Most of us know something about the Italian
Its exploits have been made into huge blockbuster
movies such as The Godfather trilogy and Goodfellas,
while the TV show The Sopranos is unquestionably
one of the best things ever to light up people’s
What makes the Italian mafia so compelling
to follow is that besides the brutality of
the organization at times, there is humor
in the way members talk to each other, their
often-strange nicknames are never anything
but hilarious, and you can’t help but be
fascinated by the rulebook each member has
to adhere to.
Despite the mafia’s many codes of conduct,
time and again, no quarter was given to rival
members and outsiders.
Today we’ll look at some of the worst crimes
the mafia ever committed, in this episode
of the Infographics Show, The Most Horrifying
Crimes – Italian Mafia.
As you’ll likely know, the Italian Mafia
originated in Sicily in southern Italy and
was known as the Cosa Nostra.
The word mafia, which is “mafioso” in
Italian, according to the Italian dictionary,
means someone who can be a scoundrel, brave
but perhaps unruly, a tough guy but honorable,
sometimes a brute and always a bit of a swaggerer.
That seems about right, given what we have
seen on TV and in film.
If we look at the late 19th and early 20th
century in Sicily, some writers depict these
gangs as thieves working in rural areas, but
given so much inequality and official corruption,
some of the writers defend their actions.
In the 1940s and 50s, gangs grew in size,
making headway in the construction industry
but also getting involved in extortion and
But today we are going to focus on the American
The earliest reports of Italian immigrants
belonging to organized crime causing havoc
in the United States dates back to the late
Around that time, the New Orleans Times wrote
that parts of the city had become infested
with “well-known and notorious Sicilian
murderers, counterfeiters and burglars, who,
in the last month, have formed a sort of general
co-partnership or stock company for the plunder
and disturbance of the city.”
Theses gangs would soon spring up in parts
of New York and Chicago, and would later pervade
much of the United States.
To cut a long story short – this episode
is more about the mafia’s crimes than its
long history – many Italian gangsters flooded
into the USA in the 1920s as fascist leader
Benito Mussolini wasn’t very keen on them,
to say the least.
This was around the time prohibition (or the
alcohol ban) was the law in the U.S.
An era rife for crime, and the Mafia, led
by certain families in different parts of
the country, expanded quickly and became known
as an enterprise full of cunning, calculating,
and cruel connivers.
Now to the crimes.
Not all terrible crimes were committed by
the mafia, but by people working for the mafia.
Many of the associates, tough guys, hitmen,
were not Italian by birth and so were hired
for jobs rather than work as part of a family.
One such man who you may have seen on YouTube
or on TV or even depicted in a movie, is the
hitman Richard Kuklinski.
Also known as the ‘Ice Man’, it’s thought
he carried out around 100 executions or more
before he was imprisoned in 1988.
He appears on this list not only because of
how prolific he was, but if you’ve seen
him talk about killing, you’ll notice how
cold he seemed about the act.
They called him the Ice Man because he would
often freeze the bodies of his victims for
a long time, and then later dump them.
Doing it this way would make it impossible
for the police to know when the murder had
Now we’ll look at two characters who were
known in the mafia as brutal killers and have
since been depicted that way in movies.
Both characters were played by Joe Pesci.
The first was the character Nicky Santaro
in the film ‘Casino’, who was actually
based on mafia member Tony Spilotro.
Yes, Spilotro was brutally murdered by his
own people as is depicted in the movie, but
it’s also said that he was very much a keen
proponent of torturing people he thought were
hurting his business.
He may have ordered killings and killed himself
on many occasions, but it’s the torture
that stands out.
Like in the film, he once put a man’s head
in a vise and turned the handle until the
man’s eye popped out.
It’s also said he tortured another man for
two days, slicing him all over with knives
and razors, burning him with a blow torch,
and then fastening him upside down to a meat
hook until the poor fella died.
Now, you might not feel sorry for anyone with
such a depraved disposition, but you can hardly
feel good about the way Spilotro went.
No, it wasn’t death by baseball bat near
the Las Vegas desert as depicted in the movie.
What really happened is that in 1986 Spilotro
had irked mafia bosses enough and they ordered
he be taken care of (that means killed).
He and his brother were asked to meet in a
basement where they would essentially be promoted,
or so they were told.
