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American Mafia

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American Mafia

Italian-American Mafia
Founding location Origins in Sicily; founded in New Orleans and New York City
Years active Late 19th century–present
Territory United States; active in most parts of the country during its peak, currently active mainly in the northeast, Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, and Florida.
Ethnicity Full members (made men) are of Italian descent, other criminals of any ethnicity are employed as "associates".
Membership 1100 made members, many more associates
Criminal activities Racketeering, counterfeiting, human trafficking, weapons trafficking, drug trafficking, extortion, fencing, illegal gambling, murder, prostitution, blackmailing, loan sharking, money laundering, fraud, contract killing, bribery, cigarette smuggling, robbery, tax evasion, assault
Allies Jewish, Israeli, Russian, Greek, Albanian, and Corsican mafias
Rivals Other organized crime groups and street gangs in the United States, often the Irish mob

The American Mafia, commonly known as the Mafia, Italian Mafia, Italian Mob, or the Mob in the Special Committee in the 1950s chaired by Estes Kefauver, it was described as a confederation of mainly Italian and Jewish-American organized crime groups throughout the U.S.

The Mafia in America emerged in New York's

The Mafia is currently most active in the Commission, which consists of the bosses of each of the strongest families.

Law enforcement still considers the Mafia the largest organized crime group in the United States. It has maintained control over much of the organized crime activity in the United States and certain parts of [3]

Usage of the term Mafia

The term Mafia was originally used in Italy by the media and law enforcement to describe criminal groups in Sicily. The origins of the term are debatable. Like the Sicilian Mafia, the American Mafia did not use the term "Mafia" to describe itself. Neither group has a formal name and instead used the term cosa nostra (Italian for our thing) when referring to themselves. When Italian immigrants started forming organized crime groups in the United States, the American press borrowed the term Mafia from Italy and it became the predominant name used by law enforcement and the public.

"Mafia" properly refers to either the John F. Kennedy's political team, referred to as the "Irish Mafia"[4] (not to be confused with the Irish Mob).


Origins: The Black Hand

The first published account of what would evolve into the Mafia in the United States came in the spring of 1869. The New Orleans Times reported that the city's Second District had become overrun by "well-known and notorious Sicilian murderers, counterfeiters and burglars, who, in the last month, have formed a sort of general co-partnership or stock company for the plunder and disturbance of the city." Emigration from southern Italy to the Americas was primarily to Brazil and Argentina, and New Orleans had a heavy volume of port traffic to and from both locales.

Mafia groups in the United States first became influential in the New York City area, gradually progressing from small neighborhood operations in [5] Giuseppe Esposito was the first known Mafia member to immigrate to the United States.[2] He and six other Sicilians fled to New York after murdering eleven wealthy landowners, and the chancellor and a vice chancellor of a Sicilian province.[2] He was arrested in New Orleans in 1881 and extradited to Italy.[2]

New Orleans was also the site of the first Mafia incident in the United States that received both national and international attention.[2] On October 15, 1890, New Orleans Police Superintendent lynch mob after the acquittal, and proceeded to kill eleven of the nineteen defendants. Two were hanged, nine were shot, and the remaining eight escaped. The lynching was the largest mass lynching in American history.[6][7][8]

From the 1890s to the 1900s (decade) in New York City, the Sicilian Mafia developed into the Five Points Gang and were very powerful in the Little Italy of the Lower East Side. 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, which was an Italian neighborhood, became known as the "Bloody Nineteenth" due to the frequent violence in the ward, mostly as a result of Mafia activity, feuds, and vendettas.

Prohibition era

Al Capone's violent rise to power in Chicago and the media attention it brought made him a lasting figure of the prohibition era and organized crime in general.

On January 17, 1920, Prohibition began in the United States with the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution making it illegal to manufacture, transport or sell alcohol. Despite these bans, there was still a very high demand for it from the public. This created an atmosphere that tolerated crime as a means to provide liquor to the public, even among the police and city politicians. The profits that could be made from selling and distributing alcohol were worth the risk of punishment from the government, which had a difficult time enforcing prohibition. There were over 900,000 cases of liquor shipped to the borders of American cities.[9] Criminal gangs and politicians saw the opportunity to make fortunes and began shipping larger quantities of alcohol to American cities. The majority of the alcohol was imported from Canada,[10][11] the Caribbean, and the American Midwest where stills manufactured illegal alcohol.

