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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

(continued from page 1)

Frank Costello Genovese family, New York
For his masterful ways of dealing with politicians, police and judges, Costello earned the moniker "Prime Minister of the Underworld." An influential member of the national crime syndicate who helped provide protection to the gangs, he survived an assassination attempt in 1957 and eventually retired from the Mob.

 

Dutch Schultz Organized crime leader, New York
An unpredictable but entrepreneurial underworld leader, Schultz usurped most of the 1920s Bronx beer trade and took over penny-ante numbers in Harlem. He escaped an income tax evasion conviction, but when he subsequently threatened to kill special prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey, who was investigating vice and racketeering, Schultz had to be knocked off.

 

Joseph Bonanno Bonanno family, New York
A traditional don who scorned other mobsters' fixation on making money, Bonanno attempted unsuccessfully to assume control of the New York Mafia in the '60s. His diversified operations included garment factories, cheese firms and funeral parlors. Never indicted in 30-plus years as a boss, he died last year at age 97.

 

Joseph Colombo Sr. Colombo family, New York
Colombo rose to power in 1963 after informing Mob leaders Carlo Gambino and Tommy Lucchese about a plot to kill them, hits he was supposed to organize. An eccentric boss, Colombo told his men to hold legitimate jobs and created the Italian-American Civil Rights League to help, ironically, counter the Italian gangster stereotype. He was gunned down at a league rally.

 

Sam "Momo" Giancana, Chicago
Giancana was a ruthless boss responsible for scores of deaths. Arrested more than 70 times, he rose to power in the Chicago Outfit by coordinating the takeover of the numbers racket. But nutty schemes (supporting CIA efforts to assassinate Castro, supposedly ordering Desi Arnaz's death) eventually got him deposed and later rubbed out.

 


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