Boss (crime)

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"Crime boss" redirects here. For the singer, see Crime Boss (rapper).
"Mob boss" redirects here. For the 1990 film, see Mob Boss (film).

A mob boss, crime lord, Don or kingpin is a person in charge of a criminal organization or a terrorist organization. A boss typically has absolute or near-absolute control over his subordinates, is greatly feared by his subordinates for his ruthlessness and willingness to take lives in order to exert his influence, and profits from the criminal endeavours in which his organization engages.[1][2]

Some groups may only have as little as two ranks (a boss and his soldiers). Other groups have a more complex, structured organization with many ranks, and structure may vary with cultural background. Organized crime enterprises originating in Sicily differ in structure from those in mainland Italy. American groups may be structured differently from their European counterparts, and Latino and African American gangs often have structures that vary from European gangs. The size of the criminal organization also is important, as regional or national gangs have much more complex hierarchies. [3]

Boss (Italian Mafia)[edit]

The boss in the Sicilian and American Mafia is the head of the crime family and the top decision maker. A boss will typically put up layers of insulation between himself and his men in order to defeat law enforcement efforts to arrest him. Whenever he issues orders, he does so either to his underboss, consigliere or capos. The orders are then passed down the line to the soldiers. This makes it difficult under most circumstances to directly implicate a boss in a crime, since he almost never directly gives orders to the soldiers. Only the boss, underboss or consigliere can initiate an associate into the family, allowing them to become a made man. The boss can promote or demote family members at will. If the boss is incarcerated or incapacitated he places an acting boss who responsible for running the crime family. When a boss dies the crime family members choose a new boss.

The typical structure within the Mafia in Sicily and America is usually as follows:[4]

  • Boss of all bosses - also known as the capo di tutti capi or godfather, the now abolished title for the top boss of the Mafia by right of heading the most powerful crime family. It has since been replaced with the Commission (see also Sicilian Mafia Commission), but the title of godfather is still used in pop culture to refer to the boss.
  • Boss - Also known as the capofamiglia, capo crimini, representante, Don or godfather, this is the highest level in a crime family.[2][4][5]
  • Underboss - Also known as the "capo bastone" in some criminal organizations, this individual is the second-in-command. He is responsible for ensuring that profits from criminal enterprises flow up to the boss, and generally oversees the selection of the caporegime(s) and soldier(s) to carry out murders.[2][4] The underboss may take control of the crime family after the boss's death. He keeps this position until a new boss is chosen, which in some cases was the Underboss.
  • Consigliere - Also known as an advisor or "right-hand man," a consigliere is a counselor to the boss of a crime family. The boss, underboss, and consigliere constitute the "Administration."[6] The consigliere is third ranked in the hierarchy but does not have capos or soldiers working for him.[2][4] Like the boss, there is usually only one consigliere per criminal organization.[2]
  • Caporegime - Also known as a captain, skipper, capo, or "crew chief," the caporegime was originally known as a "capodecina" (captain of ten) because he oversaw only 10 soldiers. In more recent times, the caporegime may oversee as many soldiers as he can efficiently control.[2][4] A caporegime is appointed by the family boss to run his own borgata (regime, or crew) of soldato (soldiers). Each caporegime reports directly to the underboss, who gives him the permission to perform criminal activities. If the family needs to murder someone, the underboss normally asks a caporegime to carry out the order. The caporegime runs the day-to-day operations of his crew. The caporegime's soldiers give part of their earnings to him, and then he gives a share to the underboss. A caporegime can recommend to the underboss or boss that a recruit be allowed to join his crew as a mob associate.
  • Soldato - Also known as a sgarrista, soldier, "button man," "made man", "wiseguy" or "goodfella". This is the lowest level of mobster or gangster.[2][4] A "soldier" must have taken the omertà (oath of silence),[2][4] and in some organizations must have killed a person in order to be considered "made."[7][8] A picciotto is a low-level soldier, usually someone who does the day-to-day work of threatening, beating, and intimidating others.[9]
  • Associate - Also known as a "giovane d'onore" (man of honor), an associate is a person who is not a soldier in a crime family, but works for them and shares in the execution of and profits from the criminal enterprise.[2] In Italian criminal organizations, "associates" are usually members of the criminal organization who are not of Italian descent.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pistone, Joseph D. The Way of the Wiseguy: The FBI's Most Famous Undercover Agent Cracks the Mob Mind. Philadelphia: Running Press, 2005. ISBN 0-7624-2384-6
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Manning, George A. Financial Investigation and Forensic Accounting. Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8493-2223-5
  3. ^ Albanese, Jay, Contemporary Issues in Organized Crime. Monsey, N.Y.: Criminal Justice Press, 1995. ISBN 1-881798-04-6
  4. ^ a b c d e f g DeVico, Peter J. The Mafia Made Easy: The Anatomy and Culture of La Cosa Nostra. Tate Publishing, 2007. ISBN 1-60247-254-8
  5. ^ Raab, Selwyn. The Five Families: The Rise, Decline & Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empire. New York: St. Martins Press, 2005.
  6. ^ "Genovese Indicitment"
  7. ^ Maas, Peter. Underboss: Sammy the Bull Gravano's Story of Life in the Mafia. Paperback reissue. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997. ISBN 0-06-109664-4
  8. ^ DeStefano, Anthony M. King of the Godfathers: Big Joey Massino and the Fall of the Bonanno Crime Family. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2008. ISBN 0-8065-2874-5
  9. ^ a b Nash, Robert Jay. World Encyclopedia of Organized Crime. Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo Press, 1993. ISBN 0-306-80535-9