What follows is an excerpt from a J. Edgar Hoover article on one of Pre-World War II America's most famous car thieves, Gabriel Vigorito. During the next few months I will be working on the topic of auto theft, and will focus on a number of the most important car theft ring-leaders as I construct the narrative. This should provide a taste of the story:
Excerpts from J.E. Hoover, “Bla Bla, Black Man,” American Magazine, 122 (September, 1936), 32-4+.
“Gabriel Vigorito, otherwise known as Bla-Bla the Black Man, specialized in the theft of automobiles upon an international basis. For twelve years every car owner in the Brooklyn section of
“Automobile Insurance Reduced Fifteen Per Cent.”
The Black Man himself could not truly be called a car thief. Except in one minor instance. He was a Big Businessman of Crime, a directing head of lawbreaking who remained free while others went to prison. You’ll find such a person in nearly every city in
Bla-Bla the Black Man rolled up an illicit fortune estimated at more than $1,000,000. His gang stole thousands of expensive automobiles and resold them at an average price of from $800 to more than $1,000 apiece. The ‘hot car” depots of a dozen states dealt in his goods. In
The Black Man had graduated into the perfect motion-picture type of gangster. Short, well-built, with black hair and raven eyes, he was a mobster of the fashion-plate kind. His derby hat was always cocked at a perfect angle, his
His friends called him a great fellow, loaded with money and ready to spend it….
Jovial, his teeth flashing white against his dark skin when he smiled, Gabriel Vigorito was by no means a person of the shadows. …
In the later years of Bla-Bla’s activities he had among his supersalesmen a Yale graduate, a