Philip Kovolick – “Phil The Stick”

By The Other Guy | April 9, 2020

Philip (Little Farvel) Kovolick – aka “Phil the Stick”, “Joseph Farvel”, “Phil Koblick”, “Joseph Phillips”, and “Farvel Kovack” – was born on September 2, 1908. He was raised and operated in his youth on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

He lived in midtown Manhattan as he became established, until he chose to relocate down to the South Florida area in the late-1940s, where he resided for years at 1311 Jefferson Street in the Hollywood section with his wife and family.

Side Note: During several arrests he gave his address as the Second Avenue Baths, located downtown off 1st Street on 2nd Avenue.

FBI # 120992, NYCPD # B-68023

He married and had at least two daughters. Little Farvel was said to have been a doting and loving father, providing a beautiful home and sending them to the finest colleges in the country. The University of Miami, and University of Southern California.

In November of 1963, he threw a large, lavish wedding reception for his daughter Judi at the Hollywood Beach Hotel in Hollywood, Florida.

Kovolick had a long and violent criminal record dating to 1923. He had at least eleven known arrests for:

1923 – grand larceny

1926 – burglary (2 years probation)

1927 – attempted burglary (sent to Elmira Reformatory on an indeterminate sentence)

1928 – burglary

1929 – robbery

1929 – murder

1931 – possession of a revolver

1931 – disorderly conduct (45 days in jail)

1939 – vagrancy

1941 – narcotics conspiracy (penalty not available)

1965 – consorting with criminals

He was a close associate and friend of some of the biggest racketeers in the United States including:

Benjamin (Bugsy) Siegel

• Benjamin (Bugsy) Siegel

• Charles (Lucky) Luciano

• Meyer (Little Meyer) Lansky

• Louis (Lepke) Buchalter

• Vincent (Jimmy Blue Eyes) Alo

Charlie (Lucky) Luciano

• Emanuel (Mendy) Weiss

• and Long Zwilman of New Jersey

On a daily basis, he dealt for years with top hoodlums such as:

• Jacob (Jack) Lansky

• Hyman (Red Hymie) Siegel

• Irving (Knadles) Nitzberg

Louis (Lepke) Buchalter

• Hymie Abrams

• Morris (Sheppie) Shapiro

• Irving Mishel

• Louis Capone

• Abraham (Kid Twist) Reles

• Tom Cutty

• Samuel (Red) Levine

….each of whom were top members of New York’s Jewish mob.

Francesco (Frank Costello) Castiglia

Originally said to have been a member of the Lepke/Gurrah Gang. He later became a chauffeur for top capo and later Family boss Frank Costello.

In 1939, he was one of three named by the famed Manhattan District Attorney Tom Dewey (who later became New York’s Governor) as garment center racketeers after their arrest on vagrancy charges and held in a whopping $10,000 each. A huge amount in 1939, especially for the minor charge of being a vagrant. They were held at the draconian Tombs Prison in Lower Manhattan. A hell hole of a jail pending their release on bail.

It was part of a sustained police crackdown on known members of the Lepke-Gurrah Mob, headed by Louis Buchalter and Jacob Shapiro. Notorious for their industrial and extortion rackets, this mob successfully infiltrated and later took control of numerous industries,including the garment district, trucking, restaurants and building unions, bakery workers union local, and many other New York industries.

He was arrested with hoodlums Jacob (Spunky) Weiss and the notorious killer Samuel (Red) Levine, who was a prime suspect in the 1931 murder of Sicilian Mafia boss Salvatore Maranzano, who was shot and stabbed by four men posing as NYC policemen in his midtown Manhattan office on Park Avenue. It was a pivotal moment in organized crime in America.

Jacob (Gurrah) Shapiro

Earlier that week, New York detectives had arrested Benjamin (Benny the Boss) Tannenbaum, another member of Lepke’s mob.

In 1941, he stood trial with his boss Lepke Buchalter, his top lieutenant Mendy Weiss, and fellow enforcer Louie Capone. Kovolick was later convicted and sent away on narcotics (heroin) peddling charges.

