The Omaha Steaks God Bless America Memorial Day Special

Showing posts with label Donnie Brasco. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Donnie Brasco. 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.

Friday, June 26, 2015

National Geographic Channel Infiltrates Centuries of Deadly Secrets INSIDE THE MAFIA

Four-Hour Series Pierces Inner Workings and Violent History of the Criminal Corporation With Global Reach

Through a pop culture lens, the notorious and mysterious Mafia is typically seen as entertainment: The Godfather; The Sopranos; Goodfellas; Donnie Brasco. Now the National Geographic Channel (NGC) exposes the dramatic history and infiltrates the legendary secrecy of one of the world's most powerful criminal organizations in the four-hour world premiere event, INSIDE THE MAFIA.

Narrated by Ray Liotta -- star of the film Goodfellas -- INSIDE THE MAFIA will premiere Monday, June 13 and Tuesday, June 14, 2005 from 9 to 11 pm. ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel (encore Sunday, June 19 from 7 to 11 p.m. ET). Four programs -- Mafia? What Mafia?, Going Global, The Great Betrayal and The Godfathers -- chronologically trace the growth of the U.S. and Sicilian Mafias, as well as the determined American and Italian efforts to stop it.

"It's not personal; it's just business" is a popular catchphrase attributed to the Mafia's code of honor. And big business it is -- its global assets were on par with some of the richest corporations in the world, bursting for a time with billions in annual profits derived from much of the world's drug trade.

With remarkable access to FBI and DEA agents as well as members of crime families, INSIDE THE MAFIA provides the complete behind-the-scenes story of this powerful enterprise known for its ruthlessness and brutality.

Featured are new and original interviews with influential mobsters like Henry Hill, portrayed by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, and Gambino family soldier Dominick Montiglio, and, on the law enforcement side, Joseph Pistone, the fearless real-life FBI agent who infiltrated the Mafia as "Donnie Brasco," and DEA undercover agent Frank Panessa, among many others.

Cutthroat deals, gangland assassinations and secret rituals within the infamous global mob are described by these insiders in intimate detail. "The bathroom door was slightly open and there were two bodies hanging with their throats cut," said Montiglio. "Everyone had butcher's kits and they sawed off everything ... chopped off the head, arms, etcetera. Then put them in a box and took 'em to the dumpster. Suffice to say, none of them were ever found."

In addition to inside access to important characters and events, the special uses contemporary and archival news footage, FBI and Italian police surveillance, telephone intercepts, transcriptions from major Mafia trials and dramatic reenactments of clandestine meetings and violent confrontations.

INSIDE THE MAFIA interweaves two parallel stories. The first is the emergence of a "new Mafia" after a historic deal between American and Italian mob families to control the international heroin trade. The second is the tale of the strong anti-Mafia campaign, spearheaded by a small group of law officers determined to permanently undermine the culture and infrastructure of the Cosa Nostra.

Over the course of the series, viewers will become familiar with a core group of warring protagonists. In the Mafia are men like Charles "Lucky" Luciano, a Sicilian immigrant who by 1931 murdered his way to the top of the American Mafia; famous mob leader Joe Bonnano; Salvatore "Toto" Riina, who emerged in the 1980s as perhaps the most ruthless and violent Mafia boss ever; Tomasso Buscetta, whose decision to break the Mafia's strict code of silence set in motion a series of events giving U.S. and Italian authorities the upper hand in identifying and tracking key mobsters; reputed Mafia godfather John Gotti; and soldiers like Hill and Montiglio, whose tales of living and working inside the Mafia are gruesome and often shocking.

Fighting the Mafia are Giovanni Falcone, Italy's legendary prosecutor who challenged the Mafia's power and paid the ultimate price; Pistone ("Donnie Brasco") who still has a mob contract out on his life ("Once folks found out about my cover, there was a contract on me," he says in the program. "It's not something I think about all the time ... if it happens, it happens ... and may the best man win."); Giovanni Falcone's sister, Maria, who was privy to much of her brother's strategy and key events in his life; and lesser-known law officers with colorful and suspenseful inside stories, like Panessa and Carmine Russo, who shadowed the Bonnano crime family.

The rise of the modern Mafia is a gripping and often tragic tale of corruption, crime, murder and betrayal by two distinct operations -- the Sicilian Mafia, running multinational efforts from Palermo, and the American Mafia, controlling one of the biggest marketplaces in the world. Their separate but symbiotic relationship is one that perpetually eluded and confounded U.S. and Italian authorities.

In 1957, a police raid on a Mafia summit in upstate New York revealed to the nation evidence of "organized crime." However, the Cold War took priority at the time, and mob activity continued to thrive. Major breakthroughs in the 1980s cracked open the Mafia's highly lucrative drug trade, and exposed the global reach and immense profits of its dealings.

In the U.S. today, the mob's activities have been scaled back, particularly now that narcotics are distributed via different mobs from the Far East and South America. John Gotti's prosecution created a domino effect, crippling all five of the crime families of New York. They are now a shadow of an organization that once claimed politicians as their friends; however, as recent arrests have indicated, the Mafia continues to operate in some capacity in the U.S. In the past few months, New York authorities indicted 32 people after a two-and-half year "Donnie Brasco style" undercover sting, and 14 Chicago Mafia members were indicted in April, a move authorities claim shed light on 18 previously unsolved murders dating back to 1970.

