Executions, Informants, And Flamboyance: The American Mafia In The 1980s

Published March 17, 2016
Updated August 8, 2019

A look at the 1980s mafia, when drugs, informants, and money ruled the day -- and the organization's downfall was just around the corner.

The 1980s mafia operated in stark contrast to the values presented in The Godfather movies. Gone were the bonds of loyalty and the aversion to attention; instead, narcotics — and the money and glamour that came with it — ruled the day.

At the same time, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act gave law enforcement increased powers and resources to combat organized crime. This meant stiffer criminal penalties and more incentive for mafiosos to break omerta, the sacred mafia code of silence.

Likewise, with the high stakes of drug trafficking and the rise of a glitzier generation of gangsters, betrayal and deadly internecine fighting became the norm.

The 1980s mafia was in many ways the last gasp of an antiquated criminal empire. Though there was plenty of money to be made, the mafia faced unprecedented pressures from both outside and within, signaling that its glory days were far behind it:

John Gotti And Sammy The Bull
John Gotti Jr Charles Carneglia Mafia
Bergin Hunt And Fish Club 1980s NYC Mafia
Paul Castellano
Executions, Informants, And Flamboyance: The American Mafia In The 1980s
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If you're interested in the inner machinations of the mafia, watch the following documentary about "The Iceman", the most infamous mob hitman of the 1970s and 1980s:


Then, watch this video of FBI agent Joseph Pistone, aka Donnie Brasco, discussing his time undercover in the mafia in the 1980s:

Enjoy this look inside the 1980s mafia? Check out our articles on the world's biggest crime organizations and 1980s New York, when crack was king.

Alexander is a Brooklyn-based cofounder of All That's Interesting with an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia in History and Economics and an MSc from the School of Oriental and African Studies in Economics. He specializes in American history, the Cold War, and true crime.