Organized Crime

FBI Agents Help Arrest Organized Crime Members (Reuters)

The FBI is dedicated to eliminating transnational organized crime groups that pose the greatest threat to the national and economic security of the United States. The Bureau has found that even if key individuals in an organization are removed, the depth and financial strength of the organization often allow it to continue, so the FBI targets entire organizations responsible for a variety of criminal activities. The Bureau draws upon the experience, training, and proficiency of its agents; its partnerships within the intelligence and law enforcement communities; and its worldwide presence, using sustained, coordinated investigations and the criminal and civil provisions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.


Today's organized crime threat is broader and more complex than ever, and includes:

  • Russian mobsters who fled to the U.S. in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse;
  • Groups from African countries like Nigeria that engage in drug trafficking and financial scams;
  • Chinese tongs, Japanese Boryokudan, and other Asian crime rings; and
  • Enterprises based in Eastern European nations like Hungary and Romania.

All of these groups have a presence in the U.S. or are targeting our citizens from afar—using the Internet and other technologies of our global age. And more and more, they are becoming partners in crime, realizing they have more to gain from cooperating than competing.

The impact of transnational organized crime isn’t easily measured, but we know it’s significant. Organized crime rings manipulate and monopolize financial markets, traditional institutions like labor unions, and legitimate industries like construction and trash hauling. They bring drugs into our cities and raise the level of violence in our communities by buying off corrupt officials and using graft, extortion, intimidation, and murder to maintain their operations. Their underground businesses—including prostitution and human trafficking—sow misery nationally and globally. They also con us out of millions each year through various stock frauds and financial scams. The economic impact alone is staggering; it is estimated that global organized crime reaps illegal profits of around $1 trillion per year.

To combat the ongoing threat posed by these groups, we have a long-established—yet constantly evolving—organized crime program dedicated to eliminating the criminal enterprises that pose the greatest threat to America. Dismantling and disrupting major international and national organized criminal enterprises is a longstanding area of FBI expertise. We have the experience and training to target criminal enterprises, the broad statutory jurisdictions to bring down entire organizations rather than just individuals, and a presence throughout the nation and the world. We also participate in joint task forces with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies that allow us to pool resources of various agencies, taking advantage of the efficiencies and expertise of each of these agencies. And we partner with agencies around the world.

Glossary of Terms 

Criminal Enterprise

The FBI defines a criminal enterprise as a group of individuals with an identified hierarchy, or comparable structure, engaged in significant criminal activity.

These organizations often engage in multiple criminal activities and have extensive supporting networks. The terms Organized Crime and Criminal Enterprise are similar and often used synonymously. However, various federal criminal statutes specifically define the elements of an enterprise that need to be proven in order to convict individuals or groups of individuals under those statutes.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute, or Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1961(4), defines an enterprise as "any individual, partnership, corporation, association, or other legal entity, and any union or group of individuals associated in fact although not a legal entity."

The Continuing Criminal Enterprise statute, or Title 21 of the United States Code, Section 848(c)(2), defines a criminal enterprise as any group of six or more people, where one of the six occupies a position of organizer, a supervisory position, or any other position of management with respect to the other five, and which generates substantial income or resources, and is engaged in a continuing series of violations of subchapters I and II of Chapter 13 of Title 21 of the United States Code.

Organized Crime

The FBI defines organized crime as any group having some manner of a formalized structure and whose primary objective is to obtain money through illegal activities.

Such groups maintain their position through the use of actual or threatened violence, corrupt public officials, graft, or extortion, and generally have a significant impact on the people in their locales, region, or the country as a whole.

