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Joe Adonis. Right, handcuffed to a guard, leaving the New York City Federal Courthouse. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-114628).

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Adonis, Joe (22 November 1902–26 November 1971), organized crime leader, was born Giuseppe Antonio Doto in Montemarano, near Naples, Italy, and illegally entered New York City as a teenager. After settling in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, he adopted the surname “Adonis,” believing that it reflected his good looks. He soon joined forces with other hoodlums who would become famous in organized crime— ...

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Al Capone. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-114627).

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Capone, Al (17 January 1899–25 January 1947), Chicago bootlegger and symbolic crime figure, was born Alphonse Capone in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Gabriel Capone, a barber, and Teresa Raiola, both immigrants from the Naples region of Italy. At age fourteen, Capone dropped out of school, joined the gang life of the streets, and soon worked as a bartender and bouncer on Coney Island. In 1917, in a brawl with a customer, he received the knife wound that earned him the media nickname “Scarface” (although his friends called him “Snorky”). In December 1918 he married Mary “Mae” Coughlin, the daughter of a laborer....

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Carbo, Frankie (10 August 1904–10 November 1976), Italian-American gangster and "underworld czar of boxing", Italian-American gangster and “underworld czar of boxing,” was born Paul John Carbo and reared on New York’s Lower East Side. His parents’ names and occupations are unknown. Carbo was first arrested at age eleven and spent much of the next four years at the Juvenile Catholic Protectory. Arrested again in his late teens for felonious assault and grand larceny, he then became an enforcer for a Bronx taxicab protection racket. In 1924 he murdered a cab driver who resisted a shakedown, and he served twenty months in Sing Sing for the crime. Thereafter, he was involved in beer-running and bookmaking and was indicted four more times for murder, but he was never convicted....

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Cohen, Mickey (04 September 1913–29 July 1976), criminal and celebrity, was born Meyer Harris Cohen in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Max Cohen, whom Cohen remembered as having been in the “import business with Jewish fishes,” and Fanny (maiden name unknown). Both parents were Jewish immigrants. His father died shortly after Cohen’s birth, and Cohen’s mother moved the family to the Boyle Heights Jewish district of Los Angeles, where she opened a grocery store. According to his own account, he attended school rarely, if at all, rejected religious education, and was incorrigible from his earliest days selling newspapers, using his natural pugnacity to secure the best locations. He committed minor crimes and took up amateur boxing. Cohen ran away from Los Angeles around age fifteen to avoid having to attend school further....

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Mickey Cohen. Right, speaking with reporter. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-114636).

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Colombo, Joseph Anthony, Sr. (16 June 1923–22 May 1978), organized crime boss, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Anthony Colombo, who was also connected with organized crime and was garroted while Joseph was still a teenager. His mother’s name is unknown. When asked if he ever sought vengeance for his father’s murder, Joseph Colombo replied, “Don’t they pay policemen for that?” After attending New Utrecht High School, he entered the Coast Guard, from which he was given a medical discharge in 1945 (he allegedly suffered from some sort of “psychoneurosis”). Colombo thereafter balanced a life of crime with legitimate jobs. He began working as a longshoreman soon after leaving the service, while also gaining experience as a small-time criminal, principally involving himself in modest gambling operations. For six years he was a salesman for a Mafia-controlled meat company. Then Colombo became a real estate agent in Bensonhurst, where he continued to work for a $20,000 annual salary throughout his career as an organized crime boss....

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Frank Costello. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-114630).

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Costello, Frank (26 January 1891–18 February 1973), criminal entrepreneur, was born Francesco Castiglia in Lauropoli, near Cosenza in Calabria, southern Italy, the son of Luigi Castiglia and Maria (maiden name unknown), farmers. At age four Costello moved to New York City with his father; his mother and the rest of his immediate family followed two years later. The Castiglias settled in Manhattan’s East Harlem Italian district, where they eked out a subsistence living running a small grocery shop. Despite being considered one of the neighborhood’s brightest boys, Costello turned to crime after finishing elementary school. Americanizing his name with a useful touch of Irish, Costello became the leader of the Italian 104th Street gang and gained a reputation as one of the toughest young hoodlums in the area....