Results for category "History"

12 Articles

Sammy “The Bull” Gravano: The Wiseguy who destroyed the Mob

“Sammy the Bull” Gravano  is know for being a mob boss, construction magnate and astone cold killer. What he is infamous for is being the highest ranking mafia member to ever testimony against his boss and crime family, in their eyes betraying the highest code of honour, “The Omerta”. Why would a multi millionaire at the height of his power become a“Rat” and cooperate with the FBI, directly causing the demise of the biggest organized crime family in New York City?

Salvatore Gravano was born in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn in 1945. It was a working-class area, and in that time considered the main “Little Italy” of Brooklyn, and a mafia haven. Gravano suffered from dyslexia and did not perform good in school, rather focusing his attention towards petty crime. He earned the nickname “Sammy the Bull” for his strength and fighting ability on the streets of Brooklyn. At 21 years old he was drafted to the United States Army and rose to the rank of corporal. Sammy enjoyed the rules and tradition of the Army, but unlike many of the other drafted at the time, he was not sent to fight in the VietnamWar. After being granted an honorable discharge, Gravano fell back into his old ways.

The Bull started to work for the Colombo crime family, participating in racketeering, loansharking, and gambling schemes. In 1970 he committed his first murder, earning the respect of his boss. Some people became jealous of Gravano’s rise in the hierarchy and he wastransferred to the Gambino Family to avoid trouble. He continued to do well, and in 1976 he was sworn in as a “made guy” of the Cosa Nostra, by the boss Paul “Big Paul” Castellano. Just two years later, his loyalty to his personal family and crime organization was tested. Gravano’sbrother-in-law was killed for bringing unwanted attention to the organization, and Sammy liedto his wife Debra, that he had no knowledge of the murder.

Frank Sinatra with Gambino crime family leaders like Carlo Gambino and Paul Castellano

It was in this time period around the late 1970’s and early 80’s that Gravano became a prolific killer and a construction magnate. The Bull became one of Castellano’s favourite hitmen for taking out an enemy or an internal threat. The Boss also took a liking to Sammy because of hisability to earn money in a clean and legal way. Gravano controlled much of the construction and trucking business in New York City and became a multi millionaire. He opened up the legendary disco “The Plaza Suite”  in Brooklyn, and bought a mansion in rural New Jersey. Like many of the other “foot soldiers” of the Gambino Family, Sammy felt Castellano was too greedy and kept too much of the profits for himself, and also disagreeing with the Bosses’ prohibition when it came to selling drugs. In 1985 he aligned with John Gotti to assassinate Paul Castellano,making Gotti the new Don, and Gravano the Co-underboss and later “consigliere” (The Main Adviser of the family).

Gotti and Gravano outside the Ravenite Social Club

The great success of the Gambino family in the late 1980’s drew a lot of attention as thegovernment focused its efforts on cracking down on organized crime. Gotti used to gather his underbosses in the Ravenite Social Club on Mulberry Street, and he seemed to thrive in themedia’s spotlight, with his designer suits and outspoken personality. Gravano was thecomplete opposite to the flamboyant Gotti, wearing his jeans and wanting to keep the business away from the public eye. Gotti was acquitted in 3 high-profile trials due to threats and bribes, and became known as the “Teflon Don”. Ignoring Gravano’s warnings that his actions were drawing too much heat, Gotti continued in his way, until they were arrested by government agents in 1991. The FBI had bugged their headquarters at the Ravenite Social Club and had taped conversations that heavily connected them to organized crime and murders. When Sammy was presented with tapes of Gotti badmouthing him, calling him greedy and linking him to several murders he felt shocked and betrayed by his boss. After 10 months in prisoned he turned on his former friend, and became a government witness.

Gotti sending Gravano “Happy Thoughts” in court

Sammy Gravano became the highest ranked mafioso to ever break the Omerta, and cooperate with the government. Why did he do the unthinkable? As we have already seen, he was afraid of being played out by John Gotti, and that the Boss would pin the murders on him, in order to save his own skin. Sammy was also angry at John for talking about him behind his back and for calling him greedy and selfish. Gravano was also terrified of going into jail.Unlike Gotti, he had only done a little time, and he knew that if he was found guilty, he would spend the rest of his life in prison. Due to Gravano’s testimony, Gotti was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, and the New York underworld was turned upside down. The Judges declared: “There has never been a defendant whose impact on organized crime has been so important and so extensive. After being released in 1994, Gravano entered the Witness Protection Program together with his family. He was given the name Jimmy Moran and relocated to a small city in Arizona. John Gotti allegedly put a 2 million dollar price on his head!

