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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Al Capone, A face commonly associated with organized crime.

Organized crime or criminal organizations is a transnational grouping of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals for the purpose of engaging in illegal activity, most commonly for the purpose of generating a monetary profit. The Organized Crime Control Act (U.S., 1970) defines organized crime as "The unlawful activities of [...] a highly organized, disciplined association [...]".[1]

Mafia is a term used to describe a number of criminal organizations around the world. The first organization to bear the label was the Sicilian Mafia based in Italy, known to its members as Cosa Nostra. In the United States, "the Mafia" generally refers to the American Mafia. Other powerful organizations described as mafias include the Russian Mafia, the Chinese Triads, the Albanian Mafia, Bosnian mafia, the Irish Mob, the Japanese Yakuza, the Neapolitan Camorra, the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta, the Indian Mafia, the Unione Corse, Serbian Mafia, and the Bulgarian mafia. There are also a number of localized mafia organizations around the world bearing no link to any specific racial background.

Some criminal organizations, such as terrorist organizations, are politically motivated (see VNSA). Gangs may become "disciplined" enough to be considered "organized". An organized gang or criminal set can also be referred to as a mob. The act of engaging in criminal activity as a structured group is referred to in the United States as racketeering.


Origins and conceptual background

"If we take a global rather than strictly domestic view, it becomes evident even crime of the organized kind has a long if not necessarily noble heritage. The word 'thug' dates to early 13th-century India, when Thugs, or gangs of criminals, roamed from town to town, looting and pillaging. Smuggling and drug-trafficking rings are as old as the hills in Asia and Africa, and extant criminal organizations in Italy and Japan trace their histories back several centuries..."[2]

Today, crime is thought of as an urban phenomenon, but for most of human history it was the rural world that was crime-ridden. Pirates, highwaymen and bandits attacked trade routes and roads, at times severely disrupting commerce, raising costs, insurance rates and prices to the consumer. According to criminologist Paul Lunde, "Piracy and banditry were to the pre-industrial world what organized crime is to modern society."[3]

Organized crime is deeply linked to the moral problem of integrating subcivilized energy into civilized state building. The early Christian world was dubious about an unqualified legitimacy of nation-states. St. Augustine famously defined them as what would now be called kleptocracies, states founded on theft:

"If justice be disregarded, what are states but large bandit bands, and what are bandit bands but small states? ... Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, 'What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you who does it with a great fleet are styled emperor.'"[4]

A later North African writer, Ibn Khaldun, observing the predatorial conquests of the Mongol leader Tamerlane in the 14th century, developed a theory of state formation based on the periodic conquest of civilized states by barbarians, who are quickly acculturated by urban life, lose their warlike qualities and succumb in turn to conquest by yet another wave of barbarians[4]. As Lunde states, "Barbarian conquerors, whether Vandals, Goths, Norsemen, Turks or Mongols are not normally thought of as organized crime groups, yet they share many features associated with successful criminal organizations. They were for the most part non-ideological, predominantly ethnically based, used violence and intimidation, and adhered to their own codes of law."[3]

Although medieval feudal lords were not usually engaged in what moderns would consider "criminal activities" (except for irregular robber barons, self-enthroned Viking adventurers, and mercenary "free company" leaders), their hierarchical courts, monopoly of violence, extension of protection to their serfs in exchange for labor and a percentage of harvests and durability are structurally similar to classic organized crime groups like the Mafia. In the modern world, it is difficult to distinguish some corrupt and lawless governments from organized crime gangs. These regimes, characteristic of some of the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union, use the state apparatus to control organized crime for their own ends.

Organized crime dynamics

In order for a criminal organization to prosper, some degree of support is required from the society in which it lives. Thus, it is often necessary to corrupt some of its respected members, most commonly achieved through bribery, blackmail, and the establishment of symbiotic relationships with legitimate businesses. Judicial and police officers and legislators are especially targeted for control by organized crime via bribes.

Organized crime most typically flourishes when a central government and civil society is disorganized, weak, absent or untrusted. This may occur in a society facing periods of political, economic or social turmoil or transition, such as a change of government or a period of rapid economic development, particularly if the society lacks strong and established institutions and the rule of law. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe that saw the downfall of the Communist Bloc and establishment of new systems of democracy and free market capitalism in the region created a breeding ground for organized criminal organizations. Most of the countries fell upon economic turmoil with their markets being flooded with western products that had previously been barred by the communists regimes at exceptionally high prices and a lack of interest in importing from Eastern Europe. This led to many turning to illegitimate means of making a profit, most of the time these efforts were backed by former secret service and police force who were now out of the job.

