Bugs Moran

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George Clarence Moran
Born(1891-08-21)August 21, 1891
St. Paul, Minnesota, United States
DiedFebruary 25, 1957(1957-02-25) (aged 65)
Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, Leavenworth, Kansas, United States
AllegianceNorth Side Gang
Charge(s)Bank robbery
Penalty10 years
Conviction statusDeceased
OccupationGangster, bootlegger
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George Clarence Moran
Born(1891-08-21)August 21, 1891
St. Paul, Minnesota, United States
DiedFebruary 25, 1957(1957-02-25) (aged 65)
Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, Leavenworth, Kansas, United States
AllegianceNorth Side Gang
Charge(s)Bank robbery
Penalty10 years
Conviction statusDeceased
OccupationGangster, bootlegger

George Clarence Moran (August 21, 1891 – February 25, 1957), better known by the alias "Bugs" Moran, was a Chicago Prohibition-era gangster. He moved to the north side of Chicago when he was 19, where he became affiliated with several gangs. He was incarcerated three times before turning 21. On February 14, 1929, in an event which has become known as the Saint Valentine's Day massacre, seven members of his gang were gunned down in a warehouse, supposedly on the orders of Moran's rival Al Capone.[1] He has been credited with popularizing the act of driving by a rival's hangout and spraying it with gunfire, now referred to as a drive-by shooting.[2]


Early life and career

Born Adelard Cunin to Marié Diana (née Gobeil) and Jules Adelard Cunin in St. Paul, Minnesota. His parents were of French and Catholic descent, his father coming from Alsace-Lorraine in France and his mother from Chicoutimi,​ Quebec,​ Canada.[3]

It is believed that Moran became a criminal as a teenager. When he was 19 years old, he moved to Chicago. He was jailed three times by the time he was 21 years old.

Moran's fierce temper became generally known in the world of feuds and guns, and earned him the nickname "Bugs," gang slang for "completely crazy." One possibly apocryphal story relates that he first attained the name after arriving at a tailor shop to pick up a suit he had ordered. When told the price of the finished suit, he became enraged and assaulted the tailor.


Prohibition was established during the 1920s with the enactment of the 18th Amendment, which banned the distribution of alcoholic beverages. Subsequently, criminal enterprises sprang up to smuggle liquor. They manufactured or stole it and sold it for great profit. The popularity of alcohol and lack of legal competition ensured an endless supply of customers. This smuggling of alcohol was called bootlegging. Soon, the criminals and gangsters were enjoying profits beyond anything the basic rackets had ever provided. Among them were Dean O'Banion and his group of mostly Irish thugs, who became known as the "North Side Gang."

Johnny Torrio and his lieutenant, Al "Scarface" Capone, moved to the South side of Chicago, absorbed the territory and pushed the Southside O'Donnells (an Irish group of brothers that held a piece of the Southside and claimed it as their turf) out of the way. They gathered followers quickly and were the "Italian family" of Chicago since a majority of their group was Italian. Torrio, who did not like violence, quickly moved to establish a borderline for each gang's territory.

Torrio tried to establish a partnership between himself and O'Banion, and it worked for quite some time. But the Gennas (a Sicilian group of brothers who controlled a piece of Southside territory, and were partners of Torrio and Capone) wanted to extend their interests into other territory. They moved their liquor into O'Banions territory and sold it for half as much as what O'Banion sold it for. He was being undersold in his own territory. He quickly went to Torrio and requested help. Torrio managed to talk the Gennas down in the interest of peace. But O'Banion was not pleased and decided to strike back instead. He started hijacking the Gennas shipments and selling them himself.

He then would further provoke the Italians by directly insulting them, calling them "greaseballs" or "dagos." This angered the Italians even more.

Moran and O'Banion also insulted Capone to the press, usually by calling him "Scarface" or "the Behemoth."

Two events triggered the assassination of O'Banion. The first was between O'Banion and the Gennas. Torrio was on vacation and left Al Capone in charge of the operations. O'Banion came to collect a $30,000 debt from Angelo Genna, the Genna family leader.

Capone explained to O'Banion that Angelo could not pay the debt and maybe he should pass it on as good faith to keep the peace. O'Banion refused and later telephoned Genna and stated that he had better pay the debt in a week.

The next event was the setting up of Torrio in a police raid. O'Banion contacted Torrio and stated he wanted to retire from the business and sell some of his profits to Torrio. Torrio, excited that there would be no more problems between them, jumped at the idea and met O'Banion at the warehouse. They started talking and shared a few jokes, but then the police burst in and arrested both men for Prohibition-related charges. O'Banion started to laugh, but Torrio panicked. He knew that this was his second offense and thus he would likely do jail time.

