For our latest venture into the workings of the Mafia we wanted to explain how a Mafia family is structured, so let’s break it down for you.
Families & The Commission
It was actually Maranzano who first began structuring the mob, as he divided criminal gangs into crime families during the short time he was the Boss of Bosses.
Soon came the death of Maranzano which didn’t just mark the end of the mustache pete era but it also marked the end of the title of Boss of Bosses. It was now the dawn of a new structured and organized era that would take the Mafia to a new level.
The title of ‘Boss of Bosses’ or ‘capo di tutti capi’ was abolished by Lucky Luciano as he thought that having an overall boss would cause too much friction with other families. Instead Lucky decided to create something that would settle any disputes or territory feuds without the need to shed blood. That innovation was called The Commission. The Commission was more of a committee, a governing body, rather than a sole Boss of Bosses.
The Commission consisted of seven family bosses: the leaders of New York’s Five Families who were Charlie Luciano, Vincent Mangano, Tommy Gagliano, Joseph Bonanno and Joe Profaci, and then the leaders of the Chicago Outfit Al Capone and Buffalo family boss Stefano Magaddino. Lucky was to be the Chairman of the Mob.
Each family also had a structure, and again it was Lucky Luciano who put this regimented, army style structure in place. Many people call it the Mafia family tree, and on screen now you will see your typical crime family tree.
At the top of the pile is the boss. A boss makes all the major decisions and all the Mafia income ultimately came to him. His authority was required to control the Mafia members and to resolve any disputes. In the late 20th century and even today, the real boss keeps a low-profile and assigns an acting boss to keep his real identity hidden from the likes of the press, and the FBI. One such case was seen in the Genovese Crime Family when Tony Salerno was given the role of acting boss, even though Vincent Gigante was infact the real boss.
Just below the boss is the underboss. The underboss is the second in command, although the amount of power he holds can vary. Some underbosses resolve disputes without involving the boss himself. Some underbosses are groomed to replace the boss if he is old or in danger of going to jail. An example of a famous Underboss was Sammy Gravano.
In-between the boss and underboss is a role of an advisor to the boss. The Consigliere as they are more commonly called are there to make impartial decisions based upon fairness and for the good of the Mafia. They Consigliere never really gets involved in the business and criminal operations but they still get respected as if they were a boss. If you have ever watched the Godfather then Tom Hagen, played by Robert Duvall, was a great example of this role. Frank Costello was also a Consligliere to Lucky Luciano, when Vito Genovese was the Underboss.
A Caporegime is sometimes referred to as the Captain or the Capo of a crime family. How many capos there are in a given family simply depends on how big that family is. The role of a Capo is to manage their own crew within the crime family, they will be given a designated geographical location to operate within, or they will be given a particular racket to run. A Capo’s career relies heavily on how much money they can bring into the family. The Capo keeps some of his earnings and the rest are passed up to the Underboss and ultimately the Boss. There have been many famous capo’s throughout the past 100 years such as John Gotti and Joe Adonis.
At the bottom of the tree are soldiers or saldato, who will report to their Captain. Soldiers are street level mobsters who essentially are no more than your average type criminals and there can be many soldiers assigned to one capo. They can earn a lot or they can earn a little, but the majority won’t earn much because any money earnt is passed up the tree. They will stick their necks on the line, and a lot of soldiers can end up murdered by rival gangs or banged up in jail. Again there are many soldiers that have been and gone, but one famous solider who earnt well for his boss was Robert DiBernardo, under Paul Castellano.
The final part of a family comes in the shape of an associate. Up until now every role within the family from Boss to Underboss, Capo to Soldier will have all been made men. However, an associate is exactly how it’s described. They are not actual members of the Mafia, but they work with Mafia soldiers and capos on various criminal enterprises. An associate is simply someone who works with the mob, including anyone from a burglar or drug dealer to a lawyer, investment banker, police officer or politician. Associates can still become made-men if they meet the criteria set out, if successful they will be promoted to a street solider, usually.