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The Mafia is a crime group working in many parts of the world that was created in Italy more than 200 years ago. The mafia makes money from crime. They make billions of dollars a year from such crimes as making and selling illegal drugs, money laundering, from stealing, gambling and other illegal activities.
The Mafia in Italy
- Sicily - The mafia in Italy was started in the island of Sicily. The mafia is still around here and they make a great deal of money. Selling drugs is frowned upon within the Mafia or La Cosa Nostra as being convicted of the intent to sell is a high prison sentence which will increase the risk of a member of the Mafia/Cosa Nostra to turn a 'rat.'
- Calabria - The Calabrian mafia (really called the 'Ndrangheta ) are another mafia group in Italy. They also make profit from illegal drugs, and are now the richest Italian mafia group.
- Naples - The mafia in Naples is called the Camorra. They are not as well known than the mafia in Sicily and Calabria, but have killed more people, as rival Camorra groups often fight each other.
- Apulia - The mafia in Apulia is called the Sacra Corona Unita (meaning the "United Sacred Crown"). This group is not as old as the other Italian mafia groups. Little is known about this group but it is believed that they make money from illegal activity.
- Veneto - The mafia in Veneto was called Mala del Brenta (meaning "Brenta's bad thing").
This group was founded by Felice Maniero, but has now been dismantled.
The Italian Mafia in AmericaThe Italian-American mafia began at the time when many Italians moved to the United States in the 1800s. The first Italian mafia was in New Orleans in Louisiana but soon they were in many cities across the country. The Italian mafia in the United States is actually called La Cosa Nostra which in Italian language means "This thing of ours" or "Our thing". The American mafia is divided into different groups or "families". New York City have more.
New York City has five Italian mafia families. They are called:
- The Bonanno crime family
- The Colombo crime family
- The Gambino crime family
- The Genovese crime family
- The Lucchese crime family
Mafia groups in other countries
There are many other groups like the Italian mafia all over the world. Here are some:
- The Yakuza - The Yakuza is the name given to the crime group in Japan. They make money from illegal activity and drugs.
- The Triads - The Triads is a name given to all the crime groups in China. Because there are so many of these crime groups in China we give them one name, the "Triads". The Triads are not just from China but many countries in South East Asia. Another name for these groups is "Tongs".
- Latin American Drug Cartels - In Latin America the largest crime groups are called drug cartels. They compete for control of the drug trade which makes them huge amounts of money. The drugs produced in South America are marijuana, cocaine and heroin. The main drug cartels are in Mexico, part of North America, and Colombia in the north of South America; this is where most of the drugs are produced and then smuggled north into the United States.
There are others as well, like the mafia groups in Russia that make money from drugs and weapons. All these groups operate in the United States, Canada, Australia, England and other Western countries and cause many problems in those countries and the countries they are from.
Just like in a company, where people have a boss and workers, the Italian-American mafia, or La Cosa Nostra (LCN), has a hierarchy. Everyone has a job to do. Some people are bosses and some are workers. However you can always work your way up the ladder of power, and respect. Below is the hierarchy of an American mafia family.
- The Boss of the family. He controls everything that goes on in the mafia family. Every worker and lower ranking boss (see below; Caporegimes) works for him. It is the boss who decides if someone should be killed or if someone should be initiated (see below; Becoming a member). The boss gets money from all of his workers and therefore is usually the richest person in the family.
- The Underboss. The underboss is the person who actually runs the family. He is boss over all the other members except the actual boss. He will often become the boss of the family if something happens to the boss. The boss will choose who his underboss is. A family will usually have only one underboss.
- The Consigliere. Consigliere is an Italian term meaning someone who gives advice. The consigliere in a mafia family is the "right hand man" to the boss. It is his job to help the boss make important decisions. The consigliere is as important as the underboss but is not the boss of anyone in the family. A family will usually have only one consigliere. Acts as a middle man in personal vendettas. His role is to make impartial decisions for the family's benefit.
- Caporegimes. The next position of the family is caporegime (or captain), often shortened to "capo". Families will have differing numbers of capos. A caporegime is in charge of a group of workers (see below; Soldiers). The underboss of the family is in charge of the capos. The job of the caporegime is to collect money from the workers to give to the boss, underboss and consigliere as well as keeping money for himself. A family can have anywhere from 2 to 20 capos.
- Soldiers. The workers of a family are called "soldiers" or in Italian "soldati". Their job is to earn money to give to their captain (caporegime). They will do any job asked of them by their captain or the boss or underboss. A family can have anywhere from 10 to 1000 soldiers.
