#4: Basics of the Mob (Part Three)


Hello everybody and welcome to the last episode of my three-part series on the “Basics of the Mob.” I am your host, Jacob Stoops, and I’m a long-time history buff and mob aficionado.

Since there are a lot of new listeners, let me give you the run-down of what this podcast is all about.

Over the coming weeks and months, my goal is to tell the true-crime biographies of real-life mobsters and dive deep into the plots, sub-plots, and real facts behind Cosa Nostra, as well as popular mob films and television shows.

If that is of interest to you, I’d love it if you’d Like and Subscribe to my YouTube channel to get the latest updates as new episodes are released!

Also, if you’re someone who’d rather listen to just the audio version, you can find my podcast on most podcasting platforms, but of course the main ones are Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Castbox, and Stitcher!

As I’ve said in previous episodes, the YouTube version of the podcast is going to have more rich content, images, videos, and of course my beautiful face, but if you’d rather hear me than see me – I 100% understand! You wouldn’t be the first person to have that opinion. 🙂

All that being said, if you’d listen and share with your friends or family to help me get the word out, I’d be in your debt.

A few additional quick callouts before we get into this episode.

1) You crazy bastards, I thank you all! I had not expected to get 4 subscribers let alone 400, so I thank each and every one of you and hope you’ll enjoy the content in the weeks and months to come! In fact, if we get to 500 subscribers I might do a special giveaway to celebrate.

2) For those that have left comments both positive and critical, I love your passion and I would simply say – keep it coming! I really appreciate the interactivity and how educated you are as an audience, and I enjoy responding and debating – even to the person who said I need to learn English! 🙂

3) After this level-setting episode series, I’ll be getting back to doing more gangster biographies in the upcoming weeks and months and my plan is still to focus on people that are lesser known. I’ve gotten many great suggestions already and am building a schedule, so if you have someone you’d like to see covered you can simply leave a comment on YouTube or you can email the show at ganglandhistorypodcast@gmail.com. I’ll be building a pretty robust schedule, so if you want your person to get in, send me an email and I’ll see what I can do.

Okay, so on to today’s show.

If you remember, some of my viewers had asked for a sort of primer episode on the American Mob, so I decided to do a “Basics of…” series to set the table for anyone not as well-versed as the hardcore mafia genre listeners that exist out there in pockets.

In Part One and Part Two, we covered the origins of the mafia, how the mafia came to America, the Black Hand, how Prohibition and the Castellammarese War propelled the development of the Mob forward, and we ended with Mafia structures, rules, regulations, and codes of conduct.

However, if you haven’t listened to the first two episodes, this episode will still be able to stand on its own merits, but if you want to start at the beginning including the origins of the American Mob, I’d definitely say cut over and listen to Part One and Part Two first, and then come back to Part Three.

As for this episode, we’re going to start with Mafia slang and verbiage, do a Sportscenter like highlight reel by decade, and answer a few other things about the American Mob to close out the series.

Okay, so let’s bring this home with the final Basics of the Mob episode….

Episode Transcript

What does some of the mob-lingo mean?

Okay, so you might have listened to the first few episodes of this channel and said, “Hmm, I wonder what that thing Jake just said actually means?”

This section is for you! I’m going to do my best to cover off on as much mafia slang and verbiage as I can so that you can understand the basic lingo that is often used in the mob genre and in real life.

Let’s start with some of the formal positions and roles in the mafia.

Family / Borgata = An individual crime family. There are five in New York City, and many individual families in other areas throughout the country such as Chicago and Philadelphia (even to this day)

Cosa Nostra = "Our Thing" or "This thing of ours" in Italian. This is what the mob calls itself.

La Cosa Nostra (LCN) =

  • The Syndicate
  • The Outfit = Chicago
  • The Office = New England
  • The Arm = Buffalo

“Made” = To be initiated, but also called:

  • Made man
  • Mafioso
  • Getting your button
  • Straightened out
  • Wiseguy
  • Goodfella
  • Man of respect
  • Proposed

Capo De Tutti Capi = Boss of Bosses. This title has been was an aspirational title by early crime bosses but was officially done away with in 1931 after the Castellammarese War

Boss = The head of a crime family

Underboss = The 2nd in command of a crime family

Consigliere = The counselor or advisor to the boss, typically the 3rd-ranked position in a crime family.

