ROME—The New York mafia is taking a hit from the novel coronavirus pandemic after many of its money-making outlets have been shuttered.
Gambling halls, sporting events, and construction projects have long fed the Empire State gangs, but now that they are taking an “historic” blow, a law-enforcement source told the New York Post. “There’s never been a time when they weren’t making money through gambling,” the source said.
The American mafia families are also losing out on the extortion racket after restaurants and other entities close their doors under New York City’s “shelter in place” order. A halt to non-essential construction jobs, which includes transportation and port entry, has also put a dent in the U.S. mob’s profits.
But that is not the case in Italy, where authorities warn that the mafia will most certainly cash in on the pandemic. There is already concern that various criminal groups are involved in the construction of field hospitals and importation of medical supplies like masks and other equipment. They are also still dealing drugs, making loans, and controlling large swaths of the agricultural industry, which is one of the few sectors still in full operation to feed the 60 million locked-down Italians.
Franco Gabrielli, head of the Public Security for Italy’s Central Anti-Crime Directorate, or DAC, told reporters this week that the “economic vocation” of the Italian mafia syndicates means that they will easily find a way to infiltrate all sectors still serving the locked-down public.
But the real money will be made when the lockdown ends, Gabrielli says, noting that the current crisis will be “the bearer of a liquidity deficit, of a profound restructuring of the labor market, of the consequent influx of huge national and EU public funding.”
Gabrielli said this week that the criminal groups will be able to easily recruit cash-strapped entrepreneurs who need loans to help restart the Italian economy. Those loans will be hard to secure from banks, which will take a huge hit during the economic downfall the pandemic has already caused in Italy.
The DAC has already dispatched anti-mafia squads to carry out surveillance on known mobsters as they make plans. After the pandemic red zones open up, he says they will create “organized-crime red zones in areas with the highest density of economic and financial mafia contagion.”
As in the years after World War II, when various organized-crime syndicates gained footing across the country, the post-pandemic world will be good for crime. “The mafia has been able to adapt itself punctually to any social, economic, geopolitical transformation,” Gabrielli says. “Criminal syndicates have adapted to new technological and communication platforms as well as to the new economy and different financial scenarios.”
The New York gangs might soon be forced to go back to their old ways to keep up. They are already reportedly considering a return to the narcotics trade, which has been sidelined in recent years for more lucrative rackets, according to the New York Post’s police source.
“There’s still deals being made,” the source said, referring to the New York City drug trade under lockdown as a whole, though it remained to be seen just how the mob could get back into the racket without risking their lives to the virus.
For decades, anti-mafia fighters from Bobby Kennedy and Rudy Giuliani to Lt. Joseph Petrosino, who was killed by the Cosa Nostra Black Hand racket in 1909, tried to achieve exactly what the coronavirus pandemic has done in just a few short weeks. The Post’s police source summed it up, “This is doing what they couldn’t do.”