Suckers: Expendable Wise Guy Wanna-bes

Expendable Wise Guy Wanna-bes
Expendable Wise Guy Wanna-bes

Contrary to common belief and the claims of prosecutors, the mob has little trouble recruiting new recruits. This is more true than ever in the new Mafia that emerged by the turn of the 21st century. These newcomers may not be the most dependable sort and likely to "spill their guts" if arrested, but contrary to common belief, this does not worry the mob too much.

These adherents are not likely to be around too long. They are there because the mob needs them. Many operations require a lot of bodies and not necessarily too much upstairs. Gambling needs all kinds of "laborers" to get the operations to go. They have to tote up slips, and for illicit gambling joints or floating games they have to supply transportation for the players. The mob will take almost anyone.

The Bonanno crime family in New York recently used a 93-year-old grandmother in one of the outfit's wire rooms. Her job was to tidy up the place, which included flushing betting slips down the toilet in case of a raid. Another man worked for the New York finance department by day and then did gambling chores, hoping to make it up to the level of a wise guy wanna-be.

These recruits have true value; they are "suckers." Most mobs use them in a number of rackets, and if they are caught they usually don't have much information to offer the law. In the 1990s the Boston mob grabbed these recruits wholesale as what Boston reporters Gerard O'Neill and Dick Lehr call quasi–wise guys.

Young suckers were integrated into gambling operations, then into other activities if they seemed dependable and might even hold their tongues a bit. This made them even more expendable. The suckers were offered a lot of meaningless camaraderie so that they could take the fall for the mob if necessary. Many were promised several hundreds of dollars if they had to do time, with the further guarantee that they would move way up when they got out. Generally, the money stipend vanished after a few months, and the suckers were on their own.

Amazingly, most of those who came out had not been disenchanted, their eyes still set on the prize—full membership in the mob. As a result Boston had plenty of dirty workers handy for dangerous tasks. Some even were assigned roles in mob hits. If anyone got caught in such a job, it was almost invariably the throwaway suckers.

In the long run some of these victims get unhappy, but they could be held in line by making them think they were being regarded by seasoned wise guys as new "big shots." Of course, some of the brighter ones realize they are going nowhere, and they come to regard the FBI as a savior for them. This means the tactic can turn very hairy for the mob.

The usual solution: have them taken out before they start talking to the law. And the new Mafia leaders are so petrified of informers that they quickly give the okay when someone, perhaps even another sucker, wants the suspect sucker taken out for his own reasons.

As a result some suckers are wiped out on a mistaken belief that they might start talking to the law. Miscarriages of justice do not worry the current mob bosses. A murder now and then will keep other suckers in line until they are needed. In today's Mafia a sucker's lot is not a happy one.