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The Mafia's History:
Origins and the Castellammarese War
The American Mafia started out as street-level gangsters, originating as Black Hand Loan Sharks 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 of them quickly became bootleggers thanks to a nationwide ban on alcohol sales. Benito Mussolini's crackdown on the Sicilian Mafia in the 1920s also changed things, as many mafiosi settled down in America and soon set up shop. However, this also led to numerous gangland and turf wars, especially in New York and Chicago, as the Italians were fighting with other ethnic gangs for control over booze rackets. In Chicago, Al Capone was duking it out with Bugs Moran and the Irish Mob, but the New York war, known as the Castellammarese War because one of the warring factions came from Castellammare del Golfo, a small town in western Sicily, was different from the others because it ultimately changed the course of the Mafia and organized crime in general forever. It began when Joe "the Boss" Masseria, head of the Morello (later Genovese) crime family, began to shake down the other Italian gangs and coerce them to pay a hefty "street tax" to him, especially the Brooklyn-based Castellammarese Clan, which was led by Salvatore "Little Caesar" Maranzano. But Maranzano refused to kowtow before Masseria, and soon enough, both sides went to war in 1929, with Masseria having a slight advantage in terms of manpower, but the Castellammarese were much more cohesive thanks to their military-style hierarchy and Maranzano's charismatic leadership. Meanwhile, as the war dragged on, a new faction of younger, Americanized Italian mobsters emerged on both sides - the Young Turks. Led by an upstart gangster named Charles "Lucky" Luciano, they believed that the two Mustache Petes were too old-fashioned and had to go. To do this however, Luciano had to secretly eliminate his own boss in order to make peace with Maranzano. So Masseria was taken out to a Coney Island restaurant in April of 1931, where he was clipped in a fusillade of bullets, allowing Maranzano to be the nominal victor, but he became too greedy by declaring himself boss of all bosses at a meeting in upstate New York, rankling many of the Young Turks and reneging on the peace deal he made with Luciano. Luciano, realizing that Maranzano was just a power-hungry tyrant like Masseria, decides to have him killed. He also knew the Boss of Bosses was facing a potential IRS audit like Al Capone before him, and using this info, he sent hitmen disguised as tax agents to Maranzano's office at the Helmsley Building in September of 1931 and eliminate Maranzano; despite putting up a fight, Maranzano was garroted, stabbed and shot multiple times.
The Rise and Fall of Lucky Luciano
With the old-timers out of the way in 1931, it paved the path for Luciano's rise to power. As an alternative to the previous despotic practice of having a mob overlord, he not only restructured the American Mafia by introducing a Commission to resolve disputes among the various families, but also branched out to work with other ethnic mobs, including the Jewish mafia and the Irish Mob, to form a National Crime Syndicate. To ensure the other mobsters are falling in line, Luciano even formed a Brooklyn-based gang of Italian and Jewish hitmen called Murder, Inc. to function as the Syndicate's murder-for-hire and enforcement arm; it was led by Albert Anastasia and Louis Buchalter, who were both notorious hitmen and labor racketeers. This crew of contract killers may have committed as many as 900 murders between 1931 and 1951. Plus, the money Luciano and his allies earned from bootlegging enabled them to expand into other areas, such as labor unions, construction, casinos in Las Vegas, and political corruption. The Commission would function as the mob's version of a high court or board of governors, where the various bosses would have sitdowns with each other and resolve issues before they got out of hand, as well as vote on issues such as construction or narcotics that might require inter-family cooperation. This way, the Mafia could operate more efficiently rather than having to wage costly turf wars that not only attracted outside attention, but also slowed down business to a standstill. Also, the Commission members were to hold meetings every five years to talk about issues plaguing the underworld, unless there was a major emergency that required everyone's attention. The original Commission in 1931 composed of bosses from the Five Families, the boss of the Buffalo mob, and Al Capone of Chicago, though other cities such as Philadelphia and Detroit had seats on the Commission at times. Luciano, being an equal-opportunity gangster, encouraged his peers to work with not only each other, but also with other ethnic groups, such as Jews, Aftican Americans and Irish gangs. Part of the reason why he did this is because he loathed how older mafiosi such as Maranzano and Masseria opposed their younger members' desire to work with the powerful Jewish and Irish gangs, let alone fellow Italians. The Young Turks wanted to branch out, realizing the numerous other ways they could rake in money, but were frequently stymied by the Mustache Petes. Luciano and his fellow Young Turks soon concluded that these dinosaurs were too dead-set in their ways to see the boons and windfalls of working with each other and with non-Italians. Luciano also believed that the initiation ceremony was a Sicilian anachronism. However, Lansky and Genovese persuaded Luciano to keep the ritual, arguing that young people needed rituals to promote obedience to the family, and as well as to placate Sicilians. Luciano remained committed to omertà, the oath of silence, to protect the families from legal prosecution, and retained the structure that Maranzano established. However, things didn't go well for Luciano, and he was deported back to Italy in 1946 following his conviction for running a prostitution ring; he later formed ties with the Sicilians to distribute drugs into the United States.
Narcotics, Apalachin and the Valachi Hearings
It was at this time that the Mafia started dabbling in drug-running, but it immediately split into two camps: those in favor believed it was a lucrative operation, while those opposed thought it would bring attention. The pro-drugs faction eventually won out, and many lower-ranking mobsters began dealing with other drug traffickers to import narcotics into America. Joe Bonanno had crews and henchmen deep in their neck with drugs, and even set up shop in Montreal to import heroin into the United States; this was the reason why the Bonannos were nicknamed the Heroin family. 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 an unofficial "ban" on narcotics trafficking being imposed in the 1950s, many families often dealt on the sly, and bosses such as Paul Castellano (Carlo Gambino's cousin and brother-in-law) turned a blind eye to it as long as nobody was pinched. The Kefauver hearings in 1951 determined that a vast criminal conspiracy operated by Italian mobsters did exist behind the scenes, and the Apalachin Summit in late 1957 really confirmed its existence. The 1957 meeting was set up by Vito Genovese, Luciano's former underboss, who aimed to wrest control of the Luciano family from Frank Costello, his Arch-Enemy and to become the mob's overlord after killing Albert Anastasia, the boss of the Mangano (now Gambino) family in October of 1957. Around 100 mobsters attended the meeting at this small town not far from Binghamton, New York, but it turned into a big disaster when a curious state trooper got wind of it (and sent in reinforcements). More than 60 mobsters were caught including Genovese himself; others nabbed include Carlo Gambino, Paul Castellano, Giuseppe Profaci and Santo Trafficante; Tommy Lucchese, Stefano Magaddino and Sam Giancana themselves eluded capture, while Joe Bonanno claimed he was not there despite being caught by state troopers in a nearby cornfield. Genovese got a lot of flak for the debacle surrounding Apalachin, and he ended up in prison for trumped-up charges on narcotics trafficking in 1959. Another big blow to the mob came in 1963 when a low-level soldier named Joe Valachi became the first made man to flip by providing the government a good glimpse into the inner workings of the Mafia. By this time, law enforcement slowly began putting more effort into cracking down on organized crime, and the passage of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in 1970 bolstered prosecutors in building cases against individual mobsters and their families.
Donnie Brasco and the Commission Case
By the 1980s, the feds were able to crack down on the Mafia's activities, culminating in the Mafia Commission Case, which was spearheaded by Rudy Giuliani, an ambitious US attorney and future mayor of New York who saw the mob with nothing but contempt. Plus, the successful undercover sting operation by FBI agent Joe Pistone, who infiltrated one of the Mafia crews, irreparably shattered the myth that the Mob is invincible, further securing evidence against countless mafiosi. Thanks to stronger gambling control laws passed by the Nevada legislature in the 1970s, it allowed corporations to take over casinos, further weakening the Mafia's hold on Las Vegas, aside from the aforementioned RICO Act, which has proven to be a very powerful weapon as it allows prosecutors to go after an entire organization, rather than individuals, who could be easily replaced. With many facing lengthy prison sentences, an increasing number of mobsters began to spill the beans left and right with the FBI in 1990s. Among the more notable cooperating witnesses (or "rats", as the Mafia called them) was Sammy Gravano, whose testimony helped take down John Gotti, Vincent Gigante and others in the 1990s; Joe Massino was another example, when he became the first official boss to become an informant in 2005. Phil Leonetti, Dominick Montiglio, Jimmy Fratianno, Gaspipe Casso (though he was later thrown out), and Salvatore Vitale were also good examples of mobsters becoming informer. While this significantly crippled many Mafia families around the country, the most powerful families continued to dominate crime in their turf, even if the new laws put more mobsters in jail and made it harder to operate.
The Present Day
Despite these convictions and informants, and with the FBI now focusing more on terrorism since 9/11, the Mafia is down but not out: it remains a formidable force and is quietly rebuilding its lost power base, as it's rumored to earn between $50 and $90 billion a year from its rackets. Plus, it now outsources some of its work to other gangs to avoid attention. And though many remain concerned about a possible resurgence of the Mafia as it regroups from the turmoil of the eighties and nineties, it's not much of a concern to law enforcement compared to terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda or more recent criminal elements such as the Russian Mafia, Chinese Triads, and Mexican drug cartels. Also, while other ethnic gangs have grabbed a share of criminal activities, none of them have reached the level of success the Mafia has had over the years, partly due to its totem pole-like hierarchy, and it still remains a dominant criminal organization.
Criminal Activities The Mafia Is Involved In:The Mafia does love to get their hands dirty in any illegitimate activity, be it construction or murder-for-hire.
- Labor racketeering: The Mafia is very notorious for infiltrating unions, especially in construction, garbage hauling, food services, cargo/airport services and clothing. Tommy Lucchese had a hand in controlling the Garment District, while the Detroit mafia was involved with Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters; Albert Anastasia had control of the Brooklyn docks, and had ties to the International Longshoremen's Association through his younger brother Anthony. The New York families even had enough power within these unions to bring construction activities within the city to a standstill, if they didn't get the right payoffs. The crimes involved in labor racketeering included union shakedowns, embezzling from workers' benefit plans, rigging union elections in favor of mob-friendly candidates, coercing companies into hiring mob-controlled workers, and providing "no-show" jobs to mobsters.
- Garbage hauling: One area that is very notable for mob infiltration is garbage hauling. The Mafia got into this industry when cities outsourced their waste hauling activities to contractors, and that meant money-making potential for them to infiltrate these companies. The so-called garbage mobsters who ran these operations often falsified paperwork and tampered with waste scales, sometimes to skim profits from the business, and sometimes to hide ill-gotten gains in it. Crew bosses and members often got "no-show" jobs at these firms, which gave them a legitimate reason to explain their income. They also divvied up routes in cities, rigged contract bids to favor mob-controlled garbage haulers, and quashed any outside competition to keep their prices artificially high. The Genovese family still has some control over garbage hauling, through Alphonse "Allie Shades" Malangone, a capo who also has some control over the family's interests in the Fulton Fish Market. The Sopranos is also accurate in its portrayal of the North Jersey hauling market around the turn of the 21st century: the division of New Jersey into a myriad of municipalities makes it hard to catch corrupt deals like this, though the state has intervened to block this when it has the resources.
- Construction and real estate: Another area that is rife with mob activity is construction and real estate services. In the 1970s and 80s, most major construction projects in New York could not go ahead without the Five Families' approval, especially if the contract was above $2 million; also many mobsters in major cities were provided with "no-show" jobs in mob-controlled construction companies to explain their income to the IRS. The mob bribed or threatened union leaders in order to obtain a piece of the action whenever they got hold of a construction project, and in some cases, took over the union leadership themselves. Once the Mafia had its grip on a union, it could control an entire industry, and could halt or slow down a project if contractors and developers didn't make the right pay-offs. These pay-offs to mob-controlled contractors and unions often forced outsiders to pass these costs down the chain, including developers, brokers, etc., and in turn, forcing real estate prices to skyrocket. Plus, the mob has always ingrained itself within real estate crimes, such as "swampland-in-Florida-for-sale" scams, predatory lending schemes and equity fraud.
- Cargo services: Another area that's rife with mob infiltration is in cargo services, especially in trucking, airport services and dockyards. Albert Anastasia, in addition to being a mob-hired hit-man, also had a great degree of control over the unions at the Brooklyn docks, while the Five Families had crews at Idlewild (now JFK) Airport, committing crimes such as truck hijacking and infiltration of unions, among other activities. The Teamsters were mob-influenced, especially during Jimmy Hoffa's tenure; he even had connections with the Detroit mafia. The mob would oftentimes infiltrate and shake down unions and businesses servicing this industry, and coerce them into placing mob-friendly candidates. The Lucchese family has had a stranglehold on the Garment District, through their infiltration of various businesses and unions.
- Infiltration of legitimate businesses: The mob would often infiltrate legitimate businesses through various means, from running protection rackets, shaking them down, providing legitimate "no-show" jobs to mobsters, forming shell companies, and as a cover for illicit activities. Restaurants, waste haulers, bars, construction companies, clothing and airport services were rife with mob infiltration.
- Food distribution: This area was also rife with mob activity. Paul Castellano used his Dial Meat Purveyors as a way to strong-arm meat distributors and supermarkets into stocking his poultry products, thanks to his prior experience as a butcher early in his mob career, while the Bonanno family used pizza joints as a cover to smuggle and distribute imported heroin into the United States; Joe Bonanno even had behind-the-scenes interests in cheese distributors such as Grande Cheese during his 60+ years in the mob. The Fulton Fish Market is still rife with mob activity, especially with the Genovese family forcing non-mob affiliated competitors to pay a "tax" in order to sell their fish. Mobsters even infiltrated and shook down restaurants, bars and nightclubs if their owners could not pay back the loan they owed, or if they failed to pay the extortion "tax". The Luccheses used their influence in Kosher food distributors to force supermarkets into stocking their products.