In Sicily, the situation is very different. The Mafia has largely abandoned its policy of violence in order to avoid attracting the attention of the authorities; however, according to the chief prosecutor of Palermo, they are even more dangerous now that many people believe that the problem is in some way over.

The days of the Mafia's massive, unchecked drug-dealing have gone, but INSIDE THE MAFIA shows that the organization -- particularly its blueprint for how national and ethnic groups can operate on a global scale -- continues to be a thriving and insidious role model for racketeering everywhere.

INSIDE THE MAFIA is produced for NGC by Wall to Wall Media. Jonathan Hewes is executive in charge of production; Alex West is executive producer; Charlie Smith is producer. For NGC, CarolAnne Dolan is supervising producer; Michael Cascio is executive producer; John Ford is executive in charge of production.

Donnie Brasco on The Sopranos

The best way to know if a show about the mob is authentic is to ask a mobster. But that's scary. So we did the next best thing. We invited former FBI agent-turned-mob-infiltrator-turned-mob informer Joseph Pistone (the real Donnie Brasco) to watch "The Sopranos" and give us his thoughts.

An expert on organized crime, Pistone served six years undercover in the notorious Bonanno crime family in New York City. His testimony helped lead to the arrest of more than 175 criminals.

Pistone is sharing his Mafia knowledge with his book Way Of The Wiseguy, a funny and frightening look at how one becomes a wiseguy. It's like a FAQ on the world of Cosa Nostra, showing a typical day in the life of a gangster: the dos and don'ts of the Mafia code; interactions with their families and other thugs, and their unique and creative use of language.
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"People are fascinated because they think they would like to live like a wiseguy," Pistone explains. In the movies, the guys are tough, always have cash and lead exciting lives. But Pistone warns, "What they don't see is the treachery involved."

Here's what Pistone had to say about "The Sopranos":

Tony looks for buried money in the backyard.

"That would happen," Pistone said. "They bury it and then go look for it later." Pistone said he knew guys who would wrap money in leather bags and then stick them in the drainage system of a sink in an unused bathroom, for example. Seems Chase Bank just isn't an option.

The criminal's usual dapper attire.

That is pretty accurate, Pistone said. There is no such thing as a casual Friday in the mob. "You don't see guys wearing jeans," he said. "When they were grooming me, they said they wanted me to dress neat. Most of these guys have slacks or something. One of the things they didn't want to see was a pair of Levis. "They wanted to portray an image."

The jargon.
Pistone said most of the dialogue in the show is accurate -- he thinks there may be someone on "the inside" who is helping out the writers -- but he did find one particular thing jarring: the foul language used in front of the women. "I have been to many dinners at wiseguys' houses where their wives were there or their mothers, and I never heard those guys use vulgarity around the kitchen table," he said. "I was around these guys for six years and I never heard any vulgar language around women."

A meeting in Tony's office.
Pistone said he is disappointed by some mob movies where the boss' office is a palatial pad with fancy furniture and paintings. It looks like the office of a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. "Tony's office is the way most of the offices looked like, in the back of a club," Pistone said about Soprano's office in the back of the Bada Bing club. "There was nothing fancy about it."

Tony and his wife go to a sushi restaurant.
Pistone laughs. "That would never happen," he said. "I never knew a mob guy who would go eat sushi." According to Pistone, the wiseguy diet consists pretty much of two types of cuisines -- (obviously) Italian and (surprisingly) Chinese. "That was the two main dinners," he said. "Why they love Chinese food, I don't know."

Tony kids around with lawmen he knows are investigating him.
"That's a good scene," Pistone said. He said that it wasn't unusual to see mobsters talking to the cops who were tailing them. He said the cops would sometimes hang out at the mob joints just to let the wiseguys know that they were onto them. And the wiseguys, in turn, would let them know they knew they were being watched. He said many times there was good natured ribbing. "It's done with mutual respect," he said. "You can bust the agents' balls, but you can't go too far. You can't make it too personal."

Tony gets an envelope of money at a funeral parlor.
That may be the best place to do business, Pistone said. "That is a great place to hand off money because you know the place isn't going to be bugged," he said. And any undercover cop would be spotted easily because he'd be recognized in a place where it was only family and friends, he said.

Tony and Paulie walk outside to talk.

"That's called a walk and talk," Pistone said. "You walk out of the back of a building so you can talk without being recorded or listened to." Pistone said the ambient noise of the outside -- traffic, birds, people -- make it hard for police to record conversations.

One of Tony's guys walks into a hot dog stand and kills a customer.
That's the way it's done, Piston said. Walk in, shoot the guy, drop the gun, walk out. Nothing is ever said to the man who is shot. "It's nothing personal about it," he said. "It's business."

