Florida International University

Professor Joseph P. Byrnes



  Organized Crime Chapter-4




Upon completing this chapter, the student should be able to:

·         Discuss the organization and structure of New York-style American Mafia Families.

·         Discuss the organization and structure of Chicago-style American Mafia groups (the Outfit).

·         Explain the difference between members and nonmember associates.

·         Explain the advantages and disadvantages of being a made guy.

·         Describe the roles associated with the various positions within an OC group.

·         Discuss the Rules of the American Mafia.

·         Discuss the role and limitations of the “national commission.”

·         Explain the role of the commission in New York.




Castellammarese War









St. Valentine’s Day massacre

street boss

The Chicago Wars

The Five Families

The Outfit


Unione Siciliana



Introduction.  This chapter will examine the phenomenon of Italian American OC—the American Mafia—in  New York and Chicago because the Mafia elsewhere approximates that in the two cities with the strongest crime groups.


I.                   New York.

A.  About a half-million (mostly southern) Italian immigrants lived in New York City by early 1900, most in neighborhoods described by Petacco (1974) as “human antheap[s] in which suffering, crime, ignorance and filth were the dominant elements.”

B.  The Italian immigrants:

1.  provided the cheap labor vital to the expanding capitalism of that era;

2.  being relative latecomers, could not imitate the “by hook or by crook” financial successes of the Robber Barons; and

3.  adapted their southern Italian culture to the American experience.

C.  When the official government structure proved unable to meet the widespread needs of the Italian immigrant population, the mafia (Sicilian) and, to a lesser degree, camorra (Neopolitan) crime groups stepped in as the de facto power within the immigrant neighborhoods.  Blocked from access to legitimate paths to success, mafia groups fell back on illegitimate activities that had long been proven to be rewarding in terms of both power and financial yield.

D.  Castellammarese War.

1.  By 1930, two major Mafia factions operated in New York:  Giuseppe (“Joe the Boss”) Masseria’s group in East Harlem’s Little Italy, and Salvatore Maranzano’s group in midtown Manhattan.

a.  The struggle for domination of Italian American OC in New York was called the “Castellammarese war” because Maranzano and many of his supporters came from the small Sicilian coastal town of Castellammare del Golfo.

b.  Masseria’s group had both Sicilian and non-Sicilian members, and were also allied with non-Italians such as Meyer Lansky and Ben Siegel.

c.  The war turned against Joe the Boss, in part because the Maranzano forces were reinforced by a continuing supply of Sicilian exiles, but also because five of his leading men went over to the other side—without telling him.

d.  The war ended when Masseria was gunned down on April 15, 1931, leaving  Maranzano in control of Mafia operations in New York City.

2.  Maranzano’s old-world Sicilian temperament and style irritated many of his followers, particularly the more Americanized gangsters such as Luciano.  The problem was resolved on September 10, 1931, when four Jewish gunmen (sent by Lansky and Siegel at the behest of Luciano) shot and killed Maranzano.

E.  The Luciano/Genovese Family.

1.  With the deaths of Masseria and Maranzano, Salvatore “Lucky” Luciano (1897–1962) became the most important Italian OC figure in New York, a status he would enjoy until 1935.

a.  Targeted by Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey, Luciano was convicted in 1936 on 61 counts of compulsory prostitution and sentenced to a term of 30 to 60 years in prison.

b.  During World War II, Luciano was instrumental (even from his prison cell) in controlling the unions on the eastern seaboard ports to ensure an uninterrupted flow of men and materiel to the European theater.  He also used his criminal organization to assist U.S. intelligence operations along the Atlantic coast.

c.  In 1945, Dewey, then governor of New York, received a petition for executive clemency on behalf of Luciano, citing his efforts during the war. The next year, Dewey announced that Luciano would be released from prison and deported to Italy. Luciano left the United States on February 9, 1946.

d.  Before the end of the year, Luciano surfaced in Havana, holding court with the elite of New York’s underworld. The following year, U.S. pressure on Cuba compelled Luciano to return to Italy, where he died of a heart attack.

2   Frank Costello (1891–1973).

a.  With Luciano’s imprisonment and subsequent deportation, leadership of his crime Family was assumed by Frank Costello.

b.  Italian by birth, Costello affected an Irish surname—no hindrance in New York, where the Irish dominated Tammany and Tammany dominated the city.

c.  A successful bootlegger by 1923, Costello moved into gambling and eventually became a successful (and legitimate) real estate dealer.

d.  Costello operated an extensive slot machine network in New York City until Mayor Fiorello La Guardia’s highly publicized campaign to rid the city of “that bum.”  Costello was then invited to bring his machines to New Orleans by Louisiana’s political boss, Senator Huey P. Long.

e.  Known for his political influence, Costello was a key player when Tammany’s aging Irish leadership sought funding from the Italian-controlled underworld.

f.   In 1951, Costello appeared before the Kefauver Committee and was exposed on national television as a major crime figure.  Staging a dramatic walkout, he served an 18-month prison term for contempt of the Senate, then received a five-year sentence for income tax evasion, from which he was freed in 1956 when his lawyer proved the conviction had been based on illegal wiretaps.

g.  After surviving an unsuccessful attempt to kill him in 1957, Costello retired, leaving Vito Genovese as boss of the Luciano Family.