There has been a lot of discussion on what the legacy of Sammy the Bull should be. Was he apsychopathic murderer who killed at least 19 people, or was he a guy who got rid of thestrongest organized crime family in America. Many ordinary people think it was unheard of, and people see him as a “Rat” while glorifying John Gotti. Others point out that Gravano wasbetrayed first, and he did what every man with a family would do. Even to this day, his name is used in popular culture, mostly negative and in the form of snitch.

PS! Gravano and his family left the Witness Protection Program after just one year. He started to seek out the spotlight he had warned John against, doing interviews and writing a book. It turned out old habits were hard to change, and he came back into the world of crime, concentrating on drug trafficking. In 2002 he was locked up in a supermax prison inColorado, and will not be eligible for release before 2022.

Putin’s Secret Fortune!

Although the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has an official salary of 100 000 dollars, it is obvious to everyone that his real net worth is a whole lot more than the average businessman. Here is a look at the secret fortune of Russia’s Iron Man, and some of theluxuries and privileges he enjoys. 

The luxurious lifestyle of Vladimir Putin, is enough to impress even the richest of Middle Eastern Oil Sheiks. The Russian President has roof over his head all over the world, ranging from villas, resorts and even castles. When it comes to transportation he is able to maneuverby air, land and sea. To make sure he looks the part, he has the most expensive suits, jewelry and watches that money can buy. Millions of dollars are also placed in offshoreaccounts around the globe, so his retirement should be just as splendid. Not shabby indeed, but I guess that’s the way it is when you are Top Dog at the Kremlin.

A place to chill at Lake Valdai for the President

Putin has 20 extravagant residences just in Russia. His castle in Gelendzhik near the Black Sea for example is worth a staggering billion dollars. On Lake Valdai he possesses a home on one of the islands that has its own cinema, restaurants and bowling alley. To help him move around, Putin has a fleet of 43 airplanes, 15 helicopters and 3 yachts. One of them isRussia’s version of “Air Force One” called “IL 96-300PU” that cost 18 million dollars just to furnish, and it contains a bedroom, office, jacuzzi, cinema and a gym!

Inside Putin’s Presidential Plane

Owner of Chelsea Football Club, Roman Abramovitch, is among his generous friends, donating a 57 meter long yacht, worth 50 million dollars, to his fellow countryman. Vladimir’s bullettproof Mecedez Benz s600 Guard Pullman also gets the job done, so he shouldn’t be too uncomfortable while cruising around in it. The 11 luxury watches in Putin’s possession also tell us of a guy that earns more than 100 000 dollars. His handmadeA.Lange and Søhne Tourboraph Pour le Merite is worth half a million $ alone. The modern Tsar’s 5 Blancpain watches (his favourite brand) are also not the cheapest in the store : ). Putin’s secret fortune is not so secret at all, but I doubt his lifestyle hurts his image severely. According to many, he just lives the life that someone who is the Boss in Russia should live…

Cite Soleil: The Most Dangerous Place in the World!

Cité Soleil is the most infamous and most violent slum of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. The United Nations has declared it the most dangerous place in the world many times, and their peacekeepers are unable to patrol the streets of the ghetto. Extreme poverty, armed gangs, rape, AIDS and unemployment plague the community,  and the people in the“Sun City” have to live with virtually no sewers and electricity.

The neighbourhood was originally constructed in the 1950s to house sugar workers and their families, but as jobs in agriculture began to disappear, and more and more people from the countryside moved to find work in the city, the community of Cité Soleil grew rapidly. Due to political turmoil and a coup d’état in 1991, which led to a boycott of Haitian products, theindustrial sector was also given a crushing blow. Since then, chaos has been the norm for the almost 400,000 inhabitants of one of the world’s poorest and most dangerous areas. Sevenout of ten Haitians live on less than US$ 2 a day, and the situation is  even worse in the “Sun City”.

