John William Tuohy
Zwerbach Max: AKA Kid Twist. AKA Zwerbaich. Born Date unknown. Died, May 14, 1908. Leader of the Eastman gang following the arrest of Monk Eastman in 1904. Zwerbach lived with his wife and two children at 255 Sackman Street in the Williamsburg section (Now an empty, dead end of Pitkin Avenue)
Zwerbach met his end in the company of a hood named Lewis Vach (Born Sam Tietch) AKA Samuel Pietch, AKA Bat Lewis AKA Cyclone Lou. At the time of his death, police estimated that Lewis had accumulated $50, 000 from extortion. Vach was essentially a strong man, an enforcer noted for his brutality and willingness to inflict injury.
A member of the Eastman gang who came out of the Bowery Boys Gang, Vach was reportedly a Coney Island strongman who wrapped iron bars around his neck as part of a sideshow on the boardwalk. He backed Max “Kid Twist” Zwerbach for leadership of the Eastman gang and was instrumental in helping Zwerbach murder of his rival Richie (Dick) Fitzpatrick, leader of the Five Points gang in 1904.
The two are also said to have murdered an underworld character known only as Big Butch, a poolroom hustler. After that, Vach was promoted to Zwerbach’s bodyguard and general assistant.
Witness heard nine shots ring out and a woman scream. Then Zwerbach and Vach fell through the swinging class doors of the newly opened South Brooklyn Hotel and fell on the floor under a massive floral horseshoe that the owner had been presented for the opening event of the hotel 12 hours before.
Zwerbach was shot once in the head behind his right ear. Vach was shot in the stomach, groin, left hand, right arm and another behind the ear. Carroll Terry, a singer and one of the two women with the gangsters, was also shot through the left arm and fell in the doorway of an Italian restaurant across the boardwalk from the hotel where the two hoods collapsed. Mabel Leon another singer at the Imperial Music Hall accompanied Terry for a drink and dinner with the two gangsters and professed to not having any idea who they were.
According to Terry, who said she had come from Canada to New York to study opera before falling on hard times, who named Louis “The Lump” Pioggi (Born 1882, lived at 19 City Hall Place. The address no longer exists) as the killer. She said she and Pioggi had lived together but that she had moved out and that he had been stalking her ever since. When Pioggi saw her with the two men, according to Terry, he lost control, punched her, knocking her to the ground and then pulled a pistol and starting shooting.
Louie the Lump Pioggi was a member in good standing of the Five Points Gang, according to the New York Times, had been a leader in the gang since 1911. Apparently, what had happened was that when Pioggi saw Zwerbach with girlfriend, he started a fight and caught the worst of it. He left and returned with gang leader Paul Kelly.
Several hours later, Kelly, Pioggi and others ambushed Zwerbach, Vach and the two women. At the trial, Pioggi claimed that Zwerbach, Vach and other members of their gang had surrounded him and picked a fight and that it was his belief that they intended to kill him. He further claimed that when he ran away, they chased him out to the boardwalk with their guns at ready and that he had no choice but to shoot at them.
He was sentenced to a year in Elmira State prison. After his release he was arrested for violating the Sullivan Act (carrying a weapon within the city of New York) he ran and was finally arrested three years later while walking through Times Square.
He reappeared in 1923 as the owner of the Royal Café at 8 Baxter Street. (That end of Baxter Street no longer exists) Pioggi said that when he reported for work in the morning he opened the bar room door and said he found the beer pump going “Full speed”, the automatic piano playing and the dead body of Charles Cassazza sprawled across the floor. He had been shot through the head. Pioggi and Louis Repuzzi were arrested for playing a role in the murder.