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Top 10 Infamous American Gangsters & Mobsters


La Cosa Nostra is an Italian-American criminal society that dominates
organized crime in the United States. 
Many of the founding members of the
American mafia emigrated from Italy in the beginning of the 20th century.
These individuals gained the nickname Mustache Petes and were members of
the Sicilian Mafia, looking to control the lucrative American market.  The
younger Sicilian-Americans would later form the Five Families of New York
and the Mafia Commission.

In the middle of the 20th century, the United States Government launched a
huge criminal campaign to rid the streets of organized crime, many influential
mafia members and
Capo di tutti capi’s (The boss of all bosses) were
exposed.  This has given us a glimpse into the true operations of organized
crime in 19th century America.  During this time in history, many infamous and
influential gangsters controlled America's largest cities.


Joe “The Boss” Masseria (1887-1931)


Giuseppe Masseria was born in Marsala, Sicily.  After immigrating to the United
States in 1903 to avoid murder charges, Masseria became an enforcer for the
Morello Gang in the Lower East Side of New York City.  After the death of
Nick Morello in 1916, he became the leader of one of several splinter groups
who fought a "civil war" for control of the gang.  Masseria is said to have had
the backing of Salvatore D'Aquila, the leader of a Brooklyn-based crime
family.  Salvatore D’Aquila was a boss of the early Gambino crime family and
Capo di tutti capi during this era.  D’Aquila took the role of top boss from
Nicholas Morello in 1916.  Soon After,
Masseria arranged the death of
Umberto Valenti, who was the new boss of the Morello crime family.  Masseria
now became head of the Morello family with Peter Morello as his number two.
Peter Morello was content with taking on a secondary role as senior advisor
behind Masseria. 

Peter Morello

The death of Frankie Yale in July 1928 appears to have been the catalyst for
Joe Masseria's ambition to become overall leader of all the Mafia gangs of
New York.  In October 1928, Toto D'Aquilla, the Mafia leader in Brooklyn, was
killed by Peter Morello and others.  Alfred Mineo and his enforcer Steve
Ferrigno, allies of Joe Masseria, then took over leadership of the D'Aquilla
family.  Joe Masseria was now "Joe the Boss," head of the largest Mafia
grouping in New York. Masseria turned to the Broadway Mob and identified
Lucky Luciano as the logical recipient of his demands for homage and tribute.
This was because Luciano was the only Sicilian member of that group, Frank
Costello and Albert Anastasia were Calabrian, Joe Adonis and Vito Genovese
were from Naples, and Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel were Jewish. 

Masseria's Body

Masseria next began to put pressure on a Mafia family known as the
Castellamarese from Sicily. Nicola "Cola" Schiro, the group’s official leader,
went into hiding and was never heard from again.  His place as leader was taken by
Salvatore Maranzano.  Maranzano was sent with several other men from Sicily in
1927 to gain control of the American Mafia for Don Vito Cascio Ferro. Masseria
quickly issued a decree ordering the death of Maranzano.  This event marks the
formal beginning of the Castellamarese War.

On April 15, 1931, Joe Masseria was assassinated at one of his favorite
restaurants, Nuova Villa Tammaro in Coney Island.  His death was organized by his
friend Lucky Luciano.  Luciano then took over Masseria's family, which became one
of the Five Families.  Salvatore Maranzano became the
Capo di tutti capi for about
six months until he was also ordered to death by Luciano.
  Lucky Luciano then
established a power-sharing arrangement rather than a "boss of bosses" in an
attempt to prevent future wars.

Lucky Luciano (1897-1962)


Charles Luciano was born in Lercara Friddi, Sicily.  His family immigrated to
the United States in 1907.  On January 16, 1919, the 18th amendment to the
U.S. Constitution was ratified making the consumption of alcohol illegal.  By
1920, Luciano had been introduced to many Mafia heavyweights, including
Vito Genovese and Frank Costello, together they began a bootlegging venture
using a trucking firm as a front.  By the middle of the 1920’s Luciano and his
partners ran the largest bootlegging business in New York.  He was making
over $100,000 a year.  Luciano imported scotch directly from Scotland, rum
from the Caribbean, and whisky from Canada. 

