New Mafia rackets in Prostitution

New Mafia rackets in Prostitution
New Mafia rackets in Prostitution

By and large, since the conviction of Lucky Luciano for compulsory prostitution in 1936, the East Coast Mafia has managed to stay clear of convictions for such charges. Luciano was convicted by then–racket buster Thomas E. Dewey for 30 to 50 years, which was a far tougher sentence than had ever been handed out for such a charge.

The eastern mobs howled it was a "bum rap," one handed to Dewey in a frame-up with the perjured testimony of pimps and prostitutes who would say anything to avoid going to jail. To some it was doubtful that Luciano, with the money pouring in from many other rackets, would bother with such "small potatoes" as commercial sex.

This was not a racket ignored in Mafia strongholds such as Capone's Chicago and Ohio, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania, but the New York godfathers kept their men out of such rackets, mainly on the basis that some political elements, in the pocket for the mob, did not want to provoke reform elements against them. Again, it was a case of more important financial fish to fry. Furthermore, practitioners of the sex racket were likely to crack under the pressure and be eager to surrender bigger mafiosi for a way out for themselves.

During the height of the so-called sexual revolution, the New York mobsters insisted they had followed the right course, since "too many broads were giving it away for free and you can't make money out of that." But the attitudes of the eastern mobs changed as law enforcement cracked down hard on Mafia activities.

During this period the other ethnic organized crime gangs pushed hard into new territories, with the Vietnamese, the Chinese and to a lesser extent the Russians and Koreans branching into first massage parlors and then lap dancing clubs and so on. The wise guys saw promise here and got in as well.

But the big money in prostitution remained the independent hooker rings that handled outcall services to customer's homes or hotel rooms. The payoff was much greater, anywhere from $100 to $250, or more. In their need for more revenues the Mafia went into the upscale outcall, or "escort," services.

A breakthrough in this end of the business may have come in April 2004 when a joint New York Organized Crime Task Force, the police department, and the FBI looked into the illegal gambling activities of the Gambino crime family on Staten Island. They wiretapped a social club on Fingerboard Road and noticed some known leaders in the sex racket visiting there.

Trailing these individuals they uncovered a series of corporate fronts and escort services with such names as Gentlemen's Delight, Day Dreams and Personal Touch that charged customers $250 for sex. The outfits were said to send out 15 to 20 limousine drivers to dispatch 30 to 40 prostitutes each day. Billings were done by merchant accounts held by escort services or limousine companies and in one case by a company that hired musical bands for weddings.

The task forces arrested 16 people on charges of enterprise corruption and two others for falsifying business records and promoting prostitution and money laundering, activities of interest especially to the mobs. The media saw this as more than a simple sex business but an important field for the mobs, their gambling and other activities. The new Mafia saw the broad field of paid sex as becoming a major profit center in the 21st century.