John William Tuohy lives in Washington DC

John Tuohy's history of Chicago organized crime (N)


Nitti, Frank: AKA Nitto Born in Italy. January 27, 1888 Died 1943 Mob leader. Arrived in the United States 1891.  Frank Nitti was a small built, pensive little man with ulcers and a nervous twitch. He was born in Agri, outside Palermo, in Italy, but avoided discussing his Sicilian background, always calling himself an Italian instead. Nitti had gotten a full formal education in Italy before coming to the United States that gave him a working knowledge of advanced chemistry and he was also said to be a talented watchmaker.
Arriving at Chicago’s enormous Italian ghettos by way of New York, Nitti worked as a barber in the city’s immense Italian community. To earn extra cash, he turned to fencing stolen gems brought to him by his lifelong friend Louis Greenberg. It was Greenberg who introduced Nitti to an up and coming gangster, also from New York, named Al Capone.
The newspapers referred to Nitti as “The Enforcer” but for those who knew the real story, the nickname was almost comical. In fact, as far as anyone knows, Nitti never killed anyone. He made his way up through the ranks of the syndicate because he was smart and cunning.   While it was true that he would easily order a beating or an execution by the gangster squads he controlled, syndicate leaders rightly considered Nitti a nervous, jumpy, high-strung man, better suited, as Paul Ricca once said, to be the barber-fence he started as.   Unlike Capone, Nitti was a hardheaded businessman who kept his emotions intact and stayed at his desk from dawn to dusk. Nitti had few of the vices that burdened Capone’s life. He didn’t gamble, snort coke, drink or keep girlfriends.
He had no friends among “The boys,” in fact the boys, the gangsters who made up the organization, had nothing but contempt for Nitti. Nitti wasn’t popular because he was smarter, in every sense, then most of the men in the syndicate. He was bettering educated and more refined as well.   Unlike Capone he was a colorless, dull and humorless man, a stickler for details who spoke with a condescending precise diction that gave off a cold attitude toward his subordinates whom he so openly despised.
He was not a man prone to make mistakes or to leap into a project before he understood it. Nitti did research on the crimes he intended to commit. He clipped newspaper articles about the subject and studied them for clues. In the case of the Balaban brother’s extortion in 1934, Nitti scoured the financial sheets on the brothers’ business and, according to Johnny Roselli and Sam Giancana; it was Nitti who planned the successful St. Valentine’s Day massacre down to the last bloody detail.  Nitti had done his time behind bars, having been caught up in the federal government’s massive efforts to bust up the Capone mob.
On March 24, 1930, Treasury agents formally charged and then arrested Frank Nitti with the crime of failure to pay his income taxes on an estimated $ 747,887.00 in income. The government claimed that Nitti spent $ 624,888.00 during 1925, 1926, and 1927 and it was their contention that since Nitti spent the money, he must have had the income to generate it and therefore he should have paid $ 227,940 in income tax on that income.   Capone tried to put in the fix for Nitti, but Congressman Billy Parrillo, Capone’s personal representative in Washington, reported that nobody in the Capitol was interest in taking fix money to save Nitti from jail. The highest levels of federal government wanted Capone and his organization done away with and no one was going to get in the middle of that.
In November 1930, Nitti’s case was heard in federal court. The enforcer pleaded guilty and paid a $ 10,000 fine, which is what Nitti had agreed to in a plea bargain before sentencing. However, in a surprise move, at least to Nitti, he was sentenced to 18 months at Leavenworth. He would serve most of the term but got several months off for good behavior.
It was a witch-hunt inspired by distrust, fueled by outrage and conducted by Midwestern blue bloods that were determined to find Nitti guilty of something. It was, as Capone said, “Open season on us wops.” Nitti’s army of high-priced lawyers had tried to pay his taxes but the amount owed was never made clear to them because the indictment against Nitti was so vague as to be almost generic.
Nitti, who was terrified of jail, offered to pay double what he thought the government said he owed but they turned him down. No matter what Nitti said or did, he was going to jail. It was a railroad job, a miscarriage of justice perhaps, but the American people had grown tired of watching hoodlums like Nitti shoot up their streets and grow rich from it and they wanted them in jail.
Frank Nitti would draw the Chicago Mob closer. Under his reign, it would become smaller and more tightly structured and profitable, and, as a result, better able to provide an income for its members. The federal government’s attacks on Capone’s syndicate had left it badly decimated and Nitti, by way of attrition, was its new leader.
Nitti won the bloody labor wars of 1932-33 for the Chicago Mob and oversaw the gang’s takeover of the Hollywood studios in the late 1930s.
There were setbacks for Nitti, however.  Mayor Anton Cermak and two other non-syndicate hoods, Teddy Newberry, (AKA Edward Morrison)  a wild card independent, and Roger Touhy, leader of a band of suburban bootleggers and mail robbers, entered a war with Nitti for control of the city’s labor unions.
