South Florida has always been a place where crime bosses of New York organized crime- Bonnano, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese, and Lucchese- can do business. They have had a presence in the area since the 1930s. Because of this history, South Florida is often referred to as “open” territory for these families.
The criminal underworld has always been present in Miami Florida, but as the population has shifted northward, so has the center of operations for many criminal enterprises. Today, the “mob belt” extends from Hollywood up to West Palm Beach, encompassing a wide range of restaurants, eateries, food shops, businesses, and illicit activities.
In recent years, Alphonse “Allie Boy” Persico has been the highest-ranking mobster to set up permanent residence in South Florida.
In the world of international crime, there are few figures who loom as large as Tony Montana. Though he may be fictional, his impact on popular culture has been huge. He’s been credited with helping to establish Miami’s identity as a hotbed of criminal activity, and his Q Score is higher than any other mobster in the city.
Antonio Montana is one of the crime bosses who rises to the top of the criminal underworld. He is portrayed by Al Pacino in the film Scarface and is voiced by André Sogliuzzo in the 2006 video game Scarface: “The World Is Yours.” Tony Montana has become a cultural icon and is one of the most famous movie characters of all time. In 2008, Montana was named the 27th Greatest Movie Character by Empire magazine.
Montana is based on Tony Camonte, the protagonist of the original novel and the 1932 film adaptation. Camonte was, in turn, an adaptation of Tony Guarino from the 1929 novel. These characters were loosely based on real-life Italian-American gangster Al Capone.
Tony Montana, the infamous Cuban exile gangster, and his last name were actually inspired by former NFL quarterback Joe Montana, who was Oliver Stone’s favorite player.
Here are five other crime bosses who have made their mark on the city:
In the 1990s, a new era began in South Beach with the rise of Paciello. He quickly became known as the “It” boy and was written extensively by New Times in a four-part series called “Goon Over Miami.”
In 1994, Paciello opened a nightclub in Miami Beach, Florida, called Risk. The club was inspired by the techno-style nightclubs he had seen in New York. Paciello used money from the Westminster Bank robbery to finance the venture.
In 1995, Paciello opened a new nightclub in South Beach called Club Liquid. He brought in local celebrity Ingrid Casares as a partner, and the club quickly became a hotspot for Miami’s nightlife scene in the 1990s. Madonna, a friend of Casares, was a frequent guest at the club.
During all that time, Paciello had been working with the FBI, providing them with information on his fellow gang members and their Cosa Nostra contacts.
The notorious drug lord Griselda Blanco was the star of Cocaine Cowboys 2: Hustlin’ With the Godmother. Blanco was born in Colombia but moved to Miami in the 1970s, where she quickly rose to power in the local drug trade. She was known for her ruthless violence and is considered to have been responsible for over 200 murders.
In the mid-1970s, The “Black Widow” made her way to the United States from her native Colombia. She settled in Queens, New York, and quickly established a thriving business smuggling cocaine into the country. In April 1975, she was indicted on federal drug conspiracy charges along with 30 of her subordinates. La Madrina fled to Colombia, but eventually returned to the United States and settled in Miami in the late 1980s.
Her return to the city coincided with the beginning of a very public and violent conflict. This conflict, which lasted for years and resulted in hundreds of murders and killings annually, was associated with the high crime epidemic that swept the City of Miami in the 1980s. She is recognized as one of the ultimate crime bosses in Miami.
Leonid “Tarzan” Fainberg
As the Soviet Union collapsed, Tarzan arrived in Miami with his dirty hands in everything from drugs to human trafficking. He brought girls from Moscow to work as strippers and prostitutes at Porky’s nightclub. He lived in Miami from 1990 to 1997. But he was eventually busted and deported to Israel. This knucklehead also once tried to buy a Russian submarine for drug smuggling.
After years of evading capture, Tarzan finally fled to Cuba and returned to Moscow. He is featured in the documentary “Operation Odessa”, which tells the story of how three criminals sold a Soviet submarine to a Colombian drug cartel for $35 million.
The original Scarface and most famous of the crime bosses of all time, Al Capone, lived a life of crime and violence. Palm Island was his home in 1947 when he died, but he also spent time in Miami where he went to court in 1930 to defend himself against charges of perjury.
In 1928, Capone purchased a 10,000 square foot (930 m2) home on Palm Island in Biscayne Bay for $40,000 from Clarence Busch of the Anheuser-Busch brewing family. The house was located between Miami and Miami Beach and provided Capone with a luxurious retreat from his criminal enterprise in Chicago.
Although Capone was accused of bringing gambling to the city, Miami was already a hotbed of illegal gambling, prostitution, corruption, and rum-running before he arrived. City officials had long turned a blind eye to these activities. However, the “Miami News” led a campaign to drive Capone out of the city, and eventually, they were successful.
Do you know of any other real Gagstars living in Miami? Let us know!
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