In the early 1920s, fascist Benito Mussolini took control of Italy and waves of Italian immigrants fled to the United States. Sicilian Mafia members also fled to the United States as Mussolini cracked down on Mafia activities in Italy.[12] Most Italian immigrants resided in tenement buildings. As a way to escape the poor life style some Italian immigrants chose to join the American Mafia.

The Mafia took advantage of prohibition and began selling illegal alcohol. The profits from bootlegging far exceeded the traditional crimes of protection, extortion, gambling and prostitution. Prohibition allowed Mafia families to make fortunes.[13][14][15] As prohibition continued victorious factions would go on to dominate organized crime in their respective cities, setting up the family structure of each city. Since gangs hijacked each other's alcohol shipments, forcing rivals to pay them for "protection" to leave their operations alone, armed guards almost invariably accompanied the caravans that delivered the liquor.[16][17]

In the 1920s, Italian Mafia families began waging wars for absolute control over lucrative bootlegging rackets. As the violence erupted, Italians fought Irish and Jewish ethnic gangs for control of bootlegging in their respective territories. In New York City, [2] 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.

After prohibition ended in 1933, organized crime groups were confronted with an impasse and needed other ways to maintain the high profits they had acquired throughout the 1920s. The smarter of the organized crime groups acted prudently and expanded into other ventures such as: unions, construction, sanitation, and drug trafficking. On the other hand, those Mafia families that neglected the need to change eventually lost power and influence and were ultimately absorbed by other groups.[19]

The Commission

FBI chart of American Mafia bosses across the country in 1963.

As an alternative to the boss of all bosses, Luciano set up 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 rise of 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 actives 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.[2] 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.[22] 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.

Meyer Lansky made inroads into the casino industry in Cuba during the 1930s while the Mafia was already involved in exporting Cuban sugar and rum.[23] When his friend Fulgencio Batista became president of Cuba in 1952, several Mafia bosses were able to make legitimate investments in legalized casinos. One estimate of the number of casinos mobsters owned was no less than 19.[23] However, when Batista was overthrown following the Cuban Revolution, his successor Fidel Castro banned American investment in the country, putting an end to the Mafia's presence in Cuba.[23] Las Vegas was seen as an "open city" where any family can work. Once Nevada legalized gambling, mobsters were quick to take advantage and the casino industry became very popular in Las Vegas. Since the 1940s, Mafia families from New York, Cleveland, Kansas City, Milwaukee and Chicago had interests in Las Vegas casinos. They got loans from the Teamsters' pension fund, a union they effectively controlled, and used legitimate front men to build casinos.[24] When money came into the counting room, hired men skimmed cash before it was recorded, then delivered it to their respective bosses.[24] This money went unrecorded, but the amount is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Operating in the shadows, the Mafia faced little opposition from law enforcement. Local law enforcement agencies did not have the resources or knowledge to effectively combat organized crime committed by a secret society they were unaware existed.[22] Many people within police forces and courts were simply bribed, while witness intimidation was also common.[22] In 1951, a U.S. Senate committee called the

When the [2] 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.[22] 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.[12][26] 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.

In the 21st century, the Mafia has continued to be involved in a broad spectrum of illegal activities. These include murder, extortion, corruption of public officials, gambling, infiltration of legitimate businesses, labor racketeering, loan sharking, September 11 attacks.[28][29] In 2002 the FBI estimated that the Mafia earns $50–$90 billion a year.[30] To avoid FBI attention and prosecution, the modern Mafia also outsources a lot of its work to other criminal groups, such as motorcycle gangs.[3]


The American Mafia operates on a strict hierarchical structure. While similar to its Sicilian origins, the American Mafia's modern organizational structure was created by Salvatore Maranzano in 1931. All inducted members of the Mafia are called intelligence community calls plausible deniability.

There are occasionally other positions in the family leadership. Frequently, ruling panels have been set up when a boss goes to jail to divide the responsibility of the family (these usually consist of three or five members). This also helps divert police attention from any one member. The family messenger and street boss were positions created by former Genovese family leader Vincent Gigante.

