J. Edgar Hoover may have had a knack for routing out commies but he was pretty useless in taking on Albert Anastasia as reflected in the FBI's sparse files on the notorious mobster who infamously was whacked in a barber's chair at the Park Sheraton Hotel in midtown Manhattan on October 25, 1957.
Anastasia orchestrated dozens of hits as the chief executioner for Murder, Inc., later ran the crime family which gave rise to Carlo Gambino, made a fortune from loansharking, gambling and other enterprises which he laundered through the garment industry, and controlled the Brooklyn waterfront through the International Longshoremen's Association, and yet in nearly forty decades of racketeering the only criminal case ever brought against the mob boss by the feds -- no thanks to the FBI -- was in 1954 for evading a few thousand dollars in taxes on his 1947 and 1948 returns.
Indeed, when the Department of Justice during its tax investigation into Anastasia asked the FBI to provide assistance the supposed law enforcement agency in a gross dereliction of duty had nothing to offer.
On January 30, 1953 the Tax Division within the DOJ advised the FBI that it was building a case against Anastasia , and requested "any information which might be developed as a result of the Bureau's water-front investigations which might be of assistance in the income tax case against the subject." Incredibly, according to an internal agency memo dated Feb. 10, 1953, the FBI admitted it had nothing to share because it did not have Anastasia under investigation:
[Name redacted] of the Investigative Division advised that no investigation concerning Albert Anastasia was being conducted by his Division. No Labor Management Relations Act, 1947 case involving the subject has developed up to the present time. [Name redacted] was called by Special Agent [name redacted] Domestic Intelligence Division, at 4:00 P.M. , January 30, 1953, and was informed that the Bureau did not have Albert Anastasia under investigation but in the event that any information was developed through the New York water-front investigations concerning Anastasia it would be directed to the attention of [name redacted].
Anastasia ultimately pled guilty in the tax case -- after first killing a few witnesses including a husband and wife -- and spent less than a year in prison.
The deep level of distrust between the lawyers at the DOJ and the agents at the FBI was reflected in a Dec. 16, 1954 memo from Assistant Director L.V. Boardman to Hoover in which Boardman recounts a conversation he had that morning with Warren Olney, the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the DOJ's Criminal Division, during which Olney told Boardman that "there were many members in the Department who did not like the FBI" and specifically referenced an apparent misunderstanding in connection with the Anastasia tax case.
Of course, to take down Albert Anastasia required someone more powerful than a cross-dressing FBI Director absorbed in paranoid delusions of a communist takeover, and even once the mob boss was taken out it's clear from his FBI files -- or more accurately the lack thereof -- that even nervous nellie Hoover and his merry band of G-men didn't have a clue as to what was happening on the mean streets of New York. Indeed, much of the thin file was composed after Anastasia's death and relies as much on open source material (i.e., newspaper clippings) as original investigative work. It's as if the FBI really didn't want to know.
It's a wonder this country survived at all during the mob's reign of terror throughout most of the 20th century with Hoover's laughable tenure at the FBI helm.
Unfortunately, history has a bad habit of repeating itself. Just as the FBI once was absorbed with chasing down purported communists while the mob took over America, it now is preoccupied with supposed terrorists as the Mafia retools. No doubt the war on terror will be judged by history as just as much an overblown folly as the cold war, and the real threat to the country from organized crime once again was ignored. Of course, it's always easier to fight a phony bogeyman than actual monsters.
Further reading that may be of interest: