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Meet The Five Families of New York - Fear City mobsters who were caught by FBI

The Five Families had extensive rules over every borough.

The Five Families - Fear City (Netflix)
Published: Wednesday, 22nd July 2020 at 1:56 pm

Coming to Netflix's extensive library of true-crime series, is a new documentary based on the Italian Mafia.


Fear City: New York vs. The Mafia will look at the lives and crimes of five mob families in The Big Apple, who ruled with a “bloody fist” in the 1970s and 1980s. They were eventually brought to justice by Rudy Giuliani and his team.

We have done some digging on each of the families, who ruled extensively over every borough.

From the Bonanno family to the Gambinos, here's everything you need to know.

The Bonanno family (formerly Maranzano)

Bonanno family boss
Bonanno family boss (Netflix) Netflix

The Bonanno family was named after Joe Bonanno. They operate largely in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island. They also have influence across Manhattan, The Bronx, and many more districts of New York.

The family was first known as the Maranzano crime family until its founder Salvatore Maranzano was murdered in 1931.

Joseph Bonanno was awarded most of Maranzano's operations. Under the leadership of Bonanno between the 1930s and 1960s, the family was one of the most powerful in the country.

However, in the early 1960s, Bonanno attempted to overthrow several leaders of the Commission, the governing body of the American Mafia.

He failed and between 1964 to 1966 he disappeared, ensuing the "Banana War" that lasted until 1968, when Bonanno retired to Arizona.

Between 1976 and 1981, the family was infiltrated by an FBI agent calling himself Donnie Brasco and they became the first of the New York families to be kicked out of the Commission.

Fear City Netflix

By 1990 however, they managed to recover under Joseph Massino and were not only back on the Commission, but were arguably the most powerful family in New York by the Millennium.

However, in the early 2000s, a rash of convictions culminated in Massino himself becoming a government informant. He was the first boss of one of the Five Families in New York City to do so. 

Colombo (formerly Profaci)

Colombo family boss
Colombo family boss (Netflix) Netflix

The Colombo crime family is the youngest of the Five Families. They were named after Joseph Colombo, and operate in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, but also have influence in Staten Island, Manhattan, and Florida, among others.

The gan, run by Joseph Profaci, became recognised as the Profaci crime family during Lucky Luciano's organisation of the American Mafia after the Castellammarese War.

The war saw a bloody power struggle for control of the Italian-American Mafia that took place in New York City from February 1930 to April 15, 1931, between partisans of Joe "The Boss" Masseria and those of Salvatore Maranzano.

The Colombo family has been torn by three internal wars. The first war took place during the late 1950s when capo Joe Gallo revolted against Profaci, but it lost momentum in the early 1960s when Gallo was arrested and Profaci died of cancer. The family was not reunited until the early 1960s under Joseph Colombo.

Fear City Netflix

In 1971, the second family war began after Gallo's release from prison and the shooting of Colombo. Colombo supporters led by Carmine Persico won the second war after the exiling of the remaining Gallo crew to the Genovese family in 1975.

Persico ruled the family until 2019 when he died in prison.

Gambino (formerly Mangano)

Gambino family boss
Gambino family boss (Netflix) Netflix

The group, which went through five bosses between 1910 and 1957, is named after Carlo Gambino - boss of the family at the time of the McClellan hearings in 1963, when the structure of organised crime first gained public attention.

The group's operations extend from New York and the eastern seaboard to California. Its illicit activities include labour and construction racketeering, gambling, loansharking, extortion, money laundering, prostitution, fraud, hijacking, and fencing.

The family was founded by Vincent Mangano, however, he was murdered by former underboss Albert Anastasia.

Anastasia remained in power and took over his family in 1951.

Their power and influence as a crime family rose in 1957, when Anastasia was assassinated while sitting in a barber chair at the Park Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan.

Experts believe that Anastasia's underboss Carlo Gambino helped orchestrate the hit to take over the family.

The family's fortunes grew through 1976, when Gambino appointed his brother-in-law Paul Castellano as boss upon his death.

Castellano was disliked by upstart capo John, who set up Castellano's murder in 1985. In 1992, Gotti's underboos Salvatore "Sammy Bull" Gravano decided to cooperate with the FBI.

Paul Castellano
Paul Castellano (Netflix) Netflix

Gravano's cooperation brought down Gotti, along with most of the top members of the Gambino family.

During the 1980s and 90s, the Gambino crime family had 24 active crews operating in New York City, New Jersey, Long Island, South Florida, and Connecticut.

By 2000, the family had approximately 20 crews. However, according to a 2004 New Jersey Organised Crime Report, the Gambino family had only ten active crews.

Genovese (formerly Luciano)

Genovese family boss
Genovese family boss (Netflix) Netflix

The Genovese family is the oldest and the largest of the "Five Families". The family was named after Vito Genovese, and they operate mainly in Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, and New Jersey – they also have influence in Westchester County, Connecticut and Massachusetts, among others.

The current "family" was founded by Charles "Lucky" Luciano, and was known as the Luciano crime family from 1931 to 1957, before it was renamed after boss Vito Genovese.

Originally in control of the waterfront on the West Side of Manhattan and the Fulton Fish Market, the family was run for years by "the Oddfather", Vincent "the Chin" Gigante, who feigned insanity by shuffling unshaven through New York's Greenwich Village wearing a tattered bath robe and muttering to himself incoherently to avoid prosecution.

While many mobsters from across the country have testified against their crime families since the 1980s, the Genovese family has only had eight members turn state's evidence in its history.

Fear City Netflix
Fear City (Netflix) Netflix

Lucchese (formerly Gagliano)

Lucchese family boss
Lucchese family boss (Netflix) Netflix

The Lucchesse family is named after Tommy Luchesse. They operate in The Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey. They also operate in Westchester County and Florida, among others.

Known previously as the Gagliano crime family under Tommy Gagliano, the family was pretty lowkey, concentrating their criminal activities in the Bronx, Manhattan and New Jersey.

The next boss was Tommy Lucchese who served as Gagliano's underboss for over 20 years and turned the family around to become one of the most prominent families to sit on the Commission.

Lucchese teamed up with Gambino crime family boss Carlo Gambino to control organised crime in New York City. Lucchese had a stronghold on the garment industry in New York and took control of many crime rackets for his crime family.

When he died of a brain tumour in 1967, Carmine Tramunti controlled the family for a brief time before he was arrested in 1973 for funding a major heroin network and died five years later.

Fear City Netflix

Anthony Corallo then gained control of the family. Corallo was very secretive and soon became one of the most powerful members of the Commission. He was arrested and convicted in the famous Commission case of 1986.


Fear City: New York vs The City is now available to stream on Netflix. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our guide to the best TV series on Netflix and best movies on Netflix, or visit our TV Guide.


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