- Garment manufacturing: Clothing is another sector that's still rife with mob infiltration. The Lucchese and Gambino families have had significant interests in the trucking and production in New York's Garment District, with corresponding influence and control of various Teamsters and Ladies Garment Workers' locals, alongside with their Jewish allies Lepke Buchalter and Jacob "Gurrah" Shapiro. The garment industry is divided essentially into two parts: the jobbers who design and sell the garments, and the contractors who assemble and sew the apparel. The bulk of the products were made-up in Chinatown, so there was a constant shuffling between the garment district located mainly between 34th and 39th Streets and the makers located south of Canal Street, three miles down the island. The trucking operation was the life-blood of the business, connecting the heart (the district) to the limbs (Chinatown.) Whoever controlled the trucks controlled the garment industry, which by the 1950s was employing more than 300,000 workers. Via their control of the trucking and garment workers unions, the Mafia and their labor union cronies could essentially put a halt to goods coming in and out of the Garment District if the right payoffs weren't made.
- Financial/white-collar crimes: Why else would the mob ignore this area? From tax evasion and counterfeiting in the 1920s and 1930s, to money laundering in the 1960s, to "pump-and-dump" stock scams and mortgage fraud in recent years, the Mafia has always been involved in many financial crimes. They were also involved in confidence tricks such as Ponzi Schemes, advance-fee fraud and are now making a foray into identity theft, credit card scams, health care fraud, and cybercrimes, oftentimes with other organized crime groups. The Bonanno family was heavily involved in stock market scams during the Internet bubble of the 1990s, where they would coerce brokers into selling shady stock deals to unsuspecting investors. During the late 2000s recession, mobsters took advantage of the ongoing crisis by participating in mortgage scams, whether through predatory lending schemes or Insurance Fraud.
- Political/governmental corruption: American politics is still rife with corruption, especially in cities and small towns, where machine politics still has a big sway over the locality's budget. New York and Chicago were great examples of machine politics, and mobsters would take advantage of this in exchange for political favors and to rig contracts in favor of mob-controlled businesses; Tommy Lucchese and Frank Costello often jockeyed with one another over who would control Tammany Hall. The mob would sometimes offer bribes to Corrupt Politicians and crooked officials in exchange for turning a blind eye to organized crime activities. In the 1990s, two NYPD officers worked for the mob as contract killers, and were on the Lucchese family's payroll for years.
- Illegal gambling: Gambling has always been a very important business in the Mafia in fact, the early mob families always had numbers running operations. From card games to sports betting, the Mafia has raked in cash from all of them. They operated many illegal and luxurious gambling operations throughout the United States, while police officers and politicians turned a blind eye to these rackets in exchange for payoffs. Las Vegas, Cuba and Atlantic City became gambling meccas, and the mob took notice. Though the Mafia has a diminished influence in Las Vegas, its long-lasting impact on the gambling mecca's development will be felt for decades to come.
- Sports betting: The mob was also heavily involved in sports betting, especially in horse racing, college sports and boxing. Several Mafia members associated with the Lucchese crime family participated in a point shaving scandal involving Boston College basketball team. Rick Kuhn, Henry Hill, and others associated with the Lucchese crime family manipulated the results of the games during the 19781979 basketball season. Through bribing and intimidating several members of the team, they ensured their bets on the point spread of each game would go in their favor. Frankie Carbo and Tommy "Ryan" Eboli were deep into rigging boxing matches, and even became the Mafia's unofficial commissioners for boxing.
- Loansharking/shylocking: Illegal gambling and sports betting also led to the rise of a new activity: loansharking. One of the key moneymakers for the Mafia is to provide loans to degenerate gamblers, drug addicts, and those with a bad credit history at usurious interest rates, and oftentimes with the ominous threat of violence and vandalism if they did not pay back. By the 1960s, loan sharks grew even more coordinated, and could pool information on borrowers to better size up risks and ensure a borrower did not try to pay off one loan by borrowing from another Loan Shark. Similar loansharking tactics are used by the sarakin in Japan and Ah Long in South-east Asia.
- Pornography: Prostitution became another moneymaker for the Mafia, as they began to infiltrate peep show booths, porn distributors and child pornography, especially around Times Square, during the decline of New York City in the 1970s. The Gambino family had interests in that area, especially through Robert DiBernardo, who was one of the very few thought to have become 'made' in the Mafia without committing a murder. His name was later used to discredit Geraldine Ferraro's run for the US Senate in the 1990s, when her ties with the mobster were questioned. Lucky Luciano was accused of pandering and deported back to Italy, despite little or no evidence that he was actually running prostitution rings. Michael "Mikey Z" Zaffarano, a now-deceased capo in the Bonanno family, even had interests in adult-only movie theaters.
- Extortion: The Mafia has been involved in extortion of various types from the start, as it started out as Black Hand extortion rings in the early 1900s. Eventually, mobsters began to strong-arm businesses, unions, and freelance criminals, forcing them down to pay a "street tax" in exchange for operating in Mafia-controlled territories. They could shake down businesses and individuals in many ways, including loansharking, confidence tricks, protection rackets, and shakedowns. Often, the ominous threat of violence was often employed in many of these rackets, to ensure that they are falling in line.
- Narcotics trafficking: This became the mob's biggest moneymaker after bootlegging declined in the 1930s, as the Mafia began to dabble into the drug trade. However, this split them into two groups, with the pro-drug faction advocating in favor of it, while those opposed to it believed it would attract attention. Eventually those in favor of it won out, and many low-ranking mobsters began to deal extensively with the Sicilians and other organized crime groups. Bosses such as Paul Castellano, Carlo Gambino and others often turned a blind eye to thus, with many of them taking a cut of the proceeds in exchange for dealing on the sly despite an "unofficial" ban on drug smuggling. The Bonannos became very notorious for heroin trafficking, especially under Joe Bonanno, who sent his underboss Carmine Galante to set up Montreal as an outpost for importing drugs into the United States from Sicily in the 1950s while using pizza joints as a way to cover it up.
- Contraband smuggling: From bootlegging and gunrunning in the 1920s and 1930s to cigarette smuggling and human trafficking in recent years, the Mafia has been involved in all sorts of contraband smuggling, as a way to evade import duties/taxes and to smuggle in banned items, smuggling in goods such as bootlegged CDs. Rum-running became the Mafia's primary moneymaker in the 1920s, as many of the Young Turks began their mob careers during Prohibition. By the time Prohibition was repealed in 1933, many of them were millionaires, and soon dabbled in other areas such as numbers running, labor racketeering and narcotics trafficking (drug trafficking eventually became the mob's biggest moneymaker, but it also attracted attention). In the 1980s, the Colombo family formed a gas tax evasion scheme with the Russian Mafia by siphoning off money that would have went to the federal government.
- Murder-for-hire: The Mafia would have failed if it did not employ any threat of violence in regards to its illicit activities. Murder, Inc., a Brooklyn-based band of Italian and Jewish hit-men, became the National Crime Syndicate's enforcement arm, and committed as many as 800 hits to ensure mobsters are falling in line. Bugsy Siegel and Albert Anastasia began their careers as hit-men, as did many of the mobsters in the 1920s, becoming bodyguards and enforcers for more powerful bosses. Many made men usually begin their careers as hit-men, committing murders on behalf of their mob superiors. The Sicilian Mafia is very notorious in this, as they not only killed rival members, but also went after law enforcement officials, judges, politicians and anybody who dared to cross them; even families of made members were not spared, especially if a made man decided to cooperate with authorities. Paolo Borsellino and and Giovanni Falcone, two government prosecutors who led an anti-Mafia crusade in the 1980s, learned this the hard way when both were killed in separate car bombings in 1992, forcing the Italian government to crack down on the Sicilian mob's activities.
- Armed robbery: Many mobsters began their mob careers serving as enforcers and armed robbers, and by the 1970s, mobsters were hijacking trucks coming out of JFK Airport, and then selling the stolen merchandise to known fences across New York City. John Gotti, Joe Massino and Sal Vitale began their mob careers as truck hijackers in the 1960s, as did many of the Young Turks in the 1920s. Even Paul Castellano began his mob career in the 1930s by holding up a haberdasher; despite being asked to identify his accomplices, he refused to so, and served a three-month stint as a result. This earned him the respect of local mobsters, especially his cousin Carlo Gambino.
- Auto theft: The Gambino family has had a big hand in auto theft rings, especially through Roy DeMeo, one of the mob's most feared hitmen. He would sell stolen cars to chop shops, who would strip them of their auto parts to be sold to scrap dealers. Criminals are also hopeful that there is little incentive on the part of the victim to search their stolen vehicle, as even if the car is found, recovery may cost more (in insurance, legal, and transportation fees) than the car is actually worth, especially if the stolen car is of low value. A chop shop must be able to take apart a car without damaging the parts and keep them organized. Time is of the essence: more cars processed equals higher profits. There is no advantage to a large inventory, as it can be done more efficiently in a "JIT" (Just In Time) manner by asking a thief only when cars are needed.
The Mafia Initiation Ceremony
The Mafia solicits specific people for membership one cannot just voluntarily choose to join up. Also, in order to become a made man, the inductee has to be a male of full Italian descent; though this restriction has been loosened over time, some Mafia families are more restrictive of whom they want to bring in than others. An associate of a crime family who was in the police force or attended a police academy can never become an official member, thought it has oftentimes been flouted for corrupt cops. Before being inducted, a potential made man is required to carry out a contract killing. Traditionally, it was done in order to prove loyalty to the Mafia, but in modern times, it also serves to show that one is not an undercover cop (no, a cop may not legally conspire to commit a murder, nor assault a civilian, lest they be branded as a felon if they do so and face stiff penalties); any murder committed for personal reasons "do not count." Committing one's first contract murder is referred to as "making your bones," and a potential inductee who does it earns his "button" in the Mafia meaning he's on track to becoming made. However, earning one's "button" does not always involve killing; good "earners," or experienced associates who have not necessarily murdered for the Mafia but have good rackets or schemes, have in the past become made men, due to their valuable contributions beyond murder-for-hire. The prospect does not necessarily have to be the triggerman, but is expected to be if asked (particularly if they know the victim; having an associate perform every murder would give potential victims a big red flag as to whether a hit can be expected or not). Many times, they will drive the car used to transport the body or a secondary diversion car, or even act as part of a clean-up or burial crew. For example, mob stoolie Joe Valachi's main piece of "work" that qualified him for induction was renting a lookout apartment adjacent to one where a major Masseria figure was thought to live (the mark had moved shortly before the hit attempt). Generally, anything that could get them indicted as a principal in conspiracy to commit murder would be sufficient. The killing proves that the inductee is fully committed to joining the Mafia, knows the risks and penalties involved if he gets out of line, and most importantly, it confirms that he is not a cop. Though the killing rule was imposed to weed out potential candidates in the past, it seems to have died out in recent years for the most part. When introducing one made man to another, the phrase "a friend of ours" is used, indicating that he is a member and official business can be discussed openly with him. But the phrase "a friend of mine" is used instead if the third person is an outsider it means certain pressing matters can't be disclosed openly. Plus, introducing two made men always requires a third party. Made men are the only ones who can rise through the ranks of the Mafia, from soldier to capo, consigliere, underboss, and boss. There is another obstacle all potential inductees have to be considered and approved by the Commission. During the Castellammarese War, Mafia families would often recruit new members in bulk; as they could not be recognized by the other families, they easily approached the rival capos and rubbed them out. To put an end to this, all families are now required to give a list of prospective members to the Commission. It's circulated among the other families and eliminates the risk of not being recognized, and also gave the opportunity of removing any inductee which some other family had a problem with. Plus, a cap on each family's size and roster was imposed by the Commission as a way to prevent one family from becoming too large or recruiting in bulk via unauthorized expansions. For example, the Genovese and Gambino families each are allowed to have around 450 made men, while the Bonannos have a max size of around 250 made men, and the Chicago Outfit, the Luccheses, and the Colombos each have a max size of around 200 made men. Other families, such as Detroit, Philly, New Jersey, Buffalo, and Boston each have a variable range of 50 to 100 made men, depending on the family's proximity to New York, the amount of rackets, the pool of associates to draw from, and the family's significance. These are theoretical limits that are seldom, if ever, reached in modern days; there simply aren't enough rackets to allow a comfortable living for 1500 made men in New York, nor are there enough associates with the necessary qualities for membership.
