years ago today (11/14/1957), an unusual group gathered at
the rural estate of a soft drink bottler in Appalachin, a
small town just west of Binghamton, New York. Mr. Joseph Barbara
was supposedly hosting a "soft drink convention"
Edgar Croswell of the New York State Police was intensely
interested in the gathering. He'd observed suspected criminals
at the house before and was suspicious. With smoke rising
from Barbara's grill, Croswell and Trooper Vincent Vasisko
openly began to take down the license plate numbers of luxury
cars jammed in the driveway.
Barbara’s guests noticed…and panicked. Some fled
to the woods; others dashed for their cars. Sergeant Croswell
ordered an immediate roadblock and soon had detained 62 guests
in order to check their identification; among them, Joseph
Bonanano, Russell Bufalino, Carlo Gambino, Vito Genovese,
Antonio Magaddino, Joseph Proface, John Scalish, and Santos
Who’s Who of what we now call the "Mob," the
"Mafia," or "La Cosa Nostra."
important detective work exploded nationally. Concerns had
been expressed that a secret network of connected criminal
enterprises existed. But many, including FBI Director J. Edgar
Hoover, had disagreed. They said crime was a serious problem,
but there was no evidence that a conspiratorial web linked
racketeers across the country.
was evidence. Hoover got to work, ordering his field executives
to develop maximum information on crime bosses in their areas
of jurisdiction. This "Top Hoodlum Program" produced
a wealth of information about organized crime activities.
In a 1960 Letter to All Law Enforcement Officials, Hoover
wryly commented: "If we must, let us learn a lesson from
the barons of the underworld who have shown that cooperative
crime is profitable – cooperative law enforcement can
be twice as effective."
Bureau needed legislative tools to get past the small time
crooks and connect them with those barons. Congress powerfully
delivered, with illegal gambling laws that unlocked mafia
financial networks and with laws like the Omnibus Crime Control
Act of 1968 and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations
Act of 1970. Soon, major cases like UNIRAC, BRILAB, and Pizza
Connection led to the prosecution and jailing of top crime
lords across the country. Then, in 1987, Judge Richard Owen
of the Southern District of New York, sentenced the top leadership
of five New York City "families" to 100 years each
in prison for working together as a single enterprise. The
"Commission Case" effectively broke the stranglehold
of traditional organized crime in the U.S.
new organized crime syndicates operate on a global stage,
and the FBI is working effectively with its international
partners to dismantle them, piece by piece. More on that later...
Program and more FBI