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6 Gangsters Who Earned Their Names

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A thug, is a thug, is a thug. But would a thug by any other moniker still be as dangerous? We're guessing "yes."

1. Frank "the Dasher" Abbandando (1910"“1942)

Abbandando was one killer who was fast on his feet. A hit man for the New York mob's Murder, Inc., an organization of contract killers, Abbandando may have killed as many as 50 people. In one case, he walked up to a guy and pulled the trigger only to have the gun misfire. With his armed victim in pursuit, Frank "the Dasher" ran so fast around the block that he came up behind his quarry and coolly shot him in the back. Hence his nickname. But even Abbandando couldn't outrun a stool pigeon inside Murder, Inc. Convicted of a single murder, the speedy criminal was awarded a speedy trial, followed by a speedy execution via electric chair.

2. Albert "Lord High Executioner" Anastasia (1903"“1957)

Brutal dogs, ants and one serious weasel all after the jump...

anastasia.jpg Also dubbed "the Mad Hatter" for his love of fancy fedoras, the dapper "Lord High Executioner," was not a man to be messed with. In the early 1920s, Anastasia was sentenced to death for killing a fellow longshoreman. But he was granted a retrial and the conviction was reversed when four of the witnesses "disappeared." And that was just at the start of his career. After helping to kill crime boss Joe Masseria, Anastasia was made head of Murder, Inc. by new boss Lucky Luciano, and was dubbed the mob's "Lord High Executioner" by the press. And while the name stuck, his position didn't, as Anastasia eventually fell out with the other bosses. On October 25, 1957, Anastasia was shot six times while getting a haircut. As one New York paper put it the next day: "He Died in the Chair After All."

3. Lester "Baby Face Nelson" Gillis (1908"“1934)

101.jpgHe wanted to be called "Big George," but at 5 feet 4 inches and with the visage of a choirboy, Lester Gillis was stuck with "Baby Face." No matter. Starting as a pickpocket, Lester put an even better face on things by graduating to enforcer (for Al Capone), bank robber, and psychopathic killer, sometimes shooting people for no reason mid-heist. By 1934, Baby Face was the FBI's Public Enemy No. 1. But on November 27 of that year, he went out with a bang. A lot of bangs, actually. In a gun battle with two FBI agents, Nelson killed both Feds, but not before they put 17 slugs in him. Amazingly, Nelson walked back to his getaway car and escaped. Of course, the 17 shots ended up doing the trick. Lester's body was found in a ditch the next day.

4. Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll (1908"“1932)

Picture 13.pngHis first nickname, "the Mick," was relatively harmless, since he hailed from Ireland and all. But his second one proved to be a keeper. The criminal with an ominous moniker, and a rep to boot, was a top mob enforcer for New York bootlegger Dutch Schultz. And among his many talents, the versatile Coll specialized in kidnapping and extortion. In fact, he had no qualms about torturing his victims. After falling out with Schultz, Coll touched off a gang war in which at least 20 people were killed. One was a five-year-old boy caught in a crossfire. Coll was charged with the shooting, and though he was acquitted, his days on the street were numbered. Mob bosses put a price on Coll's head, and on February 8, 1932, he was shot more than a dozen times while placing a call in a telephone booth.

5. Tony "the Ant" Spilotro (1938"“1986)

1155530835.jpgFor the 15 years after he first hit Las Vegas in 1971 to the day he died, the mob's chief Vegas enforcer, Tony Spilotro, never spent a day in jail. Not bad for a guy who was implicated in at least 24 murders. In one case, he was even said to have squeezed a victim's head in a vise until his eyes popped out (a scene you might remember from Casino). Ugh. As for "the Ant" bit, little Tony hated the nickname, which was a reference to his diminutive stature (he was 5'5"). What he didn't hate, however, was the limelight, and it proved to be his undoing. Tony's bosses in Chicago figured he was getting a little too much press, so they came up with a quick remedy: Tony and his brother were beaten up, then buried alive in an Indiana cornfield. As for the slick lawyer who kept the Ant out of jail all that time? His name was Oscar Goodman, and he was elected Vegas's mayor in 1999, then reelected in 2003.

6. Aladena "Jimmy the Weasel" Fratianno (1914"“1993)

Picture 21.png"When the boss tells you to do something," Fratianno told a reporter in 1987, "you do it. You don't do it, they kill you." That's how he explained taking part in 11 murders. Of course, it didn't explain why he became a government witness in 1977 after 32 years in the mob. Fratianno, who got his nickname after speedily fleeing a crime scene as a kid, explained that he began ratting on his colleagues because they had a contract on his life. Fratianno spent 10 years in the Federal Witness Protection Program before being kicked out because he was costing taxpayers too much. Amazingly, he died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 79. Not bad for a weasel.

