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Case Study - Organized Crime - Al Capone and the Godfather

Essay by   •  August 10, 2011  •  Case Study  •  4,011 Words (17 Pages)  •  1,961 Views

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When most people think of organized crime, images of Al Capone and The Godfather come to mind. Fedora's, tommy-guns, suits and violence. Let us take a step back from these images to visit a couple different types of organized crime in the world that accompany these usual images.

In the God Father Part 3, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) said, "Once I thought I was out, they pulled me back in." He was referring to the Mafia he took part in. Once in the Mafia, you're always in the mafia. What is the mafia exactly though? Where did they originate? What have they done in the past? All the answers to these questions are to follow. The mafia is something that started as something to protect the things and people they loved. It has no evolved in to something more risqué.

According to Wikipedia, the mafia "is a loose association of criminal groups that share a common organizational structure and code of conduct." (Mafia,2009)The mafia began as a way to help people. Their actions though, were still illegal, but it was for good purposes they performed these actions. As they evolved, they went from helping other to drug trafficking and selling counterfeit money. The mafia has a very structured internal organization. First, there is the godfather who is ultimately in charge of all of the mafia groups "organizations". Under the god father are the bosses. They each control one of the organizations. Under the boss is the commissioner who controls the part of the city. Then, there are the enforcers who control their own monetary institution along with being in charge of hiring people to fulfill jobs. They also serve as protectors over the institution. Then on the bottom are soldiers. Once you are in the mafia, you are bound by secrecy. If any information is leaked the person who leaked it will be punished based on the severity of the information that was made public. (Mafia History, 2009)

Now that we understand exactly what the mafia is, where did they come from?

The mafia started in the early 19th century in Sicily to help the less fortunate and protect their families. The word Mafia stands for "Morte All Francia Italia Anela" which stands for "death to the French is Italy's cry." The mafia has other names such as Mafiosi, cosa nostra, the honored society, men of honor, and men of respect. The name Mafia didn't become known and popular until 1863 when it was used in a play. (An Overview of the Mafia, 2009) In the late 19th and early 20th century, People immigrated from Italy and Sicily to other countries. This is where the mafia began to reign in the United States and South America. (History and Society, 2009) Now the question arises; if the mafia was started to help people in need, what did they do to gain such a horrible reputation?

The Mafia began as something that meant to be helpful, even though they were doing this by illegal means. Though, in 1870, the risqué business began. In Sicily, the mafia began extort citrus plantation owners, threatening them when they didn't follow the rules the mafia gave them. Benito Mussolini made an attempt to rid Sicily of the Mafia, and came close. 11,000 arrests were made and 1,200 convictions were filed by 1929. When they immigrated to America, they began killing cops, such as David Hennessy. No one was convicted because the witnesses were bribed out of testifying. In the 1920's the prohibition began. Al Capone thrived off of this, and began selling illegal alcohol. From here on, the mafia began drug trafficking and other dangerous illegal activities. (An Overview of the Mafia, 2009) What had started as a friend helping a friend turned in to a chain of bad events.

In the 1950's and 60's, investigations conducted by the U.S. government revealed that the American Mafia was structured much like the Sicilian mafia (Mafia, 2009). The organization adopted the name La Cosa Nostra which meant "Our Affair" in Italian. From the 1950's, there were 24 American Mafia groups or families throughout the country. In Chicago, Philadelphia, New England, and Detroit, only one mafia family existed. But in New York City, there were five mafia families (American Mafia, n.d.). The five families were the Gambino, Genovese, Lucchese, Colombo, and Bonanno. Each powerful family made up a commission whose members were in charge of making decisions on the actions of and settling disputes within organizations (Mafia, n.d.). In 1957, the New York State Police raided a meeting between 100 crime mafia bosses from the United States, Canada, and Italy. They met at the home of the mobster, Joseph Barbara, in Apalachin, New York. Over sixty underworld bosses were detained and indicted. This became known as the Apalachin Conference and this event changed the way the law enforcement handled organized crime. It also confirmed the existence of the National Crime Syndicate which is the name that was given to the entire U.S . Mafia (Mafia, n.d.). The Cosa Nostra is involved in several illegal activities such as murder, corruption of public officials, gambling, labor racketeering, stock manipulation schemes, etc.

In the 1970's and early 80's, members of the La Cosa Nostra allegedly cooperated with the Sicilian Mafia in drug trafficking (America's Habit-Drug Abuse, Drug Trafficking, & Organized Crime, 1986). This resulted in importation of heroin that was worth $1.6 billion in the United States. It became known as the "Pizza Connection" because the network that facilitated the crime used pizza parlors throughout the country to distribute heroin smuggled from Southeast and Southwest Asia via Sicily to the United States. Additional heroin that was trafficked was produced in laboratories in Sicily and the Sicilian Mafia owned 80% of the heroin trade in 1982 . The New York Bonanno Mafia family, which was headed by Salvatore Catalano, was involved greatly in this crime. The Bonnano family was tied directly to the organized criminal groups in Italy, Switzerland, Spain, and Brazil. The existence of the heroin network was first discovered when couriers were observed to have been transferring large amounts of cash through investment houses and banks in New York City to Italy and Switzerland. Millions of dollars derived from heroin sales that were transferred overseas. In October 24, 1985 and March 2, 1987, the Pizza Connection Trial took place in Manhattan (Pizza Connection Trial, n.d.). Thirty-eight mafia members and associates were indicted in the case and twenty-two were convicted. The case ended up costing $50 million in an effort to end drug trade.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, is a law that was passed in the 1970's to make it a crime to belong to an organization that performed illegal acts (American Mafia,

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