TESTIMONY OF VIRGINIA HILL (HAUSER) OF SPOKANE, WASH.
The Chairman. Now, gentlemen, let us give Virginia Hill a chance to accustom herself without too many flash bulbs.
Mr. Halley. Virginia Hill
Virginia Hill. Make them quit doing that.
The Chairman. All right, let's not flash any more bulbs.
Virginia Hill. I'll throw something at them in a minute. I hate those things.
The Chairman. All right, let's not flash any more bulbs. All right, Mr. Halley.
Mr. Halley. Now, Virginia Hill, most witnesses have had their pictures taken and they have stopped as soon as they started to testify.
Virginia Hill. I know, but most of them never went through with those bums what I did.
Mr. Halley. I'm sure that they don't intend to upset you.
Virginia Hill. Oh, they do upset me.
Mr. Halley. All right, it will stop in a moment. What is your full name?
Virginia Hill. Virginia Hill Hauser.
Mr. Halley. And, Virginia Hill, just so that you will understand what we are trying to accomplish, the committee, of course, has had a number of reports concerning your income and your expenditures, and as a natural result of that and through knowing your various associations, the committee has been anxious to know the sources of your income and whether or not you can help the committee in connection with this investigation.
Virginia Hill. Well, the only money I ever made was what I reported on my taxes. The other money is
Mr. Halley. Well, I will ask you questions and it will simplify your task.
Virginia Hill. Yes.
Mr. Halley. I understand. I might say, by way of preface, that you have already explained to our agents that you don't feel you can be helpful. But I want you to understand that this committee must get your statements under oath.
Virginia Hill. Yes, sir.
Mr. Halley. And that that's why you are here.
Virginia Hill. Yes.
Mr. Halley. So I will try to talk slowly, you answer slowly, and we will get along fine.
Virginia Hill. All right.
The Chairman. Now, boys ; let's get the picture making over with, because Virginia Hill is right nervous.
Mr. Halley. Virginia Hill, you were born in 1917 ?
Virginia Hill. 1916.
Mr. Halley. In the United States of America ?
Virginia Hill. Yes.
Mr. Halley. And you are, of course, a citizen 3f this country?
Virginia Hill. Yes.
The Chairman. You were born in Alabama, were you not ?
Virginia Hill. That's right.
Mr. Halley. I would like to take you back to about the year 1934. Were you in Chicago at that time?
Virginia Hill. Well, I left home when I was 17, and I went to Chicago.
Mr. Halley. That would be just about 1934?
Virginia Hill. Yes.
Mr. Halley. While you were there, you met Joe Epstein; is that right ?
Virginia Hill. I didn't meet Joe Epstein until I was there, after, about a year after the World's Fair.
Mr. Halley. He became a very good friend of yours; is that right?
Virginia Hill. He became and still is a friend of mine.
Mr. Halley. And he has controlled a lot of your money ?
Virginia Hill. That's right.
Mr. Halley. From time to time ?
Virginia Hill. That's right.
Mr. Halley. Do you think you would like to tell the committee the story of your life, insofar as it involves your financial affairs, and the contacts you may have had with known gangsters since that time ? Do you think you could just go ahead and tell it best in a narrative fashion ?
Virginia Hill. I don't think Mr. Epstein is a gangster.
Mr. Halley. No ; I haven't intended to say he was. But would you like to tell your story your own way ?
Virginia Hill. Well, I worked for a while. Then the men I was around that gave me things, were not gangsters or racketeers or whatever you call these other people. The only time I ever got anything from them was going out and having fun, and maybe a few presents. But I happened to go with other fellows. And for years I have been going to Mexico. I went with fellows down there. And like a lot of girls that they got. Giving me things and bought me everything I want. And then when I was with Ben, he bought me everything.
Mr. Halley. By "Ben" you mean Ben Siegel ?
Virginia Hill, Yes ; and lie gave me some money, too, bought me a house in Florida. And then I used to bet horses. They asked me how much; I don't know. I figure whatever was close. I don't know if it is right or wrong. I paid income tax on that. That money I used to save it. When I am supposed to be out giving these parties, it was fellows that I was going with. They paid for things that I did. I didn't pay for it. If I was paying for it, I wouldn't have gone in the first place. After all, I didn't have to give my own i)arties, 1 don't think. But I have never had any businesses in my life. Whatever I have, ever had was, outside of betting horses, was given to me.
