Charlie “The Bug” Workman was the strong and silent type, who killed 20 people by Louie “Lepke” Buchalter’s Murder Incorporated. But Workman’s fame was being the man who shot Dutch Schultz to death.
Charles Workman was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1908, the second of six children to Samuel and Anna Workman. Workman dropped out of school in the ninth grade and began wandering the streets of the Lower East Side looking for trouble. When he was 18 years old, Workman was first arrested for stealing a $ 12 bundle of cotton yarn from a truck parked on Broadway. As it was his first offense, Workman was paroled. The following year, Workman was arrested for shooting a man behind the ear about who-owed-who $ 20. At the time, Workman’s reputation on the streets was such that the man he shot refused to testify in his against, and even said that he could not honestly identify Workman as the assailant. Annoyed, the police reviewed his file and decided that Workman had violated his probation for stealing cotton. As a result, Workman was sent to the New York State Reformatory. For the next several years, Workman was in and out of jail for parole violations such as associating with “questionable characters” and not getting a job.
In 1926, Workman got hooked as a freelance legbreaker, or idiot, for Lepke’s union strike-breaking activities. Workman did such a good job that Lepke put him on his permanent payroll of $ 125 a week, as an assassin for Lepke’s Murder Incorporated. Lepke liked Workman’s calm demeanor, and after Workman gave him some exceptional “hits”, Lepke nicknamed him “The Bug” because a person had to be insane to kill with the calm detachment that Workman displayed. when he performed his horrible duties. Workman’s other nickname, “handsome Charlie,” was given to him by members of the opposite sex.
Over the next several years, Workman was in and out of trouble with the law. In 1932, he was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. In 1933, he was arrested again for misleading an off-duty police officer after a small traffic dispute. Meanwhile, his specialty was killing who Lepke said needed to be killed. After a hit was struck, Workman enjoyed the added benefit of “sweeping the pockets” of his victims. Most of the time, Workman earned an extra $ 1,000 for his efforts, and once he even found a $ 10,000 voucher in the trouser pocket of some poor idiot he had just beaten up.
In 1935, orders came from above that the maniacal gangster Dutch Schultz had to go. Lepke decided that Workman was the right man for the job. On October 23, 1935, Lepke sent Workman and Mendy Weiss, Lepke’s second in charge, to the Palace Chophouse in Newark, New Jersey, in a car driven by a man known as “Piggy.” While Weiss was near the bar, Workman went into the men’s room to make sure there were no witnesses. Standing in the men’s room was a scared Dutch Schultz. Workman hit Schultz once in the torso, piercing his stomach, large intestine, bile and liver. Workman then came out of the bathroom, and he and Weiss went into the back room of the restaurant, where three of Schultz’s henchmen, Lulu Rosencrantz, Abe Landau, and Abbadabba Berman, were enjoying their last dinner together. Weiss and Workmen kept firing until their guns were empty and their quarry died on the ground.
Weiss headed for the front door, but Workman turned and headed for the bathroom, expecting to find a large bundle of cash in Schultz’s pockets. Workman’s first surprise was when he couldn’t find a penny in Schultz’s possession. The second surprise was when he went out into the street expecting to find Weiss and Piggy in a waiting car and found nothing except the sound of police sirens rushing to the scene.
Workman ran into a swamp behind the chophouse, where he threw off his bloodstained coat and started walking in the direction of Manhattan, his shoes and pants wet and smoke coming from his ears, thinking he would be left for dead later. a major success. Workman found a set of train tracks and followed them through the night. The tracks led to a tunnel under the Hudson River, and Workman emerged at dawn in midtown Manhattan. He went to a Lower East Side coffee shop, favored by thugs like himself, and was mortified when he found out that the Scultz massacre was all over the newspapers, and on the street Weiss was said to be the only shooter.
Workman went to a friend’s house in Chelsea to sleep for a few hours, and when he woke up, he called Lepke and told him that he wanted to kill Weiss, for getting rid of him after the Scultz hit. Lepke requested a meeting a few days later at Weiss’s home at 400 Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn. Workman told his story first. When it was Weiss’s turn to defend himself, he said: “I say that hitting the Dutchman was a mob business. And I stayed until the hitting the Dutchman was over. But then the bug went back to the bathroom to rob the Dutchman. I affirm that it was no longer a matter of the mafia. It was a personal matter. “
Lepke ruled in Weiss’s favor, telling Workman that if he was smart, he would drop the matter entirely and never bring it up again, with the excuse that he might hit it himself. Lepke sent Workman to Miami to cool down, and there Workman met Lucky Luciano, who was part of a nine-man national crime syndicate, along with Lepke. Workman needs to borrow some cash to keep a low profile, and when he started to mention Weiss’s actions the night of the Schultz coup, Luciano cut him off saying, “Here’s the money. Now stop talking about that other thing. “.
In 1940, Workman was arrested in Brighton Beach for a “loitering” trade. Workman’s pinch was orchestrated by Special Counsel Thomas E. Dewey, who was tasked with arresting, trying, convicting and executing every member of Murder Incorporated that he could get his hands on. By this time, Murder Incorporated killer Abe “Kid Twist” Reles had already turned into a rat and told Dewey that Workman had done Schultz’s work. This was confirmed by Allie Tannenbaum, perhaps Workman’s closest friend in the mob, who had also become a canary.
In 1941, Workman was tried for the murder of Scultz. During the trial, when Workman realized that he had little chance of being acquitted, he changed his plea to “no defense.” Judge Daniel Brennan accepted the statement and sentenced Workman to life in prison.
As Workman was led out of the courtroom, the guards let him talk to his brother Abe. Workman told Abe, “Whatever you do, live honestly. If you make 20 cents a day, have them do it for you. If you can’t earn an honest living, get the government to support you. Stay away from gangs and no “Be a wise guy. Take care of mom and dad and watch ‘Itchy’ (his little brother). He needs to be watched. “
Workman was sent to Trenton State Prison. In 1942, Workman offered his services to the United States Navy to undertake a suicide mission to attack Japan and avenge Pearl Harbor. Your request was denied. In 1952, Workman was transferred to Rahway State Prison Farm and worked there in forced labor until he was paroled in 1964, after nearly 23 years in prison. After his release, Workman went direct and got a job as a salesman at the Garment Center, which was once ruled by his boss Lepke.