Brooklyn gangster Frankie Yale is New York mob leader. He had in the past performed yeoman service for Johnny Torrio and Al Capone. When they both ended up in Chicago and needed on two occasions a positively trustworthy killer—first to take out Big Jim Colosimo and later, Irish mob leader Dion O'Banion—they contacted Yale for possible hit men.
Yale on both occasions decided to handle the very sensitive murders himself. After all, what else were buddies for. Undoubtedly when Al Capone decided to have Yale himself put away in 1928, he probably did feel a mite badly about it, just for old time's sake.
As a teenager Yale was a partner with Torrio in the old Five Points Gang and had probably killed a dozen men before he reached voting age. Around 1908 he and Torrio worked a profitable Black Hand extortion racket among Italian immigrants in Brooklyn, threatening to kill them unless they paid protection money.
They also became partners in the Harvard Inn, a bar and brothel near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Torrio later moved to Chicago and Yale maintained the Harvard, eventually employing Al Capone as a bouncer. When Capone drew heat for a couple of murders, Yale got in touch with Torrio, and Capone went to the Windy City to work in the Jim Colosimo vice empire.
In the early 1920s Yale improved his own position tremendously, building up an important bootlegging and rumrunning operation and taking over control of the national Unione Siciliane, an important Sicilian fraternal organization that had become in part a criminal-front organization.
He also ran protection rackets in several fields and invaded the New York tobacconist trade by forcing dealers to order at very high prices some very cheap cigars he manufactured. Thus in Brooklynese "a Frankie Yale" came to mean any sort of product that was overpriced and no good. When police zeroed in on Yale and demanded to know his livelihood, he announced blandly, "I'm an undertaker." In a very broad sense, Yale was telling no lie.
|Five Points Gang|
There is little doubt that Yale was imported by Torrio and Capone to murder Colosimo so that Torrio could take over and expand on the lazy Colosimo's crime empire. Torrio and Capone also brought in Yale to take care of O'Banion because the victim did not know him and Yale could approach O'Banion in his flower shop without arousing suspicion. As Yale shook O'Banion's hand, he held on tight so the Irish mobster could not reach his guns. Then two of Capone's favorite gunners, John Scalise and Albert Anselmi, pulled their own guns and shot O'Banion.
By 1928 the relationship between Capone and Yale had soured. First, Yale was trying to take over the huge Chicago chapter of Unione Siciliane, whose members' alcohol-cooking operations Capone needed for his booze operations. Yale was trying to get such moonshining profits sent to the national office which he controlled. In addition, Capone had been depending on Yale to see to landing imported liquor on Long Island and shipping it on to Chicago.
Suddenly, truckloads of Capone booze were being hijacked before they ever got through Brooklyn. Suspecting a doublecross, Capone sent one of his men, James "Finesy" De Amato, to Brooklyn to spy on Yale. De Amato was discovered and gunned down on a Brooklyn street, but not until he had notified Capone that Yale was indeed heisting his liquor and then reselling to him.
In June 1928 Capone held a meeting in Florida with a number of Chicago henchmen, including Dan Serritella, Jake Guzik and Charles Fishetti. He also sent out a henchman to buy two .45-caliber revolvers and several other guns from a Miami pawnshop. On June 28, 1928, six Chicago mobsters who had been visiting Capone in Florida took the Southland Express back for Chicago. Instead, four got off the train in Knoxville, Tennessee, bought a used black sedan from a Nash agency and drove to New York City.
On July 1, 1928, Yale was driving along 44th Street in Brooklyn when a black sedan crowded him to the curb. Yale and his car were ventilated with a hail of bullets. The assassins abandoned the black Nash a few blocks away and vanished, leaving behind several weapons, including two .45-caliber revolvers traced back to Miami and a Thompson submachine gun that proved to have come from a Chicago gun dealer named Peter von Frantizius known to be a supplier of weapons to the Capone mob. It was the first time in New York that a machine gun, popular in Chicago, had been present during a killing.
|Frankie Yale's spectacular funeral|
They gave Frankie Yale a spectacular funeral, the biggest and best any gangster had gotten in New York. It was in line with Yale's wishes. He had been very impressed with the funeral Dion O'Banion had gotten in Chicago, and he had always said he wanted one that would surpass it. That was no easy task; after all, music for O'Banion's funeral was provided by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Still they did Yale up proud.
The funeral cost more than $50,000 in 1928 dollars. He had a $15,000 nickel-and-silver coffin and flower stores were denuded of blooms to provide 38 carloads of flowers. Flags flew at halfstaff and 250 cars followed through the streets of Brooklyn to Yale's resting place at Holy Cross Cemetery. At least 10,000 mourners, spectators and police watched the show. Among them were two women who it developed were married to Yale; each declared she was the rightful Mrs. Yale.
The New York Daily News rendered a final verdict, one that pacified local pride and would undoubtedly have pleased Yale himself. The newspaper declared the Yale funeral "was a better one than that given Dion O'Banion by Chicago racketeers in 1924."