The rise in the number of mafia bosses began during the illegal bootlegging days of the Prohibition era. The crime world in the past was much more dominant, with several mafia bosses compared to the recent days.
Griselda Blanco, Pablo Escobar, Al Capone, and Bugsy Siegel are some of the top names of the most powerful mafia bosses of all time.
They happen to be known to the world for their involvement in drug cases, mob cases, smuggling cases, and sometimes in murder cases.
Let’s bring the 10 of the most powerful mafia bosses of all time who received the reputation for their criminal involvement.
10.Griselda Blanco (1943 – 2012)
The quote that only men are Mafia bosses is not necessarily accurate, and Griselda Blanco is the decisive proof. Griselda Blanco, who started with prostitution and pickpocketing, ended up booming the cocaine trade.
A Colombian drug lord controlled the Medellín Cartel and became a Miami-based cocaine drug trade pioneer.
She was active in the underworld with several names, such as La Madrina, the Queen of Narco-Trafficking, the Black Widow, and the Cocaine Godmother during the 1980s through the early 2000s.
She was estimated in 200 murders while smuggling cocaine from Colombia to New York, Miami, and Southern California. Blanco, at her peak, was one of the richest women and the most powerful drug kingpins in the world.
She earned $80 million a month during the ’70s and ’80s and became the first-ever billionaire female criminal with a $2 Billion net worth as of 2012.
She married four men and bore four children. With the multi-billion dollar drug trafficking empire, she became one of the deadliest women of all time.
However, her mafia acts ended on the 3rd of September,2012, after police shot her dead.
9.Bugsy Siegel (1906 – 1947)
Described as handsome and charismatic, Bugsy Siegel was one of the first front-page celebrity gangsters. He was a Jewish-American mob involved in the racket, murder, and illegal gambling.
Siegel, initially known for being a mafia hitman and enforcer, became Murder, Inc. He loved gambling and turned illegal gambling into legal one during the Prohibition era.
He also established the Las Vegas Strip, where he and his men robbed tourists for years until death. His name also came in several bootlegging affairs with his close associate, Meyer Lansky.
In 1936, Siegel moved to California, started campaigning rackets, and built casinos out there for the mob bosses on the East Coast. He also favored many Hollywood celebrities and earned some fame for himself.
Siegel was shot dead by a hitman on the 20th of June, 1947, at his girlfriend’s house in Beverly Hills.
8.Pablo Escobar (1949 – 1993)
Pablo Escobar was a Colombian drug trader and famous narcoterrorist who founded the Medellín Cartel. He was known as The King of Cocaine, The King of Crack, El Padrino, and El Patrón.
He started his criminal journey around the 1970s by selling illegal cigarettes and fake lottery tickets, participating in motor vehicle theft, and kidnapping people for ransom.
With his experience working under other mafia bosses, he established his Cartel in 1976 and named it the Medellín Cartel. The cartel made their first smuggling routes to the United States to distribute cocaine, which eventually became the most successful cartel to supply in the US.
They would supply at least 70 to 80 tons of cocaine a day from Columbia. This made Escobar and his cartel one of the wealthiest in the world. His business, however, created the battle between rival cartels and resulted in killing police officers, locals, judges, and politicians.
Escobar also stepped into the 1982 Colombian parliamentary election and was elected as an alternate member of the Chamber of Representatives. He earned some fame by working on community projects for the construction of houses and football fields.
He was convicted of planning the Avianca Flight 203 and DAS Building bombings. In 1991, he surrendered to the police and was sentenced to imprisonment for five years.
He escaped jail in 1992, and a nationwide manhunt was conducted. Escobar was shot dead by the Colombian National Police on December 2, 1993.
7.Albert Anastasia (1902 – 1957)
Italian origin, Albert Anastasia was one of the most ruthless and feared Italian -American crime bosses, mobsters, hitmen, and gangsters in American history.
He was well known as The Earthquake, The One-Man Army, Mad Hatter, and Lord High Executioner. He worked as a longshoreman when he came to the US and became a hitman and enforcer for Luciano.
Anastasia was appointed underboss and head of his Brooklyn rackets when Salvatore Maranzano and Joe Masseria were killed during the Castellammarese.