To become made, a potential recruit would first have to be sponsored or "put on record" by an officially made man, generally a capo or soldier. They must have at least two sponsors (prior to the Donnie Brasco scandal, only one sponsor was needed), one of whom must have known him personally for some time. The sponsors know the associate very well and vouch for his reliability and abilities. Although a capo or other senior member will determine the prospect's credibility, ultimately it's at the boss's discretion as to who may become made. When the crime family "opens the books" (accepts new members), the associate will get a call telling him to get ready and be dressed. He is then taken to a private and secluded place for the ceremony to take place, usually done in a dark room or in the basement of a fellow mobsters house. At a table sits the family administration and some of the capos and soldiers, as well as other inductees if they're joining as well. The mobster is then told that this is a closed and secret society, must learn about the LCN's history and rules, the only way out is in a box, and this thing of ours comes before your blood family. A gun and a knife are put in front of the inductee, with the boss asking him if he would use these to defend his fellow members in troubling situations the inductee must say yes. Then, the inductees trigger finger is pricked until blood came out. The blood would be put on the picture of a saint, then the picture is placed in the hands of the inductee. Then the boss lights the picture on fire and while the wiseguy juggles it in his hands, the boss says: "If you divulge the secrets of our life, your soul will burn in hell, just like this saint", asking the inductee to repeat this vow, known as Omertà. Then the newly made guy kisses the higher-ups on both cheeks. The initiation ceremony was by no means universal; Chicago is not thought to have adopted it until the reign of Joey Aiuppa, with previous inductees simply swearing fealty to Al Capone or later bosses on a religious text. Similarly, New England did not use the ceremony in the days of informer Vinnie Teresa. Also, an associate turning down an offer to join the LCN was interpreted as a sign that the candidate is an undercover cop or informant trying to infiltrate the family, and was marked for death. The details of a Mafia induction ceremony were a carefully kept and closely guarded secret for years. But in 1963, Joe Valachis testimony before a Senate subcommittee shined a spotlight on the mob (the FBI had obtained similar information from mob informer Greg Scarpa Sr. several years before, but this was not known until much later); furthermore, the FBI managed to successfully bug an initiation ceremony of New England's Patriarca crime family in 1989 (the Patriarca family lost a lot of respect when this was exposed). The Mafia inductions described above is the ceremony conducted by the Sicilian Mafia as well as most American Mafia families. Circumstances can alter some of the details of the ceremony, such as an induction in prison or a quick induction during a gang war.
There are procedures and rules that govern the induction of new members:
- The inductee must be a male of full Italian heritage on both sides, a change in previous policy requiring that only the fathers lineage be Italian.
- A potential inductee has to do a contract killing, also a change in previous policy. Prior to the Donnie Brasco scandal, only one had to be part of a murder, such as driving the getaway car. The killing proves that the inductee is fully dedicated in joining the Mafia, knows the risks and penalties involved if he gets out of line, and most importantly, it confirms he is NOT an undercover cop.
- The new member must have at least two sponsors, and they must have known him personally for some time. The sponsors know the associate very well and vouch for his street cred.
- Names of proposed made men, and the deceased ones they will replace, must be sent to the other families, who have some time to lodge an objection for example, the candidate is an informer or they work for another family.
- Families may not replace a police informant until he gets murdered or dies naturally.
- New members can be made only as replacements for mobsters who have died, although each family is allowed to add two new members at Christmastime.
- Mafia families cannot recruit in bulk or "open the books" without prior authorization from the Commission.
- An associate who attended a police academy, or served as a corrections or police officer cannot be officially made.
- Families may never replace a member the family has killed.
Privileges and Restrictions
After the induction ceremony, the associate becomes a made man and holds the rank of soldier in the Mafia totem pole. A made man enjoys the full protection and backing of the Mafia establishment as long as he remains in favor and earns enough money, a percentage of which must be passed up the hierarchy. They are traditionally seen as "untouchable" by fellow criminals: he is to be respected and feared. Killing or assaulting a made man for any reason without explicit permission of the higher-ups is a big no-no, usually punishable by death, regardless of whether the perpetrator had a legitimate grievance; however, a made man can be killed if a strong argument is provided and the higher-ups green-light it. If one breaks any of the rules, they can be killed by another member of the family and usually the murder is committed by the people closest to that person. All made men have to follow these rules:
- They must vow to stay loyal to the Mafia for life and kick a fixed sum or portion of their earnings to their superiors. Any activities they do are "put on record" or "registered" with their capo so that they'll profit from these rackets and plan further schemes.
- Whenever they're called in by their superiors, they must oblige ASAP without reservation even if their wife's pregnant, or their parents are on their deathbed. They must always put La Cosa Nostra first and foremost, including their own family.
- They must also never cooperate with authorities in any way, never be seen walking around with cops, and must serve out prison sentences without complaint hence the vow of Omerta.
- Members are not allowed to commit adultery with another family member's wife, daughter or girlfriend.
- No one can present himself directly to another made member. There must be a third person to do it.
- Made men must abstain from both using and selling drugs of any kind, though this rule has oftentimes been ignored.
- Similarly, made men must abstain from counterfeiting money, bonds, or stock certificates, and must never kill with explosives. Again, all of these have frequently been honored only in the breach.
- Made men must never kill police or judges. This one has held up, and even the Zips (who famously don't follow these rules at home) honor them in the US and Canada.
- Any disputes or grievances between two or more made guys must be brought to the higher-ups' attention.
- Whenever they're talking over the phone or in person, they often have to drop hints instead of speaking directly about a situation.
- Broken/pulled down. The mobster is demoted in rank, and usually loses a lot of influence and wealth, especially when they're demoted from a powerful underboss to a mere soldier.
- Put on a shelf. The mobster is made inactive and stripped of his responsibilities, i.e. forced into early retirement, even though he's an official member.
- Assigned unfavorable rackets or territories. As a sign that the mobster is beginning to fall out of favor from his superiors, they're given dead-end jobs where they won't be making enough money.
- Chased or stripped of their button. For very severe offenses, the mobster is permanently declared Persona Non Grata within the Mafia and barred from associating or doing business with any made members under pain of death.
Symbolism in Mafia Murders
As a warning to others, the Mafia sometimes uses symbolism to show how the offender was punished.
- Angelo Bruno's consigliere Antonio Caponigro was brutally beaten up and killed by Vincent Gigante's crew in 1980 for killing his own boss without Commission approval. Dollar bills were stuffed in his mouth and anus as a sign that he was too greedy. Frank Sindone, John Simone, and Caponigro's brother-in-law Alfred Salerno also met similar fates.
- Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano's hands were chopped off because he, albeit unknowingly, introduced undercover FBI agent Joe "Donnie Brasco" Pistone to other wiseguys. As a warning, mobsters must not be seen shaking hands with cops. Similarly, Anthony Mirra, the mobster who introduced Pistone to Benjamin "Lefty Guns" Ruggiero and Sonny Black, was shot dead in his car.
- A dead canary was stuffed into Lucchese mobster Bruno Facciolo's corpse as a sign that he was an informant, when in reality, he wasn't.
- Rocco Marinucci's body was found a year to the day after Phil Testa's death in 1982, with firecrackers stuffed into his mouth and throat. He was involved in Testa's death, and Testa's son Salvatore killed him in revenge, using the firecrackers to symbolize the bomb used on Testa.
- Sam Giancana was shot once in the mouth and 5 times in the neck or under his chin as a message for silence. Joey Aiuppa and Tony Accardo may have feared he would spill the beans about the Chicago mob's operations or its involvement in the CIA's plot to kill Castro in front of a Senate panel.
- Johnny Roselli's decomposing body was found in a 55-gallon oil drum floating in Dumfoundling Bay near Miami. Roselli had been strangled and shot, and his legs were sawn off. This may have been done because Roselli had revealed too much about the John F. Kennedy and Fidel Castro murder plots during his Senate testimony.
- Joseph "Joe Jelly" Gioelli, one of Joe Gallo's top enforcers during the 1st Colombo family war, was invited on a deep sea fishing trip out of Sheepshead Bay, and was killed, dismembered and dumped in the ocean for siding with the Gallos. The next day, a car drove by the Gallo crew headquarters and tossed out a package containing Joe Jelly's coat wrapped around some dead fish, with the message being that he was Sleeping With The Fishes.
- Paul Gulino sealed his own doom for shoving Bonanno consigliere Anthony Spero. Threatening or assaulting a made man is a big no-no, and since Gulino wasn't a made guy, he was killed by his friends because of this.
- John Petrucelli, a Lucchese family associate, was murdered because he refused to kill Gus Farace, another mob associate who had killed DEA agent Everett Hatcher. A hood was placed over his head, which is a Sicilian message for "never keep secrets from your bosses."
How the Mafia is Structured:The Mafia is structured in a way so the higher-ups cannot be traced back to a single crime, allowing them to pass orders down the chain of command, while the grunts kick in a piece of whatever they earned to their capos and so on. This chain of command was introduced by Sal Maranzano in 1931, as a way to structure the mob along the Roman legions and to maintain order after the Castellammarese War, while the Commission was established by Luciano, who preferred to have a council of bosses governing the mob instead of a Mafia overlord ruling over them and demanding tribute from other bosses, but retained the structure Maranzano established.
- 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, mob 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 [[Dragon with an Agenda
- 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. Other cities, such as Detroit and Philadelphia, once had seats on the Commission, but later lost it. Later pared down to just the Five Families with the Bonannos thrown out of the Commission in the 1980s due to their generally disruptive behavior in the Mafia (though they later regained their Commission seat in the 1990s), 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 capi as law enforcement usually claimed it to be; in the mob, crime bosses are viewed as equals regardless of size or power, and having a mob overlord ran contrary to this idea (Luciano saw what happened to Masseria and Maranzano the power went into their heads, and they immediately became arrogant in treating their subordinates). 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), but acts as the ultimate governing 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 or a board of directors of mob bosses rather than a King of the Mob (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, construction rackets or rubbing out potential troublemakers) that might require inter-family cooperation. Though the bosses used to meet more often, greater law enforcement scrutiny in the 1980s and an increasing number of mob 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 inter-family disputes. Also, the five New York City bosses have not met with each other since Paul Castellano was killed in late 1985, as the last meeting took place a month before his death (though there was a mini-Commission meeting in 2000, most of the attendees at the time were acting bosses with the lone exception of Joe Massino of the Bonanno family).
- Chairman of the Commission - There was no "ruler" of the Commission, but there was a nominated Chairman or Head of the National Commission. This was used as a substitute to the role of boss of all bosses, as that had the connotations of the old Mustache Pete system of one-man rule.
- 1931-1946 Charles "Charlie Lucky" Luciano arrested in 1936 and then deported back to Italy in 1946
- 1946-1951 Vincent "The Executioner" Mangano head of the conservative/Sicilian faction, disappeared in April 1951
- 1951-1957 Frank "The Prime Minister" Costello stepped down after assassination attempt by Vito Genovese in May 1957
- 1957-1959 Vito "Don Vitone" Genovese imprisoned in 1959 and died in February 1969
- 1959-1964 Joseph "Joe Bananas" Bonanno forcibly retired in October 1964, died in May 2002
- 1964-1976 Carlo "Don Carlo" Gambino died of heart attack on October 15, 1976
- 1976-1985 Paul "Big Paul" Castellano murdered on December 16, 1985
- 1985-1992 John "The Dapper Don" Gotti imprisoned in 1992 and died on June 10, 2002
- 1992-1997 Vincent "Vinny Chin" Gigante imprisoned in 1997 and died December 19, 2005
- 1997-2004 Joseph "Big Joey" Massino imprisoned in 2003, then became a government witness in 2004
- 2004-present unknown
- Chairman of the Commission - There was no "ruler" of the Commission, but there was a nominated Chairman or Head of the National Commission. This was used as a substitute to the role of boss of all bosses, as that had the connotations of the old Mustache Pete system of one-man rule.
Ranks Within Each Family
- Boss - The official head 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 isn't 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 he 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 other duties include settling disputes (holding "sit-downs") between family members and other crime families, relaying orders down the chain of command, receiving a tribute from the family's capos (and rarely, soldiers and associates serving directly under him) and promote or demote ("knock down" or "break") family members at will. Murdering (or attempting to murder) an official boss is a big no-no in the Mafia, as the Commission would order the usurper's death for killing his own boss without explicit permission (only the Commission can authorize a hit on bosses - though this rule has been flouted many times).
- Underboss - The second-in-command of a mafia family and usually becomes the boss if the official boss is unavailable (death, prison, on the lam, etc.). The underboss's power varies by family: some are mere figureheads, while others could be very influential, sometimes running a faction within the family or in rare cases, becoming the de facto or effective head of the family even if the official boss is free. The former types are often "knocked down" (demoted), or "whacked" (take a guess) when their patron is no longer guiding their fortunes or if they fall 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.
- Consigliere - The third-in-command of a Mafia family, they're an advisor or counselor to the boss, with the additional responsibility of representing the family in Commission meetings. In theory, he is one of the few 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 saw it as a lower-level position. Many families often use the position for a veteran who knows the ins and outs of the family's power, but does not wish to rise to power for whatever reason. Chicago would be a subversion, with the "consigliere" being a sort of "boss emeritus" aka capo consigliere; mobsters Tony Accardo and Paul Ricca held this title, and exercised behind-the-scenes 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. Nicodemo Scarfo was another subversion, as he became the boss of the Philly Mob when the previous boss, Phil Testa, was assassinated while the underboss, Peter Casella, was exiled to Florida. At the time of Phil Testa's death, Scarfo was the number-three man. 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. Like the underboss, the consigliere's power varies: some are mere flunkies for the boss, while others can be very influential to the point of being the de facto or real power behind the throne.
- Acting Boss/Street Boss/Front Boss - A rank unique to the American Mafia, appearing in response to increasing law enforcement heat, rendering most "official" bosses and underbosses no longer at liberty to control the day-to-day operations of their families. This responsibility usually 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 the official boss is free, this structure is at times maintained as a veneer to prevent outsiders from knowing who's calling the shots - the Genovese family is a notable user of this since the 1970s and have been playing bait-and-switch with law enforcement using this tactic, as they would oftentimes prop up "dummy" bosses, usually high-ranking grunts, while the official boss remains hidden. May sometimes 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 low profile. (Note: This, essentially, was the rank Tony Soprano occupied for most of the series.).