Caporegime = The leader of an individual crew – a subgroup – with the crime family. Also called Capo, Captain, Skipper.

Soldier = The lowest ranking “made” member of a family.

Associate = A person who is associated with and working for the family, but who is not “made.”

A crew = A group of individuals working for a particular person, typically a capo. Crews are composed of the Capo, as well as their Soldiers and Associates

Omertà = The Code of Silence, which is a vow never to share the business of the family with outsiders including law enforcement and even uninitiated blood family members

The Commission = The ruling body of the mafia, who sets major policy decisions across all families nationally. Traditionally, each New York family one seat (or vote) for each boss and a few other families from other regions also had a seat

The administration = Leadership of the family.

Other mob-related lingo

Okay, so now I’m going to go through some other lingo, but it’s really in no particular order so please bear with me:

A hit = An assigned mob-killing, also called:

  • A contract
  • To get whacked
  • To whack someone
  • To push a button
  • A piece of work
  • To clip someone
  • To pop someone

Button man = Hit man

Making your bones or Make your bones= 1st hit

  • Also to pop your cherry = 1st hit

“Friend of ours” vs “Friend of mine” = Mafia slang for a made man versus a non-made man.

  • Commonly used during introductions to alert a made member that the 3rd-party is not a made member and no secrets should be shared in front of them.

Given a pass = To be forgiven for an offense.

To be shelved (or put on the shelf) = To be retired or kicked out of the mob, usually for an offense of some sort

Pinch / or Pinched = Getting arrested

Stand-Up Guy = Someone who is willing to do prison time without talking or ratting

Rat / Snitch / Stool Pigeon = Someone who has turned informant and who is working with the police to share mob secrets

A Bit = Time spent in jail

Heavy = Carrying a gun

A sit down = A meeting between made members to talk business or resolve a dispute

A beef = A dispute between members or associates

On the record = A family is aware of the activity or the person has been recognized as belonging to the family

Off the record = A family is not aware of the activity or the person has not been recognized as belonging to the family

Checking in (or touching base) = Letting your mafia superior, your capo, boss, etc. know what you’re doing criminally speaking

An enforcer = Someone who is willing to commit violence to enforce the family’s edicts

An earner = Someone who makes big money for the family

Kicking up = Sending money to your mob superiors

Social Club = A place where mob members and associates often hang out. These used to be big but began to be used less for business when many social clubs started to get bugged in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Joe Massino, the Boss of the Bonnano family in the 1990’s and early 2000’s actually banned social clubs in his family to reduce the chance for law enforcement scrutiny.

A bug (or to be bugged) = When the police or FBI have installed a listening device to record conversations.

A wire (or “wired for sound”) = An informant who is wearing a listening device on their person to record conversations with mobsters.

To kick up = To pay tribute to your mafia superior.

To go on the Lam (or to Lam it) = To become a fugitive from law enforcement or to escape potential mob retribution.

The Sheet / The Pad / The Take / The Fix = The list of payoffs to be levied out by the family to corrupt police, politicians, etc.

A gommah (sometimes also called goomar or cumare) = A mafia mistress

Zips = Sicilian mobsters operating in America

The books = This refers to the roster or list of made men in each family. It’s typically referred to in the sense of being “open” or “closed,” meaning the families either are or aren’t making new members at the time. For reference, the books were famously closed by Carlo Gambino in 1957 when he became boss and didn’t open again to allow new members until the 1970s.

Racketeering (also called Rackets) = Law-enforcement verbiage for criminal scheme or enterprise. For example, loansharking.

Racketeer = The individual running the racket.

RICO = The Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a federal statute enacted in 1970. The statute allows prosecutors to seek tougher sentences for mobsters if they can prove a connection to a criminal organization or syndicate. In theory, the statute also allows the government to prosecute every member of a crime family once a criminal conspiracy has been proven.

