Zips


Zips

:"For the region on the Polish-Slovak border, see Spiš. For other uses, see Zip."

Zips (also "Siggies" or "Geeps") is a slang term often used as a derogatory slur by Italian American mobsters in reference to immigrant Sicilian and Italian mafiosi. The name is said to have originated from mobsters' inability to understand the faster-speaking Sicilian dialects, which appeared to "zip" by. Other theories include pejorative uses such as Sicilians' appetite for ziti or their preference for silent, homemade zip guns. Ironically, the older Sicilian mafiosi of pre-Prohibition known as "Mustache Petes" (who eventually were deposed by American-born mobsters during the Castellammarese War) were also referred to as "zips".

Arrival in the United States

With increasing violence and increasing government presence in Italy, Sicilians and Neapolitans alike found positions in the growing drug trafficking market of New York's Five Families. The Pizza Connection, a heroin drug trafficking operation involving Bonanno crime family Capo Salvatore Catalano and Sicilian mafioso Gaetano Badalamenti, was largely organized by Zips.

However, younger Sicilian mafiosi, comparable to their Irish counterparts the Westies, soon became known for their reckless and undisciplined behavior causing unwanted attention to New York's crime families. Despite their actions, the group was tolerated as they were able to earn millions for the crime families, specifically the Bonanno and Gambino crime families as both Carmine Galante and Carlo Gambino often used Zips for narcotics and murder.

Yet, many American mobsters distrusted the Zips, as Bonanno crime family soldier Benjamin "Lefty" Ruggerio explained in a conversation to then undercover federal agent Donnie Brasco:

:"Lots of people hate him [Galante] ....There's only a few people he's close to. And that's mainly the Zips.... Those guys are always with him. He brought them over from Sicily, and he uses them for different pieces of work and for dealing all that junk [drugs] . They're as mean as he is. You can't trust those bastard Zips. Nobody can. Except the Old Man."

The Pizza Connection

With Galante's cooperation, as well as support from Sicilian mafiosi, the Zips' influence and power in New York's underworld grew. Eventually they were able to arrange a working relationship between American and Sicilian mafiosi to begin large scale drug trafficking operations to distribute heroin into the United States; Sicilian mafiosi would purchase the morphine base in the Middle East, where it would be processed into heroin, before being shipped to New York for distribution.

Supplying support services and specific areas for distribution, New York's crime families collected a percentage of income from drug dealers while keeping themselves distanced from federal prosecution.

By the late 1970s, Galante had been bringing in large numbers of Zips for the rapidly growing heroin distribution market (which had been peaking at $10 million a year).

References

*Kelly, Robert J. "Encyclopedia of Organized Crime in the United States". Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2000. ISBN 0-313-30653-2
*Sifakis, Carl. "The Mafia Encyclopedia". New York: Facts On File Inc., 2005. ISBN 0-8160-5694-3

Further reading

*Sterling, Claire. "Octopus: The Long Reach of the International Sicilian Mafia". 1990.


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