Casper Holstein was a gangster in the early 1900’s. His legacy as the “Bolito King” was known in the underground numbers racket of Harlem.
An original native of St. Croix, Virgin Islands, Holstein got his start in the numbers game on Wall Street. After a stint in the Navy and working as a porter and a doorman, Holstein worked his way to Wall Street as head messenger for a brokerage firm. While on the street, he studied the stock market and familiarized himself with numbers. Like many poor people of the time, he took his knowledge to the gangs, earning a living by running an illegal lottery he nicknamed Bolito. By 1920, the kid from the West Indies had become the “Bolito King,” head of the most successful underground lottery system of the time.
Casper Holstein earned more than $2 million from his operation. Like the top gangsters, he lived lavishly, owning two apartment buildings in Harlem, a house in Long Island, a fleet of cars and several thousand acres of land in Virginia. Beyond the material, he supported the community by financing dormitories at a few colleges, and contributing to the arts. Holstein helped to build a Baptist school in Liberia, create a museum in New York and provided hurricane relief for St. Croix.
In 1928, Casper Holstein was kidnapped by five white men for a $50,000 ransom. The rumor was that famous gangster Dutch Schultz was behind the operation, looking to take over the city’s numbers racket. Later, Holstein was arrested and served a year in prison for his illegal activity. But once released, he retired from the game and contributed to charities until his death in 1944.