*Paulie "Walnuts," Johnny "Sack," Bobby "Bacala" ...
"Everybody has a nickname. It might be something you get as a kid or later on. And once you get a nickname, you can't get rid of it," he said. Piston said he knew guys with colorful nicknames. Bobby "Badheart" who was called that because he had a pacemaker. Charlie "Chains" wore a lot of jewelry. "You can know a guy for 10 years and you'd never know his last name," Pistone said. "Nobody would ever introduce someone with their last name and nobody would ever ask."

Tony sees a therapist.
"Would never happen," he said. Pistone said any Mafioso who went to a therapist probably would end up dead. Too many secrets could be revealed. And, Pistone said, there's a little thing called ego that could keep a wiseguy off the couch. "They are called 'wiseguys' for a reason. They think they are wise and know everything," Pistone said. "They aren't going to go to someone else for answers."

Thanks to Lucio Guerrero


Reinhard in 1969: Rockford Mobsters 'Retired or Inactive'

Federal judge and former Winnebago County State’s Attorney Philip G. Reinhard said in an April 4, 1969, interview with the Rockford Morning Star that he believed Mob figures in Rockford were "retired or inactive." Reinhard added he had "seen no evidence or indication" of Mafia-related activity in the Rockford area at that time.

Reinhard’s comments are in contrast with articles published in the past 15 months by The Rock River Times that detailed past Mob-related activity dating back to at least the 1970s.

Reinhard was Winnebago County assistant state’s attorney from 1964 to 1967, and Winnebago County state’s attorney from 1968 to 1976. He was nominated as federal judge for the Western Division of the U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois by President George H.W. Bush in 1991. Reinhard has been on the federal bench since Feb. 10, 1992.

During the 1969 interview, Reinhard reacted to a question about the extent of Mafia activity in Rockford by saying: "There is a local structure, but if it has any ties with the national syndicate, they are very loose. There are individuals who, perhaps, made their money in syndicate-connected activities years ago and are now 'retired' or inactive. In the short time that I have been state's attorney, I have seen no evidence or indication that there is organized, syndicate activity here."

Reinhard did not respond for comment for this article, but did acknowledge during a February 2005 interview that he never knowingly prosecuted any Mob members during his tenure as state’s attorney.

MOB ATTORNEY TURNED INFORMANT

Reinhard's 1969 perception of Mafia activity contrasts with comments by former Chicago Mafia attorney turned federal informant Robert Cooley. He said in a Nov. 24, 2004, article in The Rock River Times that the Chicago Mafia, which is known as "The Outfit," had considerable interest in Rockford during the 1970s and 1980s.

Specifically, Cooley said: "[Chicago Mob captain and member of the Elmwood Park/North side crew] Marco [D'Amico], at the time when we were in power, Marco had a major crew working up there in the Rockford area. They had some illegal gambling interests up there."

According to the Chicago Crime Commission’s 1997 publication The New Faces of Organized Crime, D'Amico and eight others were indicted in 1994 "for running an illegal sports bookmaking operation, using extortion to collect gambling debts, and juice loans and conspiring to commit racketeering."

Cooley described in his 2004 book, When Corruption Was King: How I Helped the Mob Rule Chicago, Then Brought the Outfit Down, how he assisted federal agents set up the illegal gambling sting that snagged D'Amico in November 1989 in Lake Geneva, Wis., which resulted in the 1994 indictment.

Cooley turned from Mob attorney to federal informant in 1986 after the death of his father. During the next 11 years, Cooley's efforts to expose public corruption resulted in bringing more than 30 lawyers, politicians, and Mobsters to justice by secretly taping dozens of Mob meetings.

INDICTMENTS

Whether the recent naming of 10 Rockford-area men in an illegal gambling ring was connected to D'Amico’s former crew is not known.

However, according to a separate, but likely related, indictment last April in Chicago, alleged Mob hit man from Rockford, Frank G. Saladino, was a member of the South side/Chinatown crew at the time he committed crimes for the Chicago Mob sometime between the 1960s and 2005.

Cooley explained during an interview last April that Saladino may have been a member of both the North and South side crews at differing times during that period. Saladino was named a co-conspirator in the Feb. 1 federal indictment, which alleged the sports betting operation accepted "bets and wagers on the outcome of sports events, including football and basketball games" from the early 1980s until about May 2002.

A former bookie familiar with the illegal sports gambling ring in the Rockford area alleged in 2004 one of the key organizers was a prominent business leader. That leader was not among the individuals indicted.

Saladino was found dead April 25, 2005 — the same day he was indicted on federal charges of murder and undisclosed criminal activities on behalf of the Chicago Mafia. The Kane County coroner ruled Saladino's death was due to natural causes in May 2005.

Specifically, the FBI-led probe named "Operation Family Secrets," alleged the Chicago Mob was involved in 18 murders and racketeering conspiracy extending from the mid-1960s to 2005. The alleged racketeering involved sports betting, video gambling, loan sharking and collecting "street tax" from participants in illegal activities.

According to the 2005 indictment, Saladino was a "member of the South Side/26th Street crew." Saladino's last known Rockford address in 2004 was 1303 Montague Rd.

