In the Genovese family, some renowned bosses were, Giuseppe Morello-“The Clutch Hand”, he had a right hand deformed finger that looked like a claw. He was the founder of the 107th Street Gang, which later evolved to be the Morello crime family. Morellos were notorious of murders, where they either dumped their victims into barrels and tossed them into the sea, left in back allies or shipped them to non-existent addresses to other cities.

Another top ranking boss was Charles “Lucky” Luciano. His family dominated labour unions example the Manhattan Waterfront, garbage collection, trucking and construction sector, where they had a cut of every concrete supply of any infrastructural project under construction in New York and if not the project would have never been realised. It is said that all high-rise buildings had a hand with the Mafia during their construction otherwise, the contractors would have been face with labour boycotts and materials shortages now and then.

Vito Genovese helped expand heroin trade to international levels. He wanted to be the Boss of the Bosses but his quest was cut short when he was imprisoned for fifteen years with charges of narcotics conspiracy. Frank Costello alias “The Prime Minister” was almost assassinated by the order Vito during his quest to be Capo dei Capi. His alliance with Luciano led to the trigger of non-Italians influence to the mob, which was not taken lightly by older Mafiosi. Young mobsters like the aforementioned created ties with Jewish and Irish mobsters like Dwyer and Madden.

In the Lucchese family, there was Tommaso “Tommy” Gagliano. He was a low profile boss which made him less recognized by the federal authorities as a crime boss. His family got involved in black market trade of meat and sugar, gasoline rationing.

Nicodemo Scarfo Sr. alias “Little Nicky”, was a mob boss from the city of Philadelphia and headed the Philadelphia crime family. He was a cement contractor hence owned Scarf Incl. where he supplied materials to build casinos in Atlanta. He had a murderous reputation where everyone contrary to his opinion were murdered publicly. He ordered his nephew, Philip “Crazy Phil” Leonetti to shoot twice at Vincent Falcone, a criminal associate and contractor for making negative remarks on Scarfo and his company. He and his associate Nicholas Virgilio alias “Nicky the Blade” murdered a judge as he dined with his wife in a restaurant. Scarfo acted as a get-way driver as Nicholas fired at the judge. He intimidated companies to buy from him including Donald Trump. He was found with charges of first degree murder, racketeering and conspiracy.

Murderous Philadelphia Mob Boss, Nicky Scarfo

Nicky Scarfo rose to boss after the death of Angelo Bruno in 1980 and Phil Testa in 1981. Angelo Bruno’s death was orchestrated by his consigliere, Antonio Caponigro after showing greed to power where he ordered a hit to his boss without the approval of The Commission. He was found shot dead severally at the boot of his car with three hundred dollar bills jammed into his mouth and anus to symbolize that he died out of greed for power.

Phil Testa was killed by a nail bomb at his house door where it was so severe that his body was never recovered since it was minced into tiny fragments. The neighbours described the explosion to have been too loud that they thought it was a nearby oil refinery that had exploded. To their great astonishment in the morning, they found out that it was Phil Testa. The murder hit the USA headlines until Bruce Springsteen sang the famous song, “Atlantic City” where he sang, “They blew up the chicken man in Philly last night” where the chicken man was Phil Testa’s nickname. The hit was ordered by underboss Peter Casella, a drug trafficker and capo Frank Narducci Sr. where he was gunned down and his accomplice, Peter fled to Florida after being banished from the Mob.

Philip Testa aka 'The Chicken Man'

Underbosses were second in rank and they were appointed by the boss. He was the first in line to act as a boss in case the boss was imprisoned. He was seen as the most logical successor. They handled day-to-day activities within the family and oversaw the most lucrative rackets. He obtained his income from the boss’s income.
Most notable underbosses were John “Sonny” Franzese the father to Michael Franzese from the Colombo family, who were involved in gasoline bootlegging at Panama. He generated approximately eight million dollars a week for his family, which earned him great respected and ranked top fifty richest mafia bosses in 1986 by Fortune Magazine. They would put money obtained from the gasoline stations in fridges overnight in order to remove gasoline odor by morning hence bank it. If they banked it directly, the officials would have known its money from bootlegging. Michael is the only surviving Mafia boss of that era and the only one who ever quit from the La Cosa Nostra without a death penalty. He is now a youth mentor.

Consigliere were the “right hand men” to the boss and acted as advisors to the family. He was appointed by the Boss from one of his close friends and acted as his official consigliere. He was a mediator of disputes and an aide of meetings with other families, rival factions and business associates of importance. They understood the deep inner workings of the family and organization hence they ranked third in the hierarchy. A famous consigliere was Joseph Yacovelli from Colombo family, he campaigned a murder of Joseph Gallo alias “Crazy Joe” who was killed at his 43rd birthday party at Umberto Clan house-Little Italy by twenty rounds of .38 caliber revolvers by three hitmen.