3.  Vito Genovese (1897–1969).

a.  Beginning as a street thief, Genovese graduated to working as a collector for the Italian lottery and eventually became an associate of Lucky Luciano.

b.  During the 1930s, Genovese was already a power in OC, making huge profits in narcotics. In 1934, however, he was involved in a bungled murder and forced to flee to Italy to avoid prosecution, taking $750,000 with him.

c.  In Italy, he is reputed to have become a confidant of Benito Mussolini, and was reputedly behind the “gangland style” shooting death of a stridently anti-Fascist Italian newspaper editor in New York in 1943.

d.  Despite his friendship with Mussolini, Genovese gained the confidence of American military authorities during the Allied invasion of Italy, even acting as an interpreter for key American leaders. This position enabled him to become a major black marketeer, until he was identified as an American fugitive and returned to the states for trial. While awaiting that trial, a key witness was poisoned while in protective custody and Genovese went free.

e.  With 14 others, Genovese was convicted of conspiracy to violate narcotic laws in 1969, and died of a heart ailment while serving his 15-year sentence.

f.   Despite numerous changes in leadership, the group he headed is still referred to as the Genovese Family. It operates in New Jersey, Connecticut, upstate New York, and parts of Massachusetts.

4.  Vincenzo (“Chin”) Gigante (1928–2005).

a.  Under Gigante’s leadership, the Genovese Family was considered the most powerful in the United States.

b.  Nevertheless, Gigante was indicted in 1990 for conspiring to rig bids and extort payoffs from contractors looking to do business with the New York City Housing Authority, then spent much of his time trying to avoid trial.

c.  Eventually convicted of racketeering in 1997, Gigante was sentenced to 12 years.  He died in a federal prison.

F.  The Mineo/Gambino Family.

1.  Al Mineo (?–1930), the Family’s first boss and a close ally of Joseph Masseria, was a victim of the Castellammarese war.

2.  Frank Scalise (1893–1957), who had defected from the Mineo Family early in the Castellammarese war, was made boss of that Family after the death of Masseria. 

a.  A close confidant of Maranzano, Scalise was replaced by Vincent Mangano after Maranzano’s death.

b.  In 1951, after his brother Philip was murdered, Vincent Mangano disappeared, presumably murdered at the direction of Family underboss Albert Anastasia, who then became Family boss.

3.  Albert Anastasia (1919–1957).

a.  Anastasia entered the United States in 1919 and reportedly changed his name after his 1921 arrest for murdering a fellow longshoreman (to save his family from embarrassment).

b.  Anastasia’s brother, Anthony (“Tough Tony”) Anastasio became the official ruler of the Brooklyn waterfront as head of Local 1814 of the International Longshoremen’s Association. Albert became the unofficial ruler of these same docks.  

c.  Widely feared even among his associates, Anastasia reportedly enjoyed the title “Executioner”—he issued the “contract hits” for Murder, Inc.

d.  Despite receiving a two-year sentence for firearm possession in 1923, Anastasia served stateside in the U.S. Army during World War II.

e.  In 1955, Anastasia served a one-year sentence for income-tax evasion, then was gunned down in a mob hit in 1957.  Underboss Carlo Gambino, believed to have been in league with Vito Genovese, then became boss of the Family.

4.  Carlo Gambino (1902–1976).

a.  An illegal alien resident of Brooklyn who never took U.S. citizenship, Gambino followed Lucchese into the Maranzano camp, eventually becoming a caporegime under Vincent Mangano.

b.  After Prohibition, Gambino continued in the bootlegging business and, in 1939, received a 22-month sentence for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. of liquor taxes. Eight months later, the conviction was thrown out because evidence had been based on illegal wiretaps.

c.  During World War II, Gambino made over a million dollars from stolen ration stamps. The war also prevented him from being deported to Italy.

d.  When Gambino became ill, he appointed his first cousin and brother-in-law, Brooklyn caporegime “Big” Paul Castellano, as acting boss. 

e.  Castellano assumed control of the Family when Gambino died of a heart attack, and held it until gunned down in 1985.  John Gotti was then “elected” boss at a meeting of Gambino Family captains.

5.  John Gotti (1940–2002).

a.  A career criminal whose media coverage eclipsed that of all previous crime figures, Gotti’s notoriety—like Al Capone’s—led to his downfall.

b.  As a 16-year-old high school dropout, Gotti began working for a soldier in the Gambino Family, then became part of the East New York crew headed by caporegime Carmine (“Charley Wagons”) Fatico.

c.  Gotti plea-bargained a 4-year sentence for a poorly executed murder, and was inducted into the Gambino Family shortly after his release in 1977.

d.  When Fatico came under intense federal investigation and became inactive, Gotti, a lackluster “earner,” was placed in charge of the Fatico crew. 

e.  Gambino’s death in 1976 factionalized the Family.  One camp, loyal to boss Frank Castellano, was immersed in labor and business racketeering, while underboss Neil Dellacroce’s “Thug ‘n Drug” group engaged in hijacking, extortion, loansharking, gambling, and drugs (thus violating a Castellano edict).  In fact, before he became boss of the Family, drugs were Gotti’s primary source of income.

f.   The media labeled Gotti “the Teflon Don” after he was acquitted at three separate trials in five years.  Gotti was finally convicted of 43 federal charges (including 6 murders, one being that of Paul Castellano) in 1992.  Gotti had been betrayed by his handpicked consigliere/underboss Salvatore (“Sammy the Bull”) Gravano and his own careless (and intercepted) communications. (Gravano’s testimony also led to the conviction of 36 other OC figures.)

g.  Gotti died during his tenth year in prison.

h.  Despite leadership changes, this group is still known as the Gambino Family. It operates in parts of New England, upstate New York, and New Jersey.