In 1944, he was intimately linked with New York City’s vending machine racket. Jukeboxes, cigarette machines, candy, pinballs and other gaming machines. Kovolick figured prominently and was said to be part of an underworld monopoly that dominated the five boroughs. They were said to control the manufacture, sale, placement and servicing unions which regulate the “sites” and “stops” to bar independent vending operators and smother competition.

Local # 805 – Jukebox & Vending Machine Workers Union, was named by investigators as the “whip” the Jewish mob used to help control the industry. Mob bosses Meyer Lansky and Abner Zwillman were said to be the driving forces and true power behind the union. The vice-president of the Local was said to be Abraham (Abe) Gordon, a notorious hood and Johnny Dio minion. Gordon also headed the union’s million-dollar plus welfare fund.

Killer Samuel (Red) Levine

Kovolick was a partner with Gordon in two trucking companies he ran, based in the garment district on the Westside. This mob also created the formation of an industry “association”, the Cigarette Merchandisers Assn. Established to protect its members from draconian state laws, increases in city, state and federal cigarette taxes, labor contracts with Local # 805, and solicitation of their route locations by other association vendors, among other benefits.

In actuality, the association served as little more than a vehicle by which to control and “shakedown” vending companies for $6. per machine, per year each. It brought in thousands of dollars monthly, and had a slush fund of over $100,000 in its union treasury.

Meyer Lansky

It was estimated that there were over 40,000 cigarette vending machines alone in operation within Queens County and the other boroughs. Add in jukeboxes, pinballs, and other coin-operated devices, and it was easily a multimillion dollar racket annually. And all in cold cash at that.

Another link was the operation of Herald Vending Corp., a large cigarette machine vending firm owned by Giuseppe (Joe Adonis) Doto. His Jewish mob friends bought his company in 1942 when Adonis was under intense investigation by the Kings County Grand Jury.

Although he always tried to operate in a low key manner, he came to the attention of New York authorities again in 1965. NYC police raided a small nondescript storefront that served as a restaurant known as Lombardi’s on Spring Street in the Little Italy section. Seven men were arrested. All were described as top figures and leaders in the Genovese Family.

They were arrested on a charge of “consorting with known criminals” for unlawful purposes – each other. Among those so named were Thomas (Tommy Ryan) Eboli, who was said to have been the “acting boss” at that time. Also nabbed were
A few years later Kovolick was subpoenaed again to testify before a local New York County Grand Jury investigating illegal gambling rackets, bribery and police corruption.

He fled the New York region and refused to come back or voluntary extradition back to New York State.

After moving down to Florida, he became active again in the jukebox-vending machine business, a business and racket he knew well.

He also became involved overseeing The Colonial Inn, a wildly popular although illegal, plush “carpet joint” located in the wealthy Hallandale section. He assisted the Lansky brothers in the operation, being trusted enough by Meyer to handle the cash flow and daily logistics.

Informants also connected him with Miami cigar shops. It’s said that Kovolick went partners in three cigar stores/lounges with former New York gambler Artie Newman, and Abie Brown – Miami PD # C-89918, another notorious hoodlum and bookie from Miami Beach.

Named the Johnina Tobacco Co., Inc., they had one cigar lounge in the popular Johnina Hotel on the famed Collins Avenue in Miami. Another was located on 41st Street in Miami, the last located at Surfside, Florida.They were allegedly set up as a front, or cover for an extensive bookmaking network they intended to operate in the South Florida area.

In 1956 it was also reported to the FBI that he was booking horses at Gulfstream Racetrack like he had a license, in conjunction with transplanted top East Harlem capo Michael (Trigger Mike) Coppola and other hoodlums.

There is some confusion over his disappearance and alleged death around 1971-1972 in Florida. His wife stated he went missing on April 7, 1971, vanishing without a trace.

A year later, on April 27, 1972, Fort Lauderdale newspapers reported that Little Farvel had been found murdered, and up sealed within a steel drum that had been rolled down the bottom of a rock pit in a Hallandale dump.

He was 62 years old at the time of his murder.

A suspect was arrested in his homicide by the name of John Alvin Baxter, a 36 year old with no known connection to Kovolick or the underworld. No theory was given for his murder.

A violent, but weird ending to an “up until then” successful mob career…just another fabled tale of underworld intrigue.

Back to The Genovese Family

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The Bonanno Family

The Colombo Family

The Lucchese Family

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