Compare and contrast the history and culture of the American Mafia and organized crime groups that exist in Italy. How is the American Mafia similar to Italian organized crime groups? How is it different?
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The American Mafia
Abadinsky, Organized Crime 10th ed.
Early in the morning of January 20, 1910, FBI agents and
other law enforcement officers arrested nearly 130
members and associates of the American Mafia,
including members of New York’s five Families, the
DeCavalcante Family of New Jersey, and the Patriarca
Family of New England.
While the power and influence of the American Mafia
has declined, it remains a dangerous entity in the
northeast and Chicago, two areas that will be examined
in this chapter.
THE MAFIA IN NEW YORK
The American Mafia is unique. No other criminal
organization has controlled labor unions, organized
employer cartels, operated as a rationalizing force in
major industries, and functioned as a bridge between
the upperworld and the underworld.
Between 1891 and 1920, 4 million Italians entered the
U.S., the majority coming from the Mezzogiorno.
Every important Italian American OC crime figure has
had cultural roots in the Mezzogiorno.
ITALIAN IMMIGRANT LIFE
Italian immigration made fortunes for speculators and
landlords, but changed neighborhoods into human ant
heaps of suffering, crime, ignorance, and filth.
Anglo-Protestant society was hostile to Mezzogiorno
culture and practices. Some were illegal.
Immigrants’ patrimonial form of military organization
could protect their old-country practices.
Mafia groups served important social and financial
The old Sicilian “moustaches” used to get together in
the back of the club and they called it Unione Siciliana.
BY 1930, there were 2 Mafia factions in NY: Masseria’s
in Little Italy, and Maranzano’s in Manhattan.
Both men died violently. Lucky Luciano was involved
in both murders. The new guys had defeated the
Luciano became the most important Italian Mafia
figure in NY.
THE STRUCTURE OF THE AMERICAN MAFIA:
THE NEW YORK MODEL
After the Castellammarese War, 5 Mafia Families
emerged in NY: Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino,
The boss is at the center (paterfamilias), assisted by an
underboss (sottocapo) and counselor (consigliere).
The boss is surrounded by clients, e.g., captains
(caporegime), to whom he acts as a patron.
The captains are surrounded by members or soldiers
(soldati), to whom they act as patrons.
Crime bosses are linked in an arrangement known as
the “commission.” The commission’s role:
Regulate and facilitate relationships between Families.
Promote and facilitate joint ventures between Families.
Resolve actual and potential disputes between Families.
Regulate the criminal activities of the Families.
Extend formal recognition to newly chosen bosses and
resolve leadership disputes within families.
Authorize the execution of family members.
Approve the initiation of new members into the Families.
ANALYSIS OF THE STRUCTURE (NY)
The structure of NY Mafia Families is only loosely coupled
to its criminal activities.
Much illegal activity is ad hoc deals and projects.
Crews are intermittently in several businesses.
Formal organizational structure differs from economic
structure. Clear hierarchy in the Family; income-
generating activity is independent entrepreneurs.
Pass a percentage of their income up as taxes in return for
government-type services: dispute resolution, territory
allocation, enforcement and corruption services.
THE AMERICAN MAFIA IN CHICAGO
Intense, longtime connection between politics and OC.
Transportation hub brought immigration:
1836:Lake Michigan-Illinois River Canal groundbreaking.
1855: terminus of 10 Rail trunk lines, 11 branch lines.
Attracted adventurers, gamblers, pimps, prostitutes and
Civil War brought prosperity and soldiers on leave.
“The Outfit” is distinctive in its ethnic diversity.
Origin of OC in Chicago was the 1873 mayor election.
Mike McDonald, gambling boss of Chicago, backed the
Mike had welded the gamblers, liquor interests, and
brothels into a formidable political power.
From then, until his death in 1907, Mike controlled
mayors, congressmen, and senators.
He owned the Globe newspaper and the elevated
railroad line in Chicago.
Mont Tennes inherited his gambling empire.
“HINKY DINK” AND “THE BATH”
“Hinky Dink” Kenna and “Bathhouse” Coughlin
inherited Mike’s political empire.
As “Lords of the Levee,” they organized the vice
entrepreneurs of he First Ward.
