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18th February 2016

George 'Bugs' Moran

No one single player is ever bigger than The Game. It doesn't matter if you're Cam Newton, Christiano Rinaldi, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, or Al Capone; there's always somebody whose stronger, tougher and smarter. No matter what "The Game" my be. This is a lesson I've learned in the free world, and especially in prison.

And every life has its ups and downs where during certain periods you feel like you're stronger, tougher, and smarter than everyone else and that all the cards just seem to fall your way. Then there's those times when no matter how hard you try, NOTHING seems to go your way, while at the same time you're forced to watch other people catch all the breaks. People you deem to not be as tough or smart as yourself. As Frank Sinatra said, That's Life. And as Jeffrey Frye said, Sometimes that which doesn't kill us just serves to piss us off and make us feel like crap.

George Moran certainly knew these peaks and Valleys of life. Born Adelard Cunin in St. Paul, Minnesota to French immigrant parents in 1893, he eventually made his way down to Chicago and materialized as a gangster named George Bugs Moran (Bugs as in crazy). He might not have been the toughest or smartest gangster in Chicago during the days of Prohibition, but he was most certainly one of the luckiest. His arch enemy was none other than Al Capone, who did his best to try and kill him several times. But despite all of Capone's power, he was unsuccessful in this, and Bugs was left standing long after Capone had fallen.

When Prohibition was ushered in by the 18th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920, it had the unintended consequence of turning petty crooks into millionaires. It also gave criminals a cause in which to organize around. When the sales of liquor and beer were outlawed by the government, it was the outlaws who stepped in to fill the void. Because as much as the Temperance movement wanted the American people to believe, legislation and the law could not quench a person's thirst for alcohol.

During the Roaring Twenties, the rackets in Chicago were basically spilt up between two gangs. Al Capone (who'd inherited his territory from his criminal mentor, Johnny Torrio), controlled the Southside of the city, and the suburbs of Chicago Heights and Cicero, with the latter being his home-base of operations. This territory consisted of hundreds of speakeasies that sold beer and liquor, hundreds of brothels, as well as gambling houses and distilleries. Although Capone was Italian, his syndicate was no La Cosa Nostra by today's standards. It included people of Polish and Jewish decent, as well as people of other ethnicities. The only two requirements for membership in Capone's Outfit was a desire to make money, and a willingness to kill in furtherance of that goal.

Bugs Moran joined a gang on the Northside of Chicago that was known as the North Siders. At the time, it was led by Charles "Ox" Reiser, with other prominent members including, Dion O'Banion, Earl "Hymie" Weiss, and Vincent Drucci. It's worth noting that all of these men eventually died violent deaths...all except one of them.

The North Siders were mainly Irish Catholics. Not necessarily "Good Catholic boys" as judged by my friend Sister Margo's spiritual yardstick, but they had their own twisted set of criminal values that was rooted in their faith. They primarily ran booze, while also delving into other rackets such as gambling and loan sharking. And they certainly didn't mind killing. But the one thing that they wouldn't involve themselves in was prostitution. As such, they considered Capone to nothing more than a dago pimp. Capone repeatedly tried to make alliances with the North Siders, one of who was a powerful racketeer named Dion O'Banion. This 24 year old lad owned a flower shop on N. State street, and after repeated, unsuccessful attempts to strike a deal with him, Capone sent three of his gun-monkeys with Thompson sub machine guns to rub him out. This murder had the effect of elevating Bugs' position in the gang.

Moran made no secret that he hated Al Capone. He often stated it publicly. In an attempt to avenge Dion O'Banion's death, him and Hymie Weiss first made an attempt on Johnny Torrio's life, then, in broad daylight, they made an audacious attempt on Capone's life as he sat at a table in the restaurant of his headquarters in Cicero, the Hawthorne Hotel. The hit team that day was comprised of six cars filled with machine gun-toting North Siders. The cars came from opposite ends of the street. Al Capone hit the deck as more than 1000 shots were fired. The Thompson Sub Machine Gun fires a .45 caliber round, and all they needed was for one bullet to find its mark. Unbelievably, Capone survived. Capone plotted his revenge though, and when he finally made his move it resulted in the bloodiest gangland hit that Chicago has ever seen: The St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Moran's luck continued to hold after that day and he went on to keep control of his territory and what was left of his gang. After that fated Valentine's Day though, the North Siders never fully recovered their power. Prohibition ended, and Bugs Moran eventually left Chicago. In 1939 he was pinched for Conspiracy to Make and Cash $62,000 worth of American Express Checks. Falling on hard times, Bugs eventually returned to his criminal roots, petty crime and stick-ups. In 1945 he was given a 20 stretch in the Ohio State Penitentiary for robbery, and by the 1940's, some 17 years after being one of Chicago's richest gangsters, Bugs Moran found himself penniless.

