The least you should know about the Mafia is how the crime family is structured. If you have ever seen movies like The Godfather or Donnie Brasco or watched television shows like The Sopranos, there is no doubt you have heard terms like boss, godfather, consigliere, capo, soldier, and associate. You may have also heard the term capo di tutti capi or boss of bosses.
Maybe you know or have wondered which of these titles fall under the regime of power within a mafia family.
The structure of the Mafia crime family first came to light during the McClelland Senate Hearings also known as The Valachi Hearings because of the government’s star witness, Joseph Valachi. Joe Valachi was a soldier in the Genovese crime family and was the first member of the Mafia to publicly acknowledge there was such a thing as the Mafia. During the McLelland Hearings, Joe Valachi laid out the structure of the mafia family.
The Boss. The boss is pretty self-explanatory. He is the head of the crime family. He makes the decisions about things within the crime family but is also supposed to stay out of the limelight and stay underground so he can stay out of the crosshairs of the police and the FBI and the government. John Gotti was the antithesis to the crime boss. He was very public and flaunted his position in front of the government, especially when he was acquitted at trials. This made the government that much more anxious to get him.
The Consigliere. He is an advisor to the boss. He advises the boss on actions that are good for the family. The consigliere never gets involved in the criminal operations or the business of the family at all. He never gets his hands dirty but he is as just as respected as the boss is.
The Underboss. The underboss is pretty self-explanatory as well. He is the face of the mafia crime family whereas the boss doesn’t has to be. He brings problems to the boss and the consigliere that are too big for him to handle. The lower family members go to the underboss with a problem and he is usually solves it without involving the boss or the consigliere.
The Caporegime. The caporegime or the captain is just under the underboss and he runs the crews of soldiers and associates. There can be many capos within a family and just depends on the size of the family. In the first season of the series, the Sopranos, Tony Soprano was a caporgime under the DiMeo family.
The Soldier. The soldier is a street level member of the family. He is the one who commits the crimes, executes hits, and is in control of illegal activities such as loansharking, bookmaking, etc…
The Associate is someone who works with members of the Mafia and is associated with the soldiers and caporegimes. These are men who are burglars, drug dealers, policemen, jewelers, pawn brokers, etc… Associates can become mad men as long as they follow the criteria like becoming big earners or come from Italian descent. Anyone who is not of Italian or Sicilian descent cannot be a made-man. Meyer Lansky was pretty much Charles Luciano’s right hand man but could never be made into the Mafia because he was Jewish.
What you also need to know is that any money made in the crime family was always paid up the ladder. An associate gave some money to a soldier, a soldier paid up to the capo, a capo paid up to the underboss and the underboss paid up to the boss. So there you have it. The structure of the mafia crime family as it was laid out by Joe Valachi.