The Mafia has controlled everything from the street corner drug trade to the highest levels of government. Glorified by movies and television, hounded by law enforcement officials, marked for death by their enemies, mobsters live violent and often brief lives. The Mafia at its core is about one thing -- money. Still, there are secret rituals, complicated rules and tangled webs of family loyalty.In this article, we'll find out how people get into the Mafia, what the Mafia does and what law enforcement agencies have done to stop them. We'll also learn about the important people and events that have shaped this not-so-secret society. Mafia: An Overview
Today, the word "mafia" is used to refer to almost any organized crime group, and in some cases is even used to describe groups completely unrelated to crime. In this article, we will focus on the traditional meaning of "mafia": organized criminal organizations of Italian or Sicilian heritage. In organized crime there is a hierarchy, with higher-ranking members making decisions that trickle down to the other members of the family. The Mafia is not a single group or gang -- it is made up of many families that have, at times, fought each other in bitter, bloody gang wars. At other times, they have cooperated in the interest of greater profits, sometimes even serving on a "Commission" that made major decisions affecting all the families (more on the Commission later). Most of the time, though, they simply agree to stay out of each other's way.Mafia-dom is neither a political nor a religious affiliation. Because of their Italian roots, many Mafioso are Catholic, but part of the oath a mobster takes when he becomes a "made man" -- a member of a Mafia family -- is that the Mafia comes before birth family and God. Mafia Jargon
*La Cosa* Nostra - The term cosa_ nostra_, which is sometimes translated from Italian to mean "our thing," originally referred to the general lifestyle of organized criminals in Sicily. When the Mafia moved to the United States, FBI agents listening in on wiretaps heard the term. They began using the term La Cosa Nostra (which is grammatically incorrect) to refer to the Mafia. In time, La Cosa Nostra referred specifically to American Mafioso, differentiating them from "old world" mobsters. Omerta - Omerta is the Mafia code of silence.
Made man - This is a man who has been officially inducted into a Mafia family. Capo - The capo was originally the head of a family in Sicily. Now, the capo is more like a lieutenant who serves the family boss. Family - Each individual gang within the Mafia is known as a family. Not everyone within a family is actually related to one and other, although it is common for relatives of mobsters to be inducted into the same family as their brothers or fathers. Wiseguy - This is someone who is involved with the Mafia. *The Structure of La Cosa* Nostra
The structure described below refers specifically to La Cosa Nostra. Other groups have similar structures, but they may differ in some ways. Each group is made up of several gangs, known as families. The number of families can range from fewer than 10 to more than 100. Sometimes, the emergence of a new family must be approved by the heads of other families, while in some cases a group can splinter off from another family and consolidate its power, becoming recognized as a new family over time. Each family has separate business dealings, but the dealings of the families can intermingle to a large extent depending on their proximity to one another and the commonality of their ventures. The leader of each family is known as the boss, or don. All major decisions are made by the boss, and money made by the family ultimately flows to him. The boss's authority is needed to resolve disputes and keep everyone in line. Just below the boss is the underboss. The underboss is the second in...