Though primarily remembered as a deputy sheriff, George Contreras (in white hat, above, center) began his law enforcement career in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office during the administration of DA Thomas Woolwine. Continue reading
“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.
How a cafeteria owner took on the underworld and brought down a mayor.
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.
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.
It wasn’t the first time a public figure who opposed Los Angeles’ underworld suddenly found himself involved in a compromising position, intended to either discredit or bring them to heel. But the plot to silence vice-crusading city councilman Carl I. Jacobson didn’t run quite to plan.
For all the energy expelled in expunging from Los Angeles that most dreaded of species, the gangsterous easternicus, one of the most invasive specimens of all of them was a hometown boy. Milton Bernard Page, known as “Farmer,” was born in the city in 1887. Though the gambling den was his natural habitat, he also dealt in liquor and prostitution. Continue reading