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Maloney gambling scandal roiled Pittsburgh police force in '50s

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Saturday, March 23, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

The five-count indictment of former Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper is not the first time a corruption scandal roiled the city force.

Lawrence Maloney, 54, then the assistant superintendent of city police, was indicted, tried and acquitted of public corruption and tax evasion charges in 1965.

Handpicked by then-Mayor David Lawrence in 1947 to lead “Maloney's Marauders” against organized crime's gambling dens and brothels, he had free rein to roam the city to bust the rackets. Less than two decades later and during the administration of Mayor Joe Barr, however, a cavalcade of crooks testified that Maloney became a bagman for the gambling syndicates that needed his protection to flourish.

Meyer “Slick Man” Sigal, boss of the Third Ward operations, told jurors that he paid Maloney and other police brass $176,000 in protection payoffs over 5 12 years.

In his book about Lawrence, “Don't Call Me Boss,” the late Duquesne University historian Michael P. Weber noted that those late on their Monday payoffs were raided by cops, which helped explain why underworld kingpin Tony Grosso made sure that Maloney received $1,000 per month, plus a Christmas bonus of $1,000 and another $1,000 “when he went on vacation each year.”

Maloney beat the rap in 1965 by convincing jurors that he had made his riches by betting on horse races.

“Mayor Barr testified as a character witness for Maloney. So did David Lawrence,” recalled Morton Coleman, 80, director emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh's Institute of Politics. “He was found innocent and wanted his job back, but they didn't want to give it back to him.”

Barr's city safety director, David Craig, solved the problem. He returned Maloney's back pay and then promptly fired him — for obviously spending too much time at the racetrack and not enough at the police department.

Maloney died four years later from bone cancer.

Carl Prine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He canbe reached at 412-320-7826 or cprine@tribweb.com.

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