Meyer Lansky (5 July 1902 – 15 January 1983), born Maier Suchowljansky, was a Jewish major organized crime leader.
Lansky and his family were Polish Jews, who migrated to the United States. He met the also Jewish Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel when they were children. They became friends, as well as partners in gambling, auto theft, burglaries, bootlegging, and other rackets. Together they managed the Bugs and Meyer Mob, with a reputation as one of the most violent Prohibition gangs.
Lansky and Siegel also developed a group of professional murderers for hire, the prototype for the later Murder, Inc.
Later, Lansky is stated to have been involved in the killing of Siegel.
Lansky developed a gambling empire that stretched across the world. He was said to own points (percentages) in casinos in Las Vegas, Cuba, The Bahamas and London.
He was also into narcotics smuggling, pornography, prostitution, labour racketeering, and extortion and had control of legitimate enterprises such as hotels, golf courses, and a meat-packing plant.
Although a member of the Jewish mob, Lansky had strong influence with the Italian-American Mafia. He was instrumental in the development of the "National Crime Syndicate", a confederation that mostly consisted of the closely interconnected Italian-American Mafia and Jewish mob, but that also included to various lesser extents Irish-American criminal organizations and other ethnic crime groups.
In the 1930s, Lansky and his gang broke up rallies held by the pro-National Socialist German-American Bund. During World War II, Lansky was important in Operation Underworld, in which the government recruited criminals to watch out for German infiltrators and submarine-borne saboteurs. Lansky helped arrange a deal, in which Charles "Lucky" Luciano would be released from prison. In exchange, the Mafia would provide security for the warships that were being built along the docks in New York Harbor.
There have been various theories linking Lansky to the John F. Kennedy assassination.
By 1970, his total holdings were estimated at $300 million. But officially, he was not very wealthy when he died. Some relatives have supported this, others have stated that he transferred money within the family.