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Mickey Cohen became the West Coast racket boss in 1947, after his mentor and predecessor, Bugsy Siegel, was assassinated.
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The Gambino crime family ruled new york city streets for decades. They were three of the most powerful mafia dons of the 20th centuries.
Al Capone was a famous outlaw and leader of the Mob in Chicago. It took Eliot Ness and the secret six of Chicago to take down Al Capone on tax evasion.
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Mickey Cohen was born on September 4, 1913, in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in Los Angeles. After a troubled childhood, Cohen's first connections with top Jewish and Italian mobsters came during his teenage years, through his involvement in the boxing game. During the Great Depression he boxed professionally, and acted as muscle for both Mafiosi and Jewish gang bosses in Cleveland, New York and Chicago. In his early 20s,
"I didn't kill anyone that didn't deserve killing in the first place."
he began working for legendary mobster Bugsy Siegel. By the early 1940s, Cohen was allied with Siegel's partners Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello; approved by Lucky Luciano; and sponsored by his old Cleveland supporters, the Milano family, along with other prominent nationally ranked mobsters. In addition to traditional mob businesses, Cohen took advantage of the movie industry by controlling unions and through blackmail. In 1947, Siegel was assassinated and Cohen, subsequently, became the West Coast crime boss. Cohen's exploits made him nationally notorious, and his own appetites and ambitions exemplified the Noir City that he both bled and serviced. His connections were so wide and deep that although he was brought to trial for all types of offenses, including murder, he was convicted just twice, for income tax evasion. He died of natural causes in L.A. in 1976.
Mickey Cohen was born Meyer Harris Cohen on September 4, 1913, in Brownville, Brooklyn, New York. He moved to Los Angeles, California, as a toddler with his widowed mother, a Russian-Jewish immigrant who spoke little English. With five older siblings, Cohen grew up poor in Boyle Heights, a tough melting pot neighborhood in Los Angeles. His hardworking mother ran a tiny grocery, and during Prohibition his brothers operated a drug store, where he learned to make bootleg alcohol.
Rarely in school, Cohen grew up illiterate and barely supervised. Without proper guidance, he developed a skewed moral compass, and constantly looked for ways to make money, legally or illegally. He was a veteran of two stints in reform school by age ten. He sold newspapers in the downtown financial district and boxed in amateur bouts. He ran away from home at age 15, and lived in Cleveland, then in New York and Chicago. As the Great Depression hit, young Mickey Cohen boxed professionally and later acted as a free-lance bandit and an enforcer aligned with major mobsters.
After troubles erupted in Cleveland, the syndicate placed him in Chicago where Cohen ran his own armed burglary crew and worked in small jobs on the illegal gambling circuit for the Chicago outfit, made legendary by Al Capone. While many sources, including Cohen himself, claim that he and Capone met, there is no conclusive evidence of this. A personal meeting between the two would have been highly unlikely however, as Capone was in prison for tax evasion in 1934, when Cohen first arrived in Chicago. But during his Chicago period, Mickey Cohen established strong ties to Capone's underworld organization.
A violent public assault involving Cohen and a rival prompted his return home to California in 1937, when Cohen was in his early 20s.
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