At the turn of the 20th-century criminal gangs sprouted up in the Boston Irish wards, the Gustin gang was first to dominate and control the scene. The name of the gang came not from any of the members, but from the name of a street off Old Colony Avenue in South Boston.
Founded by Steve Wallace and his brothers Frank and Jimmy around 1915, the Gustin gang was first named the “Tailboard Thieves,” their specialty being hijacking delivery trucks. Frank soon proved to be the brains of the operation with his brother Steve providing the “muscle.” Over the next decade the Gustin Gang were involved a string of successful armed robberies in addition to their trademark hijackings.
In 1920, with the passage of the Prohibition Era Laws, like many other mobsters at the time bootlegging opened up for the Gustin gang. The Wallace brothers had already cultivated relationships with politicians and cops, through bribes and blackmail, Despite the gang’s long track record of armed robbery, burglary and gambling none of its members ever spent much time in a cell, mostly charges were buried or dismissed.
Competing with other bootleggers, the Gustin Gang were best but they knew there were limits when it came to a certain bootlegger named Joseph P. Kennedy, who was amassing such deep political clout and protection that he was playing on a far different level. Kennedy was one of four Irish American bootleggers known as the Combine, its members included, William “Big Bill” Dwyer, Owney The Killer” Madden & Danny Walsh.
The Gustin Gang controlled their own rum-running turf in and around the Southie shore, landing their own shipments and personally delivering the bootleg liquor to local speakeasies as paid-off cops and Prohibition agents looked the other way.
One racket the Gustin Gang members were using their fake Prohibition agents’ badges while hijacking other bootleggers’ shipments and selling them. Although other Irish gangs operated out of Somerville, Charlestown, Dorchester, and Roxbury during Prohibition, the Gustin crew ruled the roost.
They soon faced resistance from Italian mobsters in Boston’s North End who determined to end the Wallace brothers’ contempt, especially after the Gustin Gang hijacked several trucks belonging to Joe Lombardi’s gang in the North end. Lombardi and fellow gangster Phillip Bruccola persuaded Frankie Wallace to come to sit-down in their neighborhood. Wallace agreed and he and his lieutenant, Bernard “Dodo” Walsh, they went into the C.K. Importing Company office and were gunned down.
But they had not dealt a fatal blow to the Gustin Gang, Lombardi and his crew were wrong. Under the leadership of Steve Wallace, they held onto some of their criminal clout in Boston. It wouldnt be until the emergence of Buddy McClean, Bernie McLaughlin etc when the Irish would take control again
Main photo is Steve Wallace / Gustin with detectives