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Mafia What Mafia? is the first of a four-part series on the American Mafia reveals how the FBI ignored their existence until a meeting in a sleepy upstate New York hollow showed them something they couldn’t deny.

In the 1950s, America was booming. The economy was flourishing and the population was basking in post-war prosperity. Capitalizing on all of this prosperity was organized crime, run by Italian mobsters known as the Mafia. Run from the top by a board of directors, it had its fingers in many pies – including the unions, gambling, prostitution, the building industry and the ports.

The law enforcement authorities, however denied their existence, preferring to focus attention on the “Red Peril” of Communism. But a meeting in November 1957 in the sleepy town of Apalachin, in Upstate New York, attended by dozens of Italian businessmen in fedoras and sharp suits, aroused the suspicion of the local police. When they went to investigate, the party guests tried to flee.

The police had unwittingly stumbled upon the leadership of the entire American Mafia, who had gathered to discuss the introduction of heroin-smuggling from Sicily to the US. The crime-fighters could not ignore them any longer. 

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Alexandra Bruce

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