Under these circumstances, criminal organizations can operate with less fear of interference from law enforcement and may serve to provide their "customers" with a semblance of order and predictability that would otherwise be unavailable. For similar reasons, organized crime also often takes root in many countries among ethnic minority communities or other socially marginalized groups whose members may not trust local governments or their agents. This lack of trust serves both to insulate the criminal organization from the risk that law enforcement will find cooperative witnesses, as well as to encourage community members to trust the criminal organizations rather than the police to handle disputes and protect the community. The existence of a black market, either due to market failure or to legal impediments, also tends to promote the formation of criminal organizations as well. An example of this would be the rise in organized crime under Prohibition in the United States during the 1920s (see American gangsters during the 1920s).

Lacking much of the paperwork common to legitimate organizations, criminal organizations can usually evolve and reorganize much more quickly when the need arises[citation needed]. They are quick to capitalize on newly-opened markets, and quick to rebuild themselves under another guise when caught by authorities[citation needed].

This is especially true of organized groups that engage in human trafficking[citation needed].

The newest growth sectors for organized crime are identity theft and online extortion. These activities are troubling because they discourage consumers from using the Internet for e-commerce. E-commerce was supposed to level the playing ground between small and large businesses, but the growth of online organized crime is leading to the opposite effect; large businesses are able to afford more bandwidth (to resist denial-of-service attacks) and superior security[citation needed]. Furthermore, organized crime using the Internet is much harder to trace down for the police (even though they increasingly deploy cybercops) since most police forces and law enforcement agencies operate within a local or national jurisdiction while the Internet makes it easier for criminal organizations to operate across such boundaries without detection.

In the past criminal organizations have naturally limited themselves by their need to expand. This has put them in competition with each other. This competition, often leading to violence, uses valuable resources such as manpower (either killed or sent to prison), equipment and finances. In the United States, the Irish Mob boss of the Winter Hill Gang (in the 1980s) turned informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He used this position to eliminate competition and consolidate power within the city of Boston which led to the imprisonment of several senior organized crime figures including Gennaro "Jerry" Anguilo underboss of the Patriarca crime family. Infighting sometimes occurs within an organization, such as the Castellamarese war of 1930–31 and the Boston Irish Mob Wars of the 1960s and 1970s.

Mugshot of Charles Luciano in 1936, Sicilian mobster.

Today criminal organizations are increasingly working together, realizing that it is better to work in cooperation rather than in competition with each other. This has led to the rise of global criminal organizations such as Mara Salvatrucha and the 18th Street gang. The Italian-American Mafia in the U.S. have had links with organized crime groups in Italy such as the Camorra, the 'Ndrangheta, the Rancitelli and Sacra Corona Unita. The Cosa Nostra has also been known to work with the Irish Mob (John Gotti of the Gambino family and James Coonan of the Westies are known to have worked together, with the Westies operating as a contract hit squad for the Gambino family after they helped Coonan come to power), the Japanese Yakuza and the Russian Mafia. The FBI estimates that global organized crime makes $1 trillion per year.

This rise in cooperation between criminal organizations has meant that law enforcement agencies are increasingly having to work together. The FBI operates an organized crime section from its headquarters in Washington, D.C. and is known to work with other national (e.g., Polizia di Stato, Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police), federal (e.g., Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Drug Enforcement Administration, United States Marshals Service, and the United States Coast Guard), state (e.g., Massachusetts State Police Special Investigation Unit and the New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation) and city (e.g., New York City Police Department Organized Crime Unit and the Los Angeles Police Department Special Operations Division) law enforcement agencies.

Notable criminal organizations

Perhaps the best known criminal organizations are the Sicilian and American Cosa Nostra, most commonly known as the Mafia. The Neopolitan Camorra, the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta and the Apulian Sacra Corona Unita are similar Italian organized crime groups. Other organized criminal enterprises include the Russian Mafia, the Serbian mafia, the Israeli Mafia, the Albanian Mafia, Mexican and Colombian Drug Cartels, the Indian Mafia, the Chinese Triads, Chinese Tongs, Irish Mob, the Corsican Mafia, the Japanese Yakuza, the Jamaican-British Yardies, the Turkish Mafia, the Macedonian Mafia and other crime syndicates. On a lower level in the criminal food chain are many street gangs, such as the Sureños, Nortenos, Latin Kings, Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, Bloods and Crips.

