Throughout history, crime has existed in many different forms and has been
committed by not only individuals, but by groups as well. Crime is something
that knows no boundaries; it exists in all cultures, is committed by all races,
and has existed in all time periods. Crime exists as a part of the economic
institution and is a lifestyle for many people. Crime also exists in both
organized and un organized forms. Since the early 1900's, "organized"
crime has existed in the United States. The following will show where, when, and
why the Mafia came to the United States, who organized it in the United States,
and how it differed from its origins in the European mafia. In the ninth
century, Arab forces occupied Sicily. The native Sicilians were oppressed and
took refuge in the surrounding hills. The Sicilians formed a secret society to
unite the natives against the Arab and Norman invaders. This secret society was
called Mafia after the Arabic word for refuge. The society's intentions were to
create a sense of family based on ancestry and Sicilian heritage. In the 1700's,
pictures of a black hand were distributed to the wealthy. This was an unspoken
request for an amount of money in return for protection. If the money was not
paid, the recipients could expect violence such as kidnappings, bombings, and
murder. By the nineteenth century, this society grew larger and more criminally
oriented. In 1876, Mafia Don Rafael Palizzolo, ran for political office in
Sicily. He forced the voters to vote for him under gunpoint. After being elected
into office, he promoted Mafia Don Crispi as Prime Minister. Together the two
put Sicily under government control and funneled government funds to the society
known as the Mafia. In the 1800's, New Orleans was the largest Mafia site in the
United States. It was while investigating the murder of an Italian immigrant
that the current Police Chief, David Hennessey discovered the existence of this
secret society. Police Chief Hennessey was assassinated before this murder case
could go to trial. Twelve men were charged with this assassination but were
lynched by a newly formed vigilante group. The Italian Ambassador demanded that
the vigilantes be tried. President Harrison who disproved of the vigilantes and
gave a large cash settlement to the families of the lynched men. This was a
widely publicized case because of its' foreign ramifications and the involvement
of the President of the United States. Don Vito, Vito Cascio Ferro, was the
first Sicilian Capo de Tutti Capi. He fled to the United States in 1901 to
escape arrest and formed a group of the Black Hand. Its' members were hardened
criminals currently fugitives from Sicily. He is known as the Father of the
American Mafia. In 1924, Mussolini was determined to rid Italy of the Mafia so
many members fled to the United States to avoid persecution. This increased the
numbers of members in the organization. These fleeing Italians were well aware
there was money to be made in the United States through extortion, prostitution,
gambling and bootlegging. Every large city soon had its own Mafia chapter.
Prohibition which was a legal ban on the manufacturer and sale of intoxicating
drinks generated a wave of illegal activity since there was big money to be
made. During this time, gangsters openly flaunted their wealth and power. This
period established many young men as leaders in the New Age American Mafia.
Luciano, born in 1897 in Sicily, came to New York in 1906. He trained in the
Five Points Gang, a Mafia crew, under John Torrio. In this gang, he became
friends with Al Capone and other prominent gangsters. Luciano started his own
prostitution racket in the early 1920's and was in total control of prostitution
in Manhattan by 1925. In 1929 he was kidnapped, beaten and stabbed severally
with an icepick. He miraculously survived but maintained "omerta",
which is a vow never to reveal any Mafia secrets or members under penalty of
death or torture. By 1935, Luciano was known as The Boss of Bosses. He had
previously established Murder Inc. with Bugsy Siegel and Myer Lansky, two other
well known gangsters. Luciano's wide spread criminal activities led to his being
investigated by District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey. He was eventually sentenced
to thirty to fifty years for extortion and prostitution. Luciano was considered
to be a powerful Mafia member with strong ties to Sicily. After his conviction,
the United States government approached him with a deal. In exchange for his
assistance in the Allied invasion of Sicily, he was offered deportation to Rome.
Luciano contacted his Mafia associates in Italy and the deal was made. Luciano
died of a heart attack in 1962 while meeting an American movie producer to do
his life story.
Lansky was never an initiated member of the Mafia since he was not Italian.
Lansky became a close associate of Luciano after his rise to power and influence
among the Jewish gangsters, known as Myer's mob. His speciality was gambling. He
formed Murder Inc. which was a group of specialized contract killers which was
hired out to other mobs. Lansky was instrumental in working out the deal with
the government for Luciano in the Allied invasion. While Luciano was in jail and
later deported to Italy, he entrusted the running of the crime syndicate to
Lansky. By the 1960's, Lansky's gambling operations extended half way around the
globe with departments all over South America and as far as Hong Kong. In 1970,
the federal government was planning to charge Lansky with tax evasion , so he
fled to Israel. In Tel Aviv, the Israeli government under pressure by the U.S.
revoked his visa and Lansky was forced to stand trial. He avoided conviction
because of his high level government contacts and retired to Miami, Florida and
died in 1983. At the time of his death, his estate was valued at 4 million
Schultz, was another major player in organized crime. He opened a saloon in the
Bronx, New York during prohibition and organized a group of thugs to expand his
bootlegging operations. His empire soon grew to large proportions with many
illegal establishments in the Bronx and Manhattan. During his trial for tax
evasion, many of his rackets were taken over by Luciano, who expected Schultz to
be convicted. Although this prompted him to move his operation to New Jersey,
Schultz was still considered so influential Luciano asked him to be a member of
the Board of Directors of the crime syndicate. The District Attorney of New
York, Thomas E. Dewey was not finished with Schultz though and continued
investigating his activities. Schultz decided it was in his best interest to
eliminate Dewey but the crime syndicate disagreed. They feared the killing of a
District Attorney would only add to their problems but Schultz would not drop
his plan. On the evening of October 23, 1935, while Schultz was informing his
New Jersey associates of his plan, a Murder Inc. hit man assassinated all of
them, Schultz included. He died later that evening in a Newark City hospital.
"Scarface" Capone was another organizer of the early American Mafia.
He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1899. His involvement with organized crime
began when he was eleven years old. As he got older, he graduated to the more
powerful "Five Pointers Gang" where he became acquainted with Luciano.
When Johnny Torrio, the original leader of the "Five Pointers Gang"
moved to Chicago, he invited Capone to be his sidekick. Torrio's uncle,
"Big Jim" Colisimo was the crime boss in Chicago. Trouble between
uncle and nephew started and Capone was hired to kill the uncle leaving Torrio
in charge of all Chicago. In 1925 when Torrio was severally wounded in a shoot
out, he gave Capone his vast business empire, valued at fifty million dollars a
year. During this time, Capone fell out of favor with other Mafia gangsters and
several attempts were made on his life. Capone took revenge by staging the
infamous St. Valentine's Day massacre in which he killed several of his enemies
ending resistance to his continuing business dealings. He was finally sentenced
for tax evasion and spent most of his eleven-year sentence in Alcatraz. In 1939
he was released from prison because he was in the advanced stages of syphilis.
He died of this disease in 1947.
above research has shown that the Mafia has become a wide spread problem. The
Mafia has continued to grow and infest our society from the early 1900's. It
continues to exploit and destroy the honest citizens of our country. Now, these
criminal organizations not only control the adults of our communities but also
have begun, through the sale and distribution of narcotics, to control our
children. Crime organizations must be stopped however this is a difficult task.
They have infiltrated members of our government and law enforcement agencies
with the lure of money. Unfortunately, crime does pay in many instances. It is
up to each of us to not look the other way, but be aware that there are really
no victimless crimes. One way or another, we all pay either by higher taxes or
by a more violent society.