“This is one of the largest single-day operations against the Mafia in the FBI’s history, both in terms of the number of defendants arrested and charged and the scope of the criminal activity that is alleged,” said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Holder was bragging to the mainstream media about the arrest of 127 wise guys this week, but I doubt that most readers were impressed. The Mafia is old news, and its mystique was waning even before Ray Liotta entered the witness protection program in Goodfellas.
If Holder was serious about enforcing the law and restoring the credibility of the Obama administration, he’d go after mobsters who have real clout, namely the ones that run Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, AIG, et al. These truly fine citizens swindled state agencies, local governments and individual taxpayers on a scale that the Gambino, Genovese, Lucchese, and Bonanno crime families, even in their heyday, wouldn’t have dared attempt. The Wall Street gangs played a key role in starting the Great Recession.
Goodfellas was partly based on the Lufthansa heist, an audacious and unprecedented crime that netted mobsters about $6 million in 1978. Compare that job to one of the 21st-century Wall Street heists summarized last May by Daily Kos:
In 2006 and 2007, Goldman Sachs Group peddled more than $40 billion in securities backed by at least 200,000 risky home mortgages, but never told the buyers it was secretly betting that a sharp drop in U.S. housing prices would send the value of those securities plummeting.
Many of the guys who pulled off the Lufthansa heist ended up killed or in jail. Goldman Sachs got a slap on the wrist for swindling clients and continues to rake in billions.
Sure, the crime families ran lucrative gambling and extortion operations, but does anyone think those were as damaging to the economy as the Wall Street rackets? I didn’t think so.
I’d love to see a newspaper photo of Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein being led into a precinct house, maybe with Styrofoam peanuts all over his suit, like Sherman McCoy in The Bonfire of the Vanities. But that sort of thing only happens in old novels and movies.