Big-time crime
in a small city

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In the first two decades of the 20th century, St. Paul, Minnesota was run by a mob of Irish cops, thugs, saloonkeepers, gamblers, pimps and politicians. The godfathers of this mob were the O'Connor brothers, Richard, a politician, and John, the police chief.

In essence, the O'Connor brothers ran a protection racket. In return for a payoff, they guaranteed that criminals would not be arrested, so long as they committed their crimes outside St. Paul.

This so-called O'Connor system became fabulously profitable when Prohibition took effect in 1920. St. Paul was a hard-drinking German-Irish town. It was also a transportation hub, and for the next 13 years, the Irish mob morphed into a network of bootleggers, whose profits supported a vast system of brewers and distillers, barkeeps, security guards, truck drivers, speakeasy owners and political fixers. The bribery reached beyond the police and into the political system, including the county sheriff's office, some prosecutors, elected officials and even judges.

During the 1920s, bootlegger Leon Gleckman gradually consolidated power and became the shadow mayor of St. Paul. However, by the early 1930s he was in serious trouble with the IRS. The agency had just sent Al Capone to prison for not paying taxes, and now came after Gleckman on the same charges.

Gleckman nevertheless ran the city from behind the scenes. The mayor allowed Gleckman's men on the City Council to make key appointments. The most important of these was naming Tom Brown police chief.

Brown was Gleckman's ally and also had the backing of Adolph Bremer, owner of Schmidt's Brewery, which was producing beer illegally in St. Paul. Both Gleckman and Bremer knew that Chief Tom Brown would protect their interests.

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