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Who Are The Mafia?

Fivepointsgang

The Cosa Nostra or "Our Thing" is the American offshoot of criminal organizations on Sicily and southeastern Italy where most of the mobsters' families immigrated from in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The Italian Mob is not purely of Sicilian background in the United States but also consists of Mafia groups from Naples and Calabria as well as other American-Italian criminal groups. They call themselves "The Family" colloquially but are not related to each other. Note that the Press dubbed these criminal organizations "Mafia" but they do not ever call themselves by that name. In the 1950s, the Senate Special Committee chaired by Estes Kauffer studying organized crime described the entire enterprise that included the Jewish mobsters as well as the Italian mobsters as "The National Crime Syndicate." The Press uses Mafia and Crime Syndicate interchangeably.

 

The American Mafia operates mostly in the East Coast in the New York City metropolitan area although some criminal families function in New Orleans and Chicago. There are five main New York City Mafia families, known as the Five Families: the Gambino, Lucchese, Genovese, Bonanno, and Colombo families. They coordinate their criminal activities through an organization of the leaders of these five families called The Commission. 

 tmb5pointsleaderPaolo Antonio "Paul Kelly" Vaccarelli, founder of the 5 Points Gang of the turn of the Century.From the 1890s to 1920, in New York City, the Five Points Gang, founded by Paul Kelly, were very powerful in the Little Italy of the Lower East Side. Kelly recruited some street hoodlums who later became some of the most famous crime bosses of the century such as Johnny Torrio, Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and Frankie Yale. They were often in conflict with the Jewish Eastmans of the same area. There was also an influential Mafia family in East Harlem. The Neapolitan Camorra was also very active in Brooklyn. In Chicago, the 19th Ward was an Italian neighborhood that became known as the "Bloody Nineteenth" due to the frequent violence in the ward, mostly as a result of Mafia activity, feuds, and vendettas.

In the 1920s at the commencement of Prohibition, the American-Italian mobsters were joined by a new wave of Sicilian Mafia immigrants as Mussolini rose to power and sought to crack down on Italian criminal organizations. The American Crime families became powerful as bootleggers and extortionists and began to fight over territories in bloody spirts of violence.

 

From Wikipedia: The American Mafia

 tmbLuckyLucianoSmallerCharles "Lucky" LucianoIn the New York City area, the struggle for territory and power lead to only two families still in operation by the end of the 1920s. One was lead by Joe Masseria and the other by Salvatore Maranzano. This caused the Castellammarese War, which led to Masseria's murder in 1931. Maranzano then divided New York City into five families. Maranzano, the first leader of the American Mafia, established the code of conduct for the organization, set up the "family" divisions and structure, and established procedures for resolving disputes.[7] In an unprecedented move, Maranzano set himself up as boss of all bosses and required all families to pay tribute to him. This new role was received negatively, and Maranzano was murdered within six months on the orders of Charles "Lucky" Luciano. Luciano was a former Masseria underling who had switched sides to Maranzano and orchestrated the killing of Masseria. Charles “Lucky” Luciano was a significant figure in the bootlegging business. He held a major stake in the black market and realized the potential success of taking his leadership and alliances into other industries, such as the garment industry

After prohibition ended in 1933, organized crime groups were confronted with an impasse and needed other ways to maintain the high profits that they had acquired throughout the 1920s. The smarter of the organized crime groups expanded into other ventures, such as unions, construction, sanitation, and drug trafficking. 

At the repeal of Prohibition, Lucky Luciano set up the Commission organization and strict structure to maintain peace between families. The Mafia thrived by following a strict set of rules that originated in Sicily that called for an organized hierarchical structure and a code of silence that forbade its members from cooperating with the police (Omertà). Failure to follow any of these rules was punishable by death.

