The “Cosa Nostra of the South”: The unknown Mafia that had nothing to do with the Sicilians

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We are in the 1960s in the deep American South, far away from New York, Chicago and the other metropolitan areas of the northeastern states where the infamous Cosa Nostra.

Zooming in more on the map, we find Biloxi, a Mississippi town forgotten by gods and humans. But not from criminals.

You see, it was there that a small confederation of criminals and swindlers would be formed, which within a few years would be transformed into what is now known as the “Cosa Nostra of the South”.

Called the Dixie Mafia in its heyday, it was an organized crime network that operated quite differently from its world-famous sister in the North. There were no family ties, ethnic identities and hierarchies here. You did not even swear an oath to enter.

The Dixie Mafia was a rogue company that was willing to do anything, as long as there was money. But he did not stay only in their robberies blackmail and the scams, but also went to the killings and arsons.

“Everything for a dollar” shouted in the 60s the gang, which would grow in the coming years, however, spreading our illegal tentacles to all the southern states of the USA. Its members had only one obligation, not to nail to police.

As long as the inviolable rule was observed, everything went smoothly. As smooth as at least one professional association made up of criminals can run. Everyone simply brought their criminal talents to the table, creating ephemeral alliances.

For three decades, until the early 90s, the Dixie Mafia was a real threat to the societies that subjugated it. He acted uncontrollably and the target could be anyone, as long as you did something that would bother you.

Despite the overwhelming blow dealt to her by the law, there are many who believe that Cosa Nostra of the South remains active today σήμερα

The “other” Mafia

It was in the 1960s that a group of thugs rallied and came close, poisoning the cities and towns of the American South.

Without having its sophisticated hierarchy Italian-American Mafia, this criminal syndicate was “a loose network of collaborating vagrants,” as the FBI called them.

They were based on the Mississippi Biloxi and the choice was by no means random. The “Riviera of the Poor,” as the city was called a cheap tourist alternative to Florida, was in every way ideal for the headquarters of a criminal organization.

Biloxi’s criminal history was even older than in the United States, earning one of the first places as a paradise for illegal gambling since the 17th century.

This, combined with the horrific corruption of state and municipal officials, turned the city into a den of lawlessness.

Even Biloxi casinos opened in the 1940s, when gambling was officially banned in the state. But no one checked.

Authorities turned a blind eye to criminal unions so much that by the 1980s, the dividing line between law and margin had become blurred.

The FBI went so far as to classify 1983 as a whole the county sheriff’s office as a “criminal organization”! The Dixie Mafia had now set up its nets along the Mississippi Bay coastline, reaching as far as Atlanta, Georgia and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Dixie had strong ties not only with the people of the law, but also with its “colleagues” in the north. Although they did not formally associate with Cosa Nostra, the members of both showed mutual understanding when their paths intersected.

If we even talk about the scary mobster Carlos Marcello (Calogero Minacore), her “godfather” New Orleans, the ties with the gangsters of the South were closer. Marcello managed to become one of the strongest bosses in America.

He was so strong that the theory that the Mafia was behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy was at the center of it. The conspiracy theorists wanted Marcello to order the president out of the middle, in retaliation for the federal persecution that threatened his criminal empire.

It is known that the “godfather” tolerated the presence of the Dixie Mafia, it is enough to play by his rules and give their cat for their brevity.

It is also known that Marcello often recruited Dixie members as thugs, collectors, and even assassins.

“They did anything illegal down there,” said FBI Special Agent Keith Bell, a native of the area and one of the men who violently chased the Dixie Mafia.

“For money, the sheriff and the officers who were loyal to him took prisoners out of the county jail, guarded the drug transports and hid fugitives. “They were involved in whatever you can think of.”

As a former Dixie Mafia member who is now in prison put it even better: “What made them so dangerous is the fact that they do not think, they just act. There were no dividing lines, everything was allowed “…

The crimes of the organization that shocked public opinion

Despite the loose relations and the flexible structure, the criminal network of the South had in its assets several prominent cases. In 1967, for example, the Dixie Mafia decided to get rid of its No. 1 pursuer, Sheriff Buford Pusser.