Mr. Halley. Well, the impression that had been created, and the inference that has been drawn, is that you gave parties in order to help certain people in their businesses.
Virginia Hill. That isn't true, that isn't true at all, because people I have known, they told me that is the worst thing to do — you know, the people you are talking about — supposed to be racketeers — they always said that's the worst possible thing I could do, that people talk too much.
Mr. Halley. And they advised against it ?
Virginia Hill. They told me I shouldn't even do anything like that.
Mr. Halley. And the parties that were attributed to you were really run by other people ? Is that the point ?
Virginia Hill. The fellows I went with — if you want to have a good time, have a party, all right.
Mr. Halley. They were various friends, is that the point?
Virginia Hill. Yes.
Mr. Halley. Well, perhaps it would help if we started in the very recent past and tried to find an explanation of one thing that has been troubling the committee.
You may recall that in the early part of 1950, you visited Sun Valley?
Virginia Hill. That's right.
Mr. Halley. And the committee, as you must know, had checked on the amount of money you spent
Virginia Hill. Yes.
Mr. Halley. And found that in the course of 6 weeks, you spent quite a bit of money.
Virginia Hill. That is true.
Mr. Halley. How much money did you spend there ?
Virginia Hill. I don't know, but it is quite a bit.
Mr. Halley. Well, would the sum of $12,000 sound right ?
Virginia Hill. Maybe it was $12,000 or maybe more. I don't keep records.
Mr. Halley. Well, the hotel
Virginia Hill. Well, they must have the bills.
Mr. Halley. The hotel record shows between $11,000 and $12,000.
Virginia Hill. Well, naturally I guess they show the right thing.
Mr. Halley. The hotel record shows also that of the $12,000, only $1,500 was paid by either a check or money order, and the rest was all paid in cash.
Virginia Hill. Yes ; that's all I have. I don't have any bank accounts or checking accounts or anything. I have cash.
Mr. Halley. Your assets are in cash?
Virginia Hill. Yes, outside of a few bonds I have.
Mr. Halley. Would you mind telling the committee how much cash you have at the present time altogether?
Virginia Hill. Well, with the cash and bonds, I don't think I have more than $15,000 now.
Mr. Halley. At the present time?
Virginia Hill. Yes.
Mr. Halley. That includes all of the bonds and cash you have anywhere, whatsoever?
Virginia Hill. I think so; yes.
Mr. Halley. Would that include all the bonds or cash that anyone holds for you ?
Virginia Hill. Well, Mr. Epstein has my bonds. I don't know how many it is, but it couldn't be very much. It is bonds, and things people have given me on my birthday.
Mr. Halley. Has it been your practice to give your money to Joe Epstein to
Virginia Hill. Yes.
Mr. Halley. He has been a good friend ?
Virginia Hill. Yes, very good.
Mr. Halley. And when you need money, he sends it to you ?
Virginia Hill. Well, after arguing and telling me I don't need it, he sends it to me.
Mr. Halley. He tries to keep you on an even keel ?
Virginia Hill: Yes.
Mr. Halley. Has he sent you large amounts from time to time?
Virginia Hill. Sometimes large amounts, if I wanted it.
Mr. Halley. Altogether, how much money have you given Joe Epstein to hold for you?
Virginia Hill. You see, that's a hard question to answer, because really it's been such a period of years that I really don't know, but it must have been quite a bit off and on that I have given him money.
Mr. Halley. Is it your point that in the form of gifts you have received very substantial sums of money from friends?
Virginia Hill. Well, not so often money. I have received gifts, and everything was paid for that I wanted.
Mr. Halley. For instance, the 11 to 12 thousand’s dollars that you spent at Sun Valley : where did you get that?
Virginia Hill. That came from Mexico.
Mr. Halley. From Mexico ?
Virginia Hill. Yes.
Mr. Halley. Was that also in the form of gifts from friends?
Virginia Hill. Yes.
Mr. Halley. Could you tell the committee who these friends were who gave you those gifts ?
Virginia Hill. No, I can't tell them who the men were.
Mr. Halley. Well, can you tell the committee whether they are men that 3'ou met in the United States?
Virginia Hill. No ; I never met them in the United States.
Mr. Halley. Are they Mexicans?
Virginia Hill. They are Mexicans.