Both men posted bail and got out. Torrio then learned O'Banion had known about the raid all along, and it was a setup. "I guess I rubbed that pimp's nose in the mud," O'Banion stated.

The Italians therefore passed a vote to kill O'Banion. They hired independent killers to do the job and waited for Mike Merlo, the leader of the Unione Siciliana, to die because Merlo who was also a man of peace refused to allow O'Banion to be killed.

The killers were Frankie Yale, along with John Scalise and Albert Anselmi (colloquially known as the "Murder Twins"). They tracked O'Banion to his flower shop and entered. O'Banion, expecting flowers for Merlo's funeral to be picked wasn't suspicious of the men or their intentions.

Yale outstretched his hand for O'Banion to shake. O'Banion obliged. Scalise and Anselmi then drew their pistols and shot O'Banion to death.

The killers got away. The North Side gang members had lost their commander. Capone and Torrio thought that O'Banion's death might end their troubles.

Moran and the rest of the group went to O'Banion's lavish funeral. Capone and Torrio also attended the funeral, and Moran vowed to take revenge.

Battling Al Capone

The bootlegging operation of Earl Weiss and Bugs Moran continued to pose a significant challenge to Capone's South Side Gang. Moran and Capone then led a turf war with each other that cost both of them their friends and cost Capone his freedom. Moran's hatred of Capone was apparent even to the public: he told the press that "Capone is a lowlife." Moran was also disgusted that Capone engaged in prostitution. Believing himself a better Catholic than Capone, Moran refused to run brothels.

Moran and his gang made two attempts to strike back at Al Capone. The first was an attempt on Capone's life. Moran (possibly with Drucci and Weiss) was driving around town searching for Capone. They found his car parked alongside the curb and saw Capone getting out. They let loose a volley of shots. Capone and his men jumped to the ground while their driver was injured and the car pelted with bullets. Although startled, Capone survived the attack and was driven around in an armored car after that.

Second, Moran would himself eliminate Capone's personal security. He kidnapped one of Capone's most trusted bodyguards. He then tortured him with wire and cigarettes before finally executing him and dumping the body.

On September 20, 1926, Moran again attempted to kill Capone, this time in Cicero, Illinois, the base of Capone's operations. A fleet of cars, with Moran in personal command, drove by the lobby of Capone's hotel. Capone and his bodyguard were drinking downstairs when the Moran gang began shooting into the lobby with their Thompson submachine guns. The attack left Capone unhurt but badly frightened, and his restaurant was reduced to shreds. Although Capone escaped unharmed, the hotel attack traumatized him: he called for a truce. However, the truce did not last long.

Weiss was then gunned down weeks later after the Hawthorne attack. The two sides then traded more murderous violence before everyone decided enough was enough. A peace conference was held to hopefully sort everything out. Moran appeared grudgingly, along with Capone and the rest of the gang bosses. Capone stated "they were making a shooting gallery of a great business" and Chicago "should be seen as pie and each gang gets an individual slice." Everybody agreed and peace had finally arrived.

For the first time in years, there wasn't any gang warfare. Drucci himself was killed as a result of an altercation with the police. Both Capone and Moran attended his funeral. Moran now realized that his friends (O'Banion, Weiss, and Drucci) were gone and he was the sole commander of the gang. Capone realized this too, which is why he didn't attack first; he knew a war with Moran would result in great bloodshed.

Both sides kept a close watch on each other after that. Moran regularly annoyed Capone by having his shipments hijacked and selling them for profit. Capone retaliated by burning Moran's dog track. Moran had one of Capone's clubs burned soon after.

Moran also killed numerous friends and gang members of Capone, which both angered and saddened him. It also frightened him into having 15 (or more) bodyguards around him. Moran further wore down Capone, both physically and mentally, by agreeing to truces, only to break them within hours. Capone eventually stated that he regretted he ever came to Chicago, remarking "If I knew I was gonna deal with this, I'd never would've left Five Points".

Moran then decided to order the death of Antonio Lombardo and Pasqualino "Patsy" Lolordo. Both men were personal friends of Capone as well as the head of the Unione Siciliana, the base of Capone's power. Capone went into mourning after their murders and his hatred for Moran grew even more. Moran also decided to escalate the war further by hijacking Capone's shipments. The Sheldon Gang, supposedly allies of the South Siders, were suspected of supplying liquor to Moran.

