Useful Notes / The Mafia
It should be noted in Real Life
that there are in fact two
Mafias: the Sicilian
Mafia and the American
Mafia. The first has operated in Sicily at least since the unification of Italy (and possibly much longer, though most of their history has been heavily romanticized). It limits its membership to Sicilian males with no police relatives, and despite massive prosecutions in Italy and starting from the 1980s, they still have a heavy presence in Sicily today. They accomplished this by sending politicians on their payroll straight to Parliament, and sadly the reveal of an MP sitting in the national anti-Mafia commission to have ties or suspected ties with Cosa Nostra is not that infrequent.
The American Mafia began with loosely-knit protection gangs known as Black Hands,
taking orders from emigrated Sicilian mafiosi. Charles "Lucky" Luciano, both a member of the Sicilian Mafia (under Joe Masseria) and a graduate of the infamous Italian-American Five Points Gang, drew members from other parts of Italy (or rather other parts of Little
Italy) under his umbrella, knocked off the old hats (known in the day as "Mustache Petes"), and reorganized the American Mafia along territorial lines. Each city in the country was given to one family, except for New York, which famously got five. This structure, along with the "Commission" (an executive body designed for resolving disputes, which included at its inception the Five Families, the boss from Buffalo, and Chicago boss Al Capone, and at times included other families such as Philadelphia and Detroit; the modern "Commission" now consists the five New York City Bosses and the Chicago Outfit) is generally believed to have held up today, despite heavy law enforcement pressure. Modern-day candidates for "made guys" must be "of Italian descent," which can mean varying things according to which family is making the decision; some families, such as the Chicago Outfit, do not heavily stress the "made guy" role and do a lot of business with associates of non-Italian ethnicity (indeed, the "Chicago Outfit" was originally a coalition of many ethnic gangs, including Irish, Italians, Jews, and Poles, under the leadership of Al Capone's predecessor Johnny Torrio, who all agreed not to interfere with the other gangs' bootlegging operations; the Italians, being the most organized and having connections to the massive operations in New York, were merely first among equals); other families such as the Bonanno family of New York have substantial "zip" (imported Sicilian mafiosi) crews and are more stringent in regards to who they do business with.
Both Mafias (and similar Italian groups such as the Camorra,note
Sacra Corona Unita,note
and the 'Ndranghetanote
) generally operate in the same manner: collection of protection money, "street taxes" on independent criminals, union racketeering, out-and-out larceny, and gambling make up most of the income, with drug money and prostitution being big moneymakers for some parts of the family. Each "rank" within the Mafia taxes the one below it (fixed sums for capos, a percentage for soldiers and associates); money only goes from downstream to upstream. Despite the law of omertà
and considerable sanctions for speaking to law enforcement, a number of mafiosi in both countries (and one boss, Joe Massino) have turned state's evidence/become a pentito
(Italian term for the same thing) to save themselves from long prison terms.
As a bit of a sidebar, different families have different reputations, accurate or not. These are particularly strong with the non-New York mob (the New York mob being seen as the "vanilla" Mafia): the Detroit Partnership is noted for its brutality and its connections with the unions (that whole Teamsters/Jimmy Hoffa business? Detroit), the Tampa Mafia for its complex relationship with Cubans and longing for the halcyon days of the '50s (when the Cubans were in Cuba as partners instead of being in Miami as rivals
), the Los Angeles mob is often seen as weak and incompetent (nicknamed the "Mickey Mouse Mafia"), the Chicago Outfit is inextricably linked in the public imagination to bootlegging and Al Capone, etc. The New York and Chicago mobs (particularly the latter) are often seen as having influence beyond their region. New York families have strong influence in Montreal, New Jersey, and Philadelphia—often playing kingmaker in these outfits (see, e.g.: Philip "The Chicken Man" Testa—you know the one they blew up in Philly last night
—whose death was the result of tensions between pro- and anti-New York factions in the Philly mob; see also the most famous depiction of a non-New York, non-Chicago American Mafia outfit
). Meanwhile, Chicago has traditionally controlled everything west of it.
