The Making Of The Mob: New York (2015) s01e01 Episode Script


1 (Narrator) From the chaos of the New York City streets (Gunshot firing) Rises a legion of visionary gangsters.
Vicious killers and criminal geniuses determined to create their own version of the American dream.
Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Vito Genovese, and Frank Costello form alliances and revolutionize the underworld.
You're looking at guys dressed in $250 suits and diamond rings.
These guys don't get up early in the morning.
They don't have to punch a clock.
- (Rapid gunfire) - (Narrator) Over a 50-year period, these ambitious, young immigrants come together to form the American Mafia, - (applause) - Making millions, killing thousands - (Gunshot firing) - And changing the face of crime, forever.
Their authority stretches across two continents, impacting global wars And creating empires.
(Rudy Giuliani) I don't think anyone has really described the grip the Mafia had on America.
There's none that had the institutional tentacles of the Mafia.
Totally criminal, totally amoral, totally horrible, but totally brilliant.
(Gunshot firing) Just get it done, now.
(Gunshot firing) This ain't no time to feel sorry for myself I can't help it cause there's nobody else I'll walk these streets with your name on my tongue but I dare not speak only there it belongs cause there's got to be a better way get away (Horn honking) (Indistinct chatter) (Narrator) In the fall of 1931 Lucky, good to see you.
Charles "Lucky" Luciano calls the most powerful gangsters in America Al.
To a hotel in Chicago, for a meeting that will soon change everything.
The blood on the streets must stop, and these cycles of revenge must end.
We may be criminals, but that doesn't mean we're savages.
We have to run our business like a business.
To begin, we start organizing our families, like we did in sicily.
The Capos, the Crews, the Consiglieres, all reporting to the head of the family, but there will be no more boss of bosses.
Instead, we'll have a board of directors, a commission run by the heads of the five New York families.
They will have the final say in all matters, even life and death.
To peace and profits.
(Applause) (Narrator) In a single move, Luciano creates the most powerful organized crime syndicate America has ever seen.
Uniting thousands of ruthless criminals across the country And bringing order to a multimillion-dollar operation.
It's the birth of the modern American Mafia, and it all began more than two decades earlier.
In 1906, nearly 900,000 immigrants pour into New York City.
Among them, is a nine-year-old sicilian named Charles Luciano.
Luciano and his family arrive with hopes of a better life, but what they find is nothing like what they expected.
More than four million people live in New York City, piled into highly segregated tenements.
And while most fight to scrape out an honest living, others turn to crime.
As neighborhoods sprang up, whether they were Jewish, Irish, or Italian, you had exploiters.
You had gangsters.
They plundered from their own people.
Shaked down storekeepers.
If you didn't pay money for them, you might be beaten up.
And it was easy money for them, and it was an easy market.
(Narrator) Across the city, hundreds of unorganized gangs terrorize entire blocks in a chaotic turf war.
There's a wide array of mobsters in New York City.
There's mobs upon Mob.
It is damn dangerous because they are knocking each other off on the streets.
(Gunshot firing, woman screams) (Baby crying) (Narrator) In this unstable environment, Luciano's family struggles to survive.
(Door opens, closes) And as Luciano's father fails to find work, he turns to alcohol, and takes his frustrations out on his family.
(Speaking in Italian) (Narrator) By age 15, Luciano has dropped out of school.
And like most teenagers from the lower east side, he's hit the streets, looking for ways to support his family.
Next hand.
Next hand.
For the people that I grew up with, who ended up getting involved in crime, there was nothing else.
They didn't have a great education.
In-in those days, if you came from a poor environment, this was a way of-of earning money.
(Narrator) Luciano decides to join one of the dozens of gangs in his neighborhood.
But, while most immigrants stick to their own kind, Luciano teams up with a couple of tough Jewish teenagers named Meyer Lansky and Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel.
My grandfather, Meyer Lansky, met Lucky Luciano on the streets of New York.
He was being run down for some money to cross over to the other neighborhood.
My 5'4" grandfather said, "I'm not giving you any money.
"You'll have to fight me for it.
" (Grunts) And at that point, Luciano respected him.
He said he was the bravest man he ever met.
(Collective chatter) (Narrator) Meyer Lansky is a Russian immigrant with a knack for mathematics, whose parents came to America to avoid religious persecution.