By 1951, Anastasia had transformed New York Harbor into a whole Crime zone. At the time, he served Vincent Mangano and continued for 20 years as an underboss. When Mangano was killed, he became the new boss of the Mangano crime family.
The conspiracy against Anastasia was aggressive for killing his boos, so Vito Genovese with Carlo Gambino planned on killing him. He was killed in a barbershop in Manhattan on the 25th of October, 1957.
6.Carlo Gambino (1902 – 1976)
If there was any crime boss who ruled the crime world for a long time and still met his death without a bullet, it was Carlo Gambino. Carlo Gambino was an Italian-American mafioso of the Gambino crime family.
He had earned several nicknames such as The Godfather, Don Carlo, The King of the United States Underworld, The Dictator of New York City, and The King of the American Mafia.
Gambino carried out his criminal journey at 19 when he was inducted as an assassin into the Cosa Nostra in 1921. Along with two other fellows, Bugsy Siegel and Frank Costello, he joined a ‘Young Turks’ gang led by Lucky Luciano.
In 1957, Gambino ordered the assassination of Albert Anastasia and became the head of the Mangano crime family. He then changed the original name Mangano to Gambino family and took charge of loan sharking and illegal gambling.
He became the head of the Mangano crime family and renamed it the Gambino crime family after murdering Albert Anastasia in 1957
Gambino became more potent after the Apalachin Meeting in 1957 and the imprisonment of Vito Genovese in 1959. He controlled the Commission of the American Mafia until his death.
He finally met his end with a heart attack on his bed on October 15, 1976. In his criminal career of 50 years, he served only 22 months in jail for a tax evasion charge in 1937.
5.Frank Costello (1891 – 1973)
Frank Costello was introduced to the crime world by his brother, Edward, who was still a teenager. Frank was born in Cosenza, Italy, and grew up in East Harlem. He joined the local gang 104th Street Gang at the early age of 13 and started petty crimes.
He had already served in prison in 1908, 1912, and 1917 for assault and robbery. With Lucky Luciano, he was involved in gambling, bootlegging, and building operations in New York and the South in the 1920s.
The association of Luciano helped him to gain political influence on the local level. When Luciano went to jail for operating a prostitution ring in 1936, Costello became the head of the Luciano crime family, later changed to the Genovese crime family.
He had risen at the height of his criminal career and became an Italian-American Mafia gangster and crime boss. He gained his popularity through his nickname “The Prime Minister.”
In the 1950s, Costello faced several problems with the law as he was frequently taken in and out of jail for contempt and tax evasion by the US government.
He had also developed a solid alliance with Albert Anastasia. However, in 1957, the assassination attempt was made upon them, in which Costello survived while Anastasia was killed. Vito Genovese, the rival New York mob boss, was behind this scheme.
Though he lost some dominance after the attack, he continued his operation. He eventually met his end with a heart attack on February 18, 1973.
4.Lucky Luciano (1897 – 1962)
Lucky Luciano was a great influencing mafia king in American history and the first gangster who legitimized mafia power in America.
Charles “Lucky” Luciano was also an Italian-born mob boss who started his crime by joining the Five Points gang. His power rose when he became the top assistant in Masseria’s criminal organization and after the Castellammarese War.
People also called him the father of modern organized crime in America due to establishing The Commission in 1931. Luciano was a mobster who had great ambition and business sense.
He proposed The Commission maintain his power over all the families and stop future gang wars. The other bosses appreciated his idea and approved it.
The modern Genovese crime family then received the first official heir, and it was Luciano. His dominance in the mafia world grew even further because of his contribution to the development of the National Crime Syndicate.
However, his fortune dropped when District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey, with his years of investigation, brought him to trial in 1936. Luciano was convicted for his prostitution rackets and sentenced to 30 to 50 years in jail.
Luciano, however, shortened his prison time as he had helped the US Navy’s security measures during World War II. Thus, he was brought to Italy from where he continued his drug business. He died from a heart attack when he was at Naples International Airport on January 26, 1962.
3.John Gotti (1940 – 2002)
Apart from his criminal activities, John Gotti was famous for being called the “The Dapper Don.” His swagger and expensive suits always roamed around the media that made him a tabloid celebrity.
