The secret lover of notorious mobster Meyer Lansky has revealed details of her 12-year affair with kingpin for the first time, describing him ‘gentle soul’ who could be ‘moved to tears by life’s injustices’ in spite of his infamous criminal exploits.
Lansky was one of the wealthiest and most feared mobsters in America for more than four decades, ruthlessly controlling and investing the mafia’s sordidly-sourced funds amassed from loan-sharking, robberies and murder.
Known as the ‘Mob’s Accountant’, Lansky also co-founded Murder Inc. in the 1930s, a contract-killing syndicate responsible for some 1,000 whackings across the country.
But to Zali de Toledo, the Mafioso was a caring, tender lover 40 years her senior, with whom she shared a years-long affair that she’s disclosing for the first time in her new book, My Secret Life with Meyer Lansky, the Financial Genius Behind the Mafia.
‘The man I got to know was completely different from what everyone else thought,’ she told Haarertz. ‘A man who was sensitive to the point of tears.’
Zali de Toledo is pictured with infamous mobster Meyer Lansky. According to the Turkish-native, he wasn’t the menacing figure he was often portrayed as in the press
Lansky was one of the wealthiest and most feared mobsters in America for more than four decades, ruthlessly controlling and investing the mafia’s sordidly-sourced funds amassed from loan-sharking, robberies and murder
Meyer Lansky’s lost $300M fortune
Meyer Lansky was, in life, one of the gangster era’s most notorious figures, a diminutive Jewish immigrant who became known as the ‘mob’s accountant’, and linked to death after death.
After Prohibition ended in 1933, Lansky successfully parlayed his fortune into gambling interests around the United States and ultimately internationally. He encouraged other mobsters to invest in Cuba, where eventually he owned or had financial interest in at least three casinos.
However, operations ran into a multimillion-dollar disaster with the Cuban Revolution of 1959. Rebel leader Fidel Castro nationalized all of Lansky’s casino interests on the island.
The jewel in the crown was Havana’s most prestigious hotel and casino, the Havana Riviera, and the Marina Hemingway – which according to his family, he jointly owned with Frank Sinatra.
In 2010, Lansky’s daughter Sandra publicly stated that her father had transferred some $15 million to his brother’s account sometime in the early 1970s, when Lansky was having problems with the
How much money Lansky was really worth will probably never be known.
Since the warming of relations between the United States and Cuba in 2015, Lansky’s grandson, Gary Rapoport, has been asking the Cuban government to compensate him for the confiscation of the Riviera hotel that his grandfather built in Havana
At the time of his death, Lansky had only $52,000 to his name.
FBI believe he may have left behind over $300 million in hidden bank accounts – however they never found any money.
De Toledo was a 26-year-old waitress at the Dan hotel in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1969 when she says she was struck down by a ‘thunderbolt’ of attraction as she locked eyes with the 67-year-old, 5ft 4in kingpin from across the dining room.
‘Meyer told me that the first time we met he gave me his loveliest smile, so I wouldn’t be scared,’ she said. ‘He wore a bow tie and smiled at me with mischievous eyes. Not a funny person, but someone who makes you happy. I fell in love with him at that moment.
‘This man had reputedly done terrible things and yet I didn’t care. But what was it attracting me – the man or the danger?’
In the twelve years that would follow, Toledo says she came to see Lansky as the world never could, as a ‘gentle, funny and warm soul’ – a far cry from the ruthless and ‘dangerous criminal’ he was so often dubbed in the press.
‘I saw the Meyer Lansky nobody else knew,’ she told the Express newspaper. ‘I loved Meyer, and he loved me even more. We completed each other. In some ways he was a father figure to me, but at the same time he would draw strength from me.’
‘Meyer would often rest his head on my shoulder, and we would sit silently just holding each other, safe from the world, sheltered within our cocoon of our love.’
The tender lover described by de Toledo was in fact a kingpin of organized crime in the US from the 1930s right up until his death in 1983, amassing a personal fortune of a rumored $300million.
For decades, the stoic, sharply dressed Belarus-native, was one of the most powerful individuals in America.
Along with his associates Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano and Bugsy Seigel, Meyer was instrumental in the 1934 gathering of rival Mafia gangs across the US which later became known as the National Crime Syndicate.
Associated with the Jewish Mob, Lansky and Luciano developed a gambling empire that stretched across the world, owning stakes in casinos from Las Vegas, to Cuba, the Bahamas and London.
He was known to have traded illicit booze with Joe Kennedy, father of assassinated President John F. Kennedy, during the Prohibition and is even credited with blackmailing former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover with compromising pictures of him with his longtime aide Clyde Tolson.
