“I can’t stand squealers! Hit that guy!”
The Lord High Executioner of Murder Inc, Albert Anastasia was born as Umberto Anastasio in Tropea, Italy on 26 September 1902. Arriving in New York in 1919, Anastasia, who was nicknamed The Mad Hatter, committed his first murder soon after.
Anastasia and a friend, Joe Fiorino, robbed a jeweller in Brooklyn of $95. George Tirello, another docker, was asked if he could find out who had robbed the jeweller’s. On 26 May 1920, he confronted them but they opened fire. Anastasia missed but Fiorino pumped three bullets into Tirello.
On 26 May 1921 both men were sentenced to death in the electric chair. A crooked judge declared a mistrial and Anastasia walked free when four important witnesses were shot dead and a fifth confined to a mental asylum. Anastasia joined the gang lead by Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria and when he was murdered on 15 April 1931, Lucky Luciano rewarded Anastasia’s loyalty by making him the head of Murder Inc’s enforcement department.
Anastasia was never charged with murder — whenever a charge seemed likely, witnesses always disappeared or came down with a sudden case of amnesia. As a crime boss, Anastasia’s brutality knew no bounds. In 1952 he ordered a 24-year-old Brooklyn tailor’s assistant named Arnold Schuster to be killed.
Unfortunately for Schuster, Anastasia had seen him on television talking about his role as a lead witness in fugitive bank robber Willie Sutton’s arrest. Anastasia is said to have shouted at his aides, “I can’t stand squealers! Hit that guy!” Schuster’s murder on 8 March horrified other Mafia bosses because it brought more scrutiny on the organization and also broke a cardinal rule against killing outsiders. Arnold Schuster was found on the street where he lived, having been shot four times — once in each eye and twice in the groin.
His killer was Frederick J. Tenuto, a career criminal on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list. Fearful that he would lead the authorities to him, Anastasia ordered Tenuto’s own murder shortly afterwards. When Anastasia demanded a large slice of Meyer Lansky’s Cuban gambling operation, he agreed to support Vito Genovese’s plan to kill Anastasia.
45th Street, Brooklyn, New York City, USA
9.10pm Saturday 8 March 1952