The American Mafia started out as street-level gangsters, originating as Black Hand loansharks and extortion rings in the early 1900s. The Five Points Gang became notorious in the 1910s and 1920s, and with the advent of Prohibition, many mafiosi became bootleggers thanks to a nationwide ban on alcohol sales. However, this also led to numerous gangland wars, especially in New York and Chicago; in Chicacgo, Al Capone was duking it out with Bugs Moran. The New York war (known as the Castellammarese War because one of the warring Mafia factions came from Castellammare del Golfo, a small town in Sicily, and later became the Bonanno family) was different because it ultimately changed the course of the Mafia forever. The murders of Joe Masseria (who was known to be extremely greedy, and his heavy-handed attempts to shake down other Italian gangs led to the Castellammarese War)
and Salvatore Maranzano (who became power-hungry following the death of Masseria, and wanted to rule the mob as an absolute dictator despite introducing many of the basic rules of the Mafia)
in 1931 paved the way for Lucky Luciano's rise to power. He not only restructured the Mafia (by introducing a Commission to resolve disputes among the families), but also branched out to work with other ethnic mobs (including the Kosher Nostra
aka the Jewish mafia and the Irish Mob) to form a National Crime Syndicate. The Mafia also began to infiltrate legitimate businesses such as labor unions, white-collar crimes (financial fraud, Ponzi schemes, money laundering, political corruption) clothes manufacturing, construction, food distribution, cargo shipping and garbage hauling at this time, in addition to the traditional "bread-and-butter" crimes such as loansharking, bookmaking, armed robbery/truck hijacking, gambling, extortion, prostitution and murder-for-hire.
However, things did not go well for Luciano, and he was deported back to Italy in 1946 following his conviction for running a prostitution ring, and he formed ties with the Sicilian Mafia to distribute drugs in the United States. It was at this time that the Mafia started considering dealing in drug trafficking, and it immediately split into two camps; the pro-drug trafficking faction believed that it was a lucrative business, while the anti-drug trafficking faction thought drugs were bad for business and would attract law enforcement. The pro-drug trafficking faction eventually won out, and many lower-ranking mobsters began to deal with the Sicilians and other drug traffickers to import narcotics into the USA. Joe Bonanno, the boss of the Bonanno crime family, had crews that were actively dealing in drugs, and even set up Montreal as an outpost for importing heroin into the United States. Carlo Gambino, boss of the Gambino family, used Zips (imported Sicilian mafiosi) to import heroin via his cousins, while Vito Genovese actively pushed for narcotics trafficking, but was imprisoned on presumably trumped up charges of drug dealing. Despite a ban on narcotics trafficking imposed in the 1950s, many families dealt drugs on the sly to avoid any heat from the law, and bosses such as Paul Castellano (Carlo Gambino's cousin and brother-in-law) turned a blind eye and tolerated it as long as no made man was caught dealing drugs.
The Kefauver hearings in 1951 determined that a vast criminal conspiracy operated by Italian mobsters did exist behind the scenes, and the Apalachin Meeting of 1957 really exposed the La Cosa Nostra into the public eye (The Apalachin meeting was set up by Vito Genovese, Luciano's former underboss
, who aimed to wrest control of the Genovese family from Frank Costello, his main rival and to become the Boss of all Bosses. The meeting was exposed by the New York State Police, and more than 60 mobsters were caught. Genovese was never forgiven by many of his fellow bosses for this debacle, and he ended up in prison for presumably trumped-up charges on narcotics trafficking in 1959). Then, in 1963, a low-level soldier named Joe Valachi became the first made man to flip by providing a glimpse into the inner workings of the Mafia. At this time, the FBI started to put more effort into organized crime activities, and the passing of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in 1970 also helped the FBI in building cases against mobsters and their families.
By the 1980s, the federal government was able to crack down on the Mafia's activities, culminating in the Mafia Commission Case, and an increasing number of mafiosi began to cooperate with the FBI in 1990s. Among the more notable cooperating witnesses (or "rats", as the Mafia calls them) was Sammy Gravano, whose testimony helped take down John Gotti, Vincent Gigante and other bosses in the 1990s; another notable example was Joe Massino, when he became the first official boss to become an informant in 2005. Phil Leonetti, Jimmy Fratianno, Gaspipe Casso (though he was later thrown out) and Salvatore Vitale were also good examples of mobsters flipping. Despite these convictions and informants (and with the FBI now focusing more on homeland security), the American Mafia remains a formidable force and is quietly rebuilding its power base, as it's rumored to earn between $50 and $90 billion a year; it now outsources some of its work to other gangs in order to avoid FBI attention.
Here are the ranks:
- Capo di tutti i capi - the Boss of all Bosses in a particular area. More a media title than anything of significance in the American or Sicilian Mob; crime family bosses are seen as peers and don't pay tribute to or take orders from each other. The only boss to ever claim this title for himself was Salvatore Maranzano after "winning" the Castellammarese War in 1931, and he got to enjoy it for less than six months. Before long, Maranzano's nominal second-in-command Lucky Luciano and his fellow Young Turks thought Maranzano was much greedier and power-hungry than they thought originally, and they decided to retire the title, and Maranzano along with it. An older term, capo consigliere, denoted the first among equals of the New York bosses, who would arbitrate disputes between families, this went by the wayside during the Castellammarese War and was never reestablished afterwards.