  • Boss – The boss is the head of the family, usually reigning as a dictator, sometimes called the Don or "Godfather". The boss receives a cut of every operation taken on by every member of his family. Depending on the family, the boss may be chosen by a vote from the caporegimes of the family. In the event of a tie, the underboss must vote. In the past, all the members of a family voted on the boss, but by the late 1950s, any gathering such as that usually attracted too much attention.[31] In practice, many of these elections are seen as having an inevitable result, such as that of John Gotti in 1986. According to Sammy Gravano, a meeting was held in a basement during which all capos were searched and Gotti's men stood ominously behind them. Gotti was then proclaimed boss.
  • Underboss – The underboss, usually appointed by the boss, is the second in command of the family. The underboss often runs the day-to-day responsibilities of the family or oversees its most lucrative rackets. He usually gets a percentage of the family's income from the boss's cut. The underboss is usually first in line to become acting boss if the boss is imprisoned, and is also frequently seen as a logical successor.
  • Consigliere – The consigliere is an advisor to the family and sometimes seen as the boss's "right-hand man". He is used as a mediator of disputes, and a representative or aide in meetings with other families. In practice the consigliere is normally the third ranking member of the administration of a family and was traditionally a senior member familiar with how the organization is run. A boss will often appoint a trusted close associate as his consigliere.
  • Caporegime (or capo) – A caporegime (also captain or skipper) is in charge of a crew, a group of soldiers who report directly to him. Each crew usually contains 10–20 soldiers and many more associates. A capo is appointed by the boss and reports to him or the underboss. A captain gives a percentage of his (and his underlings') earnings to the boss and is also responsible for any tasks assigned, including murder. In labor racketeering, it is usually a capo who controls the infiltration of union locals. If a capo becomes powerful enough, he can sometimes wield more power than some of his superiors. In cases like Anthony Corallo they might even bypass the normal Mafia structure and lead the family when the boss dies.
  • Soldier (Soldato in Italian) – A soldier is a member of the family, and traditionally can only be of full Italian background (although today many families require men to be of only half Italian descent, on their father's side). Once a member is made he is untouchable, meaning permission from a soldier's boss must be given before he is murdered. When the books are open, meaning that a family is accepting new members, a made man may recommend an up-and-coming associate to be a new soldier. Soldiers are the main workers of the family, usually committing crimes like assault, murder, extortion, intimidation, etc. In return, they are given profitable rackets to run by their superiors and have full access to their family's connections and power.
Although a Jewish associate, Meyer Lansky's (right) close association with Lucky Luciano made him an important figure in developing the American Mafia.
  • Associate – An associate is not a member of the Mafia, but works for a crime family nonetheless. Associates can include a wide range of people who work for the family. An associate can have a wide range of duties from virtually carrying out the same duties as a soldier to being a simple errand boy. This is where prospective mobsters ("connected guys") start out to prove their worth. Once a crime family is accepting new members, the best associates are evaluated and picked to become soldiers. An associate can also be a criminal who serves as a go-between or sometimes deals in drugs to keep police attention off the actual members, or they can be people the family does business with (restaurant owners, etc.) In other cases, an associate might be a corrupt labor union delegate or businessman.[31] Non-Italians will never go any further than this, although many non-Italians like Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Murray Humphreys, Mickey Cohen, Bumpy Johnson, and James Burke wielded extreme power within their respective crime families and carried the respect of actual members.


The initiation ritual emerged from various sources, such as Roman Catholic confraternities and Masonic Lodges in mid-19th century Sicily[32] and has hardly changed to this day. The Chief of Police of Palermo in 1875 reported that the man of honor to be initiated would be led into the presence of a group of bosses and underbosses. One of these men would prick the initiate's arm or hand and tell him to smear the blood onto a sacred image, usually a saint. The oath of loyalty would be taken as the image was burned and scattered, thus symbolising the annihilation of traitors. This was confirmed by the first pentito, Tommaso Buscetta.

A hit, or murder, of a "made" man had to be approved by the leadership of his family, or retaliatory hits would be made, possibly inciting a war. In a state of war, families would "go to the mattresses" — an Italian phrase which roughly meant to go into battle.[33]

Mafia rules and customs

In order to be invited into the American Mafia and become a member one must perform a series of tasks, such as committing murder for the family and not for one's own personal benefit. When the boss decides to let a member into the family one will be part of a ceremony, involving the drawing of blood, swearing an oath over a gun or holy picture, and obeying the rules of the organization. In New York City, the Mafia created customs and traditions which the members have to follow. 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.[34][35]

