For more than two decades, New York City’s five organized-crime families were plagued by convictions due to stronger federal laws and the increasing habit of higher-ranking members cooperating with the government, says the Wall Street Journal. The years of high-profile decline created a perception that the mafia is on the verge of extinction. Law-enforcement officials and mob experts say the five families, while not the force they once were, have survived because of their persistence and ability to adapt. “I don’t know that I’d say La Cosa Nostra was what it was in its heyday but I wouldn’t say by any means it’s gone away,” said Richard Frankel of the FBI’s New York City office.
Frankel, who supervises organized crime squads, believes the city’s Cosa Nostra has quietly staged a comeback and is now more powerful than it has been in years. Despite waves of prosecutions, each of the five “borgatas”—the Genovese, Gambino, Luchese, Bonanno and Colombo—”still exists and each still has its hierarchy,” said John Buretta, a former prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn. One indictment that attests to organized crime’s staying power is the Jan. 23 arrest of Vincent “Vinnie” Asaro, 78, in connection with the 1978 Lufthansa heist of $6 million in cash and jewels at John F. Kennedy Airport. The reputed Bonanno captain and four other reputed Bonanno members were charged with running a loan-sharking, extortion, gambling and murder enterprise from 1969 to now. The defendants pleaded not guilty.