Criminal organizations may function both inside and outside of prison, such as the Mexican Mafia, Folk Nation, and the Brazilian PCC. Biker gangs such as the Hells Angels are also involved in organized crime.

Human rights law

Another use of the term "criminal organization" exists in human rights law and refers to an organization which has been found guilty of crimes against humanity. Once an organization has been determined to be a criminal organization, one must only demonstrate that an individual belonged to that organization and not that the individual actually individually committed illegal acts.[citation needed]

This concept of the criminal organization came into being during the Nuremberg Trials. Several public sector organizations of Nazi Germany such as the SS and Gestapo were judged to be criminal organizations, while other organizations such as the German Army High Command were indicted but acquitted of charges.[citation needed]

This conception of criminal organizations was, and continues to be, controversial, and has not been used in human rights law since the trials at Nuernberg.

Ideological crime

In addition to what is considered traditional organized crime involving direct crimes of fraud swindles, scams, racketeering and other Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) predicate acts motivated for the accumulation of monetary gain, there is also non-traditional organized crime which is engaged in for political or ideological gain or acceptance. Such crime groups are often labeled terrorist organizations and include such groups as Al-Qaeda, Animal Liberation Front, Earth Liberation Front, Hamas, Hezbollah, Irish Republican Army, Lashkar e Toiba, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Symbionese Liberation Army, Taliban, and Weatherman Underground.

Typical activities

Organized crime often victimize businesses through the use of extortion or theft and fraud activities like hijacking cargo trucks, robbing goods, committing bankruptcy fraud (also known as "bust-out"), insurance fraud or stock fraud (inside trading). Organized crime groups also victimize individuals by car theft (either for dismantling at "Chop shops" or for export), Art theft, bank robbery, burglary, Jewelry theft, Computer hacking, credit card fraud, Economic Espionage Act of 1996, Embezzlement, Identity theft, and Securities fraud ("pump and dump" scam). Some organized crime groups defraud national, state, or local governments by bid-rigging public projects, counterfeiting money, smuggling or manufacturing untaxed alcohol (bootlegging) or cigarettes (buttlegging), and providing immigrant workers to avoid taxes.

Organized crime groups seek out corrupt public officials in executive, law enforcement, and judicial roles so that their activities can avoid, or at least receive early warnings about, investigation and prosecution.

Organized crime groups also provide a range of illegal services and goods, such as loansharking of money at very high interest rates, assassination, Blackmailing, Bombings, bookmaking and illegal gambling, Confidence tricks, Copyright infringement, Counterfeiting of Intellectual property, Kidnapping, prostitution, drug trafficking, Arms trafficking, Oil smuggling, Organ trafficking, Contract killing, Identity document forgery, illegal dumping of toxic waste, illegal trading of nuclear materials, Military equipment smuggling, Nuclear weapons smuggling, Passport fraud, providing illegal immigration and cheap labor, people smuggling, trading in endangered species, and trafficking in human beings. Organized crime groups also do a range of business and labor racketeering activities, such as skimming casinos, insider trading, setting up monopolies in industries such as garbage collecting, construction and cement pouring, bid rigging, getting "no-show" and "no-work" jobs, money laundering, political corruption, bullying and ideological clamping.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Sullivan, Robert, ed. Mobsters and Gangsters: Organized Crime in America, from Al Capone to Tony Soprano. New York: Life Books, 2002
  3. ^ a b Paul Lunde, Organized Crime, 2004
  4. ^ a b [1], additional text.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Quotes regarding organized crime, especially those of mobsters, authorities, and crime films.




  • I've seen many lives destroyed. I've seen more people have problems with gambling than I have with drugs and alcohol. And there are some serious consequences if you get in over your head. ~ Michael Franzese
  • "If you have a lot of what people want and can't get, then you can supply the demand and shovel in the dough." ~ Lucky Luciano


  • Wherever there's opportunity, the mafia will be there. ~ Johnny Kelly
  • We cannot allow this country [Afghanistan] to be influenced by mafia and narcotics-related activities. It kills our economy. It destroys our reputation. So we are going to work against it. ~ Hamid Karzai



