Times Colonist

Lawyer took down gambling kingpin

- DOUGLAS MARTIN

Joseph P. Hoey, who was U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York for most of the 1960s after handling highprofil­e cases for the Brooklyn district attorney, died May 22 in Mineola, N.Y. He was 95 and lived in Garden City, N.Y.

The cause was heart failure, his son Patrick said.

Some of Hoey’s biggest cases occurred during the 1940s and 1950s when he was a lawyer in charge of investigat­ions for the Brooklyn district attorney. Particular­ly dramatic was the case of Harry Gross, the kingpin of illegal gambling in the New York region for more than a decade.

Working for Miles F. McDonald, the Brooklyn district attorney, Hoey and others used wiretaps and other techniques to amass enough evidence to convict Gross of running a $20-million-a-year gambling empire. Gross had put hundreds of policemen on his payroll, scores of whom were convicted.

Hoey was also chief counsel for a committee of the New York City Council that in 1969 investigat­ed the city’s Human Resources Administra­tion. It reported mismanagem­ent of anti-poverty programs.

As chief investigat­or in the office of the Brooklyn district attorney, he cracked a highprofil­e embezzleme­nt case in 1946 after it was discovered that somebody had written bogus cheques for the Mergenthal­er Linotype Co. and that $800,000 was missing. The informatio­n led to the Long Island home of an employee, William Arthur Nickel, who had $83,000 in cash on hand and two cabin cruisers; his wife had two mink coats and $40,000 worth of jewelry.

Nickel fled. Following him to Florida, Hoey persuaded Nickel to confess and name five criminal associates. He followed one suspect to Hollywood, where the suspect had invested in a restaurant.

Hoey investigat­ed corruption in the police department and other city agencies and set up a sting operation to prosecute the first violation of New York’s new rent control law in 1946.

In 1952, he elicited a confession from Irving Greene that he had set a fire in a tenement that killed seven people. Greene admitted to setting 20 other fires.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Hoey as the U.S. attorney for the area that includes Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island. In that post, he prosecuted organized crime figures, spies, counterfei­ters, a maker of fake diet pills and others.

Joseph Patrick Hoey was born on Oct. 21, 1912, in Brooklyn. He graduated from Fordham College in 1934 and from the law school at St. John’s University in 1937. In the Second World War, he served as an intelligen­ce officer in a motor torpedo squadron.

Hoey’s wife of 64 years, the former Kathryn Daly, died last year. He is survived by two sons, two daughters, five grandchild­ren and four greatgrand­children.

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