Is it illegal to belong to the Mafia?

In other words, is the Mafia a proscribed organisation in the US? If the authorities have evidence that someone is a ‘made’ man and has been through the initiation ritual (as described by Valachi and others), is that enough, in and of itself, to convict him of a crime?

See the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1961, et seq., (known as the “Rico Act”):

Intersting cite, but not responsive to the question. The OP is not asking about whether it’s illegal to engage in racketeering. The question is whether simply belonging to the Mafia is illegal.

I would say it’s virtually impossible to belong to the Mafia without being, at the very least, an accessory to some felony. Even if you were only driving Uncle Vito around while he was collecting “donations” from neighbourhood businessmen.

But it is responsive to the question. According to RICO, even being a member would be enough to get you.

From the RICO act:

In each case, the government has to prove that the person is a member of an illegal organization as defined by the act.

I doubt very much that in the American legal system it is possible to simply define “the Mafia” as an illegal organization. First of all, there is no formal entity named “the Mafia” and whatever it is, it’s not a single, cohesive entity.

Second, it would seem to me that a declaration that “Belonging to X organization will be punishable as a crime” would be unconstitutional for several reasons (off the top of my head, First Amendment, Fifth Amendment, Sixth Amendment, and possibly Article I, Section 9).

So, in order to answer the question, you have to go through the Rico Act and figure out: (1) What do I mean by “the Mafia”? and (2) Is this a racketeer-influenced or corrupt organization under this act? and (3) Is the so-called “member” doing something in relationship to this organization that is illegal under this act?

This might be true, but it has no legal relevance. You have to be charged with something – in your example, either accessory to extortion or violation of the Rico Act.

But you’re bolding the wrong part of the act:

The young mafioso would need to actually do something to be dinged under RICO. That an organization that’s engaged in RICO violations is not legally sufficient to convict every single member of that organization.

I agree with Otto.

To be liable under section 1962©, a person must participate in the operation or management of the enterprise itself. *Reves v. Ernst & Young, 507 U.S. 170 *(1993).

From here

This would seem to indicate that mere membership in the organization is not sufficient. However, it could very well be argued that in order to gain membership in the first place (i.e. to become a “made man”), one would have to had “participated” in the activities to a large extent.

How does the government prove membership in the mafia? Suppose you worked for Don Vito Corleone-did you get a paystube emblazoned with “Genco Puro olive Oil Co,- a subsidiary of the Corleone Crime family”? The late John Gotti was the boss of the NY Mob-but held a job as a plumbing supply salesman.

Let’s define what “belong to the Mafia” means, precisely. They don’t issue membership cards, after all.

In my view, you cannot meaningfully belong to the Mafia without violating the law. But that conclusion is reached because (as I understand it) you don’t simply “belong” in the same way you belong to the Masons, the Rotary, or the Elk. YOu “belong” to the Mafia by participating in their illegal activities, any one of which is …er… well, illegal.

Is it illegal to belong to the Mafia?

Why? Are you being recruited? :eek:

My point is that the OP is the equivalent of asking, “Is it illegal to belong to a gang that robs banks?” The answer being yes, because it’s illegal to rob banks. If you’re not robbing banks, you’re not really part of a gang - you’re just hanging out with people in a gang.

Well, not exactly. The whole purpose of the RICO act was to convict people of conspiring and organizing activities that are illegal without having to convict them of the acts themselves. If I “lead” a gang of bank robbers through organizing and planning the robberies, but I don’t participate in the actual robberies, I can be still be charged under the RICO act.

OK, it’s a little more complicted than that, I know. But that’s the gist of it.

But if you’re planning and organizing the robberies you’re an accessory, regardless of what charges you were indicted on for RICO purposes.

The Mafia, as it exists, is an inherently criminal organization. Its sole purpose is to commit crimes or support the commission of crimes. So if you’re a member you’re doing something illegal.

To give a counter-example, consider the Ku Klux Klan. It’s a vile organization and it certainly has often committed crimes but it’s not an inherently criminal organization. It would be possible for somebody to argue that they’re a law abiding racist who joined the KKK only for the purpose of wearing a white sheet and marching in public parades while shouting racist slogans.

“He’s doing something illegal” really doesn’t read all that well on an indictment. “Belonging to the Mafia” is not AFAIK spelled out as a crime in any statute I’m aware of.

You could quite easily be carrying out perfectly legal work on behalf of mafia memebers, you could be a lawyer, or simply a gardener.

I doubt that organised crime exists solely for the purpose of carrying out crime, it exists to provide profit for those who are part of the group, some activities will be highly illegal, but others will not.

I’ll concede that probably most of the legal activities, such as investment in real estate etc, may well be funded from the proceeds of crime, but there is still acertain amount of legal activity, this is what provides cover for such individuals, and anyway, if a criminal can find a legal opportunity for profit, they are plenty likely to take it.

But if you were to ask some Mafioso “Does this guy belong to the Mafia?” he would honestly answer, “No, he never worked with us.” The Mafia doesn’t give out honorary memberships; you join the Mafia by doing something illegal with the Mafia. So if you haven’t done something illegal, you haven’t joined the Mafia.

My last post was addressed to Otto’s not casdave’s.

Casdave, you’re essentially wrong. A gardener or a lawyer does not belong to the Mafia even if they’re working for somebody who does.

I think you’ll find it very difficult to identify “memberships” with regard to the “Mafia” at all. And that’s the point. The law is not going to look for a membership card. It’s going to ask whether the organization that you are identifying as “the Mafia” is illegal as defined by the Rico Act and it’s going to look at whether this putative “member” of this organization is doing something that’s punishable under the Rico Act.