PROBES AND LAWSUITS

But illegal gambling charges and probes extend further back than the February 2006 indictment. In December 1968, a federal grand jury in Freeport called at least
eight people for questioning in connection with illegal gambling and other Mob-related activity in Rockford and northern Illinois. Reinhard became Winnebago County state's attorney in November 1968.

Among those subpoenaed before the Freeport grand jury were: Rockford Mob boss Joseph Zammuto; Adviser Joseph Zito; Underboss Charles Vince; Zammuto’s successor, Frank J. Buscemi; Philip Priola and Mob Soldier Joseph J. Maggio (see Mob Murder Suggests Link to International Drug Ring).

Priola is former AFL-CIO union official and one of the original members of a group that wanted to bring a casino boat to Rockford in the early 1990s. He was also one of the owners of U Grill It Inc., which did business in Machesney Park Mall several years ago as Texas Grill Steakhouse and Lounge.

Priola and others in his family were charged by federal officials on July 29, 2003, for allegedly conspiring to "defraud" the IRS and U.S. Treasury Department.

In response to an Oct. 6, 2003 article in the Rockford Register Star, which detailed the case, Priola sued the Rockford Register Star in 2004 alleging the article concerning U Grill It was libelous.

The case is still in the discovery phase, and was scheduled for a March 22 status hearing with 17th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Janet Holmgren. The Register Star is seeking tax returns and other documents related to the litigation, which also involved Priola’s son-in-law, Todd Gage.

When interviewed by The Rock River Times in 2004 about the lawsuit, Priola said he moved from Rockford to Las Vegas. He and other members of his family eventually pled guilty to the charges before a scheduled trial.

The indictment alleged that from at least 1992 to 1998, Priola and others "intentionally conspired" to under-report "gross receipts and net profits of
LT's Bar." It also alleged a cash-skimming operation took place for the benefit of the named family members.

Included in the alleged skimming operation were proceeds from "cigarette vending machines and coin-operated amusement machines."

Buscemi, a Chicago native, was owner of Stateline Vending Co., Inc., and Rondinella Foods Co., before his death in Rockford Dec. 7, 1987. Winnebago County court documents from 1988 indicate Saladino worked for Rondinella in the 1980s when Buscemi owned the business. The vending machine company was dissolved in 1988.

According to Buscemi's FBI file, the Rockford Mob was alleged to control the
vending machine business in Rockford during the 1980s, and used "extortionate business practices."

Vince, another person in addition to Priola and Buscemi who was called before the 1968 grand jury, was identified in a March 4, 1984, Rockford Register Star article as residing in an apartment at 1904 Auburn St., in Rockford. Land records for the address show the property was owned by the grandparent's of Peter and Mathew Provenzano from 1964 to 1987.

In July 1978, federal court documents show Vince, along with other members of the Rockford and Milwaukee Mafia, were alleged to have tried to extort money from a competing upstart vending machine company owner. The owner of the company the Mob members tried to shakedown was actually an undercover federal agent named Gail Cobb who was masquerading as Tony Conte.

Cobb and legendary FBI agent Donnie Brasco, whose real name was Joseph P. Pistone, worked together at the behest of the Bonanno crime family in New York to forge an alliance between the Rockford, Milwaukee and Bonanno family (see Mob Murder Suggests Link to International Drug Ring).

Actor Johnny Depp portrayed Pistone in the 1997 movie Donnie Brasco, during the time in the late 1970s when Pistone infiltrated organized crime.

As to Vince's residence and the Provenzano family's ownership of the property, Peter Provenzano was given the opportunity in October to comment about this coincidence and other questions, but declined after he was given an advance copy of topics for the interview.

Provenzano is a board commissioner at Rockford/Chicago International Airport, proponent for Rockford's return to home rule, and part owner of military contractor SupplyCore, Inc. Since its incorporation in 1987 as Pro Technical Products, Inc., the companies have been awarded more than $1 billion in U.S. Defense Department contracts—most of which has been awarded since the late 1990s.

Pro Technical Products, which was formed by Provenzano's father, changed its
name to SupplyCore in 2001, according to state records. Provenzano's brother, Mathew Provenzano, is secretary of SupplyCore and is one of the board of directors for the taxpayer-supported MetroCentre in Rockford.

Both Provenzano brothers were nominated for their positions by Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey. SupplyCore heavily financed Morrissey's successful mayoral campaign last year.

About the author:
Jeff Havens is a former award-winning reporter for the weekly newspaper The Rock River Times in Rockford, Ill. Havens lived most of his life in the Rockford area, and wrote dozens of news articles about the Mob in Rockford and Chicago. Assistant Editor for The Rock River Times, Brandon Reid contributed to this article.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Reputed Mafia Boss of Canada, Vito Rizzuto, Dies at 67

Vito Rizzuto, the reputed Mafia boss of Canada, whose dapper outfits and ability to avoid prison led the authorities to call him the John Gotti of Montreal, died on Dec. 23 in Montreal. He was 67.
Enlarge This Image

Mr. Rizzuto died of natural causes, Maude Hébert-Chaput, a spokeswoman for Sacré-Coeur Hospital, told The Associated Press. There were widespread reports that he had been receiving treatment for lung cancer.