Significant Racketeering Activity

The FBI defines significant racketeering activities as those predicate criminal acts that are chargeable under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute. These are found in Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1961 (1) and include the following federal crimes:

  • Bribery
  • Sports Bribery
  • Counterfeiting
  • Embezzlement of Union Funds
  • Mail Fraud
  • Wire Fraud
  • Money Laundering
  • Obstruction of Justice
  • Murder for Hire
  • Drug Trafficking
  • Prostitution
  • Sexual Exploitation of Children
  • Alien Smuggling
  • Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods
  • Theft from Interstate Shipment
  • Interstate Transportation of Stolen Property

And the following state crimes:

  • Murder
  • Kidnapping
  • Gambling
  • Arson
  • Robbery
  • Bribery
  • Extortion
  • Drugs

Transnational Crime Threats

African Criminal Enterprises 

African criminal enterprises have developed quickly since the 1980s due to the globalization of the world's economies and the great advances in communications technology. Easier international travel, expanded world trade, and financial transactions that cross national borders have enabled them to branch out of local and regional crime to target international victims and develop criminal networks within more prosperous countries and regions. The political, social, and economic conditions in African countries like Nigeria, Ghana, and Liberia also have helped some enterprises expand globally.

African criminal enterprises have been identified in several major metropolitan areas in the U.S., but are most prevalent in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Milwaukee, Newark, New York, and Washington, D.C.

Nigerian criminal enterprises are the most significant of these groups and operate in more than 80 other countries of the world. They are among the most aggressive and expansionist international criminal groups and are primarily engaged in drug trafficking and financial frauds.

The most profitable activity of the Nigerian groups is drug trafficking—delivering heroin from Southeast and Southwest Asian into Europe and the U.S. and cocaine from South America into Europe and South Africa. Large populations of ethnic Nigerians in India, Pakistan, and Thailand have given these enterprises direct access to 90 percent of the world’s heroin production. The associated money laundering has helped establish Nigerian criminal enterprises on every populated continent of the world.

Nigerian groups are famous globally for their financial frauds, which cost the U.S. alone an estimated $1 billion to $2 billion each year. Schemes are diverse, targeting individuals, businesses, and government offices. Just some of their fraudulent activities include insurance fraud involving auto accidents; healthcare billing scams; life insurance schemes; bank, check, and credit card fraud; advance-fee schemes known as 4-1-9 letters; and document fraud to develop false identities. The advent of the Internet and e-mail have made their crimes more profitable and prevalent.

How We Combat African Criminal Enterprises

The FBI participates in two initiatives to bolster efforts to combat African criminal enterprises:

  • The Department of Justice Nigerian Crime Initiative coordinates the federal investigations of Nigerian criminal enterprises by using joint task forces in six major U.S. cities.
  • The Interpol West African Fraud annual conference brings together law enforcement agents from around the world to discuss and share information about the financial frauds perpetuated by criminal enterprises whose members are predominantly West African, and specifically Nigerian Criminal Enterprises.

Asian Criminal Enterprises 

Asian criminal enterprises have been operating in the U.S. since the early 1900s. The first of these groups evolved from Chinese tongs—social organizations formed by early Chinese-American immigrants. Members of the most dominant Asian criminal enterprises affecting the U.S. today have ties—either directly or culturally—to China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Other enterprises are emerging as threats, however, including groups from the South Pacific island nations.

Asian criminal enterprises rely on extensive networks of national and international criminal associates that are fluid and extremely mobile. They adapt easily to the changes around them, have multilingual abilities, can be highly sophisticated in their criminal operations, and have extensive financial capabilities. Some enterprises have commercialized their criminal activities and can be considered business firms of various sizes, from small family-run operations to large corporations. These enterprises have prospered thanks largely to the globalization of the world economies and to communications technology and international travel. Generous immigration policies have provided many members the ability to enter and live on every populated continent in the world today undetected.

There are two categories of Asian criminal enterprises. Traditional criminal enterprises include the Chinese triads (or underground societies) based in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau as well as the Japanese Yakuza or Boryokudan. Non-traditional criminal enterprises include groups such as Chinese criminally-influenced tongs, triad affiliates, and other ethnic Asian street gangs found in several countries with sizeable Asian communities. Both enterprises conduct traditional racketeering activities normally associated with organized crime: extortion, murder, kidnapping, illegal gambling, prostitution, and loansharking. They also smuggle aliens, traffic heroin and methamphetamine; commit financial frauds; steal autos and computer chips; counterfeit computer and clothing products; and launder money.

