Showing posts with label Dominick Napolitano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dominick Napolitano. Show all posts

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Mafia Book Not So Easy to Forget About: The Last Godfather: The Rise and Fall of Joey Massino

Sometimes "forget about it" means just that - forget about it.

In the case of The Last Godfather: The Rise and Fall of Joey Massino, forget about it - it's a must-read for mafia nuts everywhere.

The book has everything a fan of "The Sopranos" could possibly desire: murder, mayhem and a plethora of shady characters with colorful names like Benjamin "Lefty Guns" Ruggiero, Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano and "Patty Muscles."

The story concerns the rise to power and eventual downfall of Joseph Massino, a capo in the Bonanno crime family, one of the infamous five families of New York. After eliminating his rivals, Massino became capo di tutti capi, boss of bosses. At one point he had over 100 men and was involved in every conceivable racket, everything from "pump and dump" stock market schemes to good old loan sharking. After the FBI cracked down on organized crime in the '80s, he was the last don walking the streets.

And then it all came tumbling down, due in part to the infiltration of the family by FBI agent Joseph "Donnie Brasco" Pistone.

The Bonannos - named after Joseph "Joey Bananas" Bonanno - boasted an impressive track record of never having had a rat in their midst. During its nearly 100-year existence, members would often go to the electric chair before dishonoring the family. This was part of omerta, the conspiracy of silence, that made the Mafia so successful. But by the late '90s, the honor among thieves had largely dissolved. High-ranking members were ready to jump ship and sell out their compatriots rather than face brutally long stints in prison. One by one, Massino's capos turned on him, ratting him out for the murder of Alphonse "Sonny Red" Indelicato, an infamous mob murder dramatized in the film "Donnie Brasco."

If this sounds like a lot of back story, it isn't. The book jumps back and forth between courtroom testimony and an account of the family's activities in the late '70s and early '80s. The story involves hundreds of people and dozens of murders, and a dizzying amount of shadiness.

The book, while fascinating, is written rather poorly. It's sentences are clunky, and the author usually explains his rather elementary metaphors. This is mildly insulting to one's intelligence, but the story is fascinating enough to leave the bad writing as little more than a minor irritation. If you need something to while away the nearly eternal dead space between "Sopranos" episodes, this book has you covered.

Thanks to John Bear

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

How Joseph Charles Massino become Known as #TheLastDon

Born on Jan. 10, 1943 in New York City, Joseph Charles Massino is a former member of the Italian Mafia who was the boss of the Bonanno crime family from 1991 to 2004. During his 13 years running the crime syndicate, the powerful Massino was known as “The Last Don,” as he was the only New York mob leader at the time not in prison. However, he is perhaps best known as the first boss of one of the notorious five Mafia families to turn state’s evidence and cooperate with the government in prosecuting other Mafiosi. The ex-mobster entered the Witness Protection Program after his 2013 release from prison and his whereabouts are unknown.

One of three boys raised in Maspeth, Massino claimed he was a juvenile delinquent by age 12 and he was a high school dropout at age 15. He married Josephine Vitale in 1960, and soon began supporting his wife and three daughters through a life of crime, with brother-in-law Salvatore as one of his earliest associates.

By the late 1960s, the future Don was running a truck hijacking crew as an associate of the Bonanno family. He fenced his stolen goods and ran numbers from a lunch wagon which he used as a front for his illicit business. In 1975, Massino participated in a mob murder with brother-in-law Salvatore and future Gambino family head John Gotti. Two years after “making his bones” by killing for the mob, the Maspeth native became a made member of the Bonanno family. Joe Massino was on his way to the top of a criminal empire.

Following the 1979 murder of acting family boss Carmine Galante at a Brooklyn restaurant, Massino began jockeying for power with other Bonanno capos. Ever cunning and ready to use violence to serve his ends, he eliminated several key rivals in 1981. One capo who allegedly fell before The Last Don’s ambition was Dominick “Sonny Black” Napolitano, who allowed undercover FBI agent Joe Pistone to infiltrate his crew under the name Donnie Brasco. Upon hearing about the unprecedented breach of mob security, Massino said of the disgraced capo: “I have to give him a receipt for the Donnie Brasco situation.”

