Why Italian Mafiosi Bring Violence to a Deeper Level

And another dialogue from Mr. DeLucca, our foreign correspondent, in which he describes why the Italians tend to take violence to a far deeper level than is known to happen in the U.S. Is he writing fact or fiction? You decide...

Antonio Bardellino, first Casalesi boss.

An anonymous comment in my previous article questioned me about Roberto Saviano. Saviano is the infamous Italian journalist who revealed a lot about the power dynamics and economic capabilities of the Camorra. And, in particular, of the Casalesi Clan.

Anyway, in the book, camorristi are presented as brutal, blood-lovers, savage animals who would not have any old-fashioned Christian consideration for the life of women, children, senior citizens and pets. The anonymous reader of the blog asked me "what did I think about that?"

Well... honestly, our anonymous friend is on to something...

Roy DeMeo ran a workhorse
crew for the Gambino family.
Before I give my opinion I want to make clear that I don't try to judge or criticize anyone. I have no beef with Italian-Americans and America´s LCN. I'm Italian, so I won't attack my cousins. I´m just trying have an open dialogue from the perception of an Italian, born and raised in Naples, about the mafia in America.

That said, my opinion is that, in some ways, America's LCN has an element of glamour, or mystique, that other Italian criminal groups do not have. That element makes a big difference because it creates the perception that certain things are expected. Like, for example, the rule of not having facial hair for both associates and made members. I don't understand that. Many Sicilians I know, many camorristi and I myself have full black beards. Not a major thing, but a good example of what I am referring to.

Another issue: Believing that certain things are beneath you, or that they are behaviour that is out of bounds. I am speaking here specifically of violence.

And here's the main point of my article: The power of a criminal organization is measure by the strength, power, capacity and willingness of its workhorse-crews to do whatever is necessary.

Reading this blog, I have learned a lot about Roy DeMeo. As I understand it, he was an Angel of Death among American goodfellas. But to me,  he sounds like just a regular, typical member of a criminal gang.  The "brutal things" DeMeo did are "the rule," and not the exception, where I come from.

I recall a time when certain camorristi in the Avellino area had to kill some young men. I won't mention ages, but if you read Saviano's book you will have the idea. These younger members were a burden on the clan, stupid junkies.

Tommy Karate Pitera was considered a workhorse for the Bonanno family.
Another case I can recall: one member had to kill his wife... or so I'd heard. This was because the woman, under the influence of alcohol, insulted the boss of the clan. The boss demanded that the ritual be carried out in a certain way -- in a symbolic manner to represent the vendetta.  In Italy it is not enough to put two behind the ear, as they like to say in America. In Italy, how a hit is complete, what happens to the body afterward -- all these things send a message -- and sending messages is important; it keeps things stable. Both insiders and outsiders no that this is a serious business -- a deadly serious business. No one is kidding in this life.

I can only imagine what would happen if they tried to create a show like Mob Wives in Naples; silicone would be sprayed all over the place.

Strong work-horse crews are necessary -- these are the ones with the stomach to do what must sometimes be done, and in the manner in which it must be done.

Greg "The Grim Reaper" Scarpa was one
of the Persico faction's key shooters during
the Colombo war of the early 1990s.
I recall how one a time a certain rival clan started to move heroin and cocaíne with some Mexicans who were from, I believe, the Sinaloa Cartel but I'm not sure. The problem was that this the men in the cartel were like mad dogs and we knew that eventually they would start to move in to our territory. When they started to cross the rubicon, we knew some things:

They were good with an AK-47, but so were we. (If you have never shot an AK-47, you are missing a great and powerful experience.)

Also it was said that these guys were willing to kill anybody, including their mother...but so did we. (Again, "we" refers to some members of the clan.)

It was said that some of these people were actually former military and had received U.S. training to fight the cartels -- only they later joined the cartels and also formed some new ones. We could make no such claim, but we did have the best: We on the other side have always fought for our land.

On top of that, many clans came together, forming  a group of 150 guys who were armed with AK-47s and M16s. They spoke with the Mexicans (30 of them) about certain issues involving territory. It is true we had larger numbers -- but backing that was the willingness of the camorristi to do anything to defend what is theirs, no matter what it takes, no matter what the boss asks of you.

A couple of years later I was in Sao Paulo trying to move in with some clan brothers and we encountered other Cartel people. Then, it was us who were short on manpower. We still had weapons -- and we had a meeting. We were ready to shoot every cocksucker there. How did the meeting end? Who can say...

Camorra violence in Italy.

