Zuta (also spelled as "Zoota") was born on February 18, 1888, to a Polish-Jewish peasant family in Russian Empire. He immigrated to the United States around 1913. Living in Chicago, Zuta worked as a junk dealer on the West Side before becoming involved in prostitution. He eventually operated several brothels on west Madison Street. However he was put out of business by competition from Mike "The Pike" Heitler and the Guzik Brothers, Harry and "Greasy Thumb" Jake Guzik.
Zuta began working for Al Capone in the mid-1920s. He helped contribute $50,000 of Capone's money to Chicago Mayor William Hale Thompson's reelection campaign in 1927. However, Zuta defected to Bugs Moran's North Side Gang during the gang war between Capone and Moran.
In June 1930, Zuta supposedly ordered the death of Chicago Examiner reporter Jake Lingle after Lingle tried to extort money from Moran's gambling operations. After the murder (for which Leo Vincent Brothers was convicted), Zuta was questioned by police. He was released the next day. While being given a police escort the police cruiser was fired on by several unidentified gunmen. The attackers killed two bystanders before being driven off by police. Zuta fled Chicago, moving to Upper Nemahbin Lake, west of Milwaukee, living the last month of his life under the name, "J.H. Goodman." Zuta was shot to death on August 1, 1930 in a roadhouse in Delafield, Wisconsin.
Zuta's death however resulted in the uncovering of a large amount of corruption in Illinois. Zuta, a meticulous record keeper, had much information later found in various safe deposit boxes. This information lead to the capture of a large whiskey shipment to Moran and to information about police raids on several breweries, as well as detailing Mafia payoffs to state and city officials.
Some of the officials implicated were:
Chicago Alderman Dorsey Crowe Board of Education executive Nate DeLue, Judge Joseph W. Schulman ex-Judge Emanuel Eller Chicago Police sergeant Martin C. Mulvihill Evanston Police Chief William O. Freeman Illinois Senator Harry W. Starr.
All denied involvement, however, particularly Crowe and Starr, who claimed the money was part of campaign contributions. The name, "Zuta," later became slang for revenge. In 1931, after a $50,000 bounty was placed on him, Al Capone said, "Nobody's gonna' 'Zuta' me."