The Money Trail


The Money Trail

How Elmer Irey and His T-Men Brought Down America's Criminal Elite

Robert G. Folsom

372 pages


April 2010


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eBook (PDF)
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October 2011


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About the Book

As the first chief of the Special Intelligence Unit at the Treasury Department, Elmer L. Irey accomplished what J. Edgar Hoover wouldn’t and Eliot Ness couldn’t. From the 1920s through the 1940s, he headed the investigations that led to the prosecution of the ruthless, murderous bosses who ruled American cities without fear of the law. Irey’s takedown of Al Capone is still the landmark law enforcement achievement in U.S. history. Those whom Irey and his branch brought to justice reads like a Who’s Who of mid-twentieth-century crime and crooked politics: Boss Tom Pendergast in Kansas City, the Huey Long gang in Louisiana, Enoch “Nucky” Johnson in Atlantic City, Morris Kleinman of Cleveland’s Mayfield Road gang, and Leon Gleckman, the “Al Capone of St. Paul. The Irey-led investigation also resulted in the prosecution of businessman and publisher Moses L. Annenberg, a cagey racketeer who was once one of the nation's wealthiest figures.Leading his own investigation into the emergence of America’s criminal underworld, Robert G. Folsom successfully places Irey in his rightful place as the twentieth century’s greatest law enforcement figure. It was shortly after the era of Prohibition—with its rampant corruption, organized crime, and compromised officials—that Irey truly made his mark. While Attorney General Homer Cummings sent Hoover and the G-Men after bank robbers, Irey and his T-Men were cracking down on New York racketeers such as Waxey Gordon and Dutch Schultz, who amassed more illegal cash in one week than celebrity bandits like John Dillinger stole during their entire careers. Irey’s work with Manhattan D.A. Tom Dewey—including the use of investigative accountants–led to the imprisonment of Charles “Lucky” Luciano, the Mafia’s boss of bosses. A few years later, the Irey-led investigation of the Hollywood stagehands’ union extortion plot would result in the first-ever takedown of a Mafia-aligned group—fifty years before U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani went after the Mafia’s Five Families. In its detailed coverage of Irey and his hard-won battles against crime, The Money Trail reveals how the forces of good can overtake the corrupt.

Author Bio

Robert G. Folsom, the author of The Money Trail: How Elmer Irey and His T-Men Brought Down America’s Criminal Elite (2010), is a former reporter and editor with more than thirty years’ experience on daily newspapers and a freelance writer on intelligence, counterintelligence, and law enforcement. He served as the director of information services at Florida International University before returning to journalism. He lives in Gainesville, Georgia.


“From Al Capone, to Lucky Luciano, to Kansas City’s Boss Pendergast and Hollywood’s racketeers, Robert Folsom chronicles America’s unholy mid-century ménage of politics, crime, and business—and the long federal effort to develop and use the one legal tactic that consistently brought down such kingpins. By focusing on the Treasury Department’s crack investigator Elmer Irey, he brings a moral center to his saga, but his book is really a panorama of some of the twentieth century’s most ostentatious, driven characters—on both sides of the law. The Money Trail is a side of the oft-told tale about the war against criminal corruption that one hears in passing but rarely sees in detail, and Folsom lays it out in a lively, encyclopedic narrative.”—Joe Jackson, author of Leavenworth Train and The Thief at the End of the World

“Exceptionally researched and well written, The Money Trail is a fascinating must-read, especially for congressional and White House leaders and federal law enforcement administrators. It is imperative, more than ever, that financial investigations become the lynchpin in future federal investigations and prosecution strategies—not only against organized crime but also in our battle with terrorist organizations. The Money Trail will more fully expose criminal and terrorist organizations, culminating in successful money laundering prosecutions and timely actionable intelligence.”—William Rosenblatt, former assistant commissioner for enforcement, U.S. Customs Service

The Money Trail clearly establishes Elmer Irey as the leading federal law enforcement agent of the twentieth century. Robert Folsom ably chronicles the history and role of the IRS and its special intelligence unit. It is most pertinent to our current efforts against organized crime, particularly major drug dealers and traffickers.”—Eugene T. Rossides, former assistant secretary of the treasury

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