The Five Families are the five original Italian-American Mafia crime families which have dominated organized crime in the United States since 1931. The Five Families in New York City are the powerhouse of the Italian Mafia in the United States.
The Five Families originated out New York City Sicilian Mafia gangs. They were formally organized in the summer of 1931 by Salvatore Maranzano after the murder of Giuseppe Masseria, in what has become known as the Castellammarese War. Maranzano also introduced the now familiar Mafia hierarchy: Boss, Underboss, Consigliere, Capo, Soldier, and declared himself "capo di tutti capi" -- the ultimate boss over all of the families.
When Maranzano was murdered just months after Masseria, the "Boss of all Bosses" position was eliminated in favor of the Commission, a council which demarcated territory between the previously warring factions and governs American Mafia activities in the United States (virtually a "board of directors.") The idea was to settle things politically amongst the families and prevent the tyranny of one man controlling all the Mafia's operations. In addition, the cessation of constant hostilities insured increased profitability and stability for all the families.
The names of the Five Families are attributed to Mafia informant Joe Valachi. After his arrest in 1959, Valachi gave the police the names of the current bosses of the Five Families. The names of four of those bosses, Tommy Lucchese, Vito Genovese, Carlo Gambino, and Joe Bonanno, were used to name their respective families. While the fifth family was headed by Joe Profaci in 1959, it is named after the succeeding boss, Joseph Colombo.
The Five Families operate throughout the New York Metropolitan area, but mainly within New York City's five boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island. In the state of New York the families have increased their criminal rackets in Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk) and the counties of Westchester, Rockland and Albany. The Five Families maintain a strong presence in the state of New Jersey. The crime families are also active in South Florida, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Las Vegas.
* The Bonanno crime family — operates mainly in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island. The family also maintains influence in Manhattan, The Bronx, Westchester County, New Jersey, California, Florida and have ties to the Montreal Mafia in Quebec.
* The Colombo crime family — operates mainly in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. The family also maintains influence in Staten Island, Manhattan, The Bronx, New Jersey and Florida.
* The Gambino crime family — operates mainly in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island and Long Island. The family also maintains influence in The Bronx, New Jersey, Westchester County, Connecticut, Florida and Los Angeles.
o The Ozone Park Boys — is operating in Queens and Long Island
* The Genovese crime family — operates mainly in Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn and New Jersey. The family also maintains influence in Queens, Staten Island, Long Island, Westchester County, Rockland County, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Florida.
o 116th Street Crew — is operating in Upper Manhattan and The Bronx
o Greenwich Village Crew — is operating in Greenwich Village in Lower Manhattan
o Genovese crime family New Jersey faction — is operating throughout the state of New Jersey
* The Lucchese crime family — operates mainly in The Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and New Jersey. The family also maintains influence in Queens, Long Island, Staten Island, Westchester County and Florida.
o Cutaia Crew — is operating in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island
o The Jersey Crew — is operating throughout New Jersey
o The Tanglewood Boys — was a recruitment gang that operated in Westchester County, The Bronx and Manhattan.
* In the 1972 film The Godfather, the Five Families are represented by the Godfather Five Families, namely the Corleones, the Tattaglias, the Barzinis, the Cuneos and the Straccis.
* In the HBO series The Sopranos, the DiMeo crime family (based on DeCavalcante family ) works with the Lupertazzi crime family of Brooklyn, one of the five families in New York.
* In the video game series Grand Theft Auto, the Five Families are represented by the Leone, Sindacco and Forelli families. In Grand Theft Auto IV, the Five Families are represented by the Gambetti, Pavano, Messina, Lupisella, and Ancelotti families.