We all have heard about the mafia, and a lot of us have somewhat of a fascination with the lives of mafia members. And when we think about them, we mostly imagine they either died in prison, or they were made to “sleep with the fishes” or were “wacked”. This list however presents those important, but few lucky ones from the Prohibition-era that did not meet the fate reserved for people like them, and who instead were met with a normal end, not dying in some prison cell, on the electric chair, or gunned down, but from natural causes, sometimes even at home surrounded by their “family”.
10. Meyer Lansky, the Mob Accountant
Born on July 4th, 1902 in Grodno, Russia (now Poland), he immigrated to the United States in 1911 under the name of Meyer Suchowljansky and settled in New York City. In 1920 he met Bugsy Siegel and Lucky Luciano. Together with Bugsy, they formed the “Bug and Meyer Mob”. Later, Lansky came to be known as one of the “Big Six” along with Bugsy Siegel, Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro, Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, Lucky Luciano and Joe Adonis.
His initial “big money” came from the gambling operations he established in Florida, Cuba and New Orleans. He was also the man who suggested Bugsy Siegel to handle the construction and management of the Flamingo hotel and casino in Las Vegas, as an investor.
By the 1960’s, Lansky was involved in numerous criminal activities, such as drugs, pornography, extortion etc. It was estimated that his total holdings were around $300 million. In the FBI files, an informant states on April 26th, 1963 that Lansky is extremely wealthy and has more points in the Las Vegas casinos than anyone else. Those files also state that Lansky was associated with practically every known leading figure in organized crime, and was equal in rank to all of the leading ten La Cosa Nostra figures in the United States.
In 1970 he was risking arrest for income tax evasion, which made him flee to Israel. He however could not escape arrest and was returned to the United States. The charges were later dropped because of his poor health. Meyer died of lung cancer in Miami Beach, Florida on May 15th, 1983, at 80 years old. Even though he was estimated to be worth around $300 million, no money was ever found. His granddaughter told author T.J. English that at his death, Lansky left only $37,000 in cash.