Mr. Halley. And you feel that out of chivalry you do not want to reveal their names?
Virginia Hill. I can't.
Mr. Halley. Tell the committee, then, and bearing in mind it is under oath and that you are trying to be precise; are these men who, to your knowledge, have had any acquaintance with any of the gangsters or racketeers that you ever knew ?
Virginia Hill. Never.
Mr. Halley. You are sure that they have never had any association?
Virginia Hill. I am positive. Outside of when one visited me in Chicago, I introduced him to some people in Chicago, but none of the people thats been connected with me — you know, in the papers.
August 16 1926: Virginia Hill is born in Lipscomb, Alabama, the seventh of ten children of W.M. "Mack" Hill, a poor horse and mule trader, and his wife Margaret, who operates a boardinghouse.
Mid-20s:Virginia’s mother left her husband and took her children to her father’s home in Marietta, Georgia
1927:Virginia has developed a liking for quick sex
1930 Marries a George Rogers at the age of 14 or 15 although there is no legal record of the union or at least one that has been found.
August 1933. Virginia moves with a young man from Marietta, Georgia, to Chicago, Illinois. There, she drops the boy and works as waitress at the San Carlo Italian Village, the mobs exhibit at the World’s Fair. Virginia was probably prostituting on the side. Virginia is introduced to Joey Epstein, Jake Guzik’s chief accountant and the man who launders most of the Outfits money.
1934 Virginia is known as Epstein’s girl, but many assume that Epstein is a homosexual.
December 1936Virginia performs fellatio on the Chicago Outfits top guys at a Christmas party thrown by Charlie Fischetti and his wife. She later ordered to move to New York and become involved with Joe Adonis so Chicago can monitor his movements.
Late February 1937 Virginia is involved with Joe Adonis. Siegel relocates to Hollywood to supervise and consolidate the gambling, racetrack, and bookmaking rackets on the West Coast.
May 1938 Virginia’s affair with Adonis ends, she returns to 202 Church Street, Marietta, Georgia
July 1938 Virginia drives to Mexico with her brother Chick
Virginia arrives in Hollywood. She and her brother rent an apartment in the Garden of Allah at Havenhurst Street. She dines and dances at the Trocadero, the Mocambo, and the Brown Derby. Actor Errol Flynn squires her around town. They end up in a drunken brawl at the Brown Derby.
Fall 1938 Virginia travels to Mexico probably to make dope connections
December 7, 1938 Virginia is spotted by federal agents in Brownsville, Texas, when travelling with her lover, Carlos/Miguelito Valdez
January 13, 1939 Virginia marries 19-year-old Osgood Griffin, a University of Alabama football player from a wealthy family, in Birmingham, Alabama. They met in a bar, made love in the car, and became engaged the same night. Later Pat DiCiccio introduces her to actor George Raft, who becomes a frequent sexual partner
Spring 1939Virginia meets Siegel again at a Hollywood party thrown by George Raft. They resume their affair and become inseparable.
July 1939Virginia’s marriage is annulled after six unpleasant months and she becomes involved with Chato Juarez, the son of the Mexican minister of finance, and Major Luis Amezcua, a rising Mexican politician. She also has a lengthy affair with Chicago’s West Coast man Johnny Roselli
January 20 1940 Virginia marries Valdez in order to get him legally into the United States. Soon afterwards, she has a short affair with drummer Gene Krupa and forces her husband to agree to an uncontested divorce. Virginia is paid by LA boss Jack Dragna to spy on Bugsy Siegel. Se and Siegel settle in a house at 250 Delfern Avenue. Her brother moves in.
1940 Virginia screen-tests for Ball of Fire
Mid-1944 Virginia is in New York with Joe Adonis.
August 1944 Virginia has an affair with Carl Laemmle, Jr., son of the Universal Studios movie pioneer.
Summer 1945The Flamingo is built.
1945 Rumors are that Virginia is hiding Siegal money, skimmed from Flamingo investors, in Swiss bank accounts. The total stolen is thought to be around $2 million in cash.
September 1946Virginia claims she married Siegel in Mexico; no legal record of the union will ever be found
December 28, 1946: The opening of the Flamingo together with show people George Jessel, George Raft, Vivian Blaine, Lon McAllister, Jesse Lasky, Charles Coburn, George Sanders, and Sunny Tufts. Xavier Cugat, Jimmy Durante, and singer Rose Marie perform. The Flamingo loses more than half a million dollars that first weekend.
