Italian mafias are a well-known example of an ethnic-based mafia in USA but are there other examples of European mafias based in ethnicity in USA?

I'm especially interested in North European examples, e.g., a German mafia or Prussian mafia or similar.

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    Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 21:51
  • @MarkC.Wallace i think this Q is simply funny and intriguing. Isn't this for you :)?
    – user12387
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 2:54
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    As there is no German or Prussian Mafia in Germany (or former Prussia) you would be hard pressed to find such structures imported into the US.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 6:32
  • @nvoigt Makes some sense!
    – d-b
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 10:54
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4 Answers 4


Probably the best-known non-Italian 'ethnic-based mafia' that operated in the USA was the Unione Corse.

This group were not North-European, but were part of the Corsican Mafia and maintained the so-called French Connection monopoly, controlling the import of Heroin, from French Indo-China, through France (and Canada) into the United States from the 1930s until the late 1970s.

The Irish organised crime groups that operated from the nineteenth century onwards are another well known group that might be classified as an 'ethnic-based mafia'. Sometimes collectively known as the "Irish Mob", this group actually originated in the Irish street gangs in the United States.

Those gangs were made famous (or, perhaps more accurately, infamous) by Herbert Asbury's 1928 book The Gangs of New York, which was loosely adapted into Martin Scorsese's 2002 film of the same name. As a group whose members are linked to a North-European country, this might meet your requirements.

In this case, the Irish Mob appears to have originated in the US in the nineteenth century and then expanded back into Ireland at some point in the 1960s. This growth of organised crime in Ireland was the subject of the 3-part documentary series Bad Fellas on RTÉ Television.

Although operating on a smaller scale, the so-called "Polish Mob" are another North-European 'ethnic-based mafia'.

Some well-known elements include the Saltis-McErlane Gang in Chicago, the Kielbasa Posse in Philadelphia, the Greenpoint Crew from Brooklyn, the Flats Mob in Cleveland, and the The Flathead gang in Detroit.

As for your specific question about German or Prussian mafias operating in the United states, I have to say that I haven't found any references to a significant 'German mafia' or 'Prussian mafia' operating in the United States.

I did find this post on Reddit that also seems to suggest that, while it seems likely that there were some German criminal groups active in the US, they didn't operate on the same scale as some other groups:

I've researched and written about the early years of the Mafia in the US, and looked at Jewish and Irish organised crime in New York as well, I have never come across any references to a German equivalent. This is not to say it never occurred – and in fact, given that at least 6 million German emigrated to the US during the 19th and early 20th centuries, I'd be very surprised if it never did – but certainly Germans were not as prominent as other ethnic groups in organised crime.

Finally, it is worth noting that Wikipedia maintains a list of '"Criminal enterprises, gangs and syndicates", which includes a (presumably not exhaustive) list of gangs operating in the United States.

Included in this list you will also find the Jewish-American organised-crime groups that were active in the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and which are not infrequently referred to as the ' Jewish Mafia' in the media and popular culture. Some members of these groups did have German ancestry.

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    @d-b None that I could find with any significant presence in the US. (Unless you count the Norse expeditions by Leif Erikson et. al. to Vinland, c1000 CE) Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 0:50
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    Corsica is sort of Italian.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 10:14
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    @sempaiscuba Yes, apart from the fact that it is ruled by France. Language and culture are closer to Italian than to French. The same way in which Südtirol is sort of Austrian. National borders are not always aligned with cultural borders.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 10:58
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    @TripeHound No, I'm definitely thinking of Corsica, which has long had an independence movement, as well as Italian irridentism, has been French for less than 300 years, and where Italian was the main public language until the 19th century. The place names are almost all essentially Italian as well including the name Corsica itself.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 11:48
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    @gerrit Italian irredentism was largely promoted by Italy & was effectively snuffed out by WW2. I know a number of Corsicans who all identify as Corsican First and French second (and expressly not Italian). However, what is important in this context is that the Unione Corse evolved and operated predominantly in Corsica & Marseilles, and that the Corsican Mafia is considered to be part of the 'French mob', rather than their Italian counterparts. Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 12:07

Non Italian European organized crime groups in the United States.

Ethnic Organized Crime groups which meet the criteria of your question operating in the United States are.

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    The Hell's Angels likely count too, as they generally don't allow non-white (eg: European-descended) members.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 22:59
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    @T.E.D. One could probable list more than 20 biker gangs like that as well as various Arian Groups ,
    – user27618
    Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 23:09
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    @LangLangC The difference between Sicily and Italy is greater than the difference between Germany and Austria. Sicilians have a different language, complexion, and culture. Particularly when dealing Pre-Italian Unification or the first few generations afterwards, the two are quite different.
    – Lan
    Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 23:47
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    @KentaroTomono A number of high-ranking members of other ethnic mobs were Jewish, as well.
    – nick012000
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 3:08
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    Is your list exhaustive ? It also is formulated in a bigotted structure (listing all Jewish gangs induce a representative bias). Why not list all Irish and Polish and Mediterranean organisations ?
    – NegativeJo
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 5:48

Ethnic organised crime is almost always formed when there is an emigration from a poor country into an urbanised area in another country. Especially where the emigrants form a permanent lower class, or is discriminated against for their ethnicity. Before the wave of immigrants from Italy to the US there was a wave of immigrants from Scandinavia (mostly Sweden) and there was Scandinavian mafias. Working in the docks was a common line of work and they banded together as the spoke little English so they soon came to control the smuggling. Prostitution was also common (and the rumours about "Swedish sin" still sticks).

One example of a Swedish mafia boss in the US is Frederick Lundin who actually built up the crime syndicate later taken over by the more famous Al Capone. An example of a prohibition era Swedish mobster is Simon Lundberg who ran the speakeasy N.N. Club.


All current ones.

As these mafias/organized crimes groups are based in the USA, with persons naturalized or born in the USA, all of the involved persons are Americans.

Their ancestry or place of birth does not matter.

  • Pretty sure that the organized crime along the Mexican border is dominated by Mexicans.
    – Mark
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 22:34
  • @Mark You might be surprised how MS 13 is contesting some of those assumptions. Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 22:46
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    If ancestry is relevant in membership being granted or denied, how is that irrelevant in defining a gang? Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 10:14

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