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Yasha

Yasha
By
John William Tuohy


Katzenberg Jacob: Narcotics dealer. AKA Yasha. Born 1888. Born in Russia, raised on the Lower East Side of New York. Short and round with poor eyesight, Katzenberg was a major narcotics peddler to the underworld during the 1930s. His customers included New York’s Lucky Luciano, Waxey Gordon, Boston’s Charlie Solomon, Nig Rosen and the Frank Nitti organization in Chicago. In court in 1939, the dope peddler told authorities that he supplied Johnny Torrio, once Chicago mob boss, with narcotics through a connection named Frank Zagarino. He also claimed that it was Torrio who was his main source of liquor supplies during the prohibition. 
     He is also reported to have had outlets in Detroit, Kansas City and Saint Louis. The League of Nations, the latter day United Nation’s, dubbed him “an international menace” and estimated his dope ring to be worth at least $10 million dollars. Katzenberg had been a bootlegger but when repeal came, he turned to narcotics peddling.
      On February 25 of 1935, authorities discovered Katzenberg’s opium processing plant at 2919 Seymour Avenue in the Bronx,  operated in the home of  a Dr. Pietro Quinto, (Born 1891) a chemist and former Captain in the Italian Calvary, after a small fire broke out in the building for reasons unknown. Firemen called police who seized 980 ounces of morphine from the property, which then sold for about $125 an ounce. (A Dominick Palmizio was also arrested)
     Based on the evidence from the plant and other casework, the police were able to charge Katzenberg and others with a series of crime. In December of 1938 he sentenced to ten years in prison and fined $10,000, a huge amount at that time, after he pled guilty. Jacob Lvovsky (AKA Jack Goode) and his assistants Sam Cross, (Real name Sam Gross) and Ben Feldman. All three worked in Katzenberg’s operation as financiers, were also arrested and sentenced to six years in prison for bribing a US Customs official named John McAdams to allow tons of dope into the US. Sammy Lee, Katzenberg’s top man in the trade was found murdered on October 22, 1934, left in a gutter on West Sixteenth Street in New York.

     The night before he was killed, Lee visited Katzenberg in prison where Katzenberg gave him a postdated check for an unspecified amount. Pietro Quinto, the operations chemist was sentenced to eight year in prison as well. Agents also confiscated $37,000 from his various bank accounts. Initially, Katzenberg fled arrest and was eventually deported from Greece back to the United States to serve his sentence.  In custody to federal authorities, he agreed to become a state’s witness. He was released with time served and disappeared from public view.

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