A book has been written about him. He has cavorted with mafia bosses, terrorists, smugglers, murderers and thieves. It is even believed that he knows the final resting place of Teamsters' boss Jimmy Hoffa. And why not, he use to be Hoffa's driver in the day. Marvin "the Weasel" Elkind a petty thief, little-known pro boxer, born in Jewish Toronto, shunted through foster homes ending up in reform school has a story that reads like a Hollywood gangster movie.
Marvin began his career as a welter weight boxer who if it were not for his association with mobsters and crime might have been a contender. Marvin tells the story of one of his first fights in Miami in 1953. That evening he was scheduled to fight Rocky Castellani, a welter weight who a few years later lost a close split decision to hall of famer Sugar Ray Robinson.
Just before the fight was to begin two toughs with guns showing through their jackets walked in and cleared the dressing room. Once empty, a short elegantly dressed man walked in puffing away on a cigar; it was Myer Lansky, famed American Jewish mobster. "Hob nit kain moirch" (Don't be afraid), Lansky said to him in Yiddish and proceeded to engage him in a conversation which led to Marvin understanding that Lansky wanted him to throw the fight in the third round. With an enticement of $1,000 (double what he would have made) and the ever-present threat of what may happen if he didn't, Marvin agreed. As he was about to leave, Lansky turned to Marvin and said wryly, "Boychik remember if you don't do this just be sure you have someone around to say Kaddish (the Jewish prayer for the dead)."
Yet "The Weasel" was much more than a second-rate boxer and mafia hanger-on. Marvin worked as a police informant for more than three decades. Whether it was the FBI, US Customs and Border Protection, US Department of the Treasury or our very own OPP with whom he had a long time personal connection, Marvin betrayed mobsters, mercenaries, money launderers and many more across both Canada and the United States. However the sting that Marvin is most proud is the one he pulled against Libyan agents allegedly out to harm his beloved Israel.
It was 1984. Marvin had already been working with OPP Detective Al "Robbie" Robinson, himself a legend within the annals of Canadian policing and ironically a man I worked with during my time at Canadian Jewish Congress. Al Robinson was a tough cop. When I knew him he was tasked to deal with violent neo-Nazis and white supremacists like Wolfgang Droege who were trying to influence Canadian youth and somewhat succeeding. For Marvin, "Robbie" was not just his handler but as he explained to me, "Look kid, Robbie and I were almost the same age but he was like a father to me. He was one of the only people to always say after a sting 'Marv you did a good job.' I never really heard that before. "
Ensconced in a penthouse apartment in downtown Toronto was a former Libyan-diplomat-turned- international-arms-dealer, Muftah El-Abbar -- and amongst much else, a tennis aficionado. Both Canadian and American law enforcement feared he was involved in trying to secure arms for Ghadaffi to be funneled to the then PLO to be used against Israel. El-Abbar was especially interested in military grade helicopters. He was careful; no American agent to date was able to get near him. "Robbie" figured if anyone could do the job it was the Weasel.
Following a briefing by Robbie, Marvin realized that El-Abbar's finances were handled by a Spanish bank in the city. As luck would have it, his estranged brother Stanley, a successful lawyer in Toronto, was at the time on the bank's Board. Even though the brothers had not spoken in years, Marvin with his usual moxie, devised a plan.
In the 1980s, drywall was in short supply. Marvin was in touch with a Toronto builder he knew working on a large construction project in Miami. Promising him a "million dollars" in dry wall Marvin headed to El-Abbar's bank. Meeting the manager and introducing himself as "Marvin Elkind," he explained he had a big business deal for drywall and would require a large loan to purchase it. The bank manger, not knowing of the brothers' estrangement, immediately contacted the builders who confirmed the upcoming business deal. Given all the circumstances the bank was eager to proceed.
All was in place when Marvin explained that the American builder was coming into Toronto and he wanted to entertain him. The builder he explained was a tennis nut and Marvin confided he knew nothing of the game. So began the scam. The bank manager unwittingly made arrangements for his client, Muftah El-Abbar, to meet Marvin's builder friend, who in the end turned out to be a U.S. Treasury agent.
The clever con that Marvin arranged led to El-Abbar's arrest and the subsequent decision it seems for the Libyan agent to work with the CIA. Interestingly, it was this sting that led to information of Ghadhafi's residence that was bombed in 1986 in retaliation for what was believed to be a Libyan- inspired terrorist attack against American servicemen in Berlin.
Marvin Elkind was a mobster and a snitch. By his own admission, Marv did some very bad things, much of which he tells me today he is not proud. As the years have crept up on him, Marvin ponders his own mortality. "You play the cards you're dealt," he explained in his casual blunt manner, "so if I could do this [stop the Libyans], I figured that maybe the Ribono shel Olam (the master of the universe) will be a little nicer to me when my time comes."
The author and Marvin
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