Several trends exist among Asian criminal enterprises. First, it is more common to see criminal groups cooperate across ethnic and racial heritage lines. Second, some gangs and criminal enterprises have begun to structure their groups in a hierarchical fashion to be more competitive, and the criminal activities they engage in have become globalized. Finally, more of these criminal enterprises are engaging in white-collar crimes and are co-mingling their illegal activities with legitimate business ventures.

In the U.S., Asian criminal enterprises have been identified in more than 50 metropolitan areas. They are more prevalent in Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

How We Combat Asian Criminal Enterprises

The FBI participates in different working groups and initiatives to combat Asian organized crime on an international level:

  • The FBI/National Police Agency of Japan Working Group meets annually to discuss ongoing investigations and policy matters for sharing intelligence, interagency investigative support, and FBI extraterritorial operations in Japan.
  • Project Bridge is a working group under Interpol to help member countries coordinate investigations and information sharing between police agencies to fight Asian-alien smuggling syndicates.
  • The Interagency Working Group on Alien Smuggling coordinates policy discussions and examines investigative issues relating to alien smuggling and the trafficking of women and children. It is sponsored by the National Security Council’s Special Coordination Group on International Crime.
  • The International Asian Organized Crime Conference meets annually, bringing together law enforcement agencies from around the world to discuss new trends and exchange ideas on combating Asian organized crime.
  • The Canadian/United States Cross-Border Crime Forum addresses cross-border crime issues and effective coordination between the U.S. and Canadian law enforcement.
  • The International Law Enforcement Academy in Bangkok, Thailand, is run with assistance from the FBI and Australian federal law enforcement agencies. The academy provides training to law enforcement agents from several Southeast Asian countries.

Balkan Criminal Enterprises 

The term “Balkan Organized Crime” applies to organized crime groups originating from or operating in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Greece, and Romania.

Balkan organized crime is an emerging threat in the U.S. While several groups are active in various cities across the country, they do not yet demonstrate the established criminal sophistication of traditional Eurasian or La Cosa Nostra (LCN) organizations. However, they have proven themselves capable of adapting to expanding criminal markets and becoming involved in new activities, much like the historical growth of other organized crime groups.

History of Balkan Organized Crime

Organized crime in the Balkans has its roots in the traditional clan structures. In these largely rural countries, people organized into clans with large familial ties for protection and mutual assistance. Starting in the 15th century, clan relationships operated under the kanun, or code, which values loyalty and besa, or secrecy. Each clan established itself in specific territories and controlled all activities in that territory. Protection of activities and interests often led to violence between the clans. The elements inherent in the structure of the clans provided the perfect backbone for what is considered modern-day Balkan organized crime.

Many years of communist rule led to black market activities in the Balkans, but the impact of these activities was limited to the region. When communism collapsed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it led to the expansion of Balkan organized crime activities. Criminal markets once closed to Balkan groups suddenly opened, and this led to the creation of an international network. Within the Balkans, organized crime groups infiltrated the new democratic institutions, further expanding their profit opportunities.

Balkan criminal organizations have been active in the U.S. since the mid-1980s. At first, these organizations were involved in low-level crimes, including bank robberies, ATM burglaries, and home invasions. Later, ethnic Albanians affiliated themselves with the established LCN families in New York, acting as low-level participants. As their communities and presence have become more established, they have expanded to lead and control their own organizations.

There is no single Balkan “Mafia,” structured hierarchically like the traditional LCN. Rather, Balkan organized crime groups in this country translated their clan-like structure to the United States. They are not clearly defined or organized and are instead grouped around a central leader or leaders. Organized crime figures maintain ties back to the Balkan region and have established close-knit communities in many cities across the nation.

