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The Rise, Fall and Resilience of the Colombo Crime Family

Dominic Grimaldi

The Colombo Crime Family and Their Undying Influence in New York

The Colombo crime family, a formidable force in New York City’s organized crime scene, has a history that stretches back to the Prohibition era. Joseph Profaci, the family’s founding father, was a visionary in the criminal underworld. He recognized early on that organized crime could be much more than petty theft and small-time scams. Profaci was a pioneer in establishing a structured criminal organization, complete with a hierarchy and code of conduct that members strictly adhered to. His leadership was instrumental in diversifying the family’s criminal activities, moving beyond the initial focus on bootlegging and illegal gambling.

Profaci was a master strategist, forging alliances with politicians, law enforcement officials, and other crime families. His influence extended beyond Brooklyn, reaching into other boroughs of New York and even crossing state lines. Profaci was also keen on investing in legitimate businesses as fronts for the family’s illegal activities, a practice that would later become a staple in organized crime. His business acumen was evident in the way he managed the family’s finances, ensuring a steady flow of income that would sustain the family for years to come. Profaci’s leadership laid a solid foundation, setting the stage for the family’s growth and expansion in the subsequent decades.

The Leadership of Joseph Colombo

Joseph Colombo, who would later lend his name to the family, was not just another mob boss; he was a revolutionary figure in the landscape of organized crime. Taking control in the early 1960s, Colombo had the daunting task of filling Profaci’s shoes, but he rose to the challenge with aplomb. He expanded the family’s criminal portfolio to include more contemporary and lucrative ventures like loan sharking, racketeering, and labor union infiltration. These activities not only increased the family’s revenue but also expanded its influence in various sectors, from the financial markets to the construction industry.

Colombo was a man of the people, a charismatic figure who understood the power of public perception. He founded the Italian-American Civil Rights League, ostensibly to fight discrimination against Italian-Americans but also to serve as a smokescreen for the family’s criminal activities. This move was groundbreaking; it was one of the first instances where a crime family engaged in social activism as a cover for its illegal operations. However, this high-profile approach was a double-edged sword. While it garnered him significant public support, it also put him on the radar of law enforcement agencies. The attention culminated in a tragic shooting at a League rally in 1971, which left him incapacitated until his death seven years later.

Colombo’s leadership was a turning point for the family, marking a shift from traditional organized crime activities to more complex and diversified criminal enterprises. His ability to blend activism with organized crime was a novel approach, setting a precedent for future leaders. Despite the risks involved, Colombo’s audacious moves expanded the family’s reach and solidified its reputation as a formidable player in the criminal underworld. His legacy, though marred by the tragic end, remains a significant chapter in the family’s storied history.

The Family’s Criminal Enterprises

The Colombo family’s criminal enterprises are a labyrinthine network of illicit activities that extend far beyond the streets of New York. The family has mastered the art of loan sharking, a practice that involves lending money at sky-high interest rates. But this isn’t just a simple transaction; it’s a calculated move that often involves extensive background checks on the borrowers, ensuring they have assets that can be seized in case of non-payment. The family employs a team of enforcers, individuals skilled in the art of intimidation and, when necessary, violence. These enforcers ensure that borrowers are acutely aware of the consequences of defaulting on their loans, which can range from property damage to physical harm.

Racketeering is another cornerstone of the family’s criminal operations. The Colombo family has a knack for identifying profitable businesses ripe for exploitation. Once a target is identified, the family uses a variety of tactics to gain a foothold, from blackmail and extortion to outright intimidation. The end goal is to divert a portion of the business’s revenue into the family’s pockets. This isn’t a one-time operation; it’s an ongoing relationship that can last for years, with the family continually adapting its tactics to avoid detection by law enforcement.

The Colombo family’s involvement in labor unions, especially in the construction sector, is a strategic move that serves multiple purposes. First, it provides the family with a steady income stream through the manipulation of contracts and the siphoning off of union funds. But the benefits go beyond financial gains; infiltrating labor unions gives the family significant leverage over key players in the construction industry, from contractors to real estate developers. This influence is often used to secure lucrative contracts for companies that are under the family’s control, further increasing their revenue and expanding their network of influence.

The family’s method of infiltrating labor unions is both sophisticated and methodical. It often starts with identifying a weak link in the union’s leadership, someone who can be easily manipulated or coerced. Once this individual is compromised, the family uses them as a conduit to gain access to the union’s inner workings, from financial records to membership lists. This information is then used to identify additional targets for blackmail or bribery, creating a cycle of corruption that can be incredibly difficult to break.

The Colombo family’s involvement in labor unions also serves as a recruitment ground for new members. Union workers who are indebted to the family are often compelled to perform various tasks, from acting as lookouts to participating in more serious criminal activities. This not only expands the family’s workforce but also creates a sense of loyalty and indebtedness among the recruits, ensuring their continued cooperation in future endeavors.

Through their involvement in loan sharking, racketeering, and labor union infiltration, the Colombo family has created a multifaceted criminal empire that is both resilient and adaptable. Their ability to diversify their criminal activities while maintaining a low profile has made them one of the most enduring and influential crime families in New York, a testament to their ingenuity and ruthlessness.

