The Mafia in Los Angeles and Al Gruenberg

1938 Al, Gean & Bobby2

Al Gruenberg with his 2nd wife Genevieve (Gean) and his son Robert (Bobby) mid-1930s

Albert Abraham ‘Al’ Gruenberg aka Al Green, b. May 10, 1900; d. February 21, 1967. By profession, Al Gruenberg was a racketeer in Los Angeles who excelled at making book and setting up illegal lotteries. On October 2, 1930, Al married Genevieve Hidaman who was born on August 25, 1906 in Iowa (most-probably previously married to one Thomas A. Barlow); d. in Los Angeles on September 24, 1996.

Genevieve’s sister, Evelyn Mary Heideman-Namer MING [Maiden name NAMER] , b. Iowa, February 3, 1898; d. Los Angeles, March 3, 1989 was married to Charles Ming who, in conjunction with his father, ran the Half Moon Produce Co. in San Pedro. The parents of the two girls were Michael Namer and Barbara Weiss Heideman.

Michael McTeer reports:

Attached is the obit for Charles MING, father-in-law of Evelyn (NAMER) MING, the latter being sister-in-law of Al Gruenberg. Evelyn’s sister-in-law, Elinor (MING) ALLEN STANSBURG, was married (2nd marriage) to an attorney who had been in practice in the Los Angeles area since at least 1915. I was expecting to find a great deal more on him from the LA TIMES but only came across a possible article for real estate which would have been four years before his death.

Charles MING Obit Oct. 25, 1937

Charles MING Obit LA Times Oct. 25, 1937

BEN STANSBURY Feb. 17, 1957

BEN STANSBURY LA Times Feb. 17, 1957

On November 16, 2011, Barbara Brophy-Reily, the daughter of Al’s boss, Russell Brophy, reported the following to Michal McTeer regarding Al Gruenberg (Green):

“Wish I could be of help! However, I only remember Al Green as a nice man and a friend of my father’s. Haven’t heard his name in many, many years. B. Brophy.”

On October 24, 2013, Kelly Martinez reported the following:

“My brother, Patrick Martinez, just ran across your wonderful website. My name is Kelly Martinez. My brother and I grew up with Uncle Al (Al Greenberg), and Auntie Gean (Genevieve Green) as we called her. In fact, my middle name Gean, after her. I wear a beautiful diamond ring she willed to me.

We have very fond memories of visiting Uncle Al, and Auntie Gene, the latter a significant part of our lives until her death.

Uncle Al worked with my grandfather, Jimmy Kirk, who was a big time bootlegger during Prohibition. My grandfather was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1934, but was able to get out in the early 1950’s. I was born in 1958, so I was blessed to be raised with him. My grandmother, Ethel Kirk, was best friends with Auntie Gene, all through my growing-up years.

We have very fond memories of both Uncle Al and Auntie Gene.”

Jimmie Kirk & Accomplices

Jimmie Kirk (center) & accomplices in the Gettle kidnapping of 1934.

On October 25, 2013, Pat Martinez emailed this information to Chick Lehrer:

“My sister, Kelly Martinez, recently wrote you regarding Al Gruenberg (Al Green to us). He was my grandfather, Jimmie Kirk’s good friend for many years.

Al worked for my grandfather in the early 20’s during prohibition as a bootlegger in L.A. They were both very well connected with the early West Coast Mob and Johnnie Rosselli from Chicago. The reason I know this is that my grandmother related a story to me when she was about 85 years old. She was good friends with Johnnie’s sister who came to visit her brother from Chicago. He was sent by Al Capone to handle wire service, booze, and other rackets for the Chicago mob.

Ethel, my grandma, and I believe Johnny’s sister’s name was Fannie, went out on the town one night and Fannie’s dress became soiled. She took it to the local Chinese laundry that Ethel used. When they went to retrieve the garment, the stain was still visible. The proprietor said sorry that was all he could do and an argument ensued. As Fannie left she said: ” I am going to call my brother Johnnie”. The next day a car drove by the laundry and threw a “pineapple” (my grandmothers word) through the window and blew the place up.

Ethel and Al’s wife Genevieve ‘Gean’ (my godmother) were best friends their entire lives. My grandfather Jimmie Kirk went up for life for the Gettle kidnapping in 1934 and Al and Gean took care of my mom and Ethel until they could get on their feet. My mom was 3 years old at the time. In fact Uncle Al and Nick Bosco were instrumental in getting Jimmie released from prison after serving 20 years in 1954. They paid a large sum of money in legal fees to get him released on appeal. Grandpa and his cohorts were sentenced to life without parole. It was reported nation wide being the first kidnapping after the Lindburgh case.

