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Martin Krugman

Martin "Marty" Krugman. This article or section includes a list of referencesor external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks in-text citations.
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Martin Krugman a.k.a. "Marty" (born December 30, 1919 Passaic, New Jersey; disappeared January 4, 1979 Jamaica, Queens; declared legally dead 1986) was an associate of the Lucchese crime family and the basis for the character "Morrie Kessler" as depicted by Chuck Low in the 1990 film Goodfellas.



Marcin-Martin Krugman (pronounced as Kroog-man) was a Passaic, New Jersey, native and son of Orthodox Jew-Russian immigrant parents, resided in Valley Stream, New York with his Long Island-born Polish-American housewife, Franciska who he nicknamed "Frances". Krugman was a very animated skinny, balding and had "bulging eyes" which was brought on from hyperthyroidism. His general appearance giving the impression that he was much older than his actual age who wore goggle-like glasses. He married his wife Franciska in 1954 and the two lived happily together, but he was a womanizer and would frequently search out the services of local prostitutes. After opening his hair salon and wig accessories store in 1970 with a bridge loan he became acquainted with Henry Hill after patronizing his night club The Suite, located next door, and later Robert's Lounge where he enjoyed listening to the latest La Cosa Nostra war stories. Martin admired the criminal life and after finding out he had a panache for it, he became an independent bookmaker. He is not related to Paul Krugman. The rackets in Valley Stream, New York were not quite as lucrative as those in Ridgewood, Queens. As a mob associate, Krugman who had been an obscure numbers runner, was now permitted to operate his own numbers book, which meant that he could put togetheR his own team of writers and collectors on the street. Although he earned many legitimate and illegitimate funds he was a quiet family man, not one to flaunt his wealth and achieved power. At the age of fifty-three, and suffering from hypothyroidism he was a threat to no one. He needed Frank Menna with his well deserved reputation for violence which would make collecting debts much easier, including the help of Henry Hill and the Vario Crew. After he became associated with Jimmy Burke he loaned out money to Louis Werner and others in increments of $50, $150 or $250 for their gambling habits. If a customer went weeks without paying his debt, the interest added up quick, causing inevitable friction between Martin and the gambler. Although with Frank Menna's reputation it rarely came to that. From the very start of his bookmaking-loan shark operation it followed the usual progression from street-level gamblers and alcoholics to more sophisticated borrowers. By the end of 1971, neighborhood merchants, union members, airport workers at JFK International Airport and members of the Vario Crew were seen by survelliance photos coming and going from the Just for Men salon, picking up and dropping off cash deposits. Martin proved to Henry Hill and Jimmy Burke that he was a good businessman with a sense for the bottom line and expansion opportunities. Eventually he became a one-man operation, though from time to time he would hire "connected people", such as Vario errand boy Parnell Edwards and Frank Menna, on an ad hoc basis. But he was totally independent of the Mafia-run gambling joints and those game floating craps games and illegal casinos run by the Lucchese crime family, and he desired no alliances or partners. Martin also knew where his talent lay, and he limited himself to the gambling circuit and did not get involved in loansharking, extortion, frauds or any other activities associated with organized crime, such as contract beatings and killings.

Growing up with hyperthyroidism

When growing up as a child he was nicknamed "Bug Eyes" for his protruding eyeballs caused by exophthalmos, a common affect of a condition called hyperthyroidism (Graves Disease). He had a hyperthyroid stare (Dalrymple sign) where the eyelids are retracted upward more than normal (the normal position is at the superior corneoscleral limbus, where the "white" of Martin's eye began at the upper border of the iris). He also suffered from lid-lag (von Graefe's sign), giving him problems tracking objects downward with his eyes, his eyelids failing to follow the downward moving iris. The same type of upper globe exposure of the lid retraction occurred temporarily when he looked upward. It caused him to resort to wearing sunglasses, as in the picture. Martin also was diagnosed with hair loss which caused the thinning of the outer third of his eyebrows, palpitations, hypertension, suffered from chronic weight loss, respiratory problems with plagued him with shortness of breath and would regularly show the signs of demonstrated irritability, erratic behavior along with constant nervousness and agitation. On the exterior Martin also suffered from non-pitting edema and thickening of the skin on his lower extremities. Even with the condition Krugman was secure enough to go on television and promote his hair salon in a steady commercial slot on local Ridgewood, Queens television station. At the time of Krugman's diagnosis, there was no cure available to treat the disease. Krugman was unable to drive. His wife would drive him wherever he needed to be.