What happened is that they were set upon by
around 20 men and literally beaten to death
with bats, fists, and objects, until their
bodies became unrecognizable.
If you so choose, the photos of the aftermath
are online, but we don’t advise you look.
The next character is Tommy from the film
‘Goodfellas’, who was based on Thomas
Anthony DeSimone, aka, Two-Gun Tommy.
Associate Henry Hill, who the film is based
on, described him as a “pure psychopath”
and a “homicidal maniac.”
If you’ve seen the film, all those grizzly
murders are based on Hill’s testimony.
Yes, that includes the horrible slaying of
a young waiter for hardly any reason at all.
According to Hill, he enjoyed killing and
had been doing it since he was a teenager.
Now we turn to the notorious gangster, Al
Yet again, the brutal murder we are about
to talk about has been depicted in a movie.
This time the movie is ‘The Untouchables’.
If you haven’t seen it, there is a scene
in which Capone has invited a bunch of gangsters
to a kind of large dinner party.
Reminiscent of a Joker scene from Batman,
Capone pulls out a baseball bat and beats
one of the attendants to death with it.
In real life there were two men, and they
had been henchmen in the gang.
But Capone had got wind that they wanted to
He shot them, too, but it’s thought the
men were as good as dead.
Sticking with Al Capone, we should mention
something about the utterly cold-blooded St.
Valentine’s Day Massacre.
Yep, you can see this depicted in many films,
The story, in short, consists of Capone’s
gang fighting for power in Chicago in the
1920s with an Irish gang called the North
This gang was run by mobster George “Bugs”
As the story goes, 7 members of the North
Side gang had been lined up against a wall
by men that looked like police, only they
were thought to be Capone’s accomplices.
They fired many rounds of ammunition into
these men, tearing them to pieces.
Moran was not one of them, and some stories
say he was just fortunate enough to be late
to the meeting that day.
One man actually survived the next three hours
with 14 bullet wounds, but later died.
Capone had been careful, knowing that he would
At the time of the shootings, he was in Florida
and making sure he was being seen by many
No one was ever arrested for this mass execution,
one of the bloodiest events in American mob
Ok, so the next crime may not be as brutal,
but it shows just how bitter and twisted the
mafia could be.
This was the murder of Angelo “The Gentle
Don” Bruno, who was shot in the back of
the head in his car.
Bruno had made a killing in the methamphetamine
trade in Philadelphia, but some people thought
he was keeping too much mullah for himself.
You might guess from his name that Bruno was
known as a gentle type for a gangster who
preferred to talk before getting down to violent
deeds, but his enemies were not so even-tempered.
It’s thought mobster Antonio Caponigro wanted
to knock Bruno off the boss-spot and take
over the family, so he ordered the hit.
This didn’t go down well with ‘The Commission’
– a kind of round table of mafia bosses
– and not long after Caponigro was killed
by enforcer Joe ‘Mad Dog’ Sullivan.
What’s especially brutal was the message
the bosses wanted to send.
When the cops found the body, 20-dollar bills
had been stuffed into Caponigro’s mouth
This was to show that he had been a very greedy
man in taking out the good-natured boss.
He had been shot and stabbed numerous times.
The worst thing is, this kind of execution
wasn’t all that uncommon.
If you were lucky you got whacked quickly
with a bullet in the head, but if someone
wanted you to suffer you would die slowly.
In fact, there were so many murders the media
called the enforcers that worked for the mafia
all over America “Murder, Inc.”
This was a gang of ruthless killers that would
work for bosses all over the states in the
30s and 40s, and it’s thought they made
good on as many as 1,000 contracts.
Each murder apparently would cost a boss anywhere
from $1,000 to $5,000.
They used guns, bats, and even ice picks.
If they were ever caught, the big bosses would
make sure they got the best lawyers.
Murder Inc. was started by Jewish-American
gangster Louis ‘Lepke’ Buchalter, and
he has since gone down in history as the only
mob boss in the U.S. to get the death penalty.
If there is one thing you learn from watching
gang shows or reading mob-related books, it’s
that violence just begets violence and karma
seems to strike anyone involved in the misery.
There aren’t many happy endings in the history
of the mob.
So, what other things would you like to know
about the mafia or other notorious gangs in
the world, past or present?
Let us know in the comments!
Also, be sure to check out our other video
called What If the World was One Country?!
Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t
forget to like, share, and subscribe.
See you next time!