The mobster’s climb to the top would not be without pitfalls, however. In 1987, when some believe he was already the underboss, Massino and Bonanno family head Philip Rastelli were sent to federal prison on labor racketeering charges. Following Rastelli’s death in 1991, Joe Massino was named boss of the Bonanno family while still incarcerated.

Under his leadership, the Bonanno crime syndicate regained the prestige it lost following the FBI undercover operation, and by 2000, with many other Mafia leaders in prison, Massino was considered the most powerful don in the nation. His time at the top would prove short lived. In 2004, The Last Don was indicted for murder and racketeering based on the testimony of other made mobsters, including underboss and brother-in-law Salvatore Vitale. Facing the death penalty if found guilty, Massino agreed to turn against his former associates and testify as a government witness. Although initially sentenced to life in prison, in 2013 he was resentenced to time served.

A Joe Massino quote: “There are three sides to every story. Mine, yours and the truth.”

Thanks to Greater Astoria Historical Society.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Joe Pistone - Legendary Lawman

Past issues of Legendary Lawmen have been key figures from our past. This month features a bit more recent individual. Many of you may already know him by his alias but may not know the story behind the man. Here is an individual that put his life on the line and his family on hold in an effort to bring down key figures within the mafia.

In 1969 Joe Pistone became an undercover FBI agent. In September 1976 he volunteered to infiltrate the Bonnano family and shortly there after, Donnie Brasco was born. Pistone would spend six years as a low-level jewel thief informing on the goings on inside the mob during some of the most volatile power struggles in organized crime. His story has been told in books, articles and in a major motion picture.

Joseph Dominick Pistone was born 1939 in Erie, Pennsylvania. Growing up in Paterson, New Jersey he graduated from Paterson State in 1965, receiving a degree in anthropology. Following a year as a teacher at Paterson School No. 10, Pistone secured a job at the Office of Naval Intelligence. From 1969 thru 1974 Pistone worked various jobs within the Bureau. In 1974 he was transferred to New York to work in the truck hijacking unit.

It was his ability to drive 18-wheeler and bulldozers that led him to work undercover infiltrating a vehicle theft ring. This assignment resulted in over 30 arrests and cemented Pistone's legend within law enforcement. Pistone was not only handy behind the wheel, he was also of Sicilian heritage and spoke Italian fluently. Of course growing up in Paterson, New Jersey didn't hurt matters either; he was already accustomed to the Mafia's idiosyncrasies.

During the 1970s there was a major influx of Sicilian mobsters coming to the United States which caused a great deal of tension with their U.S. counterparts. Pistone entered into the family while this rift was occurring. Many accusations and much finger-pointing went on during this time and Pistone soon found himself in the middle of being called out for stealing a quarter million dollars from the family. The penalty for such an infraction was death. After three sit-downs with the accuser (Tony Mirra) and his representatives, Pistone (Brasco) was found innocent of the theft.

Pistone was taken into the fold by Bonanno family capo Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano. He would eventually be tutored by Benjamin "Lefty Guns" Ruggiero, a Bonanno soldier. Ruggiero would eventually provide the FBI agent with details on the activities of other crews outside of the Bonanno family. Pistone was eventually invited into the family as a "made man". To accomplish this Pistone would have to kill someone at the order of Napolitano. Once again the agent got lucky; his target, Anthony Indelicato, would vanish before Pistone/Brasco would be able to carry out the killing. The year was 1981.

Following the order to kill Indelicato, Anthony's father Alphonse Indelicato, together with Phillip "Philly Lucky" Giaccone and Dominick "Big Trin" Trinchera were found murdered. Two days later, Napolitano and Ruggiero were informed that their longtime associate was in fact an undercover FBI agent. Ruggiero was arrested by the FBI and served 20 years in prison. Napolitano was subsequently murdered for allowing an undercover agent to infiltrate the family. On august 12, 1982, his body was found with several gunshot wounds and his hands were cut off. Pistone's testimony would help uncover an extensive drug distribution network that was being run out of New York City pizzerias. His relationship with Napolitano and Ruggiero would eventually lead to more than 200 indictments and over 100 convictions of mafia members.

In 1986 Pistone retired from the FBI and currently does lectures and training. Pistone would go on to write Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia (1987). This would eventually develop into the major motion picture staring Johnny Depp (as Brasco) and Al Pacino (as Ruggiero). Two subsequent books would later detail his experiences; The Way of the Wiseguy (2004) and Donnie Brasco: Unfinished Business (2007).

