So let’s say you’re in the mafia, or you have friends or relatives in the mafia. How do you get paid? The mafia doesn’t write paychecks. Most likely, your paycheck is coming from one of these ten industries, all of which have long mafia associations, and all of which still are big money makers for organized crime in the twenty first century. Some of these industries have long been direct sources of cold hard cash, while others do the laundry. Many are industries in which the public interacts daily. DNN has compiled a list of some of the perennials:
Garbage Hauling/Waste Management: the Gambino, Genovese and Luchese crime families have had connections to the garbage-hauling business in the greater New York area, and have roots going as far back as the 1950’s when they infiltrated through labor unions. Apart from generating massive profits and racketeering opportunities, this business served an added extra purpose, as it made body disposal easier too. Despite efforts by Mayor Giuliani in the 1990’s to clean up the industry, racketeering busts continue into the 2010’s, suggesting that the problem has not been solved.
Wind Energy: This racket it popular in Europe, and particularly in Italy. Wind farm licenses have been sold to mob-related individuals who then muscle in on the legit wind farmers, buying them out or selling them licenses which make them beholden to them. Wind power generates higher rates than other power sources in Italy, which has provided the allure of easy money. These new mafia wind farmers have often ignored zoning rules and environmental concerns, while nearby residents are dissuaded from complaining about the noise.
Gambling: Legendarily associated with the mafia, and with good reason. Atlantic City was host to a legendary mobster summit in 1929 where Prohibition was the order of the day. Las Vegas owes everything to gambler Bugsy Seigel, who built the Pink Flamingo. While both cities have cleaned up their acts and eliminated the overt mafia presence, the mafia has never really left either town. They also have their hands in the escort industries in both cities.
Bars: The mafia owned or controlled many gay bars in the 1930’s, when homosexuality was still illegal. The birthplace of the gay rights movement, The Stonewall Inn, in New York City was owned by the Genovese crime family. By the 1970’s and 1980’s this foothold had expanded to an empire of discos, nightclubs, and bars throughout the city, many of which still catered to the gay community. The changing social climate led to the mafia no longer specializing in gay establishments, but they have not divested all of their nightclub and bar holdings.
Fish: Anybody who has bought fish on the East Coast in the last eighty years or so has dealt with a chain that includes the mafia at come point. The Fulton Fish Market in New York City, one of the premiere fish wholesalers in the country and supplier to restaurants up and down the coast. Rudolph Giuliani, as District Attorney, exposed the Genovese stranglehold in the 1990’s, and the market has since moved to the Bronx to disassociate it from its past. However, nobody doubts there are still many mafia hands in this pie.
Pornography: Once a major moneymaker for the mob in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Italian mafia’s grasp of the industry has faded away, while the Russian mafia has moved in. Mafia-connected individuals and companies once owned most of the X-rated cinemas in New York City, with the cluster in Times Square being among their biggest moneymakers. They financed the films that played in the theaters. They also owned most of the peep show establishments. VCR’s, and later the internet, wiped out the margins, and most mafioso moved on to other rackets. The Russians are more involved in the human-trafficking side of pornography, particularly in Eastern Europe.
Carpentry and Construction: This is another industry the mafia infiltrated largely through labor unions. All five crime families controlled the concrete business in New York in the 1980’s. Bid-rigging has also been a common practice among mafia-controlled unions in the industry. Mafia-linked subcontractors were even discovered working on the very high profile Freedom Tower project in New York City, the enormous construction project to replace the World Trade Center.
Restaurants and Pizzerias: This should probably be no surprise. Worldwide, mafioso large and small have been in the eatery business, and many of the restaurants are known for serving up some pretty good food. Umberto’s Clam House, aside from being a mobster hangout, was known for its delicious seafood. In the 1980’s the Sicilian mafia’s “pizza connection” relied on pizzerias throughout New York City to distribute heroin.
Real Estate: The mafia doesn’t control the real estate business, but it sinks an enormous amount of money into it as a means to launder profits. It also had its tentacles in the subprime mortgage market bubble which exploded spectacularly in 2008, nearly wiping out the banking industry with it. Home equity loans have long been the means a lot of people resort to to pay loansharking debts as well. Real estate is often an individual mafioso’s largest single investment when the Feds seize assets.
Music Recording: From the backers of Frank Sinatra to Frankie Valli, the East Coast music industry has always had a mafia presence. Music producer Morris Levy, who produced hits such as “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” left a mark on pop music history while hammering out usurious contracts with his talent, most of whom wound up with no songwriting royalties. The mafia also owned record processing plants in the 1970’s and 1980’s on which nearly every bootleg record album was pressed.