Working with the Bonanno crime family in New York, Mr. Rizzuto ran an international drug smuggling operation that imported heroin and cocaine and distributed it in the United States, Europe and the Middle East, the authorities said. His father ran the operation before him.

“Compared to what New York-based authorities were used to looking at, the breadth of geography and intertwining connections of the Rizzuto organization surprised even seasoned investigators,” Lee Lamothe and Adrian Humphreys wrote in the book “The Sixth Family: The Collapse of the New York Mafia and the Rise of Vito Rizzuto.”

In a 2004 column on his website, then called This Week in Gang Land, Jerry Capeci, an expert on the Mafia, compared Mr. Rizzuto to Mr. Gotti, the longtime head of the Gambino crime family in New York, who died in 2002.

“Like Gotti in his heyday, Rizzuto is known as a flashy dresser who was tough to convict,” Mr. Capeci wrote. “He beat two major drug smuggling cases between 1987 and 1990 and his only jail time was a two-year bit for arson in 1972. As a result, he has often been compared to the Dapper Don by the Montreal press, and police.”

But Mr. Rizzuto’s luck ran out in 2004, when he was arrested in Montreal on racketeering charges related to a gangland shooting in Brooklyn that inspired a bloody scene in the 1997 film “Donnie Brasco,” starring Al Pacino and Johnny Depp.

In the shooting, on May 5, 1981, Mr. Rizzuto and three other men burst from the closet of a Brooklyn social club and shot three Bonanno captains who had been challenging the family’s leadership, the authorities said. The shooters wore ski masks to make the killing look like a robbery, but the authorities said it had been ordered by Joseph Massino, then a senior Bonanno captain.

Mr. Rizzuto was extradited to the United States in 2006. He pleaded guilty in 2007 and was sent to prison in Florence, Colo.

While he was in prison, organized crime in Montreal fell into chaos and many of his relatives were murdered. His father was killed by a sniper while standing in his kitchen, and his eldest son, Nicolo, was shot and killed. His brother-in-law disappeared, the keys still in the ignition of his Infiniti.

Before his death, Mr. Rizzuto had been working to reclaim control of the mob and exact revenge, experts said. Since his return to Canada in 2012, there have been nine mob-connected murders there, Mr. Capeci said on his website.

“Vito Rizzuto gets out, and this immediately happens,” Pierre de Champlain, a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police intelligence analyst and author of a book about the Mafia, told The Globe and Mail after one such killing in 2012. “If it’s a coincidence, it would be a very strange one.”

Victor Rizzuto was born in the village of Cattolica Eraclea in Sicily on Feb. 21, 1946. His family moved to Canada in the mid-1950s, and Mr. Rizzuto married Giovanna Cammalleri in 1966. Survivors include his wife; a sister, Maria Renda; and two children, Leonardo and Bettina, both lawyers.

Despite the spate of killings after he left prison, Mr. Rizzuto once had a reputation as a peacemaker in mob circles.

Mr. Lamothe credited him with “bringing calm to an underworld that at times was out of control” in the 1970s by, for example, arranging an end to a dispute between the Hells Angels and a rival motorcycle gang.

“Mr. Rizzuto’s management style was pretty unique, at least compared to American crime figures, who went to violence as an instant default,” Mr. Lamothe wrote in an email. “He was born into the Mafia and, from his father, inherited the ‘Sicilian view’: Better to share than to shoot.”

Thanks to Daniel E. Slotnik.

Friday, May 20, 2011

How Joseph Massino Exposed the Ugly Truth About "Vinny Gorgeous"

A New York City mobster who is serving a life sentence for attempted murder could become the first mafia boss to face the death penalty after being convicted in a case accusing him of ordering a gangland killing to cement his rise to power in the Bonanno organised crime family.

A Brooklyn jury had deliberated for four days in the death penalty case before finding tough-talking Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano guilty of murder, racketeering, conspiracy and other charges on Monday.

The jury, after being swayed by wiretaps and a series of low-level mob witnesses, will reconvene next week to decide whether Basciano, 51, will get another life term or execution by lethal injection.

The federal trial of the one-time owner of the Hello Gorgeous beauty salon featured testimony by former Bonanno boss Joseph Massino, who made another first in this trial, by becoming the first boss to testify against one of their own.

Massino, 68, began talking with investigators after his 2004 conviction for orchestrating a quarter-century's worth of murder, racketeering and other crimes as he rose through the Bonanno ranks.

He is serving two consecutive life terms for eight murders. He testified his cooperation spared his wife from prosecution, allowed her to keep their home and gave him a shot at a reduced sentence.

By cooperating, he told jurors he was violating a sacred oath he took during a 1977 induction ceremony to protect the secret society. It was understood, he said, that "once a bullet leaves that gun, you never talk about it".

The bloodshed revealed by Massino's testimony includes the shotgun slayings of three rival captains and the execution of a mobster who vouched for FBI undercover agent Donnie Brasco in the 1980s.

