The Biggest Loansharks in NY: The Saga of “Ruby and Jiggs”

Nicholas (Jiggs) Forlano was born in 1913 in Manhattan. He resided for decades at 33-42 28th Street in the Astoria section of Queens.

By at least the late-1950s, he also owned a winter home where he would spend several weeks on-and-off each year at 1500 Bay Road in Miami, Florida, and later at 480 Northeast 180th Drive.

He married a Jewish girl named Sophie, and they would have two sons together. By 1968-69, he and his wife relocated permanently down to the Hallandale section of South Florida.

Jiggs stood about 5-feet 10-inches tall and weighed 185 pounds. He had a full head of close cropped jet-black hair greying at the temples, and black wolf-like eyes.

He could be engaging and disarming when he wanted to be but could just as quickly turn nasty at a moment’s notice.

FBI # 886909, NYCPD # B-131906

Although originating out of the Harlem area where there weren’t many Profaci hoods, somewhere along the line, Jiggs became acquainted with and ended up affiliated with the Joseph Profaci Family of Brooklyn.

Joseph (The Olive Oil King) Profaci

By the late 1940s, he would be formally inducted as a soldier and rise to a “capo” status by at least 1955.

He became close to a Jewish hood who was an active shylock during the late-1940s, and partner up with him for the next several decades.

His name was Charles (Ruby) Stein.

Together, “Ruby and Jiggs” would become the biggest names in the loan-shark racket in New York City. By 1953 they had developed an expansive shylock network second to none.

They were well known throughout the entire underworld and would lend large sums of money to other loansharks to operate their own loan business.

They became known as a “shylock’s shylock” and lent to mob guys from all the Five Families and independents as well.

Ruby Stein

Bookmakers and policy bankers who maybe got hit hard with wins were another major customer set of Ruby and Jiggs.

They also lent to major businessmen; dress manufacturers, corporate executives, producers of Broadway shows, bar and nightclub owners, restauranteurs, etc., we’re among the more active industries they offered their services to.

With the backing of Joe Profaci, and with the willing contributions from various other well-heeled soldiers,
captains, and those in the hierarchies of various borgatas that invested with them… the combo of Ruby and Jiggs was said to have built a massive bankroll.

It was estimated by local and federal law enforcement that on any given day they had upwards of $5,000,000 out “on the street” generating a profit of anywhere from 1 to 2% interest or “vigorish” weekly – that equates to between $50,000 to $100,000 revolving cash profits every week that were divided up among themselves and their mob investors and benefactors.

As an example of this, in 1963, Johnny “Bath Beach” Oddo, a top Profaci capo, was said to have invested/loaned the Ruby and Jiggs combine $50,000 into their loan business.

Likewise, Oddo and Gambino capo Carmine “The Doctor” Lombardozzi was said to have invested an additional $16,000 over a three month period the same way later that year.

Depending upon who was investing and how much was being invested, Stein and Forlano might pay returns of one-half to three-quarters of one “point” weekly to their various Mafia benefactors.

That provided a guaranteed 26% to 39% net profit annually… In cash! … Tax free! … No questions asked!

And Ruby and Jiggs guaranteed every penny of those investments (with their lives I might add)!

That still left a very hefty net profit structure of anywhere from 26 to 78% into their pockets after paying their mafia superiors and various mob partners….. they would all make untold millions for many years!

Needless to say, they were the “golden boys” of the mob.

And of course, I’m sure, that as members of the Profaci Family, old man Joe and that Family’s hierarchy earned handsomely over the years.

Even if that monetary figure was exaggerated, as law enforcement and underworld informers often did, it is a very safe assumption that they did indeed constantly have millions out on loan….so any way you wanna slice it, that’s a lot of “gelt” as they say in Hebrew!

They mostly operated out of a finance and mortgage front company named IRH Corporation, Suite # 2604, at 375 Park Avenue in Downtown Manhattan.

This company was also useful in a unique way.