Career as a hair stylist

Krugman owned a popular two-story storefront popular and heavily advertised male hair salon and wig shop located beside the Engine 291, Battalion 45 fire station located at 56-07 Metropolitan Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens called "For Men Only", which was situated several blocks from The Suite. It served as a "drop", a collection place for betting slips and money. His salon was advertised on Queens Public Television in the 1970s. Due to its proximity to Henry Hill's dinner club, The Suite it became a popular hangout for Robert McMahon, Joe Manri, Peter Gruenwald and Louis Werner. At "For Men Only" the exclusively female hairdressers staff who were employed there wore very low cut blouses. He became known in the area for his crafted hand-custom-made hairpieces and wigs that were very durable even when they became submerged under water with the wearer. His television commercial earned him much business. Krugman also offered his clientele the relatively new hair care treatment hair prosthesis. Paul Vario bought his hair pieces when he started getting bald, as shown in several 1970-era surveillance photographs taken of him. The salon had two back rooms closed off by large curtains where mobsters could discuss business in privacy from any surveillance the NYPD were conducting outside. His only male employee Frank Menna, was also involved in the Lufthansa heist. His salon as the name stated, catered to a strictly male clientele which included Tommy DeSimone (who only visited the salon for hair cuts and to place bets with Krugman), Parnell Edwards who had his hair permed while Paul Vario and Henry Hill all bought wigs and hairpieces from Krugman, but mainly the clientele was "ordinary citizens" from Ridgewood, Queens. One of the hairdressers at Martin's salon was Dorothy Fiorenza, a mob moll turned informant who as of 2001 was married to Colombo crime family boss Andrew Russo. Henry Hill also brought his son Gregg to the salon for haircuts starting when he was seven years old. Martin had retired telephone company workers install speed dial abilities when speed dialing was not available to the general public and be able to ring up a handicapper for betting odds. If he received too much wagers for his small operation he gave some of the betting action to Steven DePasquale. Since it was a semi-legitimate business owned and managed by Krugman he did not allow Henry Hill's mobster partners to organize any mob "executions" on the premises, unlike Jimmy Burke's Robert's Lounge, and Henry Hill's The Suite that would attract unwanted attention to his already thriving business clientele. The block that the For Men Only salon was located on had two arson-related fires in the early 1970's, both of which occurred before 1975.

Bookmaking Operation

He used the upper-floor of the hair salon and wig shop for his independently run bookmaking and sportsbook operation whose clientele included many JFK Airport employees like Louis Werner, Peter Gruenwald, Robert McMahon and Joe Manri would visit for haircuts, place bets and talk of future airport heists. From his business being close to Henry Hill's The Suite, he would go over and dine and listen to mob-war stories. Henry Hill became good friends with Krugman and helped Krugman for years avoid his book-making operation from being extorted by Jimmy Burke and later Gambino crime family soldier Billy Batts (who would be subsequently be executed in 1970 by Jimmy Burke and Tommy DeSimone for his efforts) because of Krugman's valued hijacking connections inside JFK Airport and if Burke murdered him, it would be in a colloquial sense, lost earnings on the Vario Crew's part. He kept a sheets of bets and personally kept tabs on the bettors, only established neighborhood bettors whom they knew they could trust. He assigned each bettor an identification number and to place a bet, he would call "the wire room", state his number, distinguish which controller he wanted to bet with and make his wager. Most of the time bettors placed a straight wager on a team, but football and basketball had a spread. Krugman, in other words, gave the favorites a point advantage: if he had the New York Giants down as a five-point favorite, over Philadelphia Eagles, the Giants would have to win by at least five to pay off. He charged a commission or “vig” of ten cents on the dollar for losing bets. Each week Frank Menna would tell Krugman if they had a “red” or “blue” figure. If it was blue, they were ahead, and Frank Menna would give the earnings to Krugman. If they found themselves a long way ahead, they would stop taking bets to hedge against a possible loss. At the end of the week, Menna would be sent out to settle debts. The operation was small compared to the more larger organized bookmakers, which would employ an average of fifty controllers running bets, On a good week, Krugman and Menna might turn a $12,000 profit.

Friendships with Burke & Hill

Krugman was a close friend of Henry Hill's, but much hated by Hill's friend Jimmy Burke. Burke believed that Krugman was withholding money owed to him from a sportsbook that Krugman was said to have set up in the back of his wig shop. He was one of the people who tipped off Henry Hill about the Lufthansa heist from his connections inside Kennedy International Airport. Right after the Lufthansa heist Burke planned to have Krugman killed right away. It is unknown if his plans included murdering Frank Menna or even Louis Werner. Burke was planning to kill Krugman, who was forever pestering him for his $500,000 share in the Lufthansa heist.