January 1947: Virginia moves into a home at 810 North Linden Drive in Beverly Hills. Her relationship with Siegel is almost ended
May 1947: Jack Dragna, Johnny Roselli, Meyer Lansky, Joe Adonis, and other Mob representatives meet with Siegel at the home of a Beverly Hills attorney to discuss the losses at the Flamingo and their plans to expand in Las Vegas. The mob has already decided to kill Siegel
June 8 1947 Virginia is called to Chicago on June 10. She tells Siegel she’s going to Paris to buy wine for the Flamingo. It is the last time she will see him.
Mid-June 1947Siegel tells Virginia to return from Paris, but they have a phone argument and she leaves for Zurich
June 20, 1947 Siegel is killed at approximately 10:30 p.m. In France, Virginia starts and an affair with wealthy 21-year-old heir Nicholas Fouilette. Shortly afterwards she attempts suicide by an overdose in Paris.
July 2 1947Virginia attempts suicide in Monaco
July 1947Virginia attempts suicide in Paris again and is rushed to the American Hospital in Neuilly. She returns to New York, where she is questioned by the authorities and flees to Miami, Florida, where she again tries to commit suicide
Fall 1947. Is said to have been with Joey Ep on a hunting trip in Montana. He leaves her with $2,000 in cash.
November 10 1947 Virginia meets Epstein again in Spokane, Washington.
Spring 1948Virginia sells her home in Miami and tours South America. She settles in Mexico City. Her closest companion is Dr. "Mom" Chung. Margaret Jessie Chung (October 2, 1889 – January 5, 1959) Born in Santa Barbara, California, Chung was the first known American-born Chinese female physician. After graduating from the University of Southern California in 1916 and completing her internship and residency in Illinois, she established one of the first Western medical clinics in San Francisco's Chinatown in the early 1920s. She achieved recognition during the 1930s and 1940s for her patriotic activities on behalf of China and the United States. As part of her efforts to support the allied forces, she "adopted" over one thousand "sons," most of whom were white American military men who dubbed her "Mom” Chung. Chung led an unconventional personal life. As a female medical student in an otherwise all-male school, she adopted masculine dress and called herself "Mike," but after having established a professional practice she reverted to conventional dress and her female name. She had close and apparently intense relationships with at least two other women, the writer Elsa Gidlow and entertainer Sophie Tucker, that some writers have speculated were romantic. Although she was briefly engaged, she never did marry.
June 28 1948 Returns to Chicago
January 1950Virginia flies to Sun Valley, Idaho
February 1950She meets ski instructor Hans Hauser, (Norman Johann Hauser, 1911-1974) age38, downhill world champion of 1934 and skiing instructor in Sun Valley who was jailed in 1942 as a Nazi spy. They marry in the spring before a justice of the peace in Elko, Nevada on March 20. It is her fourth marriage. They spend their honeymoon in Sun Valley. The marriage ignites the interest of the Immigration and Naturalization Service since Hauser’s not a U.S. citizen.
Hans Hauser (born October 3, 1911 in Aigen near Salzburg, July 27 1974 in Salzburg), Salzburg was the first medal winner at the Alpine Skiing World Championships. Hauser grew up together with his younger brother by one year, Max on the Zistelalm Gaisberg.
During the Olympic Winter Games of 1936, Hauser was in top form but was disqualified classified as due to his activities as a professional ski instructor he was excluded from participation in Berchtesgaden. After Hauser, he went to work for WA Harriman's ski center "Ketchum" in Sun Valley, with his brother Max also active in the ski circuit in the United States. While Max returned to Europe after the outbreak of the Second World War, Hans remained despite the threat of internment in America and worked as head of the ski school at Sun Valley. Among his celebrity clients including Henry Ford and Ernest Hemingway. Hauser retired from public life after Virginia’s death, moved back to Salzburg and on July 27, 1974 also took his own life. His brother Max died nine years later, on November 271983. His son Peter died on 11 May 1995 a car accident near Toulouse, France.