The Colombo Wars – A Tumultuous Period of Internal Strife

The Colombo Wars, which erupted in the 1960s and again in the early 1990s, were not merely internal squabbles; they were seismic events that shook the family to its core and had far-reaching implications. These conflicts were not spontaneous; they were the culmination of simmering tensions, ideological differences, and power vacuums within the family hierarchy. The wars were not just about who would sit at the head of the table; they were battles for the very soul and future direction of the family’s criminal enterprises.

During these periods of internal conflict, the family’s operations were severely disrupted. Key revenue streams like loan sharking and racketeering saw a decline as resources were diverted to fund the war efforts. Allies became enemies, and long-standing relationships were severed, leading to a breakdown in the family’s internal communication and operational efficiency. The wars also provided law enforcement agencies with a golden opportunity to infiltrate the family, as disgruntled members turned informants in exchange for protection or lighter sentences.

The fallout from the Colombo Wars was devastating. Many high-ranking members met violent ends, while others were incarcerated, leaving a leadership void that was difficult to fill. The family’s reputation also took a hit, as other crime families began to view them as unstable and unreliable partners. The wars served as a cautionary tale, highlighting the dangers of internal discord and the importance of strong, unified leadership in maintaining a successful criminal enterprise.

Law Enforcement Scrutiny – A Constant Threat to the Family’s Operations

The Colombo family has long been in the crosshairs of law enforcement agencies, most notably the FBI. But this scrutiny is not random; it’s the result of years of meticulous investigative work, involving everything from wiretaps and surveillance to undercover operations. The family’s high-profile members, including acting bosses and capos, have been the primary targets of these investigations, but the net is cast wide, encompassing even low-level associates involved in the family’s various criminal activities.

The RICO Act has been a game-changer in the fight against organized crime, allowing law enforcement agencies to target not just individual members but the entire criminal organization. This has led to sweeping indictments that have decimated the family’s leadership structure and crippled its operations. But the family’s response to this increased scrutiny has been nothing short of ingenious. They’ve adopted counter-surveillance techniques and have even ventured into the realm of cybercrime to cover their tracks.

However, the constant pressure from law enforcement has forced the family to become more cautious and selective in their activities. Gone are the days of brazen public displays of power; today’s Colombo family operates in the shadows, constantly adapting and evolving to stay one step ahead of the authorities. This cat-and-mouse game with law enforcement has become a defining feature of the family’s existence, shaping their operational strategies and influencing their choice of criminal enterprises.

The Colombo family’s ongoing battle with law enforcement is not just a struggle for survival; it’s a high-stakes chess match that requires cunning, adaptability, and an intimate understanding of the legal system. Despite the numerous arrests and convictions, the family has managed to endure, albeit in a weakened state, proving that while they may be down, they are certainly not out.

The Family Today

The Colombo family’s resilience in the face of adversity is nothing short of remarkable. While they may not wield the same level of influence as they did in their prime, they remain a force to be reckoned with in New York’s criminal landscape. One of the key factors behind their enduring presence is their ability to adapt to changing times. The digital age, for instance, has opened up new avenues for criminal activities, and the Colombo family has been quick to capitalize on these opportunities.

Online fraud and cybercrime are not just buzzwords for the family; they are now integral parts of their criminal portfolio. The family has recruited tech-savvy individuals capable of executing sophisticated online scams, hacking into secure databases, and even engaging in digital espionage. This shift towards cybercrime is not merely a diversification strategy; it’s a survival tactic. In a world where physical crimes are becoming increasingly risky and less profitable, the digital realm offers a safer and more lucrative alternative.

But this transition has not been without its challenges. The family has had to invest in technology and training, and there’s the ever-present risk of cyber-espionage from rival crime families and law enforcement agencies. Yet, the potential rewards far outweigh the risks, making it a gamble the family is willing to take. Their foray into cybercrime has also allowed them to forge alliances with other criminal organizations specializing in digital crimes, further expanding their network and influence.

Conclusion – The Ever-Evolving Nature of the Colombo Family

The story of the Colombo crime family is a testament to the enduring and ever-changing nature of organized crime in America. They’ve come a long way from their early days of bootlegging and illegal gambling, navigating through internal wars, law enforcement crackdowns, and shifts in the criminal landscape. Their ability to adapt and evolve has been their greatest asset, allowing them to survive and even thrive in a constantly changing environment.

The family’s shift towards cybercrime is indicative of a broader trend in organized crime, where traditional activities are giving way to more modern forms of criminality. But this is not just a story of survival; it’s a story of innovation and resilience. The Colombo family has not just responded to changes in the criminal landscape; they’ve been proactive in anticipating these changes and adapting accordingly.

As law enforcement agencies continue to advance their techniques and tools, the Colombo family faces an ongoing challenge to stay ahead of the curve. Yet, their history suggests that they are more than capable of meeting this challenge. They’ve been written off many times before, only to re-emerge stronger and more adaptable. And that is what makes them a continually relevant force in the world of organized crime, a family that refuses to fade into obscurity, continually rewriting the rules of the game.

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