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Monday, 27 February 2012

The last Jewish gangster: Julius Bernstein's once-secret FBI file revealed

08:29 |


The extraordinary mob life of Julius Bernstein, the last of New York's great Jewish gangsters, has been revealed for the first time in the release of a once-secret FBI file. The gangster known as Spike managed to stay out of jail for more than 40 years as he devoted his life to organised crime with one of the Mafia's 'Five Families'; the Genovese family. Pages of the once confidential file have been obtained by the New York Daily News through the Freedom of Information Law. The mob life of Julius Bernstein, the last of New York's great Jewish gangsters, has been revealed for the first time in the release of a once-secret FBI file The papers detail Bernstein's life shaking down the Sbarro restaurant chain for cash payoffs, seizing control of a bus drivers’ union and working alongside the legendary Gambino family capo Matthew Ianniello, reports the Daily News.  'I’ve been a thief all my life,' Bernstein once bragged.    But before his death at the age of 85 in 2007, Bernstein became an FBI informant. 'Wiseguys trust me.That’s why sitting here is killing me.' he said on his first day as an informant, reports the Daily News. In 1944 Bernstein began his mob career after forming a friendship with Matthew Ianniello, pictured here leaving court in 2006, who was known as a up and coming mobster Born in 1922 in Brooklyn, Bernstein grew up in an Italian/Jewish neighbourhood. Jewish gangsters like Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel paired up  with Italian mobsters like Charles (Lucky) Luciano while Louis (Lepke) Buchalter ran Murder Inc., a franchise of  Jewish and Italian assassins. Returning as a hero after fighting with U.S. forces on D-Day, Bernstein  formed a friendship with Matthew Ianniello, who was known as a up and coming mobster, according to the Daily News. Despite their close alliance Matty, who was best man at Bernstein's wedding, could not bring his friend into the Mafia because of his Jewish heritage. Bernstein grew up in the shadows of other Jewish gangsters including Benny (Bugsy) Siegel, pictured here in 1940, who reputedly worked as a hitman for the Mafia Jewish gangsters like Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel, pictured in a mughsot, also paired up with Italian mobsters like Bernstein Bernstein instead served as a trusted 'associate' of the Genovese family. His big moment came in 1971 when the Genovese were seizing control of labor unions and he was planted at Local 1181 -  a school bus drivers’ union that became a steady illegal income, reports the Daily News. Over the next 35 years, Bernstein's salary soared to $216,000 a year, and he drove a union-owned Lincoln Continental as he squeezed every illegal penny he could out of the union by shaking down bus company owners, uniform makers and a medical clinic. Bernstein earned enough trust to manage the bookmaking operation of the then-Genovese boss Frank (Funzi) Tieri. Bernstein says it was Tieri who told him about the family’s decades-long shakedown of the now-global Sbarro restaurant chain, reports the Daily News. Jewish gangster Meyer Lansky, pictured here in 1951, was known for running one of the most violent Prohibition gangs in New York Unlike Bernstein, who managed to stay under the radar for over 40 years, Lansky pictured here in a mugshot, had many run ins with the police The empire began in 1959 as a single Italian grocery in Bensonhurst run by Sbarro brothers, Mario, Joseph and Anthony. Bernstein told the FBI that the 'protection' payments began in the 1960s. By 2004, they were paying $20,000 a year - Bernstein said he was ordered to take over collecting the two annual payments of $10,000. The gangster’s luck finally ran out at the age of 82 in July 2005 after his arrest for union corruption which saw him facing up to 20 years in prison. He admitted several extortion charges in 2006 - including the Sbarro shakedown - and made an extraordinary decision to become an FBI informant. Even then, the gangster had not quite reformed and eight months later he collected a $20,000 payment from a bus company owner inside a hotel bathroom, reports the Daily News. On October 21, 2007, Bernstein died aged 85 at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.

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