Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Shondor Birns & Danny Green: Cleveland's Killer Celebrities

Drugs Doom the Mafia

The senators listened spellbound as Lonardo spilled all the secrets that he had sworn never to reveal.

He told them about the initiation rite — how a member was "made."

He described how the national Mafia was coordinated. There were two regional bodies — the Eastern Commission, headed by New York, and the Western Commission, headed by Chicago. When there was a matter affecting both of them, they met as a national commission of families across the nation.

He told the senators how Mafia decided when a member could be killed, which was usually because he was suspected of being an informer.

"If it is a young member, they do not have to go to the commission, but if it is a boss from the East, the Eastern Commission handles that."

Sounding like any old-timer complaining about how things have changed, Lonardo told the committee:

"Mr. Chairman, I have been in the Mafia most of my adult life. I have been aware of it ever since I was a child in Cleveland. It has changed since I first joined in the 1940s, especially in the last few years with the growth of narcotics.

"Greed is causing younger members to go into narcotics without the knowledge of the families. These younger members lack the discipline and respect that made 'this thing' as strong as it once was."

A severely weakened Mafia still exists, notably in the New York-New Jersey area. But the combination of the Witness Protection Program and RICO has decimated it.

And it's well to remember that it all began with Shondor and Danny and the bombs exploding across Cleveland.

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