Mickey Cohen Biography

Mickey Cohen, also known as Meyer Harris Cohen, was a notorious American gangster who rose to power after the murder of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel. Starting as Siegel’s right-hand man, Cohen eventually established his own street gang, ‘The Bugs and Meyer Mob.’ With a troubled childhood and involvement in petty crimes, Cohen’s journey led him to become a professional boxer and later a prominent figure in the illegal card and gambling business in Chicago. Notorious for his involvement in a multiple homicide at a card game, Cohen’s connections extended to working with Mattie Capone, brother of Al Capone. Additionally, he played a significant role in the development of the Flamingo Hotel and owned various businesses, including flower shops, nightclubs, gas stations, and casinos. However, Cohen’s violent retaliation against the crime families believed to be responsible for Siegel’s death made him a target for other gangs.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Meyer Harris Cohen
  • Died At Age: 62
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Lavonne Weaver (m. 1940–1951)
    • Father: Max Cohen
    • Mother: Fanny Cohen
  • Born Country: United States
  • Boxers
  • Gangsters
  • Died on: July 29, 1976
  • Place of death: Los Angeles, California, United States

Childhood & Early Life

Meyer Harris Cohen was born on September 4, 1913, in Brooklyn, New York, into a Jewish family. He was raised by his mother Fanny after his father passed away within a year of his birth. Cohen grew up with two brothers, Harry and Louie, in Los Angeles. In his childhood, he used to sell newspapers with his brothers in the neighborhood to help his mother. Being on the streets from an early age had its effects on him, and Cohen got involved in small crimes. He was sent to a reform school even before he turned ten.

Boxing Career

Later, as he grew up, Cohen grew interested in boxing and participated in underground street fights to earn money. Winning a few fights gave him more confidence in his boxing skills and Cohen decided to pursue the sport professionally. Mickey Cohen’s resolve to be a professional boxer grew stronger and at the age of 15, he moved to Ohio to train. On April 8, 1930, Cohen made his debut as a professional boxer against Patsy Farr in Cleveland. In 1933, Cohen fought against Albert “Chalky” Wright and lost the bout. Cohen also fought against World Featherweight Champion Tommy Paul and was knocked out within two minutes twenty seconds into the match. His last professional match was against Baby Arizmendi in Mexico in May 1933.

Criminal History

Mickey Cohen left boxing and entered the world of crime very quickly. He got involved with Italian-American mafia member Johnny Dio and his brother Tommy Dioguardi in their labor racketeering business. He then found himself a place in the illegal gambling business run by the notorious mobster Al Capone. Mickey Cohen shifted to Chicago to run his gambling business under Al Capone’s organization. During the period of “Prohibition” in the US, Mickey Cohen became part of the organized crime run by the ill-famed Chicago Outfit. During his handling of an illegal gambling business, Cohen was charged by the police in a homicide case where multiple gangsters were killed. Cohen was sent to jail but he returned soon to run his business and extend it further. Back in Cleveland, Cohen met Meyer Lansky and his associate Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, the duo known for founding the infamous Bugs and Meyer Mob group. Cohen became Siegel’s right-hand man in Los Angeles. Mickey Cohen was instrumental in setting up the Flamingo Hotel for Siegel. The hotel was opened in 1946 along with a casino. Later, Cohen also established the racing network for Vegas betting. The Flamingo Hotel became the reason for Siegel’s fall. The Italian-American crime families didn’t like the way Siegel ran the hotel and the associated business. He became a greater threat to the mafia world and was ordered to be killed. Siegel and his girlfriend were killed in 1947. This sparked great anger in Mickey Cohen who tried to avenge Siegel, and in the process, drew the attention of many gangs. He faced many murder attempts in the next few years as a result. Alongside other criminals, Cohen was also investigated by the famous Kefauver Commission and was charged for tax evasion. He went to prison for four years in the 1950s. After his release, Cohen set up many businesses, including casinos, gas stations, paint stores, and other ventures. Ten years after he was sentenced to prison for tax evasion, Cohen faced charges for the same reason once again and was sent to Alcatraz. He was released on bail from Alcatraz but after his appeals were rejected, Cohen was sent to a federal prison in Georgia. He faced multiple attempts on his life inside the prison.

Family & Personal Life

Mickey Cohen married Lavonne Weaver, a sex worker by profession, whom he met in Las Vegas while working for Siegel. In the 1970s, Cohen was wrongly diagnosed with a stomach ulcer. Apparently, he had been suffering from stomach cancer. He died on July 29, 1976, due to complications from the disease. He was 62.

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