Skinny Joey Merlino

12 Active Mafia Families In The United States (2021)

Gambino Family

The Gambinos have long been the most powerful of all mafia families and they have been in the headlines multiple times recently. The two big recent stories were the release of Gene Gotti and then the murder of family “street boss” Frank Cali. Street boss has become the new moniker for the highest ranking family member not in prison. Gene Gotti is now 71 and back on the streets, the brother of John Gotti Sr. who went to prison for heroin trafficking three decades ago. 

Gene was released in September 2018 and immediately rumors of a possible mafia war began to swirl on the streets. Sure enough, on March 13, 2019, “Franky Boy” Cali was shot to death. It appeared that the Gotti era had returned with a bang, but not quite. Cali was killed by a young man named Anthony Comello after an incident that had nothing to do with mafia business.

Domenico “Little Dom” Cefalu is the boss of the family at this time, but he has been semi retired for the last 4 years. Meanwhile Gene Gotti knows with his last name, he will be under a constant microscope with state and federal authorities. If he plans on seizing power, he hasn’t yet made that known publicly. At the current time, it is unclear if anyone has been named the new street boss.

The other contenders are underboss Lorenzo Mannino and consigliere “Mickey Boy” Paradiso, both longtime members of the family dating back to the John Gotti Sr. days. There are still well over 100 made men in the family with over 1000 associates all bringing in money. Although it’s the most dangerous job in the world, they will still battle to become the next boss.

The family continues to struggle with government surveillance. In December 2019, 11 Gambino members and associates were charged with racketeering. Federal prosecutors have a mountain of evidence based on a series of successful wiretapping operations. This has been a constant threat to the Gambinos since the early 1980s.

One of the men caught on tape and charged was family soldier Vincent Fiore who was overheard saying the death of Cali was actually a good thing. Fiore is a soldier in Gambino capo Andrew Capos’ crew. Fiore feels that his captain is should be the one to take over the family and provide new leadership.

The Gambinos are not even 50% of what they were in their golden days. But even what’s left of them equals a mafia family that’s no where near extinction. They still have their hooks in local construction and various other industries both blue collar and information age crimes.

There is likely to be some fierce competition for power for the Gambinos over the next couple of years. The mafia are rarely killing each other in today’s society but a battle for control over the country’s top mafia family could produce a street war. It appears whoever takes over the family, not everyone is going to be happy.

Genovese Family

With all the attention surrounding the Gambino family lately, the Genovese family is sure to capitalize. While they are involved with the low hanging fruit like narcotics, they also have a well diversified stream of income. They have tons of money invested in bookmaking and a good number of their higher level guys who are free to operate. 

There hasn’t been an official boss since Chin Gigante. In 2018, the Gigante name popped up again when Chin’s son Vincent Esposito and a handful of other Genovese members were hit with a slew of racketeering and extortion charges. Even after this, they still have a massive influence over the labor unions. Esposito was caught with a written list of current made men. 

What helps the Genoves family is that they tend to have more peaceful leadership changes than the other families. When the other families are spending time infighting, the Genovese continue to grow, staying under the radar as much as possible. With the Gambinos in turmoil, the Genovese family appears ready to become the top mafia family in the country, a spot they’ve held before

Their current acting boss is Liborio Bellomo, a man who was around back in Chin’s reign. Chin originally picked Bellomo as acting boss but then Bellomo went to prison for a decade. He was released in 2008 and again took the spot back after acting boss Danny Leo went to prison. Bellomo and the Genovese are operating strongly in the shadows. 

Colombo Family

The Colombo Family is now turning the page after four decades with an imprisoned Carmine “The Snake” Persico” as boss, or so it seemed. Longtime imprisoned boss Persico died last year after pulling the strings for 30 years behind bars. In an expected but greedy move, Persico named his son “Allie Boy” Persico acting boss. 

Allie Boy is serving a life sentence so the decision only makes sense in that he was keeping the power within his family. Along with an acting boss in prison, they also have a “street boss”, Andrew Russo, known as “Andy Mush”. They still operate in factions, but at least they are not currently at war, something the Colombos know too well.

Because of those wars, the number of made members has fallen to 75-85. They are the smallest of New York’s five families. Their underboss is the world’s oldest made man, 102 year old John “Sonny” Franzese, father of the famous public speaker and former Colombo capo Michael Franzese. It’s safe to say the Colombos wish they could go back to the days of the Yuppie Don.