The power that the Mafia acquired during Prohibition would continue long after alcohol was made legal again. Criminal empires which had expanded on bootleg money would find other avenues to continue making large sums of money. When alcohol ceased to be prohibited in 1933, the Mafia diversified its money-making criminal activities to include (both old and new): illegal gambling operations, loan sharking, extortion, protection rackets, drug trafficking, fencing, and labor racketeering through control of labor unions. In the mid-20th century, the Mafia was reputed to have infiltrated many labor unions in the United States, most notably the Teamsters and International Longshoremen's Association. This allowed crime families to make inroads into very profitable legitimate businesses such as construction, demolition, waste management, trucking, and in the waterfront and garment industry. In addition, they could raid the unions' health and pension funds, extort businesses with threats of a workers' strike and participate in bid-rigging. In New York City, most construction projects could not be performed without the Five Families' approval. In the port and loading dock industries, the Mafia bribed union members to tip them off to valuable items being brought in. Mobsters would then steal these products and fence the stolen merchandise.

The FBI And Police Create Organized Crime Strike Forces Beginning in the 1960s.

Until the Kauffaver Committee investigation revealed the existence of the secret criminal organization, the Mafia operated with impunity. According to Wikipedia,  In 1963, Joe Valachi became the first Mafia member to turn state's evidence, and provided detailed information of its inner workings and secrets. More importantly, he revealed Mafia's existence to the law, which enabled the Federal Bureau of Investigations to begin an aggressive assault on the Mafia's National Crime Syndicate.[32] Following Valachi's testimony, the Mafia could no longer operate completely in the shadows. The FBI put a lot more effort and resources into organized crime actives nationwide and created the Organized Crime Strike Force in various cities. However, while all this created more pressure on the Mafia, it did little to curb their criminal activities. Success was made by the beginning of the 1980s when the FBI was able to rid Las Vegas casinos of Mafia control and made a determined effort to loosen the Mafia's stronghold on labor unions.

The Affect Of the RICO Act

When the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO Act) became federal law in 1970, it became a highly effective tool in prosecuting mobsters. It provides for extended criminal penalties for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. Violation of the act is punishable by up to 20 years in prison per count, up to $25,000 in fines, and the violator must forfeit all properties attained while violating the RICO Act.The RICO Act has proven to be a very powerful weapon because it attacks the entire corrupt entity instead of individuals who can easily be replaced with other organized crime members.[7] Between 1981 and 1992, 23 bosses from around the country were convicted under the law while between 1981 and 1988, 13 underbosses and 43 captains were convicted.[29] Over 1000 crime family figures were convicted by 1990. While this significantly crippled many Mafia families around the country, the most powerful families continued to dominate crime in their territories, even if the new laws put more mobsters in jail and made it harder to operate. With Sammy Gravano agreeing to cooperate with the FBI and turn state's evidence in 1991, he helped the FBI convict top Mafia leaders in New York. Although not the first Mafia member to testify against his peers, such a powerful mobster agreeing to do so set a precedent for waves of mobsters thereafter to break the code of silence to do the same; giving up information and testifying in exchange for immunity from prosecution for their crimes. Aside from avoiding long prison stretches, the FBI could put mobsters in the United States Federal Witness Protection Program, changing their identities and supporting them financially for life. This led to dozens of mobsters testifying and providing information during the 1990s, which led to the imprisonment of hundreds of mobsters. As a result, the Mafia has seen a major decline in its power and influence in organized crime since the 1990s.

References

  • Arlacchi, Pino (1988). Mafia Business. The Mafia Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Oxford: Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-285197-7
  • Chubb, Judith (1989). The Mafia and Politics, Cornell Studies in International Affairs, Occasional Papers No. 23.
  • Critchley, David. The Origin of Organized Crime: The New York City Mafia, 1891–1931. New York, Routledge, 2008.
  • Dainotto, Roberto.M (2015). The Mafia: A Cultural History. Princeton University Press. p. 239. ISBN 9781780234434. ASIN 1780234430.
  • Dash, Mike. The First Family: Terror, Extortion and the Birth of the American Mafia. London, Simon & Schuster, 2009.
  • Servadio, Gaia (1976), Mafioso. A history of the Mafia from its origins to the present day, London: Secker & Warburg ISBN 0-436-44700-2
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A telephone conversation between Anthony Casso and the Mafia Cops' alternate attorneys where Casso exonerates the defendants.
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