G.  The Reina/Lucchese Family.

1.  Gaetano (“Tommy”) Reina (c.1890–1930).

a.  Reina headed one of the five Families that Bonanno (1983) tells us “formed spontaneously [in New York City]as Sicilian immigrants settled there.”

b.  At the start of the Castellammarese war, Reina began talking privately against Joe the Boss Masseria. After it was reported to the boss, Reina was killed by a blast from a sawed-off shotgun.

c.  Although Masseria backed one of his own supporters to head the Reina Family, Gaetano Gagliano formed a splinter group and was joined by Thomas Lucchese, who became the underboss of the newly formed Gagliano Family.

d.  Gagliano headed the crime Family until his death in 1953, at which time Lucchese became boss.

2.  Gaetano (“Tommy”) Lucchese (1899–1967). 

a.  Lucchese was active in gambling, particularly numbers and bookmaking, in Queens, New York. During the 1930s, he dominated the city’s kosher chicken industry by organizing a cartel that controlled prices and competition.

b.  During the 1930s, Lucchese dominated the city’s kosher chicken industry by organizing a cartel that controlled prices and competition. He was also part owner of 8 dress firms in New York City that were nonunion and “strangely free from labor troubles.”

c.  When Lucchese died of natural causes, leadership passed to 53-year-old Anthony (“Tony Ducks”) Corallo (1913–2000).

d.  In recent years, the Lucchese Family has been plagued by betrayal, rebellion, and prosecution. Despite changes in leadership, this crime Family is still referred to as the Lucchese Family.

H.  The Profaci/Colombo Family.

1.  Joseph Profaci (1897–1962).

a.  An Old World Sicilian traditionalist, Joe Profaci was probably the mob boss most hated by his own men.  A ruthless and brutal tyrant, he demanded monthly dues payments and larger slices of illegal profits than other bosses, and rarely gave anything to his minions.  With Joe, it was all “me, me, me.”

b.  In addition to his criminal activities, Profaci owned at least 20 legitimate businesses and was the largest single importer of olive oil into the U.S.

c.  Although an ex-convict when he came to the United States in 1922, Profaci never served a prison sentence in the U.S., a remarkable feat for the man who had a crime Family named after him.  He did, however, manage to owe the United States $1.5 million in income taxes when he succumbed to cancer.

2.  Joseph Colombo (1914–1978). 

a.  At Profaci’s passing, Joseph Magliocco became the Family boss, but died little more than a year later.  The “commission” chose Joseph Colombo to head the Profaci Family.

b.  In 1970, Colombo founded the Italian American Civil Rights League and led daily picketing of the New York FBI headquarters, generating a great deal of media coverage. The league became a vehicle for protesting discrimination against and negative stereotyping of Italian Americans. Colombo and the league succeeded in having all references to the Mafia or Cosa Nostra deleted from the scripts of The Godfather and the television series The FBI, and both U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell and New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered their employees to refrain from using such references.

c.  The league raised large sums of money through dues and testimonial dinners and held an “Annual Unity Day” rally, which in 1970 drew about 50,000 persons to Columbus Circle in Manhattan.  The boss began to portray himself as a civil rights leader who was simply misunderstood by the police

d.  Other bosses did not favor the activities of Colombo and the league, either because he failed to share the financial fruits or because they resented the publicity—or both.  At the second Annual Unity Day rally in 1971, a lone gunman shot Colombo, leaving him paralyzed until his death in 1978.

3.  Carmine Persico (1933–____).

a.  Currently in prison serving combined sentences of 100 years, Persico attempted to engineer a shift in leadership to his son Alphonse (“Allie Boy”), who was expected to be released from prison shortly. In the meantime, Persico chose Victor J. Orena to be acting boss.

b.  Before Alphonse was released from prison, Orena let it be known that he would not step aside for the much younger Persico—taking orders from junior after being boss was apparently too much for Orena to accept.

c.  Beginning in 1991, the two factions began shooting at each other’s partisans.  Ultimately, 12 died and more than 50 were convicted of crimes related to the struggle before the violence ended in 1993, when both sides finally recognized the futility and danger inherent in continuing the war.

d.  The imprisoned Persico picked his cousin, Andrew T. Russo, to be acting boss, and the Colombo Family resumed initiating new members to replace those killed or imprisoned.

e.  In 1998, Russo was convicted of federal charges, and Allie Boy emerged as acting boss of the Colombo Family.

f.   In 2002, Allie Boy Persico pleaded guilty to racketeering, loansharking, and money-laundering in return for a 13-year sentence and a fine of $1 million.

g.  Carmine Persico is eligible for parole in 2011.

I.   The Bonanno Family.

1.  Joseph (“Don Peppino”) Bonanno (1905–2002), entered the U.S. in 1924, became involved in bootlegging and, during the Castellammare war, became an aide to Maranzano and a leader of the Castellammare group arrayed against Joe the Boss.

2.  After Maranzano’s murder, Bonanno was elected “Father” (a term he used for “boss”) of what became known as the Bonanno Family.

3.  In 1963 Bonanno sought—and was denied—Canadian citizenship.  While still in Canada the following year, his son Bill was chosen consigliere.  The selection, opposed from both within and without the Bonanno Family, resulted in a “summons” for Joseph Bonanno to appear before the commission; he declined.

4.  There followed a lengthy period of factional dispute which ultimately caused the commission to turn the Family over to an acting boss and Bonanno’s retirement.