  1. "Omertà" – is the oath or "code of silence", never talk to the authorities.
  2. "Ethnicity" – only men of Italian descent are allowed to become full members (made men). Associates, partners, allies etc. have no ethnic limits.
  3. "Family secrets" – members are not allowed to talk about family business to non-members.
  4. "Blood for blood" – if a family member is killed (by another member) no one can commit murder (in revenge) until the boss gives permission.
  5. "No fighting among members" – from fist fights to knife fights.
  6. "Tribute" – every month; members must pay the boss; also giving the boss a cut on any side deals.
  7. "Adultery" – members are not allowed to commit adultery with another family member's wife.
  8. "No facial hair" – members were not allowed to grow mustaches; part of the Mustache Pete way.[36][37]

Homosexuality is reportedly incompatible with the American Mafia code of conduct. In 1992, John D'Amato, acting boss of the DeCavalcante family, was killed when the family learned of his sexual relationships with other men.[38]

Symbolism in murders

  • In 1981, for allowing undercover FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone (alias Donnie Brasco) to infiltrate the Bonanno crime family, caporegime Dominic Napolitano, also known as Sonny Black, had his hands severed after he was killed. This was because he had Pistone shake hands and introduced to others as a "friend of ours" or a made man when he was not.
  • In the 1990 murder of Lucchese crime family soldier Bruno Facciolo, a dead canary was stuffed into his mouth after he was shot to death. He had also been stabbed and shot in both eyes.[39][40][41]
  • On April 18, 1980, Philadelphia Mafia consigliere Antonio Caponigro had Angelo Bruno killed without The Commission's approval. Caponigro and his brother-in-law Alfred Salerno were taken to an isolated house in upstate New York and tortured before being killed. Salerno had been shot three times behind the right ear and once behind the left ear. The autopsy showed that a rope had been tied around his neck, wrists, and ankles, and most of his neck and face bones shattered. Caponigro had been suffocated, beaten, repeatedly stabbed and shot, and was found in a garbage bag. Around $300 was stuffed up Caponigro's rectum as a sign that he had become greedy.[42]

List of Mafia families

The following is a list of all the 25 Mafia families that have been active in America. Note that some families have members and associates working in other regions as well. The organization is not limited to these regions.

"Don Vito" Genovese became leader of the Genovese crime family. Genovese served as mentor to the future boss of the Genovese crime family Vincent "Chin" Gigante.[43]

Buffalo, New York

Chicago, Illinois

Cleveland, Ohio

Dallas, Texas

Denver, Colorado

Detroit, Michigan

Kansas City, Missouri

Los Angeles, California

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

New England

New Jersey

New Orleans, Louisiana

New York, New York

Northeastern Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Rochester, New York

San Francisco, California

San Jose, California

St. Louis, Missouri

Tampa, Florida

Cooperation with the U.S. government

During World War II

U.S. Naval Intelligence entered into an agreement with Lucky Luciano to gain his assistance in keeping the New York waterfront free from saboteurs after the destruction of the SS Normandie.[44] This spectacular disaster convinced both sides to talk seriously about protecting America’s East Coast on the afternoon of February 9, 1942. While it was in the process of being converted into a troopship, the luxury ocean liner, Normandie, mysteriously burst into flames with 1,500 sailors and civilians on board. All but one escaped, but 128 were injured and by the next day the ship was a smoking hulk. In his report, twelve years later, William B. Herlands, Commissioner of Investigation, made the case for the US government talking to top criminals, stating "The Intelligence authorities were greatly concerned with the problems of sabotage and espionage ... Suspicions were rife with respect to the leaking of information about convoy movements. The Normandie, which was being converted to war use as the Navy auxiliary Lafayette, had burned at the pier in the North River, New York City. Sabotage was suspected."[45]

Plots to assassinate Fidel Castro

In August 1960, Colonel Sheffield Edwards, director of the Office of Security of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), proposed the assassination of Cuban head of state Fidel Castro by Mafia assassins. Between August 1960 and April 1961, the CIA, with the help of the Mafia, pursued a series of plots to poison or shoot Castro.[46] Those allegedly involved included Sam Giancana, Carlos Marcello, Santo Trafficante, Jr., and John Roselli.[47]

Recovery of murdered Mississippi civil rights workers

In 2007, Linda Schiro testified in an unrelated court case that her late boyfriend, Gregory Scarpa Sr., a capo in the Colombo family, had been recruited by the FBI to help find the bodies of three civil rights workers who had been murdered in Mississippi in 1964 by the Ku Klux Klan. She said that she had been with Scarpa in Mississippi at the time and had witnessed him being given a gun, and later a cash payment, by FBI agents. She testified that Scarpa had threatened a Klansman by placing a gun in the Klansman's mouth, forcing the Klansman to reveal the location of the bodies. Similar stories of Mafia involvement in recovering the bodies had been circulating for years, and had been previously published in the New York Daily News, but had never before been introduced in court.[48][49]

