By Jim Williams

(CBS) — It can be argued that at one time the Chicago Outfit was the most powerful crime organization in the country. From the shores of Lake Michigan to California, Windy City mobsters controlled gambling, loan sharking, labor unions and even politicians and judges.

The Outfit backed up its enterprise with ruthless muscle, leaving a trail of murders from Chicago to California. Rivals were ambushed, blown up, stabbed to death.

READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Storms Headed Our Way After Midnight; Damaging Winds And Heavy Rain Possible

“This will be a slight exaggeration: there wasn’t a week that went by that I don’t think there was a body somewhere,” says former federal prosecutor Gary Shapiro.

Gangsters weren’t just killing each other. Businesses were extorted. Pay up or else.

READ MORE: Years After Promise Of $100,000 From State And Photo-Op Prop Check, AMVETS Post 14 In Clinton, Illinois Has Not Seen A Dime

“They set businesses on fire. They blew them up. They killed people. It was hard to do business if you weren’t paying off the mob,” says former federal prosecutor Andrea Zopp.

Once a weekly occurrence, mob hits today are rare. The Outfit’s stranglehold on Chicago has weakened considerably.

MORE NEWS: Some Residents Say A Bears Move To Arlington Heights Would Benefit Community, Others Say It Would Bring Unwelcome Traffic And Crowds

This is the story of how it happened.