Dutch Schultz was a wealthy gangster, known for having millions of dollars. Even after his death, people are still looking for the remnants of that wealth.
Dutch Schultz, born Arthur Flegenheimer to German immigrant Jews in 1902, grew up in the slums of The Bronx. After his father left the family as a teenager, the impressionable young man turned his impoverished state into a life of crime as a professional gangster. His violent life caught up with him, eventually, but not before leaving behind a trail of blood, mayhem, and perhaps a buried treasure.
Dutch Schultz began his criminal career with petty burglaries and theft, which led to an arrest at the age of 17. Schultz served 17 months in prison for burglary, the only prison time he ever saw in his life. It was during his time in prison that he eschewed his birth name and became Dutch Schultz because, as he put it, Flegenheimer was too long to for newspaper headlines.
Once out of prison, Schultz connected with organized crime bosses Lucky Luciano and Legs Diamond. Schultz developed a relationship with fellow criminal Joey Noe, and the two formed their own gang. In the 1920s, the pair ran bootlegging operations for New York City saloons during Prohibition, often coercing rival establishments to buy from his gang. At one point, Schultz kidnapped and tortured one saloon owner who refused to buy from him.
Schultz’s reputation preceded him from this point onward. His territory was The Bronx, where he grew up. The lucrative part of New York was across the river in Manhattan, where Schultz saw plenty of opportunity. This led to territorial disputes with Italian gangsters, and Schultz took a pragmatic approach to running business.
Diamond’s turf was in Manhattan, so the mobster ordered a hit on Noe, Schultz’s business partner and confidante, in October 1928. Schultz retaliated for the killing by offing Diamond’s close associate Arnold Rothstein. Not one to settle for mere lap dogs, Schultz’s men were supposedly responsible for Diamond’s untimely murder in 1931.
Dutch Schultz’s illegal operations were no small feat. By 1928, he was supplying speakeasies in The Bronx with $2 million worth of alcohol, which translates to $28.8 million in 2018 dollars. At the height of his empire, Schultz brought in $54,126 of profit per month, or $780,000 in contemporary money. That kind of money doesn’t go unnoticed for long.
Schultz clashed with other gangs as his bootlegging enterprise grew, and rivals feared Schultz would take away their business. Vincent Coll, a former associate of Schultz’s, got into a bloody gang war with him in the early 1930s that left dozens dead. The bloodbath didn’t stop until Coll was killed in February 1932.
By this point, the federal government began to pursue Schultz. Rather than rely solely on bootlegging illegal alcohol, Schultz entered into the illegal gambling market to diversify his interests. His group ran slot machines and a policy racket (a lottery) for a few years until the Feds indicted Schultz in 1933 on income tax evasion charges.
The gang leader then went into hiding before turning himself in November 1934. He stood trial twice for tax evasion, but two juries could not convict him. Rather than leave well enough alone, New York’s special prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey wanted to prosecute Dutch Schultz for his illegal policy racket.
Somewhere among all of this chaos, there were rumors of buried treasure in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. Locals in Phoenicia, New York, said they saw fedora-wearing men with shovels along Esopus Creek near Phoenicia. Allegedly, there is a steel box filled with millions of dollars on the banks of this idyllic waterway near a small, innocuous town. Treasure hunters come to the town looking for the booty, which has yet to be found.
Now, Schultz turned his ire away from rival gangs and blamed Dewey for his business downturn as he awaited trial for tax evasion. The feds indicted Schultz again in October 1935, and Schultz was furious. He put out a hit for Dewey himself, and rival mobsters decided Schultz was done.
Gangsters hired the infamous group Murder Inc. to carry out a hit on Schultz on Oct. 23, 1935. One man shot Schultz right below the heart in the bathroom of Newark’s Palace Chophouse restaurant.
Even in death, Schultz refused to go quietly. He dragged himself out of the bathroom and slumped onto a table at the restaurant. At the hospital, he gave a doctor $10,000 to ensure good care. The doctor returned the money to the mobster’s bedside, fearing he would owe the gangster a debt later in life. In and out of consciousness, Dutch Schultz died 22 hours after the shooting. He muttered a mostly incomprehensible statement to the police, but he refused to name his murderers. Allegedly, Schultz’s last words were: “Oh, oh, dog Biscuit, and when he is happy he doesn’t get snappy.” He was just 33.
Much like his last words, the rumors of a buried treasure in upstate New York are fanciful notions put forth by an angry man who could never get past his inner demons.