5.  In 1979, a federal grand jury indicted Bonanno and a commodities dealer for obstructing justice.  When convicted, Bonanno was sentenced to a term of one year, which he served at the federal prison at Terminal Island.

6.  Despite Bonanno’s retirement, the crime Family he headed is still referred to as the Bonanno Family, something Bonanno decried. 

7.  In the twenty-first century, the Bonanno Family has been weakened by more than a dozen members who have become informants, including Joseph Massino, the only boss of the five Families to become a government witness. The Bonanno Family is the only one of the five New York Mafia groups to have a crew operating in Montreal, Canada.

J.   The Five Families. 

1.  The New York Families have been subjected to successful prosecution aided by a breakdown in discipline and loyalty. There have there been dozens of made-guy turncoats, many of them ranking members.

2.  By 2004, the heads of all five Families were incarcerated.

3.  The weakened condition of the New York Families may be encouraging challenges from other crime groups.


II.       Chicago.   

A.  Little more than an Indian trading post when incorporated in 1833, Chicago became the terminus for numerous rail lines and, by 1855, was the country’s greatest meatpacking center and grain port.

B.  The Civil War brought additional prosperity, but it also brought thousands of soldiers and the gambling establishments and brothels that were patronized by large numbers of unattached young men on military leave.  This vice-rich environment brought Chicago the sobriquet “the wickedest city in the United States,” but the vice did not become truly organized until the arrival of Mike McDonald.

C.  OC in Chicago can be traced to mayoral election of 1873, in which Mike McDonald backed the victorious candidate for mayor.  From then on, “McDonald had Chicago in his back pocket” (Sawyers 1988) and, until his death in 1907, McDonald controlled mayors, congressmen, and senators.

D.  McDonald controlled gambling, distributed bribes among the police and various city officials, and influenced every election via biased articles favoring “his” candidates that were published in his newspaper, The Globe.

E.  Close friend and chief advisor of mayors, and leader of Cook County’s Democratic organization, McDonald was clearly the boss of Chicago when reform hit the city in 1893.  By that time, McDonald had lost interest in maintaining his vast empire. 

F.  “Hinky Dink” and “The Bath.”

1.  A “Mutt and Jeff” team—Michael (“Hinky Dink”) Kenna and John (“Bathhouse”) Coughlin—were backed by McDonald and became the political “Lords of the Levee” in the notorious First Ward.

2.  Kenna was a successful saloon keeper and, of course, a politician.

a.  As a saloon-based precinct captain, he worked hard in First Ward Democratic politics and eventually became friendly with the Bath.

b.  With Kenna as the mastermind, the two organized the vice entrepreneurs of the First Ward, established a legal fund, and forged a mayoral alliance.

c.  After the mayor was murdered by a disgruntled job seeker, the Bath and Hinky Dink provided his successor with the margin of victory.

d.  When a depression swept the country in the winter of 1893, Kenna provided care for 8,000 homeless and destitute men.  Not forgetting this kindness, almost all registered in the First Ward and were brought back to vote for Kenna’s candidate in each subsequent election.

3.  Coughlin began his political career as a rubber in the exclusive Palmer Baths, where he met wealthy and powerful politicians and businessmen.

a.  The connections he made with his powerful customers led his becoming a Democratic precinct captain and president of the First Ward Democratic Club.

b.  In 1892, Coughlin was elected alderman from the First Ward, which contained the city’s central business district.

c.  The city council that Coughlin joined was literally selling out the city of Chicago via “boodles,” schemes through which city privileges were sold, that made the $3-a-meeting alderman’s position quite lucrative.

4.  Coughlin and Kenna’s ability to deliver the vote was key to their power, because the majorities they controlled in the First Ward were so overwhelming that they could affect city, county, and even state elections.

5.  They eventually erred by backing a mayoral candidate who subsequently aligned himself with reformers, which ultimately led to the 1915 election of Republican William Hale (“Big Bill”) Thompson.

6.  Thompson’s victory was based on his demagogic appeals.

a.  In German neighborhoods he attacked the British; in German-hating Polish neighborhoods he attacked the Germans; in Irish areas he attacked the British; and when addressing Protestant audiences he warned that a vote for his Catholic opponent was a vote for the pope.

b.  Thompson, promising reformers strict enforcement of the gambling laws and gamblers an open town, received strong support in the black wards, and many Harrison Democrats deserted the party to support the Republican.

c.  With the election of Thompson, according to Merriam (1929), “the spoils system …[made] city hall … a symbol for corruption and incompetence.”

d.  Reelected in 1919, Thompson lost a bid for a third term to a reformer in 1923, despite the support of Al Capone. 

e.  In the midst of Prohibition, Thompson prevailed again in 1927 by pledging to let the liquor flow again in Chicago.

f.   In 1931, Thompson was defeated in his final political race by Anton J. Cermak, founder of what has been called the “Chicago Democratic Machine.”

7.  Mont Tennes inherited much of the gambling empire left by Mike McDonald.

a.  Anyone wanting to run a gambling business had to apply to the Tennes ring, because he controlled the wire service and paid both politicians and the police. This meant that gamblers who paid Tennes received race results immediately and were protected from police raids.

b.  In the end, Tennes became an associate of the Capone organization, then withdrew from this “shotgun marriage” and retired about 1927, a millionaire.

