The word mafia is derived from the Sicilian root mafiusu, meaning proud, aggressive and arrogant. A male member of the mafia is called mafioso, while a female member is called a mafiosa and collectively they are known as mafiosi. The earliest use of the term mafia in recorded history is traceable to a report of Fillipo Antonio Gulterio, the prefect of Palermo. Depending upon the location, the mafia is known variously by many other names, like La Cosa Nostra in America, Camorra in Naples, Sacra Corona Unita in Apulia, meaning the united sacred crown, Mala Del Brenta in Veneto, meaning Brenta’s bad thing, Ndrangheta in Calabria, Yakuza in Japan, The Triads in China and Tongs in South East Asia. Created more than two centuries ago, the mafia is a criminal group which is active in many countries around the world. Money making is the main objective of the mafia and it resorts to all sorts of unfair means for the purpose and makes billions of dollars each year.
1. Don Vito Genovese
Don Vito Genovese was born to Felice Genovese and Nunziata Genovese on November 27, 1897 in Tufino, Italy and died on February 14, 1969, in Springfield, Missouri, U.S. He started his criminal career at an early age by stealing merchandise from vendors and by collecting money from the players of illegal lotteries. Lucky Luciano, the founder of Cosa Nostra, was his early friend. He lived peacefully with his family in Middletown, New Jersey. During the Castellammarese War, he became the mafia boss of the Genovese crime family and was known as Boss of All Bosses. Joseph Valachi, the notorious mobster, commented upon Vito’s personal set of rules, saying, ‘If you went to Vito and told him about some guy who was doing wrong, he would have this guy killed and then he would have you killed for telling on the guy.’
2. Meyer Lansky
Meyer Lansky was born on July 4, 1902 in Grodno, Belarus and died on January 15, 1983 in Miami Beach, Florida, U.S. After his father had emigrated to U.S. in 1909, he joined him, along with the rest of the family, and settled in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York. Many attempts were made on his life when he was saved by Bugsy Siegel. Lansky always recognized the fact and formed the Bugs and Meyer Mob, known as the most violent prohibition gang. Along with his long-term associate Lucky Luciano, he formed the National Crime Syndicate. Lansky developed a gambling empire covering New York, Iowa and Las Vegas. Although he was a Jewish mafia boss, he was influential with the Italian mafia, too.
3. Joseph Anthony
Joseph Anthony Colombo, Sr. was commonly known as Joe Colombo. He was born on June 16, 1923 in Brooklyn, New York City, New York U.S. and died on May 22, at the age of 54 years in blooming Grove, New York, U.S. He attended New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn and then joined the U.S. Coast Guard in 1945. For some time he worked as a salesman. In 1970 he formed the Italian-American Civil Rights League. He formed it as an action group and June 29, 1970 he led the Columbus Circle when more than 150,000 people showed up in New York City to observe the Italian American Unity Day. In addition to many entertainment industry celebrities, five congressmen participated in it. He was the mafia boss of the Colombo Crime Family, which was one of the well-known five Cosa Nostra crime families of New York.
4. Al Capone
Alphonse Gabriel Capone, better known as Al Capone, was born on January 17, 1899 in Brooklyn, New York, U.S. and died on January 25, 1947 at the age of 48 years in Palm Island, Florida, U.S. He got involved in criminal activities early on in his childhood and in his twenties he was fully involved in smuggling alcoholic drinks during Prohibition, and also participated in prostitution and bribery. He donated lot of money to charities and was considered a modern Robin Hood by many. His figure was however tarnished after the Valentine’s Day Massacre in which seven opponents were murdered. He was a mafia boss and led a Prohibition era crime syndicate.
5. Lucky Luciano
Charles Luciano, better known as Lucky Luciano, was born to Antonio and Rosalia Lucania on November 24, 1897 in Lercara Friddi, Sicily, Italy and died on January 26, 1962 at the age of 64 years in Naples, Italy. At the age of 10 years he moved to the States, along with his family, and settled in the Lower East Side, Manhattan, New York. He started his gang as a teenager and provided protection to the young Jews against the Italians and Irish for 10 cents per week. He is the founder of modern organized crime in the United States. He split New York into five mafia crime families and became mafia boss of one of them, the Genovese crime family.
6. Joseph Charles Bonanno, Sr.
Joseph Charles Bonanno, Sr. was born on January 18, 1905 in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, Italy and died on May 11, 2002 at the age of 97 years. At the age of three years, he moved to U.S. with his family and settled in Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn, where he was raised for 10 years. He returned to Italy but fled to the U.S. again after Benito Mussolini started a crackdown against the criminal activists like him. In the U.S.A. he started bootlegging, which is also known as rum running. It was the illegal business of transportation of alcoholic drinks. He ultimately became the mafioso, or the mafia boss, of the Bonanno crime family.
7. Vincent Louis Gigante
Vincent Louis Gigante was born to Salvatore Esposito Vulgo Gigante and Yolanda Santasilia-Gigante, on March 29, 1928 in Manhattan, New York, U.S., and died on December 19, 2005 at the age of 77 years in Springfield, Missouri, U.S. He rose to power between the 1960s and 1970s. In 1981 he became the mafia boss of the Genovese crime family. Gigante was often seen in the streets of Greenwich Village wearing a bathrobe and sleepers and talking to himself. He was not a conventional soliloquist, but it is thought that he feigned insanity to divert the attention of law enforcement agencies.
8. Tony Accardo
Tony Accardo was born to Francesco Accardo and Maria Tillota Accardo on April 28, 1906 in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. and died on May 22, 1992 at the age of 86 years in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. At an early age, he joined a circus cafe gang run by Claude Madox and after that he was recruited by Alphonsoe Capone. He was nicknamed as ‘Joe Batters’ because he murdered two traitors of the Capone gang, the Outfit, by hitting them hard in the head. Capone said, ‘Boy, this kid’s a real Joe Batters.’ He headed the Outfit occasionally and ultimately took permanent charge, became its mafia boss and held the position until his death.
9. Albert Anastasia
Albert Anastasia was born to Raffaelo Anastasio and Louisa Nomina de Filippi on September 26, 1902 in Tropea, Calabria, Italy and died on October 25, 1957 at the age of 55 years in New York City, U.S. In 1919 Anastasia entered the U.S. illegally after deserting the freighter where he worked. He was convicted of a murder on March 17, 1921 and was sentenced to death. For some technical reasons, he was given a retrial and since all the witnesses had disappeared during his custody, he was released in 1922. He was the most fierce mafia boss of the Gambino crime family. He founded the American mafia and was the most dreaded Cosa Nostra. He also ran the Murder Inc.
10. Raymond Patriarca
Raymond Patriarca was born on March 18, 1908 in Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S. and died on July 11, 1984 at the age of 76 years in North Providence, Rhode Island, U.S. As a teenager, he was charged of many crimes, including auto theft, safe cracking, assault, robbery, hijacking and for being involved in a murder. In 1930, the Providence Board of Public Safety declared him the Public Enemy No.1. He was one of the most influential mafia bosses and remained mafia boss of the Patriarca crime family for more than 30 years.
What police is to the prevention of crimes, the mafia is to committing them. Like the law enforcement agencies, the mafia is well organized and has its own hierarchy and strategy. The mafia is spread all over the world, with clusters at locations conducive to their operation and achievement of the objective. New York City alone is home to five Italian mafia families, including The Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and the Lucchese crime families. The most frequent means that the mafia uses for moneymaking include illegal drug handling, money laundering, gambling, stealing, prostitution, and the mafia would not hesitate even to kill ruthlessly, should it be required for the completion of the task at hand.