They would accept shylock payments in checks as well as cash, simply depositing the paper checks in one of their accounts, or “recirculating” the checks out as “loans”, keeping the revenue flowing.

And Ruby was said to have a near perfect mathematical memory, able to keep complex sets of numbers and calculations all in his head, vastly reducing the need for incriminating shylock money ledgers and gambling records.

It served them well all through the years.

Forlano had a criminal record that began by 1930 and included:

  • 1930 – petty larceny
  • 1935 – disorderly conduct
  • 1935 – sale of narcotics (18 months)
  • 1943 – bookmaking
  • 1943 – policy (10 days)
  • 1956 – disorderly conduct
  • 1961 – policy and vagrancy
  • 1962 – felonious assault
  • 1965 – felony bookmaking, vagrancy, conspiracy

By the late 1950s-early 1960s, Forlano had also invested and became a partner in Paradise Homes Corp., a real estate development and construction firm in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

And as though being arguably the biggest shylocks in New York City and certainly among the largest in the entire United States wasn’t already enough on their plate as an accomplishment, the dynamic duo were also considered to be among the major horse and sports bookmakers in the city.

They also operated, in partnership with several Jewish mob associates, a nationwide bookmaking lay-off business (edge office).

They provided this service to gambling offices to help offset uneven betting volumes so bookies could help turn a guaranteed profit at weeks end.

And “hold on to your hats folks”, that’s not all!

In another facet of their operations, Stein and Forlano had expert handicappers setting the Las Vegas “line” daily that is very integral to the operating of any bookmaking office.

Without a sharp odds-making line each morning, a bookmaker could, and often did, go “bust” through the offering of “bad” and loose odds.

This weekly “service” was offered at a price to local mob bookmakers throughout the city and out of state bookies as well…. there were at lot of willing gambling customers.

Put it all together, and all through the 1950s and 1960s era, Stein and Forlano were among the most important underworld figures there were.

From top: Carmine Persico, Alphonse D’Ambrosio and Ralph Tropiano

By the early to mid-1960s, the FBI, through several highly placed member informants, had compiled lists for the structures of the various Cosa Nostra Families in New York.

The Profaci/Colombo network had Nicholas Forlano listed as one of ten “capo di decina” in that Family.

They subsequently were able to list the memberships for individual “crews” or regimes.

The following soldiers were alleged to report to Forlano;

• Carmine (The Snake) Persico

• Alphonse (Funzi) D’Ambrosio

• Ralph (Whitey) Tropiano

• Leonard (Big Lenny) Dello

• Salvatore (Sally D) D’Ambrosio

…. among several others.

During the infamous Gallo-Profaci Gang War of the early 1960s, Jiggs had initially joined the rebel faction along with Carmine Persico and many others in a disgruntled rank and file who felt Profaci was too greedy a boss.

Some of their main grievances included a mandatory monthly “head tax” imposed on them, that had long ago been done away with by the bosses of the other borgatas, and an unfairly high “tribute” cut from various racket operations the soldiers ran.

Forlano was designated the boss of the rebels by their faction. So, he was a prime target for extinction by Joe Profaci and the established hierarchy.

But instead of killing them, Profaci successfully lobbied and wooed both Jiggs and Persico, as well as many of their followers back into the Family fold.

This was done for a twofold reason.

Forlano controlled vast sums of money “on the streets”, and his death would have been counterproductive in the long run. And Junior Persico controlled one of the largest and most deadly regimes in the Family.

By winning them back and denying the Gallo gang those “assets”, so to speak, severely weakened the opposition, and strengthened the Profaci’s all the more.

It was the smart strategic move in this underworld chess game of life and death.

And Joe Profaci was nothing if not smart!

Cops escort Larry Gallo after his attempted strangling (note the rope and neck burns)

He had been a seasoned mob tactician since the 1920s, and in short order, the hunters became the hunted.

And former friends became deadly enemies.

