The American Mafia, commonly referred to in North America as the Italian American Mafia, the Mafia, or the Mob, is a highly organized Italian American criminal society and organized crime group. The organization is often referred to by its members as Cosa Nostra (Italian pronunciation: [ˈkɔːza ˈnɔstra, ˈkɔːsa -], "our thing" or "this thing of ours") and by the American government as La Cosa Nostra (LCN). The organization's name is derived from the original Mafia or Cosa nostra, the Sicilian Mafia, with "American Mafia" originally referring simply to Mafia (or Cosa nostra) groups from Sicily operating in the United States, as the organization initially emerged as an offshoot of the Sicilian Mafia (known also as Cosa nostra by its members) formed by Italian immigrants in the United States. However, the organization gradually evolved into a separate entity partially independent of the original Mafia in Sicily, and it eventually encompassed or absorbed other Italian immigrant and Italian-American gangsters and Italian-American crime groups (such as the American Camorra) active in the United States and Canada that were not of Sicilian origin. In North America, it is often colloquially referred to as the Italian Mafia or Italian Mob, though these terms may also apply to the separate yet related Sicilian Mafia or other organized crime groups in Italy or ethnic Italian crime groups in other countries.
|Founded||August 24, 1868|
|Founding location||Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, and various other East Coast cities in the United States|
|Years active||Since the mid-19th century|
|Territory||Primarily in the Northeast, Midwestern cities, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Florida, with smaller operations elsewhere in the U.S.|
Factions in Southern Ontario and Montreal in Canada
|Ethnicity||Full members (made men) are of Italian descent|
Other criminals of any ethnicity are employed as "associates"
|Membership (est.)||Over 3,000 members and associates|
|Criminal activities||Arms trafficking, arson, assault, bribery, car theft, counterfeiting, drug trafficking, extortion, fencing, fraud, illegal gambling, loan sharking, money laundering, murder, pornography, prostitution, racketeering, robbery, smuggling, theft|
Sacra Corona Unita
various independent Italian-American gangs (such as the 10th & Oregon Crew, Purple Gang, South Brooklyn Boys, and Tanglewood Boys)
various motorcycle gangs (such as the Hells Angels, Outlaws and Pagans)
various street gangs (such as the Bloods, Crips and Latin Kings)
Albanian mafia Russian mafia
|Rivals||Various gangs and organized crime groups |
Historically rivals of the Irish Mob
The Mafia in the United States emerged in impoverished Italian immigrant neighborhoods or ghettos in New York's East Harlem (or Italian Harlem), the Lower East Side, and Brooklyn; also emerging in other areas of the East Coast of the United States and several other major metropolitan areas (such as New Orleans and Chicago) during the late 19th century and early 20th century, following waves of Italian immigration especially from Sicily and other regions of Southern Italy. It has its roots in the Sicilian Mafia but is a separate organization in the United States. Campanian, Calabrian and other Italian criminal groups in the U.S., as well as independent Italian-American criminals, eventually merged with Sicilian Mafiosi to create the modern pan-Italian Mafia in North America. Today, the American Mafia cooperates in various criminal activities with Italian organized crime groups, such as the Sicilian Mafia, the Camorra of Campania and the 'Ndrangheta of Calabria. The most important unit of the American Mafia is that of a "family," as the various criminal organizations that make up the Mafia are known. Despite the name of "family" to describe the various units, they are not familial groupings.
The Mafia is currently most active in the Northeastern United States, with the heaviest activity in New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and New England, in areas such as Boston, Providence and Hartford. It also remains heavily active in Chicago and has a significant and powerful presence in other Midwestern metropolitan areas such as Kansas City, Detroit, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and St. Louis. Outside of these areas, the Mafia is also very active in Florida, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. Mafia families have previously existed to a greater extent and continue to exist to a lesser extent in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Dallas, Denver, New Orleans, Rochester, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, and Tampa. While some of the regional crime families in these areas may no longer exist to the same extent as before, descendants have continued to engage in criminal operations, while consolidation has occurred in other areas, with rackets being controlled by more powerful crime families from nearby cities. At the Mafia's peak, there were at least 26 cities around the United States with Cosa Nostra families, with many more offshoots and associates in other cities. There are five main New York City Mafia families, known as the Five Families: the Gambino, Lucchese, Genovese, Bonanno, and Colombo families. The Italian-American Mafia has long dominated organized crime in the United States. Each crime family has its own territory and operates independently, while nationwide coordination is overseen by the Commission, which consists of the bosses of each of the strongest families. Though the majority of the Mafia's activities are contained to the Northeastern United States and Chicago, they continue to dominate organized crime in the United States, despite the increasing numbers of other crime groups.