How to Become a Mob Boss (2023) s01e03 Episode Script

Dominate Through Terror

[ominous music playing]
[narrator] Fear.
[woman screaming]
[narrator] The paralyzing feeling
of imminent danger.
A dreaded nightmare about to come true.
But when you're a mob boss
looking to consolidate your power,
you look at human emotions
[man] Mob bosses rule by fear.
It's the best weapon.
[narrator] And there's one tested method
for putting this spine-tingling tool
to work.
To make people understand fear,
you have to perform violence.
[man 2] If you are able to say,
"I can kill you,
I can kill your wife,
I can kill your daughter,
don't fuck with me"
you become a very powerful person.
[narrator] Nobody demonstrated this lesson
as effectively as Sicily's boss of bosses,
Salvatore "Toto" Riina.
Toto Riina was associated
with mass murder, with absolute power.
Riina used violence
to incite terror on a national level.
[narrator] Riina's unflinching methods
powered his rise to dominance
over the legendary Sicilian Mafia
for nearly two decades
while earning him the title "La Belva,"
The Beast.
So, if you're ready to see
what terror can do for you,
buckle up.
[theme music playing]
During Toto Riina's tyrannical reign
over the Sicilian Mafia,
he earned billions
through diverse pursuits,
including global drug trafficking,
weapons smuggling, and real estate.
But he was mainly known
for this astonishing figure.
He is thought to have authorized
between 800 and 1,000 killings.
[narrator] How did Riina become
such a master of ruthless
and efficient execution?
Let me show you what I mean.
Toto Riina was born in 1930 in Corleone
into a peasant family.
Corleone was a typical rural town
with a strong Mafia presence.
Riina's father and brothers were thought
to be involved in the local Mafia,
and Riina begins to make his way up
with the aim of becoming
the boss of the Corleonesi.
[narrator] After being indicted
on a murder charge in 1969,
Riina went underground,
but didn't miss a beat.
[man 2] Secrecy was one of his weapons,
and it built up
his mystique within the Mafia.
This kind of ghost figure
that could be anywhere
and might be listening to you
as you spoke.
[narrator] Riina took over control
of the Corleonesi faction in 1974,
but he had grander ambitions.
He was aiming to become
the head of everything.
To be the boss of bosses
of the Sicilian Mafia.
He didn't need a luxurious lifestyle.
He didn't care about that stuff,
but what he did care about was power.
One of the things
that Riina is supposed to have said is,
"Comandare é meglio che fottere,"
which means, if I can use plain English,
"Being boss is better than fucking."
[narrator] Couldn't have
said it better myself.
But to follow in the Beast's path
to mob supremacy,
you must overcome
countless obstacles along the way,
starting with
one of the greatest irritants
to power of them all.
Morning paper.
[narrator] Nothing says you've made it
like getting into the papers.
But smart mob bosses know better.
The Mafia is extremely invested
in its public image.
What journalism does is to bring out
these facts about violence,
about their business deals.
They name names,
they expose what the Mafia is doing.
[narrator] That's why as a mob boss,
you'll sometimes have to kill
more than the story.
Ready for some headlines?
Minnesota mob boss Isadore Blumenfeld,
better known as Kid Cann, was suspected
of having journalists Walter Liggett
gunned down in front of his wife
and daughter after Liggett refused
to stop reporting
on Cann's corrupt influence
over the state's government.
After fleeing to Benito Mussolini's Italy
to avoid a murder charge,
New York mob boss Vito Genovese
reportedly ordered the killing
of anti-fascist newspaper editor
Carlo Tresca
to keep Il Duce on his side.
While it's widely believed
that Pablo Escobar killed the editor
and publisher of a Colombian newspaper
known for exposing drug traffickers.
And for good measure,
also had its offices bombed.
As Riina continued his quest
to consolidate power
within the Sicilian Mafia,
he also had to deal
with challenges from the fourth estate,
like this guy.
Mario Francese was a journalist
for the Giornale di Sicilia,
which is a massive Sicilian newspaper,
and he was about
to break a story on Riina.
[narrator] The subject,
Riina's corrupt role
in a lucrative public works project.
[Robin] Mario Francese investigated
all of the moneys, public funds
that were going to go
into the building of this dam,
$200 million at the time.
[narrator] That's a lot of damn money.
To protect his interests,
Riina needed to act fast.
Francese had been investigating
Riina's illicit activities for years,
and now, the big picture
is finally coming into focus.
[Robin] He was putting the names
of the mafiosi,
but also the names of businesspeople
who were working with the Mafia.
