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Deadly Dons

Heading an organized crime group requires savvy business skills, decisive leadership and a willingness to prematurely end potential rivals' lives. Here's a look at some of the most powerful Mob bosses of the twentieth century
Bruce Goldman
From the Print Edition:
Francis Ford Coppola, Sept/Oct 03

Alphonse "Scarface Al", Capone Chicago
America's most notorious criminal, Capone evolved from a murderous thug to an astute "businessman" whose stranglehold on bootlegging, gambling and prostitution made him a popular public figure. The flashy mobster grabbed complete control of Chicago following the 1920s gang wars, only to be brought down shortly after by tax evasion.


Charles "Lucky" Luciano Genovese family, New York
Luciano was the most powerful mobster of the twentieth century. He was responsible for eliminating the old-world Sicilian-style Mafia in the early 1930s and founding, with Meyer Lansky, the national syndicate, which encompassed all of the various ethnic crime groups. The commission controlled bootlegging, prostitution, narcotics, gambling, loan sharking and labor rackets.


John Gotti Gambino family, New York
Known both as the Dapper Don (for his impeccably tailored suits) and the Teflon Don (for his onetime ability to avoid convictions), the late Gotti assumed power following the Paul Castellano assassination. A ruthless leader, Gotti was finally convicted on murder and racketeering charges in 1992 and sentenced to life in prison.


Paul Castellano Gambino family, New York
Big Paul, who was named boss by brother-in-law Carlo Gambino, expanded the family's involvement in the garment, trucking and construction rackets, but wasn't respected by his own men. Once he started unleashing a loose tongue about Mafia business, he was gunned down in front of Sparks steak house in Manhattan in 1985.


Carlo Gambino Gambino family, New York
The man whom Mario Puzo modeled the "Godfather" character after was a smart and cunning boss who preferred to keep a low profile. One of the few Mafioso bosses never to serve prison time, Gambino turned the family into the country's most profitable crime organization in the 1960s and '70s.


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