Jacob Shapiro was a huge man, strong and had a killer’s temperament. At the same time, he is credited with having an intellect like that of a rock, the reason why, he required brains from Louis Buchalter, the best criminal minds in Mafia history to assist him to achieve success.
His early life
It was on 5th May 1899 that Shapiro was born to Russian Jew parents in Odessa. They had shifted base to America, to settle in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Hence, Shapiro was known to speak thick Russian-New York accent. One of his favorite statements was ‘get outa here’, which sounded ‘Gurrah dahere’. Therefore, he had this nickname ‘Gurrah’.
He had met Lepke when stealing from a pushcart. At that time, he was 18 years old and Lepke 16. He actually had found the perfect partner, who had answers to all issues faced.
Life as a mafia
Shapiro was enlisted by Lepke to get involved in labor union rackets, where he had to terrorize union locals to pay up. He enjoyed the work and most of all, beating people. Both teamed up with the other gangsters to form the ‘Gorilla Boys’. Using Shapiro’s assistance, Lepke had moved ahead into national crime syndicate. The Gorilla Boys had partners like Meyer Lansky, Albert Anastasia, Dutch Schultz and Lucky Luciano and made huge money and came to be called ‘Gold Dust Twins’. Lepke was in charge of ‘Murder Inc’ while Shapiro and Anastasia were his main weapons. Shapiro introduced more killers to the mob.
Thomas E. Dewey, the special prosecutor during the mid 1930s had promised to end national crime syndicate. The crime commission syndicate held a meeting called by Dutch Schultz, where the latter declared to kill the prosecutor, which did not go well with the commission. However, Schultz’s opinion was voted by Anastasia and Shapiro, while Lepke was undecided about it. This caused the murder of Schultz by the Commission to ensure that the law did not cause any further trouble. But Shapiro did not like the decision of the Commission sparing the life of Dewey, something he rued throughout his life.
Shapiro and Dewey got indicted in 1936 for Sherman Anti-Trust Act violation and had been charged of using violence for reducing competition and fixing price. But, matters got worse with Lepke hiding in Brooklyn, leaving Shapiro to be on his own in New Jersey, which made him a broken man. Getting sick of not being able to get back to his old ways, on 14th April 1938, he surrendered to the authorities and was given life imprisonment.