G.  From Colosimo to Torrio to Capone.

1.  James Colosimo became influential when, as foreman of Chicago’s street sweepers, he organized them into a social and athletic club that later became a labor unionKenna appointed Colosimo a precinct captain in return for delivering the votes of his club, a position that brought with it virtual immunity from arrest.

a.  After marrying a brothel keeper in 1902, Colosimo began to manage her business, and helped organize a gang of “white slavers,” an operation that brought girls from many American and European cities, often as young as 14Once in Chicago, the girls were drugged, raped, and humiliated for days. After being thus “broken in,” they were sold as chattel to brothel keepers, who would restrict their contacts with the outside world.

b.  Colosimo opened several brothels, a string of gambling houses, and a nationally famous restaurant, Colosimo’s Café, which attracted luminaries from society, opera, and the theater.  According to Repetto (2004), the latter made him “first Italian American gangster to cross over from the underworld to the fringes of respectability.”

 c. When Black Hand extortionists threatened Colosimo in 1909, he brought Johnny Torrio to Chicago.

2.  Johnny Torrio, from New York’s Lower East Side, used brains, not brawn, to become leader of the James Street Boys, allied with Kelly’s Five Points Gang.

a.  Shortly after arriving in Chicago, Torrio lured three Black Handers into an ambush, where gunmen shot them to death.

b.  Torrio’s usefulness extended to overseeing brothels and gambling operations for Colosimo. Eventually, Colosimo left Torrio in charge of his operations.

c.  Eventually, Colosimo left Torrio in charge of his operations.  In this role, he accepted the assignment of a mob transfer from New York’s Five Points Gang: one Alphonse (“Scarface”) Capone.

H.  Prohibition.

1.  When Colosimo, who feared federal law enforcement, elected to stay away from bootlegging, Torrio and Capone realized that doing so would both deny access to untold wealth and enable competing racketeers to grow rich and powerful.

2.  Not surprisingly, Diamond Jim was found gunned down in the vestibule of his café on May 11, 1920, and John Torrio succeeded to the First Ward-based Italian ‘syndicate’ throne, which he occupied until his retirement in 1925.

a.  As an organizer and administrator of underworld affairs, Torrio is unsurpassed in the annals of American crime.

b.  Like Arnold Rothstein in New York, Torrio conducted his criminal enterprises as if they were legitimate businesses.

I.   As in New York, Prohibition enabled men who had been mere street thugs to become wealthy and powerful crime overlords.

J.   The Torrio-Capone Organization.

1.  In the summer of 1920, Torrio persuaded the major Cook County gang leaders to abandon predatory crime in favor of Prohibition-related activities.

2.  He also moved to extend the suburbanization of his business.  Bribing local authorities and ordinary citizens in Cook County’s suburbs, Torrio peacefully introduced beer and bordello operations—except in Cicero.

a.  When Democrats seized control of Chicago on a wave of reform in 1923, the Republicans, fearing loss of their control of Cook County suburbs, made a deal with Al Capone: In return for helping Republicans maintain control in Cicero, Torrio would have a free hand in there.

b.  In the election of April 1924, Al and Frank Capone led two hundred Chicago thugs into Cicero to intimidate, beat, and even kill Democrats who opposed Republican candidates. Outraged Cicero officials deputized 70 volunteer Chicago police officers and engaged the Capone gangsters in Cicero. In the ensuing exchange of gunfire, Frank Capone was killed. Still, the Capone candidate was overwhelmingly reelected mayor of Cicero.

c.  Capone moved his headquarters to Cicero, where he ruled with an iron hand.  For example, when the Cicero mayor failed to carry out one of his orders, Capone went to city hall and personally knocked “his honor” down the steps, kicking him repeatedly as a policeman strolled past.  

d.  Cicero continues to have political and corruption problems even today.

K.  The Chicago Wars.

1.  The 1923 election of a reform mayor in Chicago created an unstable situation and encouraged competitive moves by various ganglords.  

a.  The system of protection broke down, and in the ensuing confusion, Chicago became a battleground. 

b.  The most significant feud was between the Torrio-Capone syndicate and the forces headed by Dion O’Banion.

c.  In 1924, O’Banion hijacked a load of the Genna brothers’ liquor, and later swindled Torrio and Capone out of $500,000.  Even these transgressions could have been negotiated to settlement.

d.  Emboldened by the lack of a response from Torrio, and apparently mistaking caution for fear, O’Banion went around boasting about how he had “taken” Torrio: “To hell with them Sicilians,” was his oft-quoted comment. 

e.  This serious violation of respect yielded the inevitable response when O’Banion was gunned down by Mike Genna in November that year.

f.   The ensuing war took many lives and did not end until the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929.

2.  Capone’s Chicago.

a.  As liquor sales fell off with the onset of the Depression, gang leaders faced an army of young, violent men whom they were committed to paying anywhere from $100 to $500 per week, so new sources of income were needed.

b.  The Capone organization moved into racketeering on a grand scale.

c.  To expand operations and “hold in line the businesses already conquered, [Capone’s] gunmen and sluggers hijacked … truckloads of merchandise, bombed stores and manufacturing plants or wrecked them with axes and crowbars, put acid into laundry vats, poured corrosives onto clothing hanging in cleaning and dyeing shops, blackjacked workers and employers, and killed when necessary to enforce their demands or break down opposition.”

