Morris Rudensky

Morris Rudensky
Morris Rudensky
Born Macy Motle Friedman
August 16, 1898(1898-08-16)
Lower East Side, Manhattan, New York, United States
Died April 21, 1988(1988-04-21) (aged 89)
St. Paul, Minnesota, United States
Conviction(s) Robbery
Penalty 10-to-life
Occupation Burglar, Loss prevention consultant

Morris "Red" Rudensky (born Macy Motle Friedman; August 16, 1898-April 21, 1988) was an American prohibition-era gangster, prominent cat burglar and safe-cracker. Later in his life he became an author as well as a spokesman a security consultant for several companies.


Early life & career

Born to a Jewish family in Manhattan's Lower East Side Rudensky began his career by stealing bagels. At age 13 he was deemed incorrigible and sent to the Elmira State Reformatory. He escaped to make his way to Chicago where he cracked safes for the best price. He worked with both Al Capone's Chicago Outfit and Bugs Moran's North Side Gang but also traveled, cracking safes on consignment in Kansas City, St. Louis and Detroit.[1]

He would later become known as an escape artist successfully escaping from the Pontiac State Reformatory, where he was serving ten-years-to-life for the robbery of the Argo State Bank. Still a teenager Rudensky organized the theft of $2.1 million in whiskey from a federal warehouse in Kansas City, Missouri using over fifty men. Rudensky continued to operate a well-organized theft ring in the Midwest robbing various payroll deliveries, distilleries, banks, and trains, and did freelance work for Egan's Rats and Al Capone.

At the age of twenty-one, Rudensky was again in prison, where he was known as "King of the Cons" for frequently getting into fights, and made several escape attempts successfully escaping briefly, after packing himself in a box being taken out of the prison print shop, but was soon caught. Around 1927, Rudensky was sent to Leavenworth, a federal penitentiary in Kansas, where he escaped twice, once crawling into a body bag with a corpse.[1]

He became friends with communist Earl Browder, in prison, who taught him English and encouraged him to write.[1]


During a prison riot on August 1, 1929, Rudensky saved the life of inmate Charlie Ward, the future president of the Brown & Bigelow advertising firm. After befriending Ward, Rudensky became convinced to stop criminal activities, and after being transferred to Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary Rudensky began to work on the prison newspaper, later becoming editor. In Atlanta he became the cellmate of Al Capone.[1]

During WWII, he wrote a popular article calling for the prisoners to support the United States and organized the prisoners to help in the war effort. He was later awarded a commendation by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for his efforts.

In 1955, Rudensky was released from prison on parole working as a copy editor from Brown & Bigelow and later became chief consultant for the 3M Corporation Security Systems. In 1970, Rudensky published his autobiography The Gonif and, during the 1970s and 80s, he lectured for a time visiting schools in the St. Paul and Minneapolis metro areas, including in the renowned Minnesota educator Dr. Ida Kugler's fifth-grade class at Hancock-Hamline Magnet School, trying to detour students from the life of crime he had followed. In 1975, he made a public appearance as Paul Eakins toured the country with a V-16 Cadillac once owned by Al Capone.[2] Red lived in semi-retirement in the Shalom Home, a nursing home in St. Paul Minnesota, until his death on April 21, 1988 (although other sources claim early-1986).


  • English, T.J. Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster. New York: HarperCollins, 2005. ISBN 0-06-059002-5
  • Sifakis, Carl. The Mafia Encyclopedia. New York: Da Capo Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8160-5694-3

Further reading

  • Kobler, John. Ardent Spirits PB: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. New York: Da Capo Press, 1993. ISBN 0-306-80512-X
  • Johnson, Curt and R. Craig Sautter. The Wicked City: Chicago from Kenna to Capone. New York: Da Capo Press, 1998. ISBN 0-306-80821-8
  • Kobler, John. Capone: The Life and Times of Al Capone. New York: Da Capo Press, 2003. ISBN 0-306-81285-1

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