Benjamin Hymen Siegelbaum was born February 28, 1906 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to Max and Jennie Siegelbaum in the Podolia Governorate of the Russian Empire, in modern Ukraine. They were a poor Jewish family. Siegel was known as one of the most “infamous and feared gangsters of his day”. He was also one of the driving forces behind the development of the Las Vegas Strip. He was not only influential within the Jewish mob, he also held significant influence within the Italian-American Mafia and the largely Italian-Jewish National Crime Syndicate.
Siegel was one of the founders and leaders of Murder, Incorporated and became a bootlegger during Prohibition. After Prohibition was repealed in 1933, he turned to gambling. In 1936, he left New York and moved to California. In 1939, Siegel was tried for the murder of fellow mobster Harry Greenberg. Siegel was acquitted in 1942.
Siegel traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada where he handled and financed some of the original casinos. He assisted developer William Wilkerson’s Flamingo Hotel after Wilkerson ran out of funds. Siegel took over the project and managed the final stages of construction. The Flamingo opened on December 26, 1946 to poor reception and soon closed. It reopened in March 1947 with a finished hotel.
On the night of June 20, 1947, as Siegel sat with his associate Allen Smiley in Virginia Hill’s Beverly Hills home reading the Los Angeles Times, an assailant fired at him through the window with a .30 caliber military M1 carbine, hitting him many times, including twice in the head. No one was charged with the murder, and the crime remains officially unsolved.