Mustache Pete = A derogatory name used by younger mobsters to refer to older, often Sicilian mobsters, who they believed to be too old school, set in their ways, and racially-biased to only want to trust or work with other Sicilians – even when it mean forgoing large sums of money.

Young Turk = A name given to younger mobsters who are considered to be upstarts by the older guard mafiosi.

Murder Incorporated (e.g. Murder Inc.) = The Jewish enforcement arm for the mob in the 1930’s and 1940’s who were suspected to have committed hundreds of murders on behalf of the mafia.

Witsec = The Witness Protection Program

G’s or Large (ex: “30 large” = $30 thousand dollars) = $1,000 monetary increments

The numbers = A traditional mob racket, also called “The Italian Lottery,” is a form of illegal gambling or illegal lottery played mostly in poor and working class neighborhoods in the United States, wherein a bettor attempts to pick three digits to match those that will be randomly drawn the following day. It’s very similar to the regular lottery with the exception that winners and the lottery operators aren’t paying tax to the government.

Extortion = This is the mob’s bread and butter. Extortion is the practice of obtaining some sort of benefit, typically monetary, through coercion – often the threat of physical harm.

Bookmaking = A traditional mob practice of accepting bets on sporting events or other events at agreed-upon odds. The benefit of working with a mob bookmaker as opposed to a legitimate book would be that you don’t have to pay taxes on the winnings to the government. Of course, the con is that your legs may be broken (or worse) if you lose a bet and fail to pay.

Bookmaker = The primary person responsible for the bookmaking operation

Lay-off bet (or laying off) – A bookmaker’s practice of placing bets with the money they have received from bettors. This is done to avoid paying large losses when betters are heavily favoring one side, game, or outcome.

Loan Sharking = Another traditional mob practice of lending money at very high-interest rates on credit. These loans are often taken on by a desperate client-based who can’t get money from reputable institutions. It’s well documented that mob loans come with astronomically high interest-rates, sometimes requiring interest payments that exceed 50-100% per year. This is also called: Shylocking

Loan Shark or Shylock = The primary person responsible for lending mob money.

The “Vig” (or Vigorish) = The amount of interest a borrower will pay on a loan. Also called: Juice, Points, Tax

Fugazi = A fake. You see this term used most famously in the movie Donnie Brasco.

Vendetta = A private feud. Originally between Corsican or Sicilian families, in which the relatives of a murdered person seek vengeance by killing the murderer or some member of his family. Pezzonovante = Means ‘big shot’ or higher authority  in Italian, often heard in The Godfather.

Cugine = A young criminal looking to be inducted

Finocchio or “Finook” = An offensive term for homosexuals in Italian.

Infamnia = An disgraceful thing in Italian.

Vaffanculo (or Va fangul) = Means “Go Fuck Yourself” or “Fuck You” in Italian

Stunad = A stupid person or idiot in Italian.

Guinea, Wop, Dago, or Greaseball = An offensive reference to Italians. Never used by Italians of course unless in joking.

Alright so that’s it for lingo. If I missed anything or if you have any questions please leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to respond or clarify.

What were the key events of each decade?

After it’s official formation, what were the major high-points of the mob in the 20th century and early 21st century?

Okay, so with this section, I’m going to give you the 1-2 events per decade that I feel are the most noteworthy happenings in the mob. I won’t get to everything and I won’t go deep, so this will just be scraping the surface on some of the mob’s history. If you have more to add or want to see a specific event covered in more detail, let’s have that conversation in the comments for this episode.


Of course the pinnacle event not just in the 1930’s but in the entire history of the American Mafia is the Castellammarese War, which we touched on last episode and which led to the creation of the families and the national crime syndicate.

After that, the first major event probably occurred in 1935 with the killing of mobster Dutch Schultz. This is significant as it’s the first major instance of The Commission enacting its authority. Schultz’s gang, who at the time was considered “The Sixth Family” though they weren’t Italian, was being investigated by prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey had asked The Commission for permission to kill Dewey, and when permission wasn’t granted he loudly and boldly stated he was going to do it anyway. As a result, The Commission decided to have him killed instead.

