Hell's Kitchen Irish Mob
'The Westies'


The Gophers (early 1900s-Prohibition)- The Gophers were the most powerful of the early Hell's Kitchen gangs. Mostly made up of Irish toughs from the West Side. They were not really an organized crime group because not many lucrative rackets were open to them. Their main specialties were burglarizing shops and pool halls and raiding the docks and the Hudson River Railroad. At their peak in 1907, there was believed to be around some 500 members. Occasionally the Gophers would lend their services to various political candidates. Most of their time was spent fighting other gangs around the area. There was no real boss of the Gophers, but there were many gang members who stuck out, such as Monk Eastman, Happy Jack Mullraney and One Lung Curran.

Owney "The Killer" Madden (1930s)- Owney Madden was a first of his kind in Hell's Kitchen. He dressed in expensive suits and was well-known in New York's high society. He controlled bootleg liquor, nightclubs, taxicabs, laundries, and cloak and cigarette concessions. He also controlled interest in the very popular Cotton Club in Harlem and a piece of heavyweight boxing champion Primo Carnera. In 1931, he was made a representative of the Irish Mob in New York by Lucky Luciano. It was not long before someone from HK challenged his reign. Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll was the greatest threat to Madden. Madden got him on February 8, 1932. Coll was shot to death. Madden was imprisoned in 1933 for 12 months and after his release he retired to Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Edward J. "Eddie" McGrath (1940s-1959)- Went up the ranks of the Irish mob as a bootlegger under Madden. McGrath has ties to some very influential politicians and was involved in the union. He had been appointed an ILA "organizer at large" by the union's president, Joseph P. Ryan. His right-hand men were his brother-in-law, John "Cockeye" Dunn and Andrew "Squint" Sheridan. He controlled the lucrative numbers game throughout the port of New York. In 1948 McGrath started losing much of his profit with the docks. With the life sentence give to Squint Sheridan and the execution of Cockeye Dunn, Edward J. McGrath decided it was time to retire. In 1959 he bought a one-way ticket to Florida.

Mickey Spillane (1959-1979)- Mickey Spillane inherited the rackets that McGrath left behind. Spillane also inherited an alliance with the city's La Cosa Nostra that dated back to Owney Madden. By 1960, LCN had overpowered the Irish mobs everywhere, including Hell's Kitchen. Spillane was allowed to operate within his neighborhood but not without the Italians getting a cut of the profit. Spillane didn't like the Italians muscling in on his territory so he would often kidnap LCN figures and hold them for ransom. He controlled the numbers racket in HK. He also owned most of the gambling dens in HK and about a half-dozen night clubs. He was also a man of influence in his community. In 1966, a tough young Irish punk challenged Mickey for control of HK. His name was Jimmy Coonan. Killings and kidnappings were to follow. It ended when Coonan was sent to prison for murder until 1970. Spillane was still boss when Coonan was released. War didn't break out but by 1977 Spillane was a shadow of his former self. With the death of top enforcers, Tom Devaney (July 20, 1976), Eddie Cummiskey (August 20, 1976) and Tom "The Greek" Kapatos (January 27, 1977), Mickey had lost all the power he had. "Fat Tony" Salerno had ordered the hits because he wanted the soon-to-be built Jacob Javits Convention Center, which was in Mickey's neighborhood. Spillane's rackets were also being eaten up by Jimmy Coonan's new breed of Irish mobsters. Mickey Spillane was killed May 13, 1977. It was said Roy DeMeo's crew took the job and Coonan knew nothing about it. Jimmy Coonan would be the next ruler of Hell's Kitchen.

Jimmy Coonan (1977-1986)- Jimmy Coonan led the most violent Irish gang Hell's Kitchen and New York has ever seen. After being released from jail in 1970, he started building up his own Irish gang so he could take over the rackets from Mickey Spillane. His gang soon outgrew the old Irish mob led by Spillane. Coonan's gang consisted of such killers as Richie Ryan (the uncontrollable kid who was a cocaine addict and alcoholic), Francis "Mickey" Featherstone (Jimmy's right hand man), JImmy McElroy, Billy Beattie, Eddie Coonan, Jackie Coonan, Kevin Kelley, and Kenny Shannon. Unlike the Spillane gang, which had a no-drug law, the Westies under Coonan were mostly cocaine addicts and alcoholics. In 1978, Paul Castellano, boss of the Gambino's, wanted a sit-down with Coonan and they made an alliance with each other. Jimmy ordered the killing of mob associate and one of the most successful loansharks in New York City, Ruby Stein. Stein was a very powerful mand and a friend of Fat Tony Salerno. It was this murder where Coonan used the method of chopping up his victims and keeping the hands for fingerprints. Coonan also tried many times to kill Salerno. Several times Coonan, Featherstone, Ryan and McElroy went out looking for Salerno; they never spotted him. Coonan also tried to link up with an Irish gang in Boston run by his friend he met in Sing Sing, Pete Wilson. They met numerous times in NY and then flew to Boston to carry out a heist with Wilson and his boys. Together they robbed a pharmeceutical warehouse. But after that they never got back together because of the events happening in HK. From 1970-1986 there were some 30 unsolved homicides. In 1979 Featherstone and Coonan were indicted for the murder of Whitney Whitehead but were found not guilty. In 1980 Coonan and Featherstone were sentenced to four years for gun possession and counterfeiting. During the 80s the Westies' fortune grew. Narcotics became the most profitabe racket while Jimmy was gone. Sports betting was another growing racket. Pressure was building up on Coonan when his right hand man, Mickey Featherstone, flipped so Jimmy decided it was time to disappear from HK. He invested in Marine construction. In 1986, Coonan was arrested and this ended his reign of HK. Coonan was convicted in 1988 under RICO and received 75 years. In his absence Kevin Kelley took over.

Kevin Kelley (1986-1988)- With the absence of Coonan, HK rackets were up for grabs. Kevin Kelley, along with his right hand man Kenny Shannon, grabbed what they could take. They also started operating outside the West Side, pushing cocaine in Manhattan's Upper East Side. With evidence building up, Kelly and Shannon went on the run. In August of 1988, after the sentencing of Coonan and other gang members, Kevin Kelley and Kenny Shannon turned themselves in. The FBI identified the two men as the last ruling structure of the Westies. They were wrong, Bosco "The Yugo" Rondonvich took over what was left of the HK rackets.

Bosco "The Yugo" Rondonvich (1988-present)- Bosco Rondonvich, a Yugoslavian, is the supposed leader of HK. He started out as a low-level associate of Jimmy Coonan, but with the conviction of most of the Westies, he rose to the top. Bosco was connected with Marine Construction and had ties to John Gotti. In 1992, Bosco was indicted for labor racketeering and jury tampering. Bosco fled the US and was believed to be hiding out in the former Yugoslavia.

Other Famous Hell's Kitchen Gangsters-

Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll- Wasn't originally from HK but brought there at an early age to be raised by his sister. He started working for Dutch Schultz early on. His mean temper and killer instinct made him an important enforcer in the Schultz gang. At age 19, he killed a harmless bartender for not buying Schultz's beer. He was acquited. It was not long before Coll started getting on Schultz's bad side. He started robbing places without permission. When Schultz told him to lay low for awhile, Coll demanded that he and Schultz become equal partners. When Schultz refused, Coll started up his own gang. He started raiding Schultz's bootlegging empire and did the same to Owney Madden. His downfall started on July 28, 1931. Joey Rao, Schultz's top man in Harlem, was standing outside the Helmar Social Club along with his two bodyguards and a crowd of kids. A speeding car came by firing shots everywhere. When all was done, a five year old kid lay dead and four were wounded. Rao and his bodyguards were not injured. Everyone knew Coll was behind the shooting and started calling him baby killer. On the night of February 8, 1932, Coll was talking on the phone when a man walked in with a Thompson sub-machine gun and pumped him full of lead. Coll died in a pool of his own blood. It was said that Owney Madden set him up.

Eddie Cummiskey- Was an old time gangster compared to Jimmy Coonan. He was actually the first to show Coonan the way of chopping up his victims and dumping them into a river. He was first employed by Mickey Spillane and was on his side during the Spillane/Coonan wars of the mid-60s. But when Coonan got out of jail he became good friends with him. During the 1970s he was good friends with both Spillane and Coonan. On August 20, 1978 Eddie Cummiskey was drinking at the Sunbrite bar when a man walked in and shot him in the head at point blank range. The deed was done by Joe "Mad Dog" Sullivan and ordered by Tony Salerno.

Francis "Mickey" Featherstone- Was the right hand man of Jimmy Coonan. Joined the Army at the age of 17. When he got back from Viet Name in 1970, he was involved in a few murders but got off due to insanity and declared unfit to stand trial. He was 5'8", 160 lbs and fearless, never backing down from a fight. Coonan soon introduced him to his organization. He was involved in the killing of mob associate Ruby Stein. In 1979, Featherstone was indicted for the murder of Whitney Whitehead. He was found innocent. He did get six years for gun possession and counterfeiting. When Mickey got out he was angered that Coonan had not taken care of his family like he promised. Featherstone also began to dislike how Coonan kissed up to the Italians. He decided it was time to go straight. He turned down an offer from Coonan to murder some guys, which angered Coonan. The breaking point between Featherstone and Coonan started when Coonan refused to lend Featherstone $40,000. Featherstone soon put together his own gang of HK thugs to take out Coonan and his associates. His two top men for the conspiracy were Billy Beattie, whom Coonan had a contract on, and Jimmy McElroy. They went out a couple of times trying to find him but were unsuccessful. The FBI got Mickey to flip in 1986. He testified against Coonan and helped convict him. He later testified against John Gotti and other Italian gangsters. Featherstone is still alive in WPP.

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