Dennis “Dinny” Meehan became leader of the White Hand Gang around 1910 and led the gang up until his death in 1920 when he was murdered, as is the occupational hazard when you choose that way of life.

He was born in Brooklyn in 1889 and ran with the Warren Street Red Onion Gang in his early teens before eventually joining the White Hand Gang in his late teens and became the gangs leader.

During a murder trial, which was described at the time as “sensational”, Meehan and three other men were charged, tried and acquitted of the murder of Christie Maroney. The jury found that there was insufficient evidence and witnesses, Meehan was released, supporters in the courtroom and street outside erupted in cheers.

Maroney, who was a yeggman, better known as a safe-cracker and from around the Navy Yard in Brooklyn. Maroney refused to kick up money to the gang, so he was shot dead in a saloon, where he was a bartender. This whole incident added to Meehan’s growing reputation.

As the trial concluded and the verdict was being read out “a large squad of policemen and many detectives and reserves” were summoned to the courtroom and outside as the judge and police felt that if Meehan was convicted, a riot would break out at the court. The courtroom was packed with young thugs from the neighborhood.

It was from then onward, the White Hand Gang ruled that section of Brooklyn with an deadly grip, the gangs grip on power was so tight that a young rising star in the Mafia, Al Capone was sent to Chicago because the White Hand Gang had him on a hit list of gangsters that needed to be taken out, although it was not the only reason for Capone’s moving to Chicago.

With Meehan in control of the Brooklyn Waterfront the dock-boss at each terminal had to pay tribute (money) at a saloon at 25 Bridge Street called The Dock Loaders’ Club. Every laborer that was used to unload or load a ship or truck had to first report to Dinny Meehan under the Manhattan Bridge.

If people or companies refused to pay such as the owner of a factory or warehouse in the neighborhood, Meehan and his gang would make sure and steal whatever they could take from it. If a ship’s captain didn’t pay, Meehan would send someone like “Cinders” Connolly to set it on fire and untie from the pier, letting it burn in the East River where it would be seen by all. Pretty soon everyone got the message, pay up or else.

Among other things they would be hired as “starkers,” which meant that the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) might hire the White Hand Gang to kill or threaten a New York Dock Company employee who refused to pay their union dues. Or the opposite the New York Dock Company might hire the gang to kill or threaten a troublesome ILA union official.

With Dinny Meehan in charge everyone knew who to go to when they needed a job or if they needed someone taken care of. Everyone knew what the rules were and what would happen if they were broken. If a gang member talked too much, he would be found with a gunshot to the head or with his hands tied behind his back and dumped in the New York Harbor.

Unusually unlike some of the other gang bosses, Dinny Meehan would often join the gang on jobs. By 1920, he had three cases pending against him; he was out of jail on a $5,000 bond for robbing a man on Fifth Avenue, leading his men in the hijacking of a truckload of shoes worth $10,000, and overseeing the theft of $10,000 worth of silk from a Red Hook warehouse.

But Dinny Meehan met his end while asleep in bed. On March 31, 1920, Dinny Meehan and his wife Sadie were asleep in bed in their apartment at 452 Warren Street in Red Hook. A number of shots were fired, one passed through Dinny Meehan’s head and then lodged in his wife’s shoulder, she recovered from her wounds.

No one was ever charged with the murder but there are conflicting reports of who actually killed him, William Balsamo claim’s it was the Italian Mob that shot him. Meehan’s murder was said to have been arranged by Frankie Yale, a rival mobster from Brooklyn and carried out by Augie Pisano, and two hitmen from Cleveland, Ralph DeSarno and Giovanni Sciacca.

However not everyone buys that version of events, some people like Eamon Loingsigh who has written a number of books on the White Hand Gang believe that “Wild Bill” Lovett was behind it. Sadie Meehan had also told police in November 1923 that her husband’s killer was in fact, “Wild Bill” Lovett an up and coming rival in the gang. Meehan’s murder has remained officially unsolved.

In any event “Wild Bill” Lovett took over until he was murdered in 1923.


Owen Forsyth

Web Designer, Teacher, Artist, Writer, 3D, Modeling & Visual Effects, DJ

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