So I remember going to visit Al And Gean in LA as a child and walking into the garage area, where I was not allowed, and seeing many phones and people writing on cards. This was about 1960 which coincides with the FBI file you researched.

You all did a fine job with your family history and I enjoyed reading it very much. The Al I remember was a great guy , flashy dresser, who always had a big fat cigar in his mouth! But that was from a child’s prospective. I guess in reality he was a “bad boy”. From what my grandma told me they did not hurt anyone that did not deserve it. Take that for what it’s worth.

Any info I can provide do not hesitate to contact me. My mom just died on Nov. 13th and with her many memories of those days. She was 82 , and she loved Al like a father, since her dad was in prison until she turned 23. But I still remember many conversations and have a lot of pics of Al and Gean with many “hoods” from the day. One in particular is a party at there house around 1943 with Virginia Hill (Ben Siegel’s) girl friend in attendance. Yes exciting times for sure!”


William F. Gettle and his family

William F. Gettle (c. 1887 – December 22, 1941) was an American businessman and millionaire. He gained some notoriety when he was kidnapped in 1934.

Gettle was originally from Oklahoma, and moved to Bakersfield, California, in the 1920s, where he worked for J.C. Penny and invested in oil fields. The 1920 United States Census showed he was living in Kern, California. At the time of the kidnapping (May 1934) , Gettle weighed 500 pounds, and he and his handicapped wife Fleta had four children, all of whom were under 10 years of age. One of their neighbors was comedian Joe E. Brown. According to the Los Angeles Times, he was worth around 3,500,000.

Gettle threw a house-warming party on the evening of May 9, 1934, and was drinking with “a friend named Wolf” in the pool house when two men entered and escorted them out at gunpoint. Gettle was forced into a waiting automobile, and Wolf was left at the scene, tied up but otherwise unharmed.

William Gettle was held, tied up and gagged, in the bedroom of a rented house at 4256 Rosemont Street in La Crescenta, California. He later told police that his kidnappers dressed in bed sheets when talking to him so as not to reveal to him their identities. He also told his rescuers that he “was not mistreated in any way by his kidnappers.” A ransom of $60,000 was demanded for Gettle’s safe release in a note sent to his lawyer; another letter was sent to Fleta Gettle, asking for an additional $40,000. Two police officers, Chester Burris and H.P. Gearhardt, were credited with breaking the case after installing a dictograph in the house of a bank robbery suspect. Overhearing a conversation about Gettle’s kidnapping, they were able to trace his whereabouts to the house on Rosemount. A raid was conducted on the house on the night of May 15, 1934. Gettle was recovered the same day as the victim of another high-profile kidnapping case, six-year-old June Robles.

Three men were arrested in connection with the kidnapping, and were eventually convicted after entering guilty pleas in court. They were James Kirk, Larry Kerrigan and Roy Williams. They were all given prison terms in San Quentin. Two women, Loretta Woody and Mona Gallighen, were also arraigned. They were eventually sent to a reformatory in Arlington, Virginia. Clyde Stoddard, the owner of the sedan found in the garage of the Rosemont house, was detained for questioning.

On June 26, just days after his return to safety, Gettle received two letters which threatened to blow up his home unless he paid the senders $6,000. The threat was explained in the letters as ‘atonement’ for Gettle’s testimony against Woody and Gallighen. He received another note, threatening another kidnapping, shortly before Christmas that same year.

Fourteen months after William’s return from prison, Fleta Gettle died at the age of 34 on July 2, 1935. William F. Gettle died of “chronic liver trouble” at age 54 in his home in Beverly Hills on December 22, 1941.

The Evening Standard / Daily News Standard

Uniontown, PA


Routine Detective Snooping Stumbles Across Guilty Gang of Kidnappers

LOS ANGELES, May 15.–(UP)–Three confessed kidnappers, captured in police-raid that rescued William F. Gettle (kidnapped Beverly Hills millionaire) were finger-printed today on the possibility of linking them with an organized abduction ring. Police said their records were sought by Chicago authorities who inferred they might be wanted in several kidnappings in the middle west. Gettle was rescued last night after officers, seeking robbery suspects, arrested James Kirk, former bootlegger and asserted “brains” of the gang. Proceeding to an address found in Kirk’s possession, they surprised three men seated at a table. One man leaped through a window into the arms of a deputy. The second escaped but was captured a short time later. The third arose from the table and announced: “I’m Gettle”. He said he was unharmed. No-ransom was paid.