(Man) Seven, oh! (Grunting) (Narrator) While Bugsy Siegel is an intimidating Jewish kid from Brooklyn, known for his charm, and also his violent outbursts.
Bugsy Siegel got his nickname because when you were bugs, you were nuts.
(Narrator) Combining their unique talents, Luciano, Lansky, and Siegel begin to establish themselves as an up and coming criminal force on the lower east side.
(Rich Cohen) Luciano was really an American.
He didn't have the prejudice of the-the generation older than him.
He didn't really care about somebody's background.
Whereas, a guy older than him might say, "this is a Jew, and I'm not doing business with him.
"We don't do business with them.
" He could see, this guy and me, together, we can make something, and it sorta carried him.
(Narrator) As his crew starts to have small-time success, Luciano sets his sights on joining the ranks of a much bigger operation.
(Collective chatter) One of the more powerful gangsters in New York is a brutal sicilian thug named Joe Masseria.
Masseria rules through violence and intimidation, and is now asserting his dominance in Luciano's neighborhood.
Working for Masseria would be a fast track to the big leagues.
But, to get in with the gangster, Luciano knows he'll need an opportunity to prove his worth.
(Frank Costello) Come on, pay! (Man) I don't got it.
I swear.
He's lyin'.
(Grunts) (Frank Costello) Just pay already.
Please, I can't.
I swear.
(Gunshot firing) See what he has on him.
Come on.
Let's go.
Looks like 50 bucks.
See if he has any gold in his mouth.
What? A couple fillings.
That's good.
Get 'em.
(Narrator) One of the newest recruits in Masseria's operation is a 20-year-old Italian immigrant named Frank Costello.
Oh, Christ.
(Cocks gun) Go on.
Get outta here.
Maybe we can give you a hand.
Charles Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and Bugsy Siegel are rising in the ranks of the New York underworld, after proving themselves as valuable recruits to up-and-coming gangster, Frank Costello.
Over the next few years, they run successful rackets for Costello Under Joe Masseria, a ruthless criminal kingpin.
By 1919, the crew was nothing more than a group of petty criminals, making money through small-time gambling rings and protection shakedowns.
Seeing an opportunity to strengthen their crew, Frank Costello brings in a new soldier.
(Vito Genovese) Guys, we gotta move.
We gotta move.
We got 16 boxes up here.
We gotta get 'em outta here.
Let's go.
Come on, guys.
Two at a time.
Three at a time.
Let's go.
Let's go.
Let's keep it movin'.
It's all right.
- Hey, Frank.
- Vito.
I want you to meet my associate, Charlie Luciano.
- Nice to meet ya.
- Likewise.
Vito's in the import-export business.
Mostly import.
(Narrator) Vito Genovese is a low-level sicilian thug, and has earned a reputation as a lethal enforcer.
(Grunting) Busted! Vito Genovese was almost a classical tough guy.
Who'd be a guy who-who beat up innocent victims.
Who would slug anybody.
Who would kick a dog when he was down.
There was nothing, no atrocity he wouldn't pull.
Toughest guy in the world.
And he wanted that reputation.
- (Laughter) Wasn't that crazy? - You're a sick bastard, man.
Got a smokin' hot rack, though.
(Collective chatter) Whoo-hoo-hoo.
Hey, Charlie, there ya go.
(Narrator) With Vito Genovese on board, they're ready to transform their crew from low-level street thugs into a legitimate gang.
Meyer Lansky is the money man.
Bugsy Siegel is the suave charmer with ruthless instincts.
Frank Costello has all the connections and knows how to play the system.
And Luciano is a visionary with relentless ambition.
They know all they need now is the right opportunity.
On January 17th, 1920, the government passes the 18th Amendment, and prohibition goes into effect, making the sale and distribution of alcohol illegal.
The theory was, prohibition would, uh, decrease, uh, alcoholism, and it would increase the morals and the moral fiber of Americans.
The whole concept backfired.
(Narrator) Instead of cleaning up America, prohibition plays into the hands of the gangsters, creating a billion-dollar industry virtually overnight.
Prohibition was one of the best things the government ever did for the Mob.
Because supply and demand, and the demand was people wanted to drink and there was no supply.
So, the gangsters made a lot of money on it.
I want these payments coming in every two weeks.
If a guy doesn't pay, kill him.
Come on.
You're pissing me off.
Get outta here.
(Narrator) Joe Masseria has been running gambling rackets, but he changes his entire business plan to take advantage of prohibition.