While imprisoned together in 2005, the former Bonanno boss agreed to wear a wire and betray Basciano, a gangster known for his meticulously groomed hair, sharp suits and hot temper. Before trial, Basciano won approval to have access to five different suits to wear to court – one for each day of the week.

Jurors heard one recording of Basciano boasting, "I'm a hoodlum, I'm a tough guy. Whatever happens, happens. Let's go."

The tape was evidence that the defendant is "a cold-blooded remorseless killer," Assistant US Attorney Stephen Frank said in his closing argument.

Prosecutors alleged that Basciano – while seizing control of the Bonannos as acting boss in 2004 after Massino was jailed – orchestrated the killing of mob associate Randolph Pizzolo. The slaying was payback for a drunken tirade by Pizzolo demanding induction into the family.

Thanks to Richard Hall and Tom Hays

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mafia Parade from Prison to the Streets to Last Throughout 2009

Prison doors will swing open this year for some of the city's toughest mobsters.

By an odd coincidence, some of the heaviest hitters from New York's fabled Five Families all have release dates in 2009.

"You have proven earners, people who have served in upper- and middle-management roles and people with international criminal-enterprise connections," said a law-enforcement source. "That sounds like a triple threat."

The Gambino family, still reeling from the takedown of the Gottis, will see the biggest injection of experienced blood.

Perhaps most influential is Domenico "Italian Dom" Cefalu, the 61-year-old acting underboss, scheduled for release on Nov. 3. Cefalu, whose specialty is drug trafficking, is said to have been personally inducted into the family by the late "Teflon Don" John Gotti in 1991.

Another Gambino heavy out this year is George "Big Georgie" DeCicco, 79, with a Dec. 1 release date. The old John Gotti capo ran a loan-sharking operation.

DeCicco's nephew, Joseph "Joey Boy" Orlando, 59, gets sprung June 24. The Gambino soldier was reportedly caught on tape boasting of eight hits. "I've got eight under my belt, and I don't give a [expletive] who become the ninth," he allegedly said.

The Bonannos are also getting an injection of experience.

Capo Anthony Rabito, 74, who goes by the monikers "Fat Anthony" or "Mr. Fish" will be sprung June 28. He was previously convicted of drug smuggling after being swept up in the 1970s "Donnie Brasco" undercover probe.

Another Bonanno with old-school experience is Salvatore "Toto" Catalano. The 67-year-old soldier is getting out Nov. 14 after serving 29 years. He was a key player in the "Pizza Connection" case in the 1980s, when the mob was importing heroin from Sicily and using pizzerias as fronts. One source says Catalano is fearless and has leadership skills to quickly command a crew.

The Lucheses will have a top strategist back on the street.

Consigliere Joseph "Joe C." Caridi, 59, is out Nov. 28 after a 2003 conviction for extorting a Long Island seafood restaurant. Known as the "Tony Soprano of Long Island," Caridi could bounce right back into the extortion business.

Acting capo John "Johnny Sideburns" Cerrella, 68, will be sprung the same day.

The Genovese crew will see the return of some old-timers.

Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello - still a capo at a spry 88 - will be released April 3 for a 2007 racketeering and tax-evasion conviction. The decorated WWII vet is highly respected by younger Genovese crew members.

Just slightly younger is 85-year-old capo Lawrence "Little Larry" Dentico, who is getting out May 12 from a four-year sentence of running a gambling ring.

The Colombos will welcome back acting consigliere Benedetto Aloi on March 18. One source called Aloi a "time-honored figure" in the Colombo family.

Another old-timer getting out late in the year is Salvatore Lombardino, 76, who was convicted in connection with the murder of suspected informer James Randazzo.

Lombardino honored the code of omerta and never spoke to authorities, even racking up an extra contempt-of-court sentence for refusing to testify.

Thanks to Murray Weiss

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.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

John Connolly, Former FBI Agent, Gets 40 Years in Prison for Role in Mob Hit

A judge sentenced a rogue FBI agent to 40 years in prison on Thursday for the 1982 mob-related killing of a witness who was about to testify against Boston mob members, court officials said.

Disgraced ex-FBI agent John Connolly Jr. "crossed over to the dark side," said Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Stanford Blake. The sentence will run consecutively to a 10-year racketeering sentence.

Connolly, 68, was convicted in November of second-degree murder in the death of businessman John Callahan, an executive with World Jai-Alai. Callahan's bullet-riddled body was found in the trunk of a Cadillac parked at Miami International Airport.

Connolly's fall from celebrated mob-buster to paid gangland flunky captivated a South Florida courtroom for weeks. In testimony at his sentencing hearing last month, he denied having any role in Callahan's death.

"It's heartbreaking to hear what happened to your father and to your husband," he told members of Callahan's family. "My heart is broken when I hear what you say."

He explained, in the face of vigorous cross-examination, that rubbing elbows with killers and gangsters and winning their confidence was part of his job. His attorney argued that Connolly did what the FBI wanted him to do, and now was being held responsible.

Connolly did not testify at his trial.

Prosecutors had asked that Connolly be given a life sentence, saying the 30-year minimum was not enough because Connolly abused his badge.