Joseph "Crazy Joe" Gallo

After the consigliere, we had now those involved with tasks at ground level. They did all that was instructed to them. They were the Caporegime, “Captains” or “Skippers”. They were the leaders in charge of a crew of soldiers who reported all the groundwork to the boss or the underboss. They were powerful since they headed a crew of ten to twenty associates and many associates. They were assigned tasks, which were supposed to be done without questioning including murder and racketeering. They controlled infiltration of labour union locals. If a capo performed perfectly well in his roles, it attracted a big slice of power more than his superiors did and even he could take over the boss’ position if he died. John Gotti was once a capo before being boss. Salvatore Testa alias “Salve” a capo of the great Philadelphia crime family was murdered by Nicky Scarfo for being disloyal.

The last of the family tree were the soldiers also called “soldato”. The requirement was that the soldier to be of full Italian background but later they started recruiting half Italian descents on their father’s side. This followed a rigorous process of being made hence you became a “Made Man”. They had to take part in the “Omerta” which was a code of silence to the underworld criminal dealings. He had to show loyalty to the family and if he deterred from that, the penalty was death by a bullet. This made you untouchable in that your murder as a soldier had to be approved and permission granted by The Commission. Once the “books are open” this meant that an already Made Man could make a recommendation of an upcoming associate to be a soldier. Soldiers were the bees of the family in that they did all the tasks such as extortion, murder, intimidation, assault and all sorts of crime. In case of summoning by their superiors, they were to honour that without reservation and if they got into prison, they were to serve their sentences without complaint. Their reward to the jobs that they performed were profitable rackets to operate in by their superiors and they had full family access to power and connections.

All soldiers were of different ranks and respect depending on the association of the soldier to the family. Some attracted more respect than others such as Alphonse Persico did from the Colombo family, who was the boss’ son Carmine Persico. Some are respected with regards to the money they earned from racketeering for the family such as Robert DiBernado from Gambino family. Others gathered more respected due to their ruthlessness such as Phil Alderisio from Chicago Outfit.

Soldiers conducted murders and covered them up by use of crude, inhumane but ingenious ways. Chicken wire and barbed wire wrapped the victims’ bodies then tossed into the sewer plants in New York to decompose and shredded by the wires, which made their flesh edible by fish if they were dumped into other water bodies. Some businesspersons would have preferred committing suicide once they knew a hit contract was place on their heads rather than wait for the soldiers to come and do their job.

Shower cubicle hanging was done to victims where the soldiers would carry out a hit in pairs. One would shoot the victim in the forehead and twice in the heart with a silenced gun; the other soldier would wrap the head with a towel to prevent bleeding. They would then carry the victim to his shower cubicle and slit his throat, then hang the man upside-down and let the blood drain for twenty minutes as the shower is on to facilitate in draining the blood. The soldiers would go to the kitchen, eat meatballs, and listen to the victim’s favourite music as the wait for the victim’s blood to drain off. They would then put him in a bag and carry him to the disposal area. Nicholas Caramandi a notable and feared hitman who was a soldier to Nicky Scarfo testified this.

Associates fell under the soldiers where they were not members of the family but worked for it in various tasks. They normally did errands or roles of a foot soldier. A person who had been a police officer or attended a police academy would never have be an associate. This is the place where mobsters prove their worth, which was mandatory that you have an Italian descent. Few people made it over this rank of non-Italian descent. Example was Meyer Lansky’s who was a Jew. This position had no limits of who could be a member. Businessmen, union workers or even corrupt delegates. They were used to divert attention of the police and law enforcers from the main members of the Mafia by acting as a go-inbetween in their criminal dealings example by selling hard drugs.

The Italian-America Mafia terrorised America from the nineteenth to twentieth century actively. They instilled a lot of fear amongst citizens and the world. They made a lot of money illegitimately by use of legitimate businesses. These led to the country losing a lot of revenue from tax evasion, bootlegging, smuggling and inflation of markets such as in gasoline, alcohol and beverages, banking, construction materials industries. The American government invested heavily in eradicating these crime families. Although they were not able to eradicate them fully, at least their power and influence were diminished hence creating a better business, investment and working environment with equal opportunities to all citizens and immigrants.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Winnie

    Well written. I got hooked from the start to end. Vivid description too.

  2. Diaz Grace

    I had no idea the mafia operated well into the 80s and I thought the movies exaggerated..these people wear, simply put, ruthless…it’s almost.. almost.. admirable

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