New York City, the Bronx, 1932. Two speakeasy owners by the names Tony Marino and Joe “Red” Murphy were looking to take in some extra cash. They came up with a scheme to put insurance policies out on vagrants, mostly elderly alcoholics, and then cash in on them after the policy holders’ inevitable and likely-imminent death. They had run their fraud successfully a handful of times and were confident they could do it again. That is, until they met Michael Malloy.
Michael Malloy was a sixty-year-old, down-on-his-luck alcoholic living on the streets without a penny to his name. In his younger days, he was a tough-as-nails fire fighter, but was now all alone in the world with no family to speak of, Marino and Murphy secretly took out three policies on Malloy totaling $3,500 ($60,000 today). In order to keep track of Malloy and ensure that he met with an untimely and accidental death, the pair took him in and offered him a cot in the back and all the booze he could drink provided that he sweep up the bar at the end of the night.
Weeks passed and Malloy had yet to drink himself to death. In fact his new sense of purpose had actually given him something to live for, improving his health. Impatient, Marino and Murphy decided to speed up the process by giving Malloy a drink laced with antifreeze. Malloy enjoyed this tasty new beverage so much that he threw back quite a few before going off to bed. The next morning Marino and Murphy arrived at work to find Malloy still alive and sweeping the floor. Frustrated, they began fixing Malloy all sorts of strange concoctions, from whiskey and wood alcohol to sandwiches laced with rotten clams and metal shavings. However, nothing would kill the man. One cold January, when temperatures were hitting negative 10 degrees, the pair got Malloy pass-out-drunk. They took his unconscious body to the park where they stripped him out of his shirt and poured water over him. The next morning, he came back shirtless and ready to work.
Finally, in frustration, Marino and Murphy enlisted the help of a cab driver named Hershy Green and his friend “Tough Tony” Bastone. With him passed out drunk once again, Bastone pulled Malloy out into the street. He held the man upright while Green drove towards him in his cab. Just before impact, Bastone jumped out of the way, and Green ran him over. They left his body in the road believing him to be dead. Three weeks passed with no news of Malloy’s death. Then one day Malloy walked through the door after being discharged from the hospital for a cracked skull and a broken shoulder. Malloy chalked it up as an occupational hazard of drinking.
At their wits end, Marino and Murphy hired Daniel Kreisberg to take Malloy back to a rented hotel room and give him as much gin and wood alcohol as Malloy could handle. Kreisberg did just that, right up until Malloy finally passed out. Once he was unconscious, Murphy came over with a length of hose. He placed one end of the hose in Malloy’s mouth and the other into the gas line. After pumping several minutes’ worth of gas into Malloy’s lungs, the man finally died. That night they bribed a doctor into signing a death certificate attributing Malloy’s death to complications from alcohol abuse. Malloy was given a pauper’s funeral as Marino, Murphy, and the rest of the gang went to collect on his policy.
However, with all the new accomplices it became clear that there wasn’t that much insurance money left to go around. The gang also began to squabble over who deserved the bigger cut. Police brought Murphy in for questioning when Bastone, who threatened to go public if he wasn’t paid off, mysteriously turned up dead. While Murphy was at the precinct, insurance investigators showed up at the speakeasy asking for him. Once they learned where Murphy was, they started to believe that they may have a case of insurance fraud on their hands. The police and insurance investigators ordered that Malloy’s body be exhumed. The examiners were quickly able to deduce that he had been gassed to death.
Cab driver, Hershy Green, then turned state’s evidence and began testifying against his coconspirators. For his testimony, he was given a life sentence while the rest of the gang were sentenced to death. During the summer of 1934, Marino, Murphy, Kriesberg, and Pasqua, the undertaker were taken to Sing Sing where they were given the electric chair.