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Capo Bastone or "Sotto Capo", known as the "Underboss" is second in command to the Capo Crimini. It is a rank in the American and Italianmarker Mafia. The Underboss is sometimes a family member, such as a son, that will take over the family if the don is sick, killed, or sent to prison. In the American Mafia, it is the second highest rank a member can achieve, the highest being boss. The Italian Mafia has an additional rank above boss known as the capo di tutti capi (this position was filled in the U.S. by Salvatore Maranzano in the 1930s, but is non-existent today in the American Cosa Nostra. The position's existence is debated for the Sicilian Cosa Nostra).

The power of an underboss greatly varies; some are marginal figures, while others are the most powerful individuals in the family. Traditionally they run day to day affairs of the family. In some crime families, the appointment is for life. If a new boss takes over a family already with an underboss, he may marginalize or even murder him. On other hand, if a boss receives a prison term, the underboss may become acting boss. As bosses often can expect to serve large periods of time in prison, an acting boss will often become the effective don. Even with the boss not in prison, sometimes the underboss will gain so much power that they will be the effective head of the organization, and the boss will become a figurehead. An underboss is likely to have incriminating information about the boss, and so bosses often appoint people close to them to the underboss position to protect themselves.

In most families, the underboss arbitrates many of the disputes that arise. Depending on the seriousness of the problem, he may or may not consult with the boss. Some conflicts are immediately bucked up to the boss. In those cases, the underbosses usually sits in and offers his opinion. In either event, everyone knows that the ultimate authority rests at the boss level. This sometimes chafes the ego of an ambitious underboss and can lead to problems.

Monetary compensation is received by the underboss in various ways. For example, he may be involved as a partner in several rackets and thus get a cut. In addition, several capos may pass their envelopes through the underboss on their way to the top. He takes a percentage before passing the remainder to the boss. However he makes his illegal earnings, it is a significant enough amount to make his position one of envy, especially when prestige and the possibility of additional advancement are weighed. Sometimes an underboss will have his own crew.

Just like the boss of a family, an underboss may also have a right hand man. This right hand man may speak in place of an underboss or carry out additional tasks for the underboss.

Famous Underbosses

American Cosa Nostra

  • Sammy Gravano, John Gotti's underboss after the murder of Frank DeCicco. He later turned informant when he learned that John Gotti had made degrading comments behind his back and may have wanted to use him as a scapegoat.


  • Maas, Peter, Underboss: Sammy the Bull Gravano's Story of Life in the Mafia. NY: Harper Collins, 1997. ISBN 0-06-093096-9
  • Capeci, Jerry. The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mafia. Indianapolis: Alpha Books, 2002. ISBN 0-02-864225-2

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