect him. Or so Martin thought.

On November 15, 1950, at Central Avenue and Washington Boulevard, shotgun pellets ripped into Martin's shiny Cadillac, wounding him in the arm, shoulder and neck. He was lucky to live. John Philip Cerone, an up and coming soldier in The Outfit, carried out the hit.

In the early 1960s, the FBI caught Cerone on tape bragging about his violent exploit:

"When I banged the guy (Jim Martin), I caught him full load…but it had to go through a Cadillac. I blasted him twice. Joe says, 'Is this guy dead?' And I said: 'Sure. because when I nailed him, his head went like that, you know.

The next morning, the headlines are in the paper... The guy is still living – this double-ought-buck (his shotgun) was 10 years old. It wasn't fresh, so the guy lived. That guy was a big nigger. He left the country and went to Mexico. That's what we wanted anyway. We grabbed up all his policy games. The next day I'm on the corner where he was shot. I went to the place all dressed up. The police squads are all around I'm right there. And everybody is talking and I say, 'Oh, isn't that terrible!' But them fucking niggers are always fighting each other, you know."

Martin did retire and left for Mexico where his old friend, Ed Jones, had resided for more than five years. In January 1951, Kells announced that he would not run for re-election as alderman. Informed Westside sources attributed Kells's decision to the shooting of Martin and the violence threats made against his workers.

Now there was one. The Outfit had control of almost every important policy wheel in Chicago, except Teddy Roe's. He must have felt as lonely as the Maytag repair man of the famous TV commercials. After Jones fled Chicago, Roe became the Policy Man, and he took over all of the gambling between Roosevelt and Halsted streets. He was making more than $1 million annually, and Chicago's black community loved him for his brave stand against the white mob; it made him a folk hero. He had no intention of cutting and running. The Outfit tried to work out a deal with him, but he refused, even after his men started showing up dead in alleyways, shots were fired that put his wife and kids in danger and his house was bombed.

At the time Martin left for Mexico, Roe, the street brawler, was still fighting back against the powerful mob. But how long could he hold out?


Editor's Note: Black Gangsters of Chicago will be published by Barricade Books in September, 2007.

Ron Chepesiuk, a South Carolina journalist and Fulbright Scholar in journalism, is author of Drug Lords: The Rise and Fall of the Cali Cartel (Milo Books, 2005), Gangsters of Harlem (Barricade Books, 2007) and the forthcoming Superfly: The True, Untold Story of Frank Lucas, American Gangster (October 25, 2007).

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