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Danny Greene

Danny Greene

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Known as "The Irishman," Danny Greene was one of most notorious crime figures in the Midwest. He even took on the entire mafia in his quest for power.

Who Was Danny Greene?

Danny Greene started up his own loan-sharking, gambling and racketeering outfit as a young adult, in addition to being a mob strongman. He was viewed as competition by other organized crime figures. Some reports have speculated that Greene may have been an FBI informant — a possible explanation for why he seemed to escape serious prosecution for his crimes. He died in Lyndhurst, Ohio, in 1977.

Early Life

Daniel John Patrick Greene was born on November 14, 1933, in Cleveland, Ohio. Known as "The Irishman," Danny Greene's life began with loss and hardship. His mother died a few days after his birth, and his father could not take care of him. Greene ended up spending his early years in an orphanage.

A high-school dropout, Greene served in the U.S. Marines for a few years. He later went to work as a longshoreman on the Cleveland docks. Over time, Greene became a union organizer and eventually made his way to union boss. He had a great passion for his Irish heritage, which he displayed by painting the union office green and often wearing green clothes.

Criminal History

Greene's time at the top did not last, however. He was forced to resign after it was discovered that he had been embezzling funds. While Greene was tried for his crime, he ended up only having to pay a $10,000 fine. It wouldn't be long before he found work on the other side of the law, acting as an enforcer for Alex "Shondor" Birns, a Jewish mobster.

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In addition to being a mob strongman, Greene started up his own loan-sharking, gambling and racketeering outfit. He was viewed as a threat by other organized crime figures, including Birns, due to his efforts to muscle into their territories. Greene reportedly took over some of Birns's operations while Birns was in prison, and joined forces with Teamster official John Nardi. Some reports have speculated that Greene may have been an FBI informant — a possible explanation for his unique ability to avoid serious prosecution for his crimes.

Life in Jeopardy and Death

Several attempts were made on Greene's life — one even involved bombing a building where he was living. He and his girlfriend survived the explosion, making their way out of the rubble. Another time, an adversary tried to shoot Greene while he was out for a run with his dogs in 1971. Greene took out his own weapon and killed his would-be assassin. In this case, he was tried and acquitted of manslaughter. Greene attributed his survival in these attacks to the "luck of the Irish."

The battle for turf in Cleveland continued to heat up, and Greene is believed to have eliminated some of his competition. Erstwhile friend Birns met a grisly end outside of a Cleveland church in March 1975, when a bomb exploded after he got into his car. In an ironic twist, Greene would be killed by a car bomb two years later, on October 6, 1977, in Lyndhurst, Ohio.


Greene's murder acted as a springboard for a crime crackdown; roughly 22 convictions were made in relation to his death. His life inspired several books, including To Kill the Irishman: The War That Crippled the Mafia (1998) by Rick Porrello. That book is also the basis for the film Kill the Irishman (2011), starring Ray Stevenson as Greene, Christopher Walken as Birns and Vincent D'Onofrio as Nardi.

Personal Life

Twice married, Greene had five children. His oldest son, Danny Kelly, once described his father as "truly intrepid. ... He probably could have been governor or senator if he hadn't gone the other way."

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