Since the 90s, more than 30 opposing factions have continued to terrorize the neighbourhood.Armed gangs control every block and murder, rape, kidnapping, looting and outrightlynchings are common. There is no presence of law enforcement in this large community, and the gangs bring their kidnapped victims into the ghetto. Cité Soleil has become a separate community and to leave the slum you have to go through armed checkpoints. Other importantpublic services are also non-existent, and clean drinking water is hard to come by. Red Cross has called the ghetto “a microcosm of all the ills in Haitian society”. Unemploymentand illiteracy only makes the complex situation even more hopeless, for a slum where most of the residents are children or young adults. All this is happening just a 2 hour flight from theidyllic coast of Florida.

Armed Gangs Roam the Streets of Cité Soleil

When the enormous 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, Cité Soleil was not one of the parts that was hit the hardest. But since UN forces and relief workers had a hard time breaking into the slum though, the repercussions were severe. The people of the slum were mostly neglected and left to survive on their own, which only increased the anti Westernsentiment that was already strong. 4000 prisoners also escaped from the ruins of Haiti’s main prison after the earthquake. Many of them were gang members that returned back to the ghetto, and the crime rate rose even more. Since then there have been some improvements in the everyday life for the inhabitants of one of the biggest slums in the world. When thepolitical situation became more stable, the gangs and even death squads that roamed the streets lost some of their power. Border towns like Ciudad Juárez in Mexico and Mogadishu, Somalia are now considered more dangerous than Cité Soleil, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still a long way to go. The fact that law enforcement has been able to establish some sort of presence in the ghetto and that the international community is investing millions to better the conditions, gives some hope for the future though.

Young people make up most of the slum’s population

There is a documentary from 2006 called Ghosts of Cité Soleil that shows how the gangsused to rule the slum, and how the political elite supplied these criminals with weapons to maintain their political power. We follow 2Pac and Bily, two brothers who are each in charge of two of the most powerful gangs in the ghetto, and how their chimeres (ghosts) control the“Sun City”. The inside look shows us the sense of hopelessness and despair that a news broadcast cannot give us. Some have criticized the movie for being a propaganda work forPresident Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his reign, when the criminals had free hands to do whatever they wanted as long as they supported him. I won’t say I highly recommend the movie, but if you are interested you can check out the trailer here.

Amazing Sand Art!

Most of us have been in the sandbox or on the beach trying to build our own castle or sand sculpture, or more realistically, just playing with a bucket and making a mess. There are some people who are blessed with talent though, and they are capable of making the most incrediblethings out of sand. Here are a couple of photos that show how amazing these artists are.


Thieves in Law and the Russian Mafia

In the last couple of decades, organized crime and Russia has had a reputation for goinghand in hand. Ever since the 1930s, an elite group of the Soviet underworld, known asThieves in Law (Vory v Zakone), has controlled the criminal activities in the country, andtoday they make up the leaders of the loosely affiliated organization known as the Russian Mafia. Here is a look at how these “thieves” came to power in Stalin’s Gulags and Russian prisons after World War 2, but also how the situation has changed since the collapse of theSoviet Union in 1991. 

Even though there were plenty of criminals in the days of the Tsar, the communist revolutionin 1917 would completely change the Russian underworld. Vladimir Lenin, and especiallyJosef Stalin were in charge of a totalitarian state that had no room for disobedience or peoplequestioning the authorities. Countless persons were executed in the 1930s, and millions ofcriminals and political prisoners were sent to Gulags and prisons, were they were forced to work under extremely harsh conditions. Inside these Soviet prisons, criminals uninterested in the marxist indoctrination of the communist party, decided to form their own society and set of rules. This criminal world had a strict sense of honor and rank, and the elite members were known as thieves by law or “Vory v Zakone”. A prisoner could only be crowned a “thief by law” if he was accepted and respected by other “vory”, and he would have to reject the laws of the outside world, instead submitting himself completely to live by the criminal code.

A “vor” was not allowed to have any family, he couldn’t “snitch” on other thieves, and he was also prohibited from having any legal income. One of the most important aspects of the“Vorovskoy Zakon” (the thief law), was that he could under no circumstances cooperate with the authorities or participate in political activities. This meant refusing to work and not obeying prison guards, risking to be punished by the rest of the brotherhood if they broke the rules. When Hitler attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, Stalin was in desperate need ofsoldiers, and he offered to pardon any prisoner that would fight in the war. The “thieves”were of course strictly opposed to this, but many of the other criminals accepted.

