The FBI – Taking Down the Mafia (Famous Cases of the FBI)

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After the assassination of New Orleans police chief David Hennessy in , a number of Italian-Americans were charged with the crime.

While Americans of the Prohibition Era followed the violent careers of gangsters like Al Capone, those types of criminals were generally seen as local groups, limited to a city or a small region rather than being a national syndicate. The FBI, under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover, began keeping tabs on individual gangsters and modernizing their investigation and enforcement tactics, and by the late s notorious criminals had largely been arrested or killed.

By the s, intelligence agencies and the Department of Justice turned their attention to what they saw as matters of great importance.

The Cold War was slowly heating up, and getting bogged down by supposedly small-scale domestic crime seemed like a waste of resources. Among the most purposely myopic law enforcement officials was Hoover. The FBI director repeatedly dismissed the notion that a network of criminals like the Mafia might be operating on a national scale.

Holder: Charges Include 'Classic Mob Hits'

And while Hoover accumulated personal files on 25 million people over the course of his tenure, most of them from the period before the s contained information on suspected Communists and other antagonists rather than on criminals or gangsters. Hoover fit the bill perfectly. In , the American Municipal Association which represented more than 10, cities petitioned the government to take more immediate measures against organized crime, reporting that illegal gambling and interstate crime were going unchecked by the federal government.

When the Kefauver Committee proceedings were televised in March , approximately 30 million Americans tuned in. And as before, Hoover refused to acknowledge the existence of an American Mafia. But with the capture of nearly 60 mafia members at the Apalachin meeting, Hoover and the FBI could no longer avoid taking action against the Mafia, or denying its existence. The men who congregated in New York came from all over the country, from Florida to the Midwest, and had close business and often familial relationships.

They were indeed the foundation of a crime syndicate.

Within four days—on November 18—Hoover ordered the creation of an anti-mob initiative. Shortly thereafter he created the Top Hoodlum Program, and authorized the use of illegal wire taps to track down criminals. But even as Hoover acknowledged the mafia as a real organization, he continued to filter them through the vocabulary of the Cold War.

He says the result of that framing was an oversimplified view of a complicated criminal network. The arrests made at Apalachin resulted in few immediate repercussions. It took years for prosecutors to put together legal cases; eventually, 20 men were charged with obstruction of justice and found guilty. But all of the convictions were overturned and the mafioso went free.

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Yet Apalachin was still an important turning point: the moment when mafia took on a solid meaning, and the U. Continue or Give a Gift. Privacy Policy , Terms of Use Sign up. SmartNews History.


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History Archaeology. World History. Featured: The Suspect in City Hall. Science Age of Humans. Future of Space Exploration. Human Behavior. Our Planet. Earth Optimism Summit. Ingenuity Ingenuity Festival. Up to 50 men escaped that day, but another 58 were taken into custody. All insisted they had come to Apalachin simply to wish an ailing friend well—Barbara had recently suffered a heart attack and would die of another one in June —and were eventually released.

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The concept had first been introduced in , when Senator Estes Kefauver and other members of the U. In Congress passed a law allowing wiretap evidence in federal courts, providing investigators with a vital and controversial weapon in their war against organized crime. Two years later, it passed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations RICO Act, which allows for prosecutions against criminal organizations and the seizure of their assets.


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Eight of the original defendants stood trial together and were convicted in November Rather than hunting down an individual capo boss or underboss, who would quickly be replaced by the next in line, they would seek to dismantle entire chains of command. Needless to say, Al Dente Pizzeria is now under new management. Prosecutors led by future FBI director Louis Freeh made the case that Sicilian mobsters were smuggling millions of dollars worth of heroin and cocaine into the United States, where it was then distributed by members of the New York-based Bonanno crime family. Joseph Pistone, the FBI special agent who famously infiltrated the Bonanno crime family using the alias Donnie Brasco, learned of the operation while undercover and brought it to the attention of the bureau.

He also provided key testimony during the trial. The ensuing trial, which started in January , created a media frenzy. Gravano made a deal with the government and testified in court against his boss, admitting to 19 murders, 10 of them sanctioned by Gotti. In addition, prosecutors presented secret taped conversations that incriminated Gotti. After deliberating for 13 hours, the jury, which had been kept anonymous and sequestered during the trial, came back with a verdict on April 2, , finding Gotti guilty on all counts.

Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, where he was held in virtual solitary confinement. On June 10, , Gotti died of throat cancer at age 61 at a Springfield, Missouri, medical center for federal prisoners.