Albanian organized crime activities in the U.S. include gambling, money laundering, drug trafficking, human smuggling, extortion, violent witness intimidation, robbery, attempted murder, and murder. Balkan organized crime groups have recently expanded into more sophisticated crimes including real estate fraud.

Eurasian Criminal Enterprises 

We apply the term “Eurasian Organized Crime” to organized crime groups comprised of criminals born in or with family from the former Soviet Union or Central Europe.

These groups operate in numerous countries around the world, including the U.S., where their criminal activities cause hundreds of millions of dollars in losses to U.S. businesses, investors, and taxpayers through sophisticated fraud schemes and public corruption.

History of Eurasian Organized Crime

The roots of Eurasian organized crime in the U.S. lie with the Vory V Zakone or “thieves in law,” career criminals who banded together for support and profit in the Soviet prison system. During the Soviet period, their leaders or “shop managers” were illicitly paid a 30 percent margin to acquire scarce consumer goods and divert raw materials and finished goods from production lines for the benefit of Nomenklatura, or the educated elite, and criminals.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, members allied themselves with corrupt public officials to acquire the control of industries and resources that were being privatized. This gave the syndicate a one-time infusion of wealth and supplied the infrastructure for continuing cash flows and opportunities to launder criminal proceeds.

In February 1993, Boris Yeltsin, the first elected president of the Federation of Russian States, said, “Organized crime has become the No. 1 threat to Russia’s strategic interests and to national security...Corrupted structures on the highest level have no interest in reform.”

Organized crime members first emerged in the West in the 1970s when Soviet Refuseniks were allowed to emigrate to Europe, Israel, and the U.S. Among the Refuseniks were criminals who sought to exploit their new-found freedoms. These criminals helped the major criminal groups expand to the West when the Soviet Union collapsed and the people of the region were able to move about freely.

These groups based in the former Soviet Union have also defrauded newly formed governments of billions of dollars, as industries and resources formerly owned by the government have been privatized. They profit through tax-evasion schemes and using corrupt officials to embezzle government funds. Their activity threatens to destabilize the emerging political institutions and economies of the former Soviet Union, where nuclear weapons remain deployed. The potential political and national security implications of this destabilization cannot be ignored.

In the U.S., they are heavily involved in healthcare fraud, auto insurance fraud, securities and investment fraud, money laundering, drug trafficking, extortion, auto theft, and the interstate transportation of stolen property. They also are active in human smuggling and prostitution. To concentrate on the activities of these organized crime groups, the FBI established investigative squads in New York and Los Angeles in 1994, San Francisco in 1995, Miami in 1997, Philadelphia in 1998, and in Newark and Chicago in 1999.

How We Combat Eurasian Organized Crime

The FBI belongs to several international working groups to combat the influence and reach of Eurasian organized crime and limit its impacts on all countries.

Eurasian Organized Crime Working Group

Acting under the auspices of the G8, this working group evolved from a group established in 1994. It meets to discuss and jointly address the transnational aspects of Eurasian organized crime that impact member countries and the international community in general. The member countries are Canada, Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, the U.S., and Russia.

Central European Working Group

In 1995, our Eurasian Organized Crime Unit developed the concept and hosted the first meeting of the Central European Working Group at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Budapest, Hungary. Participants at the first meeting were law enforcement representatives from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Austria, and Germany.

This group is part of a project that brings together the FBI and Central European law enforcement agencies to discuss cooperative investigative matters covering the broad spectrum of Eurasian organized crime. A principal concern is the growing presence of Russian and other Eurasian organized criminals in Central Europe and the U.S.

The initiative works on practical interaction between the participating agencies to establish lines of communication and working relationships, to develop strategies and tactics to address transnational organized crime matters impacting the region, and to identify potential common targets. Within a year, the working group had expanded to include law enforcement agencies and representatives from Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Israel, Great Britain, and Belgium.

