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Otto Biederman, better known as Otto “Abbadabba” Berman, was born in New York City in 1889. At the age of 15, he was tried and acquitted for rape. He grew up to become an accountant, gaining some measure of fame for his ability to make complex calculations in his head. Berman served as Dutch Schultz’s bookkeeper and financial adviser from 1933 until his death in 1935. He allegedly coined the phrase, “Nothing personal. It’s just business.”

In 1932, Berman approached Dutch Schultz with a $10,000 proposition: a scheme to make the Harlem Numbers Game even more profitable. Initially Schultz declined, but in 1933, with his financial situation souring, Schultz agreed to Berman’s plan.  The winning three numbers were derived from the results of horse races. After the first two numbers had been determined by race results, Berman would call George Weinberg to find out what numbers would cost the Schultz mob the largest sum of money that day. Then Berman would place bets large enough to influence the odds should any of those numbers win, thereby maximizing profits. According to Weinberg, “pretty much every day” was a winning day for the numbers racket once Berman’s plan was implemented. Berman was murdered along with Dutch Schultz at the Palace Chophouse in Newark, New Jersey. National Crime Syndicate gunman burst into the restaurant, assassinating Schultz and three of his associates (including Berman) on October 23, 1935.

Artwork Information: Otto Berman, 2008 Mixed Media Silkscreen on Paper 19" x 29"
Filed Under: Celebrity Arrests


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