It was another failed assassination attempt on him in Tennessee, but his wife was killed in the incident.

His county sheriff Tennessee he had declared war on the Mafia of the South on his own and had dealt several decisive blows to its action since 1964.

The brave sheriff had cracked down on many aspects of the mobster business in prostitution, gambling, alcohol, drugs and blackmail. The press hailed him as a national hero. He was not afraid to publicly name the man he held responsible for his wife’s murder.

He was Kirksey McCord Nix, one of the big bosses of the Dixie Mafia. Within the next few years, three prominent and high-ranking members of the organization (none of them Nix) would have mysterious deaths. Everyone held the old sheriff responsible.

On the night of February 18, 1969, at least 5 Dixie members raided a camp set up by a touring troupe. The men did their show in New Orleans and the women and children were left in the camp.

The criminals came in with masks and guns in their hands, chained the victims and stole everything they could find, some $ 12,000 in cash and valuables. In all, they killed a woman, a 44-year-old psychic who did not tell them where the safe was.

One month later, Gary Elbert McDaniel, a prominent member of the Dixie Mafia, was found dead. The FBI believed that he was eaten by them, since he was ready to testify before the authorities. Still others said that behind this death was the sheriff who became avenger, Buford Pusser.

The fall of the Dixie Mafia

By the 1980s, the Dixie Mafia had become a persistent headache for law enforcement.

What started as a criminal cycle of burglary and theft was now an organized network drug trafficking, weapons and adulterated alcohol, prostitution, extortion and murder.

A criminal syndicate operating in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. Which was particularly notable for the violence with which he handled his affairs.

The Mafia of the South had taken root in the southern states and its relations with the police and the municipality put it virtually unharmed.

Although there were no leaders in the sense of the Sicilian Mafia, everyone was referring to “Baron” Mike Gillich, who ruled a good part of the organization from his headquarters in the Biloxi casinos.

The “godfather” of Croatian origin and owner of casinos and hotels was the only person of common acceptance in the criminal union. And that made him a boss, the trust that everyone showed him. Even those who did not trust anyone.

According to the prosecutor investigating the case of the double murder of a judge and his wife by the Dixie Mafia, “Mike is running the mail of the criminals. It is the banker their”.

From the mid-1980s, however, Dixie began to lose its head. Many of its senior executives were now in prison. They managed the organization from inside the cell, but without a physical presence, things did not turn out as they would have liked.

Because it lacked precisely the rigid hierarchy and strong structure that Cosa Nostra had.

However, Dixie’s boss, Kirksey McCord Nix, did a fine job in prison. The mobster has been in Louisiana State Prison since 1972, sentenced to life in prison for murder.

From inside the cell he set up an elaborate blackmail scheme that brought his organization plenty of cash. Nix placed ads in gay magazines pretending to be a young gay man (named Eddie Johnson) who was allegedly involved with the law.

The young man was asking the unsuspecting victims for money for his legal expenses. Other inmates began to do the same prisons and members of Dixie, attracting large sums of money from many men.

“A lot of money started coming in,” said Agent Keith Bell, “there were hundreds of victims. “A guy from Kansas mortgaged his house and sent $ 30,000 to the fraudsters over a period of a few months.”

Worse still, Nix and his associates later revealed the fraud to their victims, now extorting new sums to keep their mouths shut about their sexual preferences.

According to the FBI, hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised this way. The plot was even revealed when half a million dollars were flown and everyone started blaming everyone.

Nix’s lawyer and later mayor of Biloxi, Pete Halat, accused one of his old associates in the law firm he worked of as the perpetrator. Only now Vincent Sherry was a judge based in Mississippi.

The Mafia of the South ordered him to be removed from the middle. THE judge and his wife were actually murdered inside their home in 1987. Both Nix and Halat were later convicted of double murder and convicted.

The lawyer was released from prison in 2013. Nix continues to serve his life sentence.

Since the late 1990s, the Southern Mafia has rarely been involved in journalism. For the federal police it is a story that goes far back in time. Local authorities, however, have no illusions that organized crime in the South is over.

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