The “Thieves in Law” were on top of the ladder in Russia’s brutal prisons

When the war was over though, many of the freed convicts would return to prison after committing new crimes. They were known as “Suki” (the Russian word for bitches), and now found themselves on the bottom of the prison hierarchy. Other inmates would beat, harassand even rape them for their decision to serve the state. The “Suki” were professional criminals connected by the tough experiences in the war, and as more and more of them wentback to jail, they decided to organize and cooperate with the prison guards, in order tosurvive. This was the beginning of the infamous “Bitch Wars” between the two sides, that would last until around 1953, when Stalin died and millions of prisoners would be released. The prison guards didn’t just do nothing to stop the violence, they encouraged the rivalry between what they saw as “unwanted elements” in Soviet society, and thousands of people would die in the conflict.

Tattoos were an important part of being a “thief in law”, and just with a quick look at somebody, you could know a lot about his rank, criminal activities and prison sentences. The “vory” used a complex system, and sometimes they same symbols could mean different things. One of the most popular images is a church on the chest or back, where the numberof towers and stairs can reveal rank and the number of times he has been to jail. Another famous symbol is stars on the knees, which symbolizes that the “thief” is not ready to kneel forany man or authority. A cat symbolizes a career criminal, while skulls can representmurders. A barbed wire across the forehead means that the person will spend the rest of hislife in jail.

Tattoos can also be used to punish people who have broken the criminal code. A sex offender will for example have a dagger on him, while an informer is marked with a goat. Prisoners who use symbols they have not earned will be beaten severely, and the tattoo will beforcibly removed. Vory also had their own language (jargon) called “Fehnay”, that only theycould understand

A Russian criminal who has had quite an active career

In the 1970s and 80s, the “Vory v Zakone” would change some of their rules to adapt to themodern world. They were able to marry and form families, and they even began to work withthe authorities when it was in their interest. There was a lack of many consumer goods in themarxist economy of the Soviet Union, and the “thieves in law” would control the black market, even opening many illegal small businesses. Corruption became a growing problemin the communist state, and politicians and criminals started to create bonds. A nationalorganized crime network started to form throughout the country, and leaders from thedifferent regions would meet to coordinate their criminal activities. By avoiding armed conflicts and cooperating, the criminals could stay off the radar while at the same time making a lot of money.

Older “vory” like Aslan Usoyan (killed recently by a sniper in Moscow) and Vyacheslav Ivankov (who would organize the Russian Mafia in the USA), became role models to the new generation of “thieves in law”, and they were also in charge of the “Obschak” (a common fund the criminals used to finance their criminal activities, but also to help families ofthieves in law who were in jail). Usoyan and Ivankov became two of the leading “Vory v Zakone” for several decades, but they would both end up dead after conflicts with rival gangs.

Vyacheslav “Yaponchik” Ivankov was one of the most notorious figures in the Russian Mob

The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 would completely change the landscape for crimein Russia. The country was in an economic crisis, and many people wanted to exploit thetransition to capitalism for their own good. Criminals, police, bankers, oligarchs, former KGB agents and politicians all played their part in what would be known as the “Wild East”,competing for the oil, steel, banks, arms and other huge state-owned sectors that were nowprivatized. There was a drastic increase in violence, and everyday murders in Moscow became the norm.

Organized crime had an iron grip on the entire society, controlling over 50 percent of the country’s economy , and the 90′s was seen as a golden era for the criminal groups that were now known as the Russian Mafia. Protected by the legal system, they could do almostanything they wanted. The Russian mob managed everything from drug trafficking, arms trade, prostitution, gambling, extortion, money laundering and contract hits, but also started to invest in large companies that were completely legal.

Moscow in the 1990s was a very brutal place

Many of the kingpins of the Russian Mafia were traditional “Vory v Zakone”, but there was also a new generation of criminals that wanted their piece of the cake. Even though the Soviet Union had split up into several independent states, the criminal network was intact, and gangs from countries like Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia and Azerbaijan were still very much cooperating. The most powerful group today is called Solntsevskaya Bratva (brotherhood) with its base north of Moscow, but “the Red Mob” has become a truly global phenomenon. The wave of immigrants that went west also helped the Russian Mafia establish itself in other countries like USA, Germany, England and Spain. The violenceslowed down by the start of the millennium, and Vladimir Putin launched a crack down onorganized crime. There is no doubt though, that  some of the leaders in the Russian Mafiastill have very close connections with both the political elite and various Russian intelligence organizations.

