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The Accuracy of Drugs as

portrayed in the Godfather by Mario Puzo, as opposed to reality

Throughout history Writers have been writing fictional novels based on real

historical events. The Godfather by Mario Puzo is such a book in which Puzo

portrays Mafia life and business starting at the late 40’s. The Corleone crime

Family in this novel is shown having troubles with the other organized crime

syndicates concerning drugs. Many of the other families are pushing the idea

of joining the narcotics market, however the Corleones do not want to

intervene in such a disagreeable business. Much tension forms as mobster wars

starts within the syndicates and most favor drugs.

My purpose of this paper will be to analyze whether Mario Puzo the author of

The Godfather , represents an accurate portrayal of narcotics as a major part

of Mafia business.

As the demand for illegal narcotics rose in the United States, it was the

Mafia who would jump on it as they did all other illegal activities, such as

gambling operations, prostitution, extortion, and loan sharking. The whole

drawback to this was, from where could they get it. Depending on what it was,

it had to be found and brought in from over-seas. From Ecuador they could

obtain opium poppies with which to make heroin, and virtually unlimited supply

of coca leaves, with which to make cocaine from Bolivia and Peru. Plus their

smuggling routes and expertise were solidly established. Hence, the first drug

laboratories were established in Medellin, supposedly with Mafia money (Eddy

and Hugo, 45). The New York Mafia as well as other American crime families,

would buy the drugs from Colombian drug lords. One of the major Colombian

syndicates- commonly referred to as the “Medellin Cartel”. As opposed to

actuality, in the Godfather, poppies, mainly used to make heroin would be

harvested from Turkey (not the major supplier of opium in the 40’s and 50’s),

then processed into heroin in Sicily.

Drugs have been appealing to any crime syndicates since the Chinese crime

world that started way back in the 1800’s. Opium was the number one wanted

drug as wars started by the Ch’ing Dynasty in 1839 to stop the illegal

importation by smugglers form Britain (Britanica, 552). But why wouldn’t any

crime syndicate want to invest in illegal drugs as portrayed in The Godfather?

Heroin these days for example, has been estimated that for approximately

four hours each day three hundred sixty five days a year, four hundred dollars

worth of heroin is sold every minute on one hundred and fifteenth street New

York City resulting in a financial exchange amounting to twenty four thousand

dollars an hour, ninety six thousand a day and six hundred seventy two

thousand dollars a week. Annual gross sales of heroin alone exceed thirty

billion a year.(Messerchmidt, Piers, 220).

Of course many Mafia families would want to wager into such a profitable

business as portrayed in The Godfather, the same is true about real life.

However, in most crime families including the five New York families drugs

were considered to be, as the Corleone’s put it “evil and inappropriate for

the family’s need” and most families in real life agreed to this unlike Mario

Puzo’s novel, in which all the families except the Corleones wanted to enter


In 1931, a mob boss in Chicago by the name of Salvatore Maranzano made five

“families” in New York City and five bosses as they called them to lead. The

five in New York would belong to a ruling body, like a council, including such

Chicago mob bosses as Al Capone, and New York bosses like Joe Bonano. La Cosa

Nostra as it was called “this thing of ours”(Roemer, 63). La Cosa Nostra was

set up as the high council, it was in charge and had the last word in all of

the major Mafia activities. La Cosa Nostra particularly the groups in New

York, did not favor drugs they too felt it was not a right business for

organized crime to go in to, it was dirty. Anyone caught dealing drugs or

racketeering drugs, would be shot and killed. In fact, involvement in

narcotics in any way continues to be reason for severe disciplinary action

from leadership should any member be caught. This was proven many times in

the passed. Chris Cardi who was soon to be a “made Man” went where the money

was- into dealing drugs. This was a strict violation of the strict edict of

Tony Accardo(mob boss) and La Cosa Nostra. Chris Cardi Served his sentence

after being caught, on July 14, 1975, he went inside Jim’s Beef Stand at 1620

North River Road in Melrose Park. Two ski-masked Gunmen snuck up behind

Cardi, his wife and three kids. They used .45’s this time. Eight times in the

back, naturally. Then for good measure, while the wife and kids screamed, they

rolled him over and put one in his face. Tony Accardo was pleased. “good job.