Majorities in the First Ward were so overwhelming
they could affect city, county, and state elections.
They “licensed” businesses in the First Ward.
Backed winner “Big Bill” Thompson for mayor in 1915.
Spoils system swept over the city.
Brought to the U.S. from Calabria at 10 years old.
He married a brothel keeper, and helped organized a
gang of white slavers.” (1910 Mann Act was a result.)
Politically powerful during Thompson’s mayoralty.
“‘Diamond Jim’ wore a diamond ring on every finger,
diamond studs gleamed in his shirt front, a huge
diamond horseshoe was pinned to his vest, diamond
links joined the cuffs, and his belt and suspender
buckles were set with diamonds.
He brought Johnny Torrio to Chicago for protection
from Black Hand that targeted wealthy Italians.
In Chicago, Torrio lured 3 Black Handers into an
ambush, where gunmen shot them dead.
Born in Naples 1882. Raised in NY. Leader of James
Street Boys, affiliated with the Five Points Gang.
Oversaw brothels and gambling operations for Colosimo.
Torrio’s partner in NY, Frankie Yale, sent out-of-control
Al Capone to Chicago to get him out of NY.
TORRIO THE BUSINESSMAN
Smart, non-drinker, non-smoker, not a womanizer.
Kissed his wife in the morning, then motored to his
office where he bought and sold women, etc.
He excelled as a master strategist and organizer and
quickly built a wealthy, powerful, influential empire.
With the onset of Prohibition, the personnel of
organized vice took the lead in the systematic
organization of this new and profitable field of
Colosimo wanted to stay out of bootlegging. Torrio and
Capone disagreed. Staying out would deny access to
wealth and would enrich and empower competitors.
May 11, 1920, Diamond Jim was shot to death in the
vestibule of his upscale Colosimo’s Cafe.
Torrio succeeded him to the First Ward based Italian
Late summer 1920: Torrio persuaded the major Cook Co.
gang leaders to abandon predatory crime in favor of
THE CHICAGO WARS
Torrio had divided the city and county into spheres
with a chieftain, subchiefs, and allocated markets.
1923 election of a reform mayor destabilized Chicago
and encouraged competitive moves by ganglords.
War! Torrio-Capone syndicate v. O’Banion forces.
1925: Torrio left the Chicago organization to Capone.
1926 truce: “Gang wars are bad for business.”
Ended in 1929 with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
AL CAPONE’S CHICAGO
Thanks to Prohibition, Capone was now the most powerful
person in Chicago.
The Depression reduced the Capone organization’s income.
He took over the rackets in Chicago–small business
associations and union–using extreme violence.
Capone’s downfall was the 1927 U.S. Supreme Court
decision (U.S. v. Sullivan) that upheld the IRS contention
that unlawful income was subject to taxation.
Tried (1931), convicted, sentenced to 11 years, served 6.
“Brought down with a pencil” for tax evasion.
Structured as a 4-man senior partnership: Al Capone,
Ralph Capone, Nitti, Jake Guzik. Each received 1/6,
remainder was for maintenance of the headquarters.
After Prohibition, the Capone syndicate–the Outfit–
had a monopoly on OC in Chicago, maintained with
minimal force and a great deal of political influence.
Chicago Crime Commission: the Outfit is unique in its
willingness to grant responsibility to non-Italians.
In 1955, turned the operation over to Sam Giancana.
Since Prohibition, blacks had dominated the numbers
business in Chicago.
Serving time with Eddie Jones, a wealthy black numbers
operator, GIancana learned the value of Jones’ operation
and violently took it over in 1952.
Lived a high-profile life. Served time for refusing to testify
to federal grand jury, despite immunity.
Fled to Mexico in 1965. In 1974, Mexican immigration
agents dragged him to the border into waiting arms of FBI.
Shot at home in 1975. Interesting legacy of connection
with federal government.
AMERICAN MAFIA: THE CHICAGO MODEL
AND “FAMILY SECRETS”
Chicago differs from NY in that the Outfit has always
been a cooperative venture with other groups.
The Outfit is led by a CEO-type boss responsible to am
informal small board of directors. 3 area bosses are
responsible for a particular part of “Chicagoland.”
Street crews are geographically based, but act
The thug side of the Outfit led in 2004 to an important
federal case, “Operation Family Secrets.”