In 1932, they decided to end the war early by shooting Nitti to death. At about 10:00 in the morning on December 20, 1932, two members of Cermak’s special squad, Miller and Lange, were called to Cermak’s office where he handed them a slip of paper with Frank Nitti’s name and office address. The two officers went to the massive office building and took the elevator to the fifth floor, room 554, where Nitti kept a cramped three-room office.
Nitti was furious, not at the raid; he was used to that, but for being interrupted in mid-sentence. He had grown that arrogant since Capone was gone. Miller and Lange ordered all the men in the room to turn and face the wall, their hands raised over their heads.
A uniformed officer named Callahan, who was recruited by Miller and Lange outside the building just before the raid, recalled: “Miller or Lange said ‘We better frisk them’ so I searched Nitti first and then Miller frisked him again, which I didn’t like at all. I saw that Nitti had a slip of paper in his mouth. I told him to spit it out. He didn’t, so somebody punched him in the stomach and then I took the paper out of his mouth for him. “Lange then brought Nitti into another room and searched him again. Then he brought him back out and pushed him to me and said, “Where did he get that paper from? Frisk him again.’
“Then Lange told Nitti to turn around and face the wall like the others, when he did, Lange grabbed Nitti’s wrists. When I bent down to grab Nitti’s ankles and Lange fired five shot into Nitti. I leaped back.
“Lange still had Nitti by the wrists. Nitti staggered toward the door and then he stopped and looked at Lange and he said, ‘What’s this for?’ and Lange shot him again. Then Lange walked to an anteroom and fired a single shot. When he came back out he was shot through the hand.” [1]
Nitti looked up at the officers and said, “Oh God, save me! Save me this time, God.[2]” He had been shot in the neck, back leg and groin. He was taken to Bridewell Hospital where his father-in-law, Dr. Gaetano Rango, was called into care for him. After several hours, Dr. Rango emerged from the operating room to announce that Frank Nitti would probably die before the night was over.
But Nitti lived, one of the many mistakes that the Cermak forces made in shooting him. Within months, Tony Cermak was gunned down in Florida, Newberry ended face down in a mud puddle in Ohio and Roger Touhy was framed on a trumped up kidnapping charge.
Later that year, Nitti led the Chicago mob, with fractions of the New York Families, in an ill-fated attempt to extort millions of dollars from the Hollywood studios.
When the coup failed, Paul Ricca told Nitti that since Nitti had dragged the Outfit into the mess with his expansionist dreams, he was going to have to “take the dive on this one” [3]
Nitti was terrified of going to jail. He had a phobia about it. 
At age 59, Nitti’s life was a mess. He was clinically depressed. His wife, Anne, a plain and innocent women, had died in 1940 and Nitti never seemed to recover from the blow. He wore black almost every day for the little time he had left on this earth. True, he had remarried the former secretary to Ed O’Hara, the gambler who had turned evidence against Capone during his tax trial, but it was an unhappy marriage.
The day before the indictments from the Hollywood extortion mess were handed down, Nitti called a meeting at his house. But, before Nitti could call the room to order, Paul Ricca took the floor and said, “Frank, you brought Browne and Bioff and us into this thing, you masterminded it, and now it’s gone bad.” [4]
Ricca told him he would have to take the fall for all of them and go to jail since the Federal government wanted a big name.
Nitti started quoting law to him as to why he could not take the fall alone. Ricca lost his temper and started screaming at Nitti who in turn lost his temper. Both were screaming, until Ricca ended it by saying, “You better watch it Frank, you’re asking for it.”
At that point Nitti realized that he no longer was in charge of the mob. Silently, he walked to the front door and held it open for them to leave his house. Later that evening, Tony Accardo, then just a mere Capo, called Nitti and told him that he and Ricca wanted to meet him the next night in the loop.
On the day Nitti was scheduled to meet Ricca and Accardo to discuss the pending indictments, Nitti began drinking at lunch and by the time of the meeting a few hours later, he was drunk and incoherent.
He had reason to drink. He had been stealing money from the extorted cash taken from the Hollywood moguls, a fact which was sure to come out during the upcoming trials. When it did, he was a dead man.   Disgusted, Ricca called an end to the meeting and stormed out of the restaurant, leaving Nitti there to drink some more.
Later that evening, Frank Nitti was seen staggering across a vacant lot on the South side. Some railroad workers who watched him saw him stagger badly and then fall to the ground near a fence. The engineer and firemen of a freight train watched Nitti weave down the middle of a track, a bottle in one hand, and a pistol in the other. He aimed the gun at his head, pulled the trigger twice but only managed to shoot a hole in his brown fedora. The third shot went into his left temple, the bullet exiting through his right ear.
Nixon, Richard: While it was widely rumored that the Chicago Mob tossed its power behind the election of John F. Kennedy, it is less well known that when Richard Nixon was elected President, he ordered his Justice Department to crack down on the Chicago mob and smash their power before the 1972 national election. As a result, by 1971 virtually every boss in the Chicago mob was under indictment for back taxes including Accardo.

