The unmarked shopfront of Tony Marino’s speakeasy

“I’m dying for a drink,” Mike Malloy said as she stumbled into Tony Marino’s speakeasy in the Bronx. He looked a little more worn than before. Each murder attempt took a bit out of him, but being hit by a taxi had so far done the most damage. He was still thirsty, though, and the drinks just kept coming.

Malloy was one of many shadowy alcoholics haunting the NYC prohibition joints, their pasts as blurred as their minds. The people he encountered on his dream to another drink knew little about him except what his Irish brogue betrayed. Presumably in his 50s or 60s, his liquor ravaged body seemed to have little time left.

The odd jobs he took hardly made a dent in his tab at Marino’s, but Malloy didn’t question why one day he found his debts not only relieved, but also received promise of unlimited spirits. He drank until the bartender’s arm got tired, and then returned again for the same game for three more days. His drinking tolerance had ruined his life, but the short-term resilience it gave him was ruining the plans of Marino and several other men who had joined forces to murder him.

Dizzy with by his sudden windfall of booze and friendship, Malloy signed life insurance papers saying he was bartender Joseph “Red” Murphy’s brother, thinking he was signing a petition to get Marino elected into office. Getting a hapless alcoholic to drink himself to death seemed like an easy plot for Malloy’s conspirators (Marino’d done something similar before,) but as the days wore on, it turned into an expensive and frustrating endeavor. Like gamblers stuck on a bad beat, instead of walking away the plotters continued playing their hand against Malloy’s endurance.

When the idea to get him to drink himself to death didn’t work, they turned to poisoned alcohol. In a desperation to meet the country’s demand for booze, illegal distributors had turned to industrial-grade alcohol to add to imported spirits, or just to sell by itself. The U.S. government, unhappy with the proliferation of alcohol despite its ban, actually took measures to make this already dangerous form of alcohol even more deadly. People were regularly dying from the wood alcohol Marino and gang poured straight for Malloy night after night, but Malloy didn’t succumb to its poison. One night he collapsed, and they felt sure the potion had done its work, but Malloy soon aroused again and asked for another round.

Antifreeze, turpentine, and rat poison were all mixed into his cocktails, but Malloy’s body refused to succumb. The next order of business was to tamper with his food. The first attempt was a bit feeble. Because oysters and booze had been related to a recent death, they thought they’d feed Malloy wood alcohol-soaked oysters until he died. When that didn’t work, they replaced his regular sardine sandwich with one made of spoiled fish and metal shards.

Still, the life of Malloy persisted. Marino was inspired by his previous deadly insurance scam on a homeless woman named Mabelle Carson. He got her drunk, had her sign some papers, and then get her so wasted she didn’t noticed him stripping off her clothes, dousing the bed with water, and leaving her to sleep it off near and open window in the dead of a New York winter. Her death certificate said she died of pneumonia, and Marino pocketed $2,000. Mimicking this “perfect crime,” the boys drug a passed out Malloy threw the snow, and left him on a bench to freeze, naked and covered in ice water.

Tony Marino

Tony Marino

The next day, he was back in Marino’s basement, complaining of being a “wee bit cold,” and ready for his daily drinks. Desperation set in, and they promised cab driver Harry Green a cut of the money if he’d hit Malloy. After two dodges, he was finally struck by the taxi, and run back over for good measure. Sure that their devious scheme was finished, they waited a few days before contacting morgues and hospitals in a search for Murphy’s “brother.” Nothing turned up, except of course for Malloy himself, a few days later. He’s sustained a fractured skull, a concussion and a broken shoulder, but it didn’t stop him from finding his way back to his favorite haunt.

Desperate and seething, they looked into hiring a professional hitman, which turned out to be too expensive. They even took Malloy’s ID, put it in another drunk named Joe Murray’s pocket, and ran him over. Murray survived, and the gang was left with only one option if they were going to follow through with their plan: actually murder Malloy themselves. After another night of drinking away his consciousness, they carried Malloy to a tenement room not far from the Marino speakeasy. They tied a rubber hose around his nose, wrapped a towel around his face, and gassed him with carbon monoxide using the gas jet in the wall.


The room where Mike Malloy was murdered

They paid a shady doctor $50 to work up a false death certificate for Malloy, (like Maybelle, his death was chalked up to pneumonia) and Francis Pasqua, one of the gang who was also an undertaker, had him buried quickly in a pauper’s grave.

The finished deed gave the group little relief, though, and they were soon grumbling over the payoff. Three life insurance policies had been taken out on Malloy totaling $3,500, or about $54,000 of today’s money, but only one policy had paid off to the tune of $800. When insurance invegistators came around to see about Murphy’s claim for the other money, he was in jail on another charge. Thinking something seemed off, they contacted police, who were already hearing whispers from other speakeasy patrons about the fumbling murder.


Malloy’s plot was hatched July 1932, and his six murder attempts started December 1932. By February 1933 he was dead, and his body was exhumed May 1933. Because Malloy’s rushed burial had not included embalming, forensics experts found high levels of carbon monoxide in Malloy’s lungs, sealing the deal for the four people who killed the “Durable Mike Malloy.” July 1934, six months after prohibition ended, Daniel Kreisberg, Joseph Murphy, Frank Pasqua, and Tony Marino were executed in Sing Sing.