A four-part examination of organized crime includes comments from former gangsters and law-enforcement officials.
Episode 1: Mafia, What Mafia?
The first of a four-part series on the American mafia reveals how the FBI ignored their existence until a meeting in a sleepy upstate New York hollow showed them something they couldn’t deny. In the 1950s, America was booming. The economy was flourishing and the population was basking in post-war prosperity. Capitalising on all this prosperity was organised crime, run by Italian mobsters known as the Mafia. Run from the top by a board of directors, it had its fingers in many pies – including the unions, gambling, prostitution, the building industry and the waterside.
The law enforcement authorities however, denied their existence, preferring to focus attention on the ‘red peril’ of communism. But a meeting in November 1957 in the sleepy town of Apalachin, upstate New York, attended by dozens of Italian businessmen in fedoras and sharp suits, aroused the suspicion of local police. When they went to investigate, the party guests tried to flee. The police had unwittingly stumbled upon the leadership of the entire American mafia, who had gathered to discuss the introduction of heroin smuggling from Sicily to the US. The crime fighters could not ignore them any longer.
Episode 2: Going Global.
By the late 1970s, the Sicilian mafia was smuggling millions of dollars worth of heroin into the US every year.
They had a unique method of distribution via Sicilian-owned pizzerias across the United States.
The racket became known as the Pizza Connection. The vast profits to be made from heroin led to savage violence as competing mafia dons and families sought a bigger piece of the pie. In the US, it led to the assassination of a greedy godfather in broad daylight. In Sicily, a murderous clan known as the Corleonesi – from the town of Corleone, which gave its name to Marlon Brando’s character in ‘The Godfather’ – blasted their way to the top of the mafia.
Ultimately, a battle would rage on the streets of the US between a new breed of ruthless mafioso and a new kind of policeman, prepared to risk everything to infiltrate the mafia. With the help of FBI agents like Joe Pistone (aka Donnie Brasco) and Carmine Russo the Mafia’s drug enterprise would be exposed and eventually dismantled.
Episode 3: The Great Betrayal.
Find out how and why omerta, the fabled Mafia vow of silence, began to crumble in the 1980s. Hear riveting accounts mob activities — including gruesome details about the disposal of bodies — from gangsters who lived to tell about it.
Episode 4: The Godfathers
Profiles of mafia leaders John Gotti and Toto Riina. Included: their ascents to power and eventual arrests by law enforcement. Included: footage of Gotti’s trials and conviction; and a look at Riina’s assassination of an Italian prosecutor; and Riina’s capture and conviction.