[narrator] Riina can't have
the reporter connecting the dots.
So he gives an order
to his brother-in-law, Leoluca Bagarella.
Francese leaves work late that night.
And as he approaches
his home on Viale Campania
With his nosy adversary
now out of the way,
Toto Riina finds the next morning's paper
much more to his liking.
The violence was sending a direct message
to other journalists and people
who were also interested
in exposing the Mafia,
"Stay away, or you'll meet the same fate."
[narrator] Making an example
of pesky reporters
checks one problem off your list.
But when your goal is total domination
Be right back.
you're going to need to deal with rivals
who aren't going
to just fight with their pens.
How do you bring them to heel?
[Alexander] To be at the top
of the pyramid,
you've got to be the toughest
and meanest dog in the kennel,
and that means using your teeth.
[man] Universal motivation
of the mob is violence.
You could be
the best businessman in the world.
Without having violence,
you're not lasting
in the street as a businessman.
That doesn't work.
[narrator] By the early '80s,
Riina was dead set on increasing
his power within the Sicilian Mafia.
But he faced a stubborn obstacle.
Something called the Commission.
[Dana] The Mafia Commission,
also called the Cupola,
is a governing body of sorts of the Mafia.
It was made up of the head boss
of the different families.
It was a way of collaborating
to make sure
that business stayed on track.
Riina begins to sit
in the Commission in about 1969
but begins to have
ambitions of domination.
[narrator] Riina's modest goal,
force the Commission to name him
Capo dei Capi, the Boss of Bosses.
But there was one small problem.
That position didn't exist.
He believed
that he should have absolute power.
He did not want to share.
[narrator] So Riina decided to turn
the job he had into the job he wanted.
The Beast's plan, destroy
his top rivals' organizations from within.
It starts by making secret side deals
with members of other Mafia families
across Sicily.
In return,
they do Riina's dirty work for him
taking out their bosses
and filling the ranks with mafiosi
loyal to Riina.
Before long, only a few rivals
remain from the old guard.
Dealing with them will require
a more customized approach.
[Dana] Stefano Bontate was the head
of one of the most powerful
Palermo crime families.
Bontate's closest ally was a man
named Salvatore Inzerillo.
Both Inzerillo and Bontate opposed Riina,
and so then for Riina,
something needs to be done.
[narrator] One night,
Stefano Bontate is celebrating
his 42nd birthday at his home in Palermo.
Tipped off to the celebration,
Riina's men stake out positions nearby.
At 8:30 p.m, Bontate leaves the party
to spend the night at his country villa
and runs into a most unwelcome surprise.
Two and a half weeks later,
Salvatore Inzerillo's wrapping up
a visit to his mistress
with his bulletproof Alfa Romeo
parked outside.
Riina's assassins have done
their homework on this target too.
So when Inzerillo departs
from his afternoon tryst,
Riina gets the ultimate satisfaction.
But the Beast isn't done yet.
When at his father's funeral,
Inzerillo's young son, Giuseppe,
vows to exact revenge
on his father's killer,
Riina decides to make
an example of him as well.
[Alexander] They kill
Inzerillo's 16-year-old son.
[Robin] And before they killed him,
Riina had his arm chopped off.
This says to anyone
who might go against Riina
how they might end up.
[narrator] Riina's plan
worked to perfection.
Riina was quite successful
at terrorizing a group of hardened killers
into seeing things his way,
and the end result was compliance.
And so many members of the Commission
chose to cede Riina his power
rather than meet the same ends.
[narrator] You've successfully used
the blood of your rivals
to fuel your climb
to the top of mob boss mountain.
As you continue your terrifying reign,
expect another set of enemies
inside the government
to put you in their sights.
How do you show them
who's really in charge?
As boss of bosses,
you need to demonstrate to everyone
that you have the ultimate power.
It's very important for a mob boss
to be the guy
holding the strings over lawmakers
because it allows them
to expand their control and their rule.
[narrator] And when heroic officials
forget who's running things,
remind them.
Like Toto Riina did.
In the early '80s,
there was a culture of fear
because people saw bodies
on the streets on almost a daily basis.
People were terrified to go out.
They were terrified to leave their houses.
[newscaster] Sicily is
where the Mafia began,
but this is new and disturbing.
Around 100 Mafia executions
so far this year.
The citizens were crying out
to public officials to do something.
[women crying]
The national government decides
to send their most prestigious
and powerful police official,
General Alberto Dalla Chiesa,
to Palermo with special powers
to combat the Mafia.
[narrator] But when it came
to preserving his dominance,
Riina had special powers of his own.
