American Gangsters

For most people, the word gangster brings to mind images of heavily tattooed men in fedoras and pinstripe suits, holding tommy guns and long-barreled pistols. While this type of gangster has certainly existed in American history (Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger, Al Capone), there are plenty of other gangsters who don’t fit that image.

1) Al Capone

Al Capone was a famous gangster of Italian heritage who famously made a fortune in the prohibition era in which the sale of alcohol was made illegal.

Al Capone led a crime syndicate that exploited this situation and made a massive fortune selling alcohol on the black market, eventually his business empire stretched from Chicago to Atlantic City.

He became a powerful figure in the Chicago community and, at one point, owned a major interest in several legitimate businesses. However, he was eventually convicted for tax evasion and other crimes and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Though his sentence was eventually reduced, Capone died before being released from prison.

2) John Gotti

John Gotti was another Italian American, he became the infamous boss of the feared Gambino crime family in 1985.

He is sometimes referred to as The Teflon Don because many law enforcement attempts to convict him for his crimes were unsuccessful. Gotti and his brother, Gene, grew up in poverty in a rough neighborhood known as The Old Village.

3) Bugsy Siegel

Bugsy Siegel was born Benjamin Siegelbaum on February 28, 1906, to a Latvian Jewish family living in Brooklyn, New York. He dropped out of school at the age of 15 and became involved with local gangs before taking over a bootlegging operation that had belonged to his mentor.

After spending time in prison for running an illegal casino, he returned to Los Angeles and partnered with George Uffner to develop a new gambling business that would become famous as the Flamingo Hotel.

4) Lucky Luciano

Alphonse Gabriel Lucky Luciano is considered one of the most powerful gangsters in history. Born on November 24, 1897, Luciano was a five-time mafia boss and kingpin who controlled organized crime throughout New York City.

He also helped orchestrate one of the most famous kidnappings in U.S. history, that being Charles Lindbergh Jr., son of aviator Charles Lindbergh Sr.

5) Meyer Lansky

Meyer Lansky was born in Poland and emigrated to the United States with his family. He became a leader of organized crime and gambling operations for Charles Lucky Luciano’s National Crime Syndicate. Lansky was an essential figure in the development of Las Vegas, as well as its eventual transformation into a global tourist destination.

6) Dutch Schultz

Dutch Schultz (born Arthur Flegenheimer) was one of the most notorious gangsters from America. His criminal career included bootlegging, extortion, and murder. In 1935 Dutch Schultz was convicted for tax evasion and sentenced to 11 years in prison. He died before he could complete his sentence, on October 23rd, 1935.

7) Arnold Rothstein

Arnold Rothstein was a notorious gambler and bootlegger who was a major figure in New York City’s criminal underworld during Prohibition. He owned a number of speakeasies and gambling dens, and was said to have fixed several World Series throughout his lifetime. Rothstein became involved with crime at an early age, working as a runner for gamblers when he was still just 14 years old.

8) Sammy Gravano

Sammy Gravano, often referred to as the Underboss or the Bulldog, is an Italian-American mobster and former underboss of the Gambino crime family. He gained notoriety for being a government witness and flipping on his boss John Gotti.

9) Carmine Persico

Carmine Persico, also known as The Snake, was an influential New York-based boss and capo di tutti capi (boss of all bosses) for the Colombo crime family. His father, Alphonse Persico, was a captain in what is now called the Colombo crime family. His son, Carmine Jr., was convicted on racketeering charges and sentenced to a life sentence without parole.

10) Joe Bonanno

Joe Bonanno was born on October 17, 1905, on a rural farmstead near Castel di Sangro, Italy. In 1920, at the age of 15, he emigrated to America with his family. After a few months they moved to Brooklyn. There Joe met and befriended Salvatore Maranzano and together they ran Italian-American criminal activities throughout New York City’s five boroughs.