Law enforcement and the Mafia

In several Mafia families, killing a state authority is forbidden due to the possibility of extreme police retaliation. In some rare strict cases, conspiring to commit such a murder is punishable by death. The Jewish mobster Dutch Schultz was reportedly killed by his Italian peers out of fear that he would carry out a plan to kill New York City prosecutor Thomas Dewey. The Mafia did carry out hits on law enforcement in its earlier history. New York police officer Joe Petrosino was shot by Sicilian mobsters while on duty in Sicily. A statue of him was later erected across the street from a Lucchese hangout.[50]

Kefauver Committee

In 1951, a U.S. Senate Top Hoodlum Program". The purpose of the program was to have agents collect information on the mobsters in their territories and report it regularly to Washington to maintain a centralized collection of intelligence on racketeers.[51]

Apalachin Meeting

In 1957, the New York State Police uncovered a meeting of major American Cosa Nostra figures from around the country in the small upstate New York town of Apalachin (near Binghamton, New York). This gathering has become known as the "Apalachin Meeting". Many of the attendees were arrested, and this event was the catalyst that changed the way law enforcement battled organized crime.

The establishment of the Teamsters across the country.

Valachi hearings

In 1963, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the U.S. Senate Committee on Government Operations, Valachi exposed the name, structure, power bases, codes, swearing-in ceremony, and members of this organization. All of this had been secret up to this point.


The witness protection program was also enhanced by the same legislation. Frequent use of the act began during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Charges of racketeering were successfully pressed against scores of mobsters, including three of New York's Godfathers, Anthony Corallo, Carmine Persico and Philip Rastelli during the Mafia Commission Trial in 1985. Others like Anthony 'Fat Tony' Salerno, was thought of as the Genovese Godfather but was only a front-boss while Gambino boss Paul Castellano was murdered before the trial began. The act continues to be used to great effect today and has hurt the Mob severely.

2011 indictments

On January 20, 2011, the United States Justice Department issued 16 indictments against northeast American Mafia families resulting in 127 charged defendants[52] and more than 110 arrests.[53] The charges included murder, murder conspiracy, loansharking, arson, robbery, narcotics trafficking, extortion, illegal gambling and labor racketeering. It has been described as the largest operation against the Mafia in US history.[54] Families that have been affected included the Five Families of New York as well as the DeCavalcante crime family of New Jersey and Patriarca crime family of New England.[55]

In popular culture

The Mafia has provided the setting, characters, and themes for many well-regarded films and television shows, as well as novels and games. Additionally, members of the music industry have adopted Mafia monikers.


The American Mafia has been popularized in video games such as the Max Payne, The Darkness or the Batman Arkham series.


Many The Public Enemy (1931), Little Caesar (1931), and Scarface (1932), the latter loosely based on the story of Al Capone.[56]

Following such events as the The Enforcer, a fictional account of Murder, Inc.. Eliot Ness' memoir The Untouchables inspired a television-series of the same name a few years later. Its pilot episode was later marketed as a stand-alone movie called "The Scarface Mob" and dealt with Ness's crusade to put Al Capone (played by Neville Brand) in prison. Rod Steiger was the first to play Capone in an American theatrical film in 1959's Al Capone, which was followed in the 1960s by a few more films based on true mafia-related stories, such as Murder, Inc. and The St. Valentine's Day Massacre, in which Jack Nicholson played an uncredited role as a hitman.

Paramount Pictures released the film The Brotherhood starring Kirk Douglas as a mafia don. While it was a financial flop, Paramount's production chief Robert Evans commissioned Mario Puzo to finish a novel with similar themes and plot elements, and bought the screen rights. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather became a huge success, both critically and financially (it won the Best Picture Oscar and for a year was the highest grossing film ever made). It immediately inspired other mafia-related films, including a direct sequel, The Godfather Part II (1974), also (partly) based on Puzo's novel, and yet another big winner at the Academy Awards, as well as films based on real mafiosi like Honor Thy Father and Lucky Luciano (both in 1973) and Lepke and Capone (both in 1975). An ambitious 13-part miniseries by NBC called The Gangster Chronicles based on the rise of many major crime bosses of the 1920s and 1930s, aired in 1981.

