The Pittsburgh Mafia is one of America’s oldest organized crime families. They have been operating for more than 150 years and are said to be responsible for thousands of murders during their time. Here are 15 facts that will help you understand them better.
1) How They Started
The Pittsburgh organization began during the prohibition of alcohol. They got their start bootlegging illegal liquor through Western Pennsylvania. During this time they became extremely wealthy by smuggling large quantities of whiskey from Canada into the city. It wasn’t long before they began running numbers rackets across the state as well as drug dealing and other illicit activities.
2) Why They Were So Powerful
Pittsburgh was a very powerful city with so many businesses that were controlled by the Pittsburgh Crime Family at the time. Their territory was vast which allowed them to run lots of different illegal operations without getting caught too often. They were experts at manipulating politicians as well making it easy for them to get away with any crimes they wanted.
3) The Pittsburgh Family & Its Notoriety
Because the organization had such strong connections with government officials throughout most of its history, they quickly rose in notoriety. This led to some major battles with rival gangs who didn’t like what the Mafia was doing around town. In the 1940s there were even attempts on LaRocca’s life due to his reputation. Despite all this adversity though he continued to prosper over the decades. He eventually went down as one of the most dangerous men ever to live in the region.
4) The reign of LaRocca
The Pittsburgh Mafia is sometimes known as The LaRocca Crime Family, after Sebastian LaRocca. He became the boss of the family in 1956 and held his position for 30 years. Under him the family grew stronger and he gained even more power. His reign came to an end when he was convicted on racketeering charges and sentenced to life in prison.
5) LaRocca’s Successor, Michael James Genovese
LaRocca died in 1984 from natural causes, and was succeeded by Michael James Genovese. Under his reign, the family focused heavily on illegal gambling and loan sharking. However, in 1991, Genovese was arrested and sent to prison for racketeering charges. He was released in 1998 but later passed away from old age in 2006.
6) The Last Boss of The Pittsburgh Crime Family
After Genovese’s death, there was no clear successor until Thomas “Sonny” Ciancutti took over the family. He was born in 1958 and joined the family as a teenager. He eventually became the boss of the family in 2002 and remained in charge until his death in 2021. Since his death, there are no known living members of the Pittsburgh Mafia.
7) Where They Are Now
The Pittsburgh Mob has all but disappeared since the death of Sonny Ciancutti. They still exist today but only in name. The family is now run by a group of capos who are loyal to the Gambino crime family. They do business under the leadership of Frank Cali, a made man who is part of the New York mafia.
8) Relations With The American Mafia
The Pittsburgh Mafia was closely tied to the Sicilian mafia and Italian Mafia in New York City. They would send money and guns to help support their relatives back home. They also worked together to take down rivals and keep each other informed about law enforcement movements. This relationship ended when the New York family decided to form a separate alliance with other families from around the country.
9) West Virginia Activities
The Pittsburgh Mafia has a history of doing business in West Virginia. They ran many gambling operations throughout the state and also were involved in extorting companies. It was during this time that they established relationships with local politicians, business owners, and other influential people.
10) Underboss Charles Porter
Charles Porter became the first official underboss of the Pittsburgh Family in 1986. He served as one of the highest-ranking members of the organization for years before he died at age 82 in 2016. He was given a reduced sentence after being convicted of various crimes, from extortion, drugs, and robbery, to murder conspiracy. His wife passed away earlier that year due to natural causes.
11) Mob Boss John Bazzano
John “Joey” Bazzano was born in 1956 in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania. He became one of the most infamous mobsters in the city after he started working for the LaRocca Family at age 15. After Genovese’s arrest, he became the boss of the family but he later went into hiding while he faced a number of criminal charges. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2009 where he remains today.
12) Downtown Pittsburgh Mob History
Pittsburgh has been a city rife with organized crime since its early days as a major trading port. It is even said that some of the wealthiest families in the city trace their origins back to the earliest days of the United States. The original Mafia families that operated within the city are known as the original five families who helped build it into a powerful financial hub. They were made up of the Baldizzi, Cali, DiNicola, DelGiorno, and Mangano families.
13) Relations With The Cleveland Mafia
The Pittsburgh Mafia is close to the Cleveland Family. They both work together to make money and try to keep law enforcement out of their business. The families have also worked together to take out other gangsters who operate in their territory.
13) About John LaRocca
John LaRocca was born in 1926 and joined the Mafia in 1946. He worked for several other crime groups in different positions before he became boss of the Pittsburgh Mob in 1956. He was extremely brutal with his criminals and would beat them with his bare fists if they disobeyed his orders. He ruled the family with an iron fist until his arrest and conviction in 1971.