"The Honored Society, or Mafia, as it was less often called, was a vast criminal brotherhood that had developed in Palermo and western Sicily independently of the Camorra of Naples." They developed on the East Coast, mainly in Manhattan, but weren't a force to be reckoned with until the 1920s. Prohibition in the U.S. intensified the public's thirst for liquor, and Mafioso Carlo Gambino, Joe Bonanno, Lucky Lusiano, and Tommy Lucchese immediately took advantage of this by quickly building stills, warehouses distribution centers, and trucking companies. These bosses made millions on the outcry for booze, and society as a whole began to rely on them for basic needs such as this. Such an operation also needed many laborers, and the crime families recruited as many immigrant workers and strong men as they could possibly hire. When prohibition ended, however, almost all gave up the liquor business and set their sights on other business.
The illegal businesses that the Mafia is especially invested in are: bootlegging, the distribution of moon-shine, narcotics distribution, extortion (focused on a range from domestic ocean ports to privately owned garbage-trucking companies), gambling, hijacking automobiles and goods from trucks, ghost-labor, and many more. To cover themselves incase of a Federal Investigation built up into a RICO trial, La Cosa Nostra also delved into many legitimate businesses. Global "organized crime is a $100 billion dollar untaxed business, but the Italian Mafia is still the only group that has infiltrated hundreds of legitimate U.S. industries and labor unions." In the garbage collection business the Mafia hauls trash for up to 200,000 commercial buildings in the Tri-State Area surrounding Manhattan. While these businesses are legal, they still have the cut-throat essence that the Mafia brings to the table. "Grumbles from businessmen about bad service, extortionate prices and victimization for trying to switch garbage collectors have provoked at least eight government investigations since the mid-1950s into racketeering in the city's waste-disposal industry." Other straight' businesses include night clubs, transportation of goods, construction, even restaurants.
Prior to 1909 the American Mafia engaged in no major services to the non-Italian general public, and the families confined their activities to the Italian community where they provided policing, gambling, job procurement, and illegal alien entry. After the Opium Exclusion Act of 1909, however, the prohibitions presented the Mafia with its first real opportunity for large-scale, public activity. La Cosa Nostra was already adept at smuggling aliens into the country, so the switch to narcotics traffic was relatively easy. "The society's expansion became a boom in 1920, when the Volstead Act added a non-addictive narcotic, ethyl alcohol, to the proscribed list. It was that combination of prohibitions, from the Opium Exclusion Act of 1909 to the Volstead Act, which created Cosa Nostra." From criminal arrest records in the 1920's and 1930's, it appears that the Mafia picked up the drug trade right after the narcotics were banned, not missing a golden opportunity to supply the expensive product to their demanding clientele.
Today, the business of product transportation in Lower Manhattan is dominantly run by the Mafia. Though the median cost of transporting goods from Cuba would run...