December 3, 2012

Filled Under: ,

Greek Mafia in Philadelphia - PART THREE

Philadelphia (Photo credits:
Before Reading PART THREE it would be wise to read PART One and then PART TWO.

Click here for PART ONE -

Click here for PART TWO -


The plan was to finish up on the Greeks in Philly and move on to the other ethnicities that make up the underworld in the “city of brotherly love”, but I’ve received too many requests for more on this faction of the mafia. Keep in mind that every word written comes from years of research and interviews with sources who checked out as having intimate knowledge of the facts. Although many of my historical facts are well documented, there is much that has not been substantiated. Even so, it lends credit to my initial findings that the 21st century mafia is much different from what we’ve become accustomed to. The days of fedoras and cigars have been exchanged for what appear on the surface to be legitimate businessmen. But underneath, these men are financed by the same rackets as always and are as ruthless and powerful as ever before. Let us continue to cover the Greeks by getting into more detail about who they are and what it is they do. I’ve mentioned in Parts 1 & 2 that Greeks reach all across the U.S., Canada, and Europe; but I plan on keeping the focus on Philly.

The rise of the Karalis family was swift and came through sheer opportunity. One by one the top hierarchy of the Greek mafia at the time began to crumble, falling by the wayside either from prosecution or death. That left behind a void that needed filling and in stepped a couple of brothers who had already proven their worth. They already owned multiple businesses throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs, along with an enormous gambling and bookmaking operation. Their loansharking money was already in the streets and the next logical move was to organize. Together with other Greeks, they assembled a strong army of loyal soldiers that all understood their role and who was boss. The only thing left was to make a truce or war with the Italians and Irish who were around much longer. At that time they lacked the strength to declare war and chose to use both for leverage and the opportunity to grow. Working alongside well known gangsters such as Angelo Bruno and then Nicodemo Scarfo allowed them to continue prospering while simultaneously gaining more footing in the rackets. This was a time when other ethnicities were at war amongst themselves and knew the Greeks had plenty of soldiers to help and as I stated in Part 2, they chose the winning side to back and the fighting eventually came to an end. Greeks primarily dealt with Greeks and whether it was protection or the need to satisfy a vice, the Karalis family was able to provide both, and with the backing of the already well established Italian and Irish mafias behind them, their power and influence grew rapidly.

This time of peace and prosperity lasted all through the 80′s and 90′s in Philadelphia. With the gaining of respect from other Greek mafia families across the country and abroad, the Karalis family was growing in numbers and power quicker than any branch of justice could keep up with. Add their incomparable ability to remain anonymous and refrain from the public eye, and it’s not inconceivable to see why there is almost nothing documenting their stronghold of the Greek mafia even today. In part 2 we covered some of the history and also many of the details of how they’ve gotten to where they are in 2012.

We know that Andreas is the “theo” and controls every facet of the family’s movements. There are now hundreds of soldiers who are under the protection and command of the almost unknown boss. I’ve written about the legitimite businesses they own and occupy throughout Philly and the world really.

Unlike other mafias where very few men in the top positions get the opportunity to retire and disappear into the sunset, that is not the case with the Greeks. Maybe it’s because of the fact so many within each of the different families are actually blood relatives, or maybe it’s because of their rules and oaths. But either way I’ve found that many of the bosses and captians, all the way through the ranks down to soldiers who’ve never gotten “made”, being able to leave what is refered to as “the life or lifestyle” doesn’t appear to be a problem. Just the opposite, it’s expected that when one no longer has the drive or need to be an official member, they are relieved of their duties and responsibilities without any repercussions.

I mention this because in the Karalis family, except for 2 brothers who live the majority of the time in Greece, and the theo Andreas, the remaining siblings still alive today are retired.

I have yet to find any source willing to share the exact oath taken when a soldier becomes an official “made” member of the Greek mafia, but I have been able to verify that the process of receiving your button or getting “up-ed” as they say is a difficult one. In fact, there are more soldiers than made members which illustrates how serious receiving the honor is. It’s a known fact Gianni, the son of Apostoli and favorite of current boss Andreas was the youngest soldier to ever be made at what many believe to be the age of 23. This would mean he reached this degree of the Greek mafia in only 5 or 6 years, compared to what my research suggests usually takes well over a decade to accomplish. What’s most impressive about this feat is that few credit the coup to his lineage, instead his alleged history and the circulating rumors all reveal it was earned through sheer determination and dedication. Put more straightforward, it was procured by displaying fearlessness, loyalty, and most of all the desire to gain power and respect by any means necessary, not hesitating to get his hands dirty.