Masseria creates an underground network of bootlegging distilleries in warehouses, selling his own product at a curbside liquor market and secret drinking establishments called "speakeasies.
" In just months, there are as many as 100,000 speakeasies in New York, and thousands of them are selling Masseria's liquor.
Prohibition probably reverses Joe Masseria's fortunes more than anybody else in the underworld.
He goes from being petty bootlegger, to the king of the underworld.
Joe Masseria becomes Joe the boss.
(Narrator) Thanks to prohibition, Masseria's empire expands, and now covers half of Manhattan.
(Indistinct chatter) Take that over there.
Now, this guy's been short all week.
- Yeah, who is it? - Send 'em to Vito.
No, I want you to have a boy talk to him.
(Narrator) Working with Costello, Luciano and his crew are bringing in money for Masseria.
But not enough to get noticed.
Meyer, come here.
(Narrator) Luciano begins to devise a plan.
One that he hopes will get Masseria's attention.
Get things movin'.
Get it movin', man.
I know, I know, I know.
I understand.
The Mafia people, like Luciano, were ambitious.
They were entrepreneurial.
They were not willing to exist on the lowest level of the social pecking order.
They were opportunistic people.
The booze is comin' right through here, right up the coast of New Jersey.
It's headin' to Philly.
It's gonna be good stuff.
Are we sure about that route? We tracked it for a couple weeks.
This is the big time, boys.
(Narrator) Luciano decides to hijack a rival gang's truck, filled with illegal booze, and deliver it to Masseria.
If he can pull it off, he'll have a chance to move up in Masseria's organization and finally earn some big money.
If anybody wants to back out, now's the time.
Luciano emerged from this whole group because he was not afraid to make decisions.
He was a leader.
(Joe Mantegna) This country has a history of the old west.
I mean, you know, we were the pioneers, and cowboys, and the gunslingers, and all that.
I mean, you know, jump cut 100 years, and now you got the Mob.
It-they're just-they're just cowboys in pinstripe suits.
Need some help? Not exactly.
(Cocks guns) (Rapid gunfire, man groans) (Man) Don't you know whose truck this is? Masseria.
Joe Masseria.
(Narrator) Luciano and his crew have just pulled off a huge heist.
The only problem is, they've robbed a truck belonging to their own boss.
(Narrator) In an effort to make a name for themselves, Charles Luciano and his gang have pulled off a daring heist, only to learn they've inadvertently stolen from their own boss, Joe Masseria.
Luciano knows that he and his crew can't just return what they've stolen, as Masseria will make a brutal example of anyone who crosses him.
(Knock on door) (Frank) It's Frank.
Let me in.
Masseria's got guys lookin' for us everywhere.
We can't just stay holed up here forever.
Let's just take him out.
It's either him or us.
It might as well be him, right? You can't just walk in there and take out Masseria.
You're right But we're not gonna be hunted down like dogs, either.
What the hell are we gonna do, Charlie? I'll go see Masseria myself.
Luciano was smart, but he was a tough guy, and he was a street guy.
And you put that together, and you got this kinda unstoppable force.
(Footsteps approaching) You got some big balls comin' over here like this.
(Grunts) Tell me why I shouldn't kill you right now.
I didn't know the trucks were yours.
- If I knew they were yours, i would ne - Shut up.
Ever kill anyone, Luciano? No.
It's actually pretty easy.
Some people say It's an acquired taste.
But, to me, it comes very naturally.
(Cocks gun) Let me make it right.
Too late.
You give me a name I'll murder for you.
How'd it go with Masseria? I'm alive.
Damn, they really worked you over.
Thanks for taking the fall for us.
Don't thank me yet.
I need your help.
With what? Killing Umberto Valenti.
What? If I don't kill him, we're all dead.
(Narrator) Umberto Valenti is a feared assassin who's murdered over 20 men (Collective screaming) And nearly killed Joe Masseria just days earlier.
Luciano has never killed before.
And now he must take out one of the most dangerous mobsters in New York.
(michael Green) There are mobsters who liked to kill.
But, there are other mobsters, and Luciano is in this category, they'll kill when they must.
And, he has to make some tough decisions.
(Narrator) For weeks, Luciano and his crew plan the hit on Umberto Valenti, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike.
I always felt that the mentality of a wise guy when he has to shoot somebody, it's no different from, uh, being in the trenches.