Thanks to Charles Bennett

Charles Bennett was born in our Nation's Capital and grew up in the Maryland suburbs. Mr. Bennett has been working in all aspects of the publishing industry since the late 1980s primarily in the fields of commercial photography and magazine production. Moving to California in 1992 to attend college resulted in B.F.A and Masters degrees. California also supplied Mr. Bennett with his wife. The two of them are avid sports persons and participate in shooting, scuba diving, surfing, running and bicycling. As a long time hobby Mr. Bennett has studied the legends of American law enforcement which led to his writing these columns.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Junior Gotti Awakens Mob Ghosts in Tampa

The ghosts of Tampa's old-time wiseguys awakened this summer when Mafia scion John "Junior" Gotti came to town in handcuffs, accused of pulling the strings in a bunch of classic mobster crimes.

The federal indictment against him reads like a plot summary for "The Sopranos." The 44-year-old Gotti — son of the late "Dapper Don" of the notorious Gambino crime family — allegedly had his fingers in everything: whacking rivals, trafficking cocaine, bribery, kidnapping and money-laundering. Earlier convictions show Gambino crews have worked for years to get a foothold in the Tampa area's criminal underworld.

If the charges against Gotti are true, then he was a Johnny-come-lately to organized crime around here.

The fabric of the Tampa region's history is richly woven with stories of ruthless gangsters who first grabbed control of illegal gambling and liquor distribution during Prohibition, executed rivals with point-blank shotgun blasts, bribed public officials, controlled the narcotics trade and eventually broadened their influence across the Sunshine State and pre-Castro Cuba.

They were menacing, old-school mobsters who went by nicknames like "The Hammer," "Scarface," "Cowboy," "The Fat Man," "The Colonel," "Big Joe" and "Silent Sam."

Infamous in the city's lore is the "Era of Blood," when 25 gangsters were gunned down on the streets as Italian, Cuban and Anglo underworld factions battled for power from the 1920s to the '50s. And a Godfather-like legend surrounds Tampa-born crime boss Santo Trafficante Jr., who took over the Sicilian Mafia in Florida from his father in 1954 and built a criminal empire that was the envy of mob families across the country.

"Trafficante was the boss of Florida," says Joseph D. Pistone, a former FBI agent whose six years undercover with the mob were chronicled in the 1997 Johnny Depp movie "Donnie Brasco." "Miami was an open city, like Las Vegas. But if you operated in Tampa or other parts of the state, you had to go through Trafficante."

During his last two years with Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano's Bonanno family crew, Pistone came to Florida often to help broker an alliance with Trafficante, whose blessing was needed for the Brooklyn crew to operate an illegal gambling joint northwest of Tampa. The eventual FBI takedown of the Kings Court club in 1981 is depicted in "Donnie Brasco."

In another movie, "Goodfellas" (1990), New York gangsters played by Ray Liotta and Robert De Niro come to Tampa in 1970 and put the screws to a guy who won't pay his gambling debts. He finally agrees to pay up after they take him to the city zoo and threaten to feed him to the lions.

That all really happened — except for the lion part. Lucchese family soldiers Henry Hill and Jimmy Burke just gave the welcher an old-fashioned beating, ending up at a dingy north Tampa bar that still stands across the street from the Busch Gardens amusement park. But it's true that the beaten bettor had a sister who worked in the Tampa FBI office, which led to arrests and prison terms for the two wiseguys.

That's trivia that few but Scott Deitche remember. He literally wrote the book on Tampa's organized crime history — called "Cigar City Mafia: A Complete History of the Tampa Underworld" — and followed it up last year with a Trafficante biography.

Miami might be more associated with mob activity, but Deitche says organized crime in Florida is firmly rooted in Tampa, where Cuban, Spanish and Italian immigrants established communities in the city's cigar-making center of Ybor City in the early 20th century. One of the early rackets was bolita, a popular, low-stakes lottery game.

"You had drugs, prostitution, rum-running, bootlegging during Prohibition, some alien smuggling, but bolita was the main moneymaker," says Deitche over lunch recently at Ybor City's historic Columbia restaurant — a favorite dining spot of Trafficante and a host of mobsters over the years.

"Through bolita you got into corruption of the local government, corruption of the sheriff's department," he says. "So from there you really saw the emergence of the Italian Mafia, and the Italian Mafia eventually eclipsed all the other ones."