June 1950The Hausers move to Bar Harbor, Maine
November 20, 1950. Virginia’s son, Peter Jackson Hauser, is born at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Brighton, Massachusetts
December 1950The Hausers settle in a luxurious home in Spokane, Washington
March 16 1951 Virginia testifies before Senator Estes Kefauver’s committee in New York City. The televised hearing into organized crime makes her a national celebrity, and now the IRS has all it needs to bring its tax fraud case against her. Shortly afterwards Hauser is ordered to leave the States voluntarily, he and Virginia go into hiding
July 5 1951 Virginia is recognized at the airport in Denver, Colorado. She is served with a formal tax lien for $161,000 for back income taxes for the years 1942 through 1947. She flies to New York to see Joe Adonis, but he refuses to see her
August 2,3 1951 Virginia’s personal belongings are auctioned by the IRS in Spokane. The sale raises $41,000.
September 25 1951 Virginia is granted an Austrian passport under the name of Onie Virginia Hauser. Later that year she is said to have met Epstein in Mexico
July 1952 Virginia and family in Vienna, Austria, relaxing at a fashionable resort. The IRS wants $131,040.97; the FBI wants to lure her back to the States. The Hausers travel the European resorts in two Mercedes-Benzes. There are rumors that she and Hauser plan to build the most expensive ski resort in the world. Instead, they travel to Hong Kong, Paris, Italy, and Switzerland and Virginia is said to have developed a drinking problem.
1954.Virginia is residing in Klosters, Switzerland. Her brother Chick and his new wife visit.
June 23 1954Virginia is indicted in absentia by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles for federal income tax evasion of $80,180. Her last known address in the States is Spokane, Washington. The IRS declares her number three on its "Most Wanted" list. Virginia tries to make a deal with U.S. authorities by offering her diary in exchange for all charges being dropped. The authorities refuse. She tries to enter Cuba and Mexico, but is refused entry. The Hausers settle in an apartment at Salzburg’s Zistelalm, owned by Hauser’s brother.
1961Virginia travels to the Bahamas to meet old friends
Mid-60s Separates from Hauser and moves into a modest hotel in Salzburg with her son, Peter
Early 1966 Virginia tries to get money from Epstein and Adonis and leaks to the press that she might publish her memoirs. Both men send money.
March 20 1966 Virginia phones Adonis at his villa in Naples, Italy. The FBI bugs the call.
March 22 1966 Virginia vanishes from her hotel, leaving her 15-year-old son behind, and flies to Naples. She spends the night with Adonis, and they talk business.
March 23 1966Virginia is driven back to Austria by two hood who worked for Adonis’. Rumor says that near Koppl, they walk with her into the woods and force her to swallow a large dose of Mogadon, which proves deadly within one hour. Another and more likely version is that Virginia walked from the restaurant Schöne Aussicht, overlooking Salzburg, wanders through the forest on a footpath by a brook in Koppl, she unfolds her coat, leaned on a tree and after swallowing twenty pills with water she carried died and was covered with snow. She’s found two days later. Her death is first ruled a heart attack, but later the coroner states that it was suicide by an overdose of pills. A note is found near her body claiming that she "was tired of life." She was 49 years old. She is interred at the cemetery in Aigen, Salzburg, Austria. Hauser came from Salzburg, Austria where his family owned an inn.
1974 Hauser dies, suicide
November 26, 1971, during an anti-mafiosi criminal operation, Italian police forces took Adonis from his villa and transported him to a small hillside shack for interrogation. During the lengthy questioning, Adonis suffered a heart attack and died. Adonis had a quiet funeral attended only by his immediate family. He was buried in Madonna Cemetery in Fort Lee, New Jersey.
1976 Joey Epstein dies
1994 Virginia’s son Peter Jackson Hauser died under strange circumstances in a car accident near Toulouse, France in 1994. He was a decorated Viet Nam veteran. On March 22, 1978 he was arrested on Elba Island, Italy for carrying false papers that identified him as Reinald Lahusen. His true age at the time, was 28. He was carrying brochures about the Baader Meinhof Gang, the left wing German terrorist group. He was released….as a captured army deserter…. to the custody of the US Navy located at the base in Pisa Italy. He is buried between his parents at the Aigen cemetery. There is the possibility that he was working for US Intelligence.
Virginia Hill was, and remains the personification of a mobster dame. She was elegant, grass, beautiful, ignorant and gutsy. She crawled out of the poverty of Alabama and eventually made her way to Chicago, where she worked as a dancer/ prostitute at the World's Fair and began a long and unusual affair with Joey Epstein, a money launderer for the Chicago Outfit.