Each family will have a number of associates. These are people that work with them or for them but are not official members. (see below; Becoming a member)
History of the Mafia in New York
The mafia in New York began when thousands of Italians moved there in the late 1800s and early 1900s to find a better life. At this time many Irish and Germans also moved to the US for the same reasons. Many of these people set up businesses or worked for businesses that were already there. Most earned very little money and some, who were tired of being poor, decided to earn money from crime, which was easier than earning money by working. There were many Irish and Italian criminal groups in the city who would steal, extort and murder for money. These groups were known all-together as "the Black Hand" but they did not actually work as one group called "the Black Hand"; there were many groups and they each worked on their own and the term "Black Hand" actually was the name of what these gangs did (extortion), not their names.
Prohibition, unification and the Castellammarese War
In 1920 alcohol (or liquor) was made illegal in the US and the gangs had a new way to make money. They brought in illegal liquor from Canada and sold it in clubs. They bribed police into letting them sell liquor (which is also illegal) and made millions of dollars from this because they were the only ones who had liquor and so could sell it at extremely high prices. Around this time the gangs in New York became one large gang (the Mafia) as leaders of the gangs realized that more money could be made if all the gangs worked together. A man named Giuseppe Masseria and a man named Salvatore Maranzano both wanted to become the boss of the newly made New York mafia. Fighting, known as the "Castellammarese War", broke out between the two men and many of their soldiers were killed. Giuseppe Masseria's underboss was a man named Lucky Luciano who also wanted to control the New York mafia. He met with Masseria's enemy Salvatore Maranzano and plotted to kill Masseria, his own boss. Masseria was shot to death in a restaurant in New York by Maranzano's soldiers; one of them was Vito Genovese - a man who would later become boss - this was also the end of the "Castellammarese War". With the death of Masseria, Maranzano appointed himself the boss of the New York Mafia, in Italian language called the "Capo di tutti Capi" meaning "Boss of all Bosses". He called a meeting with the other "mafiosi" (plural: Italian language for Mafia members) from all over the US and made the rules that are still used today.
- Maranzano united the Italian gangs of New York into one gang, known as the Mafia or La Cosa Nostra.
- He then divided the gang into 5 families and appointed bosses of each family: "Lucky" Luciano, Joseph Bonanno, Joseph Profaci, Vincent Mangano and Thomas Gagliano - himself as the boss of these bosses.
- He made it so that no members could kill without reason or talk to anyone outside of the mafia about the mafia.
The bosses of the five families, particularly Luciano, began to grow tired of Maranzano's arrogance and the way he ran the mafia. Maranzano realized this and planned to have Luciano and his "consigliere" and "underboss", Vito Genovese and Frank Costello, as well as others, killed. Maranzano did not act quickly enough and was killed by men dressed as police officers, on the orders of Luciano and his friend, a Jewish gangster from Florida named Meyer Lansky. Luciano then became the head of the New York mafia, but not in the way Maranzano was; he helped the five families run their business but he did not control them or call himself the "boss of bosses". The five families were kept.The Profaci family (named after the first boss Joseph Profaci) went on to become named the Colombo crime family after a later boss, Joseph Colombo. The Mangano family (named after the first boss Vincent Mangano) went on to become named the Gambino crime family after a later boss, Carlo Gambino. The Gagliano family (named after the first boss Thomas Gagliano) went on to become named the Lucchese crime family after a later boss, Gaetano Lucchese.
The Five Families over the years
A chart of the bosses of the five families of New York since the "Castellammarese War" would look like this:
Bonanno crime family
- Joseph Bonanno (was boss from 1931-1965)
- Gaspare DiGregorio (was boss from 1965-1968)
- Paul Sciacca (was boss from 1968-1970)
- Natale Evola (was boss from 1970-1973)
- Phillip Rastelli (was boss from 1973-1975)
- Carmine Galante (was boss from 1975-1979)
- Phillip Rastelli (was boss once again from 1979-1991)
- Joseph Massino (was boss from 1991-2005)
lucy reed (Note: In more recent years Vincent Basciano, Salvatore Montagna, Anthony Graziano, Anthony Rabito, Michael Mancuso, Anthony Urso and Alphonse Bonanno have run the family - though not necessarily as bosses.)
Colombo crime family
- Joseph Profaci (was boss from 1928-1962)
- Joseph Magliocco (was boss from 1962-1963)
- Joseph Colombo (was boss from 1964-1971)
- Joseph Yacovelli (was boss in 1971)
- Vincent Aloi (was boss from 1971-1973)
- Carmine Persico (was boss during 1973)
(Note: In more recent years the leaders of the Colombo crime family have been Carmine Persico, Andrew Russo, Alphonse Persico, Jr., Joel Cacace, Thomas Gioeli, John Franzese, Vincent Aloi and Paul Bevacqua - though not necessarily as bosses.)