Howard Abadinsky, an organized-crime expert who teaches a class on the subject at St. John's University, says the growth of organized crime in Florida mirrored what was happening in society at-large. There was opportunity and money to be made in Florida, attracting not only aboveboard entrepreneurs but mobsters from the five New York Mafia families as well. Many bought houses and lived here for part of the year.

"The mob moved to Florida just like legitimate people," Abadinsky says. "There was plenty of money for everyone."

But it was the soft-spoken, even-tempered Trafficante — known as the "Silent Don" — who put the mob on the map in Florida. He also became the most influential Mafia figure in Cuba, running hotels and casinos, buying up property and laundering money through the island before Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 and kicked him out.

Trafficante, in public hearings, acknowledged cooperating with secret U.S. government efforts to kill Castro. And his name is often mentioned in a conspiracy theory surrounding President John F. Kennedy's assassination, but he vehemently denied having anything to do with it. He never spent a night in an American jail.

Trafficante's death after heart surgery in 1987 ended the Mafia's heyday in Florida, but the experts say it hasn't been snuffed out. A 2006 federal trial in Tampa exposed the activities of a Gambino crew led by capo Ronald Trucchio, who because of a deformed limb was known by the nickname "Ronnie One-Arm."

His crew was accused of a slew of wiseguy crimes, including trying to control the lucrative valet parking business in Tampa. He and three other Gambino associates were convicted of racketeering and conspiracy to commit extortion, with Trucchio getting life in prison.

Now comes Junior Gotti, who was arrested at his Long Island home in August and hauled to Tampa. His attorney scoffs at the charges, saying the feds have mounted an "epic quest" to take Gotti down after failing to convict him in three federal trials in New York. Gotti says he retired years ago from the criminal life and has pleaded not guilty to the Tampa charges. He remains jailed without bond pending a trial, which could happen sometime next year.

Abadinsky says the mob is still around, in Florida, New York and elsewhere, but it's a shadow of its former self. Gangsters today don't wield the power, control the unions or have the political connections of their predecessors.

While the "The Sopranos," the wildly popular HBO TV series about a New Jersey mob family, was a great recruiting tool for the Mafia, there are fewer young men willing to take up the life these days, Abadinsky says.

"The new guys," he says, "are whole lot less interesting."

Thanks to Mitch Stacy

Friday, March 14, 2008

How Joe Pistone and the FBI Used Intel to Stop the Mob

Dominick “Sonny Black” Napolitano just couldn’t believe it.

On July 26, 1981, he and his fellow wise guys learned that Donnie Brasco—who they knew as a small-time jewelry thief and burglar, who they thought was their partner and even their friend, who they were about to officially induct into the Bonnano crime family—was actually FBI Agent Joe Pistone.

Pistone had fooled them all with a masterful acting job that had begun in 1976 and lasted six long years. He had appeared in “Little Italy” in New York City as a stranger and outsider, slowly meeting and making friends with a series of mobsters, gaining their trust, making it look like he was participating in their life of crime—all the while secretly gathering vital intelligence on the Mafia and its criminal ways.

It wasn’t easy, to be sure. Pistone had to think, talk, and act like a crook (he spent two full weeks, for example, studying the jewelry industry). He had to know the rules of the Mafia game. He had to tell lies—lots of lies—convincingly, about who he was and what he was up to. He had to make friends with mobsters and criminals and be separated from family and friends for long stretches of time, even on holidays.

It was incredibly dangerous work as well. While playing his part, Pistone could have been seen with the wrong person or been recognized by someone he knew. His various recording devices could have been exposed or gone haywire and given him away. He might have let a word slip. The slightest mistake or accident could have cost him his life. His mission was so secret that only a handful in the FBI knew about it.

The decision to put Pistone into this undercover role was made by our office in New York City, home of the five main Mafia families—Bonanno, Gambino, Colombo, Genovese, and Lucchese. In years past, we’d had some success in gathering intelligence on the mob, but typically only around the edges. The core—the leadership—was often untouchable because of the Mafia's code of silence. Agents in our New York office decided to try out a longer-term undercover operation—one of the first of its kind. But even they had no idea that it would end up lasting so long and bearing so much fruit.

