Home News Stories 2004 January Breaking Up Organized Crime Families

Breaking Up Organized Crime Families

Protecting Communities by Breaking Up Families
Organized Crime Families, That Is


On TV and the silver screen, the mobsters always seem to get away with it. But in real life, they aren't so lucky—thanks to the FBI and its partners in law enforcement.

This week, yet another victory was announced in the relentless war on organized crime. Taking the hit—for the second time in just over a year—is the Bonanno family, one of the most powerful organized crime groups in the country.

Specifically: A 20-count indictment charges 27 members and associates of the Bonanno family with wide-ranging racketeering and murder charges going back more than a decade. Among those named are acting boss Anthony "Tony Green" Urso; acting underboss Joseph "Joe C." Cammarano; and Vito Rizzuto, widely known as the "Godfather of the Italian mafia in Montreal."

Among the revelations: That these mobsters were willing to kill even the children of mob turncoats who snitched to the government, a practice long banned among the Mafia. Caught on tape, Acting Boss Urso said: "If you take one kid, I hate to say it, and do what you gotta do, [cooperating witnesses will] ... think twice."

How did we catch these slick characters? By following the money. FBI forensic accountants studied the family's financial holdings and transactions, identified patterns of criminal activity, then used that information to convince high-level family members to "turn" on their associates. That gave law enforcement, as U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf put it, "unprecedented access to the inner workings of Bonanno family's administration."

Why go after them now? In this age of global crime—when the FBI is working to defeat multinational terrorist organizations, keep hostile intelligence services from pilfering state secrets and corporate technologies, and head off malicious cyber attacks on critical infrastructure—why does the FBI still go after organized crime enterprises?

Because: Organized crime entangles entire cities and communities in its web of corruption and violence. Legitimate commerce is undermined. Businesses are extorted. Labor unions are controlled. Stock markets are manipulated. High-priced goods are stolen. Drugs are sold far and wide. Violence spills out across the community. And, like just about everything else, organized crime has gone global. Mobsters today not only have local and regional connections, but national and international ones. Groups from overseas are also setting up shop here in the U.S.

So what's left of the Bonanno family? Not much. Virtually the entire leadership of the Bonanno family has been decimated. Which is why Ray Kelly, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department, calls that family an "endangered species."

So as you watch those TV shows and movies, remember, organized crime isn't getting away scot-free. In real life, it's a whole different story. And a compelling one.