 I always ask myself if the story with the Albanians in the gas station could have gone wrong. What would have had to happen? When your life then becomes a constant war, you carry the machine gun with you all day, drive around in your car all day long hunting the motherfuckers one by one until you and your crews are done with your rivals. Every day is war, every day you come face to face with your own death.  But in Naples we know that, and we uphold the rules. We run a tight ship.
Heading toward Casalesi, Italy.
Camorristi, mafiosi or American Goodfellas -- we have something in common, if I remember correctly: Our true nation, our true family, our true everything is that thing to which we belong. So nothing is more important than this thing of ours -- this cosa nostra, as you call it in America, or LCN.

Back in Naples and Sicily,  that stills mean something.
*                  *               *            *                *         *

On a completely different topic, I'm glad to see an Italian Pope once again. I mean, it is true that he is the son of Italians born in Argentina -- but 6 out of 10 people in Buenos Aires are of Italian origin. The new Pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, speaks in perfect Italian. I don't know about some of you, but I feel proud that an Italian entity that is the oldest political organization still alive is run by an Italian once again.

Viva la Italia.


  1. The thing that is overlooked about American organized crime is that since it does not have the same history ingrained in it like in Sicily and Southern Italy it is a reflection of the greater American society. Without deep history it changes with everyone else. If you look at how feminized our society has become here, you will understand how weak the mob has become; it's really on it's deathbed here. If you look, for example, at the rough years in and following the Great Depression, in the heyday of the mob, you will find many Italian-American prizefighters battling their way out of poverty. Graziano, Marciano, etc. Even Chin Gigante fought club fights. Can you name Italian-American boxers today? Financial success destroyed the toughness of future generations. Conditions breed toughness, and as mob guys got rich they left the ghetto neighborhoods like Harlem, Little Italy, and Red Hook for suburbs, where they raised spoiled brats instead of toughguys.

    As far as the facial hair, that goes back to the time Lucky Luciano et al killed off the "Moustachioes" to form a new modern mob. Facial hair became a symbol of those old timers they despised and overthrew. New generation didn't want to look like the old one. Nothing more.

    Like your insight from the other side. Keep up the good work.

  2. I agree. And I did not want to be more explicit in the article because I don´t want offend nobody. But, the mafia has become soft in the US because is more American. The Americanization of the Mafia, in particular the culture of individualism has infected its members: so you tend you think less in terms of the ´we´.

    Also, is no longer a form o resistance as in Italy, where every mafia is a parallel government and you simply don´t care about what the national government does of what the local culture expects you to do. Is like, since American culture is so ´civil´, then the mafia has to become a ´civil society in itself´ where you can grow a personal conscience once in while. Eventually, everybody sees the light at the end of the tunnel and you have a battalion of ´rats´.

    The mafia in the US in its deathbed? You couldn´t said it better. I have seen most the documentaries and read good number of books about the new generation: The case of Philadelphia, John Gotti Jr... this are kids, soft-American kids that think you are in a movie or in a frat house. Kids like the ones in Jersey Shore or in any MTV show are the material to recruit? How can you teach them to keep it quiet, to respect ´elders´, not to bring attention, to be loyal...... If you add the drug culture, then... well.... Who can you trust?

    I don´t know if in order to survive, young members should be send to the Old Country and make sure they toughen up. Or should guys ´import´ material from the mezzogiorno.

    Before I got my button, I had to do lots of things, -not only money- and spending time in jail was a requirement. That does not assure you would not have green apples but things are more predictable.

    Here´s my point: You would be so involved with us that, there is simply no way out. Because ´the way out´ means that everything around you will be slaughter, either now or in the future......... but it will. I don´t understand how former pentiti have leave the witness protection program, they appear in TV shows all over, they go to book festivals and.... nothing happens. I don´t suggest killing a former FBI agent for doing the job or pentiti under protection. But rats without protection playing to be Hollywood stars? Walking happy in the street?

    No good... no good. Where is the fear? Where is the power? No good....

  3. I agree with the both of you but I would like to add, the two big issues that have brought the American Mafia to its knees are kind of related to each other. Number one was the implementation of the RICO statute and number two was using drugs... once members began using drugs they lost their ability to remain strong and silent. If they were arrested, they (in most cases) would begin to cooperate because they would begin withdrawal while in custody. When they begin cooperating and police start charging people under the RICO statute, high ranking members suddenly became vulnerable to very long prison sentences. That had a domino effect. Absence of leadership and members meant they had to promote people who should not have been promoted and also recruiting new members that should not be recruited. That is only 2 of many issues facing the Mafia. The feminization of American culture also means that the likelihood of any new member being able to withstand a police interrogation is very small, thus the Mafia is now in the bad position it is in. I think the Mafia in America is on the decline and will never had the power it used to. I don't mean that as disrespect but the fact is, the traditions it was founded on mean nothing to the selfish new recruit who is only thinking of himself and not for the greater good. "A house divided with itself cannot stand". It is sad because in my view, the power they used to have was awe inspiring.