In a Boston Globe interview published last month, however, Connolly vigorously denied being a corrupt agent. "I did not commit these crimes I was charged with," Connolly told the newspaper. "I never sold my badge. I never took anybody's money. I never caused anybody to be hurt, at least not knowingly, and I never would."

During his two-month trial, jurors heard that Connolly told his mob connections that Callahan, 45, was a potential witness against them, setting him up for the gangland-style slaying.

According to testimony, Connolly was absorbed by the very gangsters he was supposed to be targeting -- members of South Boston's notorious Winter Hill gang. His story was said to be the inspiration for the character played by Matt Damon in the 2006 Martin Scorsese movie, "The Departed."

Connolly's tale was closely followed in New England, where he grew up in Boston's "Southie" neighborhood, the same area long dominated by the Winter Hill gang and its notorious leader, James "Whitey" Bulger. Sought in 19 slayings, Bulger is the FBI's second most-wanted fugitive.

During the first two decades of his FBI career, Connolly won kudos in the bureau's Boston office, cultivating informants against New England mobsters. Prosecutors said Connolly was corrupted by his two highest-ranking snitches: Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi.

Connolly retired from the FBI in 1990 and later was indicted on federal racketeering and other charges stemming from his long relationship with Bulger and Flemmi. He was convicted of racketeering in 2002 and was serving a 10-year federal prison sentence when he was indicted in 2005 in the Callahan slaying.

During testimony, jurors heard that Connolly was on the mob payroll, collecting $235,000 from Bulger and Flemmi while shielding his mob pals from prosecution and leaking the identities of informants.

The prosecution's star witnesses at the Miami trial were Flemmi, who is now in prison, and mob hit man John Martorano, who has admitted to 20 murders, served 12 years in prison and is now free.

Callahan, who often socialized with gangsters, had asked the gang to execute Oklahoma businessman Roger Wheeler over a business dispute, according to testimony. Martorano killed Wheeler in 1981 on a golf course, shooting him once between the eyes, prosecutors said.

After Connolly told Bulger and Flemmi that Callahan was going to implicate them in the slaying, Martorano was sent to do away with Callahan, prosecutors said. But one star witness did not testify -- the former FBI agent who inspired the 1997 film "Donnie Brasco." He refused to take the stand after the judge denied his request to testify anonymously.

Thanks to Rich Phillips

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Did a FBI Hero Join the Mob?

Sitting in an unmarked sedan car in South Boston, John Connolly had his binoculars trained on a scene just a block away. It was a gruesome spectacle: a man who had just delivered guns and ammunition to the IRA by ship, was being tortured to death by Boston's most notorious gangster on suspicion of being a snitch for the FBI.

As the murder was playing out, it is alleged Connolly, a leading FBI agent, communicated by walkie-talkie with the torturer, James "Whitey" Bulger, as he first pulled out the victim's tongue and teeth and then tried to strangle the gun-runner, John McIntyre, with a ship's rope.

The FBI man's complicity in this particular murder has never been proved but his betrayal of his badge – proved in two other cases – is one of the most shameful episodes in the agency's history. The macabre incident, worthy of a scene fromThe Sopranos, has nonetheless drawn attention to an extraordinary double standard in which the FBI allowed a notorious Irish-American gang to commit murder and mayhem in Boston for more than a decade, in return for information that would eventually break the back of the Mafia.

Connolly's career would eventually inspire Martin Scorsese's 2006 movie, The Departed (Two-Disc Special Edition), in which the loyalties of an undercover agent become hopelessly compromised. The movie, like his career, is set in south Boston where the federal law enforcement agency is waging war on Irish-American organised crime. Connolly's character is played by Matt Damon.

The long arm of the law has finally caught up with Connolly, now aged 68. He was convicted last month of a 1982 murder and has been called to court for sentencing. A decision is likely within weeks. In dramatic courtroom scenes this week, he angrily shouted out his innocence. His many supporters maintain that the FBI is at fault for encouraging him to turn a blind eye to crimes throughout the 1980s.

Nobody knows quite when Connolly decided on his betrayal but it is assumed to have been in the 1970s and bribes had a lot to do with it. As a decorated FBI man, Connolly certainly had access to the most classified information. He learned that the IRA gun runner John McIntyre intended to testify against his fellow gun runners. So, it is alleged, Connolly passed the information on to "Whitey" Bulger, the infamous head of Boston's Winter Hill Gang who was behind the IRA arms shipment.

McIntyre and a friend were lured to a safe house where the gruesome torture began. At one point, Bulger asked his victim if he wanted a bullet to the head, to which McIntyre replied, "Yes, please". He was then shot multiple times and his body later dumped on waste ground.

The gang has now scattered, Bulger himself is still on the run and is America's second most wanted fugitive (after Osama Bin Laden) but some of its members have escaped prosecution by giving evidence. They have also made small fortunes turning their exploits as mobsters into books and screenplays. But if Bulger and his deputy Stephen "the Rifleman" Flemmi were the feared enforcers on the streets of south Boston (Bulger was a "leg breaker, drug dealer, scumbag," in the words of Eddie Mackenzie, one of his ex-accomplices) Connolly acted as a big brother figure.