Dutch Schultz lies mortally wounded after being shot by assassins in 1935.

Ironically, The Commission at that time was presided over by none other than Charles “Lucky” Luciano, and he himself would become the next target of Dewey. Luciano was arrested in 1936, eventually convicted of compulsory prostitution – which many believed was actually a frame. Either way he was sentenced to 30 to 50 years in prison which leads to a significant chain of events that would shape the families even to this day.

Charles "Lucky" Luciano gets convicted of compulsory prostitution in 1936 and goes away to prison.


Of course in the 1940’s you had the outbreak of WWII which led to huge profits for the mob at large as many mobsters took advantage of the black market after common goods like gas, sugar, and other goods became rationed.

Then, in 1946 Charles “Lucky” Luciano was released early from prison for his “support” of the war effort and the protection of the New York docks. When Luciano is released he organizes what is now known as The Havana Conference in Cuba, which is was a meeting of mobsters across the country that led to the Mafia’s involvement in the heroin and cocaine trade in which they set the course to catapult the Mafia into the position of lead distributor of drugs in the United States for the next 20-30 years.

The Hotel Nacional de Cuba, site of the 1946 Havana Conference.


The 1950’s ended up as perhaps the most tumultuous era in the Mafia until much later in its history with a few defining events.

From 1950-1951, you have the Kefauver Hearings in which a Senate Special Committee led by Senator Estes Kefauver, conducted hearings across many major cities on the Mafia. This forces J. Edgar Hoover, who had previously claimed the Mafia didn’t exist, to admit it was real, and also for the first time on television exposes the underworld to the U.S. population at large. The hearings took place across 14 cities and forced hundreds of mobsters to testify – though many simply pleaded the Fifth. Also, these hearings are particularly damaging to Frank Costello, who was at the time the Luciano family Boss (now the Genovese family), and eventually sets the stage for Vito Genovese to make a play to take over the family.

Speaking of Vito taking over the family, in 1957 – maybe the single biggest year in the history of the mob – you have 3 critical events.

First, you have the failed assassination attempt on Frank Costello which of course was orchestrated by Genovese and eventually leads to Frank’s abdication and Vito’s ascension to boss.

Frank Costello, shortly after being nearly assassinated in 1957.

Second, you have the successful assassination of Albert Anastasia, which was part of a coo led by Genovese and Carlo Gambino. This move also leads to Carlo becoming Boss, and his two-decade run is generally viewed as one of the most successful reigns, if not the most successful, of any Boss in the history of Cosa Nostra.

Albert Anastasia lies dead on the barbershop floor, dead from assassin's bullets, 1957.

Lastly, you have the Apalachin conference which is largely considered the biggest debacle in Mafia History. The mobster summit, which took place in Apalachin, New York, was a meeting of mobsters across the country called specifically for the purposes of crowning Vito Genovese and Carlo Gambino Boss and to settle any remaining turmoil between families. The conference was accidentally uncovered by local and state law enforcement, and a raid led to the detainment of more than 60 mobsters, including many Bosses. Many were caught actually running through the woods in their haste to get the heck out of there once the police raid began. This was hugely embarrassing for the mob and had significant implications including increased public awareness of the mafia and pressure from law enforcement to take down the syndicate.

Joseph Barbara Sr.'s home in Apalachin, New York, the site of the infamous 1957 conference and subsequent raid.


Outside of the rumored mob involvement in the Kennedy Assassination, in the 1960’s you have two critical events:

In the early 60’s, you have the First Colombo War (though it should be noted that at that time they were still the Profaci crime family) in which Joey “Crazy Joe” Gallo and crew lead an insurrection against long-standing family Boss Joe Profaci. The war goes from 1960-1963 and eventually fizzles out as Joe Profaci dies of natural causes and Joe Gallo is sent to jail on a 7-14 year sentence.

The Gallo crew stood defiantly against the boss of their family, Joe Profaci. Early 1960's.

Also in the early 1960’s, you have the Bonnano family civil war, also dubbed by the media as the “Banana Split” or “Banana’s War.”

