Sun. Apr 2nd, 2023

Charles "Lucky" Luciano was a notorious figure in the world of organized crime in the United States.

He was responsible for bringing together several warring factions of New York City's underground into five powerful crime families, which he headed. Luciano is widely considered the father of modern organized crime in the US. In this article, we delve into how Luciano rose to power and became the godfather of American organized crime.

Early Life of Lucky Luciano Lucky Luciano, born Salvatore Lucania in Sicily, Italy, in 1897, immigrated to the US with his family when he was around ten years old. They settled in New York City's crime-ridden Lower East Side, where Luciano became involved in criminal activities at a young age, including muggings, stealing, and extortion. He later joined the deadly Five Points Gang and began dealing heroin, becoming a skilled pickpocket in the process.

Early twentieth-century Mulberry Street on New York City's Lower East Side. Detroit Publishing Co./Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons

Assembling a Gang in Turn-of-the-Century New York Maier Suchowljansky, known as Meyer Lansky, was one of the many people who played a significant role in Lucky Luciano's rise to power. The two became lifelong partners, despite being from different backgrounds. Luciano was impressed by Lansky's courage and intelligence, which made him a valuable asset to their operations. Together, they formed the "Bugs and Meyer Mob," which ran protection rackets until Prohibition hit in the 1920s, leading to their involvement in bootlegging alcohol.

Lucky Luciano's Rise to Power Despite his successful partnerships, Lucky Luciano faced opposition from some Italian gangsters who did not see eye-to-eye with him. However, Luciano secured himself as the lieutenant to leading New York kingpin Joe "the Boss" Masseria. When Masseria's organization became embroiled in a deadly war with newcomer Salvatore Maranzano, Luciano was enlisted to help. During this mob war, Luciano and his fellow young mobsters became increasingly frustrated with the old-school Italian gangsters, leading to the decision to do away with Masseria altogether and assume control of his gang.

The Making of the Commission Lucky Luciano's next target was Masseria's arch-rival, Maranzano. By this point, Maranzano had become the first capo di tutti capi, or "boss of all bosses," and was considered the leader of all organized crime in New York. Luciano directed four Jewish mobsters to Maranzano's headquarters, where they ended the capo's reign. In 1931, Luciano became the undisputed boss of New York City, and he revolutionized the Mafia's structure by creating the Commission. This governing body was designed to avoid violence between rival families and individual mobsters, and to keep the operations of the Mafia hidden.

Lucky Luciano and the law despite his success, Lucky Luciano was still a target of the American government, just like many other prominent Mafia figures. He was eventually charged with running prostitution rackets and sentenced to 30 years in jail. Despite being incarcerated, Luciano continued to run his criminal enterprises and even assisted the American government during World War II. He was later pardoned for his wartime services but was deported to Italy. Luciano continued to conduct criminal activities in Sicily until his death in 1962.

Charles "Lucky" Luciano's final resting place is in New York at the Lucania Mausoleum. Matt Green/Flickr

Lucky Luciano was a criminal mastermind who revolutionized the Mafia's structure and created the modern American Mafia. He was a skilled businessman who saw the Mafia as an efficient, organized business instead of just a brutish gang. By dividing regional groups into "families" and setting up an overarching governing body called the "Commission," Luciano created a system that minimized violence between rival families and individual mobsters while keeping the operations of the mafia hidden. He believed in the importance of an honor code dubbed omertà, which required each member of the mafia to keep silent about their activities. In doing so, Lucky Luciano cemented his legacy as the father of modern organized crime in the United States.

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