The other suspects were Roy Williams, a farmhand, and Larry Kerrigan, said to have a police record. Joan Burke and Loretta Woody, alias Loretta Kerrigan, also were arrested on suspicion of kidnapping. An officer said the three men confessed. As the three men were trapped, Kerrigan and Williams united in accusing Kirk as the “brains” of the gang. Confronted, Kirk cursed his accusers, then admitted his part in the kidnapping, police said. Painstaking and thorough detective work over a five-week period, rather than brilliant deduction, brought about the release of Gettle without ransom being paid.

Two police detectives, Lieute. Chester Burris and H. P. Gearhardt, through devotion to duty in the conducting of a routine investigation, solved the abduction and restored Gettle to his family. For five weeks they had sought a man in connection with a bank robbery. They suspected Jimmy Kirk and Kerrigan. Kirk, they learned, had two houses. In one, they installed a dictograph. To their surprise, they heard a conversation Saturday in which a man said to a woman: “What are you afraid of? Can’t you see the bulls are laying off?” The suspect then read a clipping from a newspaper which related that authorities had withdrawn police searches until Gettle’s return. The woman sighed in relief at the news, the detectives said, and then poured herself a drink.

Burris and Gearhard still sat at the dictograph and listened. They decided not to act until they were more certain of Gettle’s whereabouts. Yesterday Burris returned to the listening post. Meantime an effort was made to pay the $60,000 ransom demanded by the kidnapping ring. It failed because of a gun battle in Downey early Monday morning. Over the invisible phone, the detective heard Kirk and two women plan a trip to San Francisco. In the midst of this conversation, Burris and Gearhardt kicked in the door of the apartment and arrested Kirk, together with the Burke and Woody women.

Al Gruenberg 2

Albert Abraham ‘Al’ Gruenberg

Al had a number of aliases, as can be seen in this excerpt from an FBI report of 1962:

Al's Aliases0012b


When the US Census for Minneapolis was taken in 1920, Albert Abraham Gruenberg, was an inmate in the city workhouse. According to FBI files, Al was arrested 2 Dec 1920 in Minneapolis for robbery. He was then sent to the St. Cloud State Reformatory around 12 Jan 1921 to serve a 5-year sentence for first-degree robbery.

Al Gruenberg and boss DDS.jpg

Indeed, this photo from Margie Steinman Bonar’s collection appears to be taken next to a prison wall. On the back it reads: ‘Dr. Leisen and assistant A.A. Gruenberg DDS; taken before an operation’. The wall appears to be part of the St. Cloud prison facility mentioned in the 1955 LA Times article on Al Gruenberg. In fact, Al was sent here in January of  1921 for an apparent five-year term.

Back of Prison Photo

The back of the photo taken at the St. Cloud State Reformatory. In 1979 the name was changed to the  Minnesota Correctional Facility-St. Cloud

Leisen Obit

New Discoveries_0090-Dr. Gruenberg

Al has written ‘Dr. Gruenberg’ on the back of this photo taken at the St. Cloud State Reformatory.

The St. Cloud State Reformatory was established by the legislature in 1887 as a correctional institution for first offenders between the ages of 16 and 30. The reformatory opened in 1889 with the transfer of 77 inmates from the state prison at Stillwater. It was located on 240 acres in St. Cloud to take advantage of the labor opportunities provided by the granite quarries of that area.

In 1897, work was started on the Romanesque/Medieval-Style Administration Building. The building was designed by Clarence H. Johnstone, who designed several other structures for state institutions. Due to several work stoppages, the Administration Building was not completed until 1920. The building, five stories tall, is built of granite and has a flat roof with octagonal corner towers.The wall was built by prisoners brought over from the Stillwater prison and remains the second largest wall built by prisoners. The quarry that the stone came from is the oldest granite quarry in Minnesota.

After the turn of the century, numerous vocational departments were created at the institution, including construction, clothing manufacturing, shoe manufacturing, printing, greenhouse, and farming. Since 1979 the institution’s name has been Minnesota Correctional Facility–St. Cloud.

Saint Cloud PRISON

The walls of the Minnesota Correctional Facility-St. Cloud as they stand in the present day.

As a member of Los Angeles’ gambling operations, Al Gruenberg ‘Mr Big’ ran with fast company. At the time Al was in the business, Bugsie Siegal’s chief lieutenant, Mickey Cohen, had taken charge of Bugsie’s gambling and loan shark operations in LA. Although Bugsie was murdered, through sheer luck Cohen survived many attempts on his life, though many of his underlings were killed in the process. Eventually Cohen was forced to step away from the mob life. Al Gruenberg, who had a major run-in with Mickey Cohen in 1942 during the ‘Bookie Wars’, also survived all of LA’s Mafia warfare and eventually died in 1967.