Joe Bonanno, boss of the Bonnano Crime Family for 30 years, show here in the early 1960's.

This was a revolt led by members of the Bonnano family who had grown disenfranchised with the lack of presence and nepotism of long-time family boss and namesake Joe Bonnano. This war culminates with Joe Bonnano being shelved after he, along with the new head of the Profaci family Joe Magliocco, led a failed plot to assassinate top Bosses Carlo Gambino and Tommy Lucchese and take over The Commission. Gambino and Lucchese banished Bonnano from New York under threat of death, and then designated new Bosses for both the Bonnano and Profaci family – with the Profaci family being taken over by Joe Colombo and being renamed in his honor.


In 1971, you have the shooting of sitting Colombo Boss and family namesake Joe Colombo by a lone gunman at the second Italian Unity Day rally. It is widely believed that the shooter was working on behalf of family member, “Crazy Joe” Gallo who himself was assassinated the following year. This sets the stage for Carmine “The Snake” Persico to take over as family Boss, which he served as until his death in 2019.

Colombo Family Boss Joseph Colombo lies mortally wounded in 1971 after being shot in Columbus Circle at the 2nd annual Italian Unity Day rally.

In 1976, you also had the death of Gambino family Boss and namesake Carlo Gambino of natural causes. This sets the stage for Paul “Big Paul” Castellano to take over as the Gambino family boss, which will have massive ramifications down the line for the entire American Mafia.

Constantino "Big Paul" Castellano, who took over as boss of the Gambino Crime Family in 1976.


First, in 1985-1986 there was The Mafia Commission Trial in New York City in which the FBI indicted 11 high-level organized crime figures, and more specifically the heads of New York’s so-called “Five Families.” The initial defendants included Paul Castellano, Tony Salerno, Carmine Persico, Anthony Corallo, and Phillip Rastelli, as well as their subordinates. United States Attorney Rudolph Giuliani famously figured out how to leverage the RICO Act to send the hierarchy of the families to prison for stints of up to 100 years.

Rudolph "Rudy" Giuliani during the 1985 Mafia Commission Trial.

The second massive event in Christmas of 1985 is of course the assassination of Paul Castellano by Capo John Gotti, which paves the way for his ascension to Boss of the Gambino crime family, which ultimately lays the path for family’s eventual decline after the defection of eventual Underboss Sammy “The Bull” Gravano in the early 90’s.

Paul Castellano and Underboss, Tommy Bilotti lie dead at Sparks Steakhouse, New York City, December 1985.


From 1991 to 1993, the Colombo crime family goes through its third civil war after capo and acting Boss Vittoria “Little Vic” Orena tries to get himself declared as official Boss over incumbent and imprisoned boss Carmine “The Snake” Persico.

Vittoria "Little Vic" Orena, leader of the rebellious Orena faction of the Colombo's, being arrested in the early 1990's.

Also, in the early 1990’s, Joe Massino became Boss of the Bonnano crime family which plays a significant role in the resurgence and the eventual fall of the Bonnano family.

Joseph "Big Joey" Massino, boss of the Bonanno Crime Family in 1990's and early 2000's.


In 2004, Joe Massino, Boss of the Bonnano family, was convicted in a murder and racketeering indictment based on the testimony of several cooperating made men, including Massino’s disgruntled underboss and brother-in-law Salvatore Vitale. Additionally, he was also facing the death penalty for another murder case. This led him to agree to become the first sitting Cosa Nostra boss in history to turn state’s evidence and rat on his compatriots. He testified for the first time in the 2011 murder trial of his acting boss Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, helping win a conviction against him. He was released from prison in 2013.

Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano (left) was betrayed by his boss, Joe Massino (right) in the early 1990's and went to prison for life.

Also in the 2000’s, you have Operation Family Secrets in Chicago which officially begins in the late 1990’s but culminates with the trial from 2005-2007 that convicts five high-ranking members of the Chicago Outfit including reputed Boss Joey “The Clown” Lombardo, Capo Frank Calabrese Sr. Outfit Front-Boss James Marcello, and a handful of others. This case is extremely notable as aside from taking down the reputed leadership of the family, you also had the son, Outfit associate Frank Calabrese Jr., and brother, Outfit soldier and hitman Nick Calabrese, testifying against their father and brother Frank Calabrese Sr.

