The gift that keeps on giving

Last April, in a packed federal courtroom, all eyes were on one unremarkable-looking dark-haired man. More than 90 men and women had already been convicted via plea deals, among them Stomper, Thick Neck, Gunner and Menace. But the fearsome Hollywood Mike, who also goes by the classic nickname Capone, had decided to face a jury. For years he’d been terrorizing California businesses. Charges included racketeering conspiracy, extortion, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. Ultimately he was sentenced to more than three decades in prison after getting entangled in an operation to steal roughly $6 million from customers … who patronized 99 Cents Only Stores.

This gangster was part of a growing international crime group that’s been called California’s Modern Mafia. And what’s more American than a gangster called Capone? Except this group isn’t Italian — it’s Armenian.

Move over, Sicily: Here comes Armenia, West Africa and Russia. Despite reality TV shows like Growing Up Gotti and Mob Wives, which have continued to immortalize the old-school Italian mob scene in and around New York, organized crime as America once knew it has gone the way of revolvers and Caddies. “It’s over for the Italians,” says Robert Lombardo, a criminology professor at Loyola University Chicago. Sure, the Big Five — Lucchese, Genovese, Gambino, Colombo and Bonanno — are still around, but their numbers have dwindled over the years to a fraction of what they once were. And with the decimation of traditional mafias, a whole new type of organized crime, both racially and tactically, has infiltrated the illicit landscape. “There’s been a restructuring,” Lombardo says.
Robert Putnam was wrong! There are many benefits to diversity:
For starters, criminal allegiances are becoming less family-centric. In a curious consequence of globalization, they’re also blurring once-indelible ethnic lines — Armenian Power, for instance, is known for working with both Russians and Mexicans. And heists can now function much like pop-up shops. The Russian Bratva might partner with a Somali gang for a specific criminal project, usually online, and then disband until their next undertaking. “There’s been a blending,” says Neil Mathison, an agent with the FBI. What used to be a hierarchal family framework, Mathison says, is now more cellular — mini cells emerge and then recede in a similar way to how terrorist groups operate.
But it's all going to be all right, right guyz? Guyz?
It’s been a slow, and perhaps inevitable, breakdown of the iconic American mob family, which over the decades has become woven into the country’s fabric of popular culture. (Who doesn’t miss The Sopranos?) Sure, the rise and subsequent fall had to do with stepped-up prosecutions, but it’s also linked to the socioeconomic ascension of immigrant populations. In many ways, marginalized, first-generation Italians had limited means of making a living and supporting their families. Thus, they turned to crime — and, as everyone knows, they were good at it. But the children and grandchildren of yesterday’s mobsters have long moved out of old hoods to the suburbs, and are now going to college to become doctors and, well, lawyers. Armenians, on the other hand, arrived in Hollywood just a few decades ago.

So who are the future Gottis? We surveyed the experts — both current and retired FBI agents, criminologists and prosecutors — to pinpoint some of the organized ethnic outfits who are making names for themselves in America. Who knows, maybe one might even end up on a new reality TV show. [Tee hee]
Let's look at one of these "ethnic" outfits (that might end up with its own reality TV show! [giggles]):
Organized crime isn’t just transported to America these days, it’s bred [indeed, that is the correct term] here. There are countless motorcycle gangs and white supremacist syndicates, but the one that seems to be causing the most alarm is the Aryan Brotherhood. “They’re scary because they’re becoming military organized,” Trusty says. [Huh. That's an interesting aspect. Perhaps we could explore this some more? Oh never mind, moving on...]

What started as a prison gang in the ’60s has grown to have an estimated 20,000 members. And don’t let the ideology claims fool you. The Aryan Brotherhood is known to work with any and all skin colors in its criminal endeavors. They’re not picky about their modus operandi either, dabbling in murder-for-hire, gunrunning, drugs, counterfeiting and identity theft. Just last year, 36 members of the Texas chapter were convicted in a racketeering conspiracy. “They’re into a lot more — and a lot more structured — than they were in the past,” says Jay Albanese, a criminologist and professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.
And to think you're reading this here, on an obscure crackpot blog page: the mainstream naming of the new American ethnic, and nobody even bothers with the smelling salts. Because in all terrible seriousness, Ms. Meghan Walsh is more right than she can presently imagine: all nations are ethnic, there is no such thing as a propositional nation. There are only propositional empires.

So no, Ms. Walsh, there will not be any coyly staged reality TV shows, no rainbow posters, no multi-cult street parades. It will all end in tears.