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The Truth About Organized Crime In America

Aug 17, 2007
From "The Untouchables" to "Casino," organized crime has had a serious impact on Hollywood, but how much is fact and how much is fiction? Is organized crime a big problem in America? Are there really "crime families" and is organized crime still a big deal or did it die out with the commercialization of Las Vegas and the end of Prohibition?

According to federal reports, organized crime in America has been and remains a fact of life. From the days of Al Capone to more urbanized gangs, the face of crime has changed, but its basic impact on society has not.

Gone are the days of organized rum runners and gambling rings (for the most part) and now those who battle organized crime find themselves not only dealing with the Mafia, but also street gangs, drug cartels and more. The stakes have also changed a bit as well. Rather than just gambling, alcohol and book cooking, the authorities are now also facing those who buy and sell guns, drugs and even people.

The roots of organized crime in America, at least in the case of the Mafia, date back to the arrival of Guiseppi Esposito in 1878 along with other Sicilians. Along with them came the recipe for organized crime, a recipe that would give rise to some of the most infamous criminals of American history. This mob faction, known as Las Cosa Nostra, is very well organized and believed to still include more than 20 active "families" in America today with each family having up to 700 members.

Here are some of the biggest names associated with the American mafia.

Al Capone: The infamous rival of Elliot Ness, this mobster was raised in New York with the likes of Johnny Torrio, Bugsy Spiegel and Meyer Lansky. Lansky and Spiegel were responsible for founding Las Vegas. Capone, believed responsible for a number of murders by act of ordering them, was eventually taken down by Ness for tax evasion.

Lucky Luciano: He is believed to be responsible for the spread of La Cosa Nostra across the country. He's been dubbed the "Godfather of all Godfathers" for his efforts on behalf of organized crime.

George "Bugsy" Moran: An American by birth, he was the famed rival of Al Capone and was the target that avoided the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Carlo Gambino: Considered one of the most successful of crime bosses in American history. Gambino avoided prosecution his entire run and died of natural causes in 1976.

Although these are legendary figures, it's a simple fact organized crime continues today whether through the infamous families and their branches or through more urbanized and less "civilized" gangs. Despite much attention from law enforcement both local and federal, the simple fact is organized crime has not died out, it's only changed its face over the course of time. Organized crime is believed to be behind a great deal of activity on the American crime front today and likely will be far into the future. From drug running to selling weapons and beyond, the mob and other organizations are very much alive and well.
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