We sure love to watch them in the movies. From the Godfather, Goodfellas,Scarface to the Sopranos, they terrify us and they fascinate us, all at the same time. Gangsters are members of professional crime syndicates and are notorious for their bootlegging, gambling, prostitution rings, money-laundering, and gruesome assassinations. They are villains who live extravagant lives of fat kings. They make their money by breaking the law and attending glitzy parties. They also know how to swindle and get everyone in their back pockets, including law enforcement, judges, and popular presidents. Their behavior is absolutely repulsive, yet they are still worshipped by many.
So, here is a list of the most notorious gangsters in American history:
10. Albert Anastasia
Albert Anastasia, nicknamed the “Mad Hatter” by fellow gangsters, was one of the most feared and ruthless mobsters in the history of the United States.
He entered the U.S. from Italy(illegally) a year before Prohibition with three of his eight brothers and was in the country two years before being convicted for murdering longshoreman George Turino. Anastasia spent eighteen months in Sing Sing prison for his gruesome crime. However, conveniently for him, the witness to the murder failed to show up for his trial and Anastasia walked a free man.
After his release, he began climbing up the mafia ladder. Anastasia helped run Murder Inc., and became one of the most powerful crime bosses of the 20th century. Also known as the “Lord High Executioner,” he was recognized for his high ambitions and psychopathic tendencies.
Anastasia was in charge of the Gambino crime family until he was brutally shot to death in his hotel room on October 25, 1957 by two masked gunmen (commissioned by Carlo Gambino).
9. James “Whitey” Bulger
This notorious gangster, James “Whitey” Bulger Jr. is an Irish-American and former organized crime boss of the Winter Hill Gang in Boston, Massachusetts.
“Whitey”began his life of crime at the age of 14 and had a reputation as a skilled thief and a fierce street fighter. He became a prominent figure in Boston’s organized crime scene by the late 1970’s. However, he also served as a confidential informant for the FBI beginning in 1975. As a result, the FBI mostly ignored his organization in exchange for information about his rival crime family, the Patriacrca family.
After fleeing the Boston area in 1995, he did land on the FBI’s “Most Wanted Fugitives” list. He was captured in California in 2011, along with his long-time girlfriend Catherine Greig. He was 81 years old at the time.
On June 12, 2013, Bulger went to trial for 32 counts of racketeering, money laundering, extortion, weapons charges, and 11 murders. He was found guilty and sentenced to two life sentences plus five years in prison.
8. Sam Giancana
Salvatore “Mooney Sam” Giancana, better known as Sam Giancana, was a Sicilian-American gangster notorious for climbing the ranks of the Chicago Mafia world.
Boss of the Chicago Outfit, he began his crime career by driving getaway cars and taking on contract killings with the mob group known as ‘Forty Two.’ He enjoyed making money, and had many ties to politicians, including the Kennedy’s. In fact, it has recently been revealed that the Kennedy administration had him recruited into the CIA to help assassinate Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro. After the failed assassination attempt, Gianca was arrested in Mexico and deported to the U.S. where he was scheduled to testify before a U.S. Senate committee. However, before his testimony, he was brutally shot in his Oak Park home in Illinois.
7. Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel
The son of Jewish immigrants, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel was known as one of the most “infamous and feared gangsters of his day because of his ruthlessness toward his associates. He was also described as “handsome and charismatic,” which made him one of the first front-page celebrity gangsters.
Siegel began his life of crime on the streets of Brooklyn, becoming a bootlegger during Prohibition and one of the founders of Murder Inc.
He moved to the West Coast in 1937 to continue his bootlegging racket and gambling ships, and to also maintain his extravagant lifestyle. In fact, “Bugsy” was known to party with the rich and famous in Hollywood, and was alsoromantically involved with actress Virginia Hill. In 1945, he relocated to Las Vegas, where he began the development of the Las Vegas Strip.
Siegel was not only influential with the Jewish mob, but he also held an influence with the Italian-American Mafia. His time as a mobster, he was mainly a ‘hitman’ who enjoyed guns and violence. In 1939, he was tried for murder, but acquitted in 1942.
Siegel was murdered on June 20, 1947, as he was shot dead at the Beverly Hills home of his girlfriend, Virginia Hill. Nobody was charged with the murder and the crime remains unsolved today. However, his murder appears to have been connected to his theft and mismanagement of the Flamingo Hotel under his supervision.
6. Meyer Lansky
Meyer Lansky, better known as the “Mob’s Accountant,” was a shrewd and financially successful organized crime figure who helped develop the National Crime Syndicate in the U.S.
Born in Russia, Lansky immigrated to America as a child. Growing up on the streets, he got involved in organized crime at an early age, became a member of the Jewish Mob, and had a strong influence with the Italian Mafia as well. He made most of his money through gambling and money laundering. For years, he was considered to be one of the most powerful men in the country, running gambling operations in Vegas, New Orleans, and Cuba.