- Messaggero - Another rank that's unique to the American Mafia, this also appeared in the aftermath of the Apalachin Meeting in 1957, though it was increasingly used in the 1980s, especially after the Commission Case, which forced the bosses to hold their sitdowns away from law enforcement scrutiny. The boss can sometimes delegate one of his men to serve as a liaison between him and the other crime families, reducing the need for sit-downs of the mob hierarchy, and thus limit the public exposure of the bosses. In other cases, the boss can use it to relay orders down the chain of command and as a facade to prevent law enforcement from knowing where the orders are actually coming from. Vincent Gigante, John Gotti, Joe Massino and other bosses oftentimes used their relatives as emissaries, especially in the wake of the Commission Case.
- Ruling Panel - Another rank unique to the American Mafia, this also appeared in response to greater law enforcement scrutiny in the 1980s, as most of the "official" bosses faced long prison sentences. The boss sometimes delegates a panel/ruling committee 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 send orders down the chain of command to avoid suspicion. The families can also use these ruling panels as a way to prevent outsiders from knowing who's actually calling the shots, and to shield the higher-ups from law enforcement scrutiny.
- Capodecina/Caporegime - Also known as a captain, skipper, capo, or "crew chief," the capo may oversee a borgata, faction or crew of approx. 10-20 soldiers and many more associates as he can efficiently control in a certain territory or racket 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 from his underlings, and passes a fixed sum or percentage on to the higher-ups. Capos 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 official boss dies, retires or is incapacitated. The latter title is unique to the American Mafia. Sometimes, if a capo is in good graces with the boss (especially if they're a good earner and is respected by the other wiseguys), then the official boss may promote the capo to street or acting boss (while running their own crew), especially if the boss is imprisoned, ill, semi-retired, wants to lay low, is grooming a successor, or as a facade to prevent law enforcement from knowing who's actually in charge. On occasions, a capo may be placed in charge of a faction that a family has significant interests in; for example, the Genovese family, which has five crews in its New Jersey faction, appoints one of the capos to supervise it. Another example was John Gotti, who was the de facto head of the Gambino family's blue-collar crews prior to becoming boss.
- Soldier - a soldato, "wiseguy", "button man", or "made guy." This is the lowest level of mobster who is considered a full and official 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 omertà), and with a few exceptions, 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 explicit permission of their higher-ups, is a big no-no in the mob, as the offender will meet a violent end. American mafiosi may refer to a made man among other made men as "a friend of ours" which means that any business pertaining to the family can be openly discussed. As a rule of thumb, two made men must always be formally introduced by a third party known to both, even if they're father and son. Picciotto is used within the Sicilian Mafia and indicates someone of a lower rank than that of Soldato. In the American Mafia, only males of Italian descent can become a made man, and must trace their lineage through their father's side.
- 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. It can also be tricky sometimes, as associates with a history of making serious money often commanded respect beyond their title. 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 since the associate is an outsider. Giovane d'onore is unique to the Camorra. Non-Italians will never go beyond this rank, but many of them, such as Meyer Lansky, Jimmy "the Gent" Burke, Bugsy Siegel, Bumpy Johnson, and Mickey Cohen were widely respected and even earned the respect of actual Mafia members. And although Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa could not become officially made because they were NYPD officers, they solicited their services to the New York mob as cold-blooded hitmen.
- 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 loosened as time went on. Despite this flexibility, some families may be more stringent than others as to who they want to induct.
The Mafia Families:There were, at one point, 20+ Mafia families in the United States, though many have since become defunct or are in decline because of increased law enforcement scrutiny, internal warfare, or old age. New York City Mafia Families:
Bonanno Crime Family
- Bonanno crime family - Has a huge presence in northern Brooklyn (Williamsburg, Bushwick, Knickerbocker Avenue and Greenpoint), southern Brooklyn (Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Bath Avenue), Queens (Ridgewood, Maspeth, Middle Village, Sunnyside and Metropolitan Avenue) and Staten Island with smaller crews and factions in Manhattan, the Bronx, Westchester, New Jersey, Florida and Canada (the family had a crew in Arizona until Joe Bonanno's forced retirement in the 1960s); the family also has a "Zip" faction. Though a mid-sized family (approx. size is between 140-160 made men), they sometimes held the number one spot, especially with the feds hammering down indictments on the other families in the 1990s. They're also the unruliest, owing to their independent streak since the Castellammarese War, as their generally disruptive behavior even threw them out of the Commission in the 1980s; most mafiosi see the Bonannos as wild hillbillies. Many of the family's earliest members came from Castellammare del Golfo, a seaside town in western Sicily, and settled down in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, including family namesake Joe Bonanno. It was also very tight-knit and considered to be the most Sicilian of the Five Families, partly because most of them were Castellammarese or had personal ties to that town. Eventually, the family came under the control of Salvatore Maranzano, who came to the United States after escaping from Mussolini's death squads in the 1920s and fancied himself as a mob version of Caesar, but Joe "the Boss" Masseria, the boss of the Morello gang, saw him as a growing threat to his power base, and tried to violently take over his gang's bootlegging rackets. Maranzano resisted, and this led to a bloody turf war that only ended with Masseria's death in 1931. With Masseria out of the way, Maranzano declared himself to be the Boss of all Bosses, reneging on the peace deal he made with Lucky Luciano prior to Masseria's death to ensure peace between the two sides. Soon enough, the power went into his head, and Maranzano wanted to kill Luciano, Costello, and Genovese. But Luciano somehow got wind of this, and using this info, alongside the fact that Maranzano was facing a potential tax audit like Al Capone before him, he makes a move before Maranzano gets to him, and the Boss of Bosses is eliminated on September 10, 1931 by hitmen posing as IRS agents. With the old guard eliminated, Maranzano's protégé and ambitious underboss Joseph "Joe Bananas" Bonanno took over in late 1931. Bonanno even forged close ties with Joe Profaci, boss of the Profaci (now Colombo) crime family and with Steve Magaddino (his cousin and boss of the Buffalo family); he even became a major drug lord despite blatantly denying any involvement. Yet like his mentor, he harbored even bigger ambitions and sought to become the boss of bosses (after Vito Genovese failed in his own bid) by eliminating several of his rivals (notably Carlo Gambino and Tommy Lucchese) on the Commission in the 1960s, but it came to a sputtering halt when Joe Colombo, a capo in the Profaci family and the designated gunman, told about Bonanno's plan to Gambino and the rest of the Commission. Bonanno was ordered to come forward several times, but each time, he was a no-show, and simply went AWOL by faking his own kidnapping in late 1964; at the same time, he was facing a grand jury subpoena investigating organized crime in the aftermath of Apalachin and the Valachi hearings. While Bonanno later claimed in a TV interview that he was picked up by the Buffalo mob, it certainly was a Blatant Lie, as most of his fellow bosses such as Ray Patriarca, Sam DeCavalcante, Angelo Bruno and Joe Colombo were caught off-guard by his kidnapping stunt. Also, many of his henchmen were angry that he went AWOL. The Commission responded by replacing him with Gaspar DiGregorio in 1965, but it wasn't acknowledged by Bill Bonanno (Bonanno's son), triggering an internal turf war that only ended when Joe was forced to step down and retire to Arizona in late 1968. After Bonanno's forced retirement, the family was known to have a revolving door of weak and ineffectual bosses in the 1970s, and its troubles didn't end as Carmine Galante, a former underboss to Bonanno and known drug pusher, attempted to seize control but was eliminated in 1979, allowing Philip "Rusty" Rastelli to regain full control of the family; he was originally installed as boss in 1973, but faced a lengthy prison sentence for racketeering. Rastelli then faced another challenge from Galante loyalists who thought he was too weak to run the family and wanted to avenge Galante's death, but they too were eliminated by Rastelli supporters led by Joe Massino, his protege and underboss. But the Donnie Brasco incident (in which an FBI agent infiltrated one of the crews and almost got made) did throw the Bonannos out of the Commission; other reasons for being kicked out included their generally disruptive behavior, the fact that they were actively selling heroin, and the infighting that's been going since Bonanno's ouster in 1968. Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano, whose crew was unwittingly 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 cops, while several wiseguys tied to Sonny Black were either killed, demoted in rank or imprisoned. By this time, they were largely regarded as a joke by both the FBI and wiseguys in the other families, but being stripped of their Commission seat actually benefitted them as they were the only one of the Five Families to avoid an indictment on the Mafia Commission Trial, thus allowing them to quietly rebuild their lost power base while the others were hammered down with indictments, long prison sentences, and mobsters flipping left and right to save their skin. Massino, Rastelli's Number Two, took over as boss in 1991, and he quickly worked to rebuild the family to its former glory by the dawn of the millennium by adding new made members (bringing the family membership back to approx. 160 made men), and expanding into Wall Street scams, union racketeering and white-collar fraud; Massino was even proud that the family never had any rats since Joe Bonanno became boss in 1931. But this all came crashing down in 2002 when several of his button men actually flipped, especially Salvatore Vitale, who saw Massino as a Big Brother Mentor to him, but once Massino gets out of jail in 1992, their relationship slowly became shaky to the point that Massino wanted him dead, and this became the catalyst for Vitale to flip in 2003. Massino faced a lengthy prison sentence, and it was upgraded to the death penalty in 2004 after one of the murders he committed was traced back to him. In hopes of saving his life, he became the first official boss of a crime family to turn rat, testifying against Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, his handpicked successor, in 2005. Once again, the Bonannos are now in shambles after Massino flipped against his former mob colleagues and are still struggling to rebuild themselves in the aftermath. The family is now headed by Michael Mancuso, who took over as boss following Basciano's imprisonment in 2013.
Colombo Crime Family
- Colombo crime family - Big presence in western Brooklyn (notably Red Hook, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Park Slope, Gowanus and Carroll Gardens) and Staten Island, with smaller crews and factions 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 (current membership is around 110-130 made men), ineffectual and/or publicity-hungry bosses, and internal wars since the 1960s, the Colombos used to be much stronger thanks to their ties with the Bonanno family. Originally a small and fairly-well organized gang of Sicilian mafiosi hailing from the town of Villabate (not far from Palermo), the crime family was originally known as the Profaci crime family after the first boss, Giuseppe Profaci, who established good ties with Joe Bonanno, the boss of the Bonanno crime family at the time. But he was known to be a penny-pincher and notoriously greedy, as he even demanded a $25 monthly tribute kicked up to him, and his tightfisted attitude led to the first family war in the late 1950s. It was ignited by Joe Gallo, a renegade capo who wanted a greater share of the loot Profaci kept for himself; at first, it seemed that Gallo would win this battle because he had secured the backing of Carlo Gambino and Tommy Lucchese, Profaci's Arch Enemies on the Commission, but soon enough, most of the family's 150+ wiseguys backed Profaci. Carmine Persico, a Gallo loyalist whos would eventually become boss, later switched sides and defected to the Profaci faction when he realized Gallo was the wrong horse to bet upon, knowing that Profaci had the money, the rackets, the arms and the men to keep this battle going. After secretly switching sides, Persico decided to betray the Gallo crew by trying to strangle Joe Gallo's younger brother Larry to death at a bar, but he survived the murder attempt thanks to a passing policeman who witnessed the attack, forcing Persico and his men to flee, and as a result of this botched hit and his treachery, Persico was nicknamed "the Snake" for betraying the Gallo crew. Profaci died of cancer in 1962, but his underboss Joe Magliocco continued the battle against the remaining renegades. The war ended with Gallo's arrest in 1963, but Magliocco soon became embroiled in an audacious plan allegedly hatched by Joe Bonanno to eliminate several of their rivals and take over the Mafia Commission. However, their plans sputtered to an abrupt halt when Joe Colombo, another capo in the Profaci family, exposed their plot to the Commission. For his reward, Colombo took over the family in 1963 after Magliocco was forced to step down (since the other bosses knew that he had several health issues and would die anytime soon, they let him go but ordered him to retire and pay a $50,000 fine; Bonanno was also ordered to come forward several times but was a no-show despite being asked to explain, and he fled to avoid being killed in 1964 by staging a phony kidnapping); with Gambino's backing, he changed the family name from Profaci to Colombo. But to Gambino's dismay, Colombo was too publicity-friendly, as he claimed the FBI was falsely targeting Italian-Americans by forming a political group to decry the FBI's actions, and went so far to ally with Meir Kahane and the Jewish Defense League. Colombo's antics later came back to bite him, when he was later gunned down during a rally at Columbus Circle in 1971, and relapsed into a coma which he never recovered in 1978. This led to another internal turf war, and the family pinned the blame on the Gallos, though it was speculated that Colombo's rivals, including Gambino, ordered it; Gallo was later shot to death in 1972 while dining with his family, thus ending the war, with the remaining Gallo crew members later joining the Genoveses. Carmine Persico took over the family in 1972, but spent much of his reign while imprisoned, and used a series of acting bosses and ruling panels to maintain his grip on the ffamily from prison. Persico and his acting boss, Gennaro "Jerry Lang" Langella, were later indicted on the Mafia Commission Case in 1986, facing 100+ year life sentences; to ensure that he remains as the official boss, Persico even groomed his son Alphonse to become the acting boss and his successor, but Allie Boy was convicted in a separate trial. Persico then nominates Victor Orena, his cousin and a capo to become the street boss, but Orena harbored bigger ambitions. The family would split again for a 3rd time in the early 1990s when Orena, who felt Persico was out of touch and was planning to do a TV interview (much like how Joe Bonanno did one in 1983 after writing a tell-all book about his life, and how the book was later used in the Mafia Commission Trial), tried to take over as boss. While Persico won the battle after 12 deaths (including three innocent bystanders), 18 associates missing and 12 of his men turning informer (and still runs the battered family from behind bars), the Colombos have been weakened in recent years because of numerous informants and more government crackdowns in the 2000s. Many have commented about how the Colombos were weakened over the years because of Persico's greed and treachery, mainly because he wanted to keep on running the show even after government indictments and pressure from his peers to step down.