  • The official toxicity limit for humans is between one and one and half grams of cocaine depending on body weight. I was averaging five grams a day, maybe more. I snorted ten grams in ten minutes once. I guess I had a high tolerance. ~ George Jung
  • Danbury wasn't a prison, it was a crime school. I went in with a Bachelor of marijuana, came out with a Doctorate of cocaine. ~ George Jung
  • This is Grade A 100% pure Columbian cocaine, ladies and gentlemen. Disco shit. Pure as the driven snow. ~ George Jung
  • I can't feel my face... I mean, I can touch it, but I can't feel it inside... ~ Mr. T [after sampling some of the cocaine]


  • Listen to me Anthony. I got your head in a fuckin' vise. I'll squash your head like a fuckin' grapefruit if you don't give me a name. ~ Nicky Santoro
  • A lot of holes in the desert, and a lot of problems are buried in those holes. But you gotta do it right. I mean, you gotta have the hole already dug before you show up with a package in the trunk. Otherwise, you're talking about a half-hour to forty-five minutes worth of digging. And who knows who's gonna come along in that time? Pretty soon, you gotta dig a few more holes. You could be there all fuckin' night. ~ Nicky Santoro
  • In the casino, the cardinal rule is to keep them playing and to keep them coming back. The longer they play, the more they lose, and in the end, we get it all. Sam "Ace" Rothstein
  • No matter how big a guy might be, Nicky would take him on. You beat Nicky with fists, he comes back with a bat. You beat him with a knife, he comes back with a gun. And you beat him with a gun, you better kill him, because he'll keep comin' back and back until one of you is dead. Sam "Ace" Rothstein
  • Get this through your head you Jew motherfucker, you. You only exist out here because of me. That's the only reason. Without me, you, personally, every fuckin' wise guy skell around'll take a piece of your fuckin' Jew ass. Then where you gonna go? You're fuckin' warned. Don't ever go over my fuckin' head again. You motherfucker, you. ~ Nicky Santoro
  • What are you staring at you bald-headed Jew prick? ~ Nicky Santoro

Donnie Brasco

  • When they send for you, you go in alive, you come out dead, and it's your best friend that does it. ~ Benjamin "Lefty" Ruggiero
  • A wise guy's always right even when he's wrong, he's right. ~ Benjamin "Lefty" Ruggiero
  • When I introduce you, I'm gonna say, "This is a friend of mine." That means you're a connected guy. Now if I said instead, "this is a friend of ours", that would mean you a made guy. Capice? ~ Benjamin "Lefty" Ruggiero

The Godfather

  • [Salvatore Tessio brings in Luca Brasi's bulletproof vest, delivered with a fish inside]
    • What the hell is this? ~ Sonny Corleone
    • It's a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes. ~ Pete Clemenza
  • I don't like violence, Tom. I'm a businessman; blood is a big expense. ~ Virgil Sollozzo

The Godfather: Part II

  • There are many things my father taught me here in this room. He taught me: keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. ~ Michael Corleone
  • Michael, we're bigger than U.S. Steel. ~ Hyman Roth

The Godfather: Part III

  • The Pope - the Holy Father himself - has this very day blessed Michael Corleone; and you think you know better than the Pope? ~ Dominic Abbandando
  • You know, Michael; now that you're so respectable, I think you're more dangerous than ever. I liked you better when you were just a common Mafia hood. ~ Kay Adams/Corleone
  • The richest man is the one with the most powerful friends ~ Don Altobello


  • And when the cops, when they assigned a whole army to stop Jimmy, what'd he do? He made 'em partners ~ Henry Hill
  • Whenever we needed money, we'd rob the airport. To us, it was better than Citibank. ~ Henry Hill
  • All they got from Paulie was protection from other guys looking to rip them off. That's what it's all about. That's what the FBI can never understand - that what Paulie and the organization offer is protection for the kinds of guys who can't go to the cops. They're like the police department for wiseguys. ~ Henry Hill
  • How the fuck am I funny, what the fuck is so funny about me? ~ Tommy DeVito
  • As far back as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a gangster. ~ Henry Hill


  • Come on. Make way for the bad guy. There's a bad guy comin' through! Better get outta his way! ~ Tony Montana
  • Don't get high on your own supply. ~ Elvira Hancock
  • I'm Tony Montana! You fuck with me, you fuckin' with the best! ~ Tony Montana
  • You wanna fuck with me? Okay. You wanna play rough? Okay. Say hello to my little friend! ~ Tony Montana
  • I never fucked anybody over in my life didn't have it coming to them. You got that? All I have in this world is my balls and my word and I don't break them for no one. Do you understand? That piece of shit up there, I never liked him, I never trusted him. For all I know he had me set up and had my friend Angel Fernandez killed. But that's history. I'm here, he's not. Do you wanna go on with me, you say it. You don't, then you make a move. ~ Tony Montana
  • You don't get scars like this from eating pussy mang! ~ Tony Montana