In May 1982,
Dalla Chiesa arrives in Palermo
along with his new young wife, Emanuela.
A few months into their stay,
the couple leaves police headquarters
for an evening out
accompanied by a police escort.
But as they cross a major street,
they're surrounded.
Dalla Chiesa valiantly tries
to shield his wife.
But it's no use.
They're shot 30 times.
When you take,
for example, spectacular overkill,
you know, machine gun fire
in the middle of the street,
that serves as a message
to the community and sometimes the nation.
[narrator] Dalla Chiesa's funeral
draws a crowd,
and the mourners are angry.
They pelt officials with coins,
frustrated by the government's inability
to keep the Mafia under control.
[Alexander] At the time
of Dalla Chiesa's funeral,
someone carried a sign that says,
"Here dies the hope
of every honest Sicilian."
[narrator] In other words,
mission accomplished.
[Robin] Killing Dalla Chiesa showed,
"We can take out anyone,
and we will kill you
if you get into our business."
[narrator] Show me a better case
for total submission.
But as the playbook will show,
you'll only maintain
your absolute authority
as long as you keep up
your high standards.
One slip
[tires screeching]
could lead to disaster.
[narrator] When your goal is to terrorize
an entire society into submission,
there is no room for half measures.
If you're gonna harm your enemies,
make sure you do it complete,
so they can never come after you.
[Bobby] If you had trouble
with somebody at one point,
that trouble's always gonna be there.
This is why they have to be taken home.
[narrator] That's why
these wise men of honor
always made sure to tie up loose ends.
After Whitey Bulger
allegedly marked rival gang leader
Al Notarangeli for death,
the hunt led to the murders
of Notarangeli's brother
and an unlucky bartender
before Whitey's top assassin
finally eliminated his target.
Australian mobster Robert Trimbole
took two attempts to get rid
of anti-drug campaigner Donald Mackay.
First, trying to lure him
with a fake business deal
before ultimately having him
shot to death in a parking lot.
While Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman
spent a decade
trying to kill rival cartel leader,
Ramón Arellano Félix,
including a failed assault
on a Puerto Vallarta nightclub.
When Arellano was finally taken down,
El Chapo reportedly called it the most
pleasurable experience of his life.
With hundreds of suspected murders
already on his résumé,
Riina had a solid record
of handling his affairs.
But there was one Mafia rival
who remained frustratingly
beyond his reach.
Tommaso Buscetta was known
as the "Boss of Two Worlds"
because he had business interests
on both sides of the Atlantic.
He was involved in the drug trade
and ended up moving to Brazil.
[narrator] Buscetta helped form
the Sicilian Mafia Commission
and was an ally
of Riina's top rivals-turned-victims,
Palermo bosses Bontate
and Inzerillo.
Riina saw him as a threat,
and he wanted him back,
and he wanted to take him out.
[narrator] Riina decides
to lure Buscetta into the open
by using extreme methods of persuasion.
Much to the misfortune
of Buscetta's eldest sons
who, after taking
their new car out for a spin,
are kidnapped and never heard from again.
It's believed they fell victim
to lupara bianca,
the white shotgun.
[Dana] Lupara bianca is a killing
where the body disappears,
and this is another way
that the Mafia exercises fear over people.
So not only is
the evidence impossible to find,
but it doubly punishes families
who can't grieve their dead.
[narrator] Riina hopes
that Buscetta's grief
and desire for revenge
will draw him out of hiding.
It does not.
So the day after Christmas,
Riina sends his butchers to a pizzeria
near Palermo's Statue of Liberty
where they gun down
Buscetta's son-in-law and two nephews.
[guns firing]
Somehow they don't recognize
Buscetta's daughter behind the counter.
Two days later,
the holiday massacre continues.
[glass shatters]
Buscetta's brother and nephew are shot
to death at the family glass business.
[Alexander] Riina killed
around a dozen family members
of Tommaso Buscetta.
Most of these people
had absolutely nothing to do
with Mafia business.
[narrator] But despite
Riina's extraordinary efforts,
Tommaso Buscetta refuses to take the bait.
[Dana] Buscetta wasn't convinced.
He didn't come back.
[narrator] Finally, Buscetta's exile
comes to an involuntary end.
[Alexander] Brazilian authorities
arrest him.
They extradite him back to Italy in 1984.
So, Buscetta finds himself
in Italian police custody.
He then is met by Giovanni Falcone.
Giovanni Falcone was
a powerful anti-Mafia prosecutor.
[narrator] Buscetta decides to make
the most of his current circumstances
by exacting revenge against the Beast.