3.  Capone’s Downfall.

a.  “The Untouchables,” a special team of federal investigators headed by Eliot Ness, moved against Capone’s distilleries, breweries, and liquor shipments.

b.  A Special Intelligence Unit of the Treasury Department administered the coup de grâce by obtaining a income-tax evasion conviction that resulted in sentences totaling 11 years, which Capone began serving in 1931.

c.  Transferred to Alcatraz in 1934, he was found to be suffering from syphilis, for which he refused treatment. Capone was released in 1939, his sentence shortened for good behavior, but by then he was suffering from an advanced case of syphilis. He ultimately died in 1947 of pneumonia following a stroke.

L.  The Outfit Emerges.

1.  Beginning in the late 1930s, the former Capone Gang mutated into “the Outfit.”

2.  Under Frank Nitti, then Paul Ricca, and finally Tony Accardo, the Outfit expanded into grand-scale extortion of various entertainment industry unions.  All the while, the Outfit maintained a stranglehold on First Ward politics in Chicago.

3.  Facing prosecution for federal income-tax violations, Accardo finally turned over the reins of the Outfit to Sam Giancana in 1955.

4.  Giancana’s high-profile social life generated more publicity than the Outfit wanted, including:

a.  a widely publicized romance with Phyllis McGuire (of the singing McGuire sisters) and a public friendship with Frank Sinatra;

b.  a shared girlfriend with President John F. Kennedy; and

c.  a mild media frenzy he caused when he secured an injunction against the FBI’s intensive surveillance of his activities.

5.  Giancana was imprisoned for a year in 1965 for contempt of a federal grand jury. When released, he sought refuge in Mexico, where he remained until Mexican immigration agents dragged him to a waiting car, drove him 150 miles, and pushed him across the border into the waiting arms of FBI agents in 1974. He was then brought to Chicago for grand jury investigations.

6.  Giancana stirred up controversy even after he was gunned down in 1975, when it was disclosed that in 1960 the Central Intelligence Agency had contacted John Roselli, a Giancana lieutenant, to secure syndicate help in assassinating Fidel Castro. The plot apparently never materialized, and in 1976, Roselli’s body was found in an oil drum floating in Miami’s Biscayne Bay.

7.  In 1986, top Outfit leaders were convicted of skimming $2 million from gambling casinos in Las Vegas—as portrayed in the book and motion picture Casino.

8.  Joseph Ferriola then assumed leadership and allegedly permitted members to involve themselves in drug trafficking, something that had thus far been off limits.

9.  Following Ferriola’s death (due to natural causes) in 1989, Sam Carlisi and John (“No-Nose”) DiFronzo assumed leadership.

a.  In 1993, DiFronzo was convicted of attempting to infiltrate an Indian reservation gambling operation in California for illegal purposes. Sentenced to 37 months.  He successfully appealed his conviction and was released in 1994.

b.  That same year, Carlisi and seven members of his crew were convicted of racketeering and related charges.  Sentenced to 12 years, he died in 1997.

M.  Outfit Street Crews.

1.  New York has five separate crime families, but the Chicago Outfit is organized as separate street crews associated with particular geographic areas.

a.  There is evidence of criminal specialization among the street crews, although it appears that various forms of gambling are a primary activity of each.

b.  Grand Avenue: burglary; 26th Street: truck hijacking (cartage theft); North Side/Rush Street prostitution, pornography, and liquor law violations; Chicago Heights: automobile theft and chop shop operations;  Grand Street and Elmwood Park (Taylor Street): theft from semitrailers parked in railway freight yards.

2.  Rocco Infelise typifies the insidious reach of the Outfit in the Chicago area, particularly in the town of Cicero.

a.  While serving as Republican Party boss and town assessor of Cicero, Infelise was also street boss of the Taylor Street crew

b.  In that position, he paid $1,000 a month to the police chief of Forest Park to allow high-stakes dice games in the Chicago suburb.  This enabled Infelise to act as a fixer and provide warnings of police raids

c.  After Infelise associate Frank Maltese pleaded guilty to gambling conspiracy charges, then died, Maltese’s wife was elected Cicero town president (who promptly named the new Public Safety Building after her late husband).

d.  Infelise led a massive effort to extort money from independent bookmakers and gambling entrepreneurs in the Chicago area.  He gave each a choice: pay street taxes, make an Outfit representative a fifty-fifty partner, go out of business, or be “trunked” (the term for placing murder victims in car trunks).

3.  In the past, the level of violence associated with street crew activities was stunning, with beatings, brutal torture, and gruesome killings considered just routine business.

N.  The Outfit Today.

1.  Considerably smaller than the version once ruled by Al Capone, estimates of the Outfit’s current membership range from as low as 30 to as high as 130.

2.  Its political base in the First Ward has been destroyed. From the 1870s to 1990, Chicago’s First Ward remained a seemingly untouchable political link to OC. That changed in 1990, when indictments were announced against First Ward politicians and gangsters, most of whom were subsequently found guilty.

3.  Gambling is crucial to the Outfit; it provides considerable income, and it gives members something to do.

a.  Since most significant convictions involving members of the Outfit in the last few years have involved persons associated with violence, a decision to stay away from business operations most likely to require violence appears to have been made by the Outfit leadership.

b.  In recent years, there have been few OC-related murders—one in 1999 and another in 2001.  Both victims were men with violent reputations who had been involved in loansharking.


III.      Structure of the American Mafia: The New York Version.

A.  In New York, the basic OC unit is the Family, or borgata.

1.  However, the actual name by which a group is known may vary. In New England, for example, it is the “Office.” Groups in the New York metropolitan area are known as “Families.”

