Friday, January 3, 2014

Dade County's Public Enemy No. 1 and gambling gambits of the 1940s

By Jane Feehan

Greater Miami during the 1940s was wide open for mobsters who endeavored to get into the gambling business.  One of them, Joseph “Jack” Friedlander, elbowed his way from Newark, NJ into Florida rackets as early as 1940. By 1948, he was declared Public Enemy No. 1 by Daniel P. Sullivan, director of Miami’s Crime Commission.

Sullivan claimed Friedlander brought the New Jersey mob element to Miami through his association with Abner (Longy) Zwillman, kingpin of the numbers, bookmaking and bootlegging business in the Garden State. He was probably right. That association evidently gave Russian-born Friedlander the confidence to ally himself with Harry Russell of the Capone gang and to work his way into the territory of the local S&G syndicate by playing one gamer against the other. Friedlander soon became a partner in every gambling house in the Miami area.

Friedlander made life tough for the houses that did not play along with him; he would drop hints to law enforcement who then raided the uncooperative establishments. By the mid- to late 1940s he managed the Blackamoor Hotel in Miami and owned pieces of the famed Island Club, Little Palm, and Club 86. He was the bag man for officials who gladly took money from him to look the other way when they came upon illegal gambling.  Friedlander later admitted that his “Little Syndicate” influenced elections for Dade County sheriff in 1944 and 1948 that set up James “Jimmy” Sullivan (who was later arrested) as the county’s top law enforcer.

In 1949 investigative reporters wrote about a $1.5 million-a-year  numbers racket Friedlander and ex-con David Marcus ran out of two offices. One, operating as Aircraft Equipment Company, was located  at the Aviation Building at 3240 NW 27th Ave.; the other ran out of 719 NW 2nd Ave. They employed between 250-300 people to run the numbers racket or bolita. Friedlander was known as the bolita king.

Director Sullivan said Friedlander had no fear of law enforcement. Things changed in 1950. Friedlander was indicted that year for a list of transgressions involving gambling. He testified in 1951 at the Kefauver hearings held in Miami where he admitted to many illicit activities but claimed he might have been Public Enemy No. 999, not No. 1. After the hearings, he, along with other Miami mobsters, were soon out of work. It was the beginning of the end for a $100 million industry that involved operations at 200 hotels and scores of enterprising gangsters.

Friedlander’s descent from glory was rapid. In April of 1952 it was reported that his house on posh Pinetree Drive was ransacked. Friedlander reported $275 in cash and a ring were stolen. The government placed a $14,696 lien on that house a few months after the Kefauver hearings. Friedlander went on to own the Dade Boulevard restaurant but times were tough.  Despondent over his finances, he attempted suicide in 1957 via an overdose of sleeping pills at his Miami Beach apartment on Byron Avenue. His wife, Sally, discovered him unconscious when the telephone rang at 2:30 a.m. and he did not stir.

He survived the suicide attempt (age 56 then) but news accounts of what happened to Jack Friedlander after that and when he died are nonexistent. If you have any information on his death, please post  comment below. Copyright © 2014 All rights reserved. Jane Feehan.

Miami News, Apr. 23, 1947
Miami News, Dec. 12, 1948
Miami News, Mar. 13, 1949
Miami News, May 11, 1949
Miami News, Sept. 27, 1950
Miami News, Oct. 22, 1950
Daytona Beach Morning Journal, Feb. 17, 1951
Miami News, June 29, 1951
Miami News, Apr. 7, 1952
Miami News, May 14, 1957

Tags: Gambling in Miami, Jack Friedlander, Abner Zwillman, Miami in the 1940s, film reseacher

1 comment:

  1. Jack Friedlander was my great, great grandfather .... never had a chance to learn much of his history but knew he was a part of the gambling scene.