Before I take a closer look at the main figures, let me try to paint a picture of how it is the mafia of today works as far as the Greeks go. The captains are in charge of a rather large crew and they are responsible for the wellbeing of that crew. They ensure the crew has financial backing if needed, protection when it’s called for, and are there to serve as organizers and advisors for lieutenants, as well as all made members under them. On top of that, they have to answer to the boss or theo and need to keep the money flowing upwards, while taking a generous piece of the action for themselves. This is probably the toughest of all positions based on the fact the captain has the most people under his command. I’ve explained previously that one of the known rules of the Greeks is that all made members must operate some type of legitimate business, which means the captains must oversee every single one owned by a crew member.

Unlike Italians, few made members ever reach captain status. Most who make their way up the ladder end up reaching only as high as lieutenant. Each captain may have as many as 10 lieutenants under his watch and dozens of made men and soldiers, who all must report directly to the superior above them, who in turn reports to the captain and rarely ever gets the chance to speak to the boss. Meetings with more than just the captains are said to be conducted by the underboss only, making the ones with the “theo” between him and his captains only. This ensures the boss is insulated from anyone other than the most loyal family members.

For the Karalis’, many blood relatives hold posts within the different levels and both Ceasar and Alex are captains and first cousins. Till recently there were only five known captains and surprisingly Gianni was not one of them, choosing instead to control the bookmaking and gambling operations only. My latest research concludes that has changed as recently as this year. I can report with confidence that he has been “up-ed” to a captain and is looked at as the highest ranking member of the family in Las Vegas, surpassing the authority of the previous captain that Gianni had to report to.

This position has been waiting for him to accept and one his “theo” had offered many times through the years since proving his worth. It’s unknown why Gianni suddenly changed his mind but whatever the reason, the boss has to be thrilled. Let’s not forget the fact the newly appointed captain has been in the rackets since the age of 17 and gained a reputation for being a very serious man who’s earned a lot of respect from the entire family and just as important, from the other mafias in bed with the Greeks. Someone who grew up with Gianni once told me that from a young age if he wasn’t given respect, he made no hesitation to take it by any means. With all my research pointing in the direction that he will eventually be the “theo” of the entire Karalis family, which in turn will make him one of the premier leaders of the Greek mafia amongst the 16 families in this country, I have dedicated a lot of time into covering this very complex individual. It’s almost as if he’s able to live two completely separate lives and magically never have them cross.

Much of the day Gianni is a professional sports handicapper and gambler known as Vegasrunner, speaking to the media and being willing and even inviting attention. Then the remainder of the day he’s able to be a top ranking mafia figure who is now in charge of a wealth of businesses in Las Vegas and elsewhere. In my humble opinion I believe when he was just a lieutenant in charge of the gambling operations it was a convenience to be able to mask a lot of what he did as Vegasrunner. Now though, his duties include overseeing all of the businesses; food establishments, transportation, poker machine routes inside various bars and restaurants. Not to mention the loansharking, protection rackets, strip club, escort services, amongst the underworld dealings.

It will be interesting to see how all this plays out. Thus far it’s been reported everything in Las Vegas is thriving now more than ever before with a new man in charge. But my guess is he will eventually move on to another city, possibly back to Philadelphia after organizing it all and putting key lieutenants in charge, who will report to him. The reason for this prediction is eventually he will no longer be able to keep all of his dealings hidden and the attention that comes with his other-self will make not being in Vegas the obvious choice.

The Karalis family is one of the 16 that make up the Greek mafia of today in the U.S. Here are the key players who make up the organization and have given a life oath to their ”theo” :

Caesar, Alex, Gianni, Demitri, Alex (there’s a few), Georgios, and Nick.

In the next and what should be final installment of the Greek Mafia in Philadelphia I will share the intimate details and history of each of these man, including the boss and underboss. It’s the part I know most have been waiting for and I have no doubt it will amaze you to see that life often does reflects art. The art I’m referring to is more cinematic than anything else, think Tony and Christopher in Sopranos, Vito and Michael Corleone in The Godfather, and recently Thompson, Rossetti, Rothstein, and Capone in Boardwalk Empire. These men’s stories will shock and entertain at the very same time, especially when you realize they are true.

There will be rumors and innuendos of murders and assassinations, and the horrific way one of the main characters in this real life drama passed. I’ll include details on how these men were raised, to see if we can uncover why some people can go into the “lifestyle” and others could not. The finale will explain how the grooming of a future boss is conducted, along with guesses and facts as to why in mid stride a calculated and organized move to Greece was made.

Ironically it will coincide with the end of 2012 and together we can ring in 2013, when I cover the other ethnicities that make up the Philly Mob.

The articles posted on HellasFrappe are for entertainment and education purposes only. The views expressed here are solely those of the contributing author and do not necessarily reflect the views of HellasFrappe. Our blog believes in free speech and does not warrant the content on this site. You use the information at your own risk.