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The Sopranos? Get Real!

The hit series on HBO ran out its string last night, and this morning a lot of folks are talking about the ending, which is doubtless how everyone with the show wanted things to go. Me, I never watched the "Sopranos", largely because I did not feel the need to shell out money to a cable company for something of such variable quality and annoying scheduling. But even if it had been on my set, I don't know that I would have watched. OK, part of that is because I am in school again, and spent most of yesterday doing Cost Analysis and Quant homework (and a couple hours trying to treat a rash on my dog and to find out what was causing it). But another part is because movies and shows about the Mob are getting further and further away from the reality. While "wise guys" and the Mafia are still around, especially on the East Coast, they are a small minority of Organized Crime in America, and they are losing ground. The vanguard of Organized Crime is both more savvy and dangerous than the old guard ever could claim.

There are six types of Organized Crime groups generally operating in the United States or targeting Americans:

[] Race-based groups (like the Bloods and the Crips, the Yakuza, or Aryan groups)
[] Nationality-based groups (like the Yardies from Jamaica, or the Mexican Syndicate)
[] Professional Crime Organizations (like various Triad groups, the Moran family, or the Russian Bratva)
[] Religious organizations (like the Michigan 'Militia', Al Qaeda, or Lebaron's "family")
[] Street Gangs (small local operations)
[] Political Crime Organizations (like the Earth Liberation Front and ALF)

These organizations participate in a combination of five key types of activity:

[] Vice (prostitution, pornography, gambling)
[] Fraud (credit card, internet, real estate)
[] Drugs (distribution routes and bulk manufacture)
[] Robbery (especially small businesses)
[] Contract Violence (against rival groups, for causes, assassinations, or against threats like witnesses)

The key difference between the old-guard Mafia and modern Organized Crime, is that the new guard has learned to much better conceal its actions, to act unseen by normal people. That does not mean that OC groups have given up violent methods, however. Consider these real-life events and the possible TV show or movie plots which could be made from them:

** A gang sets a bomb off under a van belonging to a bombmaker for a rival gang.

** Hurricane Katrina sends hundreds of gang members out of their home turf as refugees in another major city, where they get into turf wars with established street gangs when they try to carve out new territory.

** Home invasion gangs target ethnic business owners with families, especially young children, who are kidnapped and held while the parents are compelled to collect a ransom. The families are dissuaded from going to the police by a suspicion of an authority alien to them, as well as reminders from the gang that while the police will do their reports and leave, the gang can come back at any time.

** Control of illegal aliens being considered a valuable commodity, gangs will hijack delivery of illegal immigrants in bloody raids.

** Women from Asia are coerced to serve as sex slaves for years, in order to "pay" for their trip to America. Such women are often sold as "wives" in black-market transactions.

** Merchandise stolen from luggage at airports is fenced through local retailers, along with many bootlegged products, such as fake designer clothing and electronics.

And that's just what has gone on in Houston in the past ten years. You think Tony Soprano was ruthless? Next to these guys, he's a pansy, and a fictitious one at that.

Comments (13)

well stated..I could have u... (Below threshold)
nogo postal:

well stated..I could have used this layout for a discussion I had with a friend last week..
I am now prepared...

But are any of them in ther... (Below threshold)
Dr. Acula:

But are any of them in therapy? Gotta have a connection to the middle-class audience!

Ok, you don't really (watch The Wire).

DJ, you forgot to list the ... (Below threshold)

DJ, you forgot to list the biker gangs, such as the Hells Angels and The Bandios, among the two of the most dangerous. These gangs provide the muscle for outdoor rock concerts--Monterrey Pop Festival being the most famous or infamous

What was great about the So... (Below threshold)

What was great about the Sopranos was that it also got into real-world political corruption in the NY-NJ area; illegally evicting the poor from houses, to buy them up and have them bought at much higher prices by Federal neighborhood-improvement programs, city council-member payoffs, mandatory no-show jobs, money laundering, etc. etc.

But for the more current organized crime you're talking about, in an entertainment show, the Shield has it nailed. Just my opinion, but I think that show does a great job.

Stan, I can't decide whethe... (Below threshold)

Stan, I can't decide whether they fit in the "Professional" category or the Race-based, depending on the specific group.

Actually, one of the more interesting gangs is actually a Chinese group of, well, nerds, who have been trying to infiltrate the NYSE to hack the trade servers. If they succeed - and I'm not sure how we'll know if they do - they can make billions very quickly. The SEC has been chasing them since '98.

My recent experience has be... (Below threshold)

My recent experience has been that money laundering is one of the activities that the "common man," is likely to come into contact with one of the various OC groups.