Before fleeing to Cuba, he was said to be worth an estimated $20 million (equivalent to $180 million today). However, when he died in 1983, his family discovered his estate was worth less than $10,000. Before he died, Lansky claimed that Cuba “ruined” him.
5. Carlo Gambino
This Italian-American mobster, Carlo Gambino, was the former boss of the Gambino crime family. Born in Sicily, he learned to use guns at an early age, and carried out several murders in his teenage years. He moved to America in 1921 and offered his gangster services to several New York mafia families before contracting primarily with Lucky Luciano.
Unlike many other mobsters, Gambino was known for keeping a very low profile, making sure to stay out of the spotlight.
1957, he became the head of the Commission of the American Mafia, the Italian-American criminal society that mimicked the Sicilian Mafia. As ruthless as he was, he had Albert Anastasia (the boss of Lucky Luciano’s gang) killed in order to gain power. He then ruled over New York for many years, taking control of 90% of the ports. His crime family was the most powerful in Manhattan at the time.
Gambino was convicted of tax evasion in 1937, but later had his sentenced suspended. He died of a heart attack in 1976 at the age of 74.
4. Charles “Lucky” Luciano
Charles “Lucky” Luciano was born in Sicily in 1897, immigrated to the U.S. with his family, and was raised in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Luciano had a reputation for his ruthlessness even while in his teens.
This Italian-American mobster is known as the ‘father of organized crime in the United States’ as he took charge of dividing the country into five Mafia families. He became the first official boss of the Genovese crime family and was also instrumental in the development of the National Crime Syndicate.
He was convicted on prostitution charges in 1936, but was paroled and deported back to Italy after World War II.
Luciano spent the rest of his years in Sicily where he helped the Italian and American Mafias make a push to sell narcotics in blue-collar communities.
He died of a heart attack at the age of 64.
3. Frank Costello
Famous Italian-American Mafia gangster Frank “The Prime Minister” Costello ascended to the top of the U.S. crime world to become one of the most powerful and influential mafia bosses in American history.
Born in Italy, he moved to New York with his parents when he was 4 years old. He started his life of crime at an early age, eventually leading the East Side Gang of Manhattan and working for the Morello Gang.
Costello later led the Luciano crime family after Lucky Luciano went to prison in 1936. He controlled a large amount of the gambling industry in the U.S. and had a great deal of political influence. He also became involved in the operations of rum manufacturers.
Retiring as mob boss in 1957, Costello was imprisoned that same year for contempt of a grand jury. He was released in 1961 and served as an elderly Mafia statesman until he death in 1973 at the age of 82. The cause of his death was a heart attack.
2. John Gotti
Born in the South Bronx, NY, John “Dapper Don” Gotti was one of 13 children and knew a life of poverty.
He turned to the crime life at an early age of 12 when he began working as an errand boy for an underground club run by Carmine Fatico. Fatico was in charge of the local Gambino family operation. From there, Gotti rose into the high ranks of the Gambinos, becoming one of the biggest earners and the head of the Gambino family.
Gotti was known for his extravagant fashion and lifestyle choices. Yet, he was one of the most dangerous crime bosses in history. As boss of the most powerful crime families in the U.S., he made millions of dollars a year off of construction, hijacking, waste management, gambling, and many other criminal activities.
He was arrested by the FBI in 1990 and was charged with 13 murders, loan sharking, tax evasion, racketeering, and many other crimes, which had him sentenced to life imprisonment.
He died in prison of throat cancer in 2003.
1. Al Capone
Al “Scarface” Capone was not only the most famous gangster in the U.S., buthe was also the most famous mobster in the entire world. This American gangster gained his fame during the height of the Prohibition era.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, to poor Italian immigrant parents, Capone was known for his quick temper and sociopathic behavior. In fact, he got expelled from school when he was 14 years old for attacking a teacher. That’s when his life of crime took off.
Starting as a bouncer, he worked in organized crime places such as brothels. He then moved to Chicago in his twenties and became the bodyguard of Johnny Torrio, the head of a crime syndicate that illegally distributed alcohol. Torrio mentored him and he learned how to make a lot of money smuggling booze, which was banned from the U.S. during the Prohibition. In addition to bootlegging, he was involved ingambling, prostitution, and many other criminal activities.
The media loved to follow Capone everywhere he went, and he won the public over with his big, bubbly personality. They sympathized with him, at least until they found out about his extremely violent tendencies.
He became notorious for his brutal acts of violence, especially against other gangsters. Anybody who tried to cross him, ended up murdered and that’s just how it was. In fact, on Valentine’s Day in 1929, he ordered the assassination of several of his enemies. The public outcry over the massacre was so great that it compelled President Herbert Hoover to get the government to step up efforts into an investigation of Capone.
He was finally arrested for income-tax evasion in 1931 and served 6 ½ years before being released.
Capone died in Miami in 1947 of syphilis. While he has been gone for a very long time, his gangster persona still lives on today in many books movies.