20 CHAPTER FIVE
Italian Organized Crime
and the Albanian Connection
Abadinsky, Organized Crime 10th ed.
In this chapter we begin our examination of organized
crime on the global scene, sometimes referred to as
transnational organized crime. Our focus will be on
criminal organizations that have affected, or have the
potential to affect, the United States. We will begin our
examination with four of these criminal organizations
Mafia, Camorra, Ndrangheta, and the Sacra Corona
Unita (with its Albanian connection)which have their
roots in southern Italy, the Mezzogiorno.
The southern Italian experience dates back more than
1000 years. It led to development of a culture that
stresses the variables necessary for survival in a
To be respected meant to be entitled to the deference
of others that came from the ability to use violence.
Omert: the southern Italian ideal of manliness–
non-cooperation with authorities, self-control in the
face of adversity, and the vendetta.
THE MEZZOGIORNO (CONT.)
The vendetta–“blood washes blood”–dictated that any
offense or slight to the famiglia (family) had to be avenged.
The only basis of loyalty was famiglia–“blood of my
blood” (sangu de me sangu).
Neither government nor church was to be trusted.
The famiglia included all one’s blood relatives,
including distant cousins, traced through paternity.
The famiglia was organized hierarchically under the
patriarch, the capo de famiglia.
THE MEZZOGIORNO (CONT.)
The Mezzogiorno remained mired in feudalism and
dependent on agriculture; a legacy of political, social,
and economic repression; and exploitation.
Government spending on building projects became a
vehicle for Mafia infiltration. By corruption and
intimidation, Mafia-controlled firms took a share of
3 types of criminal organization emerged: the
Neapolitan Camorra, Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta, and The
Mafia (Cosa Nostra).
THE SICILIAN MAFIA
Sicily is an island in the Mediterranean.
In the 19th century, successive regimes of Mafia clans
maintained a uniquely Sicilian form of order–brutal, at
times protecting the landed elite, at other times protecting
The government in Rome imposed a tax policy that took
money out of Sicilian agriculture to invest in the north.
Landowners escaped high taxes. “Strong men”
administered their lands and acted as patrons to the
peasants on the lands, and were assumed to be mafiosi.
“mafia” has Sicilian-Arabic roots.
“mafia” as a state of mind has a meaning shared by all
Sicilians: aid each other, side with friends, fight common
enemies, defend, avenge, keep secrets, beware of
“Mafia” could not flourish without “mafia,” which
represents a general attitude toward the state.
A mafioso did not invoke state or law in his private
quarrels, but made himself respected by winning a
reputation for toughness and courage.
The use of private violence in settling disputes was
accepted, because there was no effective state policing.
MUSSOLINI AND THE MAFIA
An incident in a Sicilian town in 1924 between Il Duce
and a mayor resulted in Mussolini’s placing the brutal
Prefect Mori in charge of purging the Mafia.
Some mafiosi traveled to the US, arriving at an
In Sicily, the Mafia infiltrated Mussolini’s Fascist regime,
and when WWII ended, emerged as the Nuovo Mafia–a
NUOVO MAFIA/COSA NOSTRA
The end of WWII brought a Mafia renaissance in Sicily;
a vacuum in local leadership was filled by former
They were respected local figures and, as victims of
Prefect Mori, they could pose as anti-fascists.
They violently thwarted the efforts of trade
unionists, socialists, communists, and land
NUOVO MAFIA/COSA NOSTRA (cont.)
The old mafioso prized power–rispetto. The old Mafia
chief dressed in shirtsleeves and baggy pants,
although he was a multimillionaire.
The new mafioso wants money, dresses like a wealthy
businessman, and disregards the rural traditions.
The New Mafia has a distinctly American tint, the
result of American gangsters being deported to Sicily,
where they assumed leading positions in the
NUOVO MAFIA/COSA NOSTRA (cont.)
The New Mafia (Cosa Nostra) robbed and kidnaped to
accumulate capital to be a player in the construction
industry and the heroin and cocaine markets.
Drug money changed the functioning and mode of
organization of the Mafia, which became urban
Tot “The Beast” Riina became head of the Corleone
cosca, in 1974. With a reign of terror, he achieved
dominance of the New Mafia.