So, war is war.
A soldier is a soldier, whether you're a soldier for the wise guys or you're a soldier for the government.
(Meyer Lansky) There he is.
You ready? (Meyer Lansky) There he is.
You ready? (Rapid gunfire) (Collective screaming) (Sal Polisi) In the Mob, you will get an order to commit a violent act.
Now, you have to detach yourself from the act.
You have to think that you are paying homage to the boss, and you're doing what's expected of you.
So, you have to be strong-minded, and, uh, think you have a license to do it.
You-you're just gonna do it, no matter what.
(Sirens blaring) (Narrator) At age 25, Charles Luciano has committed his first murder.
He saves himself and his crew, but he's also put himself under Masseria's control.
(Indistinct chatter) (Narrator) Masseria sees the gangster's potential and promotes him.
A lot of good it'd do you.
Just listen for a second.
(Narrator) Now in Masseria's inner circle, Luciano was ordered to run a high stakes racket, selling a recently outlawed painkiller Known as heroin.
(michael Green) Heroin was legal in America into, well, the teens, and it's a drug that is legitimate.
It was just being sold, and people could get to sleep a little more easily.
There'd be heroin in things like cough syrup, in aspirin.
(Narrator) Heroin usage quickly spirals out of control.
And when the government finally makes it illegal, demand skyrockets.
Heroin becomes Joe Masseria's biggest business.
The myth of the Mafia not dealing in drugs comes from "The Godfather," when Don Corleone spoke the lines about, "we don't do that.
It takes people's souls.
" I don't think there's any truth in it.
They were interested in making money.
(Luciano) Vito.
Come on.
(Narrator) Luciano and his crew devise ways of smuggling heroin to their clients, like disguising their deliveries in hatboxes.
Their main customers are prostitutes, reliable addicts who can sell Luciano's drug out of local brothels.
Luciano quickly becomes one of Masseria's top earners.
Pulling in what he used to make in four months, in just one day.
(Collective chatter, laughter) (Woman screams) (Collective shouting) (Indistinct chatter) (Narrator) Luciano was arrested for dealing heroin and sentenced to six months in prison.
He's proven himself a loyal member of Masseria's crew, but it's only landed him behind bars.
(Prisoner chatter) While Luciano was left rotting in jail, Masseria continues to rake in the profits.
Luciano begins to realize that if he truly wants to succeed, he'll have to find a way to become his own boss.
After serving his prison sentence, Charles Luciano was a free man, determined to find a better way to succeed in crime.
While Luciano was behind bars, his partner, Meyer Lansky, made an important new contact with another Major bootlegger in New York City.
His name is Arnold Rothstein.
My grandfather met Arnold Rothstein at a bar mitzvah.
They talked.
They were introduced.
Arnold Rothstein saw potential in my grandfather.
They talked business for hours.
There was an instant respect.
(Narrator) Born to a middle class Jewish family, Rothstein disappointed his parents by gambling at a young age.
He would go on to fix horse races, operate illegal casinos, and plan the most notorious sports betting scandal of all time.
(Crowd cheering) (Selwyn raab) Arnold Rothstein was known as the brain.
One of his claims to fortune, or to acclaim, was that he had fixed the 1919 world series.
(Narrator) It will come to be known as the "black sox scandal.
" Arnold Rothstein bets heavily on the series, winning the modern day equivalent of $4 million.
When prohibition goes into effect, Rothstein sees an opportunity to make a fortune.
But, unlike Joe Masseria, Rothstein treats his operation like a legitimate business and earns a reputation around the city.
(Rich Cohen) Arnold Rothstein was an influence and model, not just his vision for business, but his whole way of life.
He could go into a ballroom and mix with the fanciest people in the city, or he could go downtown and handle himself with the biggest thugs in the city.
His style influence becomes the modern gangster.
So, any time you see a guy on a street corner pull out a big wad of bills all rolled together, that's Rothstein.
That's good.
All right, good.
Yeah, hey.
That's him.
He's bringing more booze into Manhattan right now than anybody.
Let's go.
(Narrator) Meyer Lansky knows that working for a sophisticated gangster like Rothstein is the big opportunity that he and Luciano have been looking for.
Rothstein, this is my friend, Charlie Luciano.
(Luciano) Nice to meet you.
Rothstein is very good at sizing up situations and people.
Smart people recognize smartness in other people.