- The Commission: Luciano's answer to the capo di tutti i capi title. Originally consisted of the bosses of the Five Families in New York, the boss of the Buffalo family, and Al Capone, with substantial input from "associates" such as Meyer Lansky. Later pared down to just the Five Families (with the Bonnano family thrown out of the Commission in the 1970s and 1980s due to their disunity, the fact that they almost inducted an undercover FBI agent and excessive drug dealing since the 1950s), with Chicago doing its own thing, but it still has a seat on the Commission; the idea worked so well that the Sicilian Mafia was encouraged to form a similar body. The Commission is headed by a nominal Chairman, who was not seen as the capo di tutti i capi as law enforcement claimed it to be; in the mob, crime bosses are viewed as equals (regardless of size, structure, power or age), and having one boss reign supreme over the others runs contrary to this idea. Luciano became the first Chairman of the Mafia Commission after establishing it in 1931. Contrary to popular belief, the Commission does not "rule" the Mafia (see above re: bosses, orders, and tribute), it's intended to be a body for settling disputes that might otherwise lead to violations of "honor" and all-out turf wars—think more of a United Nations of the Underworld rather than a King of the Mafia (or even a Parliament of the Mafia). Only the Commission can approve a new boss before he could take over officially, allow who can become a made man and who can't, and vote on issues (such as the narcotics trade) that might require inter-family cooperation. Though the bosses used to meet more frequently, greater law enforcement scrutiny after the Commission case in the 1980s and an increasing number of informants, notably Sammy the Bull Gravano, have forced the Commission underground, and the families now send lower-level members such as capos to discuss business and resolve disputes.
In each family:
- Capofamiglia/Representante (Boss) - Crime boss of a particular family. "Don" is an honorific, not a title: in today's Italy it's reserved to priests. Since Mafia families in Sicily are more numerous and smaller than those in the United States, the title is not as distinguished, although the boss still has paramount authority within his region. "Hits" on individuals under his family's protection are at the sole discretion of the boss, and the boss also decides who is allowed to become a formal member of the family ("opening the books" is a term used by the Cosa Nostra to induct new members into a family). Much of the boss's duties consist of settling disputes (holding "sit-downs") between family members and other crime families, relaying orders down the line to the soldiers, and he receives a tribute from the family's captains (and rarely, soldiers and associates serving directly under him). He can also promote or demote ("knock down" or "break") family members at will.
- Capobastone/Sottocapo/Vicecapo - The Underboss, usually inherits the Boss title if the official boss is unavailable (death, prison, etc...). In some cases, the underboss may control what amounts to a faction within the family (and be given the lucrative position to ensure nominal loyalty); other times, he may be a mere flunky (figurehead) kept strictly under the boss's thumb. The latter type are often "knocked down" (demoted), or "whacked" (take a guess) when their patron is no longer guiding their fortunes or if they fell out of favor with the boss. Will collect tribute from most of the family's captains (some, known as "king's men" have the honor of handing theirs directly to the boss), taking a hefty cut before passing it up, and may be in charge of larger rackets requiring citywide coordination (for example, sports betting, which requires bookies across an urban area to hedge each other's bets to collect profit with minimum risk). It should be noted that Capobastone is used mainly within the 'Ndrangheta, though.
- Acting Boss/Street Boss - A rank unique to the American Mafia, appearing in response to the increase in the number of racketeering convictions since the 1980's, rendering most "official" bosses and underbosses no longer at liberty to control the day-to-day operations of their families. Thus responsibility ends up being delegated to a capo (who still operates his own crew in the meantime) who can send a "messenger" to receive orders from the boss and pass along tribute. Even when bosses are free, this structure is at times maintained as a facade to prevent law enforcement from determining where exactly orders are coming from. May in fact be the de facto boss in all but name, especially if the official boss is old, ill, or kept incommunicado in prison, and if the Street Boss would rather keep a lower-profile. (Note: This, essentially, was the rank Tony Soprano occupied for most of the series.) The Genovese family (nicknamed the "Ivy League of organized crime"), would oftentimes prop up "dummy bosses" (usually high-ranking capos) to masquerade as the boss while the real boss would remain shielded from law enforcement scrutiny and continue to operate from behind the scenes.
- Ruling Panel - A rank also unique to the American Mafia, this also appeared in response to greater law enforcement scrutiny in the aftermath of the Mafia Commission Case in the 1980s, as most of the "official" bosses faced long prison sentences. The boss sometimes delegates a group of high-ranking capos (who still operate their own crews at the same time) to run the day-to-day operations of the family while the boss retains ultimate control of the family from behind bars, and usually relays his orders to the family via a "messenger", who could then pass down the orders down the chain of command to avoid suspicion. The families can also use these ruling panels to shield the higher-ups to fool law enforcement as to who the official boss is (this tactic is used by the Genovese family since the 1960s to hide the real boss).
