Kennedy, Hundley and Their Trojan Horse: Joseph Valachi's "(In)Significance to the Study of Organized Crime"

Sean Patrick Griffin, Clemson University
Alan A. Block, Pennsylvania State University

In 1963, Americans learned about "La Cosa Nostra" for the first time. This hitherto unknown name for Italian-American organized crime was the product of both the fertile mind of racketeer Joseph Valachi, and a political strategy fathered by Attorney General Robert Kennedy. The Attorney General wanted Americans to become more deeply disturbed about organized crime's conspiratorial and corporate nature and thus used Valachi and his discovery "La Cosa Nostra" as a tool both to educate citizens and to concentrate federal law enforcement's efforts upon the "great conspiracy." A number of distinguished academic researchers bought into this "new" interpretation of organized crime though none bothered to check on what Valachi actually said over months of intereviews with the FBI and the Bureau of Narcotics. Our paper, which explains Robert Kennedy's political effort, also concludes that Valachi could not, and did not, verify a nation-wide organized crime conspiracy called "La Cosa Nostra." Hence, the criminology of organized crime as immeasurably impoverished.

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Updated 05/20/2006