2.  Although any number of members may be related, the term Family does not imply kinship by blood or marriage.

3.  Each crime unit is composed of members and associates.

B.  Membership results from:

1.  being of Italian descent;

2.  establishing a long history of successful criminal activity or possessing certain skills required of the group;

3.  exhibiting recognition of the authority of the organization and a willingness to perform various criminal and noncriminal functions with skill and daring and without asking questions;

4.  being formally proposed by a made guy;

5.  serving a lengthy probationary period under a caporegime; and

6.  being formally inducted in a ceremony during which the candidate pledges lifetime allegiance.

C.  Membership constitutes a “franchise” authorizing the use of Family connections, bolstered by the status that membership generates, to make money.  Members:

1.  are independent operators, not employees paid by the group;

2.  acquire considerable “psychic gain” as, within criminal and certain legitimate circles, being “made” conveys a great deal of prestige, if not fear;

3.  pursue their own moneymaking activities;

4.  develop their own crew of wannabe wiseguy associates drawn to the romanticized image of money and power that members-as-patrons hold; and

5.  can become eligible for advancement to caporegime if they demonstrate the ability to generate considerable income.

D.  Important disadvantages are also associated with membership.

1.  Law enforcement agencies take great interest in a criminal if they discover he is a made guy.

2.  Any insult or assault on a member requires that he kill the offender.

3.  A member is required to obey the orders of his boss, even if this means participating in the murder of a complete stranger or even a close friend or relative.

E.  It is the ready availability of private violence that makes the OC group a viable entity.

F.  The Boss.

1.  Although he is at the center of the universe of an American Mafia unit, the boss does not have a complete overview of the decentralized activities of his members.

2.  In the past, the boss was usually a senior citizen—it takes many years to gain the respect of members and the knowledge and connections needed by the group.

3.  It is a sign of weakness that many of the current Cosa Nostra bosses are relatively young, as well as volatile and violent.

4.  The boss typically operates out of a fixed location (a restaurant, a private club, or a business office) where he receives visitors throughout the day, including:

a.  legitimate persons asking for a favor, usually to resolve a dispute;

b.  criminal associates bearing the boss’s cut of their illegitimate activities; and

c.  his captains, who brief him regarding activities of their crews.

5.  A boss has a number of men who report directly to him. They carry messages, perform assignments as necessary, and physically protect the boss.

6.  The boss has investments in illegitimate and legitimate enterprises (usually in partnership with members of his own or other crime groups or with nonmember associates), and gets a cut of the illegal earnings of all of members of his Family.

7.  The boss demands absolute respect and total obedience, and is treated with a great deal of deference (e.g., people rise when he enters the room, and never interrupt when he is speaking).

8.  The intensity of government surveillance and prosecution of OC during the last two decades has made the position of boss less desirable than in the past.

a.  Filling the position may now be difficult because those most qualified may also be those who are most reluctant to undergo the law enforcement scrutiny that comes with the position.

b.  In such circumstances, the boss may be a relatively weak figure, with the group’s true strength concentrated in the captains heading crews of earners.

G.  The Commission.

1.  All crime bosses are linked in a rather informal arrangement known as the “commission,” but only the bosses of the most powerful groups—particularly those in New York, Chicago, Buffalo, and Philadelphia—are considered actual commission members.

2.  The commission can arbitrate disputes but, having no direct executive power, it has to depend on influence.

3.  The bosses of the New York Families constitute a commission that serves to arbitrate disputes and deal with joint ventures between their Families.  The trial (and convictions) of a number of New York bosses for RICO violations (United States v. Salerno, 85 CR 139, S.D.N.Y, 1985), revealed the role of the commission in New York:

a.      Regulate and facilitate relationships between the five Families.

b.      Promote and facilitate joint ventures between Families.

c.      Resolve actual and potential disputes between Families.

d.      Regulate the criminal activities of the Families.

e.      Extend formal recognition to newly chosen Family bosses and resolve leadership disputes within Families.

f.       Authorize the execution of Family members.

g.      Approve of the initiation of new members into the Families.

H.  Rules.

1.  Although traditional OC does not have written rules, it has an elaborate set of norms that govern behavior.

a.  Ianni (1972) argues that the rules of the American Mafia are actually standards of conduct based on the traditions of southern Italy, particularly the concept of family loyalty.

b.  Abadinsky’s research (1981a, 1983) indicates that the rules are not traditional, but are quite rational and sometimes counter to southern Italian tradition.

2.  American Mafia rules include:

a.  Always show respect to those who can command it.

b.  Report any failure to show respect to one’s patron immediately.

c.  Violence must be used, even if only of a limited type, to ensure respect.

d.  Never ask for surnames.

e.  Never resort to violence in a dispute with a member or associate of another Family.

f.   Never resort to, or even threaten, violence in a dispute with a member of your Family.

g.  Do not use the telephone except to arrange for a meeting place, preferably in code, from which you will then travel to a safe place to discuss business.

h.  Avoid mentioning specifics when discussing business—for example, names, dates, and places—beyond those absolutely necessary for understanding.

i.   Keep your mouth shut—anything you hear, anything you see, stays with you, in your head; do not talk about it.

j.   Do not ask unnecessary questions. The amount of information given to you is all you need to carry out your instructions.

k.  Never engage in homosexual activities.

l.   If your patron arranges for two parties to work together, he assumes responsibility for arbitrating any disputes between the parties.

m.  The boss can unilaterally direct violence, including murder, against any member of his Family, but he cannot engage in murder-for-hire, that is, make a profit from murder.

n.  The boss cannot use violence against a member or close associate of another Family without prior consultation with that Family’s boss.

o.  The principal form of security in the American Mafia is an elaborate system of referral and vouching. Vouching for someone who turns out to be an informant or undercover officer entails the death penalty.