- Consigliere - The adviser/right hand man, only third (or fourth counting the Godfather) is that the adviser keeps the legal face of the family and sometimes acts as the family lawyer. In theory, he is the only one allowed to argue with the Boss, when he thinks what the boss is doing could destroy the family. Most "consigliere" types in media (such as Tom Hagen) are actually based on Mob lawyers. Though the Commission specified a counselor in each family to act as their eyes and ears, most Real Life mob bosses treated it as a lower-level position. Many families use the position for an experienced member who knows the ins and outs of the family's power, but does not wish to rise to the boss or underboss position for whatever reason. Chicago would be a subversion, with the "consigliere" being a sort of "boss emeritus" (mobsters Tony Accardo and Paul Ricca held this title, and exercised ''de facto'' control of the Chicago Outfit for nearly 50 years while letting lower-level capos such as Sam Giancana or Joey "Doves" Aiuppa hold the title of boss). A consigliere generally has one soldier underneath him as an aide-de-camp and source of additional income; the lack of attachment to a crew supposedly makes him more "impartial" and obviously makes him less powerful.
- Capodecina/Caporegime - Also known as a captain, skipper, capo, or "crew chief," the caporegime may oversee a crew of soldiers as he can efficiently control in a certain territory assigned to him. Grants permission for all criminal activities in his crew (unauthorized activities may run afoul of another crew or another family's rackets), collects a share of every score, and passes a fixed sum on to the boss of the family. Captains are, in effect, the family's "middle management." Their control over the family's earners and shooters gives them a great deal of power, and they are often the kingmakers if the boss position becomes vacant. The latter title is unique to the Italian-American Mafia.
- Soldato/Picciotto - a soldier, "wiseguy", "button man", or "made guy." This is the lowest level of mobster or gangster who is considered a full member of the "family". A "soldier" must have taken an oath in which he has sworn to follow the rules of the Mafia (such as the omertà), and in some organizations must have killed a person in order to be considered "made."note This entitles them to the full protection of the family in question. Killing or assaulting a soldier, or even infringing on their rackets without permission of their boss, is considered a grievous (usually fatal) offense. American mafiosi may refer to a made man among other made men (as in introducing them; two made men must always be formally introduced by a third party known to both, even if they're father and son) as "a friend of ours." Picciotto is used within the Sicilian Mafia and indicates someone of a lower rank than that of Soldato.
- Associates - "Giovane d'onore" (man of honor), "cugino" (cousin), or "connected guy". An associate is a person who is not a soldier in a crime family, but works for them and shares in the execution of and profits from the criminal enterprise. In Italian criminal organizations, "associates" are usually members of the criminal organization who are not of Italian descent, or junior members who may someday rise to become soldiers for the family; this process can take a decade or longer depending upon the family and the individual's qualifications. This can be tricky sometimes; associates with a history of making serious money often command respect beyond their title (Jimmy Burke of Wiseguy and Goodfellas fame, barred from being made on account of being Irish and not Italian, was a de facto capo for the Lucchese family in the '60s and '70s due to his high-dollar heists). Distinctions are usually drawn between those associates loosely associated with the family, and those who have gone "on record" with a specific soldier or captain; the latter are more tightly controlled in their dealings and are usually candidates for membership. American mafiosi may refer to an associate as "a friend of mine" (rather than "a friend of ours," a quiet warning to watch what is said in their presence). Giovane d'onore is unique to the Camorra.
- Note: At one time, one had to be a full-blooded Italian to be a full member of the American Mafia, but the rules seem to have become a touch more flexible as time went on. Despite this, some of the Mafia families may be more stringent than others as to who they want to induct.
There were, at one point, 20+ Mafia families in the United States, though many have since become defunct or are in decline because of law enforcement scrutiny, internal warfare, or old age.
