“Class, that's the only thing that counts in life. Class. Without class and style a man's a bum, he might as well be dead.” – Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel
Although the notorious mobster made plenty of powerful friends, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel had just as many enemies, which grew during the construction of his extravagant Flamingo Hotel – initially a bottomless money drain for his mob syndicate investors. While Siegel had a way of getting himself out of dangerous fixes, including conviction and the death penalty for the murder of Harry “Big Greenie” Greenberg, there was one fix he couldn’t escape. On June 20, 1947, while sitting in his girlfriend’s Beverly Hills home, he takes four bullets to the head and lungs by an unknown gunman and dies.
Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories podcast show hosts Carter Roy and Wenndy MacKenzie take a look at Siegel’s final years.
It’s 1941 and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel sits in jail, looking at the death penalty for the murder of Harry “Big Greenie” Greenberg. His lawyer and friends are trying to get him out. Greasing the palms of jail guards allows him to live a luxurious lifestyle behind bars – he has his own personal chef, women and occasional allowances to leave jail. It’s no surprise that the chief witness mysteriously dies before he can testify, and Siegel walks out of the courtroom a free man.
Wanting to go legit, Siegel dreams of building the classiest hotel in the world with the finest accommodations, food and entertainment. He gets his chance when he learns that William Wilkerson, a hotel owner in Las Vegas, is having money problems. Not long after, Siegel gains control and renames it the Flamingo Hotel, sparing no expense in reconstruction. Lifelong friend Moe Sedway, helps him run the operation and keeps an eye on the finances. Although the project was originally budgeted for 1.7 million dollars out of the mob syndicate’s pocket, the final cost comes out to 6 million.
By 1946, the syndicate gets suspicious and Meyer Lansky visits Siegel to tell him that they think he and Virginia have been taking money from the project. Siegel brushes it off.
Later that year, Lucky Luciano meets with all of America’s top mob bosses in Havana, Cuba. They hold their conference at the Hotel Nacional, which is controlled by Meyer Lansky, and discuss what to do about Siegel’s operations in California. Many want to take Siegel out but Lansky convinces them to wait until they see what kind of money the Flamingo Hotel brings in.
However, construction isn’t completed and the grand opening is a disaster. The Flamingo Hotel temporarily closes until construction can be completed. Luckily for Siegel, when the hotel reopens it turns a nice profit and the syndicate relaxes a bit. Still, there are those who do not like the way he handles operations.
In June of 1947, Virginia Hill leaves for a trip to Paris alone. She is not keen on getting married to Siegel, even after he quietly divorces his wife. It’s while she’s away that a spray of bullets tears through her Beverly Hills home with Siegel inside. The infamous mobster is shot four times with a .30 caliber M1 carbine and dies of head wounds.
Immediately after Siegel’s death, his mob associates take control of the Flamingo Hotel – some say it was just twenty minutes after he was shot but other reports say it wasn’t until the news broke in the morning paper.
Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories podcast show hosts Carter and Wenndy discuss who may have pulled the trigger. Everyone in and around the mob had a motive to kill Siegel. Carter and Wenndy believe even Lansky would have agreed to the hit if it were discovered that Siegel skimmed money from the Flamingo Hotel project.
Virginia’s sudden trip to Paris is also suspicious. It’s possible her brother Chick Hill killed Siegel while she was away in retribution for a humiliating public beating.
But there’s another possibility. What if the mystery shooter wasn’t in the mob? Wenndy suggests Moe Sedway’s wife Bee may have had her lover Mathew “Moose” Pandza kill Siegel after she found out about the hit ordered on her husband. Apparently, Moe and Bee had an open marriage and husband and lover were actually good friends.
Carter, however, sticks to the theory that Siegel’s murder was a mob sanctioned hit. He believes the gunman that killed “Bugsy” Siegel was Frankie Carbo, a member of Murder, Inc.
Who do you think pulled the trigger? Was it the “Moose,” Chick Hill, Frankie Carbo or someone else? We want to hear what you think – visit our Facebook poll at http://www.facebook.com/parcast.