His last pinch came in 1957 for a bank robbery. He was given a dime-piece for it and shipped off to USP Leavenworth, where he died two months later of lung cancer. He's buried in the pauper's graveyard there out behind the back wall.

George "Bugs" Moran may be long gone, but The Game lives on. And as I learned in 1987, so does his gang. This was the year that a Judge and I in Wheaton, Illinois had a billing disagreement on a Visa card that resulted in me receiving a two year sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections. I was summarily shipped off to the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet.

Joliet, as it's called, is an old stone castle of a prison that was built in in 1899. Much like USP Lewisburg, it's bigger and scarier looking than my ex wife. Because of this, it has been used by Hollywood in the original Blue's Brother's movie, and more recently, the television series Prison Break. The prison was broken up into two humongous cell houses that were known as East House and West House. In addition to the 30 foot wall topped with gun towers that surrounded the prison, there were guards in the chow hall above us that paced a catwalk and looked down at us and cradled rifles as we ate.

The majority of the prisoners there belonged to a gang. Those who didn't were known as Neutrons. That was me. Although I had lived on the Westside of Joliet for years, but I'd grown up riding dirt bikes, going to concerts in the city, and playing golf. I knew that the prison was on the Eastside of the city, but I never paid it any attention, that is until I ended up in it.

My first day there I was approached by two white guys named Tommy and Hugh. They were most definitely not golf pros. They were large and had pug noses, and the scars on their bodies that told the story of their lives. They asked me who I ran with, and when I told them, "Nobody," they offered me a cigarette and invited me to their cell down the tier. I went with them to listen to their schpiel. They were North Siders.

George Moran certainly experienced the peaks and valleys of a gangsters life in his 63 years on this earth. He was born to two loving parents, attended a private school named Creighton, and yet in spite of this he managed to get arrested and incarcerated at least three times before his 21st birthday. He was married twice, divorcing his first wife and choosing the rackets over her ultimatum where his lifestyle was concerned. In his criminal career he was everything from a horse thief and a bootlegger, to a counterfeiter and a bank robber. He was once a millionaire, yet died a pauper with no one to claim his body, and was subsequently buried in a non-descript grave behind one of America's most infamous federal pens.

At one point in his life he was tougher and smarter than all of his fellow gangsters. But what he seemingly possessed more than anything was an uncanny amount of luck. But that kind of luck begs the question: Whose luckier? The gangster who dies rich and in his prime? Or the one who cheats death, only to die 10,000 deaths in the penitentiary...one day at a time? It's a question that I still ask myself today, and one that I'm sure that Bugs Moran asked himself in prison as he found himself to be the last man standing.

But if I had to pick one day in Bugs Moran's life where he was the luckiest, it would be February 14, 1929. That's the day that four heavily armed gunman came for him on a cold Chicago morning. His death had been well-planned for weeks; he'd been set up like a bowling pin. All he had to do was show up. To read about what happened that day, click onto the blog later this month for the second installment of my 20th Century American Gangster series on murderslim.com. "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre."

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog

10th February 2016

Napalm In The Morning

Throughout the years of doing time, I've noticed that a disproportionate amount of scores are settled first thing in the morning. Most of the time it's right when the doors are unlocked between 5-6 am. However, this morning it was at breakfast. I not only ended up having a ringside seat for a match that rivaled anything that the MMA has going, but I also ended up getting a couple bottles of hot sauce dumped on my eggs. I generally like hot sauce, but this was no Texas Pete.

Violence back here tends to have a unique sound to it. The sound is silence. When something is getting ready to pop off it's almost as if the sound and energy from the space that it's happening in is sucked into the event. You would think that when something was going down that it would become noisy, but it's the exact opposite. If you ever hear things get quiet all of a sudden, you'd best take a look around you.