The traditional “Vory v Zakone”, who called prison their “home”, are on their way out. Instead,highly educated criminals with international connections that control legal businessesthrough corruption and threats, are taking over more and more. The excessive tattoo tradition is also on its way out, making it harder for outsiders to recognize who the “bad guys”really are. Many other of the old codes have also been forsaken, but don’t be fooled into thinking that the “Vory” and the Russian Mafia isn’t as dangerous and violent as ever. It just means they are adapting to a changing world in order to get what they really want; moremoney and more power!

World War 2: The Battle of the North Pole!

Even though the second World War began only 25 years after the first one, World War 2 was a much more all-embracing conflict, with the different sides battling for the hegemony oversea, air and land. One of the lesser known aspects of the conflict took place on the North Pole and the near by islands. In the book Sledge Patrol, by the american historian David Honwart, we get a unique inside look at the dramatic Arctic battles between the Nazis andthe Allies. Check out the story here!

Reliable and up to date meteorological information is an important prerequisite for any army. Establishing meteorological stations in the far north therefore became an important goal for Germany, and after they invaded Norway and Denmark in 1940, they were able to go through with their plans.  The german submarines threw automatic probes in the sea, that picked upfresh information from the stations every 6 hours, sending it back to the Oberkommando inBerlin. These were by the way the best catch a British fisherman could hope for, because thegovernment had put a 1000 pound sterling reward on each probe ( 200 000 Euro in today’s money). Not only was this very important for the blitzkrieg the German Luftwaffe was conducting against Britain, but it was also vital for the operations of the Wehrmacht and thesubmarines of the Kriegsmarine. The Nazis began sending teams of 15 soldiers that had gone through special training to the Arctic and the islands of Jan Mayen, Spitsbergen and Franz-Joseph land. It didn’t take long for the Americans and the British to do the same of course, and the Battle of the Arctic had begun.

Allied forces enjoying captured German rations

The conditions were hard for both man and machine, and the cold made any kind of mobilityand flying very difficult. The Americans actually recruited Eskimos that were experts in seal hunting and accustomed to the demanding conditions, to hunt germans and to sendmeteorological reports. A less experienced german patrol for example, tired of eating the same scarce rations, decided to kill and barbecue a polar bear (poor thing). After they all gotsevere headaches and diarrhea, the soldiers had to be sent back to Germany.  While the germans were more successful in locating and blowing up British and Americanmeteorological bases, the Allies relied on airstrikes to defeat their enemy. As the war went on, the Americans had gained an advantage, and a group of 200 Special Forces were used toeliminate the Nazi presence.

By 1944, almost all of the german bases in the Arctic were wiped out. At the end of the year there was only one undetected base left on the Island of Spitsbergen. This was germany’sbiggest and most important station, but they were dependent on air supplies every 3 months. The radio system broke down in January 1945, so they were only able to sendinformation, while receiving nothing. They continued their work though, and sentmeteorological data every day to Berlin. After the air supplies did not show up, there was afood shortage on the island. They decided to kill 80 polar bears, and miraculously, nobody gotsick this time. The situation become more and more uncertain, and the soldiers had no idea that Germany was losing the war.

Since the Oberkommando was bombed to ruins by the Red Army, there was nobody in Germany that knew about 15 of their men stuck on an island close to the North Pole. 4 months after the war, they were picked up by a norwegian fishing boat, but the joy did not last long, after they found out the war was over and their homeland destroyed! That group was actually the last german military unit to surrender in World War 2. An other interestingand funny fact is that the automatic probes kept sending information all the way to 1952!

Remember Little Hercules?

Remember the little boy who had a body like a professional bodybuilder? Richard Sandrak is in his 20s now, and he didn’t choose the road that many people thought he would. Pushed by his father, Richard was able to bench press over 200 pounds at the age of eight, and manyexpected him to become a famous bodybuilder. Instead he has focused on acting, starring in“Little Hercules in 3D” from 2009 and he is also attending a college in San Diego.

Although he still trains regularly, it is much less than he used to, and he doesn’t look asshredded as when he was a kid. Thank god for that if you ask me. This video is over 3 years old, but it seems he turned into a normal teenager!

The Amazing Faberge Eggs!