The Sopranos

Extended list of Quotes from The Sopranos

  • Christopher Moltisanti ~ Louis Brazzi sleeps with the fishes.
    • Salvatore "Pussy" Bonpensiero ~ Luca Brasi. Luca...
    • Christopher Moltisanti ~ Whatever.
  • One more thing, you leave Comley Trucking and every other fuckin' item on this planet that belongs to my Uncle Junior, include his hemeroid doughnut, the fuck alone, got it? ~ Tony Soprano
  • This ain't negotiation time. This is Scarface, final scene, fuckin' bazookas under each arm, 'say hello to my little friend!' ~ Christopher Moltisanti
  • Christopher Moltisanti ~ Brendan's dead. His brains are floatin' in his bathtub. Message job, through the eye.
    • Salvatore "Pussy" Bonpensiero ~ Moe Greene Special.
  • I'm in the waste management business. Everybody immediately assumes you're mobbed up. It's a stereotype, and it's offensive. ~ Tony Soprano
  • There is no Mafia. ~ Tony Soprano
  • Tony Soprano ~ I think it's time for you to start to seriously consider salads.
    • Bobby Baccalieri ~ What do you mean?
    • Tony Soprano ~ What do I mean? I mean get off my car before you flip it over, you fat fuck.

The Untouchables

  • I want you to find this nancy-boy, Elliot Ness - I want him dead! I want his family dead! I want his house burned to the ground! I want to go there in the middle of the night and I want to piss on his ashes! ~ Al Capone
  • Jim Malone ~ Why do you want to join the force?
    • George Stone ~ To protect the property and citizenry of...
    • Jim Malone ~ Ah, don't waste my time with that bullshit. Where you from, Stone?
    • George Stone ~ I'm from the south-side.
    • Jim Malone ~ Stone. George Stone. That's your name? What's your real name?
    • George Stone ~ That is my real name.
    • Jim Malone ~ Nah. What was it before you changed it?
    • George Stone ~ ...Giuseppe Petri
    • Jim Malone ~ Ah, I knew it. That's all you need, one thieving wop on the team.
    • George Stone ~ Hey, what's that you say?
    • Jim Malone ~ I said that you're a lying member of a no good race.
    • George Stone ~ Much better than you, you stinking Irish pig.
    • Jim Malone ~ Oh, I like him.
  • You can get further with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word. ~ Al Capone
  • Isn't that just like a wop? Brings a knife to a gun fight. ~ Jim Malone
  • I wanna hurt the man, Malone. You hear me? I wanna start taking the fight to him. I wanna hurt Capone! ~ Eliot Ness



  • You can get much further with a kind word and a gun then you can with a kind word alone. ~ Al Capone
  • Q: "Willie, why do you rob banks?"
    A: "Cause that's where the money is." ~ Willie Sutton
  • There are three sides to every story. Mine, yours and the truth. ~ Joe Massino
  • A fish with his mouth closed never get's caught ~ [Unknown]
  • I'm in the Gotti family; my wife's the boss ~ John Gotti after being questioned by reporters whether or not he was the boss of the Gambino crime family
  • This life of ours, this is a wonderful life. If you can get through life like this, hey, thats great. But it's very, very unpredictable. There are so many ways you can screw it up. Paul Castellano


  • State and federal law enforcement authorities estimate the Genovese group’s core membership at between 250 and 300, with well over 1,000 criminal associates. ~ NJSCI
  • Law enforcement experts estimate that the name-sake organization of the late Carlo Gambino currently consists of approximately 150-200 members and as many as 1,500-2,000 associates. ~ NJSCI
  • Despite the assaults by law enforcement and the apparent slowdown in membership recruitment, law enforcement authorities estimate the Lucchese group still consists of from 110 to 140 members, with approximately 50 members active in New Jersey. The organization has at least 1,100 associates engaged in criminal activity ~ NJSCI
  • The Colombo family’s current strength is estimated at approximately 112 members and 500 associates. ~ NJSCI

External links

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Simple English

Organized crime is a group or groups of people, usually mobsters and other criminals, who work to make money in an illegal way.

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