Yeah, I'll tell you what.
We're gonna try somethin' out here.
I'll give you a shot.
See if you don't screw it up.
(Narrator) Luciano was still part of Joe Masseria's gang, but he begins distributing alcohol for Rothstein on the side.
(Arnold Rothstein) You're on the right track, Charlie.
As long as you keep your eye on the business, you'll do just fine.
(Narrator) In Luciano, Rothstein sees a different kind of gangster.
One who can also see the potential in branching out.
He believed in makin' money, and he didn't care on what your nationality was or the color of your skin.
He wanted to make money.
He was a businessman.
(Narrator) For Luciano, Rothstein is a role model he can finally look up to.
The father he always wanted, but never had.
And Luciano's new mentor was teaching him there's a smarter way to do business.
Rothstein begins to show Luciano how to organize his criminal rackets like a corporation.
How long do you keep these books? You keep these books forever.
(Narrator) Teaching him to dress like a businessman (Indistinct chatter) and to sell quality liquor to maximize his profits.
Luciano is not exactly as polished as Arnold Rothstein, but he's willing to learn.
No, no, no, no, no.
Rothstein says, "make yourself into someone "who can work not only the lower east side, "the Upper East Side.
"Be a success.
" (Man) Put these bottles in the back, wherever you got 'em, all right, men? - That's the good stuff, from Rothstein.
- Yeah, it's good.
It's good stuff, yeah.
Yeah, yeah, really good.
(Narrator) Working for Rothstein, Luciano and his gang begin organizing their operation (Indistinct chatter) and selling top shelf liquor to high-end speakeasies around Manhattan.
Pulling in more money than ever before.
(Collective chatter) Get outta here.
Give him a drink.
Look at this this guy.
(Laughter) (Narrator) There's just one problem.
They still have to give a huge cut of their profits To Joe Masseria.
(Narrator) Charles Luciano and his crew begin following Arnold Rothstein's bootlegging advice and making a fortune.
(Lansky) All this stuff, this is the new stuff from Canada.
(David Pietrusza) Arnold Rothstein teaches 'em, don't be like Joe Masseria.
Don't sell people rot gut.
There's more money in selling to rich people than to alcoholic poor people.
So, sell the good stuff.
There shouldn't be any empty bottles in this area.
As soon as they come in, they go in the back.
How are we doing this week, Charlie? Brooklyn was very thirsty this week.
Oh, yeah? - What's going on over here? - All right, listen.
This is all the new stuff from, uh, Jersey.
There's all the scotch, okay? (Narrator) But, despite their success, they're still forced to give Joe Masseria a large cut of everything they make.
Benny Take that to Masseria.
Ten thousand from Brooklyn, Joe.
(Selwyn Raab) Masseria wanted kickbacks from them.
He wanted as much as $10,000 from each person who worked for another gang.
And he saw this That he deserved it because he was so important and so vital to Italian gangsters in New York City.
Masseria, he's sloppy.
He's hotheaded.
He's not careful.
(Narrator) Luciano and Lansky know that working for Masseria is a dead-end.
We're gonna have to do somethin'.
They're watchin' us build, and build, and build, right? And then, they think they're gonna just scoop up and take everything, right? Yeah, exactly.
And that's when we strike.
(Narrator) For years, Meyer Lansky and Charles Luciano have operated under Masseria's control.
And now, they've had enough.
They know the only way out is to kill Joe the boss, an idea so dangerous, they can confide it to only one man.
(Rothstein) Right now, you're just a soldier.
Another tapista with a gun, and you're tired of it.
There's safety in no one knowing who you are.
Nobody targets a nobody.
You took risks.
I mean, you still take risks.
Calculated risks.
Smart ones.
One where the odds work in my favor.
You got balls.
I'll give you that.
You do this, there's no goin' back.
I know.
(Chuckles) You already made up your mind.
Why ask me? Because I trust you.
Trust yourself Because if you do this, you're on your own.
The qualities that make someone rise in the Mafia is two things Intelligence and big balls.
Sometimes, you get someone who's really intelligent, but they're not tough guys.
And then, you get someone who's really, really a tough guy, but h-he's just not intelligent.
But, when you get that combination of intelligence and big balls, you rise.
(Narrator) Luciano and Lansky decide that they're going to use their gang to take out Joe "the boss" Masseria.
A move that will lead to an all-out war, unlike anything New York has ever seen.