Although once they were a scourge of the US, undermining the system and causing carnage, suffering, and grief wherever they went, the mobsters of the prohibition era still have their place in history and serve as an inspiration to modern movie directors. TV shows that revolve around organized crime (such as “The Sopranos”) are usually watched all around the globe, because the tension, suspense, and action are some of the features that fans love to see on the big screen. In this article, we are going to talk about some of the most notorious mobsters that have ever lived. Almost all of the guys on this list mostly operated in the first half of the 20th century. This was the time when criminal organizations run wild through the US, without any fear of the repercussion for their vile deeds.
5. VITO GENOVESE
Starting from the bottom, Vito Genovese rose to the top by being an enforcer for the Italian Mafia. Thanks to his friendship with Lucky Luciano (we will talk about him a bit later), Vito had enough help to establish himself as a vital part of New York’s criminal underground. Along with Luciano, Genovese helped the expansion of the heroin trade to an international level. In the late 1930s, he fled to Italy because he was charged with murder and persecuted by US law enforcement. While staying in Italy, where he was born, Vito became a friend of Benito Mussolini, financing Fascists while smuggling narcotics to the United States. Eventually, he came back to the US and established his own family. He was the most powerful mobster in the New York area for some time in 1957 after he set an alliance with Carlo Gambino.
4. ALBERT ANASTASIA
The most brutal among all the mobsters on this list, Albert Anastasia’s deeds earned him the nicknames “The One-Man Army,” “Mad Hatter” and “Lord High Executioner.” Born in Italy, he moved to the US as a youngster and immediately started working as an enforcer for the mob. Albert Anastasia became one of the most feared mobsters of all time, who was running Murder Inc along with Lepke Buchalter. After his boss, Vincent Mangano “disappeared,” Anastasia was crowned a leader of what would later become known as the Gambino crime family. Anastasia’s brutal murders were all over the newspapers at that time, and his name was a synonym for terror.
3. AL CAPONE
Although not the most powerful, Alphonse Gabriel Capone is probably the most famous of all the guys on this list. A son of Italian immigrants, Al Capone worked as a bouncer in mafia brothers while still in his teenage years. He was a part of several gangs, gaining fame along the way. One day, he started his own bootlegging business. Although Capone did his fair share of murders, he also knew how to manipulate the masses (by organizing charities) and bribe officials. After the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre” in which seven of his rivals were killed in broad daylight, he became “Public Enemy No.1”. Charged with 22 counts of tax evasion, Capone was imprisoned in 1932, after Eliot Ness’ successful operation against him.
2. CARLO GAMBINO
Carlo Gambino moved to the US in 1921, coming to Norfolk, Virginia from Sicily. Although not a criminal at first, he eventually became a part of a criminal organization lead by Joe Masseria. When his boss went to war with Salvatore Maranzano, Carlo Gambino (along with Lucky Luciano) switched sides. After he won the war, Maranzano reorganized the Italian American gangs in New York City into Five Families, of which one was led by Gambino. After Maranzano’s death, Gambino became a part of the newly founded Commission that served as a governing body for organized crime. When Luciano was deported to Italy, Gambino become a leader of the Commission. During his 50 years of criminal career, he served only 22 months in prison (1937–38), and earned his family over $500,000,000 a year, thus creating a powerhouse in the criminal world.
- LUCKY LUCIANO
Charles “Lucky” Luciano is considered the father of modern organized crime in America because he established the Commission in 1931 after he killed Salvatore Maranzano. The Commission that he created acted as a governing body for the organized crime on a nationwide scale. It took the mob to a new level and split New York into Five Families. Even after he got arrested in 1936, he was still running the mob from prison through his associates. During WW2, while still imprisoned, he aided the Allies by sharing information gained from his contacts in Italy. After the war, he was “rewarded” for his service by being deported to Italy. Although his influence in the US was diminishing because Luciano was not allowed to come back (Gambino eventually took all of his assets after a long power struggle and the death of Albert Anastasia), he still had enough money to run several profitable ventures and die as a “free man” in 1962 in Naples.