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The Life, By the Numbers

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The numbers of family members in “What’s Left of the Mob,”are estimates gleaned from court records, Mafia turncoats, FBI documents, and interviews with law-enforcement and underworld sources. Contrary to the prevailing wisdom, there is no official numbered list of mobsters in the Genovese family. Or any other family, from the Gambinos (estimate: 160 to 180 members) to the tiny DeCavalcante clan. There are, however, procedures and rules that govern the induction of new members:

• New members can be “made” only as replacements for mobsters who have died, although each family is allowed to add two new members at Christmastime.

• Names of proposed members, and the deceased members they replace, must be circulated to the other families, who have two weeks to lodge an objection—for example, the candidate is an informer or the candidate is an associate of another family.

• Families may not replace a defector who cooperates with the government, until he dies.

• Families may never replace a member the family has killed.

• Both parents of an inductee must be of Italian heritage, a change in previous policy requiring that only the father’s lineage be Italian.

There are exceptions to every rule, however, especially with a career criminal devoted to beating any system, including the one he vows to live by. “Sometimes,” former Bonanno underboss Salvatore Vitale told the FBI, “I would make up names of dead guys so we could induct more members than the rules allow,” adding that on at least one occasion, he got names “out of the phone book.”

The Dumbest Don
Pete Gotti—famously labeled a “moron” by his brother John—wasn’t smart enough to run the Gambino crime family. But given the organization’s long history of high-profile prosecutions, no one else was able or willing. Inside the end of the reign of the Gotti boys.

What's Left of the Mob?
From Gotti to Gigante, the names atop today’s Mafia org charts are old ones. But the times have certainly changed for New York’s biggest families—and not for the better.


Related:

  • Archive: “Features
  • From the Jan 17, 2005 issue of New York
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