Law enforcement, modern technology, and a changing American demographic have affected the things the Mafia controls. But what does the Mafia control today? Whole cities like New York, Chicago, and Las Vegas formerly exposed their residents to daily interaction with some element of organized crime influence and corruption. But even though it seems like the Mob has lost its grip on American society, there are some things the Mafia still controls.
The Mafia's dominance has been decreasing partially because of an improved law enforcement response and partially because of competition from other organized crime elements like the Russian Mafia, El Salvador's MS-13, and urban street gangs that have all taken over urban neighborhoods once ruled by the Mob. But recent FBI arrests indicate that while down, the American Mafia is still not out. Here are some of the ways the Mob still makes money.
Sex work another bedrock operation at the core of organized crime activity. But, unlike the sex work operations run in the days of Al Capone and Lucky Luciano, the Mafia has adapted to the modern world. Recent arrests of gang-connected individuals indicate an involvement with high-end sex work cases, with customers and even employees being solicited via the internet.
One such individual, who was arrested in 2016, controlled more than 58 active domain names and had been in business for 10 years. Even Craigslist has not been immune to Mafia-run sex work operations, occasionally even involving underage girls. Criminals would book the appointments through the website, drive the women to their liaisons, and then pocket half the proceeds.
Just like the sanitation business, the Mafia gained control of the construction industry through its infiltration of labor unions. A mob-run construction company will bid on business and include union rates in these contracts. Once successful, the company will then pay its workers far less and intimidate anyone who complains. Cement and building materials companies are still controlled by mob influence and will tack on additional costs to any project with inflated prices. Mob-controlled businesses were even involved in the rebuilding of the World Trade Center.
With the financial excess of the 21st century and the rapid increase in the popularity of poker, another illicit Mafia market was created. Seemingly overnight, hundreds of high-stakes poker clubs opened, especially in New York. The clubs were almost entirely operated by mob-connected individuals or paid protection money to stay open.
They were so lucrative that when one was busted and cash was confiscated, the owner subsequently offered to reimburse his customers. Of course, big losers at the club, who typically were extended credit, would be natural customers for another illicit Mafia activity: loansharking.
Whenever organized crime is publicly prosecuted, one of the most prevalent offenses is the transgression known as "loan sharking." Most banks won't loan money to people who really need it, especially desperate people who are in a serious financial bind. Because the Mafia deals with businesses that generate plenty of cash, most mobsters are more than happy to put this cash to work. And who else but a desperate person would agree to the terms usually meted out by a loan shark?
Typically, a loan shark will charge two "points," or percent, a week on money lent. Let's say you borrow $50,000, payable in six months. Every week, you owe the two points, or $1,000. That's just the interest. If you miss a payment, it is added to the loaned amount and the weekly payment is readjusted. After six months, you will have needed to make all of the interest payments plus pay back the original loan.
If you can't, the loan shark will then begin seizing whatever assets you do have and frequently not even credit you for these amounts. Loan sharking is at its most lucrative when the economy is down, so, the Mafia had a great few years in the late '00s.