Antagonizing Jimmy Burke

Burke told Henry Hill, whom Krugman trusted most of all, to phone Krugman and tell him he'd be met at a local tavern, the Forty Yards. Hill phoned Krugman from the Robert's Lounge bar, where Tommy DeSimone, his sister Dolores, Milton Weker and Jimmy Burke were all sitting around talking. Tommy told Hill to persuade Krugman to go to the Riviera Motor Inn located at 2969 Atlantic Ave in Jamaica, Queens with the lure of prostitutes, get him in the car, then Thomas DeSimone and Angelo Sepe would take it from there. On the way to the Forty Yards, Hill began trying to persuade Burke that murdering Krugman was stupid and said that it was 'bread off our table', meaning that financially Krugman was useful, he also said that they needed him to do some spread betting and that his wife, Fran, would cause light to shine on Burke and his crew if Martin disappeared. Burke listened and when they saw Krugman at the Forty Yards said, "Forget about tonight". Hill, Burke and Krugman sat around, drinking and joking, until Jimmy left and Fran came to pick up Martin. Martin began hounding Hill for his share of the money. Christmas passed, Hill and Burke went down to Florida about some cocaine and everyone hoped that the heat over Lufthansa had cooled off. The police heat and surveillance at Robert's Lounge became overwhelming and it could no longer serve as a headquarters for the Vario Crew, so they moved to a classy night club on Rockaway Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens owned by Bonanno crime family capo Vincent Asaro which was adjacent to his fence contracting company.

Murder of Krugman

Krugman became a nuisance again. He was asking about Parnell Edwards (who had been shot) at this time, about Thomas DeSimone (who had since disappeared, later confirmed to be murdered) and hounding Burke for share of the money. Finally Burke met Krugman at Asaro's place and he was killed there. Krugman was dismembered and disposed of at Asaro's company, (currently Bruno's Construction & Fences located at 14550 Rockaway Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens. The following morning his wife Fran Krugman called Henry Hill at 7 A.M. and began saying that her husband hadn't come home and that he'd called her at half-past nine the previous night to say he had money coming in and that he might be late. Hill claims he knew immediately that Jimmy had killed Krugman. Hill agreed to go and search for Krugman and drove to Asaro's place and saw Jimmy was parked outside. Henry said Fran wanted to know if anyone had seen Martin and Jimmy said, "He's gone". Henry shook his head in disbelief, Jimmy told Henry to pick up Karen and go and tell Fran that Martin Krugman was with a mistress, in other words to 'give her a story'. Hill comforted Fran with Karen and all the while knew that Martin was dead, but more worryingly Fran, just as Hill had warned Burke, was becoming an increasing problem. She said how she knew all about the Lufthansa Heist. Gregg Hill later overheard his father telling Karen that they had dismembered Martin, "chopped him up into a million pieces".

Burial Grounds

It was revealed in Hill's testimony, in 1980, to the FBI that Krugman's body was buried, along with Burke's hijacker friend Dominick Cersani a.k.a Remo in the small enclosed yard behind the bar, underneath the bocce court and with sixteen-year-old Michael "Spider" Gianco buried in a small unfinished section of the terazzo floor basement who was murdered not by Burke, but Tommy DeSimone in 1970 in his Queens, New York bar, named Robert's Lounge. This was unable to be confirmed.

Martin Krugman's name is covered by a bleep on the Goodfellas commentary without explanation.

In 1986 Martin was declared legally deceased although his remains were never found, Fran Krugman received $135,000 in a life insurance policy pay-out.

In film and reality

Martin Krugman was shot and dismembered at Bonanno crime family mobster Vincent Asaro's fence factory on Rockaway Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens. Gregg Hill later remembers hearing Henry Hill tell Karen Hill that Martin was "chopped up into a million pieces" by Jimmy Burke. Krugman's death in the movie with an ice pick and garrote, mimics the murder of Burke's best friend and mafia mentor Dominick Cersani a.k.a. "Remo" who was actually garroted in the rear parking lot at Robert's Lounge by Tommy DeSimone, Jimmy Burke and another mobster, most likely the Paul Vario street soldier and Stanley Diamond. The story behind Dominick Cersani and his murder is excluded from Goodfellas, but ironically Martin Scorsese would later use "Remo Gaggi" as a character name for Pasquale Cajano who plays Chicago don Joe Aiuppa in the movie Casino.


  • The "For Men Only" hair salon and wig accessories store was sold shortly after his disappearance by his wife Fran in 1979.
  • In the film Goodfellas Krugman's hair salon "For Men Only" was portrayed by another barbershop in Forest Hills, Queens. Krugman's character wife "Belle Kessler", based on Frances, is played by Margo Winkeler in the movie Goodfellas who is a friend of Karen Hill.

External sources

Categories: Disappeared people | American Jews | 1919 births | 1979 deaths | Jewish American mobsters | Murdered Jewish American mobsters | Russian-Americans | Lucchese crime family | Bookmakers | Murder victims related to the Lufthansa heistHidden category: Articles lacking in-text citations

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