[1]  Bioff testimony before the House Congressional Committee
[2]  Chicago Tribune
[3]  Chicago Crime Commission
[4]  Bioff testimony before the House Subcommittee 

Neri Henry: In 1971 the FBI nailed Henry Neri, the mayor of Northlake Illinois, for trying to extort $70,000 out of a contractor who had built some apartments in Northlake. Judge Julius Hoffman convicted Neri, as well as  "Joe Shine" Amabile, former Alderman Joe Drozd and Alderman Leo Shababy, calling them "sickening spectacle" and gave them each 12 years, but his decision was over turned by US Circuit court judge Otto Kerner, the former Illinois Governor and United States Attorney. Joining him in the opinion were Judges Walter Cummings and Elmer Schnackenberg. They reversed Hoffman on the grounds that he had refused to ask the jurors if they had read newspaper articles about the defendants before the trial. Neri, Palermo and Shababy were tried again and this time entered guilty please before the trial. It was the governments first stand against mob control of the Chicago circuit courts and gave backing to brave men like Hoffman who would stand up to the mob.

Nest: In the late 1950s, The Nest was a Mafia connected jazz bar in the 3800 block of North Central in Chicago.

Night of the Stars: An annual bash sponsored by the Italian Welfare Council, a real charity created up by Giancana and his wife. Mobsters sold tickets to the event which featured Bob Hope, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis Jimmy Durante and Frank Sinatra. Very little of the money actual made it to poor Italians. Using shrewd accountants, Giancana managed to pocket most of the cash through dummy companies who billed the events for services at twice the normal rate.     

Nuttier then a fruitcake: In 1942, Jake Guzak, Capone former business manager in the mob, visited the dying Capone at his Florida estate. The effects of untreated syphilis had worn away at him. Guzak, who had not seen Capone since his heydays as Boss of the Chicago mob, was appalled at Capone’s condition. On his way out of the estate, when asked how Capone was, Guzak replied, in terms harsher then he intended “Al is nuttier then a fruitcake”
  Actually, although Capone was very ill, he was hardly “nuttier then a fruitcake” Before his health failed him, Capone and his wife Mae were seen regularly in restaurants in Florida and he appeared happy and relaxed.
   His last few years of life, he became child like, becoming highly excited when visitors dropped by to see him. He spoke very fast and took up a nervous, non-stop habit of whistling, sometimes speaking and whistling at the same time. He stopped walking and demanded to be pushed around in a wheelchair
He enjoyed playing cards with friends and old associates who would appease him by allowing him to always win the game, just as they had in the days.

Nestos, William Dr. Kept on staff by Gus Alex in 1946 to perform abortions on mob prostitutes (Abortions were illegal at the time) In 1955, Nestos was named in a federal probe as one of several doctors who were selling infants for adoption. In Nestos case, he successfully sold twelve children in ten months.

Niemeyer Robert H: On  October 3, 1951 Robert Niemeyer, an activist citizen who wanted a crack down on gambling in the Northlake area, was beaten with a Louisville slugger near Armitage Avenue and 15th street in Melrose Park. The attacker broke ten of Niemeyer’s bones. His killing led to a mass march in the suburbs for the police to crack down on gambling police questioned Vincent Inserro AKA Little Saint Louis

Northlake Community Hospital: A mob hideout and relaxation center founded and run by Tony Accardo’s Doctor, Giulio Bruni, who was jailed in1965 on counterfeiting charges. The mob had massive drunken parties at the hospital and huge social gatherings. Police who trailed the hoods assumed they had entered the hospital either for treatment or to visit a sick relative.  It was informant Chuckie Grimaldi, a one time associate of Mad Sam DeStefano, who informed the FBI that Northlake was simply a front.

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