The Mafia Takes a Hit: New Mobs Mopping Up
Mexicans, Russians, Chinese, even Albanians are the fresh lords of American organized crime.
Step aside, Tony Soprano — it’s not your Cosa Nostra anymore.
Organized crime, which the Italian mob once dominated in the United States, quickly is becoming a mishmash of loosely affiliated gangs from different ethnic groups, according to law enforcement experts. Russians, Albanians, Chinese, Japanese, and, above all, Mexican syndicates are clamoring for crime supremacy and, in many places in America, they’re succeeding. “The traditional Italian-American Mafia is not nearly as powerful as it used to be,” Lyndhurst, Ohio’s police chief, Rick Porrello, tells Newsmax.
“Certainly, the glory days of the Mafia are gone,” says Porrello, author of three books on organized crime and webmaster of www.AmericanMafia.com. “The Cosa Nostra is taking a back seat these days to new ethnic gangs,” agrees Samuel Logan, author of This Is for the Mara Salvatrucha: Inside the MS-13, America’s Most Violent Gang and an authority on organized crime south of the border.
Experts cite several factors in the Mafia’s demise, including federal infiltration and the use of RICO and other organized-crime statutes to topple powerful mafiosi. Also at work is the collapse of the Mafia’s famed “omerta,” or code of silence.
“The government is knocking out whole Mafia families in major cities and bringing them to their knees,” Porrello says. “Every trial these days has a well-entrenched, cooperating senior Cosa Nostra witness, like Joe Valachi or Sammy â€˜The Bull’ Gravano. These guys won’t do the time like the old-time mobsters — they cut a deal.”
Witness how far some of the most untouchable mob families have fallen as a result: Four out of 5 New York family crime bosses are in prison. Victoria Gotti, daughter of John “The Dapper Don” Gotti, who died in 2002 in prison, has seen her $4.8 million mansion fall into foreclosure with debts of $650,000, and her brother, Junior Gotti, is jailed and on trial for three murders and drug dealing.
Despite their weakened state, the five families of the Cosa Nostra still form the largest and most-organized crime syndicate in the country, according to the New York Post. But the turmoil in the Mafia old guard has left the streets wide open to a new and increasingly violent breed of immigrant gangs. The Russians target mortgage fraud and financial scams. Albanian gangs specialize in violent robbery. The Chinese favor protection rackets preying on local businesses. By far the most threatening are Mexican drug cartels, setting up alliances with U.S.-based Mexican prison gangs, taking over the drug trade, and turning one city, Phoenix, into the kidnap capital of the United States.
“The Mexican drug cartels have become the No. 1 organized crime threat in America, displacing the Mafia,” operating in at least 230 U.S. cities, Sen. Joe Lieberman said recently. Author Logan tells Newsmax, “The Mexican crime cartels are tougher for law enforcement to deal with, because of their organizational structure.
The Italian Mafia had pyramid structure, with power concentrated at the top. Take out the top men and the whole thing crumbles. The Mexicans have a looser structure — a network. You can take out one cell, but that doesn’t affect the entire structure.
“The Italians are ebbing and the Mexicans are growing. The Italian mob’s strength was built on the backs of Italian immigrants. Nowadays, most of those immigrating to the U.S. are Hispanic. “The environment is now ripe for Latino organized crime to become much more powerful than the Italian Mafia ever was.”
More competition is coming.
Internationally, other groups such as the Yamaguchi-gumi of Japan, the Ndrangheta of Siciliy, India’s infamous D Company, and Taiwan’s United Bamboo Triad are all believed to have their eyes and hopes fixed on the rich territory of the United States. “These new gangs are dangerous because of the violence in the drug business,” Michael Franzese, a former Colombo family mob captain who now advises corporations on fraud prevention, tells Newsmax. “I believe they should be the main priority to law enforcement.”
For the new gangs, drug income provides the same power boost that illicit alcohol gave the Mafia during the days of Prohibition.
All of this doesn’t spell the complete demise of the Italian Mob, however. “The Mafia is not what it used to be because the government has limited Mafia power in the unions,” Franzese says.
“However, I wouldn’t sell them short. I don’t think we will see the Mafia’s demise in my lifetime.”
new faces of organized crime
â€¢ The Russian Mobs, based in places such as Brighton Beach in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, hit the United States in the 1970s and grew rich on black market vodka, white-collar crime, insurance fraud, drug dealing, and illegal weapons sales.
â€¢ The Albanian Mob, including New York’s infamous Rudaj Organization, known for its ultra-violent behavior, specializes in drugs, protection rackets, and strong-arm crimes such as home invasions and stickups. The Albanians have taken some of the Big Apple’s prime turf from the Italians.
â€¢ The Chinese, based on both coasts, nevertheless maintain a low profile. They rule the nation’s Chinatowns through protection rackets, immigrant smuggling, extortion from bus companies, importing ketamine and ecstasy, and prostitution in massage parlors.
â€¢ The Mideastern Mobs, both Israeli and Arab, specialize in trafficking slaves and illegal immigrants, high-tech bank fraud schemes, and, of course, drugs.
As originally published in Newsmax magazine.