The moment ‘Lucky’ Luciano’s luck ran out: Black-and-white pictures of notorious mob leader and the high class prostitutes who led to his 1936 arrest
He evaded police capture for decades, terrorising the city of New York with his gambling, drug trafficking and extortion – and rising to the Mafia’s helm.
But these photographs capture the moment Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano – the Italian-born gangster considered the father of modern organised crime – was finally caught by police.
The images, now archived at the New York City Department of Records, include his mug shot and incriminating pictures of the high class prostitutes he was accused of employing.
In 1936, Luciano was dragged before a judge after prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey – who would later run for president – accused him of running a $12-million-a-year prostitution ring in New York.
Caught: Gangster Charles Luciano in a February 1931 mugshot after he was arrested for leading a prostitution ring. His right eye is drooped after he was stabbed and left for dead, earning him the nickname ‘Lucky’
Jailed: Luciano’s mugshot on April 18, 1936 – two months before he was sentenced to 30 to 50 years in jail
After targeting Luciano, who by then had rocketed through the mob’s ranks to its leadership, Dewey raided 80 New York City brothels and arrested hundreds of prostitutes.
The women agreed to give police names in exchange for avoiding prison time, with some implicated Luciano as the ringleader. In total, 28 women testified against him in his trial.
The images from the investigation show women in floor-length gowns with coiffed hair and make up, alongside the gruff mug shots of Luciano and his henchmen, who were all tried together.
He was eventually convicted on 62 counts of compulsory prostitution and sentenced to 30 to 50 years behind bars.
Incriminating: Women, pictured in full length portraits, were arrested by police carrying out raids of 80 New York City brothels. Hundreds agreed to give evidence in exchange for avoiding jail time
Witnesses: In total, 28 women testified against Luciano and his men in open court in 1936. The prostitutes and madams were told they would serve seven years in prison if they did not
But he didn’t make it easy for law enforcement – escaping to Arkansas before he could be pulled before a judge. There, he paid off police before Dewey eventually sent his own detectives to get him.
When back in New York, Dewey presented Luciano as a liar; he was unable to explain why his tax income records noted he made $22,000 a year, rather then the millions funding his opulent lifestyle.
But while he was notorious for making millions from selling alcohol during Prohibition, gambling, extortion and trafficking drugs, there has been some doubt that Luciano was involved in prostitution.
There is evidence suggesting he profited from the trade, but primary sources have denied he was the ringleader, with some suggesting that Dewey framed him.
Captured: After their arrests, the women were held in the Women’s House of Detention, and paid $3 a day for ‘room and board’
Gangster life: Luciano, who moved from Sicily when he was 10, is considered the father of organized crime after setting up the Five Families of New York. Another of his women is pictured
After the sentencing, Luciano was imprisoned in Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, from where he continued to run his empire and was served special meals.
Just 10 years into his sentence, he was paroled on the condition that he left the U.S. and return t Sicily, after he reportedly helped the government with information on Italy during the war.
Considering the U.S. his home, he was upset at being forced out. He eventually moved to Cuba and was buried in Queens after he died of a heart attack in 1962.
Luciano had moved to New York’s Lower East Side with his family when he was 10 and he became involved with gangs as a teenager.
Doubt: While Luciano would have earned some money from the brothels as gang leader, some believe he did not run them and was framed by DA Thomas E. Dewey, who had targeted the gangster
On the witness stand: Florence ‘Cokey’ Newman’s mug shot from October 10, 1934
Working woman: Mugshot of Mildred Balizer in December 18, 1933
In the 1920s, he began selling and transporting alcohol during Prohibition, making around $12 million a year – although took home about $4 million after bribing police and politicians.
As he began to mix with mafia leaders, he began acting out against the established gangster ideals that they should only deal with Italians, which he believed lost the mob money.
So he started to hatch a plan to work with Italian, Jewish and Irish gangs to pool resources.
As a result, in 1929, mafia members forced him into a limousine, where he was beaten and stabbed before being dumped on a beach. He survived – but was left with a drooping eye and the nickname ‘Lucky’.
After engineering the killings of mafia bosses, he formed the Five Families of New York and set up the Commission, the governing body that settled all disputes between mafia families.
Wanted: Luciano appears on a Wanted poster. Following his arrest, he fled to Arkansas, where he paid off police to help him evade capture. New York officers eventually came to get him
No escape: Luciano (left) enters the police headquarters with a detective after being found in Arkansas in 1936
Luciano’s men: (left to right) Meyer Berkman, Benny Spiller, Joseph ‘Jo-Jo’ Weintraub, Al Weiner and Jack Eller were also arrested on prostitution charges. Some of the men were loan sharks to the women