Jack Dragna, born in Corleone, Sicily,  headed the Mafia in Los Angeles during the 1930s. Albert Abraham Gruenberg worked with Dragna for a short period in 1937.

In 1958-63, Al was under investigation by the FBI, and within his files, recently made public, several new facts have emerged which present a somewhat clearer picture of his life:

1) Al learned his ‘trade’ from his uncles in Minneapolis.

2) Al went to prison in Minnesota for robbery. He was arrested on December 2, 1920 and sentenced to serve 40 (=5) years in Saint Cloud Prison on January 12, 1921.

3) Al came to LA in 1924, presumably right after he was released from the St. Cloud Prison.

4) Al was a bootlegger back in the days of Prohibition.

5) In 1937, Al worked as a bookmaker with Jack Dragna, a major player in the Mafia known as the ‘Al Capone’ of LA.

6) Graphs at the end of the FBI documents are spectral analyses of three vials of narcotics which Al brought to the FBI on behalf of an acquaintance.

7) In his Jan 1958 FBI interview, Al reported that he was circulation manager at 5-10 Handicappers Publications. On November 9th of that same year, the following article appeared in the LA Times:

Al as Circulation Manager

AL'S HOME 802 N. Occidental 1928

802 N. Occidental Los Angeles. In 1928, on the day he signed the death certificate for his brother Jack who had committed suicide, this was Al Gruenberg’s residence.


On May 24, 2014, John Sellars reported the following to Michael McTeer:

Only today I discovered that Al and Russ Brophy’s association went on for many years. The gentleman that I interviewed last year had mentioned a house above Los Feliz Blvd. that he went to with Al that had dozens of telephone lines installed. He thought that it was one of Al’s houses, he knew that Al was a bookie as his Dad did his printing for him as well as for “the Italians”. Back then it apparently the house had a turntable, like a railroad engine turntable, so you could turn a car around as the street was so narrow, and it was at the dead end into Griffith Park. Turns out that it wasn’t Al’s, but Russell Brophy’s house. By 1962 Russell Brophy’s health had deteriorated and he died broke in a state hospital.

Russell Brophy’s home in Los Feliz



GENE NORMILE: 1929 & 1939










Al Gruenberg’s Los Angeles Capers

Al’s 1927 ‘Contributing’ Caper:

AL arrest in 1927

AL arrested in LA in the summer of 1927 for Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor. LA Times: July 21, 1927. Definition: Any action by an adult that allows or encourages illegal behavior by a person under the age of 18, or that places children in situations that expose them to illegal behavior. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor can be as simple as keeping a child home from school and thus, making the child a truant. It also can manifest itself in more serious behavior. For example, an adult who commits a crime in the presence of a child can be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, as can an adult who serves alcoholic beverages to anyone under the legal drinking age.

Al’s 1938 Cafe Caper:

Al and the Cafe Caper

Los Angeles Times: January 15, 1938.

Al’s July 21, 1942 Wire Service Caper:

Background from Allan May’s The History of the Race Wire Service:

“In late 1945, the Capone mob established the Trans-American Publishing and News Service to compete with the Continental Press. As the new wire service established offices around the country its employees engaged in a terrorist campaign against the offices of the Continental Press in an effort to force them out of business. In Las Vegas and on the West Coast, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel acted as the representative of the Capone mob, forcing the new service on bookmakers through strong-arm tactics.”

Al and the Bookie War 7-24-42

Al Green (aka Al Gruenberg) as an employee of Russell Brophy, was involved in the Bookie Wars of 1942. In the story above , the LA Mafia headed by Jack Dragna, together with Bugsy Siegel, sought  to shut down Brophy’s  Continental wire service operation. Mickey Cohen and Joe Sica beat up Russell Brophy so badly during this encounter, that Brophy ended up in the hospital. Los Angeles Times July 24, 1942.


In the article below from 1950, Capt WHITE is of the opinion that Russell Brophy is working with Jack DRAGNA. According to this article, Russell has a brother, Leonard, who has died in San Diego County; but the claim from other articles is that Leonard is alive and running a horse-racing news service in San Diego.