Even before Virginia met Ben, she was one of the few women entrusted with Syndicate secrets. She was known as a courier for the mob, a charge she would later deny, but even the people in her home town of Marietta assumed she was connected. She didn't do anything there to dispel the myth, and locals still talk about the time she bought a house for her family for $11,000 — paid for with a wad of C-notes she pulled from her purse.
"She was smart and she knew how to keep her mouth shut," said Bea Sedway, the wife of mobster Moey Sedway and a friend of both Ben and Virginia.
Hill was a jealous paramour, but Benny wasn't a one-woman kind of guy. He was also a man who let his passions rule his life. Once, he had three mistresses staying at the Flamingo at one time: Hill, who fulfilled his need for a lover who could match his physical and psychological intensity, Wendy Barrie, a Hollywood actress who supplied the glamour, and the Countess DiFrazzo, who added class. Virginia and Wendy could barely stand to be in the same city, let alone the same hotel, and when their paths crossed on that trip, Hill went after Barrie with such gusto that she nearly dislocated the actress's jaw.
Money was eventually the downfall of the tragic duo of Benny and Virginia. The story is well-known that Ben seriously fouled up the building of the mob's first big venture in Las Vegas, the Flamingo Hotel that he had named for his lover. Ben was a great gangster, but a lousy businessman. Despite his fierce reputation, the contractors working on the hotel were robbing him blind. What's more, Ben was dipping into the Syndicate's bankroll for the project and using Virginia to get the money put away safely overseas.
After the disastrous opening of the hotel around Christmas 1946, Ben retired to the house Virginia had rented in Hollywood. The place had once belonged to Rudolph Valentino. Virginia wasn't at home the night of June 20, 1947, when the Syndicate evened its accounts with Ben Siegel by shooting him where he sat on Virginia's floral sofa. She and Benny had had another of their knock-down-drag-out fights and in a huff, Virginia hopped a plane to Paris. There are still rumors to the effect that Virginia had been tipped to get out of town, but that's unlikely since she allowed a brother and other friends to remain with Siegel. It's also unlikely that the mob would have given her advance warning because she was as guilty as Benny was of stealing from them.
Notified of Siegel’s murder while in Paris, Virginia fainted. However, when she returned to the States and was interviewed by authorities who were trying to solve the homicide, she denied knowing Siegel "If anyone or anything was his mistress, it was that Las Vegas hotel. I never knew Ben was involved in all that gang stuff. I can't imagine who shot him or why," she said.
She went onto become the star witnesses of the Kefauver Commission hearings before whom she denied any knowledge or involvement with the underworld, played dumb and only admitted that hoodlums gave her lavish gifts and rolls of money, because, she said in a moment of frustration, she was very good at oral sex (That portion was kept out of the formal transcripts) On the way out of hearings she assaulted a female reporter who was part of the media gang that followed her around the hearing room.
She fled to Europe shortly afterwards to flee an IRS income tax indictment for $16,000. She separated from her husband and in her final years was supported by her teenage son Peter, who worked as a waiter. She killed herself on June 23, 1954 at age 49.
When the Gangster Chronicles came on television in the late 1970's, a relative of Bugsy Siegel remarked to Meyer Lansky, Siegel's lifelong business partner, that he was considering suing the production company for depicting Bugsy as an uncontrollable killer.
"What are you going to sue them for?" asked Lansky. "In real life he was worse."
Unlike most hoods who dominated gangdom in the 1930's, Siegel was smart and he knew it. He hated the poverty and ignorance of the world he was raised in and detested the illiterate and uncouth men he had to deal with. He wanted more, he wanted to be on the other side. In fact, Siegel wanted to be on the other side, the legitimate side, so badly, that he invested a million dollars in the stock market in 1933, but lost half of it when the market crashed in October. "If I had kept that million," he said, "I'd have been out of the rackets right now."
Siegel knew that if he stayed in New York, nothing would ever change, so he, and not the New York branch of the syndicate as is commonly reported, decided to try his luck out west in Los Angeles. He had been a regular visitor out there since 1933, introducing himself as an independent sportsman, a title that didn't fool anybody.
