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Soc 307 - Organized Crime

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Underboss

Brianne Long

SOC 307: Organized Crime

        Organized crime was not introduced to the United States until the year 1890 when a member of the Italian crime family assassinated a police chief in New Orleans, but the Sicilian mafia was actually created in the thirteenth century as a response to centuries of oppression by foreign forces in Italy. Italians lost trust for law enforcement and the government, which led to citizens turning to an elderly male in their community respected by everyone for help. This older male became known as the local mafia leader and helped the citizens who felt they needed refuge. They did not start off as a criminal enterprise, but saw the opportunity to seek retribution from these individuals. The citizens in the village were forced to pay the Mafioso money in order to receive protection. Benito Mussolini did not like that the mafia leader was receiving so much attention and decided to purge Italy of the mafia by arresting the members on fake charges. This then leads to an influx of Italian immigrants arriving into the United States, allowing the Italian mafia to engrain themselves into society. They have been dominant figures in the United States ever since.

        The novel Underboss by Peter Maas is a very in-depth read about Sammy Gravano and his life in the mafia. From a very young age, Sammy Gravano had a fascination with people in the mafia that he saw sauntering around the streets of Brooklyn. He had a difficult time in school, learning later on in life that these struggles were because he had a severe case of dyslexia. He was constantly made fun of in school, causing him to turn to violence and intimidation in order to make the other kids stop bullying him. Sammy liked that he could use his fists as a way to get what he wanted. He decided at a young age that he did not want to be like his father, working hard everyday just to get by and pay the bills. He wanted a life where he did not have to work as hard and could still be successful. This led to him joining a local gang and eventually becoming a member in the organized crime group, La Cosa Nostra.

        Organized crime is defined as a self-perpetuating criminal conspiracy fed by fear, corruption, and money, which is motivated by greed. Organized crime has a large impact on society for many reasons. One reason is because it affects how much money an individual is spending on things. For example, the mafia monopolized the garbage industry, which led to certain businesses being forced to pay organized crime large amounts of money per month because the business was not able to get any other garbage company to do the work. If the businesses wanted their trash collected, they either were forced to find a way to do it themselves or they had to pay organized crime groups to do it. Organized crime members are known for using legitimate businesses as a way to hide their criminal activity and as a way to explain the amount of money they have. Sammy had many legitimate businesses that he used as a way to earn a legitimate income so, “besides the plumbing and drywall companies and his hardwood flooring and carpeting firm, he had launched a painting company” (268).

        Organized crime groups use intimidation and fear as a way to gain control. Paul Castellano, the Gambino family boss, had a profitable wholesale meat operation that he built into a larger enterprise called Dial Meat Purveyors, Inc., which specialized in the distribution of poultry (174-175). Castellano distributed these meats to a variety of local butchers around the area and used intimidation and the threat of violence as a way to ensure that these butchers were only getting their poultry from his company. Castellano was able to get his meat in supermarkets rather than limiting himself to just local butcher shops. There were also consequences besides the threat of violence that led to supermarkets and local butcher shops buying Castellano’s poultry:

Should an independent butcher complain about Dial’s prices, the upshot was no deliveries from Dial- or anyone else. If, say, a poultry producer elected not to use Dial, he would soon find that his chickens were missing from supermarket displays and promotions. And if supermarkets did not go along with Dial’s recommendations, they could find themselves being picketed by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, whose leadership enjoyed a cozy relationship with Paul Castellano (175-176).

Racketeering is an activity used very often by organized crime groups and it is defined as, “the practice of engaging in a “racket,” in which the organization extorts others, or otherwise creates problems, for the purpose of solving those problems for a fee or other benefit” (http://legaldictionary.net/racketeering/). A main way for organized crime groups to earn a living is by taking over unions. By infiltrating the unions, they allow them to give contracts to other members of their group. Sammy was involved in many different companies: plumbing, drywall, hardwood flooring, carpeting firm, and a painting company (268). Sammy was able to get many jobs for these companies by working with other members from different crime families, explaining that ‘“what I do,” Sammy said, “is I get Dino, who is a guy with the Lucchese people, to go and bid the painting contracts for me. Dino gets the job and I get half the profits”’ (268). Local businesses that are owned by ordinary citizens are unable to get contracts to do a certain job because organized crime families help each other. These different crime families have so many different companies and enterprises that it makes it almost impossible for other businesses to be profitable.

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