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The Five Families are the five original Italian American Mafia crime families which have dominated organized crime in the United States since 1931. The Five Families in New York City are the powerhouse of the Italian Mafia in the United States.
The Five Families originated out of New York City Sicilian Mafia gangs. They were formally organized in the summer of 1931 by Salvatore Maranzano after the April 15, 1931, murder of Giuseppe Masseria, in what has become known as the Castellammarese War. Maranzano also introduced the now familiar Mafia hierarchy: Boss, Underboss, Consigliere, Capo, Soldier (soldato), and declared himself capo di tutti capi (boss of bosses). By declaring himself "boss of bosses," Maranzano reneged on the deal he had made with Lucky Luciano, which was that after Luciano helped murder Masseria, the two bosses would be equals. When Maranzano was murdered just months after Masseria on September 10, 1931, the "Boss of Bosses" position was eliminated in favor of The Commission, a council which demarcated territory between the previously warring factions and governs American Mafia activities in the United States and Mexico.
The names of the Five Families are attributed to Mafia informant Joe Valachi. After his arrest in 1959, Valachi gave the police the names of the current bosses of the Five Families. The names of four of those bosses, Tommy Lucchese, Vito Genovese, Carlo Gambino, and Joe Bonanno, were used to name their respective families. While the fifth family was headed by Joe Profaci in 1959, it is named after the succeeding boss, Joseph Colombo.
Lucchese Family: 1931 - Gaetano Gagliano becomes boss of one of the five new families. 1951 - A very ill Gagliano appoints his underboss, Gaetano "Tommy Three-Finger Brown" Lucchese, as the new leader and the family adopts his name. 1967 - Lucchese dies of a brain tumor, temporarily leaving the family leaderless. The Commission selects Carmine Tramunti to fill in as acting boss until the leading candidate for the position of boss, Antonio Corallo, was released from prison. 1970 - Antonio "Tony Ducks" Corallo becomes the new boss. 1986 - Corallo is convicted of RICO charges, along with top mobsters of the Genovese, Gambino, and Colombo families, and sentenced to life in prison. Before he was put in prison, Corallo selected Vittorio Amuso and Anthony Casso as the two candidates most deserving of the title of boss. Casso nominated Amuso for the position, which led to Amuso's promotion to boss. 1987 - Vittorio "Little Vic" Amuso becomes boss, but his underboss, Gaspipe Casso, is viewed as the man who makes important decisions and has control of the family. 1992 - Amuso is sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of racketeering charges. 1998 - Lucchese underboss, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, is sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to racketeering and murder charges. 2004 - Acting boss Louis "Louie Bagels" Daidone is convicted on murder charges.
Bonanno/Massino Family: 1931 - Joseph Bonanno becomes boss of the newly formed Bonanno crime family. 1981 - After a major power struggle, which involved Joe Bonnano's forced retirement by the Commission and the assassination of acting boss Carmine "Lilo" Galante, Philip "Rusty" Rastelli becomes boss. 1991 - Rastelli dies of cancer and underboss Joseph Massino becomes boss. Massino eventually changes the family's name to the Massino crime family. 2003-2004 - Massino is arrested and convicted of racketeering and murder charges.
Gambino Family: 1931 - Vincent Mangano becomes boss of the newly formed Gambino crime family. 1951 - Mangano disappears with Albert "the Executioner" Anastasia suspected of murdering him. Anastasia then assumes title of boss. 1957 - Anastasia is assassinated by gunmen in a barber shop. Gambino underboss Carlo Gambino becomes new boss. The prime suspects for orchestrating Anastasia's murder were Vito Genovese and Carlo Gambino. Genovese believed that Anastasia had broken a cardinal Mafia rule by murdering Mangano, however, war was avoided between the two factions due to the efforts of Joe Bonanno. While war did not break out between the two families, Genovese still held resentment towards Anastasia. Genovese would eventually convince Anastasia's underboss, Carlo Gambino, that Anastasia was jealous of his wealth and influence, and would eventually have him murdered. 1976 - Gambino dies of a heart attack; succeeded by brother-in-law Paul "Big Paul" Castellano. 1985 - Castellano is gunned down and John Gotti, the man responsible for planning Castellano's assassination, becomes boss. 2002 - Gotti dies of cancer in prison after being convicted of RICO charges in 1992, and his brother, Peter, succeeds him. 2003-2004 - Peter Gotti is convicted on racketeering charges.
Luciano/Genovese Family: 1931 - Charles "Lucky" Luciano organizes a new family named after him and appoints himself as boss. 1937 - Luciano is convicted of compulsory prostitution charges; succeeded by Frank "the Prime Minister" Costello. 1957 - Costello goes into retirement after a failed assassination attempt orchestrated by Vito Genovese. Genovese then replaces Costello and renames the family. Genovese's motive for removing Costello had to do with the fact that Genovese was Luciano's underboss and, in his mind, the rightful heir to Luciano's position. Genovese, however, fled to Italy to evade murder charges, making him an unsuitable candidate for the title of boss, which left Luciano no choice but to bestow the title on Costello. 1969 - Genovese dies in prison still as boss after being convicted of narcotics trafficking charges in 1959. 1970s - Philip "Benny Squint" Lombardo becomes new Genovese boss. 1980s - Lombardo retires and is replaced by Vincent "Chin" Gigante, the man who attempted to assassinate Frank Costello in 1957. 1997-2005 - Gigante is convicted on racketeering charges and dies in prison.
Profaci/Colombo Family: 1931 - Joseph Profaci becomes new boss and Commission member. 1962 - Profaci dies of cancer. 1964 - Joseph Colombo, supported by Carlo Gambino, becomes new boss and changes the family's name. 1971 - Colombo is shot and paralyzed at a civil rights rally he organized. Colombo's activism drew unwanted publicity and attention towards the Mafia, and made other Mafia leaders, such as Carlo Gambino, uneasy. The first rally Colombo organized attracted over 50,000 people with Gambino's support; the second rally barely drew 10,000 people without Gambino's blessing. It was theorized that the Commission authorized Colombo's murder to take pressure off of the Mob. The most likely candidate, though, was Joseph "Crazy Joe" Gallo. 1972-79 - Carmine "the Snake" Persico becomes the new boss. 1986 - Persico is convicted on racketeering charges and sentenced to life in prison. 1986-2004 - Persico tries to run the family from prison until his son, Alphonse "Little Allie Boy" Persico, can succeed him. Persico's son is convicted and put in jail. 
The Five Families operate throughout the New York Metropolitan area, but mainly within New York City's five boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island. In the state of New York the families have increased their criminal rackets in Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk) and the counties of Westchester, Rockland and Albany. The Five Families maintain a strong presence in the state of New Jersey. The crime families are also active in South Florida, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Las Vegas.