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Organized Crime

Rico, Organized Crime Offenses, Characteristics Of Organized Crime, Early Las Vegas And The Mafia

Some of the most recognizable names associated with U.S. organized crime include "Lucky" Luciano (1892–1962), Meyer Lansky (1902–1983), Al Capone (1899–1947), and "Bugsy" Siegel (1906–1947). Legendary American Mafia or Cosa Nostra crime families include the Colombos, Bonannos, Genoveses, Luccheses, and Gambinos. Famous gangs include the Hell's Angels, the Bloods, the Crips, the Green Light Gangs, the Gangster Disciples, and the Latin Kings. These notable crime bosses, crime families, and street gangs span a time period from the 1920s to the 2000s.

The legends and stories of real life mobsters and street gangs have often captivated our nation's imagination. The entertainment industry fed this fascination with the The Godfather (1972–90) movies and the Home Box Office (HBO) cable television series, The Sopranos. Both depict the extravagant mob lifestyle of fancy cars, clothes, and ritzy homes. The characters of Don Vito Corleone and Tony Soprano, although fictional, have become the public's perception of what real crime families are like.

By the 1990s a number of organized crime units operating within the United States had home bases far from American The movie The Godfather, starring Marlon Brando, helped glamorize the life of a mobster. (© Bettmann/Corbis) soil. Chinese organized crime groups called triads, Hong Kong triads, the Russian Mafia, the Japanese Yakuza, South American drug cartels (organized crime groups growing and selling narcotics), and the Mexican Mafia represent just some of the organized crime groups operating and cooperating with U.S. crime outfits. In 2002 the FBI reported U.S. organized crime activities brought in an annual income of between $50 and $90 billion dollars—more income than any major national industry. Around that time worldwide profits for organized crime were estimated to be approximately one trillion dollars a year.

Organized crime is any group that has an organized structure of bosses, advisors, and working members whose key goal is to obtain money and property through illegal activities. Organized crime groups use extortion (threats of violence) and force to obtain money or property from a person or group. For example, an organized crime group may extort business owners in a neighborhood by making them pay a monthly fee for protection. If an owner refuses, his business may be vandalized or destroyed. Organized crime activities can negatively impact a community, a region, and the whole country.

For More Information


Lunde, Paul. Organized Crime: An Inside Guide to the World's Most Successful Industry. New York: DK Publishing, Inc., 2004.

Lyman, Michael D., and Gary W. Potter. Organized Crime. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004.

Sanchez, Reymundo. Once a King, Always a King: The Unmaking of a Latin King. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press, 2003.

Siegel, Dina, Henk von de Bunt, and Damian Zaitch, eds. Global Organized Crime: Trends and Developments. Boston: Kluwer Academic, 2004.

Sullivan, Robert, ed. Mobsters and Gangsters: Organized Crime in America, from Al Capone to Tony Soprano. New York: Life Books, 2002.

Thompson, Hunter S. Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga. New York: Modern Library, 1999.

Web Sites

"About Organized Crime." Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cid/orgcrime/ocshome.htm (accessed on August 20, 2004).

American Foreign Policy Council. http://www.afpc.org (accessed on August 20, 2004).

"Gangsters, Outlaws, and G-Men." Court TV's Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods. http://www.crimelibrary.com/gangsters-outlawsgmen.htm (accessed on August 20, 2004).

"International Organized Crime." Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice. http://www.cj.msu.edu/outreach/security/orgcrime.html (accessed on August 20, 2004).

National Alliance of Gang Investigators Associations. http://www.nagia.org (accessed on August 20, 2004).

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. http://www.unodc.org/unodc/index.html (accessed on August 20, 2004).

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law