Meyer Lansky Biography

(One of the Most Financially Successful Gangsters in American History)

Birthday: July 4, 1902 (Cancer)

Born In: Grodno, Belarus

Meyer Lansky was one of America’s most powerful gangsters of the 19th century. He played an important role in the development of the national crime syndicate in the United States. He ran his operations running across the USA, Cuba and the Caribbean that involved gambling, theft, narcotics and other forms of organised crime, including murder. His skills at money laundering earned him the nickname ‘Mob’s Accountant’. He was a friend of gangster, Bugsy Siegel, and started his criminal activities by forming the Bugs and Meyer Mob that became notorious in Manhattan. He ensured complete integrity within his organisation and dealt any cheating strictly. Born into a Polish–Jewish family who were victims of anti Semitic activities, he was actively involved in breaking up pro-Nazi rallies during the World War II. He was instrumental in getting Batista back to power in Cuba by bribing his rival to step down. Ultimately he fled Cuba before Fidel Castro came into power and turned his attention to Las Vegas, and other parts of the Caribbean. He spent the last days of his life at his home on the Miami Beach. He died of lung cancer the age of 80. It is said that he had over $300 million in bank accounts, and the money was never found after his death.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Meier Suchowlański

Died At Age: 80


children: Buddy Lansky, Paul Lansky, Sandra Lansky Lombardo

Born Country: Belarus

Gangsters American Men

Height: 1.52 m

Died on: January 15, 1983

place of death: Miami Beach, Florida, United States

Childhood & Early Life
Meier Suchowianski was born on July 4, 1902, in Grodno, Grodno Govemorate, Russian Empire (now in Belarus). He belonged to a Polish–Jewish family who were victims of anti Semitic activities. He was born in the Polish Kingdom under Russian rule and considered himself a Polish.
His father migrated to the US in 1909 and two years later Meyer joined him along with his mother and brother, Jacob, to settle in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York. His brother grew up to manage the Nacional Hotel in Havana, Cuba. Lansky became a citizen of the US and was exposed to the harsh street life of Manhattan.
He studied till the eighth grade and left school to take up a job as an automobile mechanic. Here he got involved in an auto theft and resale business that branched off into burglaries, liquor and other forms of crime.
Meyer soon became a good friend of gangster, Bugsy Siegel, and became partners in the bootlegging trade. Together they formed the Bugs and Meyer Mob that became notorious in Manhattan. He also got close to the Italian – American mobster, Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano and was instrumental in his rise by organising the murders of Mafia bosses, Salvatore Maranzano and Joe Messeria in 1931.
During World War II he and his gang were actively involved in breaking up pro Nazi rallies in the US. He also helped the Naval Intelligence by incorporating criminals to undertake covert operations against German infiltrators. His mafia was also instrumental in providing protection to US shipbuilding docks against sabotage. He continued to make profit by his illegal activities that were overlooked by the government during the war.
Continue Reading Below
Criminal Activities
During the mid 1930s, he established gambling in a big way in New Orleans, Florida and Cuba for which he had the skills as well as connections. He ensured complete integrity within his organisation and transferred all his earnings into Swiss bank accounts. He bribed law enforcing agencies and ultimately bought an offshore bank in Switzerland to launder money.
He was instrumental in forming the national crime syndicate in the US that linked people in power with criminals for mutual benefit. It also brought various gangs and mobs into an understanding with each other on their jurisdiction.
It is said that Meyer was instrumental in getting his close associate Siegel assassinated when the Flamingo Hotel run by him failed to make a profit. He initially tried to buy time for his friend but later was ruthless when the decision was imposed upon him by the mafia. This marked the transfer of power from the Five Families of New York to the Chicago Outfit. The hotel was taken over by his other rich business associates Gus Greenbaum and Moe Sedway who were mobsters in the casino industry.
He was a close friend and business associate of Cuban president and dictator Fulgencio Batista with the help of whom he gained control over the racetracks and casinos of Havana in exchange for kickbacks to the ruler. He was also instrumental in getting Batista back to power by bribing his rival Carlos Prio Socarras to step down. Batista in turn changed the laws of Cuba so as to encourage foreign investment to promote gambling.
Lansky fled from Cuba a day before Fidel Castro came into power with the Cuban Revolution of 1959. He suffered a loss of approximately seven million dollars following a crackdown on his casinos that were banned by the new government. Lansky then turned his attention to Las Vegas, the Bahamas and other parts of the Caribbean to make his money. He also got involved in smuggling narcotics, pornography and prostitution in a big way.
Taking advantage of his Jewish ancestry, Lansky immigrated to Israel in 1970 in order to escape federal law on tax evasion. However, the Israeli government deported him back to the US after two years due to his past criminal record. He was tried in the US and convicted by the grand jury but later on acquitted in 1974, partly due to his ill health.
Personal Life
Lansky was married to Anna Citron in 1929 and had three children. The couple divorced in 1947 and he married Thelma Schwarz in 1948. He spent the last days of his life in his home on Miami Beach where he died of lung cancer on 15 January 1983 at the age of 80. He was buried in Miami in an orthodox Jewish ceremony. It is said that he had over $ 300 million hidden in bank accounts that were never found after his death.
As per his biographer, Robert Lacey, Lansky lived in poverty during the last stages of his life and was not even in a position to pay for his handicapped son’s treatment.
His second wife’s granddaughter has later testified that Lansky left only $ 37,000 in cash at the time of his death. He lost most of his fortune in Cuba when he fled the country following the revolution.
It is also said that Lansky did not own money, he owned people. He kept very little money in his name and distributed most of it amongst his close associates and family members. Hence, his actual value will never be known.
Meyer Lansky was the unofficial gambling minister of Cuban ruler, Fulgencio Batista’s government and enjoyed an annual salary of $ 25,000 to organise gambling in the state.
The main character in the movie ‘The Godfather II’ is based on the life of Lansky. Many other crime films including ‘Bugsy’, ‘The Lost City’ and ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ have been inspired by the life of Lansky.
He has also been portrayed in many television serials and books about the underworld. His story has also been told by the Jewish – Israeli musician, Sagol 59 in his song ‘The Ballad of Mayer Lansky’ that was released in 2011.

See the events in life of Meyer Lansky in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- Meyer Lansky Biography
- Editors,

People Also Viewed

John Dillinger Biography
John Dillinger
Michael Franzese Biography
Michael Franzese
Sammy Gravano Biography
Sammy Gravano
Bugsy Siegel Biography
Bugsy Siegel
Carlo Gambino Biography
Carlo Gambino
(American, Italian)
Joseph Colombo Biography
Joseph Colombo
Roy DeMeo Biography
Roy DeMeo
Sam Giancana Biography
Sam Giancana