In 1962, just two days before he was to be deported from the United States to a jail cell in England, John Factor was granted a Presidential Pardon by John F. Kennedy.
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Shortly after Roger Touhy was out of the way, the Chicago mob saw fit to push Factor out of the Stardust casino and place the operation into the steady hands of Moe Dalitz. But when the facts behind the transaction hit the media—that John Factor had sold one of the largest and most prof-itable casinos in the world for the paltry sum of $15 milllion—Attorney General Robert Kennedy ordered an investigation into the sale. The United States Internal Revenue Service along with the State of Nevada Gaming Commission started a joint investigation into the Stardust sale.
The joint force intended to call Factor in for ques¬tioning. However they were beaten to the punch when the Los Angeles Office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) suddenly ordered him in to to show due cause why he shouldn’t be deport-ed to England where he was still a wanted felon. The INS had now decided, based on Jake’s arrest and conviction in 1942 for fraud, that he was an undesirable alien. At seventy years of age, John Factor, who had lived in America since at least 1919, was being ordered out of the country.
The problem was that the INS had never closed its record on Factor since he entered the country through Mexico after the British stock swindle. It was a minor, white lie that kept the record open. Jake had told the INS at the border that he had been born in England while their records said he was born in Poland and the INS could prove it. Unable to show due cause why he shouldn’t be deported, Factor was ordered to surrender to the INS on December 25, 1962, at which point he would be arrested and deported to Poland.
At the time, Poland was a backward, war-torn country, crushed under the iron-fisted rule of the Russian Communist Party. The conditions in Poland caused Factor to fight hard to prove to the govern-ment that he was, in fact, a British citizen. The problem with sending Jake to Britain was that his conviction for stock fraud remained in force. The second he landed at Heathrow, he’d be jailed. Adding to Factor’s woes was the ongoing IRS inves¬tigation into payment of his back taxes for the years 1935 through 1939. The government wanted Factor to explain where he received $479,093.27 in income, and Factor couldn’t remember. If he was deported, the Government would impound his holdings, which Factor estimated to be $13 million, until the matter was settled, which meant that he would leave the country the way he came in, penniless.16
16. If his wife, Rella, went with him, he would have been more fortunate; the INS estimated her wealth to be, in 1960, $40 million.
The only thing that could save Factor from deportation was death or a miracle. The miracle came straight from the White House in the form of a pardon.
Presidential pardons, the last imperial power of the Executive Office, have long been the golden parachute for the mob’s monied elite looking to avoid deportation, obtain a position in the casino business or a labor union, or to help muscle their way into a legitimate enterprise.
Abusing the pardon privilege has had a torrid and often astounding history, even on a state level. In the early 1920s, Illinois’ incredibly corrupt Governor, Len Small, sold an estimated 500 pardons before he was indicted and chased from office. Small’s broker on the pardon deals was a union extortionist named “Umbrella Mike” Boyle, a bigwig in the Electrical Workers Union. Among Boyle’s clients was Spike O’Donnell, who started the great Chicago beer wars of 1926 upon his release.
In the 1970s, when federal prosecutors tried to deport southwestern Pennsylvania mob boss, John S. LaRocca, Governor John Fine pardoned the alleged godfather of corruption along with his capo, Frank Rosa. Later, Governor George Earle par¬doned Mafia bosses Joe Luciano, Luigi Quaranta and alleged Capporeime Nicholas Piccolo. He also pardoned Frank “Binkie” Palermo, allegedly a made member of the Mafia; Felix Bocchiccio, a fight fixer; Leo Kamminski and Louie Barish, suspected mob members.
One of the most outrageous pardons on record belongs to Harry Truman who pardoned “Ice Pick” Danny Motto, a labor thug in the Gambino family. He had been convicted of wartime racketeering and as a result, Danny the Ice Pick wasn’t allowed to hold an “elective” office in New York’s Bakers Union local 350, a 900-member local which he terrorized from 1939 until his death in the 1980s. Motto’s 1947 federal racketeering charge, plus a previous one for murder, gave the Justice Department due cause to deport him. However, at the last moment, after deportation had been ordered, Truman granted a pardon and the deportation was canceled. The man who worked behind the scenes on Motto’s behalf was his lawyer, Herb Itkin. Itkin was a shadowy figure with unspec-ified connections to Naval Intelligence and later to the CIA.
It was Itkin who introduced New York’s mayoral administration (under John Lindsay) to labor mobster and loan shark Anthony “Tony Ducks” Corralo, who was also Danny Motto’s boss. That meeting would eventually lead to the James Marcus scandal of 1966.
Truman also pardoned many felons from the Boss Pendergast political machine. More than half of those pardoned were convicted of interfering with a citizen’s right to vote, or, in other words, were members of Owney Madden’s goon squads.
And now it was John F. Kennedy’s turn. During his brief presidency, Kennedy issued 472 pardons, more than any chief executive before or since. About half of these appear to be questionable, at best.
On November 26, 1962, Attorney General Robert Kennedy did something unusual: he changed the laws that govern presidential pardons. It was unusual because the fourteen sets of rules, all advi-sory in nature, that govern presidential pardons, have seldom been tampered with, since they were written in 1893.