Southeast European Cooperative Initiative

The Southeast European Cooperative Initiative is an international organization intended to coordinate police and customs regional actions for preventing and combating trans-border crime. It is headquartered in Bucharest, Romania, and has 12 fully participating member countries. The U.S. has been one of 14 countries with observer status since 1998.

The initiative’s center serves as a clearing house for information and intelligence sharing, allowing the quick exchange of information in a professional and trustworthy environment. The initiative also supports specialized task forces for countering trans-border crime such as the trafficking of people, drugs, and cars; smuggling; financial crimes; terrorism; and other serious trans-border crimes.

The 12 member countries are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Turkey. The observers are Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Canada, France, Georgia, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.

Mafia Suspect Arrested

A suspect is arrested during a massive takedown of the Mafia in New York City and other East Coast cities in 2011.

Italian Organized Crime 

Since their appearance in the 1800s, the Italian criminal societies known as the Mafia have infiltrated the social and economic fabric of Italy and now impact the world. They are some of the most notorious and widespread of all criminal societies. There are several groups currently active in the U.S.: the Sicilian Mafia, the Camorra, the ’Ndrangheta, and the Sacra Corona Unita, or United Sacred Crown. We estimate the four groups have approximately 25,000 members total, with 250,000 affiliates in Canada, South America, Australia, and parts of Europe. They are also known to collaborate with other international organized crime groups from all over the world.

The Mafia has more than 3,000 members and affiliates in the U.S., scattered mostly throughout the major cities in the Northeast, the Midwest, California, and the South. Their largest presence centers around New York, southern New Jersey, and Philadelphia. The major threats to American society posed by these groups are drug trafficking—heroin, in particular—and money laundering. They also are involved in illegal gambling, political corruption, extortion, kidnapping, fraud, counterfeiting, infiltration of legitimate businesses, murders, bombings, and weapons trafficking. Industry experts in Italy estimate that their worldwide criminal activity is worth more than $100 billion annually. 

A Long History

These enterprises evolved over the course of 3,000 years during numerous periods of invasion and exploitation by numerous conquering armies in Italy. Over the millennia, Sicilians became more clannish and began to rely on familial ties for safety, protection, justice, and survival. An underground secret society formed initially as resistance fighters against the invaders and to exact frontier vigilante justice against oppression.

In Sicily, the word Mafia tends to mean “manly.” A member was known as a “man of honor,” respected and admired because he protected his family and friends and kept silent even unto death. Sicilians weren’t concerned if the group profited from its actions because it came at the expense of the oppressive authorities. These secret societies eventually grew into the Sicilian Mafia, and changed from a group of honorable Sicilian men to an organized criminal group in the 1920s.

Sicilian Mafia

Since the early 1900s, the Sicilian Mafia has evolved into an international organized crime group. Some experts estimate it is the second largest organization in Italy. Based in Sicily, this group specializes in heroin trafficking, political corruption, and military arms trafficking—and also is known to engage in arson, frauds, counterfeiting, and other racketeering crimes. With an estimated 2,500 Sicilian Mafia affiliates, it is the most powerful and most active Italian organized crime group in the U.S.

The Sicilian Mafia is infamous for its aggressive assaults on Italian law enforcement officials. In Sicily the term “excellent cadaver” is used to distinguish the assassination of prominent government officials from the common criminals and ordinary citizens killed by the Mafia. High-ranking victims include police commissioners, mayors, judges, police colonels and generals, and Parliament members.

Camorra (Neapolitan Mafia)

The Camorra first appeared in the mid-1800s in Naples, Italy, as a prison gang—the word “Camorra” means gang. Once released, members formed clans in cities and continued to grow in power. The Camorra has more than 100 clans and approximately 7,000 members, making it the largest of the Italian organized crime groups.

The Camorra made a fortune in reconstruction after an earthquake ravaged the Campania region in 1980. Now it specializes in cigarette smuggling and receives payoffs from other criminal groups for any cigarette traffic through Italy. The Camorra is also involved in money laundering, extortion, alien smuggling, robbery, blackmail, kidnapping, political corruption, and counterfeiting. It is believed that nearly 200 Camorra affiliates reside in the U.S. 