In the Southwest small businesses often are offered the opportunity to launder money. It looks and is relatively easy, and seems to be easy money. The drawback is the launderer has to be scrupously honest when dealing with OC, since they account for every penny, and are abrupt in making corrections.

The Michigan 'Militia' grou... (Below threshold)

The Michigan 'Militia' group is a crime organization? They deal in vice, fraud, drugs, robbery and/or contract violence? I checked out their www site, not something you would see from a crime organization. Are you sure about that?

Xray, the Michigan "Militia... (Below threshold)

Xray, the Michigan "Militia" I am talking about was a priority target for the FBI from 1999 through 2002. They trafficked in guns, drugs, and counterfeit money and credit cards. Most of their leadership have been arrested, but many members scattered and are believed to still communicate with each other through survivalist groups in the Great Lakes area.

I strongly doubt the group I am talking about has a web site, or advertises to the public. You may note that my original citation included ' ' to show this was not a militia in the nominal sense, but rather the name they call themselves.

I grew up there and still h... (Below threshold)

I grew up there and still have family back in Michigan and have never heard of a Michigan Militia organization that ran drugs, guns or those other crimes. Googling the news for "Michigan Militia" returns five stories, none having to do with those types of crimes. Koernke, the old former leader of the Michigan Militia from the 90's went to jail in 2002 for avoiding a court hearing and evading police, but that's about it. From what I have heard, he had a screw loose back then regarding conspiracies, but was not a criminal.

I can find nothing else to substantiate what you have said. Is there somewhere else I should look? Any names? Thanks.

It's only a badly misinform... (Below threshold)

It's only a badly misinformed myth that organized crime is heavily involved in adult entetainment or the "pornography" business. During the 1970's after the 1973 Supreme Court decision that weakened freedom of speech and the First Amendment a few isolated independent trucking companies with some organized crime ties offered to ship adult products to adult bookstores for higher shipping rates to insure shipment after UPS anf FEDEX refused, but the producers of the adult materials themselves had no connection to organized crime. Only in the case of the single film, DEEP THROAT, was one investor in the film associated with organized crime. But no proof exists of a widespread connection to organized crime in this industry regardless of what one thinks about it. Also most strip club owners are subjected to background checks and any connection to organized crime or serious arrests would disqualify a club owner from a liqour license.

Compared to the music industry with many figures connected to illegal activity such as cocaine use or even trafficking, adult entertainment is pretty clean of any organized crime connections. A person may not like this industry on moral grounds. But it's relatively clean of any ties to organized crime compared to many businesses including trucking, garbage hauling, and other businesses.

Idiot Senator Jesee Helms changed federal law where racketeering laws can be brought against "obscenity", but that hardly means that any widespread connection to organized crime has every been really established in this industry. Most persons in the adult entertainment industry don't know a single person associated with organized crime, nor have ever met anyone who is. The industry has a trade journal, AVN, and has yearly trade shows in Las Vegas like any other legitimate industry.

Other myths about organized crime exist as well. But gangs are the new face of organized crime where some gang oriented drug dealers have invested in legitimate businesses such as fast food franchises. The average person is more likely to be putting cash into the hands of organized crime by having their garbage hauled or by patronizing some fast food businesses than renting an adult video at some mom and pop video shop somewhere.

Credit card fraud is mainly among meth drug users looking for quick cash while much of the internet fraud is among those living in Nigeria and some living in Eastern Europe where the police are too corrupt to arrest known crooks. Neither is associated among classical "organized crime".

There is a real world differnce between the fictional organized crime activity depicted on THE SOPRANOS and what real FBI and other crime statistics and facts actually prove.

That was an interesting pos... (Below threshold)

That was an interesting post Paul. More good reasons to avoid fast food and to recycle.

Naive Paul, just naive.... (Below threshold)

Naive Paul, just naive.

Larry, I have more than 20 ... (Below threshold)

Larry, I have more than 20 years experience in business and have extensive knowledge of distribution of a wide array of goods and services. My website http://www.radiotvpartz.net/ should be ample proof of my understanding of business and distribution channels for a wide range of goods.

During the 1980's one distributor of adult merchandise would put phony labels of flight control equipment or other phony labels on their XXX books and films so that UPS would ship their goods for example and avoid the unethical independent trucking companies. In most large communities these products are better accepted nowadays, so UPS and FEDEX are more likely to ship from known customers.

Head shop supplies used to use some clever shiiping methods as well, but interstate distribution of these goods can more easily violate federal laws than an adult good which must be ruled obscene by a judge or jury before the product can be prevented from circulation. Different grey area products have different legal standings. But generally there is no organized crime connection behind most of these goods, just mere profiteering.

Most grey area industries have trade groups, trade publications as well trade shows. Organized crime has none of these things.






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