Thursday, 12 December 2019 14:06

A Gangster’s Paradise

Former City Police Chief Pens Historical Book About Saratoga’s Notorious Gangsters & Gamblers 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Former city Police Chief Greg Veitch has published a new book that documents the history of Saratoga gangsters and concludes in the 1950s - when 130 years of open illegal gambling in the city came to an end. The argument could be made that along with other mid-20th century events, such as the construction of the Northway and the sweeping project of Urban Renewal, going “legit” in a post-gangster Saratoga Springs contributed to the development of the prosperous city that exists in the present day. 

Veitch, whose family has resided in the Spa City for several generations, served in local law enforcement for a quarter-century, rising through the ranks to become Saratoga Springs’ police chief. Tuned in to a calling that insisted there were other things to do in his life, Veitch resigned his position as police chief in May. 

“Things have been good. I don’t miss it as much as I thought I would, but I felt called to go into the profession and I felt called to leave, so maybe that has made it easier,” he said, during a sit-down interview this week. “I don’t necessarily know what the future holds for me, but I was prepared to leave. In my life, I try to follow what I believe I’m hearing from above.”

One of the things he has worked on is continuing to historically document notorious gangster connections with the village and the city of Saratoga Springs during a period that spanned more than a century. 

His previously published debut book, “All the Law in the World Won’t Stop Them,” retells the history of the gamblers and gangsters of Saratoga from the early years as a village up through 1930.  The new edition, published by Shires Press, continues the history of Saratoga gamblers and gangsters with tales of bootlegging and liquor raids, gangland shootouts, political payoffs and police corruption.

The new book, “A Gangster’s Paradise: Saratoga Springs from Prohibition to Kefauver,” tells the story from the Prohibition Era t
o the Kefauver Committee hearings in the 1950s. In May 1950, the Senate established a five-member Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce. Tennessee senator Estes Kefauver was selected as its chairman.

“My intent was always to write the story from the beginning of the village through the early ‘50s when the Kefauver investigation put an end to the open gambling in Saratoga, to tell the story from beginning to end,” Veitch said. 

“How did the book thing get started?  When I was a little kid, 4 or 5 years old, The Veitch family had a reunion when we were selling the Old Bryan Inn. I can remember the older guys – my uncles and my father, telling me this story about my great-grandfather Sid and a mafia shooting, or a gangland shooting,” Veitch said.  “It was about this guy who got shot and dumped at the hospital. When the police came and interviewed Sid about it, he said, ‘Look I was sitting in the front seat of the car. They shot the guy in the back seat of the car, so I didn’t see ‘nothing, I can’t help you.’ 

“Now great grandpa Sid was kind of a rough-and-tumble guy, so the story’s believable. For years the only thing I knew about him was that story, and nothing else,” Veitch said. “So, I go away to college, I come back;  I become a policeman and I get promoted to be a detective lieutenant and a detective calls me up out of the blue one day and says: hey, can you go check on a case from the 1980s?”

While searching through the archives he discovered some information about the case he had heard about as a child. “The murder of Adam Parillo 1936. It was one sheet. My great-grandfather is not mentioned at all. He’s not part of the story in any way. And (Parillo) probably wasn’t even shot in the car. My great-grandfather probably just told people that to make himself look tough,” Veitch said. 

Nonetheless, he pulled together some newspaper clippings regarding the Parillo case for a presentation at the Saratoga Springs History Museum. 

“It was about the most famous unsolved murder in Saratoga Springs history. When I was done talking, a guy walked up front and said to me, ‘You should write a book.’ Before that, I hadn’t even thought anything about it, but I did know there were other fascinating stories about Saratoga, so I started piecing these stories together,” Veitch said. 

During his course of research – which was conducted strictly through historical resources like newspapers and not police files – it dawned on him that what he had was a 130-year story of open gambling and corruption. “Stories about what was going on: fixed horse races, bootleggers shooting at each other on Circular Street, just fascinating.  I had so much stuff, I thought, you know, maybe I should write a book; get it down and even if nobody ever reads it, at least there will be a place in the library where somebody can go and look at it,” Veitch said. 

“I love telling stories, I love talking to people from Saratoga. I like people stopping me on the street and saying, ‘Hey, my family did this during that time.’ I think I can write a couple of more books (in the future), but it won’t be about this.” 

The new book features chapters with titles like “A Spasm of Violence,” “Trouble at The Track,” and “Prohibition at The Spa.” It includes historic photos and research notes.

“A Gangster’s Paradise” sells for $25. It is available at Northshire Bookstore, on Broadway in Saratoga Springs. For more information, go to: gangstersofsaratoga.com. 

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