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Waxey Gordon

Waxey Gordon
NYPD mugshot of Waxey Gordon
Born Irving Wexler
January 19, 1888
New York City, New York, United States
Died June 24, 1952(1952-06-24) (aged 64)
Alcatraz Island, California, United States
Cause of death Heart attack
Nationality American
Occupation Bootlegger, racketeer
Criminal penalty 10 years, 25 years
Conviction(s) Tax evasion, Narcotics trafficking

Waxey Gordon (born Irving Wexler; January 19, 1888 – June 24, 1952) was an American gangster who specialized in bootlegging and illegal gambling. An associate of Arnold Rothstein during prohibition, he was caught up in a power struggle following Rothstein's death. Fellow Rothstein associates Charles Luciano and Meyer Lansky provided authorities with evidence that led to his imprisonment for ten years.


  • Youth and early career 1
  • Prohibition and decline 2
  • Later career 3
  • In popular culture 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

Youth and early career

He was born Irving Wexler to Polish Jewish immigrant parents in Arnold Rothstein, who hired him away from Fein and put him to work as a rum-runner during the first years of Prohibition.

Prohibition and decline

Gordon's success later led him to run all of Rothstein's bootlegging on most of the east coast, specifically New York and New Jersey, and importing large amounts of Canadian whiskey over the Canada–United States border. Gordon, now earning an estimated $2 million a year, began buying numerous breweries and distilleries as well as owning several speakeasies. Gordon began to be known to live extravagantly, traveling in limousines and living regularly in prominent Manhattan hotel suites, as well as owning mansions built for him in New York and Philadelphia.

Rothstein died in 1928 and Gordon's position began to decline.[1] He made an alliance with future National Crime Syndicate founders Charles Luciano, Louis Buchalter, and Meyer Lansky. Gordon, however, constantly fought with Lansky over bootlegging and gambling interests and soon a gang war began between the two; several associates on each side were killed. Lansky, with Luciano, supplied interim United States Attorney Thomas E. Dewey with information leading to Gordon's conviction on charges of tax evasion in 1933.[2]

Gordon had a large million-dollar operation which included many trucks, buildings, processing plants, and associated employees and his business front could not account for this ownership and cash flow and he paid no taxes on it. Gordon was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment. At this time he was married to a rabbi's daughter and their son was in medical school. This son died in a weather-related automobile accident while traveling from an out-of-town college planning to plead with the judge for leniency with his father's sentence. Gordon had tried to insulate his otherwise respectable family from his organized crime career and after this incident a wall of cultural shock descended over their relations and great stress was put on his deteriorating marriage.

Later career

Upon Gordon's release from prison, he found his gang long since disbanded. Ignored by his former political connections, he reportedly remarked to a journalist, "Waxey Gordon is dead. Meet Irving Wexler, salesman." He moved to California, a single man, and during World War II he was able to obtain 10,000 lbs of scarce, coupon-rationed sugar to sell on the black market. FBI investigations revealed he had high-level international narcotics connections, and was given the US West Coast as a protected territory for distribution of imported illegal drugs since he lost his bootlegging business on the East Coast.

In 1951, Gordon was arrested for selling heroin to an undercover police officer.[3] The 62-year-old gangster reportedly offered the detective all his money in exchange for his release. When the detective refused, Gordon jokingly pleaded with the detective to kill him instead of arresting him for "peddling junk." Gordon was later convicted, and due to his long criminal record was sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment in Alcatraz, where he died of a heart attack on June 24, 1952.

In popular culture

Waxey Gordon appears as a minor character portrayed by Nick Sandow in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire.

In "The Waxey Gordon Story", a 1960 episode of The Untouchables, Gordon was played by Nehemiah Persoff.


  1. ^ "Gangsters Shoot Arnold Rothstein. Notorious Gambler in Serious Condition After Attack on New York Street".  
  2. ^ "Waxey Gordon Says He Paid Income Tax. Racketeer Is Nervous in Court as He Pleads Not Guilty. Says 'Sir' to Police. Heard Two Aides Shot. Tells of Noise in Jersey Hotel at Time of Murders. Fails to Get $100,000 Bail.".  
  3. ^ "Narcotics Agents Nab Waxey Gordon . Racketeer, 3 Other Men Held After 8-Month Investigation. Had Heroin in His Hand.".  

Further reading

  • Almog, Oz, Kosher Nostra Jüdische Gangster in Amerika, 1890–1980 ; Jüdischen Museum der Stadt Wien ; 2003, Text Oz Almog, Erich Metz, ISBN 3-901398-33-3
  • Chiocca, Olindo Romeo. Mobsters and Thugs: Quotes from the Underworld. Toronto: Guernica Editions, 2000. ISBN 1-55071-104-0
  • Fried, Albert. The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Gangster in America. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1980. ISBN 0-231-09683-6
  • Kelly, Robert J. Encyclopedia of Organized Crime in the United States. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2000. ISBN 0-313-30653-2
  • Messick, Hank. Lansky. London: Robert Hale & Company, 1973. ISBN 0-7091-3966-7
  • Phillips, Charles and Alan Axelrod. Cops, Crooks, and Criminologists: An International Biographical Dictionary of Law Enforcement, Updated Edition. New York: Checkmark Books, 2000. ISBN 0-8160-3016-2
  • Sifakis, Carl. The Encyclopedia of American Crime. New York: Facts on File Inc., 2001. ISBN 0-8160-4040-0
  • Sifakis, Carl. The Mafia Encyclopedia. New York: Da Capo Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8160-5694-3

External links

  • Crime Magazine - Waxey Gordon's Half Century of Crime, by Allen May.
  • The Wexler/Gordon Story by Allan May
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