Special Report

America’s Most Infamous Criminal Gangs

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Forty Thieves
> Place of origin: New York City
> Active years: 1820s-1850s
> Ethnicity: Irish

The Forty Thieves were one of New York City’s earliest gangs, operating between the 1820s and 1850s in the Five Points neighborhood of Manhattan. The band was composed of Irish immigrants fleeing religious oppression and famine from Ireland. They were led by Edward Coleman, who organized the disparate group into a structured street gang with its own rules and a hierarchy. Gang members reportedly had to meet a quota of stealing a fixed amount of goods each day or be expelled.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

North Side Gang
> Place of origin: Chicago
> Active years: 1919-1935
> Ethnicity: Irish, Polish, Italian

This gang, which operated on Chicago’s North Side, was unusual in that it included members of the Irish, Polish, and Italian communities. They were bootleggers who battled for control of that illicit trade with Al Capone’s South Side Gang. Among its leaders were Dean O’Banion, Hymie Weiss, Vincent Drucci, and Bugs Moran. The North Siders were weakened by the assassination of O’Banion, and seven more members of the gang were famously slain in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929 – effectively crippling the group for good.

Source: Boogich / E+ via Getty Images

Velentzas Organization
> Place of origin: New York City
> Active years: 1950s-present
> Ethnicity: Greek

The Velentzas Organization is a Greek-American criminal organization based in Queens, and operating around the New York City metropolitan area. It was founded by one “Pete the Greek” Kourakos, but took on the name of a later leader, Spyredon “Spiro” Velentzas. The group controlled many illegal gambling operations in the 1980s and early ’90s. It had a close association with the Lucchese crime family, but ran afoul of the Gambinos. In 1992, Velentzas, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

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