Fabergé eggs are known all around the world, and they are seen as a symbol of luxury, power, and incredible craftsmanship. The 50 biggest and most famous are called theImperial Fabergé eggs, and have belonged to some of the most significant people in the last century. They were originally gifts to the Tsar and Tsarinas of Russia, but have later beenspread all around the world.

It all started in 1885 when the russian jewellery firm “House of Fabergé” made an Easter present to the wife of the Tsar, Empress Maria Fedorovna. She was so delighted with the gift that the head of the house, Peter Carl Fabergé was made responsible for providing the Tsar family with one (sometimes two) every easter. Every egg had its unique theme, and there were little (valuable) surprises inside the eggs. This went on every year until the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, when the communists took over power and executed the royal family. There are thousands of ordinary Fabergé eggs, but it is the Imperial eggs that are the most valuable, and they are among the most famous and popular art and jewelry artifacts in the world. The house of Fabergé made some exceptions for a few notable clients, and provided therussian Kelch family, the swedish Nobel family, and the banking family Rotchild with eggsequally as luxurious as the tsars.

Peter Carl Fabergé working on his world-famous jewelry

42 of the 50 Imperial eggs are intact today, and they are scattered all around the world. The Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg  is the biggest private owner with 9 eggs, while the Kremlin Armoury museum in Moscow has 10. Others are spread out among various museums and private collectors, with some of the most famous being the British Royal Family, Prince Albert of Monaco  and The State of Qatar. The most expensive Fabergé eggever sold was the so-called “Rotchild Egg” that went for 9 million dollars in 2007 at an auction held by Christie’s. Here are some of the masterful eggs made for the Tsar and noble families, but you can see them all right here.

Lance Armstrong Doesn’t Care!

Lance Armstrong hypocrite and pompous a#s ! So much for him defending his honor and integrity but the moment Tyler Hamilton’s subpoenaed testimony and affidavit laid bare everything the team had done this fu##ing a#shole (Armstrong) didn’t have a leg to stand on . His former team manager Johan Bruyneel has been suspended three times by his own national cycling federation in the past eight years , for a number violations . Yet here in the US , I’ve read so much bull#hit written by individuals who not one goddamn clue about the sport of cycling , let alone who has jurisdiction over the sport at their national level and internationally . Anally retentive individual morons , to my mind ! .

To me he is the biggest cheater in sports history. And still he doesn’t want to come clean!

Armstrong will come clean the day they have reusable female hygiene products (tampons) for women .

Armstrong has lost A LOT of fans in the last weeks. I remember the exciting Tour De France’s of the 90′s, but it turned out it was all a scam!

Joe Morgan: The Croatian Godfather of the Mexican Mafia!

The story of Joe “Pegleg” Morgan (upper right corner) is a fascinating tale of how a white man could reach to the top of the most feared Hispanic prison gang in the USA. For severaldecades, Morgan was one of the leading figures in the so-called Mexican Mafia, and he was asloved by his friends as he was feared by his enemies. Check out the story here!

Joseph Morgan was born in the San Pedro District of Los Angeles, California in 1929. Joe was raised by his Croatian mother in a predominantly Hispanic neighbourhood, and it didn’t take long before he got involved in the street gangs of East LA. When he was 17, Morgan wasconvicted of murder after he killed the husband of his older girlfriend with a tire iron . While in custody, he took on the identification papers of his cellmate and escaped, but he was soon captured. Joe was sentenced to 9 years in jail, and he became the youngest inmate ever at the San Quentin State Prison. Morgan was a tall and tough kid, who developed a goodrelationship with the latino convicts, because of his background in the street gang El Hoyo Soto Marvilla.

Joe was released on parole in 1955, but would go back to state prison the next year, after he hadrobbed a bank with a machine gun for almost $20,000. At the same time, a couple of young inmates at a youth facility in California decided to form a prison gang to protect themselves from other criminals, and this group would later be known as the Mexican Mafia (Even though they are named the Mexican Mafia, and have close connetions the drug cartels andorganized crime in Mexico, it is important to remember that we are talking about a United States prison gang). Growing up in East Los Angeles, and with a background from hispanic street gangs, Morgan would end up mentoring the young leaders of the group when they were later transferred to San Quentin. The Mexican Mafia, or La Eme (The letter M in spanish) soon got a reputation for being one of the most dangerous and most violent prison gangs in theentire country. As the power of the Eme grew, so did the power of Joe Morgan, and even though he was not hispanic, he became one of the godfathers of the Mexican Mafia.