’Ndrangheta (Calabrian Mafia)

The word “’Ndrangheta” comes from Greek, meaning courage or loyalty. The ’Ndrangheta formed in the 1860s when a group of Sicilians was banished from the island by the Italian government. They settled in Calabria and formed small criminal groups.

There are about 160 ’Ndrangheta cells with roughly 6,000 members. Cells are loosely connected family groups based on blood relationships and marriages. They specialize in kidnapping and political corruption, but also engage in drug trafficking, murder, bombings, counterfeiting, gambling, frauds, thefts, labor racketeering, loansharking, and alien smuggling. In the U.S., there are an estimated 100-200 members and associates, primarily in New York and Florida. 

Sacra Corona Unita

Law enforcement became aware of the Sacra Corona Unita—translated to "United Sacred Crown"—in the late 1980s. Like other groups, it started as a prison gang. As its members were released, they settled in the Puglia region of Italy and continued to grow and form links with other Mafia groups.

The Sacra Corona Unita consists of about 50 clans with approximately 2,000 members and specializes in smuggling cigarettes, drugs, arms, and people. It is also involved in money laundering, extortion, and political corruption. The organization collects payoffs from other criminal groups for landing rights on the southeast coast of Italy, a natural gateway for smuggling to and from post-Communist countries like Croatia, Albania, and the former Yugoslavia.

Very few Sacra Corona Unita members have been identified in the U.S., although some individuals in Illinois, Florida, and New York have links to the organization.

La Cosa Nostra

La Cosa Nostra is the foremost organized criminal threat to American society. Translated into English it means “this thing of ours.” It is a nationwide alliance of criminals—linked by blood ties or through conspiracy—dedicated to pursuing crime and protecting its members. It also is called the Mafia, a term used to describe other organized crime groups.

The LCN, as it is known by the FBI, consists of different “families” or groups that are generally arranged geographically and engaged in significant and organized racketeering activity. It is involved in a broad spectrum of illegal activities: murder, extortion, drug trafficking, corruption of public officials, gambling, infiltration of legitimate businesses, labor racketeering, loan sharking, prostitution, pornography, tax-fraud schemes, and stock manipulation schemes. 

The LCN is most active in the New York metropolitan area, parts of New Jersey, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, and New England. It has members in other major cities and is involved in international crimes. Although the LCN has its roots in Italian organized crime, it has been a separate organization for many years. Today it cooperates in various criminal activities with different criminal groups that are headquartered in Italy.

Read more about the history of La Cosa Nostra and the Genovese Crime Family.

The Italian American Working Group

Over the years, FBI investigations have revealed how organized criminal groups have proliferated and impacted much of the world. Partnerships with foreign law enforcement agencies are essential to combat global organized crime groups. Among the partnerships the FBI is involved with is the Italian American Working Group, which meets annually. The group addresses organized crime, cyber crime, money laundering, international terrorism, illegal immigration, cooperating witnesses, drug smuggling, art theft, extradition matters, and cigarette smuggling. The U.S. and Italy take turns hosting the meetings.

Labor Racketeering

Labor racketeering is the domination, manipulation, and control of a labor movement in order to affect related businesses and industries. FBI investigations over the years have clearly demonstrated that labor racketeering costs the American public millions of dollars each year through increased labor costs that are eventually passed on to consumers. This crime has become one of the LCN’s fundamental sources of profit, national power, and influence. 

Labor unions provide a rich source for organized criminal groups to exploit: their pension, welfare, and health funds. There are approximately 75,000 union locals in the U.S., and many of them maintain their own benefit funds. Labor racketeers attempt to control health, welfare, and pension plans by offering “sweetheart” contracts, peaceful labor relations, and relaxed work rules to companies, or by rigging union elections. Labor law violations occur primarily in large cities with both a strong industrial base and strong labor unions, like New York, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and Philadelphia. These cities also have a large presence of organized crime figures.