Gambino Crime Family
- Gambino crime family - Big presence in southern and western Brooklyn (Bay Ridge, Bath Beach, Gravesend, Bensonhurst and the Brooklyn docks), Queens (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, California 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 had around 450 made men, but that has since dipped to approx. 225-250 made men in the 1990s), it is now a former shell of itself due to John Gotti's media-hungry antics and subsequent imprisonment in 1992. The family had its origins in the large Brooklyn faction of the Morello (now Genovese) crime family, and broke off into its own family. It 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, but the relationship between Anastasia and the Mangano brothers was an uneasy one from the start. Anastasia later took over as boss after eliminating the Mangano brothers in 1951 (Phil's body was found in a swamp in Brooklyn, while Vincent vanished without a trace), and was known to be a ruthless boss, thanks to his prior experience as the head of Murder, Inc. in the 1930s. However, Anastasia's past would come back to bite him, as he had murdered his own boss without the Commission's approval, and he was assassinated in a famous gangland hit in 1957 orchestrated by Carlo Gambino and Vito Genovese. Carlo Gambino, the family's namesake and Anastasia's underboss, later took over as boss and led it to prosperous times, thanks to his ties with Tommy Lucchese, the boss of the Lucchese family, and both of them would further solidify this alliance into a relationship when Gambino's son Thomas married one of Lucchese's daughters in 1962. Gambino eventually became the Mafia's de facto boss of all bosses as the other families in New York and elsewhere were facing various troubles, such as illness (for the Lucchese family), internal warfare (within the Bonanno and Colombo families) and legal problems (within the Genovese family and Chicago Outfit). But before his death in 1976, Gambino made his biggest mistake by naming his cousin Paul Castellano as his heir and successor over his underboss Neil Dellacroce, who was the most likely candidate for succeeding Gambino, but was imprisoned at the time for tax evasion, effectively 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 seen as a pampered yes-man who simply inherited the position because of his blood ties to Gambino despite being a big earner for the family. Though he disapproved of Gambino's choice of picking his cousin as boss, Dellacroce still managed to keep the peace between the two factions for the next 9 years until his death from cancer in 1985. But despite this, there were simmering tensions between Gotti and Castellano, as the latter became increasingly greedy; Castellano even began to demand a 15% tribute (instead of the usual ten) in some cases, and though there was an unofficial "ban" placed by Gambino, who ordered his men not to get caught dealing drugs, this was often ignored as even Castellano often turned a blind eye to this "ban" by accepting drug payments from several of his capos, including the Zips (imported Sicilian mafiosi), and from the Gotti and Roy DeMeo crews. By this time, the federal government was initiating a crackdown on organized crime, especially the Mafia it was spearheaded by Rudolph Giuliani, an aggressive US Attorney who saw the mob with nothing but contempt and began to actively target the Five Families' leadership, with Castellano topping the list because he was the Mafia Commission's chairman at the time. By 1985, Castellano was in a slew of problems, ranging from legal pressure from the federal government, personal problems with his family after they found out about his affair with his maid, and dissension among the ranks within the Gambinos, especially from the Dellacroce/blue-collar faction. After Dellacroce's death from cancer in December 1985, Castellano was gunned down outside Sparks Steak House a few weeks later on the orders of Gotti, who was reportedly angry that Castellano was a no-show at his mentor Dellacroce's funeral; other reasons included Castellano's greed, the prospect of Castellano ratting out his henchmen and bosses in the wake of the Commission case because he often badmouthed them behind their backs, and a fear that he might kill Gotti in a dispute over the family's unofficial "ban" on drug dealing. Gotti took over after Castellano's assassination, but his tenure as boss was marred by frequent indictments as he was under intense FBI scrutiny since the 1970s, assassination attempts by rivals who were outraged at the unsanctioned hit on Castellano, and his media-hungry profile. Many of his own henchmen and contemporaries often complained of his publicity-hungry, attention-seeking personality, and by the early 1990s, his underboss Sammy Gravano, fed up with Gotti's antics, decided to secretly cooperate with the FBI, spilling the beans about Gotti's crimes. Gotti was imprisoned for life in 1992 after ducking several attempts by federal prosecutors to have him indicted, and subsequently died of cancer 10 years later; his brother Peter took over as boss in 2002, but he too was imprisoned for life, and still runs the family from behind bars. Since then, the family has been quietly rebuilding its former shell after John Gotti's demise by keeping a low profile, with the Sicilian Zips effectively running the show.
Genovese Crime Family
- Genovese crime family - Large presence in Manhattan (Little Italy, 116th Street/East Harlem, Lower East Side, Greenwich Village and the Manhattan/New Jersey waterfronts), the Bronx (Morris Park, Pelham Bay and Arthur Avenue), Westchester, northern New Jersey and Connecticut, with smaller crews and factions 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 the strongest and biggest of the Five Families (the family size has historically varied from 250 to 470 made men; current membership is around 250-275 made men). The oldest of the New York families, it was known as the Morello crime family and eventually came under the control of Morello capo Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria, who had a penchant for violence and was notoriously greedy. His heavy-handed attempts to strong-arm and control the other Italian gangs, especially the Williamsburg-based Castellammarese gang, led to a bloody turf war in 1928; the Castellammarese War claimed at least 150+ lives and dragged on until Masseria was gunned down at a Coney Island restaurant in 1931. Salvatore Maranzano, now the nominal victor of this turf war, immediately wasted no time into reorganizing the Five Families (and by extension, the entire Mafia) under his control by declaring himself the boss of bosses; the Young Turks, led by an upstart gangster named Charles "Lucky" Luciano(the Young Turks were a younger generation of Americanized mafiosi, and were swayed by Maranzano into fighting for him), realized that Maranzano was much greedier than they originally thought. So, they decided that the boss of all bosses had to go, and Luciano takes over in September of 1931 after Maranzano was eliminated. With the old guard out of the way, he can now consolidate his own power base. Luciano then revolutionized the American Mafia by forming a Mafia Commission (and becoming its 1st chairman) to settle disputes and encouraging the other bosses to work with each other instead of "hitting the mattresses". However, he faced an indictment from Thomas Dewey for running a prostitution ring in 1937 and was deported back to Italy in 1946, where he worked with the Sicilian mafia to establish an international drug trafficking empire. The family was taken over by Frank Costello, Luciano's consigliere and a key political fixer; he had huge gambling and white-collar rackets in New York City and was always craving to go legitimate. It was once said that no municipal judge, official or politician could accept their position without securing Costello's personal backing. He even had behind-the-scenes influence over Tammany Hall (the local Democratic political machine) through proxies such as Carmine DeSapio and Robert Wagner. But the Kefauver hearings in 1951 were aimed at proving that a secretive Italian organization based on strong family ties was behind a big organized crime conspiracy in the United States, and Costello's reputation took a big hit because of this. By the late 1950s, he faced 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, head of the Mangano family and William "Willie Moore" Moretti, Costello's underboss). By 1957, Genovese, with the sufficient backing of Carlo Gambino and Tommy Lucchese, then ordered a hit on Costello in May, though he manages to survive the hit by getting away with only a scalp wound thanks to the gunman's unintentional warning, and steps down to avoid further bloodshed. Genovese, taking over after Costello's retirement, then orders a hit on rival mob boss Albert Anastasia and called for an emergency meeting of mob bosses to explain the growing power vacuum in New York that's been going on since the botched hit on Costello, to consolidate his power base, and as well as to discuss the growing drug trade in late 1957. But the Apalachin Meeting turned into a big fiasco as it exposed the Mafia to outside scrutiny for the first time, and the other bosses (notably Gambino and Lucchese, who switched sides and supported Costello, Luciano and Lansky) had him falsely implicated on a drug charge. To make matters worse, a low-level mob soldier 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 his rationale to cooperate with federal authorities in 1963. Genovese continued to rule the family from prison via ruling panels and acting bosses until his death in 1969. And though the family was run by a series of "dummy" bosses after Genovese's death, Philip "Benny Squint" Lombardo, the family's street boss since 1962, was regarded as the de facto boss and had the final say in family matters, especially since 1969. Lombardo, a low-key man who chose to stay in the shadows, preferred to delegate authority to high-ranking capos to insulate himself from the FBI, so that they'll go after the wrong people while the real boss remains hidden. However, ill health forces Lombardo to step down and name Vincent "Chin" Gigante, the alleged gunman behind the Costello hit, as his successor in 1981; Gigante later names Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno as his "dummy" boss, and goes a step further shielding himself from law enforcement scrutiny by feigning insanity and pretending to have a low IQ; this ruse worked until 1997, when he was imprisoned for multiple racketeering and murder charges, and finally admitted to pulling the "crazy stunt" as a way to throw off investigators for years in 2003. He ran the family from prison until his death in 2005, and since his death, it is implied the family now uses a ruling panel of capos to manage its daily affairs and to avoid FBI attention, with Liborio "Barney" Bellomo (a protege of Vincent Gigante and the head capo of the 116th Street crew) pretty much having the final say on family matters, in a matter reminiscent of Philip Lombardo in the 1970s.
Lucchese Crime Family
- Lucchese crime family - Has a large presence in the Bronx (especially Morris Park, Arthur Avenue, Pelham Bay and Throggs Neck), East Harlem, Westchester, New England and northern New Jersey, with smaller crews and factions in lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Long Island, Queens and Florida. It began as a splinter crew of the Morello gang's Bronx-East Harlem faction, becoming an independent group taking over the Morello family's bootlegging rackets in the early 1920s. It was something of the Franz Ferdinand of the Castellammarese War, as Joe Masseria's attempt to violently replace the family's boss ended up throwing the rest of the family under the sway of Sal Maranzano, starting open conflict between the two groups. Widely reckoned as the smallest (family membership has often hovered between 120 and 160 made men) and most peaceful of the Five Families (until the violent purges led by Amuso and Casso in the 1980s), the family's first official boss was Tommy Gagliano, who preferred to keep a low profile, concentrating on their criminal activities in the Bronx, Manhattan and New Jersey. He expanded the family's grip on the Garment District and often allowed his underboss Tommy Lucchese to do business with the other mob families. Gagliano died sometime in 1951, but names Lucchese as his successor before his death. 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, Robert F. Wagner and Vincent Impellitteri while jockeying with Frank Costello over who should control Tammany Hall. Lucchese also backed Vito Genovese and Carlo Gambino in their fights to take control of their respective families, but chose to build a closer relationship with Gambino after the disastrous Apalachin Meeting of 1957 - in fact, Gambino's son Thomas married his daughter Frances in 1962, and in return, Lucchese gave Gambino full access to rackets at JFK Airport. Lucchese later died of cancer in 1967, and was replaced by Carmine Tramunti, who had a good relationship with the other bosses; Tramunti later branched out in construction and narcotics trafficking. Tony "Ducks" Corallo took over as boss in 1973 after Tramunti was indicted and convicted for narcotics trafficking in the French Connection case, and exapnded the family's rackets in labor unions. Under Corallo's reign, one of the most infamous robberies took place - 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. When Paul Castellano was killed by John Gotti in late 1985, Corallo teams up with Chin Gigante, boss of the Genovese family, to have Gotti and his loyalists killed for assassinating a boss without Commission backing, but failed several times as Gotti was surrounded by media all the time, though the Lucchese and Genovese hitmen manage to kill Gotti's underboss Frank DeCicco in April of 1986. Facing life imprisonment following the Mafia Commission trial in 1987, Corallo names Victor Amuso and Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso as the new boss and underboss respectively, but his pick for a successor proved to be a very bad decision, as both Amuso and Casso were known to be violent hitmen and drug traffickers; also, the two of them came from the Brooklyn faction, while their predecessors came from the Bronx-East Harlem faction, the family's power base. Soon enough, the two ordered anybody that was a purported informant to be marked for death, which actually forced wiseguys in the family to flip because of the increasingly erratic behavior of Amuso and Casso; Amuso even ordered the whacking of the entire New Jersey faction when they failed to show up for a sitdown and pay a hefty tribute, even going so far to demote the Jersey Crew's head capo, Anthony Accetturo, to the mere rank of a soldier and replace him with an Amuso loyalist; Accetturo later flipped when Amuso ordered a hit on his wife, despite the Mafia's longtime ban on harming women, but never went through with it because of massive indictments against many mafiosi at the time. Both Amuso and Casso were captured in 1993, but Gaspipe decided to flip in 1994, revealing that two NYPD officers named Louis Eppolito and Steven Caracappa were on the Lucchese family's payroll for several years, working as contract killers for the Mafia; Eppolito even had relatives who were in the mob, but could never join the LCN because he was a cop. Both Eppolito and Caracappa 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 Crime Families
Northeastern United States:
- Magaddino/Buffalo 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 Magaddino (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 Magaddino in 1974.
- DeCavalcante/New Jersey 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 Five Families' control).
- 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 and early 1990s. 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, notably his nephew and underboss Phil Leonetti.
- 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.
- LaRocca/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 LaRocca 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 Crime Families
Southern United States:
- Trafficante/Tampa Bay 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 Fidel 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/Marcello crime family - Once controlled Louisiana, this family (also nicknamed the Combine) has been largely defunct due to Carlos Marcello's death in 1993. If the Genovese and Gambino families are the Yankees and Mets, the New Orleans family would be the Cincinatti Reds; they were the first known Mafia organization in the company (controlling groups of Italian stevedores in the aftermath of the American Civil War), before, too sure in their own power, they killed a police chief and were all but wiped out by an angry lynch mob. 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/Civello 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 Crime Families
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.