New York City:
- Bonanno crime family - Has a huge presence in northern and western Brooklyn (especially Williamsburg, Bushwick, Knickerbocker Avenue and Greenpoint), Queens (especially Ridgewood, Maspeth and Metropolitan Avenue) and Staten Island with smaller crews and factions in Manhattan, the Bronx, Westchester, South Brooklyn, New Jersey, Florida and Canada (the family had a crew in Tucson, AZ until Joe Bonanno's retirement in the 1960s); the family also has a "Zip" faction. Oftentimes the unruliest of the Five Families (owing to its independent streak stemming from the Castellamarese War), this crime family originally hailed from Castellammare del Golfo, a small seaside town in Sicily. Many of its earliest members came from this town and settled down in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (including family founder Joe Bonanno, who took over after Salvatore Maranzano's death in 1931); the family was very tight-knit and considered to be the most Sicilian of the Five Families. Bonanno even forged close ties with Joe Profaci, boss of the Profaci (now Colombo) crime family and with Steve Maggaddino (his cousin and boss of the Buffalo family). But, Bonanno had bigger ambitions and sought to become the boss of bosses by eliminating several of his rivals (notably Gambino and Lucchese) in the 1960s; however, this plot was exposed and the family faced an internal war, which ended when Bonanno and his son Bill were forced to "retire" in 1968 to Tuscon, Arizona. The family's troubles (it was known to have a string of ineffectual bosses in the 1970s), did not end as Carmine Galante, a former underboss and known drug trafficker (the Bonannos were very notorious for dealing drugs since the 1950s, when Joe Bonanno sent Galante to Montreal so that they could import heroin into the United States from Bonanno's contacts in Sicily), attempted to become boss but he was eliminated in 1979, allowing Philip Rastelli to take control of the family. Rastelli then faced another challenge from three of his capos, who thought he was ineffectual to run the family; they too were eliminated by Rastelli loyalists led by Sonny Black Napolitano and Joe Massino. The Donnie Brasco incident (in which an FBI agent infiltrated one of the crews and almost got made), however, did throw the Bonannos out of the Commission for most of the 1980s (Sonny Black Napolitano, whose crew was infiltrated by Joe Pistone aka "Donnie Brasco", ended up dead and his hands were chopped off as a warning to others to never shake hands with law enforcement; several other wiseguys connected to Sonny Black also ended up dead); this in fact, worked to their favor as they were the only family to avoid indictment on the Mafia Commission Trial, allowing them to quietly rebuild its power base. Joe Massino, Rastelli's protege and underboss, took over as boss in 1991, and he quickly worked to rebuild the family to its former glory by the dawn of the millennium; he even expanded into Wall Street scams and white-collar fraud. However, several of his button men flipped, and he faced a lengthy prison sentence; Massino then faced the death penalty in 2004 after one of the murders was traced to him. Fearing the death sentence, he became the first official boss of a crime family to turn state's evidence in 2005. Once again, the Bonannos are now in shambles after Massino flipped against his former mob colleauges and are struggling to rebuild themselves in the aftermath.
- Colombo crime family - Big presence in Brooklyn (notably Red Hook, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Park Slope, Gowanus and Carroll Gardens) and Staten Island, with smaller crews in Manhattan, Queens, Long Island and Florida; also has a crew based in Los Angeles (the family used to have a faction in New Jersey, but that has been disbanded since the 1990s). Currently the weakest of the Five Families thanks to numerous informants, ineffectual and/or publicity-hungry bosses and internal wars since the 1960s. Originally a small and fairly-well organized gang of Sicilian mafiosi hailing from the town of Villabate. The crime family was originally known as the Profaci crime family after the first boss, Joseph Profaci, who established good ties with Joe Bonanno, the boss of the Bonanno crime family. But, he was known to be miserly and greedy, and his tightfisted attitude led to the first family war. This war was ignited by Joe Gallo, a capo with violent tendencies; the war ended with Profaci's death and Gallo's imprisonment. Joe Colombo took over the family in 1963 after exposing Bonanno's plan to assassinate several bosses on the Commission; with Carlo Gambino's backing, he changed the family name to Colombo. However, he was too publicity friendly (as Colombo claimed the FBI was falsely targeting Italians), much to the dismay of his fellow bosses. He was later gunned down and put in a coma (that he never recovered from) in 1971 during a rally at Columbus Circle. Carmine Persico took over the family in 1972, but he spent much of his reign while imprisoned (he used a series of acting bosses and ruling panels, and groomed his son to take over). The family would split again in the 1990s when Victor Orena, a dissatisfied capo, tried to take over as boss. While Persico won the battle (and still runs the family from behind bars), the Colombos have been weakened because of informants and government crackdowns in the 2000s.
