La Cosa Nostra - Structure

Structure

The American Mafia operates on a strict hierarchical structure. While similar to its Sicilian origins, the American Mafia's modern organizational structure was created by Salvatore Maranzano in 1931. All inducted members of the Mafia are called "made" men. This signifies that they are untouchable in the criminal underworld and any harm brought to them will be met with retaliation. With the exception of associates, all mobsters are "made" official members of a crime family. The three highest positions make up the administration. Below the administration, there are factions each headed by a caporegime (captain), who lead a crew of soldiers and associates. They report to the administration and can be seen as equivalent to managers in a business. When a boss makes a decision, he rarely issues orders directly to workers who would carry it out, but instead passed instructions down through the chain of command. This way, the higher levels of the organization are insulated from law enforcement attention if the lower level members who actually commit the crime should be captured or investigated. This provides what the intelligence community calls plausible deniability.

There are occasionally other positions in the family leadership. Ruling panels have been frequently set up when a boss goes to jail to divide the responsibility of the family (these usually consist of 3 or 5 members). This also helps divert police attention from any one member. The family messenger and street boss were positions created by former Genovese family leader Vincent Gigante.

  • Boss — The boss is the head of the family, usually reigning as a dictator, sometimes called the Don or "Godfather". The boss receives a cut of every operation taken on by every member of his family. Depending on the family, the boss may be chosen by a vote from the Caporegimes of the family. In the event of a tie, the Underboss must vote. In the past, all the members of a family voted on the boss, but by the late 1950s, any gathering such as that usually attracted too much attention. In practice many of these elections are seen as having an inevitable result, such as that of John Gotti in 1986. According to Sammy Gravano a meeting was held in a basement during which all capos were searched and Gotti's men stood ominously behind him. He was then proclaimed boss.
  • Underboss — The underboss, usually appointed by the boss, is the second in command of the family. The underboss often runs the day-to-day responsibilities of the family or oversees its most lucrative rackets. They usually get a percentage of the family's income from the bosses cut. The underboss is usually first in line to become acting boss if the boss is imprisoned, while also frequently seen as a logical successor.
  • Consigliere — The consigliere is an advisor to the family and sometimes seen as the Boss's "right-hand man". They are used as a mediator of disputes, representatives or aides in meetings with other families. In practice the consigliere is normally the third ranking member of the administration of a family and was traditionally a senior member familiar with how the organization is run. A Boss will often appoint someone close to him who they trust as their consigliere.
  • Caporegime (or capo) — A caporegime (also captain or skipper) is in charge of a crew; a group of soldiers who report directly to him. Each crew usually contains 10-20 soldiers and many more associates. A capo is appointed by the boss and reports to him or the underboss. A captain gives a percentage of his (and his underlings) earnings to the boss and is also responsible for any tasks assigned, including murder. In labor racketeering it is usually a capo who controls the infiltration of union locals. If a Capo becomes powerful enough he can sometimes wield more power than some of his superiors. In cases like Anthony Corallo they might even overstep the Mafia structure and lead the family when the boss dies.
  • Soldier (Soldato in Italian) — A soldier is a member of the family, and traditionally can only be of full Italian background (although today many families require men to be of only half Italian descent on their father's side). Once a member is made he is untouchable, meaning permission from a soldier's boss must be given before he is murdered. When the books are open, meaning that a family is accepting new members, a made man may recommend an up-and-coming associate to be a new soldier. Soldiers are the main workers of the family, usually committing crimes like assault, murder, extortion, intimidation, etc. In return, they are given profitable rackets to run by their superiors and have full access to their family's connections and power.
  • Associate — An associate is not a member of the Mafia, but works for a crime family none-the-less. An associate can include a wide range of people who work for the family. An associate can have a wide range of duties from virtually carrying out the same duties as a soldier to being a simple errand boy. This is where prospective mobsters ("connected guys") start out to prove their worth. Once a crime family is accepting new membership, the best associates are evaluated and picked to become soldiers. An associate can also be a criminal who serves as a go-between or sometimes deals in drugs to keep police attention off the actual members, or they can be people the family does business with (restaurant owners, etc.) In other cases, an associate might be a corrupt labor union delegate or businessman. Non-Italians will never go any further than this, although many non-Italians like Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Murray Humphreys, and James Burke wielded extreme power within their respective crime families and carried the respect of actual members.

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