Dandy Phil the Dope Dealer
John William Tuohy
Kastel Phillip: Gangster, narcotics dealer. AKA Dandy Phil. Born April 2, 1893. Died August 16, 1962. Born on New York’s Lower East Side, Kastel was already a polished gambler and casino manager by 1911. By 1920, he was a serious power in the Manhattan gambling industry and held partnership with a number of hoodlums in private gaming across New York.
When World 1 broke out in 1917, Kastel, who was in danger of being drafted into the military, fled to Canada and opened a nightclub in Montreal. He returned to New York in 1919, at the wars end, and was arrested for extortion for his role in a stock swindle. The charges were eventually dropped by the state. (His lawyer was the renowned William J. Fallon)
Kastel was hired by Arnold Rothstein to open a series of bucket shops, places that sold fraudulent or very high-risk securities. His firm, Dillon and Company, went under with $300,000 in debt, most of it pocketed by Kastel. The federal and state governments went after Kastel with a vengeance, the swindle was a major news story, and eventually convicted him on a series of financial technicalities. After three long trials, Kastel was sent to prison for three years.
After Rothstein was murdered in 1928, Kastel entered into a slot machine partnership with another former Rothstein employee, Frank Costello. While Costello concentrated on placing his machines across New York, (He had 5,000-nickel slots across Gotham) Kastel went south to New Orleans. After spending a small fortune to bribe the local political establishment, Kastel flooded New Orleans, and eventually the entire state, with slot machines. Governor Huey Long and later his brother Earl, were particularly indebted to Kastel’s graft. (One of their employees, later a partner, was future mob boss Carlos Marcello)
The partnership earned, according to the government, about one million a year in profit and although both Kastel and Costello were eventually indicted for tax evasion, they were both acquitted. Costello and Kastel also formed Alliance Distributors, an import company that held exclusive distribution of King’s Ransom and House of Lords Scotch in the United States.
In 1944, Kastel was at the Hotel New Yorker, in Manhattan and handed Costello two envelopes containing $27,200, profits from their New Orleans’ slots. Costello left the envelopes in a taxicab. The cab driver turned the money over to the police and Costello was forced to sue the city of New York to get them money back. All of this generate endless new stories and was being closed watched by the federal government, which already had a tax evasion case built against Costello. Eventually the State Supreme Court ruled that the money should be returned, and it was, minus under $25,000 in back taxes.
A debonair man with a natural flair and flashy taste in clothes, he enjoyed mingling with people he assumed to be New Orleans blue blood class. He married a New Orleans local prostitute, a woman named Margie Dennis. Margie, or Margaret as she preferred, created the rather loud décor used in the lobby and casino of Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas. Kastel was a secret owner in the casino, or he was, until the Nevada Gaming Control Board, in 1957, forced him to see his interests.(Kastel’s ownership stopped the casinos official opening)
He was powerful enough within the mob to attend the so-called Havana Mafia Conference at the Hotel Nacional in Cuba in December of 1946. The only other non-Italian in attendance was another Jew, Meyer Lansky.
After the assassination attempt on Costello in May 1957, and his subsequent withdrawal from the underworld, Kastel power started to wane and by the early 1960s, the Marcello family had effectively taken over his operation. With time, his health started to fail and he contacted stomach cancer. In a moment of despair, Kastel took a pistol and shot himself in the forehead, ending his life.