Salvatore Maranzano

From 1928-1931, the Castellammarese War was waged on the streets of New
York.  It was a bloody power struggle for control of the Italian-American mafia
between partisans of Joe "The Boss" Masseria and those of Salvatore
Maranzano.  During this time Luciano was working as 2nd in command to
Giuseppe Masseria.  One day in 1929, Luciano was forced into a limo at gun
point by three men, beaten, stabbed, and dumped on a beach on New York
Bay.  He survived the ordeal, but was forever marked with the now famous
scar and droopy eye.
In 1931, Luciano helped orchestrate the assassination of his boss Masseria in
a Coney Island restaurant by Bugsy Siegel, Vito Genovese, and Joe Adonis.
In return for this he was made 2nd in command to Salvatore Maranzano, who
became capo di tutti capi (boss of all bosses), the undisputed leader of the
entire mafia.  Masseria’s death ended the Castellammarese War.  Maranzano
set up the Five Families of New York, but ordered the individual bosses to pay
him royalties.  Many did not appreciate this and Luciano soon assembled a hit
squad to pose as government agents.  They stormed the offices of Maranzano
and shot him dead. 

Lucky Luciano

Luciano stepped in and created the power-sharing arrangement called The
Commission, which was a group of five mafia families of equal stature.
Luciano sat atop the most powerful crime family in America, which now bore
his name and controlled the most lucrative criminal rackets in New York, such
as gambling, bookmaking, loan-sharking, drug trafficking, and extortion.
Luciano was very influential in labor and union activities and controlled the
Manhattan Waterfront, garbage hauling, construction, Garment Center
businesses, and trucking organizations.  In 1936, Luciano was convicted of
running one of the biggest prostitution rings in U.S. history.  He continued to
control the Luciano Crime Family from prison, relaying his orders through his
first acting boss, Vito Genovese.
Genovese fled to Naples, Italy in 1937 and Frank Costello became the new
Sottocapo and overseer of Luciano's interests.  In 1946, Luciano was paroled
on the condition that he departed the United States and returned to Sicily.  He
secretly ran his operations out of Cuba.  On January 26, 1962, Luciano died
of a heart attack at Naples International Airport. 
Luciano is considered the
father of modern organized crime and the mastermind behind the massive
postwar expansion of the international heroin trade.  He was the first official
boss of the modern Genovese crime family.

The Leaders of the Original Five Families of New York

The Commission

Lucky Luciano


Vincent Mangano


Joseph Bonanno


Joseph Profaci


Gaetano Gagliano


Al Capone (1899-1947)


Al Capone was born in Brooklyn, New York and his parents were Southwestern
Italian immigrants.  Early in his life Capone joined the Five Points Gang and in 1921
he moved to southside Chicago.  In Chigago, Capone met up with friend and fellow
gangster Johnny Torrio.  In 1923, Chicago's city government began to put pressure
on the gangster elements inside the city limits. Capone and Torrio decided to move
their headquarters into Cicero, Illinois.  This angered fellow gangster Myles
O'Donnell who had controlled Cicero's turf.

A mob war ensued, which resulted in over 200 deaths, including the infamous
gangster Bill McSwiggins.  Capone and his gang would eventually take over
Cicero's town government.  The 1924 town council elections in Cicero became
known as one of the most crooked elections in history.  In 1925, Johnny Torrio was
severely injured during an assassination attempt by the North Side Gang.  He
returned to Italy and turned his business over to Capone.


Capone built one of the biggest organized crime organizations in the world and
became a member of the Five Families of New York.  Al Capone was notorious
during the Prohibition Era for his control of large portions of the Chicago
underworld, which provided the Outfit with an estimated US $100 million per
year.  The Outfits largest money maker was liqueur, but they also generated
mass wealth from prostitution and gambling.  Capone formed a smuggling
network and distributed alcohol to the East Coast, supplied The Purple Gang in
Detroit, and many areas in the Midwest.
Capone bribed many Chicago city officials, including Mayor William
Thompson.  This allowed him to indulge in a luxurious lifestyle, including
custom suits, cigars, gourmet food and drink.  Al Capone’s preferred liquor
was Templeton Rye from Iowa.  Capone’s rise to the top was not easy and
the rival North Side gangsters Hymie Weiss and Bugs Moran made many
attempts on his life.  It prompted Capone to fit his car with bullet proof glass.
The car was later seized by the U.S. Treasury Department and used as
President Franklin D. Roosevelt's limousine. 