De Toledo (left) was a 26-year-old waitress at the Dan hotel in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1969 when she says she was struck down by a ‘thunderbolt’ of attraction as she locked eyes with the 67-year-old, 5ft 4in kingpin from across the dining room.
Along with his associate Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano (left), Meyer was instrumental in the 1934 gathering of rival Mafia gangs across the US which later became known as the National Crime Syndicate
For decades, the stoic, sharply dressed Belarus-native, was one of the most powerful individuals in America
In the late 1960s, fearing prosecution over federal tax evasion charges, Lansky tried to immigrate to Israel where he crossed paths with de Toledo.
Despite their four-decade difference in age, de Toledo said it ‘made no difference’ and the couple became romantically involved the day after their first meeting, when Lansky turned up at her apartment the following morning.
‘I threw my arms around him,’ de Toledo, now 78 remembered. ‘I threw my arms around him and held him as tightly as I possibly could, pressing him into my body.
‘I felt so secure, so protected, as if nothing on earth could ever harm me as long as I remained in this man’s embrace.’
Lansky would lavish de Toledo with gold jewelry, diamond earrings, Cartier bracelets, and even bought her a luxury apartment on upscale Weizmann Street in Tel Aviv, which would become their love nest.
Less than half a year into their secret courtship, de Toledo discovered she was pregnant. ‘I was 27,’ she recalled to Haaertz. ‘He wanted to keep the baby, but he left the decision to me. We didn’t know whether Meyer would stay in the country, we didn’t know what would happen in the [immigration] trial.
‘We didn’t know what would be with me, we thought that if his wife found out there would be a scandal. I had a serious problem. I had an abortion, and years later he would ask me, “How old would he have been today?” I don’t know why he thought it would be a boy, but he did.’
Lansky was deported back to the US in 1972. He was arrested on arrival in Miami on tax evasion charges, but later acquitted of all counts in 1974.
Lansky was deported back to the US in 1972. He was arrested on arrival in Miami on tax evasion charges, but later acquitted of all counts in 1974
Despite the thousands of miles separating them, De Toledo says she and Lansky stayed in frequent contact, with the mafia mob penning her more than 350 letters gushing over his love for her
He would also pay for her to visit him in Miami around twice a year, even renting a home for her to stay in, close to where he was living with his wife (right) and three children
Despite the thousands of miles separating them, de Toledo says she and Lansky stayed in frequent contact, with the mafia mob penning her more than 350 letters gushing over his love for her.
‘The letters he wrote me were like a diary,’ she says. ‘One time he would write about politics, another time about pain, about what he felt, or about Israel. Sometimes I got two letters in one day.’
Lansky would always sign off his heart-felt notes with ‘Always remember I love you,’ de Toledo said.
She also revealed how Lansky would opt to keep his work life separate from his love life, opting never to reveal details of his criminal enterprise to her, assuring de Toledo, ‘the less you known the better.’
‘[He said] if tomorrow or the next day you are summoned to testify against me, I want you to take the oath wholeheartedly.
‘So he didn’t tell me much, only things that I got out of him here and there, about Cuba and gambling. Sometimes he also wrote to me about things I’d asked. He explained to me about gambling in the United States, about what he thought of gambling.
He would also pay for her to visit him in Miami around twice a year, even renting a home for her to stay in, close to where he was living with his wife and three children.
‘Meyer was such fun to be with. I’d cook for him and he’d be so happy he would pick me up dancing in the kitchen, and would sing to me ‘You Are Always In My Heart’.
‘He had a lovely singing voice,’ de Toledo remembered.
The surreptitious visits continued right up until the year before his death from lung cancer in 1983, aged 81, at his Miami home
At the time of his death, on paper, Lansky was officially worth almost nothing and his family were left to fend for themselves. The FBI believed he left behind over $300 million in hidden bank accounts – however they never found any money
The surreptitious visits continued right up until the year before his death from lung cancer in 1983, aged 81, at his Miami home.
De Toledo said she hasn’t visited the mobster for some ten months before his passing, as ‘the Lebanon War had broken out and my son-in-law was mobilized, so I couldn’t leave the country.
‘I had promised him that I would never call or write him at home. I didn’t want to call him with his wife sitting by his side. Gradually I accustomed myself to his not being around. So, when he died it didn’t come as a surprise.’
De Toledo she remembers the day of his death vividly. ‘It was January 15, 1983. My sister woke me up at a quarter to three in the afternoon. She told me that Meyer was dead. I turned on the news at 3 and they said he had died. I had to go to work. I always wear black. On that day I wore light-colored clothes to counteract the pain.’
At the time of his death, on paper, Lansky was officially worth almost nothing and his family were left to fend for themselves.
The FBI believed he left behind over $300 million in hidden bank accounts – however they never found any money.
The U.S. Justice Department never found Lansky guilty of anything more serious than illegal gambling.