- Zerilli crime family/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.
- Scalish/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.
- Civella/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.
- Giordano/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.
- Balistrieri/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 Crime Families
Western United States:
- Dragna/Los Angeles crime family - Has control of Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. It used to be much more powerful until the 1950s, but the family has been in decline since Frank DeSimone's death in 1967. For this reason, the family is nicknamed the Mickey Mouse mob because of DeSimone'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.
- Smaldone/Denver crime family - This family once controlled rackets in Denver, Boulder and Pueblo in Colorado. Defunct since the 1990s.
- Lanza/San Francisco crime family - This family once controlled Northern California and San Francisco. Defunct since the 1990s.
- Cerrito/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.
Mob Lingo:The American Mafia has a unique and colorful lexicon of describing things. Its collection of slang has been building for more than a century. Many of its words have entered mainstream language.
- administration: the upper-level, three-man power structure/ruling panel of an organized crime Family, composed of the boss, underboss, and consigliere.
- associate: an almost-there; someone who works with and for wiseguys, but who hasn't been sworn in as a member of the Family.
- babania: Heroin, as in dealing. Lucrative but risky for mob insiders because if they're busted, long prison terms might compel them to cut a deal and squeal.
- babbo: A dope, idiot, useless underling.
- beef: a complaint or disagreement within the organization, usually discussed during a sit-down with higher-ups in the Family.
- books, the: euphemism for membership in the Family, since nothing is ever written down. When there is an availability (when someone dies), the books are "opened." When no one is being "made," the books are "closed."
- Boss of all bosses/Capo di tutti i capi: Term used by outsiders to describe an extremely powerful boss who wields significant influence within the Mafia. It hasn't been used since 1931, as the only person to hold it (Salvatore Maranzano) was murdered, and the title has been replaced by a council of mob bosses.
- borgata: a crime Family; brugad. Sometimes used to describe a crew or faction within a Family.
- broken: a made man who is demoted in rank or "knocked down". Though much better than being shelved, banned from the LCN or rubbed out, the wiseguy loses a lot of power when they're demoted from a very powerful underboss to a mere soldier.
- brugad: a crime family; borgata.
- bug/wire: An eavesdropping device, often used by informants to secretly record their conversations with their Mob colleagues. The wire device/bug transmits to a remote location where law enforcement agents monitor what is being said. Wearing a wire is viewed as risky since discovery of a hidden wire by a criminal could lead to violence against the mole or other retaliatory responses. At other times, FBI agents can install a bug inside mob hangouts to eavesdrop on conversations.
- burn: to murder; synonyms: break an egg, clip, do a piece of work, hit, ice, pop, put out a contract on, whack, knock off, bump off, rub out.
- button: a "made" member of the Mafia; soldier, wiseguy, goodfella, Man of Honor.
- capo di tutti capi: The Boss of all Bosses, usually a phrase by outsiders to indicate an extremely powerful boss who wields significant influence in the Mafia. The Commission was created in 1931 to replace this title to prevent turf wars from breaking out.
- capo consigliere: Very similar to the boss of bosses title, this denoted the first among equals of the New York bosses, who would arbitrate disputes between families; this also went by the wayside after the Castellammarese War and was never reestablished afterwards.
- cafone/gavone: a phony or embarrassment to himself and others; "gavone" (slang pronunciation)
- 'cagnolazzi': "wild dogs" young wannabes working for, but not yet initiated into the Mafia.
- Cement Shoes/cement overcoat: A largely fictional method of disposing bodies in a body of water, hoping that someone will not find the body. This is where the term "sleeping with the fishes" came from.
- chased: to be permanently banned from the Mafia and barred from associating or doing business with any made members. The offender is spared, but are essentially declared Persona Non Grata within the mob.
- cleaning: taking the necessary steps (driving around, stopping in various locations) to avoid being followed.
- clock: to keep track of someone's movements and activities.
- comare: a Mafia mistress; "goumada" (slang pronunciation).
- come in: To go see the boss when summoned without question.
- The Commission: The American Mafia's ultimate governing authority on mob matters. Replaced the Boss of Bosses title in 1931 to prevent turf wars from breaking out, it is the mob's version of a board of directors.
- compare: crony, close pal, buddy. Literally, "godfather" in Italian.
- contract/piece of work: a murder assignment.
- Cosa Nostra: Italian for "this thing of ours," a mob family, the Mafia.
- crank/junk business: Euphemism for narcotics/drug trafficking, especially heroin.
- crew: a group of soldiers that takes orders from a capo.
- cugine: a young toughguy looking to be made.
- double-decker coffin: A disposal method generally used by the Mafia, hoping that nobody will be able to find the corpse. Bodies of mob victims were tucked and concealed in hidden compartments below ones already in coffins.
- earner: someone whose expertise is making money for the Family. Someone who brings in a lot to the Family is considered to be a good/big earner.
- eat alone: to keep for one's self; to be greedy.
- empty suit: someone with nothing to offer who tries to hang around with mobsters.
- enforcer/muscle: a person who threatens, maims, or kills someone who doesn't cooperate with Family rules or deals.
- Farm out: Pass on a murder contract to another family.
- Feds: Federal law enforcement agents. In the 1920s, it was the IRS; in the 1950s, it was the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, and in the present day, the FBI.
- fence: someone with worldwide outlets to liquidate swag.
- flip: To become an informant, a government witness, to break the vow of omerta, and cooperate with law enforcement.
- friend of mine: introduction of a third person who is not a member of the Family but who can be vouched for by a Family member.
- friend of ours: introduction of one made member to another.
- get a place ready: To find a burial site.
- gift: A bribe, sometimes for a juror.
- give a pass: To grant a reprieve from being whacked.
- gofer/gopher boy: An errand boy for a mobster. Many mob wannabes often start out as errand boys.
- going: About to be whacked.
- going south: stealing, passing money under the table, going on the lam.
- goombah, goomba, gumba, gumbah: Sicilian slang for the Italian compare; plural: goombata
- hard-on with a suitcase: mob lawyer; feminine: half a hard-on with a suitcase.
- heavy: to be armed with a weapon, packed up.
- hot place: a location suspected of being the target of law enforcement or surveillance.
- iron out: To straighten out things, especially disputes, beefs and vendettas before they spiral out of control.
- joint, the: prison; synonyms: the can, the pen, go away to college, doing time, the slammer, Hoosegow, mainline joint, skinner joint, stoney lonesome, lockup, glasshouse, bucket, club fed, greybar hotel, big house, calaboose, castle, cooler, country club, crowbar hotel, digger, farm, guardhouse, hole, jug, juvie, pokey, rock, sneezer, stockade, the clink, brig, stir, skookum house, cage, coop, behind bars.
- kiss of death: sign given by mob higher-ups that signifies that a member of the crime family has been marked for death, usually as a result of some perceived betrayal. It's usually a sign that the member has fallen out of favor with the higher-ups.
- loanshark: someone who lends mob money at an exorbitant interest rate; a shylock.
- loose cannon: an unpredictable person who may cause long-term and unpredictable damage, whether through violence or by ratting out.
- made: to be sworn into La Cosa Nostra; synonyms: to be "straightened out," to get your button, get inducted.
- make a marriage: to bring two parties together for legitimate or illegitimate Family issues.
- make your bones: Carrying out the first contracted (an on-the-book hit approved by the boss) killing in order to be accepted into the Mafia and become a made man. The hit proved absolute loyalty to the Mafia and, after the Donnie Brasco debacle, to show that the potential recruit is not an undercover cop. Murders committed for personal reasons do not count.
- mattresses, hitting the, taking to the, going to the: going to war with a rival Family or gang.
- meat eater: a corrupt cop (not exclusively mobspeak).
- message job: placing the bullet in someone's body such that a specific message is sent to that person's crew or family
- Mustache Petes: Old-fashioned or older generation Mafiosi.
- nut, the: mobspeak for "the bottom line"; also the gross profit figure.
- Omertà: the code of silence and one of the premier vows taken when being sworn into the Family. Violation of this is usually punishable by death.
- off the record/books: an action taken without the knowledge or approval of the Family.
- on the record/books: an action sanctioned by the Family.
- on the carpet: The situation that occurs when a made guy's performance is harshly criticized by his superior.
- on the lam: Moving secretly. Indicted mobsters, in an effort to avoid arrest, might go "on the lam," changing their address, moving secretly from place to place.
- on the pad: Designation for a law enforcement officer who is paid by the underworld to ignore and turn a blind eye to certain criminal activity.
- on the spot: Set up for assassination.
- one-way ride: Euphemism for an execution method, where the victim is taken to a remote location and is killed off.
- piece: a gun.
- pinched/picked up: arrested.
- pizzo: an 'tax' (extortion money) which retailers and freelance criminals alike pay tin exchange for operating in the territories the Mafia controlled in a given area.
- problem: A liability, someone likely to be whacked.
- put on a shelf/the shelf: a made man who is forced into retirement. Instead of being permanently banned from the LCN or whacked (rubbed out), the made man is no longer active and loses his power within the organization even though he is an official member.
- rat: a member who violates Omerta; synonyms: squealer, informant, canary, snitch, stool pigeon, yellow dog, pentito, tell-tale.
- sit-down/table: a meeting with the Family administration or with other Families to settle disputes.
- shakedown: to blackmail, muscle in, extort or try to get money from someone; also to give someone a scare.
- shylockbusiness: the business of loansharking.
- skim: Tax-free gambling profits, as in the money taken that is not reported to the IRS.
- sleeping with the fishes: Euphemism for a mob victim whose body was disposed of in the sea or other body of water.
- stand-up guy: someone who refuses to rat out the Family no matter what the pressure, offer, or threat.
- swag: stolen goods, also an acronym for "stolen without a gun."
- tax: to take a percentage of someone's earnings.
- through the eye: a message job through the eye to say "We're watching you!"
- through the mouth: a message job through the mouth to indicate that someone WAS a rat.
- vig: the interest payment on a loan from a loanshark (short for "vigorish"). Synonym: juice, vigorish.
- vouch for: to personally guaranteewith one's lifethe reputation of someone dealing with the Family.
- walk talk, take a walk: to conduct a sensitive discussion while striding up and down the block to avoid being overheard on those pesky bugs.
- waste management/garbage business: euphemism for organized crime.
- wire: An electronic surveillance device secretly placed on an undercover operator to tape incriminating conversations.
- wiretap: Tapped phoneline so law enforcement can record any incriminating conversations.
- Witness Protection Program: Federal program used to provide security and a new identity to mobsters who chose to cooperate with law enforcement
- Young Turks: Younger, less traditional generation of Mafiosi. Less likely to live by the old rules.
- Zips: Derogatory term used by Americanized mobsters for their imported Sicilian Mafiosi cousins.
What's in a Mobster's Nickname?
Big Tuna? Tony Ducks? Vinny the Chin? Since the mob is a Planet of Steves, with a large number of mobsters sharing the same first name, it became inevitable for them to distinguish each other with a unique nickname. They get their nicknames in many ways: their physical appearance, their occupation, where they live, a trait associated with them, the weapon they use when committing crimes, etc. For example, Louis Attanasio, a capo for the Bonannos, earned the nickname "Louie Ha-Ha" because he often laughed whenever he heard about mobsters dying. John Gotti was called "the Dapper Don" because of his penchant for wearing expensive, two-thousand dollar suits once he became boss of the Gambinos, though his media-hungry personality irked many of his contemporaries. While some mobsters, such as Crazy Joey Gallo, appreciated their monikers, for others, it became their Berserk Button, as it became an Embarrassing Nickname for them. For example, Carmine Persico was called "the Snake" by his rivals because he betrayed the Gallo crew by siding with Joe Profaci during the 1st Colombo family war in the 1960s. Persico hated it, but the name caught on among some fellow criminals. Meanwhile, Vincent Gigante asked his name never be spoken aloud, insisted others rub or point their fingers to their chin when referring to him, and ordered his men to beat up anybody who mentioned his name out of fear of getting his name picked up on FBI bugs.
Mafia Boss Succession:
The Five Families of New York
Bonanno Crime Family - Williamsburg, Knickerbocker Avenue, Maspeth, Ridgewood, Greenpoint, Bushwick and satellite crews in Montreal, Canada and Tucson
- c. 19051908 Salvatore Bonanno stepped down
- 19081925 Vito "The King" Bonventre stepped down, murdered on July 15, 1930
- Front 19121930 Nicolo "Cola" Schirò demoted
- 19251931 Salvatore "Little Caesar" Maranzano murdered on September 10, 1931
- 19311968 Joseph "Joe Bananas" Bonanno forcibly replaced by the Commission, officially retires after a heart attack in 1968
- Acting 19561957 John "Johnny Burns" Morales
- Acting 1964 Frank "Uncle Frank" Labruzzo for the Bonanno faction
- Ruling Panel 19641965 Gaspar "Gasparino" DiGregorio, Angelo Caruso, Nicolino Alfano, Paul Sciacca
- Disputed 19651966 Gaspar "Gasparino" DiGregorio installed and forcibly removed by the Commission
- Acting 19661968 Paul Sciacca for the DiGregorio faction
- 19681971 Paul Sciacca imprisoned
- 19711973 Natale "Joe Diamonds" Evola died on August 23, 1973
- 19731991 Phillip "Rusty" Rastelli imprisoned 19751984 and 19861991
- Acting 19741979 Carmine "the Cigar" Galante murdered on July 12, 1979
- Acting 19791981 Salvatore "Sally Fruits" Farrugia appointed by the Commission
- Acting 1981 Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano murdered on August 17, 1981
- Acting 19811987 Joseph "Big Joe" Massino imprisoned
- Acting 19871991 Anthony "Old Man" Spero
- 19912005 Joseph "Big Joe" Massino imprisoned January 2003, became government informant in October 2004
- Acting 19911993 Anthony "Old Man" Spero
- Acting 20032004 Anthony "Tony Green" Urso imprisoned January 2004
- 20052013 Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano imprisoned November 2004, in July 2007 received a life sentence
- Acting 20042006 Michael "the Nose" Mancuso imprisoned February 2006
- Acting 20062009 Salvatore "the Iron Worker" Montagna deported to Canada in April 2009, murdered in 2011
- Acting 20102012 Vincent "Vinny TV" Badalamenti imprisoned in January 2012
- 2013present Michael "the Nose" Mancuso imprisoned in January 2013
- Acting 20132014 Thomas "Tommy D" DiFiore
- Acting 20142015 John Palazzolo
- Acting 20152018 Joseph "Joe C" Cammarano Jr.