John Gotti was the American mobster and boss of the Gambino crime family in New York City. He began his criminal career at 12 when he started working for Carmine Fatico.
Even after joining the Gambino crime family, Gotti could not stop his heroin business, despite knowing that it was against the family ethics. His business of heroin was discovered by the Gambino family only in 1985, which led to chaos.
Gotti had to plan and organize the murder of Paul Castellano to save him and his business team. The murder of Paul led to him becoming the head of the Gambino family.
During the 1980s, Gotti was the most powerful crime boss in America, called the “Teflon Don.” He earned millions through criminal and illegal business, including loan sharking, prostitution, illegal gambling, and narcotics distribution.
He often avoided prison throughout the 1980s, but the Feds continued chasing him and built a strong case against him. Gotti was finally locked in jail in 1992 for several crimes involving five counts of murder, tax evasion, and racketeering.
Salvatore Gravano, who was Gotti’s underboss, helped the FBI to put Gotti behind the bar. Though Gotti was in jail, he continued his crime business through brother Peter and son Jr. He died of throat cancer in 2002.
2.Frank Lucas (1930 – 2019)
Frank Lucas was an American drug smuggler trained under Harlem mob boss Bumpy Johnson from his teenage years. He worked for Johnson for 15 years.
He broke the monopoly that the Italian-American mob bosses had on the drug ring and developed his drug ring that became one of the most significant rings of the 20th century.
Lucas became a powerful drug lord in Harlem in the 1960s and 70s through his heroin trade. He cut out the middleman by contacting the direct suppliers in Southeast Asia to buy the drug.
By the 1970s, Lucas leveraged a lavish lifestyle with an earning of $1 million a day from his “Blue Magic” heroin. It caught the eye of authorities, and Lucas was convicted of drug charges after they raided his New Jersey house in 1975.
He was sentenced to 70-year prison in 1976, but he served only five years and was set free. Due to his cooperation on drug cases as a state witness, he could shorten his prison time. (rearrange)
Lucas boasted of smuggling the drugs in the US military aircraft during his high peak career after bribing the US army members. He eventually met his natural death on May 30, 2019.
Lucas has also been fictionalized in the movie The American Gangster (2007).
1. Al Capone (1899 – 1947)
Al Capone was an American mafia boss and businessman who established his crime empire through several criminal activities in the 1920s. During his criminal career, Capone was the most powerful and dangerous crime boss in the world.
Capone was also one of the wealthiest and most influential people in the world. By 1927, he became a billionaire, possessing a startling $3 billion net worth in 1929.
His criminal affair started when he became a member of the Five Points Gang as a teenager. He then became a bouncer in many organized crime premises in his early twenties.
In his initial career, his mentor was Johnny Torrio, who helped him to grow in bootlegging. He, along with Torrio, co-founded and became the leader of Chicago Outfit, previously known as the Black Hand. Still, his fall and rise continued due to the North Side Gang.
Capone became the crime boss and expanded his crime empire through smuggling, bootlegging liquor, and prostitution after Torrio’s death.
He bribed police officials, judges, and the Mayor of Chicago, and his domination prevailed in the US. He also donated funds to several charity groups, which earned him the nickname “modern-day Robin Hood.”
He, however, was tagged as “Public Enemy No.1” when the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre happened. In the event, he killed his seven gang rivals. It boiled the media and public to pressure the US government to put Capone behind the bar.
Thus, Capone’s organized crime reign ended when he was sent to jail after being found guilty on five counts of tax evasion in 1931. The imprisonment was decided for 11 years, but he was released in 1939 when he suffered an advanced case of syphilis.
Capone eventually died of a heart attack on January 25, 1947. At the height of his career, he received many names such as Scarface, Big Al, Big Boy, and Snorky.
Capone’s life has also been discussed in many books, articles, journals, and movies. The Untouchables (1987) was a blockbuster movie based on Capone’s life.
Mafia life is uncertain, and several gangsters met their end either being shot or serving the prison for their lifetime. Only a few died naturally. This piece has only included ten mafia leaders and misses several others, such as Tony Accardo, Whitey Bulger, Sam Giancana, etc.
Anyway, who do you find the most powerful mafia boss enlisted in the article? Comment your thoughts below.