Abe Wagner was a lower East side thug/bootlegger who fashioned himself as the quintessential Jewish hood, the new “Kid Dropper,” he told people; Dropper being a tough New York City Jewish gang leader who had bought the ranch himself in 1923. Wagner thought he such a tough guy, he once roughed up the son of Italian mob kingpin Joe “The Boss” Masseria, then told the kid to go home and show his old man what Abe Wagner had done. Luckily for Wagner, Masseria was gunned down before he could avenge his son’s indignity.
Wagner and his brother Allie were making a nice living in the bootlegging business on the Lower East Side, when the upstart Mazza gang decided to move in on them and take over their operations. On February 20, 1932, Wagner was riding down Suffolk street in his brand new car. As Wagner was weaving slowly past the numerous street pushcarts, a half a dozen shooters appeared from out of nowhere and opened fire. As his car was being shot into swiss cheese, Wagner was somehow able to roll out the passengers door, then escape by dashing though the crowded street.
Not being the bravest of souls like he claimed, Wagner decided to make peace with his enemies. He sent his partner Harry Brown and brother Albie to the Mazza gang’s headquarters at the Hatfield Hotel on the Upper East Side. “See if you can pay them off,” Wagner said. The two men arrived at the Hatfield Hotel with a large sum of money. The Mazza’s accepted the cash, but then shot Albie Wagner dead, leaving Harry Brown alive, so he could deliver the message to Abe Wagner, that no peace could be made until old Abe was dead too.
Wagner’s mother Paulie was mortified her youngest son Albie was murdered and didn’t want the same fate to befall Abe. “Take Goldie (Abe’s wife) and go away someplace for awhile,” Mama Wagner told her son. “Go now so I won’t worry. Hurry.”
Wagner did as his mother said and quickly left town. A month later, the Lindberg baby was abducted in Hopewell, New Jersey, and Wagner immediately came under suspicion. “We have a tip that Wagner was seen in the vicinity of Hopewell about a month before the kidnapping,” said Colonel H. Norman Schwarzkopf, head of the New Jersey state police.
The cops couldn’t find Wagner, but the Mazza Gang, now aligned with Lucky Luciano, had scores of eyes and eyes and feet on the ground throughout the country, and they put this apparatus into motion. After Wagner laid low with his wife in various out-of-town locations, he decided to sneak back into New York City to see his mom. He was in his mother’s apartment for a few hours, when word got back to Mama Wagner that her son had been spotted. “Go quick,” she said. “Don’t wait.”
Wagner picked up his wife and hightailed it out west, stopping at St. Paul, Minnesota. He changed his identity to Abe Loeb, and decided to get into the fruit selling business. In weeks, the Mazza Gang had located Wagner, and Luciano contacted his old pals Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky, who along with Louie “Lepke” Buchalter, had formed a neat business called Murder Incorporated, which was comprised of a nasty bunch of contract killers for hire. They dispatched two of their best men, Joseph Shaefer and George Young, out to St. Paul to push the button on Wagner. Both men were on the lam already, for killing federal agent John J. Finiello, during a raid two years earlier on an Elizabeth, New Jersey, illegal brewery. Both men also knew St. Paul intimately, since it was one of their hideouts during their two years on the run.
On July 25, 1932, Wagner and his new partner Al Gordon, left a drug store on University Avenue after having a prescription filled. They were followed by Schaefer and Young, who were riding in a dark green Packard. Suddenly, the hit men jumped out of the car and began firing. Gordon was killed instantly, but Wagner was only wounded. He ran for his life down University Avenue, then turned onto Snelling Avenue. The gunmen caught up with Wagner as he ran into the Green Dragon Restaurant. There, in front of witnesses, they shot him six times, then beat him over the head with their gun butts for good measure. Wagner died hours later at Ancker Hospital and the gunmen were arrested by a passing patrolman minutes later on Roy Street. The were tried and convicted, and sentenced to life in prison, despite the attempts of Lansky and Siegel, who spent thousands of dollars to help them avoid the death sentence.
The dead “Loeb” was not identified by the St. Paul police as the fugitive Wagner. As a result, on the following Thursday, Mama Wagner held a “press conference” in her apartment on Rutgers Street. She told the newspapermen, “My boy Alie was murdered in St. Paul last Monday. The same murderers killed him as killed my Allie here. I knew they would. But why? Why? My boy was always so good to me.”
As proof of her son’s murder, she produced a telegram from Wagner’s wife Goldie, asking her to wire twenty five dollars so she could transport Wagner back to New York for a proper burial. “That was all the money I had,” Mama Wagner said. “If it wasn’t my son, why would I have the telegram?”