Son Of Mob Financial Wizard Left Destitute
MIAMI (AP) _ The paralyzed son of underworld financial wizard Meyer Lansky sits destitute in a county convalescent home, despite a deathbed promise by his father that he would be cared for.
″I’m sure my father would be turning over in his grave,″ Bernard ″Buddy″ Lansky, 59, said last week.
In 1982, the year before Meyer Lansky died, Forbes magazine called him one of the richest men in America, estimating his wealth at $100 million. Other estimates put it at $300 million.
Whatever Lansky’s assets, his son was not privy to them. ″Dad’s dealings were all in cash. The only checks he ever wrote were for rent.
″Where did the money go? That’s what everybody wants to know.″
Only a few weeks ago, Buddy Lansky’s stepmother, Thelmy ″Teddy″ Schwartz Lansky, 81, told CBS-TV’s ″60 Minutes″ that stories of her husband’s $300 million fortune were ″preposterous and ridiculous.″
She visits her stepson once a week at the Dade County convalescent home where he shares an austere room with an elderly man who doesn’t talk. Although Lansky hasn’t taken a step in seven years, his black leather shoes are crumpled and torn.
″I never asked my stepmother for help,″ Lansky said last week. ″I felt if she wanted to do something, she would offer. It’s not like she doesn’t know the circumstances.″
For years, Meyer Lansky spoke hardly at all about his son’s cerebral palsy, an incurable disease caused by brain damage at birth.
Buddy knew little of his father, the undisputed patriarch of organized crime, until he was 19 and saw his father’s picture on the front page of The New York Sun.
The disease crippled Buddy Lansky gradually over the years, forcing him to quit a job as a switchboard operator at a motel in Sunny Isles, just north of Miami Beach.
Surgeons fused his vertebrae and he wore a metal brace attached to his forehead, able to move only his eyes for 10 weeks. In a wheelchair, he saw his father for the last time at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach a week before Lansky died of cancer at age 80 on Jan. 15, 1983.
″He told me I would be taken care of,″ Buddy Lansky said.
Authorities believe that Lansky pioneered organized crime’s system of financial manipulation and concealment.
But if Lansky had hidden millions in banks in Switzerland, a will filed in Dade County gave no clue. It noted only an estate in excess of $110,000.
In a trust administered in the courtroom of Judge Francis Christie, Lansky left his son 65 percent of the trust’s income to provide for ″medical care, comfortable maintenance and welfare.″
Buddy Lansky said he never found out how much was in the trust or where his money was coming from - except for some royalties from oil and gas leases in Michigan and Ohio that went dry.
His mother, Anne Citron, died in 1984. In 1985, he found out there wasn’t enough money to pay his physical therapist, who was owed $5,240.
Lansky also discovered that he was three months behind in payments to the nursing home in North Miami, owing nearly $5,000.
Attorneys who had handled the trust declined comment, citing client confidentiality.
As Buddy Lansky’s income dropped from $15,000 in 1985 to $5,300 in 1988, a few of his father’s old friends stepped in to help.
One was Yiddy Bloom, former owner of the Hawaiian Isle motel. According to records, Bloom paid the nursing home a total of $47,900 over a period of three years.
But late last year, the money stopped and on Feb. 27 Buddy Lansky had to move out. He moved to less expensive home, which accepts Dade County patients. The county pays $50 a day for his care.
His only income is $564 a month from Social Security, which goes directly to the nursing home.
″You can pick your friends,″ Lansky said, ″but you can’t pick your relatives.″