What Is a Mob Boss?

Alicia Sparks

A mob boss is the boss, or person in charge, of a specific crime organization, or mafia. Also known as crime bosses and mafia bosses, mob bosses are the supreme heads of their particular mafia families, a role that often leads family members to refer to them as Father or Godfather. A mob boss oversees a family hierarchy that can vary by mafia, but usually includes the boss, his underboss, a counselor and several captains. Mafia bosses usually keep amiable relationships with one other, out of both respect and a need for smooth operations. Perhaps the most well-known crime bosses are those of Italian mafias and their American branches, though mobs reside in other countries, too.

One member of the mob is a soldier, who does a Captain's bidding.
One member of the mob is a soldier, who does a Captain's bidding.

A crime organization organizes its members in a hierarchical fashion, with the mob boss at the top. Hierarchies can vary, but typically the boss has a second-in-command or “underboss” directly under him. Usually, this is the person who takes over if the original mafia boss is killed or incarcerated and, as such, is an extremely trusted individual appointed by the crime boss himself. Many crime families include a consigliere, too, who is close to the crime boss and acts as a counselor or “go-between” for the lower family members and the boss. The caporegime is next in line, and any given mafia may have several of these “captains” who are in charge of the soldiers who come after him.

A mob boss may pay off police and other officials to overlook criminal activities.
A mob boss may pay off police and other officials to overlook criminal activities.

The final group the mob boss controls consists of the associates. These people are not legit members of the crime family, but they do take part in the criminal actions and enjoy the profits gained. The reasons associates don’t become “made men,” or genuine members, of the family vary, but often relate to their ancestry.

Generally, the members of a mafia family and their associates revere their mob boss. Still, similar to fathers of regular families, fathers of crime families often correct or punish those who don’t follow orders, plot against the family or boss, or otherwise cause significant trouble for the family. Usually, a mob boss has relationships with outside crime families, too. Specifically, the bosses of each family will have some sort of working relationship with one another. This relationship works to prevent and solve problems involving the different families, especially for families with close territorial boundaries.

The Sicilian Mafia, as well as other mafias with roots in Italy and their American offshoots, might be the most well-known crime organizations. Although it’s not always the case, when someone refers to a mob boss, chances are high he’s referring to the crime boss of a Sicilian or Italian mob, or one of the American offshoots that began forming in the late 1800s as Italians immigrated to the United States. Similar mob families exist in Canada and Australia, too.

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