POLITICS AND THE MAFIA
Italy is the home of 3 world powers: the Italian
government, the Catholic Church, and the Mafia.
From 1945-1993, the Christian Democratic Party (CDP)
ruled Italy, and the party’s bedrock was the
mezzogiorno, especially the “friends” in Sicily.
Intimidation of voters is seldom necessary. Voters
follow the Mafia’s “marching orders” without force.
The vote simply indicates support for a clientilistic group.
THE STRUCTURE OF THE MAFIA
The center of the Mafia is the padrino or capomafioso
around whom other mafiosi gather, forming a cosca.
It is a network of 2-man patron-client relationships
based on kinship, patronage, and friendship.
The mafioso succeeds because he commands a
network of partnerships where he is able to act as a
broker, providing services, including votes and violence
for the holders of institutional power.
Flexibility prevents the cosca from becoming bureaucratic.
THE STRUCTURE OF THE MAFIA
The mafioso serves as a guarantor for price rigging and
collusive bidding on construction projects.
Kinship strengthens cohesion, so sons, brothers, and
nephews are often admitted to cosca membership.
An affiliation ceremony creates ritual ties of
brotherhood among the members of a cosca. Once
initiated into the cosca, the mafioso is a compadre.
The New Mafia has a membership of 5,000+, each
with his own network, divided into about 180 cosche.
FROM UN UOMO DI RESPETTO
The mafioso was no longer un uomo di rispetto, but just
an urban gangster in the American tradition.
In 1982, the archbishop of Palermo led Sicilian priests
in a campaign against the Mafia. Since 1983, Palermo
has elected and re-elected an anti-Mafia mayor.
In 1992, Prosecutors Falcone and Borsellino were killed.
Falcone’s murder led to an anti-Mafia demonstration of
40,000 persons in Palermo.
The assassination of government officials lost the New
Mafia the support of important elements of society.
Developed in Spanish prisons early in the 19th century.
Deliberately structured as a criminal society.
Moved their control into Naples. Tightly, centrally,
hierarchically controlled, efficient political machine.
Parallel system of law in typical southern Italian style.
1970s: economic success revived 19th century structure.
Now: drug trafficking, construction, counterfeit goods.
Embedded financial network in Western Europe, U.S.,
Brazil, Canada, Australia.
Capital is laundered and reinvested in legal enterprises.
STRUCTURE OF THE CAMORRA
A boss is at the center of a typical Camorra group.
High turnover has resulted in younger members and
leaders than other southern Italian groups.
Modern Camorra is less structured and less family
based than the Mafia.
Territorial control is important. Extortion from legal
businesses is not lucrative, but preserves control.
“Camorra doesn’t need the politicians; the politicians
need the Camorra constituents and financial wealth.”
In contrast to the Mafia, women participate directly in
Camorra and ‘Ndrangheta criminal activities.
From Calabria, a very poor area in the south of Italy.
Mafia-type hierarchy; omert; no social service
program; power is #1 goal.
Violent: “Don’t leave the seed.”
Groups (‘ndrina) in Canada and Australia.
Kidnapping, vast-scale international arms and drug
trafficking, extortion, control of public contracts.
SACRA CORONA UNITA
AND THE ALBANIAN CONNECTION
1983: Originated in prison as a criminal organization,
partly in response to Camorra leader Raffaele Cutolo’s
1980-81 Naples takeover plans.
Evolved in same region as Camorra and ‘Ndrangheta.
Rituals use Roman Catholic imagery.
Horizontal organization: 45 autonomous clans.
Sacred Crown United (SCU) has close ties to the Balkans,
particularly Albania, across the Otranto Strait.
Strategic position on the Adriatic; SCU provides smuggling
services to the Mafia, Camorra, and Ndranghetta.
THE ALBANIAN CONNECTION
Primarily Muslim nation, population 3.5 million.
Family and clan ties; famiglia and omert; bessa:
respect verbal promises.
Taking advantage of weak central government and
political chaos, SCU clans linked with Albanian crime
Albanian groups proliferate and SCU supports them in
joint venture such as weapons and drugs.
Trafficking: economic migrants, drugs, contraband,
weapons, cars, prostitution.
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