The Five Families of New York – The Italian American Mafia

The Mafia has been a source of some extraordinary stories in film – and for good reason.

The drama, action and moral dilemmas the characters face always keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. Couple that fast-paced, high drama, action packed world with a bit of glitz and glamour and you have grasped something of the inspiration behind Mister Jack’s current events The Raspberry Cannoli Cabaret.

Read the background to the Five Families – the five major organised crime families of the Italian American Mafia in New York City.

The term was first used in 1931, when Salvatore Maranzano formally organised the previously warring gangs into what are now known as the Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese, and Lucchese crime families, each with demarcated territory, organisationally structured in a now-familiar hierarchy, and having them reporting up to the same overarching governing entity.

Initially Maranzano intended each family’s boss to report to him as the capo di tutti capi (boss of all bosses), but this led to his assassination and by September the role was replaced by The Commission, which continues to govern American Mafia activities in the United States and Canada.

The Bonnano family

The Bonnano’s have been making their mark since the 1880s in Sicily, eventually relocating to New York in the early 1900s. They have since become the most notorious of the Five, with the FBI considering them one of the most ruthless in the world. However, they found themselves in hot water with The Commission, the governing body of the American Mafia, when they famously allowed FBI agent, Joe Pistone (Donnie Brasco), to infiltrate their family for six years.

Today, the family is headed by Joseph Cammarano, who is the acting boss. Thomas Difiore is the official boss, but has been imprisoned since 2015.

The Colombo family

The youngest of the Five, the Colombo’s, can be traced back to the 1920s. However, the family has seen three internal wars which has burned a fair few bridges. Most levels of law enforcement consider the Colombo’s to be the weakest of the Five Families, most likely due to their ongoing feuds.

Carmine ‘Junior’ Persico is currently the family boss. However, he is serving 139 years in a federal prison from his conviction in 1986. When he was imprisoned, the responsibility of acting boss fell onto his son, Alphonse ‘Little Allie Boy’ Persico. Alphonse was then in 2009 given a life sentence, and there hasn’t been an acting boss put in place since.

The Gambino family

The Gambino family was one of the first Italian American gangs in New York, but they were known back then as D’Aquila gang. From the early 1900s they controlled more rackets than any other gang in the area, and were established as the largest Italian gang in New York.

As of 2015, Frank Cali is boss of the Gambino family, with Fransceso Palmeri being his underboss.

The Genovese family

The Genovese family is today considered the largest of the Five Families. They are the oldest of the Five, and are nicknamed the ‘Ivy League’ and ‘Rolls Royce’ of organised crime. They remain one of the most organised and powerful families today.

The current boss of the family is Liborio Bellomo with the consigliere being Dominick ‘Quiet Dom’ Cirillo.

The Lucchese family

For the most part, the Lucchese family was considered one of the most peaceful Italian American Mafia’s in the country. However, when Anthony Corallo gained control of the family in 1974, he began one of the bloodiest reigns in Mafia history. It has been estimated that Casso murdered between 30-40 people himself, and instigated over 100 murders during his reign. It seems no surprise that he was later sentenced to 455 years in prison in the early 1980s.

The current boss of Lucchese is Vittorio Amuso, who rules the family from behind bars, whilst the underboss is Steven Crea.

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