Buscetta collaborates
with Giovanni Falcone,
and he gives
very detailed information about the Mafia.
To bring down Riina,
as a vendetta, his testimony enabled
the anti-Mafia prosecutors
to charge the members of the Commission
for approving hundreds of murders.
[narrator] When it came to finishing
the job with Buscetta,
Riina failed with disastrous consequences.
He and the entire Mafia were now
in the authorities' crosshairs.
But even when all seems hopeless,
you can still regain your hold
by getting back on side with the playbook
and showing how far you're willing to go.
[crowd clamoring]
[narrator] There's a word
for when you've got nothing left to lose,
So when it seems like your enemies
are getting the upper hand,
it's your chance to take off the gloves.
[woman] Mob bosses
are dangerous when cornered.
You don't know what they're gonna do.
[narrator] And with Buscetta
singing like a canary,
the walls were closing in on Toto Riina.
[Alexander] Falcone begins to draw up
arrest warrants for 366 people,
which is a hell of a lot.
[narrator] Riina was included
in the arrest list
but continued to evade capture.
Many of the top mafiosi
working underneath him weren't so lucky.
Toto Riina felt a massive threat.
Everything that he worked for
was being dismantled
with each of these arrests.
[narrator] What followed
were landmark proceedings
that became known as the Maxi Trials,
with Giovanni Falcone at the helm.
[Alexander] The whole premise
of the Maxi Trial
is that you are putting the organization
of the Mafia itself on trial.
[speaking in Italian]
So the ambition of the Maxi Trial
was actually eliminating the Mafia.
[narrator] And when you're
the Mafia's boss of bosses
that's personal.
[Dana] Many mafiosi assumed
that because of Riina's
vast political connections,
that they would be not found guilty.
But out of these 475 people on trial,
342 were convicted.
But dozens of them were in absentia
because they were in hiding,
and this includes Toto Riina.
[Robin] By finding them guilty,
Falcone proved that the Sicilian Mafia
was not invincible.
You had what was called
"l'emergenza pentiti,"
the emergency of mafiosi
becoming state's witnesses.
And so Riina had to try
to somehow show the mafiosi
that if they became collaborators,
they weren't safe either.
He could get to anyone.
[narrator] On May 23rd, 1992,
the hero of the Maxi Trials,
Giovanni Falcone,
returns to Palermo with his wife.
Their arrival doesn't go unnoticed.
Falcone makes a bold choice.
Rather than riding
with his security detail,
he insists on driving his own car
from the airport to his country home,
unaware that Riina and his allies
have been plotting their revenge.
As Falcone's caravan approaches
the town of Capaci,
the trap is sprung.
Falcone and his wife
suffer fatal injuries,
and the explosion is so massive,
it registers on local earthquake sensors.
But Riina isn't finished.
Two months later, Falcone's colleague
in the anti-Mafia task force,
Paolo Borsellino, is also killed
by a car bomb
outside his mother's apartment building.
Riina's message is undeniable.
The message is, "If you mess with us,
we don't care how high we have to go,
we don't care how protected you are,
we will kill you."
[narrator] But in making
his case so vigorously,
Riina triggered
some unintended consequences.
The Italian state is so embarrassed
by the killings of Falcone and Borsellino,
they send 7,000 army troops to Sicily
to take back control of the territory.
[narrator] Six months later,
with the remnants
of Riina's Mafia under siege,
a frightened associate
leads authorities to Riina's hideout.
And the Beast is taken into custody.
[newscaster] The boss of bosses
of the Sicilian underworld,
Salvatore Riina,
was arrested two days ago.
[narrator] So now, after executing
his reign of terror entirely
from underground,
Riina is finally ready for his close-up.
It was kind of like a Wizard of Oz moment.
You know, you pull the curtain,
and it's just a little old man.
[narrator] And what harm
could he possibly have done?
[in Italian] I was only a farmer.
I worked the land as an honest man.
Salvatore Riina has four children.
He loves children.
He loves everything and everyone.
[narrator] Oh, right.
After a dominating reign
over one of organized crime's
most storied institutions,
Toto Riina would die in a prison hospital
one day after his 87th birthday.
He remained a mystery to the end,
never speaking about his crimes
or giving up his connections
in business and politics.
But if wreaking havoc from the shadows
isn't your idea of a good time,
there is another way
to chart a course as mob boss
that will let you take center stage.
It's just not the right one.
Case in point, John Gotti,
the New York Mafia kingpin
who set the playbook ablaze
in his quest to make his own rules
and become a star,
bringing down
his entire organization in the process.
Ready to learn what not to do?
[theme music playing]
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