Of course, Bugsy had other motives. Gangsters always do. He had stabbed another hood in a dispute over a card game, cutting the man in the stomach 20 times to make sure gases would not allow his body to float to the surface, and now the cops wanted to talk to him about that. He had also been named in a scam to fix boxing matches and had ordered the killing of a bookie who had cheated him. When the bookie found out about the death order, he went to the cops and told them everything he knew, so for the time being it was best he went to the West Coast.
Siegel took over the Screen Extras Guild and the Los Angeles Teamsters, which he ran until his death. With control of the Screen Extras Guild, Siegel was able to shake down Warner Brothers Studios for $10,000, with a refusal to provide extras for any of their films. He also shook down his movie star friends for huge loans that he never paid back, and when he came back for another loan, he always got it, because they were, justifiably, terrified of him.
He once bragged to Lansky that he had fleeced the Hollywood crowd out of more than $400,000 within six months of his arrival. He was a one man terrorist campaign.
When Siegel arrived in LA, the number one racing service out west was James Ragen's Continental Press, which serviced thousands of bookies between Chicago to Los Angeles, each of whom paid Ragen between $100 to $1200. The owner, Jimmy Ragen, was a tough, two fisted, Chicago born Irishman, who had punched, stabbed, and shot his way to the top of the heap, without the Mob's help.
Joseph Rosen, Ben Siegel, Harry Fietelbaum, Harry Greenberg, Lepke
The Chicago outfit, then under Nitti, watched the money flood into Regan's office with envy. Nitti, and later Paul Ricca, tried to set up a rival service called Trans-American, with each mob boss across the country running the local outlet, doing whatever they had to do to take Ragen out of business.
Joseph “Nig” Rosen, Ben “Bugsy” Siegel, Harry Teitelbaum, Harry Greenberg and Louis Buckhouse (alias of Louis “Lepke” Buchalter).
In California, Siegel and Mafiosi Jack Dragna were charged with putting Trans-America in business and taking Ragen's Continental Press out of business. Eventually, the Chicago mob settled the entire issue by shooting Ragen as he drove his car down a Chicago street.
Ragen survived the shooting, but not the dose of mercury a nurse working for the outfit shot up into his vein a few days later. With Ragen dead, Continental Racing Services was divided up among the various bosses who had helped to build it, and Jack Dragna was named to run the California office. Siegel was shocked. He had risked his life to build the service out west, he had worked on it day and night, at the least he expected to be cut in on perhaps half the franchise.
Instead, all he was got was a visit from Chicago's chief fixer, Murray Humphreys, who told Siegel to fold up Trans-America wire service. They didn't need it anymore. The syndicate owned Continental Press. But Siegel sent Humphreys packing with a message for Paul Ricca... if the Chicago people wanted Siegel to fold up Trans-America in Nevada, Arizona and Southern California, it would cost them $2,000,000 in cash.
Even though the Chicago outfit didn't want Siegel working for them, at the same time, they didn't want him working for New York either. Crazy or not, Siegel was smart, ambitious and ruthless. They had to watch him, so Paul Ricca told Charlie Fischetti, one of his most dependable torpedoes, to send out a spy, and the woman they chose was the same woman Bugsy Siegel came to call his Flamingo, Virginia Hill.
Virginia Hill was a foul-mouthed, tough-talking product of the poverty of Bessemer, Alabama who came to Chicago when she was 17, to find work in the Century of Progress Exhibition of 1933. She worked at a variety of jobs across the city, including a stint as a shimmy dancer for $20 a week, but, finally ended up as a street hooker, turning tricks for as little as fifty cents or as much as five dollars, it depended on how desperate the John was.
Virginia eventually fell under the command of Charlie and Joe Fischetti, who were heading up the mob's prostitution rackets at the time.
Virginia was, more or less, adopted by Jake Guzak and his wife, who offered to put her in charge of several brothels they still owned, but Virginia turned them down. She said she had higher aspirations. But what she did take from Guzak was an introduction to Joe Epstein, or Joey Epp, as he liked to be called, a mild-mannered, middle class, mob accountant who wore thick black glasses and barely spoke to those around him. Nevertheless, he was dependable and honest, by mob standards, and had been Guzak's understudy since 1930 and would one day be his second-in-command.
Epp ran the outfit's racetracks with such authority the newspapers called him Illinois' unofficial racetrack commissioner. And while Epstein was well read, some said an intellectual, he loved to party and he was fascinated by the lowlife around him. He fell head over heels in love with Virginia Hill, and put her on the payroll as his mistress.
