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The Mafia is an organized crime group working in many parts of the world that was created in Italy more than 200 years ago. The mafia makes money from crime. They make billions of dollars a year from such crimes as making and selling illegal drugs, money laundering, from 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. It meant "boldness, ambition, pride", and since none of these were considered appropriate for a woman it is the name of a witch. Many people also believe that Arabic affected the word 'mafia' during the period of Arab control of Sicily, after the fall of the Roman Empire in 846 AD. 'Mahias' is an Arab word meaning 'bold man', and this is believed to be incorporated into the modern term mafia, which also suggests the bold and argumentative nature of its constituents.

Rules[change | change source]

A boss in the Sicilian mafia had a list of ten rules.[1] These rules 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]

The Mafia in Italy[change | change source]

The mafia in Italy have been around for hundreds of years. They work in the areas of Calabria, Sicily, Naples and Apulia which are all areas in the South of Italy.

  • Sicily - The mafia in Italy was started in the island of Sicily. The mafia is still around here and they make a great deal of money. Selling drugs is frowned upon within the Mafia or La Cosa Nostra as being convicted of the intent to sell is a high prison sentence which will increase the risk of a member of the Mafia/Cosa Nostra to turn a 'rat.'
  • Calabria - The Calabrian mafia (really called the 'Ndrangheta ) are another mafia group in Italy. They also make profit from illegal drugs, and are now the richest Italian mafia group.
  • Naples - The mafia in Naples is called the Camorra. They are not as well known than the mafia in Sicily and Calabria, but have killed more people, as rival Camorra groups often fight each other.
  • Apulia - The mafia in Apulia is called the Sacra Corona Unita (meaning the "United Sacred Crown"). This group is not as old as the other Italian mafia groups. Little is known about this group but it is believed that they make money from prostitution.
  • Veneto - The mafia in Veneto was called Mala del Brenta (meaning "Brenta's bad thing").

This group was founded by Felice Maniero, but has now been dismantled.

The Italian Mafia in America[change | change source]

The Italian-American mafia began at the time when many Italians moved to the United States in the 1800s. The first Italian mafia was in New Orleans in Louisiana but soon they were in many cities across the country. The Italian mafia in the United States is actually called La Cosa Nostra which in Italian language means "This thing of ours" or "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. They are called:

  • 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. These include 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. Here are some:

  • The Yakuza - The Yakuza is the name given to the organized crime group in Japan. They make money from prostitution and drugs. Currently The Yakusa is not as big as a threat as it once was (1980)
  • The Triads - The Triads is a name given to all the organized crime groups in China. Because there are so many of these organized crime groups in China we give them one name, the "Triads". The Triads are not just from China but many countries in South East Asia. Another name for these groups is "Tongs".
  • Latin American Drug Cartels - In Latin America the largest crime groups are called 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, part of North America, and Colombia in the north of South America; this is where most of the drugs are produced and then smuggled north into the United States.

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

Hierarchy[change | change source]

Just like in a company, where people have a boss and workers, the Italian-American mafia, or La Cosa Nostra (LCN), has a hierarchy. Everyone has a job to do. Some people are bosses and some are workers. However you can always work your way up the ladder of power, and respect. Below is the hierarchy of an American mafia family.

  1. The Boss of the family. 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 who his underboss is. A family will usually have only one underboss.
  3. The Consigliere. 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 the Mafia in New York[change | change source]

The mafia in New York began when thousands of Italians moved there in the late 1800s and early 1900s to find a better life. At this time many Irish and Germans also moved to the US for the same reasons. Many of these people set up businesses or worked for businesses that were already there. Most earned very little money and some, who were tired of being poor, decided to earn money from crime, which was easier than earning money by working. There were many Irish and Italian criminal groups in the city who would steal, extort and murder for money. These groups were known all-together as "the Black Hand" but they did not actually work as one group called "the Black Hand"; there were many groups and they each worked on their own and the term "Black Hand" actually was the name of what these gangs did (extortion), not their names.

Prohibition, unification and the 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 sell liquor (which is also illegal) and made millions of dollars from this because they were the only ones who had liquor and so could sell it at extremely high prices. Around this time the gangs in New York became one large gang (the Mafia) as leaders of the gangs realized that more money could be made if all the gangs worked together. A man named Giuseppe Masseria and a man named Salvatore Maranzano both 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. Giuseppe Masseria's underboss was a man named Lucky Luciano who also wanted to control the New York mafia. He met with Masseria's enemy Salvatore Maranzano and plotted to kill Masseria, his 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 - this was also the end of the "Castellammarese War". With the death of Masseria, Maranzano appointed himself the boss of the New York Mafia, in Italian language called the "Capo di tutti Capi" meaning "Boss of all Bosses". He called a meeting with the other "mafiosi" (plural: Italian language 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 5 families and appointed bosses of each family: "Lucky" Luciano, Joseph Bonanno, Joseph Profaci, Vincent Mangano and Thomas Gagliano - himself as the boss of these bosses.
  • He made it so that no members could kill without reason or talk to anyone outside of the mafia about the mafia.
Meyer Lansky

The bosses of the five families, particularly Luciano, began to grow tired of Maranzano's arrogance and the way he ran the mafia. Maranzano realized this and planned to have Luciano and his "consigliere" and "underboss", Vito Genovese and Frank Costello, as well as others, killed. 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 in the way Maranzano was; 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 Joseph Bonanno was the boss for a very long time.

The Five Families over the years[change | change source]

A chart of the bosses of the five families of New York since the "Castellammarese War" would look like this:

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 - though 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 - though 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 - though 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 - though 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 - though not necessarily as bosses. More recently the leaders of the family have been Louis Diadone, Aniello Migliore, Nick Beale and Leo Madden - Leo and Nick were bosses.)

(Note: These dates may not be correct)

The Mafia 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.

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.