After having spent a relatively violence-free year and a half in an FCI, I had almost forgot what tear gas tastes like. However, it all came back to me in the chow hall at breakfast this morning when one guy took his breakfast tray and cocked back and took a full swing at another guy's head. When I saw the tray connect, my first thought was, "What a swing! The Cubs oughta sign this guy." But there's an old saying back here that goes like this: Never bring a tray to a knife fight. After the dude recovered from getting beaned, he set about trying to kill the guy who swung the tray.

Mayhem ensued.

I heard the urgent sound of keys jangling and when I looked towards the door it looked like somebody had just announced that they were handing out free donuts. A wave of cops flooded through the doors and I knew that the deuces had gone off. When I looked behind me and looked out the window, I saw that all of the convicts outside of the chow hall were laying flat on the ground and the cop up in the gun tower had the window open and was holding an AR-15 machine gun. That's never a good sign.

The cops in the chow hall screamed for us to lay face-down on the ground as a couple of their brethren emptied bottles of tear gas onto the dudes who were going at it. I had already pulled my shirt up over my nose and mouth and I had that whole "Isis Look" going. I laid there coughing thinking about just how much I miss The Waffle House.

All of this happened before 7:30 am. It will be interesting to see what they're serving for lunch. I heard that it's going to be fish. Whatever it is, I hope they hold the hot sauce.

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog

1st February 2016

George 'Bugs' Moran

For the upcoming year, I've decided to mix things up a little bit on the Bank Robber's Blog. American culture witnessed huge changes in the 20th century. Everything from the inception of national telephone service and the automobile and airline industry, to a vaccination for polio and putting a man on the moon. This century was the most prosperous in history and produced titans of industry that were sometimes referred to as Robber Barons. But this century also spawned a subculture of criminals. Gangsters that were distinctly American.

These were individuals who refused to follow society's rules and make their fortunes in the ways of the Establishment and where others saw boundaries, these people saw opportunities. These were men and women whose ethics and proprietary boundaries were determined by their willingness to kill for what they wanted. This group is quite diverse and includes both genders, and several different ethnic groups. However, while all of these American gangsters may've been different, they all had one thing in common. Their decision to live outside the norm of traditional American culture cost them their peace of mind and the ability to safely live in this society. And for almost all of them, it eventually cost them their lives.

I often tell people that I have the best readers in the world. There's literally millions of blogs on the internet, but there's only one Bank Robber's Blog. As a reader, this makes you unique. Being that this isn't CNN and I'm not Wolf Blitzer, I figure that you guys don't click onto murderslim.com for an update on ISIS or to check the present value of the Euro. I figure that at least to some degree, you enjoy reading about American criminals as told to you by your very own criminal from behind the walls of an American federal prison. I'll be the first to admit that when I was a kid, never once did I hope to grow up to be a convicted Bank Robber who blogs from prison. My ambition just wasn't that big. No, I dreamed of being another type of American crook: a lawyer. But, sometimes, in spite of all of our hopes and our responsible planning, life is often like a river; no matter how much we may try to fight it, the current of the river is going to take us where IT wants us to go. So, to some degree, this blog is just me surrendering to the current and relaxing as I go with the flow down the river of life.

So for each month in the year of 2016, I am going to do a blog about a different 20th Century American Gangster. Most of their stories have been told before, but they haven't been told by your's truly. And surprisingly enough, I even have a connection to a few of these infamous people, both abstract and direct.

I'm going to start this series with a prohibition-era gangster (and eventual Bank Robber) from my home: the city of Chicago. February's gangster was named George "Bugs" Moran and in his 63 years on earth, his criminal career spanned from being Al Capone's nemesis and the head of the North Side Gang (which most likely made him a millionaire), to eventually falling on hard times after prohibition ended and reverting to his roots of petty crime. His criminal career eventually ended with a bank robbery that he got 10 years for and that landed him in USP Leavenworth, a place he unfortunately never got a chance to leave. I chose him as February's Gangster of The Month because he was the cause for the upcoming blog on the St. Valentine's Day massacre. This infamous gangland slaughter took place on the morning of February 14, 1929 at 2122 North Clark street on the North side of Chicago. The hit was undertaken to kill Bugs Moran. But in a stroke of fate, they missed him and seven people were gunned down on that cold morning. There was only one survivor. Someone named Highball. If you want to read that story, click onto the blog later this month.

I hope that you enjoy the series on 20th Century American Gangsters on murderslim.com. Thank you for continuing to click onto the Bank Robber's Blog. And thank you for buying my books.

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog