Born on the 21st of August 1893, George ‘Bugs’ Moran was a famous American mobster, bootlegger and a prominent figure in the North Side Gang that was popular in the Prohibition-era. Born Adelard Cunin, he rose in the mafia ranks to one of the most powerful and feared gangsters in Chicago. He used fear and assassinations (drive-by Shootings) to assert his authority in the dreaded American mob world. Although he was a common gangster, his breakthrough came in during the famous American Prohibition era where he majored in bootlegging. He was actively involved in the distribution and selling of banned alcoholic drinks and beverages. He lived a gangster life often evading the authorities as well as fighting his rivals, the South Side Gang (The Chicago Outfit) He passed on in February 25, 1957 while serving a 10 year sentence at the Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary.
Moran was born to French immigrants Jules and Marie Diana Gobeil Cuninin Minnesota and attended Creighton School. His father was a strict man who often fell out with him but his deeply religious mother was always on his side. It is while at Creighton that Moran ventured into crime by joining local juvenile gangs that were known for muggings, burglary and petty theft. His first encounter with the authorities was when he was caught in a burglary incident at a local store. He was sent to the juvenile correctional facility where he went 3 more times for similar crimes just before 21.
Instead of changing for better, he became a hardcore criminal and escaped to Chicago where he was involved in more robberies, horse stealing rackets and even the death of a police officer. By this time, he was a feared gangster in Chicago together with his new accomplices, Charles “the Ox” Reise, Hymie Weiss, Dean O’Banion and Vincent Drucci.
Just like you’d expect from a mobster, he married twice. His first wife Evelyn Herrell Moran left him because of his criminal lifestyle. He later married Lucille Logan Bilezikdijan Moran with whom they had a son called John George Moran.
Taking Advantage of Prohibition
It is after the enactment of prohibition that Moran and his gang saw a great potential in bootlegging. Smuggling, distributing and selling alcohol was much more viable than robberies. Of course they would sell their alcohol as a scarce commodity and at very high prices. It wasn’t long before they knew the South Side Gang was in business too. Immediately, squabbles begun but they managed to settle them amicably as they were also being targeted by the authorities so laying low was important for both gangs. At that time, the Chicago Outfit was headed by Johnny Torrio, a humble guy who loved peace but sooner than later, he was replaced by the aggressive Alphonse Gabriel aka “Al” Capone who was driven by the desire to control the trade.
The North and South Gangs Feud
Even though most of the feuds between the gangs were managed amicably, the North Side Gang didn’t take lightly the murder of one of their own, Dean O’Banion. It is alleged that O’Banion was killed in retaliation for setting up one of Torrio’s breweries to the police. Moran didn’t take this lightly and being a gangster, he was ready to declare war on the Chicago Outfit. Moran and Weiss then made an attempt on Torrio’s life and this was a clear statement, the cold war that was there was now a real mafia war. Unfortunately, Weiss was murdered before taking out Torrio. Moran was now the head of the North Side Gang.
Moran Breaks Bad
After the unfortunate demise of Weiss, Moran waged a hard war on Capone. He killed prominent figures of the Chicago Outfit, Capone’s closest friends, ambushed his alcohol supplies and even destroyed his nightclubs and businesses. Capone was now on the receiving end. He then went for the kill and planned an attack on Capone’s inner circle. Capone seemed prepared and fought back resulting to the infamous ”The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre”
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
After Moran had ripped of almost half of his empire, Capone knew it was the time to end all this so he tricked Moran in to a lucrative whiskey deal through an anonymous phone call. The shipment was to arrive from Detroit at 10:30 and Moran being a businessman, he fell to the lie that it would be a great bargain. Capone had his men camouflage in a police car and uniform and when they struck at the warehouse, Moran’s men thought it was an ordinary raid. Fortunately for him, he saw the car earlier and fled. His men were asked to face the wall and they obliged before being shot repeatedly. Another innocent civilian who was Moran’s lookalike was also shot and Capone knew he had succeeded.
Read More about the Valentine’s Day Massacre here
After the the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Moran laid low and tried to consolidate his empire. After prohibition, the mafia’s business was on its knees. The North Side Gang lost its influence and Moran had to go back to his earlier life of normal crimes like robbery, extortion and fraud.
Moran’s escapades came to an end in April 30, 1939 when he was arrested for conspiring to make $62,000 worth of American Express checks. He was freed on bond and escaped but was later captured in December 21, 1943. By mid 1940s, he was a broke man and had to involve himself in robberies which got him a 20 year jail term after an unsuccessful robbery in Dayton, Ohio. After serving the sentence, he was once again tried for robbery and sentenced to 10 more years in 1957.
He passed on in February 25, 1957 at the age of 63, just months in to the second sentence at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. It is believed that he died from lung cancer complications. Even though he was once a filthy rich mafia boss, he died a poor man with just over $100 under his name.