Origin of the Mafia in Sicily
The Mafia is an Italian secret crime society that began its activities way back before automatic weapons and narcotics were even known. At first, mafia began as a way of life for people who were keen on protecting their kin from the injustices of the government. Gradually however, the gang grew to be more than just a protective group. This was propelled by the attention they received from the media, especially when several movies were shot about the gang. Currently, it has taken on a glamorous air, and while they originally came from Sicily, there are mafia families across the globe.
The mafia origin can be traced to the history of Sicily. Being a geographically placed city, Sicily has played a pivotal role in trade for years. It has been the gateway to Africa through the Mediterranean Sea in the years past till now. It therefore acts as a connecting point for Europe and North Africa as well as the Adriatic. In 241 BC, a war broke out between Rome and Carthage, the bone of contention being the sovereignty of Sicily. Since this Island was commanding communication as well as naval trade in the Mediterranean, the war was a monopoly battle. The Romans emerged victors and a treaty was signed. The Romans were to have full control of Sicily.
There were various wars and conquests that continued in the Island for years. Each government that took over had its rules that mostly angered the inhabitants of Sicily. Sicily had a long string of inept governments that worked towards enriching themselves while not taking into consideration the welfare of the citizens. This led to the formation of a bigger gang that spread not only in Italy but even to the US. Their main aim was to get opportunities for crime, racketeering and fraud. At first, they focused their attention on protecting their wealth. With time however, they began gambling, prostitution and bootlegging. From their activities, they became enormously wealthy, and they have maintained their wealth to date.
Infamous Mafia Figures
The FBI launched a manhunt for the mafia bosses. 110 of them were arrested while 127 were charged with various crimes across Italy and the US. The crimes included murder, extortion, racketeering among other crimes. Some of the gang members were charged with crimes committed up to 30 years ago. The most notorious of the group include;
The man was the mastermind of organized crime. He is the one who built the new mafia model which turned petty criminal activities into operating enterprises that turned in huge profits. He set up various shops with the help of Meyer Lansky. In 1946, he was deported to Italy before moving to Cuba a year later. He died in 1962.
His name has been in the news several times. He is one man who evaded justice for long because the authorities could not touch him. He was the head of an Italian American empire based in Chicago known as the Outfit. His crimes included prostitution, gambling, narcotics trafficking and bootlegging. His notoriety was when he got involved in St. Valentine’s Day massacre in which seven high ranking members were shot dead. Of course during the time for the murders he was on a vacation, but his hands could not be distanced from the crime scene. He was finally arrested for tax evasion which saw him serve seven years behind bars.
He was considered as one of Hollywood style monsters who would be arraigned in court but walk out a free man. The FBI embarked on a mission to find something that could get him charged. He was finally arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1992. He succumbed to cancer ten years later.
Through his criminal activities, this man was able to live until he was 86 years old. It is thought that he could be the gun-man in St. Valentine’s Day massacres in 1929. He controlled ‘The Outfit’ for several decades. He was also arrested on several occasions, though he was never sent to prison for any charges labeled against him.
He is remembered for this statement in 1993; ”Gentleman, you are making a very big mistake”, during his arrest over a series of crimes. During the climb to the top as a leader of the gang, it is claimed he was involved in more than 100 murders. He was a hit-man who after an acquittal of numerous cases, went into hiding in 1969. Despite his break from top activities, he still orchestrated murders and other crimes that finally led to his life imprisonment.
Primary criminal activities of the mafia
Each mafia family was well organized and headed by a ‘boss’ whose rule was unquestionable. The agreement was that the boss received a percentage of loot that a member of the family brought in. There was the second in command who was referred to as an ‘underboss’. Below him were captains or capos who had ten soldiers assigned under them. Each of the solders was required to be inducted into the group through an initiation ceremony that involved pricking of the finger to draw blood and hold a picture of a patron saint while taking a binding oath. Each family had an adviser also known as an ‘ombudsman’. The bottom of the chain consisted of associates who had business deals or worked for the families but were not sworn life members.