Bonanno Family

The Bonanno family currently is a bit larger than the Colombos, but only half the size of the Gambinos and Genovese. Their current boss is convicted murderer Michael Mancuso, who served 10 years for killing his own wife in 1984. He pleaded guilty to a mob related murder in 2006 and got 15 years. He was released on March 12, 2019. 

The Bonannos have always benefited from a close relationship with the Gambinos and that still exists today. Several Bonanno and Gambino members were charged with narcotics trafficking and loan sharking in an FBI sting in November 2017. It’s not as often these days that two mafia families work so close together. 

Mancuso has Joseph Cammarano Jr., who was acquitted of racketeering and extortion charges in March 2019. The consigliere John “Porky” Zancocchio was acquitted in the same case. It’s likely that the Bonannos are going to prosper since their upper echelon are all free men. They have had some major blunders over the years like the Donnie Brasco incident, but always have shown resilience. 

Lucchese Family

The Lucchese Crime Family is was founded nearly a century ago and continues to operate today. They’ve had more than their share of setbacks but survived because of their ability to operate mostly in the shadows. The Gambinos and Genovese families have traditionally drawn far more FBI attention over the years. Lately however, the Luccheses are feeling the heat. 

More than 30 of their members and associates have been nabbed in federal stings since 2017. Soldier turned government witness John Pennisi in May 2019 provided an update on the current structure and power struggle. The boss is still “Little Vic” Amuso who has been in prison since 1992. After the death of Carmine Persico last year, Amuso is now the longest reigning boss. 

The family has at least seven crews with significant territory in Long Island, Manhattan, the Bronx and New Jersey. Amuso has named “Big Mike” DeSantis acting boss and the underboss is Steven “Wonderboy” Crea. Crea and his son Steven Jr. run the Bronx faction. Amuso informed them in 2017 that DeSanis was their new boss and if they didn’t cooperate, they’d be killed. 

The Outfit

Although they are the only mafia family in Chicago, the Outfit is arguably as strong as any of the five families in New York. Their history goes all the way back to Al Capone and the bootlegging era. Their leadership through the years has been very strong, especially under long time boss Tony Accardo. They’ve also been a constant force in Las Vegas, where they’ve accumulated much wealth. 

Like every other family, the Outfit has seen its’ share of defectors and gutting of the ranks. The most recent blow to them was the Family Secrets trial where three of their leaders went to prison for life. Eight others were sent to prison for varying lengths of time. It was the testimony of former Outfit hitman Nick Calabrese that sealed the case. 

Currently, they are in a shuffle for their top leadership positions. Their leader since 1996 John “No Nose” DiFronzo passed away in 2018. Their new street boss is Salvatore “Solly D” DeLaurentis, but he is 80 years old. The organization is staying afloat with labor racketeering, extortion, loansharking and narcotics trafficking. 

Bruno Family

The Philadelphia mafia is most commonly referred to as the Bruno Family, in honor of the late don Angelo Bruno. “The Gentle Don” was the Philly boss in the 1960s and 1970s. The Bruno era was prosperous and peaceful, but that was about to change. A lot of the business of the Philly mafia has played out publicly over the years.

First Bruno was shot to death in 1980. His successor Phil “The Chicken Man” Testa was blown up the next year. Then the psychopathic “Little Nicky” Scarfo took over and killed over a dozen people. At least 3 high ranking members became government witnesses against Scarfo, including his underboss and nephew “Crazy Phil” Leonetti. 

In the 1990s, another war for power broke out between an old timer named John Stanfa and a popular young turk named Joey Merlino. “Skinny Joey” was no John Gotti but he was rather comfortable during his interactions with the local media. He’s the son of former underboss Chuckie Merlino, who served under the murderous Nicky Scarfo. 

Skinny Joey has proven to be a boss with some real staying power, a rarity in the mafia nowadays. He outlasted John Stanfa and has been in charge of the Philly mob since. He served 12 years in that time and is serving a 2 year sentence right now. He has his able crew that includes acting boss Mike Lancelotti, underboss Steve Mazzone and consigliere Joe Ligambi watching the business while he’s away. 

Patriarca Family  

Organized crime in Boston has always been a bit different from New York and Chicago as far as structure. In Boston, there is a heavier Irish influence on the landscape than most places. The actual mafia there is the Patriarca Family based in Providence, Rhode Island. They’ve been active for nearly a century and their best days were the decades under leader Raymond Patriarca Sr.

Patriarca Sr. promoted his son Raymond Jr. to new boss before his 1984 death. Jr. was a terrible boss and either retired or was forced to leave. The notorious Cadillac Frank Salemme took over in 1991 but the turned government witness himself after finding out that his old partners Whitey Bulger and Stephen Flemmi were ratting him out to the FBI.