Al Capone used the Lexington Hotel at 22nd Street as his primary home.  He
had the grounds protected 24 hours a day.  In 1929, Bugs Moran’s North Side
gang became increasingly bold at hijacking Capone’s booze trucks.  Capone’s
Outfit decided to strike back and he organized the Saint Valentine's Day
massacre, which became the most notorious gangland killing of the century.
Seven members of the North Side Gang were lined up and executed by
gangsters disguised as police officers.  In 1929, Bureau of Prohibition agent
Eliot Ness began a successful investigation of Capone and his business.  Two
years later he was indicted and convicted of income tax evasion and various
violations of the Volstead Act.
Capone was sent to Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary and then transferred to the
infamous Alcatraz Island Penitentiary in 1932.  While at Alcatraz his health
declined, do to his syphilis.  The disease took over his mind and he became
mentally and physically disabled.  Capone was paroled from Alcatraz in 1939,
but was no longer able to run his organized crime family.  Al Capone died in
1947 after suffering a fatal stroke and cardiac arrest.

Bugsy Siegel (1906-1947)


Benjamin Siegel was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to a poor Jewish family
from Letychiv, Podolia Governorate of the Russian Empire, in modern
Ukraine.  As a teenager Siegel worked with mobster Meyer Lansky running
various gambling books and they formed a car theft ring. He was also a hired
hitman for various crime families.  In 1930, Siegel built ties to Charles "Lucky"
Luciano and Frank Costello, future bosses of the Genovese crime family.  He
became a ranking member of the family and was in charge of numerous
bootlegging operations in New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia.  He was
one of four gunmen who shot New York mob boss Joe Masseria to death on
Luciano's orders, ending the Castellammarese War.  In 1937, the East Coast
mob sent Siegel to California to develop syndicate gambling rackets with Los
Angeles mobster Jack Dragna. 


On November 22, 1939, Siegel, Whitey Krakower, and two other gang
members killed Harry "Big Greenie" Greenberg.  Greenberg had become a
police informant.  Siegel was acquitted of the crime, but his reputation was in
ruins.  During the trial, newspapers revealed Siegel's past and referred to him
as "Bugsy.”  A name that he despised, if you called him Bugsy to his face he
might have killed you.  In 1946, Bugsy Siegel was given the job of watching
the mobs interests in the growing gambling paradise of Las Vegas, specifically
overseeing the construction of William R. Wilkerson's Flamingo.  Siegel
proved useful to the project and obtained black market building materials.  Due
to wartime conditions the cost of materials was extremely inflated.  It was a
time when Las Vegas was very small and the mob managed and funded many
of the large casinos. 

The Flamingo

Siegel wanted The Flamingo to be the nicest casino in Las Vegas and he spent
staggering amounts of money on construction features.  By the spring of 1947
the Flamingo had cost an astounding $6 million and the mob officially cut off
funding.  It opened later that year and billed itself as the world’s most luxurious
hotel.  Initially the profit margin struggled and the mob bosses became
suspicious of Siegel skimming their cash.  The Flamingo quickly turned around
the profit margin and became a successful money maker.  However, it was too
late and Siegel was killed by an unknown assailant who fired at him with a
.30-caliber military M1 carbine, hitting him many times, including twice in the
head.  Bugsy Siegel is historically recognized for establishing one of the first
lavish Las Vegas gambling empires.

Link to Siegel's Death Picture

Dutch Schultz (1902-1935)


Dutch Schultz was born and grew up in New York.  At a young age he turned to
violence, theft, and crime.  Schultz had the reputation as one of the hardest
and short tempered characters in the neighborhood.  In 1928, gangster Joey
Noe set up the Hub Social Club, a rat hole speakeasy in a Brook Avenue
tenement and hired Schultz.  Schultz quickly gained a reputation for brutality
and a short temper.  Noe made him a partner and the pair expanded their
bootlegging operations.  They purchased trucks and supplied many different
speakeasies with alcohol.  If someone refused service, Schultz would make
them pay.  The Noe and Schultz gang controlled the beer supply for the entire
Bronx.  The operation became the only non-Italian gang to rival those who
would become the heads of the Mafia's Five Families. 


