Feature Articles

April 2011
The True Mafia

      By Mike La Sorte, Professor Emeritus

Mike La Sorte is a professor emeritus (SUNY) and writes extensively on a variety of subjects.

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     "Mafia is the perfect business model."

     "The scam is the thing."

     "Scam (slang): a fraudulent scheme, esp. for making a quick profit." (Webster's Dictionary)

     Not all organized criminal groups are the same. Some are short-lived, some are formed for the delivery of a specific product, some are little more than single generation, semi-structured gangs that are opportunistic as opposed to structures designed for prolonged activity. And there are a few, an elite class of sophisticated racketeers, surrounded by an ongoing multilayered structured support system-a sustaining subculture with an accumulating corpus of criminal knowledge, learned and applied, and capable of adaptations to adjust to changing environments.

     The latter are of the mafia-type. They are considered the most efficient and the most insidious, because of an honor code that oversees total loyalty, well-honed mechanisms of exploitation and proven techniques of corruption of persons and institutions. The game is to establish long-term profitable scams, which includes bringing into their orbits those willing to collude in shadowy activity. These associates (civil servants, business persons, authorities, specialists), the greedy and gullible, are necessary to facilitate mafia infiltration of territory, markets, organizations, and the employment of a variety of ploys with practiced guile.

     At the height of mafia activity, the integrity of the societal institutions will be tested. Corruption can breed corruption. Where there is official corruption there is racketeering. The state, itself, because it has become dysfunctional and certain societal institutions are riddled with corruption, will take on a mafia appearance (a mafia state) to the degree that boundaries between overworld and underworld become blurred.

     One can postulate a "true mafia," an ideal type, as the purest form of criminal activity. It would be crime at its most prevalent and sophisticated, a parasite on the society. Parasitic, in as much as it feeds on the body politic (but not, of course, to the point of killing its host) without giving proper return, nibbling at its edges, penetrating within through stealth and subterfuge, a state within a state, challenging the state's legitimate claim to owning the monopoly on power.

     A true mafia represents a model of criminal perfection. Rackets are coalitions of interests and differentiation of tasks. They are skillfully conceived racketeering schemes administered by white-collar entrepreneurs-illegal businesses, that can create income streams that once in place continue with minimal effort, aided and abetted by associates, and, for certain products, customers eager to purchase.

     Racketeering is broadly defined as felony violations of various federal and state laws relating to trafficking (of all types), labor racketeering, conspiracy to racketeer as well as murder, kidnapping, gambling, bribery, arson, money laundering, and organized extortion systems that are not aggravated but systematized.

Participants in Racketeering Enterprises: An Outline

A. Criminal Clan

     1. Upper echelon: White-collar professionals

     2. Lower echelon: Blue-collar criminals and enforcers

     3. Marginal: Task specialists

B. Collaborators (Associates & Supporters)

     1. Corruptible persons who take bribes for favors

     2. Employees who assist in inside criminal ventures

     3. Legitimate persons in league with racketeers

     4. Businesses used as racketeering fronts

     5. Civil servants who violate public trust for profit/advantage

C. Complicit Customers

     1. High demand for delivery of illicit services keeps racketeers in business

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