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10 Businesses Supposedly Controlled by the Mafia


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Pornography
If there's one thing the Mafia's good at, it's diversifying investments. Frederic Lewis/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
If there's one thing the Mafia's good at, it's diversifying investments. Frederic Lewis/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Mafia has long been connected to the production and distribution of pornographic movies, books and magazines. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Colombo family reportedly ran coin-operated machines showing 8mm films in New York's seedy Times Square. During the same era, Mafioso types owned and controlled most of the adults-only movie theaters, X-rated distributors and labs processing 35mm films. "Mickey Z" Zaffarano of New York's Bonanno family started a successful nationwide chain, Pussycat Cinemas, before the FBI caught up with him in 1979. And the connected Peirano family made the wildly successful breakout porno movie "Deep Throat." (The film's tragic star, Linda Lovelace, would later claim she made the movie under the threat of mob violence.)

The Mafia's connection to porn waned in the 1980s and 1990s as video cassettes took over the market, Hollywood realized it could tap the vast profit potential and Times Square got a family-friendly makeover that no longer included coin-op porn [source: Gallo].

More recently, high-profile connections between organized crime and Internet pornography have been uncovered. In 2005, Gambino family members were brought up on fraud charges for offering free tours of adult websites and then billing extravagant charges to their customers' credit cards. The scheme brought in so much money, profits were invested in a phone company, a bank, and more than 64 shell companies and foreign bank accounts.

While the 2005 arrests were the last high-profile Internet porn bust, it's assumed that several Mafia groups are involved in sex trafficking that results in the creation of pornography. Members of the American Mafia have been brought up on sex trafficking and prostitution charges, while the Russian Mafia is said to favor the high profit margins found in trafficking sex slaves from economically poor areas in the Ukraine and Romania [source: Weiss].


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