Maier Suchowljansky (Meyer Lansky), the son of Jewish parents, was born in Grodno, Russia (now in Poland) on July 4, 1902. The family moved to the United States in 1911 and the settled in New York. After leaving school he became an apprentice toolmaker.
In 1920, Lansky met Bugsy Siegel and Lucky Luciano. The three young men became involved in crime and by the 1920s Lansky had his own gang and was involved in bootlegging and the protection racket.
Lansky also worked for New York's leading crime boss, Joe Masseria. In 1931, Lansky joined with other gang members, Lucky Luciano, Bugsy Siegel and Albert Anastasia, in the killing of Masseria.
In 1936, Lansky established gambling operations in Florida, New Orleans and Cuba. He was also the major investor in the Flamingo Hotel and Casino started by Bugsy Siegel in Las Vagas. He arranged Siegel's execution in June 1947 when he became convinced that his partner was fiddling the books.
By the 1960s, Lansky was involved in drug smuggling, pornography, prostitution and extortion. He had also invested heavily in legal businesses such as hotels and golf-courses. It was estimated at the time that his total holdings were worth $300,000,000.
In 1970 plans were made to arrest Lansky on suspicion of income-tax evasion. When Lansky heard the news he fled to Israel. He was eventually arrested and returned to the United States, but, in 1973, he was acquitted of income-tax evasion. Other charges were abandoned because of Lansky's poor health.
Meyer Lansky died of lung cancer in Miami Beach, Florida, on May 15, 1983. It has been estimated that when he died Lansky was worth more than $400 million.
Sources: Spartacus Educational