The Italian mafia, something that thousands of people are familiar with thanks to the popular movies such as The Godfather, Goodfellas, and the TV show the Sopranos. Yet the Italian mafia is anything but pure fiction. It was, in fact, very real, and contrary to popular belief, started not in New York City, which would later be home to the five families, but instead, the Italian Mafia first set foot in America down south in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Slowly, the Black Hand migrated up north, infiltrating New York, Chicago, even Cleveland. Big names such as Al Capone in the 1930s, all the way to prominent names like John Gotti and Vincent "the chin" Gigante in the 70s and 80s. The mafia had their fingers in many areas. Some ran casinos, other dabbled in illegal dealings such as the Gambino crime family who dabbled in prostitution, money laundering, theft, and the crime of fencing, which is one buys stolen goods and is aware that they are stolen.
One of the most notorious crime families, especially with the five families in New York, would be the Bonanno Crime Family, who peddled drugs such as heroin and other narcotics, dabbled in loansharking, racketeering, and prostitution.
The Genovese Family is another extremely prominent family, especially in New York. George Anastasia, author of Blood and Honor refers to them as the Ivy League of the five families. Vincent "The Chin" Gigante was the boss for most of the active years, feigning insanity to remain active. He was known as the "enigma in the bathrobe" and the "oddfather."
The mafia was prominent throughout much of the 1900s, tainting politics and even the police in the areas where they were active.
Yet how did such a powerful group of people get destroyed? Or have they simply retreated underground? Many prominent faces of the mafia faced jail time, such as John Gotti, Nicky Scarfo, and Al Capone, but many were killed also by members of Cosa Nostra itself. Such as Phil Testa and Angelo Bruno who were both murdered and led to Nicky Scarfo becoming the boss of the Philadelphia crime family, which is considered to be one of the most violent crime families in history. John Gotti faced life in prison on charges of murder, loansharking, and racketeering until he died in 2002 of throat cancer.
With so many people capable of murder, how did the Mafia fall? Was it simply their time to disappear? Or did the government and the FBI systematically destroy the Mafia till there was nothing left? Robert Kennedy began a relentless pursuit of the American Mafia during his time as attorney general and managed to raise the percent of successful convictions by 800 percent. Many believe this is even why his brother, President John F. Kennedy, was actually killed by the American mob. Or was it also thanks to now-retired FBI agent Joe Pistone, AKA Donnie Brasco, who infiltrated the mafia farther than any FBI agent before him, who even came extremely close to becoming a made man—almost committing murder.
Donnie Brasco led to loads of evidence being compiled against the American Mob, especially against Sonny Black, who was a capo in the Bonanno crime family. Pistone posed as a jewelry dealer and worked his way up the crime family change.
Thanks to Pistone's work, Sonny Black was shot dead in the basement in Ron Filocomo's basement. Judy, Black's girlfriend, called Pistone to let him know about his death. Judy told Pistone that Black had no ill will against him since he was simply doing his job. Yet he was heartbroken, since he considered Pistone, who he knew as Donnie Brasco as a true friend, and found it hard to believe that he was an agent since,"things we had done together, the conversations we'd had, the feelings we'd had."
Was it due to Robert Kennedy's relentless pursuit of the mafia? Was it thanks to FBI agent Joe Pistone that the mafia was dismantled? Or have the Mafia simply retreated underground and faded out of the public eye in order to rebuild and emerge so that they can regain their foothold in American society once again?