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Crime family

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Title: Crime family  
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Crime family

A crime family is a unit of an Mafia (both in Sicily and in the United States), often operating within a specific geographic territory.


  • Origins 1
  • American Mafia crime families 2
    • North America 2.1
    • Caribbean 2.2
  • See also 3
  • Footnotes 4
  • Bibliography 5


The origins of the term come from the Sicilian Mafia. In the Sicilian language, the word cosca, which literally translates into artichoke (a vegetable whose multiple layers surround and protect a vital core), is also used for clan. In the early days of the Mafia, loose groups of bandits organized themselves into associations that over time became more organized, and they adopted the term based on both of its meanings.

As the Mafia was imported into the United States in the late 19th century, the English translation of the word cosca was more at clan or family.

The term can be a point of confusion, especially in popular culture and Hollywood, because in the truest sense, crime families are not necessarily blood families who happen to be involved in criminal activity, and not necessarily based on blood relationships. In Sicily and America, most Mafia bosses are not related to their predecessors.[1][2] Films like The Godfather and a spate of late-1980s "Mafia princess" movies underscore this confusion.

It can further be speculated that the Mafia was simply emulating, to a certain degree, a more medieval order in which a noble family would more or less serve as the power in a local village, in a sort of inverted hacienda culture.

The Calabrian 'Ndrangheta is, however, purported to be organized along familial lines.

Nevertheless, the term stuck, both in the minds of popular culture as well as the national law enforcement community, and eventually began to be used to describe individual units of not only Sicilian gangsters, but those whose origins lie in other parts of Italy (e.g., the aforementioned 'Ndrangheta, the Neapolitan Camorra, the Apulian Sacra Corona Unita, etc.). Indeed, the "family" mystique is to such a great degree that in the late 1990s, after many Camorra leaders were imprisoned during a large-scale crackdown in Naples, many of their wives, girlfriends, daughters, and even mothers took temporary control of their gangs, in a widespread phenomenon of Camorra "godmothers".

Sometimes the term is used to describe distinct units of crime syndicates of other ethnic and national origin, such as the Tongs and Triads, Indian Mafia, Colombian and Mexican drug cartels, Chechen mafia, Russian Mafia, Maltese Mafia , the Thief in law and Eastern European families (it should be noted here that some of these entities, like the 'Ndrangheta, may also be organized along blood-family lines).

American Mafia crime families

North America

There are many crime families that make up the American Mafia, ranging from giant powers with international influence like the Outfit and the Five Families of New York to small groups with only about 30–50 made members.

  • Chicago is the home of the Chicago Outfit, the direct descendant of the Prohibition-era gang run by iconic crime boss Al Capone. The most powerful Mafia family outside of New York, the Outfit also controls rackets throughout much of the Midwest, and once controlled many of the most prominent casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada, although its power there (like the rest of the Mafia's) has waned in recent decades. Unlike other Mafia families, the Outfit has been noted as very ethnically diverse in its leadership, with such non-Italian individuals as Jake Guzik, Gus Alex, and Murray Humphreys rising to positions of authority within it.

The Chicago Outfit, too, has been the subject of numerous portrayals in pop culture, including the TV show The Untouchables, its Academy Award-winning film adaptation, and the films Casino, Scarface, and Road to Perdition.

  • New York has five families. These families, together with several powerful members of the Commission in the 1930s, which decided on the rules for the entire American Mafia. This ruling board was established shortly after the end of the bloodiest war in the history of the New York Mafia, the Castellammarese War. One of its most famous founders was Lucky Luciano, who became the most powerful member of the Commission after arranging the murders of Joe Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano, the two belligerents in the Castellammarese War. Although the media often attempts to anoint one boss of one of the Five Families as capo di tutti capi ("boss of all bosses") of the American Mafia, in reality the position does not really exist. The only individual believed to have ever been in a position to actually claim the title was Maranzano.
The Five Families are:

Over the years, the New York Mafia has been the focus of many of the more prominent pop culture representations of the Mafia. Such films as Goodfellas, The Godfather trilogy, Donnie Brasco, and Little Caesar have been set in New York.

  • Buffalo is the home of the Buffalo crime family, also known as "The Arm", which has seen its fortunes wane considerably in recent years. Originally recognized when it was led by Stefano Magaddino, a cousin to Joseph Bonanno, the family has now been removed from the Commission and is no longer considered to hold undisputed status as master of the Upstate New York rackets.
  • New England is the domain of the Vincent Teresa, who became a government informant, and the rising power of the Irish Mob, particularly the Winter Hill Gang under the infamous James "Whitey" Bulger. Today, although smaller and somewhat less influential than in the past, the Patriarca family is still one of the most prominent American crime families.
  • Philadelphia is the home base of the RICO Act in 1989 and sentenced to 60 years in prison, leading to yet another civil war. After reputed boss Joseph Merlino was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2001, the family has reportedly been returning to its tradition of quieter, more low-key operations.


There are many Crime families with the islands of the caribbean, islands such as Puerto Rico,Jamaica,Haiti,Dominican Republic.

  • Puerto Rico is home to the Martinez Familia Sangeros. This crime family was run by Crime Don "Boss" Quitoni Diaz. They were responsible for multiple murders within Puerto Rico, New York, Ohio, and other states and countries. They were affiliated with crime lords and families such as Black Dragon, Cali Cartel, Netas and Zoe Pound. Quitoni died in October 2012 from lung cancer. After his death, his oldest grandson Roland Martinez-Williams inherited the throne as "Gran Don de la familia" which is the title given to the leader of the Puerto Rican Mafia.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Diego Gambetta. The Sicilian Mafia: The Business of Private Protection. 1993
  2. ^ The Everything Mafia Book: True-life Accounts of Legendary Figures, Infamous Crime Families, and Nefarious Deeds. Scott M. Dietche. Everything Books, 2009. Page 80
  3. ^ Anthony Harriott; Charles M Katz (2015). Gangs in the Caribbean. University of the West Indies West.  


  • Gambetta, Diego (2009). Codes of the Underworld. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-11937-3
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