Died :December 22, 1931, Boston
Address: Gustin Street, South Boston
Association: Gustin Gang
This gang was the preliminary gang of the Winter Hill Gang of South Boston and Somerville, Massachusetts.Three Irish American brothers: Frank, Steve and James Wallace from the South Boston neighborhood known as Southie first came to the attention of law enforcement agents about 1910, when they began hijacking and looting delivery trucks while they were stopped at intersections.Originally known as the “Tailboard Thieves,” the brothers, led by Frank, moved from hijackings to armed robbery and later, with the advent of Prohibition, into bootlegging.By the time the Roaring Twenties arrived, the trio had amassed a brisk business. Besides high jacking and bootlegging the gang was indicted for a slew of other criminal charges including. larceny, assault and battery and breaking andentering.With older brother Steve Wallace, a former boxer, serving as his enforcer, Frank and his crew now known as the Gustin Gang as a symbol of the Street they hung out at. Soon became known as the most powerful and well organized criminal enterprises in Prohibition-era Boston.
As the brothers and their gang flashed fake badges, they quickly took over much of South Boston’s thriving booze business by impersonating Prohibition Federal agents and confiscating beer shipments from rival bootleggers.They would then sell the confiscated beer to speakeasies, delivering it to customers themselves through out New England.
Frank Wallace’s reputation as a street tough enhanced his business and solidified it’s profits.Frank was charged with robbery and murder in Michigan following a $14,000 heist at the Detroit News that left one person dead. he was acquitted in that case and returned to Boston, where, given Frank’s political connections, some suspect he may have gotten away with more than just selling a few cases of then illegal home brew.In fact, despite their criminal activities, all three brothers escaped with few convictions on their criminal records and even less jail time.Whether it was because of their connections with Politicians and Police whom they paid off or seemed to be blessed with extreme luck.
The tipping point:
Then, three days before Christmas 1931, the gang’s luck ran out. Touched by a wintry chill blowing in off the cold Atlantic, December 21, 1931, marked a watershed in Boston mob history.By the end of that day, the Gustin Gang no longer ruled the city’s streets.The dreaded Italian Mafia which had established foothold in the rackets.The tipping point came during a meeting between Frank Wallace and Italian mobster Joseph Lombardo.The two groups had been feuding for about a week, police would later say, after the Gustin Gang hijacked a truck filled with $50,000 in liquor and hid it in the Nantucket summer home of a Harvard Medical School doctor.Wallace expected a showdown when he walked into the Testa Building in Boston’s Little Italy section of the North End that chilly winter day.Accompanied by ruthless enforcers Barney “Dodo” Walsh and Timothy Coffey, an ex-pro boxer and street brawler, the Gustin boss showed up at Lombardo’s C&F Importing Company at 317 Hanover Street with guns loaded. They were ready for trouble.As war veterans packed Christmas baskets for the poor on the floor above, the three Gustin gangsters knocked on the door to Lombardo’s thirds-floor office when a blaze of gunshots rang out from every direction imaginable.
In the exchange of bullets rapid fire, Wallace and Walsh were killed instantly Sicilian Style.Coffey ran down the hall and hid in an attorney’s office until the police arrived.Seven guns were later found at the scene of the murders, but no one was ever charged. The prime suspects were of course Lombardo Inc.The ambush was later to become among the most infamous mob hits in Boston’s crime history, as it became a turning point of a very lucrative bootlegging business for the Italian Mafia in Boston and eventually New England. With Wallace no out of the way, Lombardo’s status in the Mafia got a Huge boost. It also allowed the Italians to establish themselves as the single dominant criminal organization in New England for more than 50 years.