Mobsters in America – Charlie "The bug" Workman – The Man Who Killed Dutch Schultz
Charlie “The Bug” Workman was the strong, silent type, who killed up to 20 people for Louie “Lepke” Buchalter’s Murder Incorporated. But Workman’s claim to 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 born 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 parked truck on Broadway. Since it was his first offense, Workman was released on simple probation. The following year, Workman was arrested for shooting a man behind the ear for whom he owed whom $20. At the time, Workman’s reputation on the streets was such that the man he shot refused to testify against him and even said that he could not identify Workman as the shooter. Upset, the cops pulled the file on him and decided that Workman had violated his probation for stealing cotton. As a result, Workman was sent to New York State Juvie. Over the next several years, Workman was in and out of prison for probation violations such as associating with “questionable characters” and failing to get a job.
In 1926, Workman signed on as an independent leg-breaker, or schlammer, for the strike-breaking activities of Lepke’s union. Workman did such a good job that Lepke put him on his permanent payroll at $125 a week, as a killer for Lepke’s Murder Incorporated. Lepke liked Workman’s calm demeanor, and after Workman performed some exceptional “hits” for Lepke, Lepke gave him the nickname “The Bug”, because a person had to be crazy to kill with the calm detachment that Workman displayed when performing his gruesome duties. Workman’s other nickname, “Handsome Charlie”, was given to him by members of the opposite sex.
Over the next few years, Workman ran into trouble with the law. In 1932, he was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. In 1933, he was arrested again for knocking down an off-duty police officer after a minor traffic fight. Meanwhile, his specialty was killing whoever Lepke said he needed to be killed. After he was hit, Workman enjoyed the added benefit of “picking the pockets” of his victims. Most of the time, Workman earned an extra thousand dollars for his efforts, and once he even found a ten thousand dollar bonus in the pants pocket of some poor fool he had just beaten up.
In 1935, orders came from above that maniacal gangster Dutch Schultz had to go. Lepke decided that Workman was the man for the job. On October 23, 1935, Lepke sent Workman and Lepke’s second-in-charge, Mendy Weiss, 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 shocked Dutch Schultz. Workman pinned Schultz once in the torso, piercing his stomach, large intestine, gallbladder, and liver. Workman then left the bathroom, and he and Weiss entered 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 dead on the ground.
Weiss headed for the front door, but Workman turned and went back into the bathroom, expecting to find a large wad of cash in Schultz’s pockets. The first surprise for Workman was when he found not a penny in Schultz’s possession. The second shock was when he came out expecting to find Weiss and Piggy in a getaway car waiting, and he found nothing except the sound of police sirens rushing to the scene.
Workman ran into a swamp behind the chophouse, where he tossed off his blood-stained coat and started walking toward Manhattan, his shoes and pants wet and smoke billowing from his ears, at the thought of being left for dead. after. a major hit. Workman found a set of railroad tracks and followed them all night. The tracks led to a tunnel that ran under the Hudson River, and Workman emerged at dawn in midtown Manhattan. He went to a coffee shop on the Lower East Side, frequented by thugs like himself, and was mortified to discover that the Scultz murder was all over the papers and word on the street was that Weiss was the lone 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 abandoning him after the Scultz hit. Lepke called a sit-in a few days later at Weiss’s home at 400 Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn. Workman told the story of him first. When it was Weiss’s turn to defend himself, he said, “I claim that hitting the Dutchman was a mob business. And I stayed until it was over. But then Bug went back into the bathroom to hit the Dutchman. Mafia business. It was a personal business.”
Lepke ruled in favor of Weiss, telling Workman that if he was smart, he would drop the matter altogether and never bring it up again, under threat of perhaps getting beaten up. Lepke takes Workman to Miami to freshen up, 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 blend in, and when he started bringing up Weiss’s actions the night of the Schultz hit, 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 “wandering” change. Workman’s pinch was orchestrated by special prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey, who was tasked with arresting, trying, convicting, and executing every member of Murder Incorporated he could get his hands on. By this time, Murder Incorporated killer Abe “Kid Twist” Reles had already turned himself into a rat and told Dewey that Workman had done Schultz’s job. This was confirmed by Allie Tannenbaum, perhaps Workman’s closest friend in the mob, who had also gone 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 plea and sentenced Workman to life in prison.
As Workman was led from the courtroom, guards allowed him to speak with his brother Abe. Workman told Abe, “Whatever you do, live honestly. If you make 20 cents a day, do it for yourself. If you can’t make an honest living, get the government to support you. Stay away from gangs and don’t do it.” “. Be a smart guy. Take care of mom and dad and watch ‘Itchy’ (his little brother). You need to be seen.”
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. His request was denied. In 1952, Workman was transferred to the Rahway State Prison Farm and worked there at hard labor until he was paroled in 1964 after nearly 23 years in prison. After his release, Workman straightened out and got a job as a salesman at the Garment Center, which was once run by his boss Lepke.