Fear City: New York vs The Mafia episode 1 recap – “Mob Rule” Using RICO.

July 22, 2020
Daniel Hart 0
Netflix, TV Recaps
4

Summary

Episode 1 is a fascinating opener, highlighting the problem the FBI faced when taking down the Mafia families in New York.

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4

Summary

Episode 1 is a fascinating opener, highlighting the problem the FBI faced when taking down the Mafia families in New York.

This recap of Netflix documentary series Fear City: New York vs The Mafia episode 1, “Mob Rule” contains episodic information.

At Ready Steady Cut, we recapped every episode — check out the archive of recaps.


How does Fear City: New York vs The Mafia episode 1, “Mob Rule” open?

Episode 1 opens up with a reporter naming New York “Fear City”, an intriguing opener for this anticipated documentary series. 1970’s New York is seen as a lawless city plagued by drugs, violence, and murder. The narrator talks about money, control, and dominance — “Five untouchable mafia families hold the city in their grip”. The FBI had the biggest task ever, to bring down the mafia.

Collecting money

And Episode 1 gives the sense of the task at hand. Curtis Sliwa tells us that the 1970s was all about mob rule and that his uncle owed them money. He describes it as “frightening days”. Johnny Alite, an ex-mobster, talks about how he was brought in by the mob from a very young age to collect money from people. Episode 1 sees the FBI seemingly confused about how the mob cycled money in innovative ways.

Don’t get caught

Episode 1 also highlights how the mob saw it as a game with the FBI — they knew the game was, “If they got caught, then we get arrested”. You can understand how the FBI struggled to engage, especially with the family structures that were so deep the FBI could never reach to the top to the boss. Like every FBI investigation, it’s all about following the money but it’s never all that simple.

Law and order

There wouldn’t be a story without talking about drugs. The documentary delves into how moving heroin and cocaine was a game-changer. New York is described as lawless with organized crime controlling every form of criminal activity — episode 1 demonstrates how the mob-controlled ‘law and order’; New York was taken.

The FBI had no idea how to implement their own laws

Midway through Fear City: New York vs The Mafia episode 1 and the series discusses that the FBI had a law called RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) but they didn’t know how to use it to bring down the mob which is surprising. Episode 1 demonstrates how they were re-educated — how to get to the foot soldiers to the boss — under RICO, the FBI has to evidence that the crimes were committed as a business to take down the whole organization. It’s fascinating how the FBI didn’t know how to implement their own laws at the time.

Finding a gossiper

One of the main challenges for the FBI was getting a cooperating witness — most men in the mob feared for their lives due to the “Code of Silence”. Episode 1 slyly brings in the next port of call for the FBI — bugging the mob to bring a whole organization down. One of the challenges was that the FBI needed enough information to link the crime to American crime boss Paul Castellano. The FBI looked at John Gotti’s crew to find weak links and get as much information as possible. Episode 1 makes the operation sound simple — find a big gossiper and wire their house.

Solving the puzzles

Next steps — listening. Many conversations with the gossiper were cryptic and had many uses of the word “f*ck”. Episode 1 shows how it became a puzzle to review the bugged conversations and how it became an art. It’s not surprising that the FBI struggled to understand the conversations as the tapes were not of great quality.

Sending in the cable man

We are then treated to a re-run of an operation you’d expect to see in the movies. The FBI infiltrated Paul Castellano’s house by sending in a pretend cable man to fix the bad TV feed and inserted a new microphone in the cable box — this became a successful operation for the FBI. They had the Gambino family, one of the largest Mafias on tape. They even had Paul’s lover Gloria willingly giving the FBI photos, not knowing she was an informant.

How does Fear City: New York vs The Mafia episode 1, “Mob Rule” end?

To play with Paul Castellano, the FBI sent him greeting cards to play psychological warfare. Paul didn’t send out a hit to kill the FBI agent, he respected that he was just trying to do his job. There’s some sense of respect between the FBI and the mob. We then learn that organized crime controlled the major labor unions which was a significant problem — so much money flowed through the unions it gave them a lot of power. Episode 1 is a fascinating opener, highlighting the problem the FBI faced when taking down the Mafia families in New York.


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