Noe and Schultz expanded their operation into Manhattan and Jack "Legs"
Diamond did not appreciate it.  A mob war broke out.  In 1928, Joey Noe was
gunned down outside of the Chateau Madrid on 54th Street and the following
year Legs Diamond was riddled with machine gun fire, but lived only to leave
New York.  With the end of prohibition Schultz turned to the Harlem numbers
racket, which is an illegal lottery where the player attempts to pick three or
four digits to match those that will be randomly drawn the following day.
Schultz hired accountant and math whiz Otto "Abbadabba" Berman to help him
fix the racket.  Schultz and his gang also began extorting New York restaurant
owners and workers, using strong-arm tactics such as beatings and stink
bomb attacks. 

Schultz and Dixie Davis

The Dutchman was a killer.  Here is a recollection of gangster Dixie Davis.
Dutch Schultz was ugly; he had been drinking and suddenly he had his gun
out. The Dutchman wore his pistol under his vest, tucked inside his pants, right
against his belly. One jerk at his vest and he had it in his hand. All in the same
quick motion he swung it up, stuck it in Jules Martin’s mouth and pulled the
trigger. It was as simple and undramatic as that, just one quick motion of the
hand. The Dutchman did that murder just as casually as if he were picking his

Dutch Schultz Last Picture

Schultz was indicted on federal tax invasion charges in 1935 and Lucky
Luciano divided his empire among his associates. 
Luciano placated Schultz
with the explanation that they were just 'looking after the shop while he was
away, only to ensure that everything ran smoothly, and promised that control
of his rackets would be returned.  While awaiting trial Schultz went before the
Mafia Commission and asked for permission to kill his enemy, U.S. attorney
Thomas Dewey.  They voted unanimously against the proposal claiming it
would bring too much heat.  This made Dutch Schultz a liability to The
Commission and on October 23, 1935, Schultz was shot and killed at the
Palace Chophouse in Newark, New Jersey.  He was only 33 years old.  Dutch
Schultz last words have become infamous as they were taken down by a
police stenographer.

“A boy has never wept...nor dashed a thousand kim.  You can play jacks, and
girls do that with a soft ball and do tricks with it.  Oh, Oh, dog Biscuit, and
when he is happy he doesn't get snappy.”

Shortly before his death, fearing that he would be incarcerated due to Dewey's
efforts, Schultz commissioned the construction of a special air-tight, waterproof
safe, into which he placed $7 million in cash and bonds.  The safe was never

Meyer Lansky (1902-1983)


Meyer Lansky was born into a Jewish family in Grodno, which at the time was
part of Russia, now part of Belarus.  As a teenager he immigrated to America
and became acquaintances with Bugsy Siegel.  The two became lifelong
friends and during the 1920’s managed the Bug and Meyer Mob, which quickly
gained the reputation as one of the most violent Prohibition gangs.  Lansky
was instrumental in Lucky Luciano's rise to power by organizing the 1931
murder of Mafia powerhouse Salvatore Maranzano.  Lansky had a huge
influence, but preferred to maintain a low profile, avoid attention, and was not
interested in becoming The Boss of Bosses.  Lansky acted as a financial
advisor and partner to Lucky Luciano.  He was a high ranking member of The
Commission.  He created lucrative gambling operations in Florida, New
Orleans, Las Vegas, and Cuba. 


Lansky convinced the Mafia to become a major investor in Bugsy Siegel's
Flamingo Hotel.  He eventually bought an offshore bank in Switzerland to
launder his funds.  He is said to have collected over $400 million for the mob
in his lifetime.  Coming from a Jewish heritage, Lansky despised the Nazi
movement and on many instances regulated American rallies held by Nazi
sympathizers, basically his gang went in and beat them all senseless.
During World War II, Lansky was also instrumental in helping the Office of
Naval Intelligence's Operation Underworld, in which the US government
recruited mobsters to look out for German infiltrators and submarine-borne
saboteurs.  According to Lucky Luciano's authorized biography, during this
time, Lansky helped arrange a deal with the US Government via a high ranking
U.S. Navy official.  This deal would secure the release of Lucky Luciano from
prison.  In exchange the Italian mafia would provide security for the war ships
that were being built along the docks in New York Harbor.


