The Commission (mafia)

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The Commission
Founded byCharles Luciano
Founding locationNew York City, New York, United States
Years active1931–present
TerritoryNew York City, Apalachin, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and other Mafia-stronghold areas in the United States
EthnicitySicilians, Sicilian Americans, Italians, Italian Americans hold seats

The Commission is the governing body of the American Mafia,[1] formed in 1931. The Commission replaced the "Boss of all Bosses" title with a ruling committee consisting of the New York Five Families bosses and the bosses of the Chicago Outfit and the Buffalo crime family.[1] The last known Commission meeting held with all the bosses was in November 1985.[2]



Before the Commission was formed, the American Mafia crime families were under control of one man known as the Capo dei capi ("boss of bosses", literally "head of heads"). This man held great power over all their bosses, leading to disputes and wars.[1]

In 1930, two New York Mafia bosses, Joe "The Boss" Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano, fought over the title in the Castellammarese War. Masseria was murdered on April 15, 1931, allowing Maranzano to assume the title of capo di tutti capi. Maranzano began to divide all the national criminal gangs into several crime families. Charles "Lucky" Luciano and his allies decided that Maranzano would be removed, and he was murdered on September 10, 1931.[1]

The Commission's formation[edit]

After Maranzano's murder in 1931, the Mafia families called a meeting in Chicago.[1][3] The purpose of the meeting was to replace the old Sicilian Mafia regime of "boss of all bosses" and establish a rule of consensus among the crime families. Charlie Luciano established a Mafia board of directors to be known as "The Commission" to oversee all Mafia activities in the United States and serve to mediate conflicts between families.[1] The Commission consisted of seven family bosses: the leaders of New York's Five Families: Charlie "Lucky" Luciano, Vincent Mangano, Tommy Gagliano, Joseph Bonanno, and Joe Profaci; Chicago Outfit boss Al Capone; and Buffalo family boss Stefano Magaddino.[1][4] Charlie Luciano was appointed chairman of the Commission. The Commission agreed to hold meetings every five years or when they needed to discuss family problems.[1]

The power of the Commission[edit]

FBI chart of American Mafia Bosses across the country in 1963

The Commission held the power of approving a new boss before he could take over officially. The New York Five Families also decided that the names of all new proposed members must be approved by the other families. After the new proposed member was approved by the other families, he could become a made man.[1]

The Commission allowed Jewish mobsters Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, Dutch Schultz, and Abner "Longie" Zwillman to work alongside them and participate in some meetings.[5] In 1935, Dutch Schultz questioned the Commission's authority when he wanted to have prosecutor Thomas Dewey murdered. Instead, the Commission had Schultz killed on October 23, 1935.[6] The Commission used Louis Buchalter's Murder, Inc.[5] to dispose of any rivals to their authority.

In 1936, Charles "Lucky" Luciano was imprisoned, which allowed bosses Vincent Mangano, Joseph Profaci, Joseph Bonanno, Tommy Gagliano, and Stefano Magaddino to take control of the Commission. The five bosses were all from the "conservative faction" of the commission and believed in Sicilian traditions for the American Mafia. The conservative faction selected Vincent Mangano as the new chairman, and Joseph Profaci became the secretary of the Commission.[7] In 1946, the Havana Conference was arranged by Charles Luciano to discuss with the Commission the American Mafia's future.[8] The Commission decided in the meeting that Luciano would continue to lead the Commission, the American Mafia would become active in the narcotics trade, and Bugsy Siegel would be killed for skimming money from the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas.[8]

In 1951, conservative faction leader Vincent Mangano went missing and Albert Anastasia sided with "liberal-American faction" members Frank Costello and Tommy Lucchese. The power of the Commission shifted from the "conservative-Sicilian faction" to the "liberal-American faction".[9]

In 1957, at the Apalachin Meeting, the Commission decided that two more bosses, Angelo "Gentle Don" Bruno of the Philadelphia crime family and Joseph "Joe Z." Zerilli of the Detroit Partnership, would receive a seat on the Commission.[1] Jack Dragna, boss of the Los Angeles crime family for 25 years, also held a seat on the National Commission. Since Dragna's death in 1956, the Los Angeles crime family has been represented by the Chicago Outfit.[citation needed]


The Mafia Commission Trial was a criminal trial in New York City, United States that lasted from February 25, 1985 until November 19, 1986. Using evidence obtained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, eleven organized crime figures, including the heads of New York's so-called "Five Families," were indicted by United States Attorney Rudolph Giuliani under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) on charges including extortion, labor racketeering, and murder for hire.

In 1985, Bonanno family boss Philip Rastelli was indicted along with other Cosa Nostra leaders in the Trial. Getting kicked off the Commission because of the Donnie Brasco infiltration actually prevented the Bonanno family from getting caught up in the Commission Trial, which sentenced many Mafia bosses and members to prison. However, when Rastelli was indicted on separate labor racketeering charges, prosecutors decided to remove him from the Commission trial. Having previously lost their seat on the Commission, the Bonanno suffered less exposure than the other families in this case.[10]


The Commission is still reported to exist today, though its current membership is composed of only the bosses of the Five Families and the Chicago Outfit. Its activities have receded from public view as a matter of necessity, like much of the Mafia in general. The five New York City bosses have not met since Paul Castellano was killed in 1985 because of increased law enforcement scrutiny.[2]

Instead of a meeting of bosses, underbosses or captains meet secretly to discuss business and govern.[11]

In October 2017, Domenico Violi of the Luppino crime family in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada was heard to have been named underboss of the Buffalo crime family on wiretaps; this revealed the activity of The Commission as Violi's promotion was so unusual, being the first Canadian to hold the second-highest position in the American Mafia, that Buffalo crime family boss Joseph Todaro Jr. stated he consulted with The Commission for permission to promote him as Buffalo's new underboss.[12]

Historical leadership[edit]

Chairman of the Commission[edit]

There was no "ruler" of the Commission, but there was a nominated Chairman or Head of the National Commission.[7] This was used as a substitute to the role of capo di tutti capi, as that had the connotations of the old Mustache Pete system of one-man rule.

Families with Commission seats[edit]

Families represented by the Genovese family

Families represented by the Chicago Outfit

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Capeci, Jerry. The complete idiot's guide to the Mafia "The Mafia's Commission" (pp. 31–46)
  2. ^ a b c Marzulli, John (2011-04-16). "Boss rat Joseph Massino admits to court that Mafia Commission hasn't met in 25 years". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2013-07-17.
  3. ^ Humbert S. Nelli The business of crime: Italians and syndicate crime in the United States (pp. 206–208)
  4. ^ The Commission's Origins (November 20, 1986) The New York Times
  5. ^ a b Russo, Gus. The Outfit: The Role of Chicago's Underworld in the Shaping of Modern America pp. 32–33, 41 221
  6. ^ Raab, Selwyn. Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires p. 49
  7. ^ a b c d e Bonanno A Man of Honor (pp. 159–169)
  8. ^ a b Havana Conference (Dec. 1946)
  9. ^ Bonanno A Man of Honor pp. 170–185
  10. ^ a b DeStefano, Anthony M. (2008). King of the godfathers (Trade paperback ed. (updated). ed.). New York: Citadel Press/Kensington Publishing. p. 15. ISBN 0-8065-2874-5.
  11. ^ "After Gotti, Mafia ordered to clean house" New York Daily News. July 7, 2002
  12. ^ "Shocking mob trial allegation: Hamilton crime figure was Underboss of Buffalo Mafia". National Post. 2018-12-04. Retrieved 2018-12-04.
  13. ^ a b Gambino Is Called Heir to Genovese As 'Boss of Bosses'; Gambino Called 'Boss of Bosses' Of 6 Mafia Families in the Area by Charles Grutzner (March 15, 1970) New York Times
  14. ^ Books of The Times; A Don Pays the Price of Carelessness by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt (May 23, 1991) The New York Times
  15. ^ "With Gotti Away, the Genoveses Succeed the Leaderless Gambinos" by Selwyn Raab (September 3, 1995) The New York Times
  16. ^ McPhee, Michele (July 7, 2002)"Furgebbaboud the Old Mob; After Gotti, Mafia ordered to clean house" New York Daily News


  • Bernstein, Lee. The Greatest Menace: Organized Crime in Cold War America. Boston: UMass Press, 2002. ISBN 1-55849-345-X
  • Bonanno, Bill. Bound by Honor: A Mafioso's Story. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999. ISBN 0-312-97147-8
  • Bonanno, Joseph. A Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2003. ISBN 0-312-97923-1