LA Times: February 15, 1950


New York Times: April 22, 1950


In the following article, Russell fingers his own brother. Here is the background:


Over the years revenue stamp act taxes had been put in place. Those taxes covered not only gambling but ILLEGAL gambling, too. One tax on legal gamblers was $50, whereas illegal gamblers were fined $500. (Apparently a two fold concept.) In order to obtain some tax revenues and then allow the IRS to go after people for NOT paying taxes one court ruled that the tax provision on illegal gambling was a violation of the 5th Amendment. (The IRS could already brag about getting CAPONE in this manner).


Apparently this tax situation was one of the reasons that Al Gruenberg was being investigated by the FBI. By about 1960 the IRS was raiding suspected gambling sites nation-wide.  Keeping in mind that that an IRS agent turned over material relating to Al’s racing  forms to the FBI for analysis, at one site the IRS found some of the very forms that Al had printed.


LA Times: June 22, 1950


50 Nevada State Journal RENO1

2RACE SERVICE 7-27-50 Nevada State Journal RENO1

50 Nevada State Journal, Reno: July 27, 1950


LA Times: February 12, 1962


Al’s 1947 Mocambo Club Caper:


Jan. 16, 1947-Al picked up re Macambo Heist

Jan. 16, 1947-Al picked up re Macambo Heists2

Los Angeles Times: January,  16, 1947.


Al’s April 2, 1947 Genis Robbery Caper:

Al Greenberg's Alibi

Los Angeles Times: June 28, 1947.


Al turns state's witness-Nov. 6, 1947


Al Gruenberg LA Times photo

Al turns state's witness-Nov. 6, 1947-B

Los Angeles Times: November 6, 1947.


Al Greenberg's GenisTrialLaughter


Al’s 1955 Football Lottery Caper:


Al Gruenberg

Al Gruenberg2

By the 1950’s Al Gruenberg, now the ‘Mr. Big’ of the Southland football rackets had moved up. LA Times: October 12, 1955.

Lodi New Sentinel Oct. 11, 1955

Lodi New Sentinel. Oct. 11, 1955.

The Modesto Bee Oct. 11, 1955

The Modesto Bee. Oct. 11, 1955.

Youngstown Vindicator Oct. 12, 1955

Youngstown Vindicator. Oct. 12, 1955.

The Milwaukee Sentinel Oct. 12, 1955

The Milwaukee Sentinel. Oct. 12, 1955.

Lewiston Morning Tribune Oct 12, 1955

Lewiston Morning Tribune. Oct 12, 1955.


Accident in front of Fox Publishing Company located at 3120 Riverside Drive (LA Times: December 21, 1955). Al had invested in this firm which was owned by James F. Fox, the very person who had printed Al’s football lottery pool cards.

FOX and AL

Los Angeles Times: October 19, 1955


On Al’s FBI file, there is a report from Frank H. TOWNSEND for the period June 6, 1962 – August 3, 1962. On a sheet numbered page 4, the last paragraph has a statement about Fox Printing Company, 3120 Riverside Drive stating that “GREEN” [Al] had invested in the company. Though the operator’s name is redacted, it states the individual was arrested with Al in 1955, because of his involvement in Al’s football lottery racket. According to the LA Times, that individual was James F. FOX.


The Football Lottery Caper of 1955 as reported in The Oregonian, a Portland, OR newspaper: Albert Gruenberg is alias Jack Green rather than alias John Green as reported in the LA Times. A Milwaukee Wisconsin connection is mentioned, together with the Continental Wire Service of which Gruenberg was once the general manager.

Al G and bobby 3.jpg

Abraham Albert ‘Al’ Gruenberg with his son Bobby. Al ‘Mr. Big’ was a snappy dresser! A woman, presumably his first wife, can be seen in the door with another child.

Al Gruenberg3

Obituary notice for Al Gruenberg. His memorial service was held in the same place in North Hollywood as that of Peggy Anne Gruenberg, the wife of his brother Wally. LA Times: February 23, 1967.


  1. Hi there,

    My brother, Patrick Martinez, just ran across your wonderful website. My name is Kelly Martinez. We grew up with Uncle AL (AL Greenberg) , and Auntie Gean (Genevieve Green) we called her. My middle name Gean, is named after her. I wear a beautiful diamond ring she willed to me.

    We have very fond memories of visiting Uncle AL, and Auntie Gene a part of our lives until her death.

    Uncle AL worked with my Grandfather, Jimmy Kirk, who was a big time bootlegger, during prohibition. My grandfather was sentenced to life in prison in 1934, but was able to get out in the early 1950’s. I was born in 1958, so I was blessed to be raised with him. My grandmother, Ethel, was best friends with Auntie Gene, all my growing up years.

    We have very fond memories of both Uncle AL and Auntie Gene.

    Thank you so much for documenting all this history online. My email address is:

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