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Meyer Lansky (born Majer Suchowliński, July 4, 1902 – January 15, 1983) was a gangster who, with Charles "Lucky" Luciano, was instrumental in the development of the "National Crime Syndicate" in the United States.
Meyer Lansky was born in Grodno, Russia (now Hrodna, Belarus) to Jewish parents. Father: Max Suchowljansky Mother: Yetta Lansky. In 1911, his family emigrated to the United States and settled on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York. While Lansky was in school, he met young Lucky Luciano who tried to shake him down (extort money from Lansky). When Lansky refused to pay, Luciano was impressed with the younger boy's bravery; the two boys became friends for life.
Lansky met Bugsy Siegel when he was a teenager. They also became lifelong friends and, together with Luciano, formed a lasting partnership. Lansky was instrumental in Luciano's rise to power by organizing the 1931 murder of mafia powerhouse Salvatore Maranzano. As a youngster, Siegel saved Lansky's life several times, a fact Lansky always appreciated. The two of them adroitly managed the Bugs and Meyer Mob despite its reputation as one of the most violent Prohibition mobs.
During World War II, Lansky was instrumental in helping the Office of Naval Intelligence's Operation Underworld, in which the government recruited criminals to watch out for German infiltrators and submarine-borne saboteurs.
Lansky's last years were spent quietly at his home in Miami Beach. On January 15, 1983, he succumbed to lung cancer, at 80 years of age, leaving behind a wife and three children. On paper, Meyer Lansky was worth almost nothing. At the time, the FBI believed he left behind over $300 million in hidden bank accounts, but they never found any money.
However, his biographer Robert Lacey describes Lansky’s financially strained circumstances in the last two decades of his life, his inability to pay for health care for his relatives, and so on. For Lacey, there was no evidence “to sustain the notion of Lansky as king of all evil, the brains, the secret mover, the inspirer and controller of American organized crime.” ( He concludes from evidence including interviews with the surviving members of the family that Lansky’s wealth and influence had been grossly exaggerated, and that it would be more accurate to think of him as an accountant for gangsters rather than a gangster himself.