From Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The mafia is one of many organized crime groups working in many parts of the world. The most famous one was created in Italy more than 200 years ago. The mafia groups makesl billions of dollars a year from such crimes as making and selling illegal drugs, money laundering, stealing, gambling, and prostitution.

Etymology[change | change source]

The first written use of the word mafia has it being said on a list of rebels against the Catholic Church and meant "boldness, ambition, pride." Since none of those traits was considered to be appropriate for a woman, it became the name of a witch.

Many people also believe that Arabic affected the word mafia during the period of the Arabs' control of Sicily in 846 AD, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Mahias is an Arabic word meaning "bold man" and is believed to be incorporated into the modern term "mafia." It also suggests the bold and arguing nature of its members.

Rules[change | change source]

A boss in the Sicilian mafia had a list of ten rules,[1] which have been called the mafia's Ten Commandments.[1][2]

  1. No one can present himself directly to another of our friends. There must be a third person to do it.
  2. Never look at the wives of friends.
  3. Never be seen with cops.
  4. Don't go to pubs and clubs.
  5. Always being ready for Cosa Nostra is a duty - even if your wife's about to give birth.
  6. Superiors must absolutely be respected.
  7. Wives must be treated with respect.
  8. When asked for any information, the answer must be the truth.
  9. Money cannot be taken if it belongs to others or other mafia gangs
  10. People who can't be part of mafia: anyone who has close family in the police, anyone with a two-timing relative in the family, anyone who behaves badly and doesn't hold to moral values.

Different groups[change | change source]

In Italy[change | change source]

The mafia in Italy has been around for hundreds of years in the areas of Calabria, Sicily, Naples and Apulia, all in southern Italy.

  • Sicily - The mafia in Italy was started in the island of Sicily. The mafia is still around here and they makes a great deal of money. Selling drugs is frowned upon within the Mafia or La Cosa Nostra, as being convicted of the intent of selling can cause a high prison sentence, which increases the risk of a member of the Mafia/Cosa Nostra becoming a "rat," or betraying other members.
  • Calabria - The Calabrian mafia (really called the 'Ndrangheta ) are another mafia group in Italy. It also makes profit from illegal drugs, and is now the richest Italian mafia group.
  • Naples - The mafia in Naples is called the Camorra. It is not as well known than the mafia in Sicily and Calabria but has killed more people, as rival Camorra groups often fight one another.
  • Apulia - The mafia in Apulia is called the Sacra Corona Unita (meaning the "United Sacred Crown"). It is not as old as the other Italian mafia groups. Little is known about this group, but it is believed that it makes money from prostitution.
  • Veneto - The mafia in Veneto was called Mala del Brenta (meaning "Brenta's bad thing"). The group was founded by Felice Maniero but has now been dismantled.

In America[change | change source]

The Italian-American mafia began at the time when many Italians moved to the United States in the 19th century. The first Italian mafia was in New Orleans in Louisiana but soon was in many cities across the country. The Italian mafia in the United States is actually called La Cosa Nostra, which in Italian means "our thing." The American mafia is divided into different groups, or "families."

New York Mafia boss Vito Genovese

Many large cities have only one Italian-American mafia family, but some larger cities like New York City have more.

New York City has five Italian mafia families:

  • The Bonanno crime family
  • The Colombo crime family
  • The Gambino crime family
  • The Genovese crime family
  • The Lucchese crime family

Many other American cities have Italian mafia families like in Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Los Angeles

Mafia groups in other countries[change | change source]

There are many other groups like the Italian mafia all over the world like these:

  • The Yakuza - The Yakuza is the name given to organized crime groups in Japan. They make money from prostitution and drugs. Currentl, the Yakuza is not as big as a threat as in its peak around 1980.
  • The Triads - The Triads is a name given to all organized crime groups in China. Because there are so many of them, they are called the Triads. They are not just from China but many countries in Southeast Asia. Another name for the groups is the "Tongs."
  • Latin American Drug Cartels - In Latin America, the largest crime groups are drug cartels. They compete for control of the drug trade, which makes them huge amounts of money. The drugs produced in South America are marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. The main drug cartels are in Mexico, in North America, and Colombia, in South America. Most of the drugs are produced there and then smuggled north into the United States.