In 1929, Capone tried to strike a decisive blow against Moran with the notorious Saint Valentine's Day massacre. Gunmen dressed as police lined up a number of Moran associates against the wall in a Chicago warehouse and executed them. However, the main target of the "hit," Moran, narrowly eluded death. Moran spotted the squad car outside the warehouse and, believing a raid was in progress, doubled back to a coffee shop with his bodyguards. Another North Sider, Al Weinshank, was misidentified as Moran by one of Capone's lookouts, who signaled for the attack to begin. When Moran saw the carnage, he broke the gangster code and exclaimed, "Only Capone kills like that!" Though appalled by the massacre, Moran continued a turf war with Capone (but to a lesser extent) and also managed to thwart a territory takeover by Frank McErlane, wounding him in a gun battle.

Contrary to popular belief, Moran managed to keep control of his territory and what remained of his gang through the end of Prohibition and through the early 1930s. But with the repeal of the Volstead Act (the very thing that put the gangsters into power) the North Side gang declined along with many other gangs and Moran decided to leave Chicago after a few years. However, Capone did not go unpunished either. After the massacre, the government and the public expressed a new level of outrage with gangland killings and shootouts. With the government coming at him from all sides, Capone himself started to decline. The government managed to convict Capone of tax evasion and sent him to prison in 1932.

In April 1930, Frank J. Loesch, chairman of the Chicago Crime Commission had compiled a "Public Enemies" list of 28 people he designated as corrupting Chicago. Capone topped the list and Moran ranked sixth. The list was published widely and ensured Moran's notoriety.

After Prohibition

In 1936 "Machine Gun" Jack McGurn, who helped orchestrate the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre for Capone, was found murdered on February 15, seven years and one day after the massacre. A valentine was left in the lobby of the bowling alley where he was murdered, which included a rhyming joke. Since Moran treasured pranks, a legacy of his mentor Dean O'Banion, it was commonly assumed Moran committed the murder in retaliation for the slaughter of his gang, though others point to Frank Nitti as the force behind the killing, as McGurn had become a drunken loudmouth, and a genuine liability to the South Side mob. Either hypothesis is considered equally plausible by crime researchers.

The majority of published researchers of the Chicago gangland era and those who have studied Moran's life have come to the conclusion that Moran's biggest liability as a gang boss was Moran himself - he was simply not very smart in the ways of long-term survival as a mob leader. While Capone was a master at planning out moves and feints several steps in advance, Moran's approach was more that of an ordinary street brawler: cause-and-effect reactionism. Having been gradually squeezed out of Chicago after the end of Prohibition, he reverted to his earlier life and resumed committing common crimes like mail fraud and robbery. By the 1940s, only 17 years after being one of the richest gangsters in Chicago, Moran was almost penniless.

Death in prison

In July 1946, Moran was arrested in Ohio for robbing a bank messenger of $10,000. He was convicted and sentenced to ten years in the Ohio Penitentiary. Shortly after his release, Moran was again arrested for a bank robbery that occurred in Ansonia, Ohio on November 8, 1956. Moran received another ten years and was sent to the Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary on January 11, 1957. On February 25, 1957 he died of lung cancer.[4]

He was estimated to be worth about $100 at his death, and he received a pauper's burial in the prison cemetery.

In popular culture

1958Playhouse 90 Seven Against the WallUSAPortrayed by Dennis Patrick[1]
1959Al CaponeUSAPortrayed by Murvyn Vye[2]
1959The Untouchables The George 'Bugs' Moran Story, Arsenal, The Eddie O'Gara Story, and DoublecrossUSAPortrayed by Lloyd Nolan, Robert J. Wilke, and Harry Morgan[3]
1967The St. Valentine's Day MassacreUSAPortrayed by Ralph Meeker[4]
1975CaponeUSAPortrayed by Robert Phillips[5]
1987The Verne Miller StoryUSAPortrayed by Sean Moran[6]
1993The Untouchables Pilot (Parts 1 and 2), ChinatownUSAPortrayed by Jack Thibeau[7]
2000Early Edition Everybody Goes to Rick'sUSAPortrayed by Kevin Fry[8]


  1. ^ http://foia.fbi.gov/foiaindex/moran_george_bugs.htm
  2. ^ http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Moran+&GSfn=George&GSbyrel=all&GSdyrel=all&GSob=n&GRid=730&
  3. ^ Keefe, Rose (2005). The Man Who Got Away: the Bugs Moran Story: A Biography. Cumberland House Publishing. pp. 11–12. ISBN 978-1-58182-443-8. 
  4. ^ "Bugs Moran Dies In Prison. Once Capone's Rival". Associated Press. February 25, 1957. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=EexQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=tiUEAAAAIBAJ&pg=7297,5592289&dq=bugs+moran&hl=en. Retrieved 2012-08-15. "Moran was brought to Leavenworth Jan. 11 to serve five years for burglarizing the Citizens State bank at Ansonia, Ohio, on the night of Nov. ..." 

External links

Preceded by
Vincent Drucci
North Side Gang Boss
Succeeded by