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In the 1930s and 1940s, journalists used the term “Murder Incorporated” to refer to a collection of contract killers who worked for organized crime in the United States. Members of Murder Incorporated committed untold numbers of murders under orders from people in the mob; these murders were designed to protect the interests and secrecy of organized crime. Some journalists called those involved in the group the “Brownsville Boys,” in a reference to the neighborhood which many of these men came from.
Members of Murder Incorporated referred to themselves as the Combination, presumably referencing their cooperative efforts on behalf of some of the biggest figures in American organized crime. The highly efficient members of Murder Incorporated worked throughout the 1930's, accepting contract killings from all over the United States and traveling to obscure corners of the nation to carry out their work. Ultimately, the organization collapsed in 1940, due to a series of deaths, indictments, and witnesses who came forward to assist law enforcement.
Targets of Murder Incorporated hits were often gang members, informants, embezzlers, and others who upset the balance of organized crime in America. A handful of powerful mob families controlled the mafia underworld very tightly, and they did not tolerate deviations which could pose a threat to the security of the mob. Some Murder Incorporated hits were made very public, to send a clear message to other people who might be considering behavior which could threaten the status quo of the criminal underworld.
Often, an assassin did not know his victim; he relied on information supplied by the person who ordered the hit. In some cases, murders were carried out in cities far from the home of both victim and assassin, making it very difficult to crack Murder Incorporated cases, since the trail typically went cold before law enforcement even found it. Fear of reprisals also prevented people from speaking out, making it very challenging to build up and prosecute cases against members of the Combination.
Some famous members of Murder Incorporated include: Martin “Bugsy” Goldstein, Louis Capone, Harry Maione, Vincent Mangano, and Johnny Dio. Some of the men in the group developed their own distinct styles for murdering their victims, leaving a calling card, as it were. In 1940, a series of criminal trials began for members of the group, and several of the men were sentenced to death for their crimes.