Mafia expert and author Selwyn Raab published his book Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires back in 2005.
At that time Raab called the mafia “a crushed colossus” and it was clear that decades of RICO indictments had Cosa Nostra on its heels. Raab spent four decades investigating the American mafia and his book was hailed by many as the definitive account of all things Cosa Nostra. He detailed the history of the New York mafia and chronicled the unrelenting attacks by the FBI and federal prosecutors that left them staggered but made sure to also devote the last 20 pages to the likelihood of a resurgence. He believed the terrorist attacks on 9/11 four years earlier would have a major impact on the FBI’s New York bureau and the fight against organized crime according to a recent interview with Rollingstone.
Raab said “The Mob was on the ropes and really needed only one or two more crushing blows before the FBI could really turn these people into old street gangs. That changed after 9/11.” and this has seemingly allowed to mafia to gain ground and regroup. Resources that the FBI, NYPD, and other organized crime task forces once devoted to the New York mob were shifted to anti-terrorism. This mafia resurgence has prompted Raab to give his book Five Families and update in the form of an anniversary edition that will clue readers into more recent developments. He made note of more recent mafia news like the massive 2011 mafia bust targeting over 100 members and associates and the more recent East Coast La Cosa Nostra Enterprise case.
When asked about this ongoing mafia resurgence Raab pointed to several aspects that should be considered. Here are some of the interesting quotes made by Raab during the interview:
Historically the Mafia is a carbon copy, or a mirror of American capitalism. The Internet is an important tool for the business and a lot of them use it for Internet gambling. And why not? People aren’t going to bookies the way they used to, they couldn’t compete by just having some old fashioned bookmaking with some guy with a telephone, and now that you can do it on the internet, they’re taking it over. It’s big, it’s a lot of money, and a lot that is transacted offshore so it’s easy to do and you don’t have to worry about it. They’re modern, they know what works.
Most of the old Italian-American neighborhoods no longer exist, so mafia members, like everybody else, are now living in the suburbs. And there’s money to be made there. Besides that, the law enforcement there traditionally was never looked upon as a major threat, so it’s easier for them. And now that they’ve moved there, that’s where they want to operate. The market for traditional mafia bread and butter ideas – gambling, drugs, extortion – is there too, and so is the constituency.
The long established rule was that anyone who was a civilian — not implicated in mafia activities — was immune. One of the reasons that’s changed is because of these so called “Zips.” That’s a nickname for Sicilian newcomers who are not members of the Sicilian mafia but recent immigrants, and they’ve pretty much taken over the Gambino family. And one of their effective methods [in the old country] was that if you became a rat or you in any way betrayed the Italian or Sicilian mafia, it wasn’t just you, but anybody in your family could be victimized. The Americans have now also taken that over and spread the word. It’s an effective tool, and again, they’re still getting reinforcements, they’re shipping more blood over from Sicily and Southern Italy.
When it comes to mafia books Raab’s is definitely one of the most informative ever written and this updated Five Families anniversary edition will be sought after by plenty of mob enthusiast. His extensive insight also landed him a gig as a consultant for a 10 part series on AMC called The Making of the Mob along with some other mob related programs.