- Gambino crime family - Big presence in Brooklyn (notably Bay Ridge, Gravesend, Bensonhurst and the Brooklyn docks), Queens (especially Howard Beach, the Rockaways and JFK Airport), Long Island and Staten Island, with smaller crews and factions in Manhattan, the Bronx, Westchester, New England, New Jersey and Florida (the family once had a crew based in Baltimore until the 1990s); the family also has a big "Zip" faction (the Cherry Hill Gambinos). Once the biggest crime family (under Carlo Gambino's reign), it is now a former shell of itself due to John Gotti's high media profile and subsequent imprisonment in 1992. The family had its origins in the large Brooklyn wing of the Morello crime family, which eventually split off into its own family. The family first came to prominence under the Mangano brothers (Phil and Vincent), who held an iron fist over the Brooklyn waterfront, thanks to their underboss Albert Anastasia. Anastasia took over as boss after eliminating the Mangano brothers, and was known to be a ruthless boss (thanks to his prior experience as the head of Murder, Inc. in the 1930s). However, his past would come back to haunt him, and he was assassinated in a famous gangland hit in 1957 (orchestrated by Carlo Gambino and Vito Genovese). Carlo Gambino, the family's namesake, took over as boss and led it to prosperous times, thanks to his ties with Tommy Lucchese, the boss of the Lucchese family. Prior to his death in 1976, Gambino named his cousin Paul Castellano as boss over his underboss, Neil Dellacroce; splitting the family into two factions (the pro-Dellacroce faction, which was led by John Gotti, believed that Castellano did not earn his stripes on the street and was a flunky of Gambino). Dellacroce managed to keep the peace between his protege, Gotti, and Castellano for the next 9 years until his death in 1985; at this point, Gotti ordered a hit on Castellano (he was killed outside Sparks Steak House) and took over as boss. His reign was marred by indictments, attempted assassinations by rival families (notably the Genovese and Lucchese families, whose bosses were outraged at the unsanctioned hit on Castellano; ironically, Vincent Gigante himself did an "off-the-books" attempted murder on Frank Costello in 1957), and was too publicity-hungry like Joe Colombo; by the 1990s, Sammy Gravano, tired of his antics, decided to cooperate with the FBI. Gotti was imprisoned for life in 1992 after ducking three previous attempts by federal prosecutors to have him indicted, and died of cancer in 2002; his brother Peter took over as boss, but he too was imprisoned for life. Since then, the family has been quietly rebuilding its former shell after John Gotti's demise.
- Genovese crime family - Large presence in Manhattan (notably Little Italy, 116th Street, Greenwich Village and the Manhattan/New Jersey waterfronts), the Bronx, Westchester, New Jersey and Connecticut, with smaller crews in Queens, Brooklyn and Florida (the family also has a small crew in Springfield, Massachusetts). Regarded as the Ivy League of the Mafia, the family is still regarded as the strongest of the Five Families. Arguably the oldest of the New York families, as the Morello crime family, eventually coming under the control of Morello lieutenant Giuseppe Masseria. The family was reorganized under Lucky Luciano, who took over the boss's mantle after ordering the death of Masseria (he was very greedy, and known for his heavy-handed attempts to shake down other Italian gangs, notably the Castellamarese gang in Brooklyn, which was led by Salvatore Maranzano in the 1920s; this led to a bloody turf war, that claimed at least 200+ lives on both sides, between 1928 and 1931 and ended with both Masseria and Maranzano being killed off by the Young Turks, led by Luciano). Luciano then revolutionized the American Mafia by forming a Mafia Commission to settle disputes and encouraging the other bosses to work with each other instead of "going to the mattresses". However, he faced an indictment from Thomas Dewey for running a prostitution ring and was deported back to Italy in 1946, where he worked with the Sicilian mafia to establish an international drug ring. The family was taken over by Frank Costello, Luciano's consigliere and a key political fixer; he had huge gambling rackets in New York City and was desperate to go legitimate. He was faced with a growing threat from Vito Genovese, who was Luciano's former underboss and was silently eliminating allies of Costello after returning to the United States in 1945 (notably Albert Anastasia). He managed to force Costello into retirement by ordering a hit on him in 1957 (it was alleged the shooter was Vincent Gigante, Genovese's protege) and took over as boss of the family. He later ordered a hit on Albert Anastasia and called a meeting of major mob leaders to explain the situation in New York. This meeting proved to be a disaster, and the other bosses had him falsely implicated on a drug charge. In 1963, a low-level soldier in his family named Joe Valachi became the first made man to flip and testify about the American Mafia's inner workings; Valachi feared Genovese ordered a hit on him, hence why he became the first "rat". Genovese continued to rule the family from prison (via ruling panels) until his death in 1969. The family then used a series of ruling panels and "dummy" bosses to masquerade the real boss (who was Phil "Cockeyed Phil" Lombardo, and was extremely reclusive); Vincent Gigante became the boss in 1981 by promoting "Fat Tony" Salerno as his "dummy" boss. He further shielded himself from law enforcement scrutiny by pretending to be insane; this ruse worked until 1997, when he was imprisoned for racketeering and murder charges. He ran the family from prison until his death in 2005, and it is unknown who has taken over the family (it is implied the family now uses ruling panels of capos to manage its daily affairs).