    1. I don't believe law enforcement, RICO or otherwise, was the mob's deathknell. I think moving out of the ghettos we older guys grew up in weakened younger generations. I could have named guys who I owed my life and freedom to, as some could have of me. We'd shared a lot and could never think of ratting any of us out. The newer generations grew up where the only thing they needed to survive were their mothers. Every time I entered a jail or prison I reminded myself that it wasn't as bad as where I grew up. Younger generations couldn't, and missed their cars, MTV, and girlfriends too much.

      Secondly, and maybe most importantly, communications killed the mob. Years ago, if a guy ratted and ran, a rumor could be spread that he was tortured, dismembered, and buried. People would be afraid to talk to the law after that. Today, a guy becomes a rat, dictates a book or movie (full of bullshit too), and everyone sees him on TV, sitting poolside with palm trees in the background. The word "wiseguys" was coined, but not "stupidguys." When guys see how easy it is to get out of jail and prosper, they decide they are not going to be the "stupidguys" rotting in jail, and rush for a deal. An old pal asked my about that awhile ago. I asked him how many guys in WITSEC had been clipped. He thought then said none that he could name. I said, "There's your answer."

      RICO would be bullshit if guys still had the fortitude to keep their mouths shut. Just think of how few were convicted on pure police work without rats. "There's your answer."

    2. Sony. I loved your answer. You are right. If I compare the conditions where I grew up, an American prison would be a luxury hotel. Saviano wrote many things that he should have not. He lives under protection of the State 24hrs, but on every public interview he declares: I have a blood debt with the Camorra. He knows the clans have power and patience.

      In America it seems everything is forgiven, specially if you move over to Arizona or Denver.

  4. Damian. Thank you for commenting. I also thank Sony.
    In my opinion the RICO statue is not excuse, but let me explain why.

    Again it has do with how things go in Italy. Long time before Italy entered the European Union, most of the Avellino area was militarized. That meant you had to fight against military police or army sooner or later. It was common at the time that if you got caught, military or military police would put 2 in the back of your head not question ask. Social cleansing.

    It was like that in Naples for almost 10 years. Short and sweet. We had not rights, nothing. That meant that if caught in a arrest attempt, or in a persecution, or in a raid... -whatever- chances are you would not come out. From what I remember of my friends, only 2 of them died like that. Rest of us, even with that major threat (one thing is to face death in jail another is facing getting whack ASAP) we did not take any offers by the state.

    That is why, among many other reasons, we tattoo ourselves, death before dishonor all over our backs. You can tell a military police ´to go fuck his mother when he points a gun at you´, that is courage, that is honor. You dont´have that, you got nothing.

    I don´t understand living or dying in any other way. And I cannot understand how fast that was lost in America.

  5. I agree. RICO alone is not an excuse. Honestly, I think we are ALL right. There are so many facets of what went wrong. We can all agree drugs turn people into mindless,selfish zombies who's only reason to function is to feed an addiction.That being said, facing at least 20 years on a RICO charge is the last thing a weak person can do and they will do anything to get out of it.

    But Sonny is also correct, growing up in harsh conditions does make you tougher because well, lets face it, you aren't living a pampered life. It mentally conditions you to be able to handle the prison experience. Sonny's point is spot on. I think it is all of the above that really hurt the Mafia in America.

    1. No only hurt the Mafia Damian.... brought the whole thing to its knees.

      Now the question is, What can you do? What future is on it?

    2. That is a tough question. Can one person make a difference? I am not sure.If one person can stand up to a government interrogation and not give in, someone else would probably inform on him. No one respects Omerta anymore. One thing I can promise is it is only going to get worse. People are too selfish to think beyond themselves and are too quick to do anything to get out of a jam. Not everyone is that way. The ones that are have caused all this damage.

  6. I will start off by saying this is no disrespect, just an opinion out of concern....American mafiosi are softer because the feds soften or dismiss prison time OR guys can't keep their fucking mouth shut because they know WITSEC is an easy way out. Valachi began the trend and now you got bosses flipping state, unthinkable with Camorristi or N'dranghetisti . Would American mafiosi live in bunker rooms or complete seperation in the woods or mountains for months..years to protect their family?? Not likely in America. It must return to its principles and rid itself of desperate bums and rats. Enforce. Keep your fucking mouth shut and be unseen. Real simple but seems impossible with most guys.


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