For more lists like these, be sure to pick up a copy of Forbidden Knowledge.

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The Facts Behind That $5 Billion in 'Forgiven' Student Loan Debt
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The New York Times created a considerable stir on July 17 by detailing a widespread student loan repayment crisis. According to the paper, one of the largest holders of private loans, National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts, has been struggling to provide documentation that proves it owns the $5 billion in delinquent accounts that it’s been attempting to collect. Without that paperwork, dozens of lawsuits brought against defaulting borrowers are being dismissed.

A lack of a paper trail is never a good thing for the plaintiff in attempting to collect a debt. But it’s not exactly great news for the borrower, either. 

Here’s why: First, it’s helpful to understand how a typical chain of custody works for private student loans. (Federal loans, which typically have more forgiving terms, are a separate issue entirely.) Banks and other lenders offer loans to applicants, then turn around and sell bundles of those loans to a depositor. That depositor will offer the loans to an umbrella organization like National Collegiate, which is comprised of 15 private trusts holding the paper on more than 800,000 loans.

This lengthy chain of custody is where the problems begin. Because loans pass through several hands, it’s not always clear who has retained the documentation needed by courts to prove that National Collegiate is the owner of the debt they’re attempting to collect from a borrower in default. As a result, judges tasked with these cases often have no choice but to dismiss them.

That’s led to a series of headlines about $5 billion in “forgiven” debt, which may sound comforting to someone burdened with a towering student loan at exorbitant interest rates. However, as several attorneys speaking to the media have pointed out, it’s not that simple. The cases that have been dismissed were in court because the borrower was already in default. In situations where National Collegiate can prove ownership of the debt, those debtors are facing wage garnishment and a negative impact on their credit score. Simply defaulting on a loan and hoping you happen to be one of the people whose paperwork is incomplete is a dangerous form of wishful thinking.

In the event you had no choice but to default and might benefit from National Collegiate's poor record-keeping, you may not walk away unscathed. According to debt relief attorney Daniel Gamez, a student borrower who sees his or her case dismissed is not facing a clean slate. National Collegiate is fighting so many defaulted loans that they may choose to drop cases based on logistical issues like witness scheduling. Still, even if the lawsuit is dropped, National Collegiate may have the option to refile it at a later date—this time armed with the documentation and resources they need. And any debt, even if it’s been declared unenforceable, may still affect your credit score.

Ultimately, whether or not National Collegiate can produce paperwork doesn’t change the fact that a borrower has a student loan that they’ve agreed to repay. As a creditor, National Collegiate is likely to take every legal measure available in order to collect on that debt. While those amounts may be “forgiven” in court, they’re not likely to be forgotten.

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Exhumation Confirms Gravesite of World's Fair Killer H.H. Holmes
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It’s a sordid true crime tale that has few peers. By 1893, the year of the Chicago World’s Fair, a man named H.H. Holmes had converted a sprawling property into an amusement house of murder, filled with secret passages, gas chambers, ovens, and the bodies of young women who made the mistake of booking a room.

Holmes eventually confessed to over two dozen murders and was sentenced to death by hanging in 1896. His body was tossed into a plot at Holy Cross Cemetery near Philadelphia. But ever since then, there has been speculation that Holmes somehow cheated death and may not have been buried there at all. Those rumors can now officially be laid to rest as researchers have confirmed that the remains buried at Holmes's gravesite do in fact belong to the serial killer, according to the AP.

In May, NBC Chicago 5 reported that two of Holmes’s great-grandchildren had persuaded a Pennsylvania court to allow the inspection of their relative’s body in the hope that DNA testing would settle the issue of whether Holmes faked his own death once and for all.

According to newspaper accounts of the era, Holmes requested that his coffin be laid over cement, then topped off with more of the same. That led to a belief that Holmes had somehow eluded his appointment with the noose by offering bribes to law enforcement and had his tomb sealed to prevent any investigation into the matter. Other accounts, including one from the Chicago Tribune on May 8, 1896, appeared certain it was Holmes (real name: Herman Webster Mudgett) who was hung by his neck.

The definitive answer came with assistance from the University of Pennsylvania's Anthropology Department, which agreed to assist Holmes's descendants. The results of that testing were confirmed earlier this week on the series finale of American Ripper, a History Channel series that documented the exhumation and the scientists' search for the truth.

University of Pennsylvania anthropologist Samantha Cox, who was part of the team, said it was a difficult job. Even though his body had decomposed, because of Holmes's very specific burial requests, his clothes were almost perfectly intact, as was his ever-present mustache.

“It stank,” Cox said. “Once it gets to that point we can’t do anything with it. We can’t test it, can’t get any DNA out of it.” Instead, Cox and her colleagues had to use Holmes's teeth to identify him.

[h/t AP]

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