The many Mafia-related convictions in the 1980s resulted in widespread demystification of organized crime, a sentiment which has been present in Mafia movies ever since. A high profile movie-version of The Untouchables focused primarily on the law enforcement's efforts to bring down Al Capone; Martin Scorsese's films, Goodfellas (1990) and Casino (1995) were based on true stories and further deglamorized Mafia life. Similar approaches were used in the made-for-TV film Witness to the Mob (1998) and Donnie Brasco (1997). Sidney Lumet's Find Me Guilty specifically dealt with a (real life) Mafia trial. There was also room for mafia comedies like Prizzi's Honor (1985), Oscar (1991), Bullets over Broadway (1994), Mickey Blue Eyes (1999), and Analyze This (1999) and its sequel Analyze That (2002).

Many more biographical features have been made throughout the 1990s and 2000s, including Mobsters (1990), Bugsy (1991), Gotti (1996), Hoodlum (1997), Lansky (TV-film, 1999), Boss of Bosses (TV-film, 2001).

American Mafiosi also appear in supporting roles in other films, such as Once Upon a Time in America (1984), Married to the Mob (1988), "Dick Tracy"(1990), A Bronx Tale (1993), True Romance (1993), Carlito's Way (1993), Road to Perdition (2002), Batman Begins (2005), The Departed (2006), Smokin' Aces (2006), American Gangster (2007), The Dark Knight (2008), and Gangster Squad (2013).


Numerous music industry members have adopted Mafia-related monikers, such as Irv Gotti, hip hop and R&B record producer and founder of The Inc record label; Three Six Mafia, a Southern hip hop group from Memphis, Kebo Gotti, a Southern rapper from Atlanta; Juan Gotti, a Mexican American rapper; Mwata Mitchell, "Gotti" of the rap duo Boo & Gotti; Yo Gotti, a Southern rapper from Memphis; 808 Mafia, a southern hip hop production group and Kurupt Young Gotti, a West Coast rapper also known as Kurupt. Others include the Memphis Mafia, a group of associates of Elvis Presley from 1954 until he died, the Tejano band La Mafia, the Romanian rap group B.U.G. Mafia (or simply Mafia), which released the album Mafia in 1995. Black Label Society also released an album with that title in 2005. In 2011, music group Pomplamoose released the song 'Bust Your Knee Caps' about the Godfather's daughter's boyfriend, who wants out of the family.


The Mafia is also the topic of many popular novels, most notably in the works of author Mario Puzo, which include The Godfather, The Sicilian (1984), The Last Don (1997), and Omertà (2000), as well as James Ellroy's L.A. Quartet (first editions published 1987–1992) and Underworld USA Trilogy (first editions published 1995–2009).

Author Don Pendleton and his best-selling series of original novels The Executioner, revolved around Mack Bolan's one-man war against the Mafia. The first book, War Against the Mafia, was published in 1969, and the 38th book, Satan’s Sabbath in 1980.

Television series

While many TV shows like The Untouchables (1959–1963), Crime Story (1986–1988), and Wiseguy (1987–1990) have told fictional accounts of the Mafia, by far the most popular TV series has been HBO's The Sopranos (1999–2007). The show, set in Northern New Jersey, portrays fictional New Jersey Mafia boss Tony Soprano, the DiMeo crime family he heads, and its close affiliation with the Brooklyn-based Lupertazzi crime family of the New York Mafia. HBO followed up this hit series with the 1920s-setting period drama Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014), based in Atlantic City. Based on the life of Enoch L. Johnson, it portrays several early-era Mafia members in supporting roles. Also a new TV series called Mob City (2013–present) features Mafiosi, and Gotham (TV series).

Many television shows have mafia-related characters. Monty Python's Flying Circus character Luigi Vercotti, the Sons of Anarchy '​s Cacuzza Crime Family, and The Simpsons character Fat Tony are notable examples.

See also


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  7. ^ "Under Attack". American Memory, Library of Congress. Retrieved February 26, 2010.
  8. ^ "1891 New Orleans prejudice and discrimination results in lynching of 11 Italians, the largest mass lynching in United States history", Milestones of the Italian American Experience, National Italian American Foundation. Retrieved February 26, 2010.
  9. ^ Gervais, C.H, The Rum runners A Prohibition Scrapbook. 1980. Thornhill: Firefly Books. Pg 9
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  • 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.
  • 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

Further reading

External links

  • Gangrule, American Mafia history
  • Italian Mafia Terms Defined
  • The 26 Original American Mafia Families –
  • Mafia Today daily updated mafia news site and Mafia resource
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