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THE HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN MAFIA
THE HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN MAFIA
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. By showing this you will see how this specific type of organized crime has
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.
Charles 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.
Myer 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 b
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