The American Mafia, or "Cosa Nostra, and commonly referred to as Italian Mafia or Italian Mob in the United States of America, is an extremely powerful and organized Italian-American crime syndicate that likely emerged from the Sicilian Mafia and/or The Camorra. The phrase "Cosa Nostra" means "our thing" or "our work." The founder is often considered to be a Sicilian-American criminal named Charles "Lucky" Luciano.
This criminal society emerged in impoverished areas of New York where Italian immigrants settled, such as Brooklyn or East Harlem in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The organization participated in countless crime activities, including but not limited to protection rackets, robberies, counterfeit operations, bribery, fraud, loan sharking, and human and drug trafficking.
It is considered one of the most influential crime organizations in the U.S., and are today greatly feared in particular areas such as New York, Chicago, and Detroit.
The mafia is often divided into "crime families," units of criminals led by a "boss" that head activities in "territories," or neighborhoods the crime family have decided to operate in. Despite them being called "families," they are not necessarily familial groupings. In the first couple of decades of the mafia's notoriety, all crime families were led by "the boss of all bosses," a supreme leader of the organization. This rank was eventually replaced by The Commission in 1931, a meeting of the most powerful crime families that serves as the governing body of all of the units. The Commission consisted of the Five Families of New York- The Bonnano, Gambino, Lucchese, Genovese, and Colombo families- the Chicago Outfit, and the Buffalo family. The last known Commission was held in November 1985.