That will teach anybody wants to go into drugs a good lesson.”(Roemer, 327).

As one can see drugs were very tempting but was not permitted in the real

Mafia life. Later drugs went out of hand and many “wise guys” wanted to make

the extra money, even the superiors would want to get in on the action. For

this reason in 1931 drugs were included in the oath of Omerta nobody in the

honored society dealt drugs period(Roemer, 405). The Omerta ritual was a

secret pledge that all newly “made men” would have to swear while holding the

hand of his mob boss and swear never to cross anyone in his family, to keep

“our thing” in good name and secrecy and to do all that his superiors tell

him. Such things as Omerta and Cosa Nostra were no mentioned in The Godfather

and there was more of a disjunction and separation from all the other


Since the 80’s, there was much corruption in organized crime, syndicates have

changed their ideas of staying away from drugs to investing more in it. This

happened as the power of La Cosa Nostra diminished and was less strict. The

ritual of Omerta meant much less and many crime Families went into drugs

despite the diminished authority of “The Committee”. There were much fewer

crime bosses who resembled Don Corleone in Puzo’s book who was not opened to

the idea of narcotics. One that too was not was Tony Accardo, William F.

Roener the author of many true crime books wrote in 1987 in one of his books:

Accardo has kept the Chicago outfit out of drugs. Where as other families or

organized crime around the country have in recent years failed to resist the

big temptation

This portrays exactly the personality of Don Corleone in Mario Puzo’s book The


More corruption within families are occurring and even the mob bosses and

heads are getting involved. John Gotti too did his amount of drug dealing

despite higher authorities. Gotti would limit his exposure in heroin to

investor and let the men he trusted most- Angelo, Gene, Willie Bay, Corneglia-

do the dirty work on the condition that they never ever mentioned his

name(Capeci, Mustain, 70). When John Gotti became Mafioso boss and he claimed

that he would not deal with drugs and would punish anyone that went into it.

The warnings however sounded as hollow as they did in the early 1970’s, when

Gotti assembled the Bergin crew and delivered an anti drug message from Carlo-

at a time when everyone knew his brother Peter was dealing cocaine and

Rampino, heroin.(Capeci, Mustain, 71). Soon major drug operations were

taking affect without the consent of the major Mafia bosses. “The Pizza

Connection” case, extended to rural Illinois, where a pizza parlor like so

many involved in this case across the country, dealt drugs. They were caught

by the FBI and went to trial. The case began in 1984 when the justice

department indicted thirty one people in the operation of this international

drug ring. It was charged that in over five years the ring had brought into

this country 1,650 pounds of heroin, with a street value of 1.6 billion, then

sold the drugs through pizza parlors in the Northeast and Midwest. The New

York office found that the “Catalano faction” of the Bonano family, led by

Salvatore Catalano , was deeply involved in massive heroin importation and

distribution in the United States, all charged in the indictment later.

Although Catalano’s organization was located in New York City, the

investigation by the FBI revealed that Catalano’s heroin business was tied

directly to organized criminal groups in Sicily.(Roemer, 406). Another way

they would try to cover up or pay someone elsoe to do all of the work.

Delgiorno and other members of his family would loan a drug dealer to finance

the importation of fifty to a hundred gallons of p-z-p(pheno- two- propane,

used to make a drug called Meth). Since Delgiorno dealt with loan sharking and

this was a loan sharking deal it technically skirted the mob prohibition on

dealing drugs.(Anastasia, 114). If any of these acts would have happened a

decade earlier it would not have been let go so easily and all of these would

have been punished by death.

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