There are other groups as well, like the mafia groups in Russia that make money from drugs and weapons. All of those groups operate in the United States, Canada, Australia, England and other Western countries and cause many problems in both those countries and their own.

Hierarchy[change | change source]

Just like in a company, where people have a boss and workers, the Italian-American mafia, which calls itself La Cosa Nostra (LCN, meaning "our thing" in Italian), has a hierarchy. Everyone has a job to do. Some people are bosses and some are workers. However, some members work their way up the ladder of power and get respect. Here is the hierarchy of an American mafia family:

  1. The boss. He controls everything that goes on in the mafia family. Every worker and lower ranking boss (see below; Caporegimes) works for him. It is the boss who decides if someone should be killed or if someone should be initiated (see below; Becoming a member). The boss gets money from all of his workers and therefore is usually the richest person in the family.
  2. The underboss. The underboss is the person who actually runs the family. He is boss over all the other members except the actual boss. He will often become the boss of the family if something happens to the boss. The boss will choose his underboss. A family will usually have only one underboss.
  3. The consigliere. The consigliere is an Italian term, meaning someone who gives advice. The consigliere in a mafia family is the "right hand man" to the boss. It is his job to help the boss make important decisions. The consigliere is as important as the underboss but is not the boss of anyone in the family. A family will usually have only one consigliere. Acts as a middle man in personal vendettas. His role is to make impartial decisions for the family's benefit.
  4. Caporegimes. The next position of the family is caporegime (or captain), often shortened to "capo." Families will have differing numbers of capos. A caporegime is in charge of a group of workers (see below; Soldiers). The underboss of the family is in charge of the capos. The job of the caporegime is to collect money from the workers to give to the boss, underboss and consigliere as well as keeping money for himself. A family can have anywhere from 2 to 20 capos.
  5. Soldiers. The workers of a family are called "soldiers" or in Italian soldati. Their job is to earn money to give to their captain (caporegime). They will do any job asked of them by their captain or the boss or underboss. A family can have anywhere from 10 to 1000 soldiers.

Each family will have a number of associates. These are people that work with them or for them but are not official members. (see below; becoming a member)

History of Five Families of New York[change | change source]

The mafia in New York began when thousands of Italians moved there in the late 19th century and the early 20th century to find a better life. Many Irish and Germans also moved there for the same reasons. Many of those people set up a business or worked for businesses that were already there. Most earned very little money, and some of them, who were tired of being poor, decided to earn money from crime so that they could make more than by working.

There were many Irish and Italian criminal groups in the city who would steal, extort, and murder for money. The groups were known all-together as "Black Hand" but did not actually work as one group. There were many groups, and each worked on its own. The term "Black Hand" actually was the name of what the gangs did (extortion), not theirs.

Prohibition, unification, and Castellammarese War[change | change source]

In 1920 alcohol (or liquor) was made illegal in the US, and the gangs had a new way to make money. They brought in illegal liquor from Canada and sold it in clubs. They bribed police into letting them illegally sell liquor and made millions of dollars from that because they were the only ones who had liquor and so they could sell it at extremely high prices.

Around then, several gangs in New York became one large gang, the Mafia, as their leaders realized that more money could be made if the gangs worked together. Giuseppe Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano were two men who wanted to become the boss of the newly made New York mafia. Fighting, known as the "Castellammarese War" broke out between the two men, and many of their soldiers were killed. Masseria's underboss was Lucky Luciano, a man who also wanted to control the New York Mafia. He met with Masseria's enemy Salvatore Maranzano and plotted to kill Masseria, Luuciano's own boss.

Masseria was shot to death in a restaurant in New York by Maranzano's soldiers; one of them was Vito Genovese, a man who would later become boss. That was also the end of the "Castellammarese War." With the death of Masseria, Maranzano appointed himself the boss of the New York Mafia, who was called in Italian the Capo di tutti Capi, meaning "Boss of all Bosses." He called a meeting with the other "mafiosi" (Italian for Mafia members) from all over the US and made the rules that are still used today.

