When more than 125 suspected mobsters were rounded up in the biggest anti-mob operation ever by the FBI Thursday, a quick glance at both the names of those arrested -- sporting nicknames like "Meatball" and "Junior Lollipops" -- and the ages of the high-value targets -- none younger than 60 -- give the impression that the once almighty La Cosa Nostra has fallen on hard times.
"[The mob] is not monolithic and I think there are a lot of reasons for that," mob expert and author George Anastasia told ABC News. "Part of it is effective prosecution, which this is an example of... But also, the mob is getting old."
According to the FBI, there were six major players arrested in the 127-man round-up including the former boss of the New England La Cosa Nostra, a street boss for the Colombo family, and two consiglieres – suspected right hand men to mob leaders. Of those six, the average age was 72.
Another reason for the mafia's apparent decline is the death of "omerta" -- the code of silence. Snitches like Sammy "The Bull" Gravano helped bring down big mob figures like John Gotti in the past and Janice Fedarcyk, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York Division, said informants were "integral" to Thursday's massive bust.
Fedarcyk said Thursday the cases were "the cumulative result of years of investigative work, including the development of key cooperating witnesses -- a trend that has definitely been tipping in favor of law enforcement."
"Thirty or 40 years ago, organized crime, La Cosa Nostra, was a major player in the underworld. Their impact was greater, they made more money and the public payed a bigger price for what they were doing... As they've gotten hit again and again and again with indictments and prosecutions and as they've turned on one another, their influence has deteriorated and they don't have the same kind of impact they used to have," Anastasia said. "They just don't have the power."
Former FBI agent and ABC News consultant Brad Garrett said the Italian mafia has been losing turf to more vicious gangs and even terrorist organizations -- leaving the mob a shadow of its former self.
"Unfortunately, they seem to be pathetic, because the world they controlled no longer exists," Garrett said.
Anastasia said the other reason the traditional mob is slowly fading into the background is that any intelligent, skilled would-be members are choosing legitimate jobs in medicine and law, rather than aspiring to be "wise guys."
"The guys in the mob today are the guys who can't make it anywhere and they're not as smart as the guys say 40 or 50 years ago," Anastasia said.
But while diminished, Anastasia said the mob is still dangerous, especially the alleged leaders arrested Thursday.
"In terms of a threat, these guys can order things to happen. I don't think these guys are the ones out there firing the guns or shaking people down, but they're a threat in the sense that as long as Cosa Nostra is structured and people within the organization are following the leaders, yea, these guys are a threat in those terms," he said. "Some of these guys, even though they're old, can be really treacherous and thuggish."