But it was a working relationship as well. Epstein put Virginia to work as a courier, bringing suitcases full of the mob's dirty money from Chicago, Kansas City, Cleveland and Los Angeles to syndicate owned and run banks in Cuba, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, France and Switzerland. There, the money was laundered, usually at a price of ten cents on a dollar and then invested in legitimate business from which the hoods could draw a salary.
The second part of the plan called for Virginia to get in touch with Bugsy Siegel, which she did, having met, and romanced him, several times in the past. Like Joey Epp before him, Bugsy Siegel fell head over heels in love with Virginia. He called her his "Flamingo" and drenched her in jewelry, furs and gowns.
Virginia reported every conversation she had with Siegel back to the Fischetti brothers in Chicago. Still, the boys back in Chicago never trusted Hill, or anyone else for that matter, and when Paul Ricca came to power, he told Johnny Roselli to start an affair with Hill so he could keep tabs on her.
Then, Siegel watched a colorful Los Angeles hood named Tony Cornero move his entire gambling organization out of California and into Nevada where he and his brothers opened a rundown but very profitable casino on the Vegas Strip. Within a year, Siegel had the cash, most of it from the New York end of the syndicate, to build the fabulous Flamingo Hotel.
In May of 1947, one month before he was executed, Bugsy Siegel called Jimmy Fratiano, a Los Angeles hood who, technically anyway, worked for Chicago, and asked him to come out to Las Vegas for a meeting. He didn't tell them what it concerned, but, as they found out, it was a recruitment drive. He had already made the same pitch to Jack Dragna, Bugsy Siegel was planning the unheard of, he was going to start his own organization out in the Nevada desert.
Virginia Hill had already reported Siegel's plans to Paul Ricca in Chicago, and, even though the Chicago mob was chiseling Siegel in the Flamingo by sending in professional gamblers to break the bank, they were indignant. As far as they were concerned, although the syndicate had agreed to allow Vegas and Reno to operate as open cities, it was clearly understood in the syndicate that Chicago controlled everything west of the Mississippi.
Siegel was a regional problem at a time when the mob thought it had gotten over its regional misunderstandings. He was a relic from the past. He had to be removed.
On June 8, 1947, Virginia Hill got a call from Epstein back in Chicago, he told her to get out of town, to go to France, she could tell Siegel she was going there to buy wine for the casino as she had in the past. He wouldn't question that. Virginia knew, immediately, why she had to leave town. They were going to kill Bugsy and the boys back in Chicago didn't want their best cash courier and narcotics peddler splattered with blood and headlines. Virginia flew into Chicago and met Epstein at Midway airport, where he gave her $5,000 and then she continued to Paris.
Back on the West Coast, Bugsy Siegel, caught in the middle of an uprising, was too busy to care where Virginia was. Several days before, Siegel told Micky Cohen to tell all of the bookies in Los Angeles, Reno and Vegas that the price for using the wire service was going to double. But, to Siegel's amazement, the bookies refused to pay, they knew that Chicago was taking over and that they were planning to kill Siegel.
And, on June 20, 1947, that's what they did.
Jack Dragna gave the order to a hood named Frankie Carranzo. When the call came, Carranzo drove up to Beverly Hills and parked his car a few feet from Siegel's home, wound the silencer onto the barrel of his .30 caliber, army issue carbine, and walked around to the back of the house. He hid in the shadow of a rose-covered lattice work with his army carbine and released an entire clip into the living room through a 14-inch pane of glass.
Nine slugs in all. Two of them tore apart Bugsy's face as he sat on a chintz-covered couch. One bullet smashed the bridge of his nose and drove into his left eye. The eye was later found on the dining room floor, fifteen feet away from his dead body. The bullet was found in an English painting on the wall. The other entered his right cheek, passed through the back of his neck, and shattered a vertebra, ripped across the room.
At exactly 11:00 A.M., Jack Dragna got a call from Carranzo: "The insect was killed," and he then hung up.
A few minutes before that call, at 10:55, Little Moe Sedway and Gus Greenbaum, two hoods with gambling backgrounds, strode into the Flamingo and announced over the intercom system, "OK, we're taking over."
Everyone present knew who "we" were.
The only persons to attend Siegel's funeral services at Beth Olam Cemetery were his brother and a Rabbi.