And what an intelligence goldmine it was. The operation gave us a window into the inner workings of the Mafia generally and the Bonanno family specifically (and to a lesser degree, some of the other families), not only in New York, but in Florida, Michigan, and elsewhere. We learned firsthand who the players were, what kinds of rackets they were running, and what rules they played by. And it ultimately led to more than 100 federal convictions.

The end game. The tool that Pistone and a small band of agents bravely pioneered in the ‘70s was used again and again with great effect over the next three decades, generating intelligence that helped us target and take down major criminal enterprises and deal a serious blow to the Mafia. And it became a staple of our intelligence tradecraft, a crucial arrow in the quiver we use to protect the American people.

Thanks to the FBI.

Madisonavemall.com Discounts

Monday, January 29, 2007

Joe Pistone Confesses to Crimes as Mob Mole

Legendary FBI agent Joe Pistone is confessing for the first time that he broke the law during the years he spent undercover as mob wanna-be Donnie Brasco.

Warehouse burglaries. Beatings. Truck hijackings. And even a conspiracy to murder a Bonanno crime family capo.

In his new memoir, Pistone details the crimes he committed to prove his loyalty to the gang he eventually took down. "Sometimes you have to do stuff you don't normally do, you wouldn't do," Pistone told the Daily News, which got an exclusive peek at "Donnie Brasco: Unfinished Business."

For instance, there was the phone call that came in 1981 when Pistone and his mob buddies were playing cards in Brooklyn's Motion Lounge.

It was a tip that Bonanno big Anthony (Bruno) Indelicato, who took part in the infamous 1979 rubout of Gambino boss Carmine Galante, was camped out on Staten Island.

On the orders of his own capo, Dominick (Sonny Black) Napolitano, Pistone headed out to find Indelicato - with a .25-caliber automatic.

It turned out the caller had bum information, but the former lawman admits he would have pulled the trigger on Indelicato before jeopardizing his life or the operation. "If Bruno's there, he's gone," Pistone writes.

"If I have to put a bullet in his head, I will, and I'll deal with the federal government and the Staten Island DA later. ... There's no doubt they both would charge me for murder. The Bureau would brand me a rogue agent and hang me out."

During his six years infiltrating Sonny Black's vicious crew, Pistone dug up enough evidence to put away nearly 200 mobsters, all while making life-or-death decisions on how far to take his role-playing.

Now 65, the New Jersey native lives with his wife in an unidentified location, but will come out of hiding for a book tour in the coming weeks.

Over the years, Pistone - portrayed by Johnny Depp in the 1997 movie "Donnie Brasco" - has been cagey when discussing how he gained the trust of an insular gang of suspicious men because revealing more could have damaged prosecutions. But his most revealing book to date details the incredible lengths he went to.

Take the beating he delivered on two druggies dumb enough to stick up Pistone and his mob pal Benjamin (Lefty Guns) Ruggiero in the stairwell of a Little Italy walkup. "You just saw two dead punks run down the stairs," Ruggiero told him.

At Ruggiero's urging, Pistone caught up with them a few days later near Little Italy and meted out the punishment. "He hit the pavement as if I'd had a roll of dimes in my right fist," Pistone writes.

"I looked down at the kid on the ground and realized he was out cold and so I sprung suddenly and hauled off an overhand right on the other one and he went down ... "From the kidney blows they bled piss for weeks. And until the breaks healed they had no use of their fingers for such things as shooting a gun."

It was savage, but Pistone says the beating saved their lives. "Otherwise they would have got killed," Pistone said. "Either I go take care of it or they [the mob] will. You don't stick up a wiseguy and live to tell about it." He's quick to point out that the assaults he carried out always involved thieves or other wiseguys. "No citizens got hurt," he said.

Pistone also admits getting cuts of between $2,500 and $5,000 from warehouse burglaries he took part in but says he turned over the money to the FBI.

He doesn't offer details on the hijackings he carried out. But he admits that "my participation in Mafia hijacking has always been an open sore for me, something that I have hesitated to talk about."

Even after 30 years, Pistone is still angry that the FBI didn't let him stay undercover longer so that he could become a made man. "Imagine if I had been made," Pistone writes. "It would have been the biggest humiliation the Mafia had ever suffered. And it was the one chance the FBI would ever have to pull it off.

"Imagine the embarrassment for the Mafia from coast to coast and all the way to Sicily when the news got out that the exalted Bonanno crime family had made an agent."

Thanks to Thomas Zambito


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