Influenced transplantation
: a study into emerging Mafia groups in the United States pre-1920

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The current literature on mafia transplantation into the US does not address the relationship between Italian mafia groups and United States mafia groups in the pre-prohibition era; any connection between the two is assumed rather than proven. This thesis argues that mafia transplantation theory, showing that the operation of an overseas outpost by an Italian mafia is insufficient in explaining the movement of mafiosi from Italy to the United States and the formation of groups in the United States. Instead, it suggests that members of groups in the United States used knowledge obtained in Italy, but in the form of imitation rather than control. This imitation was based on elements of cultural heritage with which the mafioso would be familiar, helping define the structure, relationships, rituals and modus operandi of the US groups.The research involved examining records from various archives; newspaper, police, immigration records, personal records, etc., in order to find proof of transplantation outposts operations, influence or of home-grown mafia.

The thesis tackles transplantation in three areas; migration, markets and operations. It shows that generalised migration was not a factor in determining the transplantation of a mafia group and shows that individual Mafiosi travelled often as the result of increased law enforcement efforts against them rather than as part of a strategy. The thesis demonstrates that the markets in which these migrated Mafiosi operated in the United States were not comparable in a way that suggests the running of an outpost from Italy, but instead that these mafiosi’s groups adapted to changing conditions in the United States. At an operational level, the groups in the US fed off the reputation of their Italian counterparts but were imitating their practices rather than being subservient to their control. Overall the thesis shows that the Mafia groups in the US were not operating as an outpost under control of an Italian organisation and instead were made up of close affiliations of individuals with the relevant skills to take advantage of and adapt to the local American conditions in a form influenced by their Italian counterparts.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorRino Coluccello (Supervisor)

Cite this