I highly recommend reading "Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob" by Jeff Coen for more about the infamous trial and the Calabrese crew.

A detailed account of "Operation Family Secrets," written by Jeff Coen.


In 2011, the largest single-day takedown in the history of the American Mafia occurred when 700 federal agents rounded up 127 mobsters in a single day – with 34 of them being “made” members. This event has been dubbed Mafia Takedown Day. So that’s it with the events – I brought things as close to current as I felt comfortable with. If you disagree or want to add to the conversation, again feel free to leave a comment with this video.

"Mafia Takedown Day" resulted in the arrest of over 100 mobsters on the East Coast, January 2011.

How does one get “made,” and what is the ceremony like?

In order to become a full member of the Mafia or Cosa Nostra, a prospective member must take part in an initiation ceremony – also called a “making” ceremony or “getting made.”

According to lore, the ceremony typically consists of oaths, blood, and an agreement is made to follow the rules of the Mafia as presented to the inductee. While the first known account of the ceremony dates back to 1877 in Sicily, the American mafia still uses a watered-down form of the initiation ritual today.

The typical cadence of the actual initiation ceremony typically has a few common features.

First, the new recruit is led into the presence of other members and presented by a member who has “sponsored” them for induction into the crime family. The recruit is often asked if they know why they are here, to which they are supposed to reply “No” (which is somewhat of a running joke).

The recruit is then given an overview of Cosa Nostra, including its basic rules, then his finger is pricked with a needle by the officiating member. A few drops of blood are spilled on a card bearing the likeness of a saint, the card is set on fire, and finally, while the card is passed rapidly from hand to hand to avoid burns, the novice takes an oath of loyalty to the Mafia family. After they take the oath, and once all inductees have finished, they have all the specific rules explained to them, and there is often a solemn sort of party or celebration before everyone departs.

The fictional making ceremony of Christopher Moltisanti from the famous show Sopranos bears some resemblance to real life.

Famously, Joe Valachi described his ceremony in front of the McClellan Committee in 1963:

“I sit down at the table. There is wine. Someone put a gun and a knife in front of me. The gun was a .38 and the knife was what we call a dagger. Maranzano [the boss] motions us up and we say some words in Italian. Then Joe Bonanno pricks my finger with a pin and squeezes until the blood comes out. What then happens, Mr. Maranzano says, ‘This blood means that we are now one Family. You live by the gun and the knife and you die by the gun and the knife.’”

More recently, the FBI has been able to record induction ceremonies through various mob Rats. Here is a transcript from a Patriarca crime family induction ceremony in October of 1989 with New England Mafia boss Raymond “Junior” Patriarca presiding:

“We’re all here to bring in some new members into our family and, more than that, to start maybe a new beginning, Put all that’s got started behind us … and bygones are bygones and a good future for all of us.”
“You all come here highly recommended,” Patriarca told the recruits. “You’ve all done everything you hadda do … Stay the way youse are, don’t let it go to your head … it’s not to be used to make money. It’s not an advantage, a ticket to abuse people, it doesn’t make you better than other people. The thing is you have all of us to protect you. If you don’t let it go to your head, and you don’t abuse it, you’ll have a happy, happy, happy life.”
It is at this time that Consigliere Joseph “JR” Russo asked the recruit, Carmen Tortora, if he had any brothers. He answered that he had one.
“If I told you your brother was wrong, he’s a rat, he’s gonna do one us harm, you’d have to kill him, would you do that for me, Carmen?” Russo asked.
“Yes,” Tortora said.
“Your mother’s dying in bed and you have to leave her because we called you, it’s an emergency. You have to leave. Would you do that, Carmen?” Russo asked.
“Yes,” Tortora said.
Finally, Biagio DiGiacomo, a capo born in Sicily, administered the remainder of the oath in Italian and offered a primer on the history of the Mafia, dating back hundreds of years.
“We get in alive in this organization, and the only way we gonna get out is dead, no matter what,” DiGiacomo said. “It’s no hope, no Jesus, no Madonna, nobody can help us, if we ever give up this secret to anybody, any kinds of friends of mine, let’s say. This Thing cannot be exposed.”
After mobsters wined and dined and finished their business, Russo and capo Vincent Ferrara stayed behind to make sure their visit would not be detected by the homeowner. They emptied the barrels in the kitchen and bathroom, opened the windows to get rid of the smell of smoke, and scooped up a few crumbs from the floor.
Just before Ferrara locked the door, agents heard him say, “Only the fucking ghost knows what really took place over here today by God.”

