Throughout history, crime has existed in many different forms and has beencommitted by not only individuals, but by groups as well. Crime is somethingthat 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 economicinstitution and is a lifestyle for many people. Crime also exists in bothorganized and un organized forms. Since the early 1900’s, “organized”crime has existed in the United States. The following will show where, when, andwhy 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 ninthcentury, Arab forces occupied Sicily.
The native Sicilians were oppressed andtook refuge in the surrounding hills. The Sicilians formed a secret society tounite the natives against the Arab and Norman invaders. This secret society wascalled Mafia after the Arabic word for refuge. The society’s intentions were tocreate 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 unspokenrequest for an amount of money in return for protection.
If the money was notpaid, the recipients could expect violence such as kidnappings, bombings, andmurder. By the nineteenth century, this society grew larger and more criminallyoriented. In 1876, Mafia Don Rafael Palizzolo, ran for political office inSicily. He forced the voters to vote for him under gunpoint.
After being electedinto office, he promoted Mafia Don Crispi as Prime Minister. Together the twoput Sicily under government control and funneled government funds to the societyknown as the Mafia. In the 1800’s, New Orleans was the largest Mafia site in theUnited States. It was while investigating the murder of an Italian immigrantthat the current Police Chief, David Hennessey discovered the existence of thissecret society. Police Chief Hennessey was assassinated before this murder casecould go to trial. Twelve men were charged with this assassination but werelynched by a newly formed vigilante group.
The Italian Ambassador demanded thatthe vigilantes be tried. President Harrison who disproved of the vigilantes andgave a large cash settlement to the families of the lynched men. This was awidely publicized case because of its’ foreign ramifications and the involvementof the President of the United States. Don Vito, Vito Cascio Ferro, was thefirst Sicilian Capo de Tutti Capi.
He fled to the United States in 1901 toescape arrest and formed a group of the Black Hand. Its’ members were hardenedcriminals currently fugitives from Sicily. He is known as the Father of theAmerican Mafia. In 1924, Mussolini was determined to rid Italy of the Mafia somany members fled to the United States to avoid persecution.
This increased thenumbers of members in the organization. These fleeing Italians were well awarethere 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 intoxicatingdrinks generated a wave of illegal activity since there was big money to bemade.
During this time, gangsters openly flaunted their wealth and power. Thisperiod established many young men as leaders in the New Age American Mafia. CharlesLuciano, born in 1897 in Sicily, came to New York in 1906. He trained in theFive Points Gang, a Mafia crew, under John Torrio. In this gang, he becamefriends with Al Capone and other prominent gangsters. Luciano started his ownprostitution racket in the early 1920’s and was in total control of prostitutionin Manhattan by 1925.
In 1929 he was kidnapped, beaten and stabbed severallywith an icepick. He miraculously survived but maintained “omerta”,which is a vow never to reveal any Mafia secrets or members under penalty ofdeath or torture. By 1935, Luciano was known as The Boss of Bosses. He hadpreviously established Murder Inc.
with Bugsy Siegel and Myer Lansky, two otherwell known gangsters. Luciano’s wide spread criminal activities led to his beinginvestigated by District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey. He was eventually sentencedto thirty to fifty years for extortion and prostitution. Luciano was consideredto 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 hisassistance in the Allied invasion of Sicily, he was offered deportation to Rome. Luciano contacted his Mafia associates in Italy and the deal was made. Lucianodied of a heart attack in 1962 while meeting an American movie producer to dohis life story. MyerLansky 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 influenceamong the Jewish gangsters, known as Myer’s mob. His speciality was gambling.
Heformed Murder Inc. which was a group of specialized contract killers which washired out to other mobs. Lansky was instrumental in working out the deal withthe government for Luciano in the Allied invasion. While Luciano was in jail andlater deported to Italy, he entrusted the running of the crime syndicate toLansky. By the 1960’s, Lansky’s gambling operations extended half way around theglobe 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 hefled 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 convictionbecause of his high level government contacts and retired to Miami, Florida anddied in 1983.
At the time of his death, his estate was valued at 4 milliondollars. DutchSchultz, was another major player in organized crime. He opened a saloon in theBronx, New York during prohibition and organized a group of thugs to expand hisbootlegging operations. His empire soon grew to large proportions with manyillegal establishments in the Bronx and Manhattan. During his trial for taxevasion, many of his rackets were taken over by Luciano, who expected Schultz tobe 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 ofthe Board of Directors of the crime syndicate.
The District Attorney of NewYork, Thomas E. Dewey was not finished with Schultz though and continuedinvestigating his activities. Schultz decided it was in his best interest toeliminate Dewey but the crime syndicate disagreed. They feared the killing of aDistrict Attorney would only add to their problems but Schultz would not drophis plan.
On the evening of October 23, 1935, while Schultz was informing hisNew Jersey associates of his plan, a Murder Inc. hit man assassinated all ofthem, Schultz included. He died later that evening in a Newark City hospital. Alphonse”Scarface” Capone was another organizer of the early American Mafia.
He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1899. His involvement with organized crimebegan when he was eleven years old. As he got older, he graduated to the morepowerful “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 betweenuncle and nephew started and Capone was hired to kill the uncle leaving Torrioin charge of all Chicago. In 1925 when Torrio was severally wounded in a shootout, he gave Capone his vast business empire, valued at fifty million dollars ayear. During this time, Capone fell out of favor with other Mafia gangsters andseveral attempts were made on his life. Capone took revenge by staging theinfamous St. Valentine’s Day massacre in which he killed several of his enemiesending resistance to his continuing business dealings. He was finally sentencedfor tax evasion and spent most of his eleven-year sentence in Alcatraz.
In 1939he was released from prison because he was in the advanced stages of syphilis. He died of this disease in 1947. Theabove research has shown that the Mafia has become a wide spread problem. TheMafia has continued to grow and infest our society from the early 1900’s. Itcontinues to exploit and destroy the honest citizens of our country.
Now, thesecriminal organizations not only control the adults of our communities but alsohave begun, through the sale and distribution of narcotics, to control ourchildren. Crime organizations must be stopped however this is a difficult task. They have infiltrated members of our government and law enforcement agencieswith the lure of money. Unfortunately, crime does pay in many instances. It isup to each of us to not look the other way, but be aware that there are reallyno victimless crimes.
One way or another, we all pay either by higher taxes orby a more violent society.