What would follow became the stuff of mob legend….

the attempted strangling of opposition leader Larry Gallo at the Sahara Lounge in Brooklyn by his so-called “friends” Persico and Salvatore (Sally D) D’Ambrosio…

the attempted assasination of Jiggs in front of his Astoria home by Gallo hitmen who emptied a revolver into Forlano’s car as he sat in it but missed him with every single shot…

the attempted “kidnapping” of Ruby Stein off a midtown Manhattan street corner where he kicked, punched, and screamed his lungs out successfully thwarting his assailants from “snatching” him and most likely killing him…

and numerous other incidents that made for mob havoc in New York City during the era and kept the daily tabloids humming.

A wounded Persico after ambush

Persico’s defection, in particular, was a major blow to the Gallos.

He had been among their closest friends and associates over the years.

For his duplicity, he earned the additional nickname of “The Snake”, and the Gallos would make several additional serious attempts to kill him.

By the war’s end, Forlano and Stein had maintained their high status and position in the mob.

They would go on unimpeded for several more years until their partnership imploded from within.

They had a major falling out by the mid-late 1960s.

It seems that Ruby had been indicted and convicted on tax evasion charges related to their racket operations. He would be jailed federally for several years.

Jiggs, of course, was supposed to mind the store while Ruby did his jail time as good partners expect of each other.

But there was one problem with that plan.

Nick (Jiggs) Forlano was a gambler, and a degenerate gambler at that. And a big spender to boot.

Joe Colombo

He was constantly in need of money and was soon scheming against his longtime partner in crime.

Forlano approached boss Joseph Colombo, who by now had risen to head the Family since the death of Profaci in 1962.

Jiggs suggested a plan to rob Ruby.

He knew that Ruby kept a suitcase packed with cash in his Jackson Heights apartment. The suitcase was alleged to hold upwards of several hundred thousand in cold cash used in their daily rackets operation.

Colombo eagerly acquiesced and signed off on the planned burglary heist.

How he got wind of it is unknown, but Ruby soon became very suspicious of his old partner and quickly safeguarded his funds, placing them safely out of reach…. and that was the end of that.

Later, when Ruby Stein was paroled from jail, he officially broke off the partnership that had been “Ruby and Jiggs”.

It was the end of an era And both would badly suffer the consequences of that fateful decision.

Jimmy Coonan

Ruby would continue his shylock business for another decade or so. He was said to have loosely aligned with Fat Tony Salerno of the Genovese mob.

He also befriended a young Irish tough from Manhattan’s Westside by the name of Jimmy Coonan, utilizing the up-and-coming hoodlum as a driver/bodyguard and lending him money to start his own loanshark business.

Charles (Ruby) Stein disappeared shortly into their friendship, his headless torso washing up on the beach in Far Rockaway, Queens.

It seems that Coonan and his gang thought it fiscally better to kill the old hood rather than repay him.

Jiggs fared significantly better than Ruby in that he kept his head, but still floundered in the coming years.

Jiggs was “tapioca” as they say in the street.

His gambling ways had caught up with him. No longer the big money producer he had been during his years with Ruby, he struggled to keep afloat.

John Matera

After Profaci’s death, and Colombo and Persico’s subsequent rise to power, Jiggs had been sidelined by the hierarchy.

He was knocked down from his capo status to that of a mere soldier, and with the loss of his rackets revenue, a new day was dawning and it didn’t include Forlano.

He relocated permanently down to Florida and affiliated with the Family’s South Florida regime.

He spent more and more time at the horse and dog tracks down there and did his best to scheme as he could.

Tommy Farese

He started associating with the likes of Tommy Farese and Johnny Irish Matera, two Colombo members who had gained some prominence in Dade and Broward Counties.

Forlano would figure peripherally into several major probes of mob acitivity in the region but would not be charged.

One day at the local racetrack, Nicholas (Jiggs) Forlano collapsed to the pavement and died from a massive heart attack. He was only 62 years old

….. so much for the saga that was “Ruby and Jiggs”!

Back to The Colombo Family

The Genovese Family

The Gambino Family

Back to The Bonanno Family

The Lucchese Family

The DeCavalcante Family

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