Have mob families ever been infiltrated?

Yes, the best known case of law enforcement infiltration happened in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s with the Bonnano family when FBI Agent Joe Pistone posed as jewel thief Donnie Brasco infiltrated first the Colombo family but then – and more predominantly – the Bonnano family.

This is the basis of the very famous movie Donnie Brasco, where Johnny Depp plays Agent Joe Pistone and of course the great Al Pacino plays “made” man “Lefty Guns” Ruggiero.

Joseph Pistone, the real life Donnie Brasco, pictured undercover in the 1970's.

Pistone worked undercover for 5 years from 1976 to 1981 and became embedded inside the Bonnano crew of Sonny “Black” Napolitano and of course Benjamin “Lefty Guns” Ruggiero. He had gotten so deep into the crew as an Associate that he was actually proposed for membership and given a contract to “make his bones” by killing Bruno Indelicato, a “made” member of the Bonnano family.

It is at this time in 1981 that Pistone was pulled out of his undercover role by the FBI and his status as an FBI agent was shared by law enforcement. In the immediate aftermath once the infiltration was revealed, the leader of the crew Pistone was with, Sonny “Black” Napolitano was murdered for having allowed an FBI agent to infiltrate the family; he was shot dead and his hands were cut off. Additionally, “Lefty” Ruggiero was also on his way to being murdered by the Bonnano family when he was picked up and “rescued” by the FBI.

Afterwards, a $500,000 contract was put on Pistone’s head and the Bonnano family was kicked off The Commission. This turn of events would actually favor them later on during The Commission Case, but at the time was a huge embarrassment.

Is the mob still active today?

It is absolutely still active. In fact, there was a major news story that broke within the last few weeks.

On September 14th, 2021, 14 reputed members and associates of the Colombo crime family, including the Boss, Underboss, Consigliere as well as Captains, were charged in a labor racketeering case brought by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn.

The indictment accuses the Colombo family of orchestrating a two-decade scheme to extort an unnamed labor union that represented construction workers, using threats of violence to secure payments and arrange contracts that would benefit the crime family.

I’ll just leave you with this. When it comes to Cosa Nostra, the families aren’t what the once were in their golden age from the 1940’s through the mid-1980’s. That being said, as long as there are vices and rackets that can be capitalized upon, there will always be a mafia. The structure was built for longevity and the individual parts are replaceable.

To quote Michael J. Driscoll, the FBI Assistant-Director-In-Charge of the New York Field Office,

“The underbelly of the crime families in New York City is alive and well.”

Okay, so that’s a wrap on the Basics of the Mob series. Hopefully after watching this series you’ll have a great base of knowledge laid so that when we get into future episodes you’ll be able to follow. If you have any questions or if there is something that I didn’t cover off on, please let me know in the comments below.

Next week we’ll be getting back into Mobster Biographies and the plan is to cover the original Gambino boss, Vincent Mangano.

If you enjoyed this episode, please Like and Subscribe on YouTube! I’d love to hear from you and you’ve been awesome so far about dropping your comments. If you would be so kind, please rate the podcast on Apple to help the show grow and take a peek at the merch store.









































Jacob Stoops, the host of The Gangland History Podcast

Jacob Stoops

Host of the Gangland History Podcast

This podcast sits at the intersection of my life-long love for history, my love of mob movies, my now decades-long fascination with the Mafia, as well as my passion for content creation.