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RICO - What Happened Next . . .

crime family mafia organized

Due to the complexity of bringing organized crime members to justice, ten years passed before the first RICO convictions were obtained. Throughout the 1970s crime families continually fought for power over the many racketeering enterprises that brought in huge sums of money. The National Conference on Organized Crime in 1975 estimated mobrelated racketeering reached about $50 billion a year in the United States.

The Carlo Gambino family tree. The Gambino family was one of New York's most powerful in the American Mafia. It was successfully weakened by convictions obtained under the RICO Act of 1970. (© Bettmann/Corbis)

Battles for power and control between crime families resulted in numerous murders. Members of one family would assassinate another's boss. The family of the assassinated boss sought revenge by murdering a member of the offending family. Murders were also committed to prevent a crime member from testifying in a trial.

The first convictions of American Mafia members under RICO began in 1980. Numerous gangsters were convicted for a variety of racketeering offenses. In 1985 the bosses of all five New York City Mafia families were convicted under RICO and each received at least one hundred years in prison.

In 1992 Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano testified in court against his boss John Gotti, head of the Gambino crime family. In doing so he broke the sacred code of the Mafia—the code of silence barring every Mafia member from ever testifying against another Mafia member. Gotti was sentenced to life in prison. His brother Peter Gotti took over the family but was sentenced in April 2004 to nine years in prison.

Three decades of arrests and convictions weakened the old American organized crime families, disrupting their criminal activities. RICO proved a powerful, effective law for convicting crime family members and for tough, long sentences. By 2000 criminal gangs of "bikers" (Hells Angels, Outlaws, and Bandidos), young Hispanics, and young black Americans had become organized, profitable, and rivaled the weakened American mob families.

International crime groups had also come to America, partnering with U.S. organized crime. They include the Russian Mafia, Japanese Yakuza, Chinese Triads, South American drug groups, West Africa crime groups, Mexican Mafia, and Southeast Asian crime groups.

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