Is the Mafia Dead?
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In the past, the Italian mafia was arguably the biggest and most recognized organized crime outfit in the US. La Cosa Nostra, the name given to the Italian mafia families, and their devious heist, scandals, and, of course, crimes made the papers, national news, and inspired larger than life Hollywood tough guys in films like The Godfather and Scarface. But lately, it seems the Cosa Nostra has stepped out of the media spotlight, with the exception of the Gambio family, and taken a back seat at the box office. So, is the Italian mob dead? Get out of here. La Cosa Nostra isn’t dead, but they definitely don’t have the wealth and power they once did, according to mob historians Jerry Capeci and Selwyn Raab. Here’s the low down on what’s happening now.
Because of the type of “business” the mafia is in, secrecy is paramount- obviously- so facts are often difficult to pin down. However, historically there have been 26 Italian crime families throughout major US cities since the early half of the 20th century. And the epicenter of the mob has always been New York City. The city is divided between the Five Families: the Gambinos, Bonannos, Colombos, Genoveses, and the Lucheses. However, the past decade hasn’t been kind to the Five Families. The Families have been plagued with problems from the inside as well as the outside, with the FBI’s Organized Crime program leading the way in exposing mob crime.
The Gambino family remains in the spotlight because of their former (now deceased) boss, John Gotti. However, a significant portion of the Gambino crime family were caught by the Feds in 2008 in a sweep that also left them without an underboss and consigliere. They are still recovering. Not to mention they are plagued by the constant rats, Sammy Gravano and Michael DiLeonardo, who frequently appear to testify in mob trails. The Colombo family faces similar problems. Their street boss Tommy “Tommy Shots” Gioeli was charged with murder in 2008. The Banannos’ street boss was deported in earlier 2009.
The Luchese family might be the worst off though. First, the family is small, with only about 100 members. Second, their underboss, Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso, went on a “paranoid killing spree within the family,” according to an article in the New York Post. Needless to say, the Lusheses aren’t quite what they used to be.
The Genovese Family seems to be the only one keeping its head above the water, although it’s yet to be seen how a botched jewel heist in 2009 in Staten Island will affect their standing. NYC law enforcement officials told the Post that the Genovese family is not only the biggest but also the baddest of the Five Families. Officials believe the Genoveses success lies in their secrecy; their guys almost never turn into narks and they maintain a balanced governing system. Instead of the usual boss hierarchy, it is believed the Genoveses have a board of elder statesmen that govern the family and keep ridiculously low profiles. Most likely these statesmen are thought to be Liborio “Barney” Bellomo, Ernest “Ernie” Muscarella, Dominick “Quiet Dom” Cirillo, Tino Fiumara and Lawrence “Little Larry” Dentico. It’s not clear if anyone of them holds more power than the others.
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