Colombo Crime Family - Southern Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Long Island with satellite faction in Florida
- c. 19281962 Giuseppe "the Old Man" Profaci died of natural causes
- 19621963 Joseph "Fat Joe" Magliocco forcibly replaced by the Mafia Commission
- 19631973 Joseph Colombo shot and incapacitated by assassination attempt, died in 1978
- Acting 19711972 Joseph "Joe Yak" Yacovelli fled, after the murder of Joe Gallo
- Acting 19721973 Vincenzo "Vincent" Aloi imprisoned
- Acting 1973 Joseph "Joey" Brancato imprisoned
- 1973present Carmine "the Snake" Persico imprisoned 19731979, 19811984, 1985present
- Acting 19731979 Thomas DiBella stepped down, became consigliere
- Acting 19811983 Alphonse "Little Allie Boy" Persico Carmine Persico's brother; fugitive 19801987, imprisoned
- Acting 19831985 Gennaro "Jerry Lang" Langella imprisoned
- Acting 19851987 Anthony "Scappy" Scarpati imprisoned
- Acting 19871991 Vittorio "Little Vic" Orena Carmine Persico's cousin; imprisoned and sentenced to life
- Acting 19941996 Andrew "Andy Mush" Russo imprisoned March 1997
- Acting 19962000 Alphonse "Little Allie Boy" Persico Carmine Persico's son; imprisoned 2000 to life
- Acting 20002003 Joel "Joe Waverly" Cacace in prison, awaiting trial for murder
- Acting 2003present Andrew "Andy Mush" Russo
Gambino Crime Family - Brooklyn Docks, Bensonhurst, Bath Avenue, Bay Ridge, Staten Island, Howard Beach with satellite crews in Baltimore, the Tampa Bay Area and Los Angeles
- c. 1900-1910 Ignazio "the Wolf" Lupo imprisoned in 1910
- 19101928 Salvatore "Toto" D'Aquila took over the Brooklyn Camorra (Neapolitan Mafia) in 1916 and merged with Al Mineo's gang, forming the largest family in New York. He was killed on orders of rival kingpin Joe Masseria in 1928.
- 19281930 Manfredi "Alfred" Mineo killed in Castellammarese War in 1930 on orders of Salvatore Maranzano.
- 19301931 Francesco "Frankie Cheech" Scalise demoted after murder of Sal Maranzano.
- 19311951 Vincent "Vince" Mangano disappeared in April 1951, allegedly killed on orders of underboss Albert Anastasia.
- 19511957 Albert "the Lord High Executioner" Anastasia murdered in October 1957 on orders of underboss Carlo Gambino.
- 19571976 Carlo "Don Carlo" Gambino died of natural causes 1976.
- Acting 19671976 Paul "Big Paul" Castellano acting on behalf of an ill Gambino, became official boss after his death.
- 19761985 Paul "Big Paul" Castellano murdered in December 1985 on orders of capo John Gotti.
- 19852002 John "the Teflon Don" Gotti Sr. imprisoned in 1992, died in 2002.
- Acting 19921999 John "Junior" Gotti Jr. imprisoned in 1999.
- Acting 19992002 Peter "One-Eyed Pete" Gotti promoted to official boss.
- 2002present Peter "One-Eyed Pete" Gotti imprisoned in 2002, serving life sentence.
- Acting 20022005 Arnold "Zeke" Squitieri
- Acting 20052008 Nicholas "Little Nick" Corozzo convicted in 2008, projected release date is in 2020.
- Acting 20112015 Domenico "Italian Dom" Cefalù head of the Sicilian faction, acting on behalf of Peter Gotti, stepped down in 2015
- Acting 2015present Francesco "Frankie Boy" Cali current head of the Sicilian faction, acting on behalf of Peter Gotti
Genovese Crime Family - Little Italy, Greenwich Village, East Harlem, Pelham Bay, Northern New Jersey, Connecticut with satellite crew in Springfield, Massachusetts
- c. 18981922 Giuseppe "the Clutch Hand" Morello imprisoned, stepped down in 1922 to become underboss to Joe Masseria
- Acting 19101916 Nicholas "Nick Morello" Terranova murdered on September 7, 1916
- Acting 19161920 Vincenzo "Vincent the Tiger" Terranova stepped down becoming underboss
- 19221931 Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria murdered on April 15, 1931
- 19311946 Charles "Lucky" Luciano imprisoned in 1936, deported to Italy in 1946
- Acting 19361937 Vito "Don Vitone" Genovese fled to Italy in 1937 to avoid murder charge
- Acting 19371946 Frank "the Prime Minister" Costello became official boss after Luciano's deportation
- 19461957 Frank "the Prime Minister" Costello resigned in 1957 after assassination attempt by Genovese
- 19571969 Vito "Don Vitone" Genovese imprisoned in 1959, died in prison in 1969
- Acting 19591962 Anthony "Tony Bender" Strollo disappeared in 1962
- Acting 19621965 Thomas "Tommy Ryan" Eboli became front boss
- Acting 19651969 Philip "Benny Squint" Lombardo became the official boss
- 19691981 Philip "Benny Squint" Lombardo retired in 1981, died of natural causes in 1987
- Front 19691972 Thomas "Tommy Ryan" Eboli murdered in 1972
- Front 19721981 Frank "Funzi" Tieri indicted under RICO statutes and resigned, died in 1981
- 19812005 Vincent "Vinny the Chin" Gigante imprisoned in 1997, died in prison on December 19, 2005
- Front 19811986 Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno front boss, imprisoned in 1986
- Acting 19901992 Liborio "Barney" Bellomo promoted to street boss
- Acting 19971998 Dominick "Quiet Dom" Cirillo suffered heart attack and resigned
- Acting 19982005 Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello resigned when indicted in July 2005
- 2005present Liborio "Barney" Bellomo
- Acting 20052008 Daniel "Danny the Lion" Leo imprisoned 20082013
- Acting 20102018 Peter "Petey Red" DiChiara died on March 2, 2018
Lucchese Crime Family - Northern New Jersey, East Harlem, Pelham Bay, Arthur Avenue, Upstate New York
- 19221930 Gaetano "Tommy" Reina murdered on February 26, 1930
- 1930 Bonaventura "Joseph" Pinzolo murdered on September 5, 1930
- 19301951 Tommaso "Tommy" Gagliano retired in 1951, died on February 16, 1953
- 19511967 Gaetano "Tommy Three-Finger Brown" Lucchese died on July 13, 1967
- Acting 19661967 Carmine "Mr. Gribbs" Tramunti stepped down
- Acting 1967 Ettore "Eddie" Coco stepped down
- 19671973 Carmine "Mr. Gribbs" Tramunti imprisoned in October 1973
- 19731987 Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo indicted on February 15, 1985, convicted on November 19, 1986 in the Mafia Commission Trial and sentenced on January 13, 1987 to 100 years in prison.
- 1987present Victor "Vic the Terminator" Amuso arrested in 1991, received a life sentence in January 1993
- Acting 19861987 Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso promoted to underboss
- Acting 19901991 Alphonse "Little Al" D'Arco demoted, became a member of a ruling panel
- Ruling Panel 19911993 Anthony "Bowat" Baratta, Salvatore "Sal" Avellino, Frank "Big Frank" Lastorino, and Alphonse "Little Al" D'Arco (On September 21, 1991, D'Arco became an informant)
- Acting 19931998 Joseph "Little Joe" DeFede imprisoned in 1998
- Acting 19982000 Steven "Wonderboy" Crea imprisoned on September 6, 2000
- Acting 20002003 Louis "Louie Bagels" Daidone imprisoned March 2003, received life sentence in January 2004
- Acting 2009present Matthew "Matty" Madonna indicted 2007 and 2009; imprisoned 2015-present; indicted 2017
Northeastern United States Families
DeCavalcante Crime Family - Northern New Jersey
- c.19201955 Stefano Badami (murdered)
- 19551957 Filippo "Phil" Amari (retired)
- 19571964 Nicholas "Nick" Delmore
- Acting 19621964 Simone "Sam the Plumber" DeCavalcante (became boss)
- 19641982 Simone "Sam the Plumber" DeCavalcante (retired)
- 19822015 Giovanni "John the Eagle" Riggi (died of prostate cancer on August 3, 2015)
- Acting 19901992 John "Johnny Boy" D'Amato (murdered)
- Acting 19921997 Giacomo "Jake" Amari (died of stomach cancer)
- Ruling Panel 1997-1999 Girolamo "Jimmy Dumps" Palermo, Vincent "Vinny Ocean" Palermo and Charles "Big Ears" Majuri (members arrested)
- Ruling Panel 2000-2004 Girolamo "Jimmy Dumps" Palermo, Stefano "Steve the Truck Driver" Vitabile and Giuseppe "Pino" Schifilliti
- Acting 20052007 Joseph "Joe the Old Man" Miranda (stepped down)
- Acting 20072012 Francesco "Frank" Guarraci
- 20152016 Francesco "Frank" Guarraci died of cancer.
- 2016-present Charles "Big Ears" Majuri
Bruno/Scarfo Crime Family (The Philly Mob) - Philadelphia, Atlantic City, Trenton and South New Jersey
- 1911-1931 Salvatore Sabella retired, deceased in 1962.
- 1931-1936 John "Nazzone" Avena murdered on August 17, 1936.
- 1936-1946 Giuseppe "Joe Bruno" Dovi
- 1946-1959 Giuseppe "Joseph" Ida deported in 1958, deceased sometime in the 1970s.
- Acting 1958-1959 Antonio "Mr. Miggs" Pollina deposed by the Commission.
- 1959-1980 Angelo "The Gentle Don" Bruno murdered on March 21, 1980.
- 1980-1981 Philip "The Chicken Man" Testa murdered on March 15, 1981.
- 1981-1991 Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo imprisoned for life, died in 2017.
- Acting 1981-1984 Salvatore "Chuckie" Merlino
- Acting 1987-1989 Anthony "Tony Buck" Piccolo
- 19911995 Giovanni "John" Stanfa imprisoned for life.
- 19951998 Ralph Natale arrested in 1998, turned informant in 1999.
- Acting 1995-1998 Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino
- 1998present Joey "Skinny Joey" Merlino arrested in 1999, released in 2011.
- Acting 19992011 Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi
- Acting 2011present Steven "Handsome Stevie" Mazzone
Patriarca Crime Family (The Office) - New England (split between Boston and Providence factions)
- 1916-1924 Gaspare Messina stepped down, died in 1957 Boston
- 1924-1954 Filippo "Phil" Buccola united both families in 1932, retired, died in 1987 Boston
- 1954-1984 Raymond L.S. "the Old Man" Patriarca, Sr. imprisoned in 1970, died on July 11, 1984 Providence
- 1984-1991 Raymond "Junior" Patriarca, Jr. stepped down in 1991 Providence
- 1991 Nicholas "Nicky" Bianco imprisoned on December 28, 1991 and died on December 14, 1994 Providence
- 1991-1996 Frank "Cadillac Frank" Salemme jailed in 1995, turned government witness Boston
- Acting 19951996 John "Jackie" Salemme brother to Frank Salemme; jailed Boston
- 1996-2009 Luigi "Baby Shacks" Manocchio stepped down, imprisoned Providence
- 20092017 Peter "Chief Crazy Horse" Limone died Boston
- Acting 2009-2012 Anthony L. Di Nunzio arrested on April 25, 2012 Boston
- Acting 2012-2015 Antonio L. Spucky Spagnolo arrested on October 2, 2014 Boston
- Acting 20152017 Carmen "The Big Cheese" DiNunzio Boston
- 2017present Carmen "The Big Cheese" DiNunzio Boston
Magaddino Crime Family (The Arm) - Western New York (Syracuse, Buffalo, Utica), Toronto
- 19081912 Angelo "Buffalo Bill" Palmeri stepped down, becoming underboss.
- 19121922 Giuseppe "Don Pietro" DiCarlo Sr.
- 19221974 Stefano "The Undertaker" Magaddino died of natural causes on July 19, 1974, at the age of 82.
- Acting 19691970 Salvatore "Sam" Pieri leader of the Pieri-Frangiamore faction, imprisoned.
- Acting 19701972 Joseph Fino leader of the Fino-Sansanese faction, imprisoned.
- Acting 19721974 Samuel "Sam the Farmer" Frangiamore leader of the Pieri-Frangiamore faction.
