Washington, D.C. gangster Joe Nesline cut a dapper figure. Nesline dressed smartly and sported a diamond ring on his finger and diamond cufflinks. At a little over 5 foot 7 inches, he was not a big man. But he had swagger when it came to gambling, boasting to the FBI he was the world’s “best crap-shooter.” He had been arrested more than 20 times for liquor law violations and gambling, yet he only spent three years in jail.

From the 1950s to the mid-1960s, Nesline was D.C.’s best known and best connected gangster. He came up in the tradition of past D.C. crime bosses. From the Warring brothers, who ran bootleg whiskey during Prohibition and numbers in the 1930s in Foggy Bottom and Georgetown to Roger “Whitetop” Simkins, who ran a numbers operation in Petworth, to Nesline’s gambling houses, D.C. underworld operations were local in character and relatively small-scale. The Mafia did not absorb local gangster operations in D.C. as it did in other cities. And the Mafia never became entrenched in D.C. as it did in Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, New York, or Philadelphia.

In Nesline’s declassified FBI file, there is no evidence he was a “made man” of a Mafia family. He was not Italian. But Nesline’s close ties to leading Mafia gamblers made him unique among D.C. gangsters.

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