The Mafia is linked to criminal activities in the United States from as far back as the late 1800’s, and since then, law enforcement agencies have worked to put a stop to their illegal and often violent deeds. One of the most important laws ever established to fight against the Mafia was the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act of 1970. This law states that an individual who is proven to be a member of an organized crime group may automatically be found guilty of racketeering. Racketeering involves forcing others to pay for services they have not requested, most often for protective services. This “protection” was usually from the very people who were demanding the money in the first place. A charge of racketeering can lead to 20 years in jail and a $25,000 fine. The RICO Act had a tremendous effect on the Mafia and led to lengthy prison sentences for many members of crime families.
History has shown that there are generally two outcomes for a life in the Mafia: prison or death. Several famous Mob figures have faced criminal charges over the years:
Chicago’s Al Capone was investigated for many crimes and was finally indicted on tax evasion. He was sentenced to an eleven year prison term in 1931 but was let out early for good behavior. He spent most of his prison time in Alcatraz and was forced to take a job mopping the bathhouse facilities.
New York’s John Gotti took over the Gambino Crime Family following the murder of Paul Castellano. Gotti avoided prison for years but was indicted on a variety of charges after his second in command gave authorities explicit details about his criminal activities. He is currently serving a life sentence in prison.
Charles “Lucky” Luciano was one of the best known and successful figures in organized crime but was finally sentenced to prison in 1936. Luciano agreed to assist the military in their efforts to secure the New York dock yards from attack and was rewarded by having the remainder of his sentence commuted to his home country of Italy.
Henry Hill was an important member of the Lucchese Crime Family for many years. In 1980 he was arrested and turned into an FBI informant when it became clear that his life was in danger. Hill helped identify over 50 members of organized crime, who were then sentenced to long term prison sentences. He remains in the Witness Protection Program today.
There are many other organized crime figures who have received life sentences for their illegal activities and many more who did not make it out of these organizations alive.