Another picture of Joe Morgan and the leaders of the Eme (Upper Left corner)

“Papa Joe”, as he was called, is described as very intelligent, and a shrewd businessman. He had a calming presence on the often young and hot-blooded members. “Pegleg” (a nicknamehe got because of his artificial leg, but it was rarely said to his face) was also the mastermindbehind their most lucrative business; the drug trade. Due to his connections with the drug cartels, he was able to import pure heroin and cocaine from Mexico, and then supply it to the whole West Coast. “La Eme” became one of the first prison gangs to take their businessoutside of jail. Dealers in the area now had to choose between paying a “tax” on the profit to the gang, or a bullet in the head. There were few who said no. In a couple of years, Joe and the rest of the “brothers” (carnales) organized a drug racket that brought in hundreds ofthousands of dollars every month, making the organization even more powerful.

Because of Morgan’s race, he also had a connection with the Italian-American mob, and he would later be the man behind the alliance between La Eme and the Aryan Brotherhood. Both groups had a common rival in the African-American gang “Black Guerilla Family”, and the Mexican Mafia would often pay the Aryans for hits on “rats” or opposing gang members.Morgan’s best friend and protégé, Rodolfo Cadena wanted to gather all the hispanic gangs into one national crime syndicate, but he was killed by the “Eme’s” biggest rivals Nuestra Familia, after being stabbed over 50 times in 1972. This would begin one of the bloodiest feuds in theamerican prison system, and Eme members still have a “kill on sight” policy for Nuestra Familia members.

The Black Hand is one of the most famous signs of the Eme

In 1976, Joe Morgan was again released on parole. He married his girlfriend Jody, who he would have 2 children with, but he would soon enough find himself in trouble with the law again. After he was indicted with federal narcotics charges, he ran away to Utah, but was arrested there the next year. Even though he pleaded guilty and only received a moderate sentence in 1978, he would never again be a free man. The same year, a former Eme member turned on the gang, and testified against Joe. He pinned Morgan to several murders, both inside of prisonand out on the streets. “Pegleg” was sentenced to life in jail, to be served in the maximum security section of Pelican Bay State Prison. In the years to come Joe continued to a bementor for the Mexican Mafia, and many describe him as the most powerful Eme member ever. He became a legendary icon for many young gangsters, and even prison guards (who claim he was always kind and respectful towards them) say there was “something” about “Papa Joe”. A member who badmouthed the “White Godfather” in 1991 found out just how reveredMorgan was by the other members when he was stabbed 26 times in 1991.

Another sign of the power of the Mexican Mafia and Morgan was the year after, when they ordered their affiliate gangs on the streets to stop with the drive by shootings that had plaguedEast Los Angeles. In the next 6 months, not one drive by incident was reported, in an area that was notorious for its violence and gang related murders. In 1992, the movie American Me brought national fame to the prison gang. The Eme was not satisfied with how they had been portrayed though, and 3 people who had worked on the movie were killed because of it. Morgan himself filed a lawsuit against Universal Studios for basing one of the leading characters on him without Joe’s permission.

The next year though, Morgan was diagnosed with inoperable cancer and transferred toCalifornia State Prison in Corcoran where he died November 9, 1993 at the age of 64. Even to this day, and even though he had no hispanic blood in him, Joseph Morgan is a hero to manylatino gangsters, and they regard “Papa Joe” just as much a Chicano as they themselves are. A more historically correct look on the history of the Mexican Mafia, than the American Me movie, is the book “The Black Hand” by Chris Blatchford from 2008.

Inside the Mexican Mafia

Today the Mexican Mafia has almost 400 full members, with several thousand affiliates andallies. They are among other things involved in murders, drug trafficking, extortion, illegal gambling and prostitution. The Eme demands a tax from every hispanic street gang in Southern California, in exchange for protection when their members go to prison. This caused afeud with the notorious Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang, but even they now use thenumber 13, symbolizing the thirteenth letter in the alphabet in respect of  the Eme! Their most famous allies in addition to MS-13 are the Aryan Brotherhood, Armenian Power and of course all the loosely connected hispanic gang members (mostly in California) called “Sureños”. Their main enemies are Nuestra Familia, Black Guerilla Mafia and “Arizona’s New Mexican Mafia”.