  • Maranzano united the Italian gangs of New York into one gang, known as the Mafia or La Cosa Nostra.
  • He then divided the gang into five families and appointed bosses of each family: "Lucky" Luciano, Joseph Bonanno, Joseph Profaci, Vincent Mangano and Thomas Gagliano, with himself as the boss of thesose bosses.
  • He made it so that no members could kill without reason or talk to anyone outside of the mafia about it.
Meyer Lansky

The bosses of the five families, particularly Luciano, began to grow tired of Maranzano's arrogance and how he ran the mafia. Maranzano realized that and planned to have Luciano and his "consigliere" and "underboss", Vito Genovese and Frank Costello, killed, as well as others,. Maranzano did not act quickly enough and was killed by men dressed as police officers on the orders of Luciano and his friend, a Jewish gangster from Florida named Meyer Lansky. Luciano then became the head of the New York mafia but not how Maranzano had been. He helped the five families run their business but he did not control them or call himself the "boss of bosses". The five families were kept.

The Profaci family (named after the first boss Joseph Profaci) went on to become named the Colombo crime family after a later boss, Joseph Colombo. The Mangano family (named after the first boss Vincent Mangano) went on to become named the Gambino crime family after a later boss, Carlo Gambino. The Gagliano family (named after the first boss Thomas Gagliano) went on to become named the Lucchese crime family after a later boss, Gaetano Lucchese.

Joseph Colombo

Frank Costello became the boss of Luciano's old family, which later went on to become named the Genovese crime family after Vito Genovese became the boss and tried to kill Frank Costello. The Bonanno family (named after the first boss, Joseph Bonanno) kept its name as he was the boss for a very long time.

Five Families over the years[change | change source]

This chart shows the bosses of the five families of New York since the "Castellammarese War:"

Bonanno crime family

lucy reed (Note: in more recent years Vincent Basciano, Salvatore Montagna, Anthony Graziano, Anthony Rabito, Michael Mancuso, Anthony Urso and Alphonse Bonanno have run the family but not necessarily as bosses.)

Colombo crime family

(Note: in more recent years the leaders of the Colombo crime family have been Carmine Persico, Andrew Russo, Alphonse Persico, Jr., Joel Cacace, Thomas Gioeli, John Franzese, Vincent Aloi and Paul Bevacqua but not necessarily as bosses.)

Gambino crime family

(Note: in more recent years the leaders of the Gambino crime family have been Peter Gotti, Arnold Squitieri, Anthony Megale, John D'Amico, Domenico Cefalu, Joseph Corozzo and Nicholas Corozzo but not necessarily as bosses.)

Genovese crime family

(Note: in more recent years the leaders of the Genovese crime family have been Liborio Bellomo, Dominick Cirillo, Matthew Ianiello, Frank Serpico, Ernest Muscarella, Mario Gigante and Daniel Leo but not necessarily as bosses.)

Lucchese crime family

(Note: during the 1990s the leaders of the Lucchese crime family were Vittorio Amuso, Anthony Casso, Alphonse D'Arco, Salvatore Avellino, Anthony Baratta, Domenico Cutaia, Frank Lasterino and Joseph Defede but not necessarily as bosses. More recently the leaders of the family have been Louis Diadone, Aniello Migliore, Nick Beale and Leo Madden, and Leo and Nick were bosses.)

(Note: these dates may not be correct.)

In movies[change | change source]

Many movies have been made about the mafia, particularly the American Mafia. Here are some of the most popular movies about American gangsters.l:

The television series The Sopranos is about the mafia in New Jersey and stars James Gandolfini, Steve Van Zandt, Tony Sirico, Michael Imperioli, Vincent Pastore, David Proval and Joe Pantoliano among others.

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Mafia's 'Ten Commandments' found". BBC News. 9 November 2007. Retrieved 19 July 2019.
  2. "Revealed: Ten Commandments of the Mafia". The Daily Telegraph. 7 November 2007. Retrieved 19 July 2019.