Is Anyone Really Making A Living As A Hitman?

Many years ago, I read this book:

the “true life” story of a mafia hitman. In a fairly obvious attempt to cash in on Sopranos mania, he’s recently reissued this book along with a sequel of sorts:

When I first read the first book lo these many years ago, I guess I thought it might be real. On leafing through it recently, I’m a lot more skeptical about not only this guy’s story, but about the existence of any “professional hitmen.” By far the most common real-life stories I’ve heard about “hitmen” over the years involve some idiot getting caught in a botched attempt to hire someone to kill his wife – usually ending with the “hitman” turning out to be an informant, a swindler who runs off with the money, or an inept kid who couldn’t burgle a poorbox, let alone carry out a professional assassination.

Obviously there have been some contract killings over the years – various mafia intramural killings come to mind (though those seem more like one-off vendettas then murders literally contracted out to someone who undertakes to kill strangers on a repeated basis). Soldier Of Fortune magazine got in big trouble, IIRC, when some jackass who advertised “mercenary” services in their classifieds actually managed to murder somebody’s wife – though that hardly seems to be an example of someone making a going proposition of the hitman career, as he of course got caught first time out.

I guess my question is: Is there any reason to believe that there are a substantial number of people out there making a living by hiring themselves out, on a repeated and “professional” basis (without getting caught), to kill strangers? Should I limit this to the Western world? Probably.

I realize there’s a fine line between people who have killed multiple people in the course of a criminal career and people whose career is killing – but the latter are the (hypothetical) class that seems to capture the imagination of those writing fiction (or fiction-masquerading-as-true-fact) about the “hitman” profession, so that’s what I’m interested in figuring out more about.

If it needs saying, of course I am not looking for information or assistance in aid of any illegal project, scheme, or undertaking.

Yes. :smiley:

You called?

What I’d like to know is how a young assassin, right out of college, trying to make his way in the shady underworld, can get any business. What does he do, run a magazine ad? Submit a resume to a villainous temp agency?

I could tell you, but then of course I’d have to…

The problems inherent in getting training and hanging out one’s shingle are among the many practical problems that makes me think it’s not a very viable career proposition. And (needless to say) your suggestion about magazine ads (which used to be run, never mind how legit the “independent contractors” and “mercenaries” actually were) is not viable after SOF lost all that money following their little fiasco:

Needless to say, they no longer take such ads. (On further review, it wasn’t his wife but his business partner that this idiot wanted rubbed out).

If you mean, “Are there hit men like there are in the movies and TV?” then the answer is No.

Of course, there aren’t doctors and lawyers and policemen like the ones on TV, either. Fiction likes to exaggerate, after all.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it seriously asserted in the press that there are real-life hitmen who work freelance and full-time, contracting themselves out to the highest bidder. All the accounts of contract killing I’ve read about were done by mafia underlings for their higher-ups.

Most of the Mafia hitmen I’ve read of weren’t actually dedicated hit men. Sammy Gravano copped to 19 murders, but he did other stuff in between times.

Yeah, I’m not trying to create a straw man – and I don’t have a cite to any factual media assertion that there are true full-time hitmen. I could more readily cite a lot of popular lore/fiction/public perceptions to this effect, I’d imagine . . .

Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski was a real mafia hitman, who has admitted to killing at least 50 people. I recall that he recently plead guilty to even more murders. I imagine the only reason he hasn’t got the death penalty was because New York didn’t have it in place at the time. HBO has done two specials about him.

In the last one he said he killed more like 150. I found the one where he decided to try out the mini crossbow on some innocent bystander “just to see if it worked” particulary disturbing.

Murder, Incorporated actually existed in the 30’s and 40’s, run by the likes of Louis Lepke Buchalter and Albert Anastasia:

Buchalter was one of the few big time mobsters to receive the death penalty (as opposed to being killed by other gangsters). He was sentenced to the electric chair after Abe “Kid Twist” Reles rolled over on Murder, Incorporated:

Exactly how many murders were contracted by the Buchalter / Anastasia organization isn’t clear. Some sources claim as many as 1000, which is probably inflated.

Thks. for good historical stuff.

How much of this (if any?) goes on now?

You need somebody greased? Give me a holler.

– Nunzio “Bag-o-donuts” Rizzo

People make a modest living as drug dealers, second-story men or shady car mechanics. I would suppose at least some people think of themselves as hitmen.

The pay per job would be good, but how many jobs could you get (away with) in a month or a year? Heck of a way to make car payments.

Further we only hear of hitmen who get caught. This would mean we are more familiar with the wannabes than the real professionals.

Does anyone make a full-time trade in this? How would we know?

Looks like I have some competition to eliminate.

I think it is doubtful that there are people who have the average work day like that featured in “The Professional” or “Grosse Point Blank”. How would you get started? A drug dealer can sit on a corner and ask people until someone says, “Why yes, I would like to purchase some illegal narcotics from you.” You cannot really do that with assassination.

I do remember hearing about one mob goomba, cannot remember his name, in Detroit who started doing hits under orders from his Capos. Pretty soon he was doing all of the hits for his family. Apparently, he was so good that the other families started using him as well. He actually had business cards made. After a short stint in jail on something stupid like parking tickets, he was rubbed out himself by his successor, who was in turn rubbed out himself.

Your only real career option in professional assassination would be working for the government, and not necessarily ours.

The most recent case I heard about was some Swiss guy (bodybuilder?) that offered to “take care of” Kobe Bryant’s accuser. I think his offer was $3 million. One million dollars up front and then the rest when he “finished” the “job.” Of course he got caught, and I don’t think he was a “pro” or anything like that. Unless he had done it before and this was the time he got caught.

More info on the Kobe thing.

Friend of mine is a physician for the Federal penitentiary system and he’s become friendly with a former mob hit man, now in his 60s, who’s doing life for multiple murders. From my understanding, he did many hits over the years, but had side lines as well.

Incidentlally, the mob guy has hearing impairment caused by repeated exposure to extremely loud noises. My buddy joked that he should file for workman’s comp since the noise was job-related…

I’m not sure but I believe Woody Harellson’s father is in jail for a murder and that he was a hitman. I remember Oliver Stone talking about this on the Natural Born Killers laserdisc.