Before being initiated to be an official, one was required to commit a murder. To be a lifetime member, one had to swear allegiance to the gang and be willing to obey omerta; the code of loyalty and silence. There were also other rules to be followed by the mafiosi. They included; not assaulting each other, not having love affairs with each other’s lovers or spouses.
When the prohibition bill of 1933 was repealed, the mafia moved from bootlegging and began other illegal activities of the underworld. Some of them included illegal gambling, prostitution and loan sharking. It got involved into labor unions as well as legal businesses like garbage collection, operating hotels and restaurants, trucking and construction. It also began huge businesses in New York dealing in fashions. Through these activities, they got enormous profits that were used to bribe authorities so that they could trade freely. Their tentacles became so wide that they could even bribe court officials to throw away their cases.
History of the mafia in the USA
While the mafia groups began in Italy, they spread to the other parts of the world including the United States. The American Mafia rose to power in 1920 in a separate entity from the Sicilian (Italian) mafia. This happened during the prohibition era after the success of the Italian American gangs that were into the booming bootleg liquor business. By the 1950’s the organization had spread its wings to become an organized crime network that was involved in a series of underworld activities. They actively took roles in construction and garment industries, labor unions, loan sharking, prostitution, drug trafficking and a chain of other criminal activities.
Like the Sicilian Mafia, the American Mafia maintained their code of secrecy, leading to their success. They were able to bribe the authorities, juries and witnesses. They also knew how to intimidate public officials, business leaders and anyone who stood on their way. This rendered the law enforcement agencies incapable of stopping their activities during the better part of the 20th century. However, in the 80s and 90s, American and Italian prosecutors began employing tough laws on anti-racketeering to convict top ranking gang officials. The biggest blow came when some sworn members began testifying against their fellows to save their skin, thereby breaking the code of conduct set by them.
There were numerous arrests in the 20th century. Most high-ranking officials were thrown behind bars over the decades. Most of the gang members have died, but the gang still lives on. It is not as strong as it used to be, but it exists till today.
The Five Families in New York
There are five major Italian American mafia crime families that have dominated New York City. In the 1930s the modern day structure of the mafia was created to bring peace after the brutal Castellammarese War. New York was split into five separate families each with there own territory. The five families were under the supervision of Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky. They created the Commission. The Commission was a Mafia council headed by the bosses of the Five Families responsible for demarcating the territory between the previously warring factions of the Maranzano and Masseria Families. To date, they remain the powerhouse of the Italian Mafia in the US.
This mafia group operates in Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn and New Jersey. The family has also maintained influence in Westchester County, Staten Island, Long Island, Connecticut, Rockland County, Massachusetts and Florida. They are divided into village crews namely; 116th Street crew that operates in Upper Manhattan and Bronx, Greenwich Village crew that operates in Greenwich Village of lower Manhattan, and finally, there is Genovese crime family New Jersey that operates in the whole of New Jersey.
This family operates mainly around Manhattan and New Jersey, though it has also spread its tentacles in Brooklyn, Bronx, Long Island, Westchester County, Los Angeles, Connecticut, Florida and Staten Island. This group has two crews namely; The Ozone Park Boys who operate in Queens and Long Island areas, as well as DeMeo crew that is based in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
This gang operates around Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn and New Jersey. It has still managed to maintain influence in Long Island, Staten Island, Florida and Westchester County. It has crews namely; Cutaia Crew that operates in Queens, Long Island and New Jersey, and The Tanglewood Boys who are mainly a recruitment gang that operates around Manhattan and Bronx. There is also the Jersey Crew that is found all over New Jersey.
The Colombo Crime Family
This gang operates mainly in Brooklyn, Long Island and Queens. It has maintained influence in New Jersey, Manhattan, Bronx and Florida. It has one crew known as Garfield boys who operate in the South Brooklyn area.
Bonanno Crime Family
This group operates in Brooklyn and Queens. It has maintained influence in Manhattan, Bronx, New Jersey, Florida and Quebec in Canada. It has one crew namely; The Motion Lounge Crew that is based in Brooklyn and Long Island.