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For half a century, the American Mafia outwitted, outmaneuvered, and outgunned the FBI and other police agencies, wreaking unparalleled damage on America’s social fabric and business enterprises while emerging as the nation’s most formidable crime empire. The vanguard of this criminal juggernaut is still led by the Mafia’s most potent and largest borgatas: New York’s Five Families.
Five Families is the vivid story of the rise and fall of New York’s premier dons, from Lucky Luciano to Paul Castellano to John Gotti and others. This definitive history brings the reader right up to the possible resurgence of the Mafia as the FBI and local law-enforcement agencies turn their attention to homeland security and away from organized crime. This updated tenth-anniversary edition features a new preface by the author.
The Mafia has long held a spot in the American imagination. Despite their earned reputation for brutality, the Mafia has been glorified in countless movies, books, and television shows. Not so in this book. Selwyn Raab makes no attempt to perpetuate myths about the Mafia; instead, he exposes them as a serious threat to honest citizens: “The collective goal of the five families of New York was the pillaging of the nation’s richest city and region,” he writes. These five families–Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese, and Lucchese–were responsible for corrupting labor unions in order to control waterfront commerce, garbage collection, the garment industry, and construction in New York. They also ran illegal gambling operations, engaged in stock schemes, and initiated the widespread introduction of heroin (among other drugs) into cities of the East and Midwest in the 1950s, leading to “accelerated crime rates, law-enforcement corruption, and the erosion of inner-city neighborhoods in New York and throughout the United States.” Five Families offers a comprehensive look at the inner workings of the various clans along with vivid profiles of the gangsters who led–and continue to maintain–this criminal empire.
Beginning with a brief history of the Sicilian origins of the Mafia, Raab exhaustively explains how the Mob took over New York before spreading to cities across America, particularly Las Vegas, their most successful outside venture. He also shows how the New York Mafia lost a great deal of power in the 1980s and ’90s due to many significant busts and effective plea-bargaining. However, since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the F.B.I. has been focused mainly on external threats, leaving the Mafia room to regain some lost turf by moving into new avenues of crime. An investigative reporter for 40 years, Raab interviewed dozens of prosecutors, law enforcement officers, Mafia members, informants, and “Mob lawyers,” providing anecdotes and inside information that tell the true story of the Mafia and their influence over the past 80 years. —Shawn Carkonen