The family was then led by Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio from 1996 to 2009. After Baby Shacks stepped down in 2009, up stepped Peter Limone. A very well known name in the history of the New England mob. He was one of the six men falsely convicted of the murder of Teddy Deegan in 1965 because of the lies of hitman Joe Barboza. 

Limone served 33 years and won a $26,000,000 wrongful conviction settlement.Current day, the family is still a relevant enterprise and are under the leadership of seasoned mobster Carmine “The Cheese Man” DiNunzio, a huge man in the 380 pound range. DiNunzio and Limone both are/were based in Boston, shifting the power in recent years from Providence.

“Good Looking Matty” Guglielmetti is the underboss and they have a crew of roughly 40 made men currently. The Office try hard to operate under the radar but they get reported on very aggressively by the local media, especially in Rhode Island. The family has factions in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut that have coexisted fairly well over the years. 

DeCavalcante Family

On the opposite side of the Hudson River from the Five Families is the DeCavalcante Family in New Jersey. They are well connected and have working relationships with New York and the Patriarca Family in New England. It was during the 1960s under the leadership of “Sam the Plumber” DeCavalcante that the family was accepted with a spot on the commission. 

 The family doubled in size and earnings during the three decades of Sam the Plumber. By the 1980s, he was semi retired and passing advice to their next long reigning boss Giovanni “John the Eagle” Riggi. Riggi had a strong business background and was very clever and efficient at funneling elicit profits into legal operations. He died at the age of 90 on August 3, 2015

In recent years, the New York families have been taking over more territory in north Jersey as the DeCavalcante Family has pulled back a bit. A significant amount of their rank and file have been lost due to a number of FBI investigations. They are now led by longtime member Charles “Big Ears” Majuri, son of the longtime family consigliere, Frank Majuri.

Zerilli Family 

The mafia in Detroit is referred to as the Detroit Partnership or as the Zerilli Family. Their lineage traces all the way back to 1908. Joe “The Old Man” Zerilli was in charge for over 40 years, one of the longest reigns ever for a mafia boss. Old Man Zerilli built his wealth on bootlegging before expanding into loansharking, extortion and narcotics. 

While the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa has never officially been solved, it’s well known that the Zerilli Family was involved. It was reported that Hoffa was on his way to meet with Detroit capo “Tony Jack” Giacalone and Genovese capo “Tony Pro” Provenzano. At the time it put the Zerilli Family in the spotlight, but that was short lived. 

Tony Jack died in 2001 and took all his Hoffa secrets with him. The Giacalone family continued to stay at the top of the food chain. His brother Vito Giacalone was a high ranking capo and also was a suspect in the Hoffa disappearance. Vito’s son Jackie is the current boss of the family. They are surviving in large part because they’ve had very few defections compared to other families. 

Magaddino Family

The Buffalo family origins go all the way back to the 1920s with their original boos Stefano Magaddino, a member of the mafia commission. They have operations in Buffalo, Rochester, Utica, Syracuse, Pennsylvania and even in Canada. The family went through significant infighting at the end of Maggadino’s reign. They once had over 50 made men and nowadays have about two dozen. 

There has been lots of activity recently with underboss Domenic Violi getting 8 years for drug trafficking. He sold $400,000 worth of meth, PCP and MDMA to an undercover cop. Violi was also caught on wiretaps discussing his crimes, his promotion and how Todaro Jr. went to the commission to get permission beforehand. All of this has caused unwanted publicity during the last couple years.

The current boss is Joseph Todaro Jr., the son of former boss Joseph Todaro Sr. Like Chin Gigante once did, Todaro uses frontmen acting as boss, to take the heat off him. Lately, the family has been referred to most often in the media as the Todaro Family, something he strongly resents. Things have gotten hotter lately and the experienced Todaro knows it’s better to be low key for a few years.

LaRocca Family

Of all the active mafia families in the country, the LaRocca Family in Pittsburgh is the one closest to dissolving. They’ve been around since before even bootlegging. They went through many bosses over the years. John LaRocca took over in 1956 and stayed boss until his death in 1984. LaRocca legitimised the family by developing working relationships with the New York bosses. 

The next boss Michael Genovese led the family until his death in 2006. Before he died, some of his main guys were convicted of narcotics trafficking, which greatly weakened the ranks. They are still around today but have been relegated to simple gambling and loanshark operations. They are now led by boss Thomas “Sonny” Ciacutti and underboss Bobby Iannelli.