IV.      Analysis of the Structure.

The structure of New York-style Mafia Families:

A. Is only loosely coupled to its criminal activities;

B. Is rather fluid, similar to that of the real estate development business;

C. Includes firms (crews) that are not consistently in one business but are intermittently

in several; and

D. Organizes its crews not as a “production line” but as a “job shop.”


V.       The Structure of the American Mafia: The Chicago Version.

A.  Chicago differs from New York in that the Outfit was always a cooperative venture with other groups, although the Italians were dominant.

1.  There is an absence of independent entrepreneurs and important decisions are made at the executive level.

2.  Moving into a new business or new territory is determined at the top of a truly hierarchical organization.

B.  The Outfit is led by a boss who at various times has actually been akin to a chief executive officer responsible to one or more persons constituting an informal board of directors.  Assisted by a committee of older and influential members who assume some type of senior status, the boss controls three area bosses.

1.  Each area boss has responsibility for a particular part of the Chicagoland area, overseeing the activities of street bosses who direct the day-to-day activities of crew members.

2.  Each street boss, assisted by (two or more) lieutenants, is responsible for supervising the activities of his crew, and may also be involved in activities, such as labor racketeering, on an “industry” rather than on a territorial basis.

3.  Each crew is associated with a particular geographic area and acts independently of the other crews.

C.  The head of the Outfit settles disputes between the crews and is responsible for relations with those outside the organization such as corrupt public officials and OC groups in other cities.

D.  Outfit employment is not exhausting work, often requiring only a few hours a day. A worker may also hold a legitimate job.  But every Outfit guy is on call, and they can be called to a meeting at any time.

E.  Each crew is composed of made guys and associates who are said to be “connected” or “Outfit guys.”

F.  The street boss and his lieutenants, if they are of Italian heritage, are made guys. Everyone else connected to the crew is an associate (although they are commonly referred to as “members” of a crew).

G.  There are definite distinctions between being a made guy and being an associate.

1.  Made guys hold supervisory (or senior advisory) status.

2.  Everyone else is a worker, with a few important exceptions. Persons who have proven their value to the Outfit have sometimes been given important responsibilities even in the absence of Italian heritage.

3.  Within criminal and certain legitimate circles, being “made” conveys a great deal of prestige, if not fear.

H.  Though many members of the Outfit are related by blood and marriage, the sons of Outfit members are rarely found in the ranks of Chicago OC.

I.   Until recently, the Chicago Outfit had been free of the made-guy-turned-informant syndrome affecting crime Families in New York.

1.  Although it may signal the beginning of the end of traditional Italian American OC, it does not signal the end of OC as a method of crime or as a means by which members on the lowest rungs of the American ladder of social mobility achieve wealth.

2.  Italian Americans are now being overshadowed by emerging criminal groups that are using the drug trade much as their OC predecessors did bootlegging.

3.  These criminal groups, however, lack the incubation provided by corrupt urban political machines and ineffective federal law enforcement.



During the last decade of the nineteenth and first two decades of the twentieth century, millions of Italians from poverty-wracked southern Italy arrived in America’s urban areas. Limited education and widespread prejudice consigned them to “Little Italys” where they reproduced Italian village life that included secret organizations of Mafia, Camorra, and ’Ndrangheta. Prohibition offered unparalleled opportunity and these criminal groups, at times in partnership with Jewish and Irish criminals, moved beyond their ghettoes and into the world of OC.

During the early 1930s, conflict between the two major Mafia factions in New York—the Castellammarese war—led to the emergence of the “Five Families” that, in a much weakened form, continue to operate in the New York metropolitan area.

In Chicago, OC in the form of the Torrio-Capone organization emerged from Prohibition during which gangsters supplanted machine politicians as the city’s centers of power. That organization eventually eclipsed its rivals and, after Prohibition was repealed, emerged as the Outfit whose street crews continue to dominate OC in the Chicagoland area.




·         What is the Mezzogiorno and what role did it play in the development of OC in the United States?

·         What was the Unione Siciliana and what was its role in OC?

·         What was the Castellammarese war?

·         What were the causes and outcomes of the Gallo-Profaci war and the Banana war?

·         What led to the Banana war, and what was its outcome?

·         What was the connection between corrupt politicians in Chicago, vice entrepreneurs, and big business?

·         What was the importance of the First Ward in the development of OC in Chicago?

·         How and when did this influence end?

·         What was the effect of Prohibition on Chicago politics, politicians, and vice entrepreneurs?

·         What effect did the election of a reform mayor have in Chicago during Prohibition?

·         How did the onset of the Depression and the end of Prohibition affect OC?

·         What happened to the Capone organization after the imprisonment and subsequent death of Al Capone?

·         What are the five traditional crews of the Chicago Outfit?

·         What is the current structure of the Chicago Outfit?

·         How does the structure of OC in Chicago differ from that in New York?

·         What is the primary role of a boss in the American Mafia?

·         What is the function of the “commission” in Cosa Nostra?

·         Why is the concept of “membership” important in the American Mafia?

·         What are the advantages and disadvantages of membership?

·         What are the basic qualifications for Cosa Nostra membership?

·         What is a “crew”?

·         How does the Mafia in New York differ from the Chicago Outfit?







Copyright © 2003- 2007 Patrick Byrnes All Rights Reserved.
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