- Lucchese crime family - Has a large presence in the Bronx, East Harlem, Westchester, New England and New Jersey, with smaller factions in lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Long Island and Queens. Began as a splinter group of the Morello family, taking over its rackets in the Bronx. It was something of the Franz Ferdinand of the Castellammarese War, as Masseria's attempt to violently replace the family's boss ended up throwing the rest of the family under the sway of Maranzano and starting open conflict between the two groups. Widely reckoned as the most peaceful family of the Five Families (until the 1980s), the family's first official boss was Tommy Gagliano, who preferred to keep a low profile. He expanded the family's grip on the Garment District and used his underboss, Tommy Lucchese to do business with the other families, notably with the Genovese, Bonanno, Colombo and Gambino families. Gagliano died in 1951, and names Lucchese as his successor before dying. Lucchese continued to maintain the family's grip on the Garment District, and soon controlled trucking rackets at the new Idlewild (now JFK) Airport; he also built close relations with Tammany Hall (the local Democratic Party political machine) and with politicians such as Carmine De Sapio and Vincent Impellitteri. Lucchese also backed Vito Genovese and Carlo Gambino in their fights to take control of their families, but built a closer relationship with Gambino after the Apalachin Meeting of 1957 (Gambino's son married his daughter, and in return, Lucchese gave Gambino access to rackets at JFK). Lucchese died of cancer in 1967, and was replaced by Tony "Ducks" Corallo, who had a good relationship with the other bosses; Corallo later branched out in construction and narcotics trafficking. Under Corallo's reign, one of the most infamous robberies occurred - the Lufthansa Heist. It occurred when several truck hijackers linked to Jimmy "the Gent" Burke and Paul Vario ran off with nearly $6 million in cash and jewelry. Corallo, facing life imprisonment following the Mafia Commission trial, named Victor Amuso and Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso as the new boss and underboss in 1987; this proved to be one of the biggest succession mistakes, as Amuso and Casso were known to be violent hitmen and drug traffickers (the two of them came from the Brooklyn faction; the previous bosses usually came from the Bronx-East Harlem-Westchester faction). They ordered anybody that was a purported informant to be marked for death (this caused actual wiseguys in the family to flip because of the increasingly erratic behavior of Amuso and Casso); Amuso even ordered the whacking of the New Jersey faction when they failed to show up for a meeting and pay a hefty tribute, but never went through with it because of massive indictments against many mafiosi at the time. Both were captured in 1993, and Casso decided to flip in 1994, revealing that two NYPD officers (Louis Eppolito and Steven Caracappa; Eppolito even had relatives in the Mafia, but could never become a made man as he was a police officer) were on the Lucchese family's payroll for several years, working as contract killers. Both cops were sentenced to life imprisonment, but Casso was thrown out of the Witness Program in 1998 for numerous infractions. Amuso still runs the battered Lucchese family to this day via the help of ruling panels and acting bosses, a trait shared with the other Mafia families in New York.
Northeastern United States:
- Buffalo/Maggaddino crime family - Nicknamed the Arm, this family ran much of upstate New York, with satellite crews in Rochester, Youngstown (Ohio), Toronto and southern Ontario. Originally founded by Stefano Maggaddino (Joe "Bananas" Bonanno's cousin), this family is now largely in decline because of internal warfare, a dispute with Bonanno in the 1960s and the death of Stefano Maggadino in 1974.
- De Cavalcante crime family - the inspiration behind the Sopranos, this family runs rackets in Newark and Trenton (Atlantic City is under the Philly Mob's control, while northern New Jersey is under the influence of the Five Families).
- Scarfo/Philadelphia crime family - Also nicknamed the Philly Mob, this family has control of Philadelphia, the Delaware Valley, South New Jersey and Atlantic City. The Philly mob was once a peaceful crime family, but is now very notorious for its violent succession of bosses and multiple gangland wars in the 1980s. It even inspired Bruce Springsteen to write something about Philip "Chicken Man" Testa - the one they blew up in Philly last night. Nicodemo Scarfo ran the family for most of the 1980s, but was infamous for having a penchant for violence, causing many of his wiseguys to turn state's evidence against him.
- Patriarca/New England crime family - Nicknamed the Office, it controls much of New England and is split into two factions - Boston and Providence. Was once very powerful under Raymond Patriarca, the family's namesake between the 1950s and 1980s, but internal disputes and a war with James "Whitey" Bulger (who was actually an FBI informant) and his Winter Hill Gang nearly led to this family's decline, although it has been quietly building back its lost power base.
- Pittsburgh crime family - has control of Pittsburgh, Western Pennsylvania and portions of Eastern Ohio. The family has been largely in decline since the death of John La Rocca in 1984.
- Bufalino/Scranton-Wilkes-Barre crime family - Largely in decline, the family controlled NE Pennsylvania, the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre area and the southern tier of New York. Joe Barbara, one of the earlier bosses of this family, was involved in the infamous Apalachin Meeting of 1957 following Albert Anastasia's death.
- Rochester crime family - This family broke off from the Buffalo crime family in the 1960s to become its independent group. Like the Pittsburgh and Scranton families, the family has receded much of its criminal activities following the convictions of its top members in the 1990s.
