New York's Five Crime Families Still Exist

The OGs... Members of the early American Cosa Nostra stand for the camera.

The mob is exposed when law enforcement makes arrests. Then newspapers print stories about men with colorful nicknames and their “alleged” acts of murder and racketeering.

Such stories are in short supply these days. When the newspapers do cover a mob story, it generally details elderly men who committed crimes going back decades. Take the Vincent Asaro trial, which was billed as the big Lufthansa Heist case, which was spotlighted in the cinematic classic Goodfellas film.

The trial ended in a shocking acquittal for the 80-year-old defendant, who was once pals with James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke.

"The mob is not the power it once was. But is it finished? Has it reverted back to the street gangs from which New York’s Five Families originally emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries?"

"The facts seem to suggest otherwise, though hold on to that street gang reference…"

The Colombos have suffered from having a boss calling the shots from prison for the past few decades. The crime family even engaged in full-scale civil war in the 1990s over this issue, when then-acting boss Vittorio “Little Vic” Orena sought to assume control from longstanding official boss Carmine “The Snake” Persico. Orena was sent away for life. Persico retains control.

When a new Colombo boss is named, it will mean either the Snake has died or was finally successfully unseated by the youngest and most violent mob family in New York.

The Bonanno’s acting boss, Thomas “Tommy D” DiFiore was in prison for more than a year, and official boss, Michael “The Nose” Mancuso is in prison for around four more years. (Unless Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano, serving life, is still the official boss, that is.)

 So it seems that the families able to muster enough men to show power on the street and run scams also are helmed by powerful and accessible bosses -- meaning they are out of prison.

 The Genovese family has historically never revealed its true bosses even to other crime families. This helped buffer the family from law enforcement. It also helped to strengthen the family’s hand at sit downs.

“We met with the West Side several times to take care of a certain situation,” a source once explained. “Every time we met, they had different guys in there! We had to start from zero every f—ing time!" 
Evidently by sewing small-scale confusion and aggravation into such situations, by simply having new “officials” show up at meetings who “knew nothing” about a particular issue or problem, the Genovese hierarchy was able to win more sit downs – or at least to lose fewer.

 However, the mob’s collective eye is ever focused on the 1931 organizational plan.

The three operational families are helping to run the remnants of the other two. New York’s Gambinos also have a level of control over the New Jersey-based DeCavalcante family.

Mafia Accrues Big Benefits via Alliances
The Gambinos reportedly raised Frank Cali to boss in the crime family's ruling hierarchy. (Even if they didn't "officially" the question is academic). Cali, not Domenico Cefalu, has strong ties to certain Sicilian Mafia families, including the Inzerillos. A past investigation revealed there’s possibly large-scale drug trafficking resulting from certain overseas meetings Cali attended in Sicily.

Drug trafficking generates vast sums of illicit revenue and is among organized crime's few profit centers capable of offsetting the major losses stemming from law enforcements devastating breakup of the mob's historic stranglehold over labor unions. Fortunes so vast rolled in that the Mob's earnings dwarfed what its members pocketed even during Prohibition, when gangsters, who previously were homeless pickpockets, became millionaires and even billionaires. As a result, the New York underworld's cyclical ethnic evolution stopped with the Italians, who replaced previous underworld dynasties consisting of Irish and Jewish racketeers, for example. (C. Alex Hortis, in The Mob and the City, makes a convincing case for this being why organized crime in America has remained dominated by the Italian Mafia rather than a new generation of gangsters from another ethnic background.)

In other words , New York's leading organized crime groups remained Italian-American primarily due to the massive success attained following the Mafia's wholesale infiltration of a wide range of labor unions (in sectors including apparel, trucking, waste management, kosher chicken, etc.) across the U.S., and the herculean fortunes that resulted. (See the Concrete Club and Windows Case.)

Building the required infrastructure needed to run a successful global drug smuggling ring necessitates large alliances with overseas groups, to provide product, to launder money, etc.

The U.S. serves mainly as the "storefront" -- the world's premier marketplace for narcotics.

Allying itself opportunistically with other criminal organizations is among the mob's chief ways of doing business. With interfamily rackets waning it'd seem the Mob would seek to offset those losses by increasing its alliances with other criminal groups in the past few years.

The facts suggest that that is precisely the case.

Consider that, in February 2014, a Ndrangheta crew (from the Mafia based in Southern Italy's Calabria region) was found operating in New York – helping operate a billion-dollar drug trafficking ring. It partnered with crews from two of the Five Families: the Bonannos and Gambinos. Members of all three groups have been indicted.

This year, Ndrangheta member Gregorio  Gigliotti was arrested for acting as a drug broker between the Calabrian mob and the Mexican cartels. He operated a Queens, N.Y.-based pizzeria in a neighborhood known to be overseen by a powerful Genovese capo. An investigation sought, and failed, to link the capo and the Ndrangheta trafficker.

Also newsworthy, a possible common denominator between Matty Madonna and the Luchese family's gambling ring and Canadian law enforcement's recent routing of the Rizzuto Cosa Nostra organization (now co-helmed by Leonardo Rizzuto, the last living son of former Montreal boss Vito Rizzuto) and two key allies: the Hells Angels and Syndicates street gang, which originated amid the outlaw motorcycle club's violent war with the Rock Machine MC. (160 homicides resulted from the biker war). A black member of the Hells Angels' Montreal chapter launched the gang.

Both cases were linked to the Bloods, though the Syndicates more indirectly than the Nine Trey Gangsters.

The very notion of the Mafia allying itself with the likes of a high-profile street gang whose members sport colors, signing via hand gestures and making pronouncements regarding the killing of police officers deeply concerns law enforcement agencies in both countries.

Yet with such alliances having happened in the past, chances are they will happen again...