Ken Eto was a numbers kingpin for Chicago’s biggest organized-crime syndicate — until that syndicate sent two hitmen after him in an empty parking lot. From an Idaho detainment camp to the streets of the Windy City, Dan O’Sullivan serves up an absolute barnburner of a story about the man known as Tokyo Joe.
“The sole goal of organized crime is to enrich the members. That’s all they care about,” says John J. Binder, author of Al Capone’s Beer Wars. And, while not Italian, Ken Eto was one of its biggest moneymakers. Eto’s lofty position in the Chicago underworld was unusual for an outsider, but the syndicate had always been more farsighted than other crime families in promoting gangsters of other ethnicities.
It was less a mark of tolerance than proof of its ambition. Ever since Capone first employed his squad of “American Boys” — a gang of Midwestern killers who looked more like police officers than Mafia hit men — non-Italians had occupied important positions in the Outfit. But all these men had been white. Ken Eto was not. And he wasn’t some despised underling; he was one of the bosses.