Special Report

America’s Most Infamous Criminal Gangs

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Chicago Outfit
> Place of origin: Chicago
> Active years: 1910-present
> Ethnicity: Italian

The Chicago Outfit, part of The Commission, has been around since the early part of the 20th century. Some of America’s most infamous mobsters were part of this group, among them Al and Ralph Capone; enforcer Frank Nitti; assassin Jack McGurn; mob bigshot Johnny Torrio; and Sam Giancana, the gang leader who allegedly had ties to the Kennedys. The Outfit was likely responsible for the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in which seven members of the rival North Side gang were shot by gunmen dressed as policemen.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Colombo Family
> Place of origin: New York City
> Active years: 1928-present
> Ethnicity: Italian

The Colombo crime family is the youngest of New York’s notorious Five Families. It was founded by Joseph Profaci in 1928, and he remained unchallenged as his family’s boss for decades. Internal peace gave way to strife beginning in the 1950s as a younger generation personified by Joe Gallo sought control. After Profaci died from cancer, Joseph Colombo took over and led the family until he was shot at an Italian-American Civil Rights League rally in 1971. He survived but was paralyzed for the rest of his life. Gallo, believed to be behind the Colombo shooting, was slain at a Greenwich Village restaurant a year later.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Bufalino crime family
> Place of origin: Northeastern Pennsylvania
> Active years: 1900-2010
> Ethnicity: Italian

The Bufalino crime family, which was portrayed in the Martin Scorsese-directed gangster film “The Irishman,” is a segment of a Northeastern Pennsylvania crime family. It’s named after Russell Bufalino, who succeeded underworld boss Joseph “Joe the Barber” Barbara in the 1950s. Barbara was famous for hosting the famed 1957 Apalachin Meeting, at which a Who’s Who of Mafia figures gathered in upstate New York for an organized crime summit.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Patriarca crime family
> Place of origin: Boston and Providence, R.I.
> Active years: 1916-present
> Ethnicity: Italian

The Patriarca crime family, founded by Gaspare Messina in 1916 but renamed for a later boss, Raymond Patriarca, who ran it from 1954 to 1984, dominated the rackets in New England for decades. Patriarca was succeeded by his son Raymond Jr., who was arrested in 1990 under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act. Internal friction led to a decline in the crime family’s influence. In the movie “The Departed,” several members of the crime family from Providence try muscling into a neighborhood run by an Irish gang and are beaten up by one of the rival gang’s members.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Cleveland crime family
> Place of origin: Cleveland
> Active years: 1920-present
> Ethnicity: Italian

The Cleveland crime family was started by the Lonardo and Porrello brothers, who migrated to the U.S. from Sicily in the early 20th century. Joseph Lonardo became the first boss. He controlled the inventory of corn sugar, which was used to make bootleg liquor during Prohibition. In 1926, tensions rose between the two families and the following year, gunmen assassinated Joseph and John Lonardo inside a barbershop. Joseph Porrello assumed control of the family, but he and his brother Vincenzo were assassinated in turn three years later and the mob was taken over by Frank Milano, who forged alliances with local Jewish mobsters. The Cleveland mob has historically been riven by internal strife and struggles for power.

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