Gambino crime family
- Vincent Mangano (was boss from 1931-1951)
- Albert Anastasia (was boss from 1951-1957)
- Carlo Gambino (was boss from 1957-1976)
- Paul Castellano (was boss from 1976-1985)
- John Gotti (was boss from 1986-1992)
- John Gotti, Jr. (was boss from 1992-1996)
- Nicholas Corozzo (was boss from 1996-1997)
- John Gotti, Jr. (was boss from 1997-1999)
- Peter Gotti (was boss from 1999-2003)
(Note: In more recent years the leaders of the Gambino crime family have been Peter Gotti, Arnold Squitieri, Anthony Megale, John D'Amico, Domenico Cefalu, Joseph Corozzo and Nicholas Corozzo - though not necessarily as bosses.)
- Salvatore "Lucky" Luciano (was boss from 1931-1946)
- Frank Costello (was boss from 1946-1957)
- Vito Genovese (was boss from 1957-1969)
- Thomas Eboli (was boss from 1969-1972)
- Frank Tieri (was boss from 1972-1981)
- Anthony Salerno (was boss from 1981-1987)
- Vincent Gigante (was boss from 1981-2005)
(Note: In more recent years the leaders of the Genovese crime family have been Liborio Bellomo, Dominick Cirillo, Matthew Ianiello, Frank Serpico, Ernest Muscarella, Mario Gigante and Daniel Leo - though not necessarily as bosses.)
Lucchese crime family
- Gaetano Gagliano (was boss from 1931-1953)
- Gaetano Lucchese (was boss from 1953-1967)
- Carmine Tramunti (was boss from 1967-1973)
- Anthony Corallo (was boss from 1973-1986)
- Anthony Luongo (during 1986)
- Vittorio Amuso (from 1987 on)
(Note: During the 1990s the leaders of the Lucchese crime family were Vittorio Amuso, Anthony Casso, Alphonse D'Arco, Salvatore Avellino, Anthony Baratta, Domenico Cutaia, Frank Lasterino and Joseph Defede - though not necessarily as bosses. More recently the leaders of the family have been Louis Diadone, Aniello Migliore, Nick Beale and Leo Madden - Leo and Nick were bosses.)
(Note: These dates may not be correct)
The Mafia in movies
Many movies have been made about the mafia, particularly the American Mafia. Here are some of the most popular movies about American gangsters.
- Little Caesar (1931) directed by Mervyn LeRoy, starring Edward G. Robinson and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
- The Public Enemy (1931) directed by William A. Wellman, starring James Cagney
- Scarface (1932) directed by Howard Hawks and Richard Rosson, starring Paul Muni, George Raft and Boris Karloff
- Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) directed by Michael Curtiz, starring James Cagney, Pat O'Brien and Humphrey Bogart
- The Roaring Twenties (1939) directed by Raoul Walsh, starring James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart
- White Heat (1949) directed by Raoul Walsh, starring James Cagney and Edmund O'Brien
- The Enforcer (1951) directed by Bretaigne Windust, starring Humphrey Bogart
- The Godfather (1972) directed by Francis Ford Coppola, starring Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall and John Cazale
- nick beale (1973) directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel and David Proval
- The Godfather Part II (1974) directed by Francis Ford Coppola, starring Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, John Cazale and Lee Strassberg
- Scarface (1983) directed by Brian De Palma, starring Al Pacino, Steven Bauer and Robert Loggia
- Once Upon a Time in America (1984) directed by Sergio Leone, starring Robert De Niro, James Woods, Burt Young and Joe Pesci
- The Godfather Part III (1990) directed by Francis Ford Coppola, starring Al Pacino, Andy Garcia and Joe Montegna
- Goodfellas (1990) directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci
- Reservoir Dogs (1992) directed by Quentin Tarantino, starring Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi and Lawrence Tierney
- Pulp Fiction (1994) directed by Quentin Tarantino, starring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Harvey Keitel and Tim Roth
- Casino (1995) directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci
- Analyze This (1999), a Mafia comedy directed by Harold Ramis, starring Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal
- Analyze That (2002), sequel to Analyze This, also directed by Ramis and starring De Niro and Crystal in the same roles
- Gangs of New York (2002) directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis
- The Departed (2006) directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin
The television series The Sopranos is about the mafia in New Jersey and stars James Gandolfini, Steve Van Zandt, Tony Sirico, Michael Imperioli, Vincent Pastore, David Proval and Joe Pantoliano among others.