The FBI works closely with the Office of Labor Racketeering in the Department of Labor and with the U.S. Attorneys’ offices in investigating violations of labor law. We also have several investigative techniques to root out labor law violations, including electronic surveillance, undercover operations, confidential sources, and victim interviews. Additionally, numerous criminal and civil statutes are at our disposal, primarily through the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Statute.

The civil provisions of the RICO statute, especially the consent decrees, have proven to be very powerful weapons against labor racketeering. They are often more productive because they attack the entire corrupt entity instead of imprisoning individuals, who can easily be replaced with other organized crime members or associates. Consent decrees are most effective when there is long-term, systemic corruption at virtually every level of a labor union by criminal organizations. A civil RICO complaint and subsequent consent decree can restore democracy to a corrupt union by imposing civil remedies designed to eliminate such corruption and deter its re-emergence.

Middle Eastern Criminal Enterprises 

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the FBI has taken a new look at the various threats originating in the Middle East and from Middle Eastern communities in the U.S. Contrary to a prevailing notion prior to 9/11, the FBI and law enforcement in general have come to recognize that some Middle Eastern criminal groups have no nexus to terror. Instead, these groups have the same goals as any traditional organized crime ring—to make money through illegal activities.

Middle Eastern criminal groups have been active in the U.S. since the 1970s in areas with significant Middle Eastern or Southwest Asian populations. These organizations are typically loosely organized theft or financial fraud rings formed along familial or tribal lines. They typically use small storefronts as bases for criminal operations.

These enterprises engage in many kinds of crime schemes, including automobile theft, financial fraud, money laundering, interstate transportation of stolen property, smuggling, drug trafficking, document fraud, health care fraud, identity fraud, cigarette smuggling, and the theft and redistribution of infant formula. They rely on extensive networks of international criminal associates and can be highly sophisticated in their criminal operations. Organizations often engage in joint criminal ventures with one another.

In the U.S., Middle Eastern criminal enterprises are most prevalent in Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, and New York. Internationally, they thrive in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Canada. These enterprises may include criminals from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

Western Hemisphere Organized Crime 

The FBI remains focused on efforts to counter transnational criminal threats originating from the western hemisphere—in particular, in three critical areas of criminal activity known as the source zone (where the activity originates), the transit zone (the areas through which the activity passes), and the retail zone (the activity’s ultimate destination).

Source zone countries such as Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia account for all the coca harvested in the world, while Mexico is the largest producer of heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana in the western hemisphere. The paramount crime issue in the source zone is the production of illicit narcotics, followed by money laundering, alien smuggling, illegal weapons trafficking, and human trafficking. The transnational criminal organizations enriched and empowered by these activities are responsible for much of the violence in this zone.

The transit zone is comprised of Mexico and Central American countries, primarily Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador. The various Central American gangs and other regional groups are involved in migrant smuggling, human trafficking, drug smuggling, and the trafficking of firearms. Due to escalating Mexican law enforcement attention against transnational criminal organizations in that country, Central American drug flow has increased dramatically in the last decade. The resulting displacement of criminal activity and attendant violence from Mexico to other countries in this zone underscores the need for coordinated regional strategies to address transnational criminal activities, so that one country’s success does not negatively impact another’s. Also, the islands of the Caribbean, including Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, can be considered points of concern for similar reasons.

The retail zone comprises the U.S. and Canada. The U.S. provides the largest drug consumption market in the western hemisphere while Canada serves two roles—as both a destination and transit country for illicit activities including drug smuggling and global alien smuggling.

To combat the activities of Mexican, Central American, and South American transnational criminal organizations—including illicit finance and money laundering activities and the flow of illegal drugs—the FBI works side-by-side with its numerous domestic and international partners to infiltrate, disrupt, and dismantle these groups by targeting their leadership and using sensitive investigative and intelligence techniques in long-term, proactive investigations.