Monday, May 12, 2014

Mickey Cohen Files

I have recently acquired a lot of FBI Documents on Meyer Harris Cohen AKA: C. Cain, Donald Duitz, Michael Kane, Michael Masters, M. Michaels, Max Patterson, M. Weaver and best known as Mickey Cohen.

Mickey, Mike Howard, Johnny Stompanato
These were easy (and cheap) to get my hands on.  It makes me wonder why all these people writing books or screenplays could not bother to get this information. Its all Freedom of Information Act stuff, which means a lot of the names are redacted.  I have read most of the 4,000 pages, many are FBI Airtels (interoffice memos) and other interoffice communications.

Mickey was born in Brooklyn, New York on September 4 1913 to Max and Fannie Cohen. Both Max and Fannie were born in Russia and emigrated to the US.  Mickey attended school until the age of 15 but never did well because he was a truant.  Max died a year after Mickey was born, and his mother moved them to the Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles. 

He was a bad kid and did a lot of time in reform school.  In 1929 he moved to Cleveland to train as a pro boxer.  He was never a stand out in pro boxing but I am sure from what I have read that he fought in a lot of "smokers" or illegal fights.  He became known as a scrappy tough fighter, although not a great fighter.

He got involved in the gambling rackets in Cleveland with some other Jewish gangsters but soon left for Chicago.  Once in Chicago, he built up a gambling business that included games and taking bets.  He got into trouble with some Outfit men and soon left for Los Angeles.  

Once in Los Angeles he began shaking down madams for cash and this brought him to Joe Sica. The FBI has Joe Sica listed as part of the Mafia, but according to everything I have been told, he was never a made guy. Joe, along with his brothers, was a huge money maker that basically ran his own family that stretched from Tijuana to the Bay Area.  Joe Sica had a huge gambling network and was a very big drug smuggler.  He was very well respected by many Cosa Nostra bosses all over the country.

Joe Sica and a man named Mike Howard witnessed Mickey's marriage at a Chapel on Western Ave in Los Angeles on October 15, 1940, the marriage would last until February 1st, 1957 when his wife divorced him because of "extreme cruelty."  He must have done something because he got away with just paying her 1 dollar a month in alimony.

The FBI had a number of female informants that gave them information on Mickey and by the winter of 1950 they were investigating them for kidnapping a former Los Angeles Gambler/Bookie who had fled to Las Vegas because he owned Mickey $5,000.  Mickey found out where the man was living and had his men grab him and put him on a plane to Los Angeles.  Once in Los Angeles, the man gave Mickey two checks for 1000.00 each that he deposited in his own account!  The FBI seized them from the bank and opened a safety deposit box he had at the bank but the victim told them he came to Los Angeles on his own accord.  That case died on the vine.

The FBI would speak to anyone who was ever seen with Mickey, including a number of Hollywood stars and others in the entertainment business.  They all said that Mickey loved the attention and loved being in the media.  He lived for the spotlight.  

Mickey was arrested for tax evasion twice.  After his release he had a number of businesses, Michael's Greenhouses 1956-57, Carousel Ice Cream Parlor 1958-60, he owned a piece of Rounders Restaurant and he went on to sell his life story many times, but he never had a resulting book published.  

The selling of his life story was a con job that he used to get cash from a lot of people.  He did have a really well known gifted writer working on it.  The man's name was Ben Hecht, and he won an Academy Award for Underworld at the very first awards ceremony.  He also wrote the classic movie Scarface, the original black and white movie.

Mickey and Ben went to La Paz Mexico to finish the book but it was never finished.

Mickey moved into a brand new apartment complex at 705 South Barrington where he paid a lot of money at the time, $250.00 a month in rent.  He had lived for years at the Hotel Del Capri on Wilshire before he moved.  Another soon-to-be famous name also lived at the Del Capri, Johnny Stompanato, the sometimes body guard of Mickey.  Stompanato had been a Marine during World War II for 3 years until he was discharged honorably.  The FBI had information that Cohen was working with others back east in an extortion ring where they used young good looking people like Stompanato as gigolos that catered to both men and women.  Stompannato was killed by his girlfriend Lana Turner's daughter in April of 1958.  

The FBI and the LAPD Intelligence division had a number of bugs in Mickey's places. It would be great to listen to those tapes!

One of the things they picked up was Mickey having someone break into Stompanato's room when he was killed and stealing his shave kit.  It was not just a shave kit it had a bundle of love letters from Lana Turner which Mickey sold to the tabloids.

A lot of the memos and Airtels are from the FBI Top Hoodlum Program but in none of them do they ever refer to Mickey as a Boss or part of what they called the Mafia at the time The Syndicate. They just call him a hoodlum or a muscleman who collects debts with bodily force.  He was employed by the Flamingo Casino Hotel to collect cash from guys who left Las Vegas without paying their markers. 

There were a lot of FBI Memos from an informant who was a woman that was close to Bugsy Seigal. She told the FBI that when Bugsy came to LA he wanted to establish himself as a sportsman, not a gangster, so he used Mickey because he would do whatever he was asked to do.  He helped Bugsy get bookmakers signed up for the wire service he was repping at the time.

She went on to tell the FBI that Mickey was never on the inside circle and that is why after Bugsy was murdered in Beverly Hills, Mickey went to the Ambassador Hotel with a pistol.

This lady was pretty plugged into the workings of the Mafia or Syndicate because she told the FBI after Los Angeles Boss Jack Dragna died Nick Licata took over aided by Frank Milano!  She told them that Jimmy Frattiano was a killer who set up Mickey to be murdered.  She told them that Frattiano had killed Frank Nicoli, Dave Ogul and the Two Tonys.  She also gave them information on Frank Costello being the boss but later falling out of favor.  I am pretty sure I know who this informant was and I am sure many of you can guess because she later moved to Europe.

 One story that has been told and retold is Mickey killing bookie Max Shaman who came into his office on May 16, 1945 threatening him.  The FBI claimed the real shooter was Hooky Rotham, his body guard, but Mickey took the blame because it was easier to claim self defense.  Paulie Gibbons was a burglar, gambler, cheater and armed robber of gamblers.  He also robbed Mickey's home. Mickey told people he wanted him dead, but he was killed instead by major gamblers Benny Gamson and George Levinson.  They would be gunned down by Hooky Rothman near their home.  Hooky was paid $500.00 a week by Mickey.  The other men working for Mickey were paid $200.00 a week. Hooky would never face the music for any murders because he was killed by Frank Bomp when Frattiano set up Mickey in his Haberdashery on Sunset Blvd.

It is very clear from all the papers that Mickey was never a boss.  He shook down madams, bookies, drug dealers.  He conned people for money, extorted them, did armed robberies, dealt in stolen credit cards and shoplifted clothes.  The real Gangsters of that era are still relatively unknown men like Jack Dragna, Nick Licata, Frank Milano and the Sica Brothers.  It is also clear that Mickey bribed LAPD Vice and other officials.  He also informed for them, giving up his competition.  He had an LAPD Sgt for a body guard and that was not the only time. He was shot outside Sherry's on Sunset along with Special Agent Harry Cooper from the California Attorney General's office.  No other gangster has ever had law enforcement body guards in public.

1 comment:

  1. How long did it take for the FOIA files to arrive?
    Any advice you can give for when filing them?