By 1936, Meyer Lansky (born Meyer Suchowljansky in Poland in 1902 and immigrating to the US as a child) had added a very successful gambling operation In Cuba to those in New Orleans and Miami. The Hotel Nacional Casino and the gaming tables at the Jockey Club in Marianao’s Oriental Park and at the Havana Racetrack were all run by Cosa Nostra associates and yielded huge profits for the Mafia families. Meyer Lansky imported skilled dealers and managers to make sure luck always favoured the house.
Charlie “Lucky” Luciano (Salvatore Lucania) was an Italian mobster born in Sicily and Lansky’s partner, but on June 18, 1936 Luciano, 38, was sent to prison in Dannemora (New York) known to criminals as “Siberia”, after being convicted of 62 of 90 counts of trafficking and sentenced to between 30 and 50 years behind bars. His confinement, however, did not deter him from continuing to direct and supervise criminal activities from his cell, adding millions to his legacy and deciding who should live and who should die.
On January 3, 1943 “Lucky’s” luck returned when New York State Governor Thomas E. Dewey granted him pardon for alleged services rendered to the Allies in the landing in Sicily during World War II, with the condition that he be deported and never allowed back into the U.S.
After ten years in prison, Luciano embarked on the USS Laura Keane bound for Italy on February 10, 1946. Before leaving, Lucky confided to Lansky he had connections to get visas for Cuba, Mexico and some South American countries and he would soon be back. Better yet, he said: If there are problems I will become a Cuban citizen and take control from there.