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Season 1, Episode 5

Exit Strategy

"Lucky" Luciano is found guilty of running a prostitution ring, and is imprisoned; Vito Genovese becomes acting boss.

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Lucky Luciano, facing trial on prostitution charges, is brought back to New York City from Hot Springs, Arkansas. Underestimating how serious Thomas Dewey is about convicting him, Luciano decides to take the stand in his own defense. As many as 70 young prostitutes testify against Luciano, yet the mobster boldly lies about his involvement with their business on the stand. He also denies knowing Al Capone, despite phone records showing calls between the two.

Knowing that time is running out, Luciano’s defense team decides to sway the jury by offering them bribes outside the courtroom. Despite their efforts, Luciano is convicted of compulsory prostitution.

Dewey’s win against the most significant member of the American Mafia makes him a national figure and even inspires a popular radio show and comic book series called "Gang Busters."

In upstate New York, Luciano begins a 50-year sentence in the maximum security prison of Dannemora. By paying off the guards, Luciano lives comfortably, getting nice clothing, top-shelf booze, steaks and even his furniture from home. He begins figuring out how to run his empire from his cell.

Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello visit Luciano often in jail to discuss their colleague’s appeal. Knowing that he needs direct representation at the Mafia Commission’s meetings, Luciano also begins deciding who will be named acting boss while he’s imprisoned, turning to Lansky for advisement.

As a Jewish gangster in a world of Sicilian organized crime, Lansky is not up for the position of acting boss. Instead the choice is between Frank Costello, the gentleman gangster, and Vito Genovese, the ruthless enforcer. Knowing that Genovese will rule with an iron fist, he gets the job, and Costello is named underboss.

Genovese’s newfound power goes straight to his head. Convinced he can have any woman he wants, Genovese chooses his own cousin, Anna Petillo, and two weeks after ordering the murder of her husband, the two are married. Under his rule, the Luciano crime family begins to fall apart, with the new leader wasting money and eliminating anyone who disagrees with him. Frank Costello’s attempts to reign in Genovese go nowhere.

Before Luciano can find a way to bring Genovese under control, a mobster named Pete LaTempa looking to reduce his jail time comes forward as a witness to a murder committed by Genovese. Thomas Dewey quickly takes out a warrant for his arrest, and Genovese flees to Italy. After barely a year as acting boss, Genovese is out of the picture and Frank Costello assumes the position.

With the family’s operations back on track, Luciano sees an opportunity to build a gambling empire in Cuba and sends Meyer Lansky to convince new Cuban leader, General Fulgencio Batista, to let the mob build a casino in downtown Havana. He also sends Bugsy Siegel to Los Angeles to set up a stronghold for the New York mob within the Hollywood labor unions.

Costello’s leadership is put to the test when a founding member of Murder Inc., Abe Reles, is arrested for murder and turns on the mob. When interrogated by Thomas Dewey, Reles gives names of countless major members of the hit squad, including Bugsy Siegel.

While Siegel is busy in Hollywood rubbing elbows with Hollywood stars, including Gary Cooper and Clark Gable, he learns he’s been ratted on and is ordered into hiding.

In the Fall of 1941, it’s become clear to the Mafia that Reles must be killed. Leveraging his in-roads with New York City’s politicians, judges and policemen, Costello finally finds out that Reles is being hidden in a heavily guarded hotel room in Coney Island and has him tossed out the window.

The death of Abe Reles makes headlines around the country, as the man willing to snitch on the New York Mafia is eliminated. Within the Luciano family, it’s become clear that Frank Costello was the right man for the job of acting boss.