Lee Francis

“You’re a cog in the organized traffic when you’re running a house, a spoke in the wheel of the underworld.” 

-Call House Madam

Lee Francis was the madam of multiple brothels in Los Angeles under Charles Crawford and his successors. Almost all that is known about her, or believed that is known about her, is information that came from Francis herself and is not reliable. The following is based on my own original research.

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Bugsy Siegel in Los Angeles Pt. II: Man About Town

Read Pt. I here.

As is now known, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel made a number of trips to Los Angeles in the early 1930s, often with his family in tow. This information comes not from secret gangster sources that can’t be revealed, but the plain old, dull documentary record.

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How the Housing Crisis Brought Down the Gambling Ships

Gambling ships began operating off the Southern California coast regularly in the late 1920s. Local, county, state, and federal authorities tried various means to get them shut down, even dredging up 18th century piracy laws, without any real lasting effect. Earl Warren, as California A.G., successfully raided and closed the last four ships in 1939 and World War II put a damper on any new such ventures starting up. But there was still no state or federal statute outlawing them. Everyone may have thought the era of gambling ships had passed. Everyone except Tony Cornero.
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Charles H. Crawford

1930-crawford-ucla

Much of what is written about Charles Crawford and his Los Angeles crime syndicate today comes from a series of articles written in 1939 for Liberty magazine’s, based on information from cafeteria owner Clifford Clinton’s citizen-led vice investigations. Clinton’s work was sincere, but by that time Crawford was long dead and he was relying on secondary sources for information about him. The following is based on my original research.

Clinton’s efforts led to the voters of Los Angeles ousting Mayor Frank Shaw in 1938, often cited as the first mayor of a major U.S. city to be recalled. However, Seattle’s Mayor Hiram C. Gill beat him to it. Gill was booted out in 1911 after less than a year in office, when the public learned that he and his Chief of Police Charles “Wappy” Wapperstein were collecting a large percentage of the receipts from the Northern Club, a saloon-gambling hall-brothel run by a syndicate that included Charles Crawford.

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August Palumbo

The LAPD’s survey, Gangland Killings 1900-1951, list just three gang-related murders for 1928, although newspapers at the time of August Palumbo’s shooting death of July 18 refer to him as the seventh such victim in a “bootlegger’s war” that had been going on for six weeks prior. The 1951 survey also notes that there was “no prosecution to date” in the Palumbo case. In fact, there were plenty of prosecutions, just no convictions. Continue reading