The change that Kennedy made in the rules,17 only sixteen days before John Factor was pardoned, allowed all pardon requests to go directly to the White House and then to the Justice Department, and not the other way around.
17.The rules that govern federal pardons, are just that...rules...not laws. They can be made, broken or ignored by the President. All of these rules are simply procedural in nature.
Pardons are the last imperial power of the presidency, and aside from the few pardons that have outraged Americans, such as Jimmy Hoffa’s highly questionable pardon, the practice goes on, unregulated.
A few days after Kennedy changed the rules for pardons, an alcoholic Chicago hood named Chuckie English, a former 42 Gang member and bodyguard to Sam Giancana, strolled out of the Amory Lounge and leaned up against the FBI observation car parked just across the street from the tavern. The agents reported, “English is bemoaning the fact that the federal government is closing in on the organi-zation and nothing can be done about it.
He made several bad remarks about the Kennedy adminis-tration and pointed out that the Attorney General raising money for the Cuba invaders makes Chicago’s syndicate look like amateurs.”
Business executives and CEOs across the coun¬try were whispering the same thing. Many of the executives were amazed to find themselves talking on the phone with the Attorney General of the United States and were even more amazed at what they heard. Kennedy operated shamelessly. He told businesses he wanted money for the Bay of Pigs pro-gram, and reminded them that they had either pending contracts before the government or crimi-nal cases before the Justice Department. Before they could respond, Kennedy again mentioned the fund to free the Cubans, and hung up. John Factor also knew about the fund to free the Cubans. In fact he threw $25,000 into the project and later explained to a curious press corp that James Roosevelt, the problem child of the clan, had approached him about the donation.18
18. James Roosevelt, then a member of Congress, strongly supported Factor’s bid for a Presidential Pardon as well.
Factor had already given Kennedy $25,000 to help retire his campaign debt and his wife gave several thousand more. Despite the endless rumors to the contrary, Factor denied that he had given $1,000,000 to the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation19 as well.
Miraculously, on December 24, 1962, after Factor’s contribution to the Bay of Pigs fund, President John F. Kennedy signed a presidential pardon for Factor for the mail fraud conviction. As a result the deportation proceeding against him was dismissed. For mob watchers and law enforcement employees, who had put so much faith in Robert Kennedy’s war on crime, Jake the Barber’s presi-dential pardon fell from the skies like a bolt of lightning.
It was never made clear if Kennedy’s actions also killed the investigation of Factor’s dealing in the Stardust but one way or the other, that investigation was closed.
Factor always denied that the mob used pressure with the White House to win him his pardon but in mid-1963, while Jake was trying to gain control of the National Life Insurance Company of America and was buying up the company’s shares at $125 each, he sold 400 shares to Murray Humpreys at $20 each. Factor’s loss was $105 per share. Humpreys then sold the shares back to Factor for $125 a share, making him $42,000 richer in one day.
19. The Foundation refused this writer access to their records and refused to deny or confirm that Factor donated money to its treasury. The reader should note that the Foundation is a privately held trust; it does not have to account for its spending or explain salaries given to its executives, many of whom are, and have been members of the Kennedy family.
As far as the Hump’s unusual and creative stock transaction with Jake (20) the Barber was concerned, the government decided that it was a taxable exchange “for services rendered” and sent capital gains tax bills to both of them.
20. In 1960 an FBI informant, believed to be Jimmy "The Turk" recorded Humpreys and Joey Glimco discussing Roger Touhy’s murder, a month after it happened. Humpreys said, "But this Factor, he’s a dirty cocksucker...here’s a guy I've always gone along with. We go ahead, and we do it, originally, and I wouldn’t...so he says, ok...200,000." Its not clear from the transcripts if Humpreys was referring to a payment from Factor to him of $200,000 to murder Touhy. Humpreys added, "I had to give the cocksucker ten thousand dollars."
A presidential pardon was good but just to be sure, on July 16, 1963, in Los Angeles, John Factor, the poor kid from the ghettos of Chicago, raised a slightly shaking hand and along with a dozen other more recent arrivals took the oath of citizenship of the United States of America. “I’m the luckiest man alive,”he said and he was probably right.
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John Factor died after a long illness at the age of ninety-one in 1984. More than 400 mourners, including California’s Governor Pat Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley attended his wake.
During the last half of his long life Factor contributed millions to charitable causes and made serious efforts to change his life and his reputation, but nothing ever changed.
Once, after giving an enormous donation to a charity in the mid-sixties, the newspapers that cov-ered the event wrote about Factor’s shady past. The report brought on a rare display of public anger when Factor called the reporter on the story and demanded to know “What, my dear, must one do...how much does a man have to do...to bury his past?”
It was proof that despite his incredibly agile mind, John Factor either never really understood or refused to recognize the harm he had inflicted on others during his long life.
His stock swindle in England had fleeced thou-sands of people out of their life savings. His self-managed kidnapping had sent five innocent men to jail for a total of 125 years. The skim from the Stardust he helped to shelter produced an estimated $2,000,000 a year, net income, for each of the Chicago bosses who held points in the resort casino.
A better question would have been, “How much should a man pay before he is allowed to bury his past?”