- 19741985 Samuel "Sam the Farmer" Frangiamore appointed by the Commission, retired in 1985 and died in 1999.
- 19852006 Joseph "Lead Pipe Joe" Todaro Sr. became semi-retired in 1995, officially stepped down in 2006, and died in 2012. Todaro was the last officially recognized boss of the family.
- 2006-present Joseph "Big Joe" Todaro, Jr. Became the boss when his father retired-according to FBI operative and former Buffalo LCN Associate/informant Ron Fino. It has been alleged by the FBI that Leonard Falzone took over as the acting boss when Joe Todaro, Sr. retired in 2006. However, Fino states that Falzone was acting as the "Front Boss" for the Todaros.
- Acting 2017-present Anthony Lupiania Todaro
LaRocca Crime Family - Allegheny County, Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Eastern Ohio
- c.1910s1920 Gregorio Conti retired
- 19201925 Salvatore Calderone retired
- 19251929 Stefano Monastero murdered on August 6, 1929
- 19291931 Giuseppe "Yeast Baron" Siragusa murdered on September 13, 1931
- 19311932 John Bazzano found dead on August 8, 1932 in Red Hook, Brooklyn
- 19321937 Vincenzo Capizzi retired to Italy
- 19371956 Frank Amato stepped down, becoming underboss
- 19561984 John "Big John" LaRocca died on December 3, 1984
- Ruling Panel 19781980 Michael Genovese, Gabriel Mannarino (died July 1980), and Joseph Pecora (imprisoned 1979)
- Acting 19801984 Michael Genovese promoted to boss
- 19852006 Michael James Genovese died on October 31, 2006
- 20062008 John Bazzano Jr. died on July 28, 2008
- 2008present Thomas "Sonny" Ciancutti
Bufalino Crime Family - Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro Area, NE Pennsylvania, Southern Tier of New York, NW New Jersey
- 1900-1903 Tommaso "the Ox" Pettokilled
- 19031908 Stefano LaTorre stepped down
- 19081933 Santo Volpe retired in 1933
- 19331940 Giacomo "John" Sciandra murdered
- 19401959 Giuseppe "Joe the Barber" Barbara, Sr. had a heart attack in 1957 and died in 1959
- Acting 19561959 Rosario Alberto "Russell" Bufalino became boss
- 19591994 Rosario Alberto "Russell" Bufalino imprisoned from 19781989; retired, he died on February 25, 1994
- Acting 1975-1989 Edward "Eddie The Conductor" Sciandra imprisoned 1981-1982; he received help from Anthony Guarnieri and William D'Elia
- Acting 19901994 William "Big Billy" D'Elia became boss
- 19942008 William "Big Billy" D'Elia in 2006 he was indicted on money laundering, in 2008 he pleaded guilty and testified in front of a grand jury for leniency.
Rochester Crime Family - Rochester Metropolitan Area
- unknown1958 Constenze "Stanley" Valenti imprisoned
- 19581964 Jake Russo murdered
- 19641972 Frank Valenti retired, died on September 20, 2008
- 19721993 Samuel "Red" Russotti imprisoned in 1984; died in 1993
- Acting 19771978 Thomas Didio murdered July 1978 during the "A & B Wars"
- Acting 19771978 Salvatore "Sammy G" Gingello murdered April 23, 1978 during the "A & B Wars"
- Acting 1988 Angelo Amico arrested in 1988; released in 1993
- Acting 1988 Loren Piccarreto son of Rene Piccarreto; arrested 1988; released in 1994
- 1993-present unknown
Midwestern United States Crime Families
Chicago Outfit - Chicago Metropolitan Area, Las Vegas, Rockford, Springfield
- 1910-1920 Giacomo "Big Jim" Colosimo murdered in 1920.
- 1920-1925 John "Papa Johnny" Torrio stepped down in 1925.
- 1925-1931 Alphonse "Scarface Al" Capone imprisoned in 1931, deceased in 1947.
- 1931-1943 Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti committed suicide in 1943.
- 1943-1947 Paul "The Waiter" Ricca stepped down in 1947.
- 1947-1957 Anthony "Joe Batters" Accardo stepped down in 1957
- 1957-1966 Salvatore "Mooney Sam" Giancana fled to Mexico in 1966, murdered in 1975.
- 1966-1967 Samuel "Teets" Battaglia imprisoned in 1967, deceased in 1973.
- 1967-1970 John Phillip "Jackie the Lackey" Cerone imprisoned in 1970, deceased in 1996.
- 1970-1971 Felix "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio imprisoned in 1967-1969, deceased in 1971.
- 1971-1986 Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa imprisoned in 1986, deceased in 1997.
- 1986-1992 Samuel "Black Sam" Carlisi imprisoned in 1992, deceased in 1997.
- 1992present John "No Nose" DiFronzo semi-retired since 2014.
Cleveland Crime Family (The Mayfield Road Mob) - Greater Cleveland
- 19201927 Joseph "Big Joe" Lonardo murdered in 1927.
- 19271929 Salvatore "Black Sam" Todaro murdered in 1929.
- 19291930 Joseph "Big Joe" Porrello murdered in 1930.
- 19301935 Frank "Ciccio" Milano fled in Mexico in 1935, deceased in 1970.
- 19351945 Alfred "Al the Owl" Polizzi arrested in 1944, retired in Florida in 1945, deceased in 1975.
- Acting 19441945 John "Johnny" Scalish
- 19451976 John "Johnny" Scalish
- 19761985 James "Jack White" Licavoli imprisoned in 1981 and deceased in 1985.
- Acting 19811983 Angelo "Big Ange" Lonardo turned informant in October 1983, deceased in 2006.
- Acting 19831985 John "Peanuts" Tronolone
- 19851991 John "Peanuts" Tronolone
- 19911993 Anthony "Tony Lib" Liberatore imprisoned in 1993, deceased in 1998.
- 19932005 Joseph "Joe Loose" Lacobacci semi-retired in 2005, living in Pennsylvania.
- 2005present Russell "R.J." Papalardo
Zerilli Crime Family (Detroit Partnership) - Greater Detroit, Windsor, Ontario and Toledo, Ohio
- 1908-1913 Vito Adamo murdered in 1913.
- 1913-1919 Anthony Gianolla murdered in 1919.
- 1919 Salvatore Gianolla murdered in 1919.
- 1919-1921 Giovanni Vitale murdered in 1921.
- 1921-1930 Salvatore "Singing Sam" Catalanotte died in February 1930
- 1930 Gaspar "The Peacemaker" Milazzo murdered on May 31, 1930.
- 1930-1931 Cesare Lamare murdered in February 1931.
- 1931-1936 William "Black Bill" Tocco stepped down in March 1936, becoming underboss.
- 1936-1977 Joseph "The Old Man" Zerilli
- Acting 1964-1974 Anthony "Tony Z." Zerilli imprisoned in 1974.
- Acting 1977-1979 Giacomo "Jack" Tocco
- 1977-1979 Giovanni "Papa John" Priziola
- 19792014 Giacomo "Jack" Tocco semi-retired in 2014. Died July 14, 2014.
- 2014present Jack "Jackie the Kid" Giacalone
Kansas City Crime Family - Kansas City Metro Area, Nebraska
- 1912-1931 Joseph "Joe Church" DiGiovanni
- 1931-1934 John "Brother John" Lazia murdered in 1934.
- 1934-1939 Charles "Charlie the Wop" Carollo convicted in 1939.
- 1939-1950 Charles Binaggio murdered
- 1950-1953 Anthony Gizzo
- 1953-1983 Nicholas Civella convicted in 1977 and 1980, deceased in 1983.
- Acting 1977-1979 Carl "Tuffy" DeLuna imprisoned in 1979.
- Acting 1979-1983 Carl "Corky" Civella
- 1983-1984 Carl "Corky" Civella convicted in 1984.
- 1984-1995 William "Willie the Rat" Cammisano
- 1995-2006 Anthony "Tony Ripe" Civella arrested in 1992.
- Acting 1992-1997 John "Johnny Joe" Sciortino
- 2006present John "Johnny Joe" Sciortino
Milwaukee Crime Family - Milwaukee, Madison
- 1918-1921 Vito Guardalabene died on February 6, 1921 from natural causes
- 1921-1927 Peter Guardalabene the son of Vito Guardalabene was boss until 1927
- 1927 Joseph Amato died of natural causes on March 28, 1927
- 1927-1949 Joseph Vallone the Commission decided that the Milwaukee family would answer to and remain under the Chicago Outfit's power. Vallone retired in 1949 and died on March 18, 1952 from natural causes
- 1949-1952 Salvatore "Sam" Ferrara in 1952, he was voted out by his family and members of the Chicago Outfit forced him to step down.
- 1952-1961 John Alioto trained his son-in-law Frank Balistrieri.
- 1961-1993 Frank "Mr. Big" Balistrieri imprisoned March 1967-June 1971. In the late 1970s, with his two sons Joseph and John, he worked with Bonanno crime family capo Michael Sabella. He was imprisoned from 1983-1991 for his involvement in a Las Vegas skim racket. He died of natural causes on February 7, 1993.
- Acting 1967-1971 Joseph "Joey Bal" Balistrieri Sr. Frank's son and capo, became underboss in 1993.
- Acting 1983-1993 Peter "Pete Bal" Balistrieri Frank Balistrieri's brother and underboss
- 1993-1997 Peter "Pete Bal" Balistrieri he died of natural causes on August 17, 1997
- 19972014 Joseph "Joe Camel" Caminiti he was The Consigliere to Frank Balistrieri. Died January 2014
- 2014-present Peter "Pitch" Picciurro
St. Louis Crime Family - St. Louis Metro Area
- 1912-1923 Dominick Giambrone fled; murdered, 1934
- 1923-1927 Vito Giannola
- 1927-1937 Frank Agrusa Born in Cinisi, Sicily
- 1937-1943 Thomas Buffa
- 1943-1950 Pasquale Miceli
- 1950 Vincent Chiapetta
- 1950-1960 Anthony "Tony Lap" Lopiparo was the son of a St. Louis mobster, he died in 1960.
- 1960-1980 Anthony "Tony G." Giordano as boss he declared independence from the Kansas City family. Imprisoned 1975-1977, he died on August 29, 1980 from cancer
- Acting 1975-1977 Vincenzo "Jimmy" Giammanco was Giordano's nephew
- 1980-1982 John "Johnny V." Vitale. he died on June 5, 1982
- 1982-1997 Matthew "Mike" Trupiano, Jr. was Giordano's nephew from Detroit; he died in 1997
- 19972014 Anthony "Nino" Parrino died November 3, 2014.
- 2014-present unknown
Southern United States Crime Families
Trafficante Crime Family (Tampa Bay Mob) - Tampa Bay Area
- 19201940 Ignacio Antinori murdered October 24, 1940.
- 19401954 Santo Trafficante, Sr. died in August 1954 of a heart attack.
- Acting 19461948 Salvatore "Red" Italiano Ignazio's nephew, fled in Mexico.
- Acting 19481950 James "Head of the Elks" Lumia murdered on June 5, 1950.
- 19541987 Santo Trafficante, Jr. died on March 17, 1987.
- 1987present Vincent LoScalzo semi-retired since 2015.
New Orleans Crime Family (The Combine) - New Orleans Metropolitan Area, Baton Rouge
- c. 18651869 Raffaele Agnello murdered on April 1, 1869
- 18691872 Joseph Agnello murdered July 1872
- 18721879 Joseph P. Macheca (18421891)
- 18791881 Giuseppe "Vincenzo Randazo" Esposito imprisoned, then deported
- 18811891 Joseph P. Macheca murdered on March 14, 1891 in a famous lynching
- 18911922 Charles Matranga retired, died on October 28, 1943
- 19221947 Sylvestro "Silver Dollar Sam" Corollo deported
- 19471990 Carlos "Little Man" Marcello imprisoned 19831991
- Acting 19831990 Joseph Marcello Jr.
- 1990-2007 Anthony Carollo died
- 2007-present unknown
Dallas Crime Family - Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex
- 1914-1930 Carlo Piranio
- 1930-1956 Joseph Piranio
- 1956-1970 Joseph Civello died in January 1970
- 1970-1990 Joseph Campisi died in 1990 after having a heart attack
Western United States Crime Families
Los Angeles Crime Family (Mickey Mouse Mafia) - Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, Las Vegas
- 19051931 Joseph "Iron Man" Ardizzone (murdered)
- 19311956 Ignazio "Jack" Dragna
- 19561967 Frank De Simone
- 19671974 Nicolo "Old Man Nick" Licata
- 19741984 Dominic "Jimmy" Brooklier
- 1984-2012 Peter "Pete" Milano
- 2012-present unknown
San Jose Crime Family - San Jose, Santa Clara County
- 19401959 Onofrio Sciortino
- 1959-1978 Joseph Cerrito died in 1978 from natural causes
- 1978-1983 Angelo Marino
- 1983-2009 Emmanuel J. Figlia
San Francisco Crime Family - San Francisco Bay Area
- 19321937 Francesco Lanza
- 19371953 Tony Lima
- 19531961 Michael Abati
- 19612006 James "Jimmy the Hat" Lanza
Denver Crime Family - Pueblo and Denver, Colorado
- 19231933 Joe "Little Caesar" Roma murdered in 1933
- 19281931 Pete Carlino
- 19331950 Charles Blanda
- 19501969 Vincenzo Colletti
- 19691975 Joseph "Scotty" Spinuzzi
- 19751992 Eugene "Checkers" Smaldone died in March 1992 of a heart attack
- 19922006 Clarence "Chauncey" Smaldone died of natural causes