In June 1932, Tony Marino, the proprietor of a rundown speakeasy in the Bronx, was in desperate need of money. So he and four acquaintances hatched a plan to murder somebody and collect the life insurance. Working with a corrupt insurance agent, they would take out life insurance policies on one of the habitual drunks who frequented Marino’s establishment. They would then get him to drink himself to death, and collect it when he perished. They chose Michael Malloy (1873 – 1933), a homeless Irish immigrant. Malloy was an alcoholic and a longtime client of Marino’s, where he drank on credit until he passed out. He paid when he could, whenever he found temporary employment, and let the tab run for months whenever he drifted out of employment and was broke.
Malloy seemed the perfect mark for a slimy scheme. Life insurance policies were taken of the Irishman, then Marino extended him unlimited credit at the speakeasy. However, Michael Malloy turned out to be extremely difficult to kill – a toughness that earned him the nicknames “Iron Mike” and “Mike the Durable”. The assumption was that Malloy would drink himself to death, but every day, the old Irishman drank all his waking hours without any noticeable decline in his health. So to speed things up, Marino and his accomplices added antifreeze to their mark’s booze. Old Malloy simply drank it until he passed out, then asked for more when he came to.
Tony Marino and his coconspirators replaced the antifreeze in Michael Malloy’s booze with turpentine. Malloy was unfazed. They switched to horse liniment – basically, liquid Bengay. Malloy gulped it down and asked for more. They added rat poison to the mix. Malloy’s constitution did not notice. Oysters soaked in wood alcohol did not do the trick, nor did a spoiled sardines sandwich sprinkled with metal shavings. Finally, convinced that nothing he drank or ate would kill him, Marino and his coconspirators decided to freeze Malloy to death. One cold winter night, when the temperature dipped to minus 14 Fahrenheit, they waited for Malloy to pass out. When he did, they carried him to a park, dumped him in the snow, and poured five gallons of water on his chest to make sure he froze solid. Malloy showed up the next day for his booze on credit.
So Marino and his confederates ran him over with a taxi owned by one of the plotters. All that did was put Malloy in a hospital for three weeks with some broken bones. He reappeared at the speakeasy soon as he was discharged. So on February 22nd, 1933, they stuck a gas hose in Malloy’s mouth after he passed out and turned on the jets. That finally did the trick. The plotters collected on the insurance, but rumors of “Mike the Durable” began making the rounds. When the insurers heard the tales, they contacted the police. Malloy’s body was exhumed and reexamined, and the truth came out. Michael Malloy’s slimy “friends” were tried and convicted in 1934. One got a prison sentence, while the rest, including Tony Marino, got the electric chair.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading