Top 10 Mafias That Are Still Active
VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild
These criminal groups may have diminished in power, but they refuse to go away. For this list, we'll be looking at the most powerful mafias and mafia-type organizations that are still operative today. Our countdown includes The Russian Mafia, The Five Families, Yakuza, and more!
Top 10 Mafias That Are Still Active
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Mafias That Are Still Active.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the most powerful mafias and mafia-type organizations that are still operative today.
Did you know these groups were still around? Let us know in the comments below!
#10: The Dixie Mafia
A relative newcomer to the world of organized crime, the Dixie Mafia rose to prominence in the late 1960s. Unlike other mafias, it was not an official organization, but more of a loose-knit gang of criminals - mostly white Southerners in the United States. While the Dixie Mafia was founded in Biloxi, Mississippi, they were known to operate throughout the entire American South. Its former leader, Kirksey McCord Nix Jr., is currently serving life in prison, and many other members ended up behind bars too. The Mafia’s influence has dwindled significantly since the ‘90s. But some believe they’re still around in a smaller capacity.
#9: The Adams Family
Mafias aren’t exclusive to Italy or the United States. In fact, most countries around the world have their own mafia-type criminal organization. One of the most powerful in the United Kingdom is the Adams Family. Known officially as the Clerkenwell crime syndicate, this organization was formed back in the 1980s by brothers Terry, Tommy, and Patsy Adams. Like the Dixie Mafia, the Adams Family is not as big as it once was, as many key figures were imprisoned throughout the ‘90s and 2000s. However, they are allegedly still involved in drug trafficking and high-scale robberies, among other forms of organized crime.
#8: The Russian Mafia
The Russian Mafia has its roots in Stalin’s forced labor camps during the Soviet era, where political dissidents and criminals organized under leaders known as ‘thieves-in-law’. By the 1980s, they had expanded into other countries, including the US. Also known as Bratva (or ‘brotherhood’), the organization took inspiration from the Italian mafia, but has a looser hierarchical structure. It’s composed of thousands of groups, with an estimated 250,000 members, some with ties to Russia, others to countries that were part of the Soviet Union, such as Georgia. The high level of political corruption in Russia has allowed criminal groups to prosper. Their activities include human trafficking, racketeering, extortion, drug trafficking, and more.
#7: The Irish Mob
The Irish mafia is one of the most infamous in the world. It got its start in the late 19th century with Irish-American street gangs, who vied for control of New York with Italian and Jewish organizations. They have since become one of the most widespread criminal syndicates in the United States and Canada, with cities like Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland, and Montreal linked to Mob activity. Boston has hosted the Winter Hill Gang, an offshoot of the Irish Mob that was once run by the notorious Whitey Bulger. This gang once had enormous influence within the FBI, as Bulger was in cahoots with corrupt agent John Connolly. They’re associated with a variety of crimes, such as assault, murder, counterfeiting, drug trafficking, illegal gambling, and money laundering.
#6: The Jewish Mafia
Like the Irish Mob, the Jewish Mafia got its start on the streets of New York City in the late 19th century. They eventually grew and flourished in the Prohibition era, as illegal bootlegging became increasingly lucrative. The mafia saw its heyday from the 30s to the 60s, when the Jewish Mob allied with the Italian-American Mafia to form the National Crime Syndicate. Involved were some of the most notorious mobsters in American history, including Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, and Mickey Cohen. The Jewish Mafia has been closely linked with the Russian mob in recent years, and they have a heavy presence in the Brighton Beach area of Brooklyn.
#5: The Albanian Mafia
Like the Russian mafia, the Albanian mafia isn’t a cohesive organization, but a loose collection of Albanian criminal operations. Involved are over a dozen mafia families who are allied with powerful syndicates, including the Sicilian Mafia and the Sinaloa Cartel. Through their connections, the Albanian Mafia controls much of the European drug trade. In fact, the US State Department considers Albania “the mainstay of organised crime worldwide and the main points of drug trafficking, weapons and immigrants in counterfeit goods”. Some have also linked the country’s current Prime Minister, Edi Rama, to the activities of the Albanian Mafia. However, the FBI does not consider them as sophisticated as other organizations, due to their clan-like structure.
#4: The Five Families
The Bonannos. The Colombos. The Gambinos. The Genovese. The Luccheses. Chances are that you’ve heard these names at some point, especially if you live in the general New York area (or if you watch a lot of mob fiction). They are collectively known as the Five Families, and they have an unbreakable hold on the New York City underworld. The Five Families were formed by Italian-American mobster Salvatore Maranzano in 1931 and are now controlled by The Commission, a governing mafia body consisting of the major bosses. Each family is given a specific territory within New York, although their presence is also felt in states like Florida and Nevada.
#3: The Sicilian Mafia
There is no mafia without the Sicilian mafia. Also called Cosa Nostra (meaning “our thing”), the Sicilian Mafia originated the very idea and structure of the modern-day mob. Its roots lie in western Sicily in the late 1800s, but it gained widespread recognition when Sicilians emigrated to the US in the early 20th century. Nowadays, the Sicilian Mafia specifically refers to the syndicate that is still operating in Sicily, composed of about one hundred families. They’re particularly active in the city Palermo. While they’ve lost ground in the drug trade to the ‘Ndrangheta, they still run powerful protection rackets, and have been linked to a number of powerful politicians in Italy.
Contrary to popular belief, Yakuza is not the criminal organization itself, but the title of its members. It’s the equivalent to our use of “gangster” or “mobster.” In reality, the Yakuza belong to various Japanese crime syndicates, or “clans.” Like many mafias on this list, these clans are not as powerful as they once were, and it’s believed that the height of the Yakuza was in the 1960s. But the crime syndicate continues to operate, with over 12,000 alleged members and three principal clans. The largest, wealthiest, and most powerful is Yamaguchi-gumi, which consists of over 8,000 yakuza and operates out of the city of Kobe.
When it comes to mafia organizations, none are as powerful as 'Ndrangheta. While pop culture has propped up the Sicilian Mafia, it’s 'Ndrangheta that has the true stranglehold on illicit mob activity. Like the Cosa Nostra, ‘Ndrangheta started in Italy - specifically the region of Calabria - before emigration made their enterprise more powerful and widespread. While the organization partakes in all sorts of criminal activity, a large chunk of their revenue comes through drug trafficking, which they conduct with the help of powerful cartels. This enterprise has made ‘Ndrangheta incredibly rich, and in 2010, it was estimated that their earnings accounted for 3% of Italy’s entire GDP.