By Lucia Mouat, writer of The Christian Science Monitor
The Christian Science Monitor
THE nation's battle against organized crime, largely written off as a loss just ten years ago, is scoring some major new gains.
Mob bosses have been moving behind bars at a record pace. Flamboyant Gambino crime-family boss John Gotti, handed a life sentence here June 23 on a murder-racketeering conviction, is only a recent example.
Since 1981 some 24 bosses of La Cosa Nostra families have been convicted. The list includes Nicholas Bianco, who was prosecuted last year while head of Boston's Patriarca family. Acting Luchese crime-family head Vittorio Amuso was convicted here June 15 on 9 murder charges and 54 racketeering, extortion, and loan-sharking charges.
The leaders of New York City's five major organized-crime families, the nation's largest, now are all either in jail, awaiting a sentence, indicted, or dead.
Yet Jim Moody, who heads the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) organized-crime section, notes that the 40 to 50 organized-crime family members convicted each year are outnumbered by those inducted to replace them. He says a genuine victory over La Cosa Nostra, the agency's top target, could take another decade or more.
"If we continue with the same intensity of investigations and prosecutions, I think we can have a significant effect," says Moody.
G. Robert Blakey, a professor of law at Notre Dame University, says that if the government gives organized crime the "same emphasis" over the next five to ten years, "the mob simply will not be on the radar screen anymore."
The organization is in "deep trouble," in his view. The mob is "in transition" in most major metropolitan areas, its leadership is largely behind bars, and in some cases, he says, family membership is down to the point where he doubts it will revive.
Relatively new legal tools, such as the federal racketeering law and the federal witness-protection program, are widely credited for much of the progress made in convicting organized crime bosses over the last decade.
A decisive shift in FBI strategy away from arrests of individual mob members - a practice that often had little effect on the organization - is also a factor. The FBI began to focus instead on taking down organized-crime groups as whole entities - from seizing ill-gotten gains to prosecuting the leadership. …