Southern United States:
- Tampa Bay/Trafficante crime family - controls much of southern Florida (including Tampa Bay), except for Miami, which is an open territory. They reached their peak strength under Santo Trafficante Jr., who had gambling rackets in Cuba and had ties with Fulgencio Batista, then the president of Cuba in the 1950s. When the Cuban Revolution came by, he lost his gambling rackets and was involved in a botched CIA plot to rub off Castro; he was also presumably involved in a plot to kill JFK, though this has been disputed. Since his death, the family has been in decline, allowing the New York mafia to take control of rackets in the area.
- New Orleans crime family - Once controlled Louisiana, this family (also nicknamed the Combine) has been largely defunct due to Carlos Marcello's death in 1993. Marcello was aligned with Sam Giancana and Santo Trafficante, and was allegedly involved in a plot to kill JFK. In the 1980s, due to a string of convictions, the family has now receded much of its activities.
- Dallas crime family - Once controlled Dallas, Houston and Austin, this family is now largely defunct since the 1990s. May have been involved in the plot to kill JFK, as Jack Ruby had been known to meet Joseph Civello, the boss of Dallas Mafia at the time.
Midwestern United States:
- Chicago Outfit - Apart from producing Al Capone, the Chicago Outfit also had influence over many of the Midwestern mafia families. The 1920s were marked with bloody turf wars, and the Outfit started to work behind the scenes following the St. Valentine's Day massacre. In 1932, Capone was charged with tax evasion, and was replaced by bosses (notably Paul Ricca and Tony Accardo, who had de facto control of the Outfit for nearly 50 years) who hated the spotlight. Soon enough, they expanded into Las Vegas and Hollywood, where they had begun to shake down labor unions and controlled gambling rackets. Sam Giancana, the street boss in the 1960s, was allegedly involved in a plot to kill Castro, and later, JFK; he was pushed out of power because of his too high-profile behavior. In the 1980s, the government managed to rid Las Vegas of mob influence, thereby diminishing the Outfit's hold on casinos. Though diminished in power, the Outfit still remains one of the more active Mafia families alongside the Philly Mob and the Five Families.
- Detroit Partnership - One of the more active Mafia families, this family has control over the Detroit metro area and parts of southern Ontario. It was involved with the Teamsters, notably with Jimmy Hoffa in the 1950s and 1960s; it is alleged that Joe Zerilli may have been involved in Hoffa's disappearance. Despite federal indictments, the family remains one of the more active Mafia families.
- Cleveland crime family - Nicknamed the Mayfield Road Mob, it was once one of the more active mafia families and had control over much of Ohio. In the 1970s, it was involved in a turf war with Irish mobster Danny Greene over control of union rackets; the war ended when Greene was killed in a car bomb planted by rival mobsters. In 1983, Angelo Lonardo, a high-ranking member of the Cleveland mob, decided to turn informer and give state's evidence against his fellow mobsters; this ultimately diminished the power of the Cleveland Mafia, still recovering from the war with Danny Greene and is now largely defunct.
- Kansas City crime family - has control of Greater Kansas City and Nebraska. It was involved in gambling rackets in Las Vegas with the backing of the Outfit. Operation Strawman, a sting operation that included wiretapping phones of reputed mobsters, revealed that Kansas City mafia was involved in the skimming of gambling profits at the Tropicana Casino.
- St. Louis crime family - once an arm of the Kansas City Mafia, it broke off in the 1960s to become a separate crime family. Largely in decline since the 1990s.
- Milwaukee crime family - controls Milwaukee and Madison, it is largely in decline since the death of Frank Balistrieri in 1993. He was known to use car bombs to wipe out his enemies, and was once involved in a sting operation set up by the FBI (who had sent Joe Pistone), but declined to set up a vending machine operation with Pistone.
Western United States:
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- Los Angeles crime family - Has control of Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. It used to be much more powerful until the 1950s; the family has been in decline since Frank De Simone's death in 1967. For this reason, the family is nicknamed the Mickey Mouse mafia because of De Simone's incompetence (he never expanded the crime family). Jack Dragna, the previous boss, had earned a seat on the Commission thanks to his strong ties to the Five Families; he was also involved in a brief war with Mickey Cohen in the 1950s. In the 1980s, Jimmy Fratianno, a former underboss, decided to flip after he feared his rivals might order a hit on him; this ultimately diminished the power of the LA crime family, which has never recovered since then.
- Denver crime family - This family once controlled rackets in Denver, Boulder and Pueblo in Colorado. Defunct since the 1990s.
- San Francisco crime family - This family once controlled Northern California and San Francisco. Defunct since the 1990s.
- San Jose crime family - This family once controlled San Jose, the Bay Area and Santa Clara County. Like the other West Coast Mafia families, it is defunct since the 1990s.