6. The Lord High Executioner
By the late 1920s, Albert Anastasia was a major labor racketeer who controlled NYC’s longshoreman unions, and was allied with Joe “The Boss” Masseria, NYC’s chief Mafiosi. When a gang war against a rival named Salvatore Maranzano turned against Masseria, Anastasia helped Lucky Luciano kill Joe the Boss. Five months later, Anastasia helped Luciano kill Maranzano as well. A grateful Luciano tapped Anastasia to play a leading role in Murder Incorporated. Unlike Buchalter, who kept a low profile about his viciousness, Anastasia was a vicious murderer who liked to let everybody know that he was a vicious murderer. He took such joy in his duties that he became the most feared mobster of his era, and earned the nicknames “Lord High Executioner” and “The Mad Hatter”.
When Murder Incorporated began to unravel after hitman, Abe Reles, turned state’s evidence, it seemed that Anastasia was finally done for. Reles was scheduled to offer evidence against Anastasia, but early on the morning of that day, he “fell” to his death from a 6th floor window. With Reles out of the way, Anastasia escaped prosecution. He enlisted in the US Army during WWII, rose to technical sergeant, was honorably discharged in 1944, and received US citizenship as a reward for his services. After the war, he founded what is today the Gambino crime family, but his greed and brutality alienated his subordinates. On October 25, 1957, belated karma finally caught up with Anastasia, when he was shot to death in a barber’s chair as he waited for a shave.