Lansky and Siegel’s major investment in The Flamingo hotel was not turning
over the profit it was supposed to and on two or three separate occasions
Lansky had to convince The Mob Commission to spare the life of his childhood
friend.  The situation became too much for Lansky to handle and On June 20,
1947, Siegel was shot and killed in Beverly Hills, California.  Lansky also had
a close relationship with Cuban president General Fulgencio Batista, who was
harboring Luciano after his deportation from the U.S.  Lansky's last years
were spent quietly at his home in Miami Beach.  He died of lung cancer on
January 15, 1983, aged 81, leaving behind a widow and three children.  In
Mario Puzo's The Godfather Part II, the character Hyman Roth, played by Lee
Strasberg, appears to be heavily based on Meyer Lansky. 

Carlo Gambino (1902-1976)


Gambino was a native of the town Caccamo in Palermo, Sicily.  In his teens
Gambino began carrying out murders for Mob bosses.  In 1921, at the age of
19, he became a "made man", and was inducted into Cosa Nostra.  He entered
the United States as an illegal immigrant on a shipping boat.  Upon arrival in
America he joined his cousins, the Castellanos, in New York City. Gambino
became a member of the “Young Turks,” which was a group of Americanized
Italians in New York which included mobsters like Frank Costello, Albert
Anastasia, Frank Scalice, Settimo Accardi, Gaetano Lucchese, Joe Adonis,
Vito Genovese, Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel and was headed by one of the
future's most powerful Mob bosses, Lucky Luciano.

Albert Anastasia

Gambino became a captain in the Mangano crime family, where his illegal
activities were loan sharking and illegal gambling.  At some point Vincent
Mangano became irritated with his underboss Albert Anastasia, who was the
leader of the Cosa Nostra's most notorious death squad, Murder, Inc.  In
1951, Philip Mangano was found murdered and Vincent Mangano himself
vanished the very same day and was never found.  Anastasia became the
new boss of the family, with Gambino as his underboss.  It was a huge
promotion for Gambino and he was now one of the most powerful mobsters in
the world.
During the early 1950’s Frank Costello was facing increasing pressures from
Vito Genovese, who wanted to take over Luciano's organization now that
Luciano was in Italy.  Costello was in need of some new muscle when his
former help New Jersey crime boss Guarino "Willie" Moretti began to lose his
mind.  Costello turned to Anastasia, but his attempt failed and Genovese
moved against Costello, by hiring Vincent "Chin" Gigante to assassinate him.
The attempt failed, but Costello retired from the commission.  Genovese was
now the head of the Luciano crime family, which he renamed the Genovese
crime family.  In 1957, Albert Anastasia was murdered, which made Carlo
Gambino the new boss of the Mangano crime family, which was renamed the
Gambino crime family. 

Frank Costello

In 1959, Genovese was arrested on drug charges.  Gambino became the new
Boss of all Bosses. Gambino had kept a low profile and still managed to
become the most powerful mob boss in the U.S.  He also created the family
policy: "Deal and Die."  This was Gambino's message to every family member;
heroin and cocaine were highly lucrative, but were dangerous, and would
attract attention.  The punishment for dealing drugs was death.  This helped
the mob keep a low profile.  Gambino died of a heart attack on October 15,
1976, while watching a New York Yankees game at his home.  At the time of
his death he managed
 a crew of 1,000 soldiers.  He lead the Gambino crime
family for 20 years and The Commission for 15. 

Vito Genovese

Page 2 & The Conclusion of This List

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Sheri - September 10, 2009 at 6:13 PM
Neat information, very detailed on Mafioso.

Timothy Diamond - August 19, 2010

I'm Timothy Diamond, great cousin of Jack legs Diamond.

gingrivera - January 4, 2011

How about Bobby Manna and Newsboy Moriaty of Jersey City New Jersey?

Patrick - January 26, 2011

I believe you have a mistake on this page.  The picture of Salvatore D'Aquila, is
actually a photo of Albert Anastasia.  I am very certain of this.

Best wishes.

Bryan - January 26, 2011
You’re right.  Thanks for the info.  I have made the corrections. 

Copyright The List Blog - Top 10, All Rights Reserved, Posted September 9, 2009