Back in the 1980s, Special Agent Connolly was a towering giant in the FBI's anti-Mafia unit. He had already spent two decades cultivating informants among New England's mob bosses. As a young undercover agent he walked the streets of New York with the FBI agent Joseph Pistone, who documented his own undercover life in the book Donnie Brasco later made into a film with Johnny Depp.

Pistone however, is not there for Connolly in his current hour of need. As the sentencing hearing of the former FBI hero got under way, Pistone refused to take the stand because the judge refused his request to testify anonymously.

The US courts recently concluded that, in the name of catching ever-bigger Mafia fish, FBI agents were encouraged to let Irish-American gangsters rivals of the mafia, run amok. The policy led to serious breakthroughs against the Mafia but also countless murders and the ill-fated shipment of guns to the IRA. But former FBI agents have also testified on Connolly's behalf and there is even a sophisticated website proclaiming his innocence. When he showed up to be sentenced for his role in facilitating yet another gruesome murder by James "Whitey" Bulger this week, he wept tears for the family of the victim John Callahan. The bullet-ridden body of Callahan was found in the boot of a Cadillac parked at Miami International Airport in 1982. "It's heart-breaking to hear what happened to your father and your husband," Connolly told the family.

In an emotional prison interview with The Boston Globe this week, Connolly still proclaimed his innocence. "I never sold my badge. I never took anybody's money. I never caused anybody to be hurt, at least not knowingly, and I never would."

As a member of the elite anti-Mafia squad for more than 20 years, Connolly's speciality was cultivating informants against New England's mobsters. His accomplishments led to the FBI's Boston office being lionised. Connolly himself became a near legendary figure for his role in a secretly recorded Mafia initiation ceremony complete with blood oaths and prayers and the incineration of an image of the Virgin Mary in the palms of newly made members. He was the first outsider to penetrate the Mob's holy of holies and his coup led to numerous prosecutions of leading members. But somewhere along the way he began taking shortcuts. With the full knowledge and approval of his FBI bosses he started offering protection to members of the Winter Hill Gang in return for leads.

The FBI adamantly denies turning a deliberate blind eye to years of bloody mayhem, murder and gunrunning and maintains that Connolly was merely a rogue agent. But, two months ago, a federal judge slapped the Bureau down and ordered it to pay £1.8m compensation to the 80-year old mother of the murdered John McIntyre.

A damning verdict stated: "The (FBI's) attitude at least reflects a judgement that Connolly's at-the-edge conduct could be tolerated for the greater good of bringing down La Cosa Nostra."

The FBI's successes against the Mafia were matched by its failures against Whitey Bulger's gang. When the Feds finally got around to arresting him in 1995, he was tipped off by a phone call from Connolly. Bulger now has a price of more than $1m on his head, his face on posters in every airport in America, but the likelihood seems that the 71-year-old is lying low in a west of Ireland village.

It now seems that Connolly actually became a member of Bulger's gang, a well-paid partner in crime, very early in their relationship in the late 1970s. He was full-time member of the Irish Goodfellas. It all started back in south Boston (or Southie) a landing pad for generations of working class Irish immigrants. It is a tightly knit place of hard working construction workers and armchair Irish republicans where at the height of Northern Ireland's troubles every bar seemed to have a collection box for IRA "prisoners of war."

Connolly and Bulger grew up in the same block of public housing in the 1940s where the few career options included becoming a cop on the beat, a fireman or a mobster. In his 25-year reign as head of the Winter Hill Gang, Bulger committed as many as 90 murders.

He had other high-powered connections, however. Billy Bulger, his younger brother was for years the head of the Massachusetts state Senate before becoming president of the University of Massachusetts from which he was recently forced to retire. Billy was also a childhood friend and a mentor to Connolly, creating a tangled knot of alliances that went all the way from the Massachusetts state house to the FBI and an untold number of back street torture and murder scenes to which Connolly routinely turned a blind eye.

Connolly was well rewarded of course. "We're taking real good care of that guy," Bulger once said of Connolly. For protecting extortion rackets the agent was reportedly lavished with thousands of dollars and diamond rings in bribes.

When the FBI's internal affairs unit finally turned Connolly over after Bulger's disappearance, they found dozens of uncashed salary cheques and proof that he owned a fancy suburban house. There was also a holiday home among the jet setters of Cape Cod and a £30,000 fishing boat.

Connolly is now facing up to33 years in jail for the 1982 Callahan murder. But his FBI career is one the agency would prefer was forgotten by the public. It promises to haunt the US law enforcement agency for many years, however, as more victims come forward seeking compensation for murders that took place while Connolly and other FBI agents deliberately looked the other way.

Thanks to Leonard Doyle

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"Donnie Brasco" Says Fughetaboutit to Testifying in Court

The FBI undercover agent who infiltrated the Mafia as "Donnie Brasco" refused Wednesday to testify in a fellow former agent's murder trial because he could be photographed and filmed on the witness stand.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Stanford Blake refused a request by Joseph Pistone to prohibit news media from taking pictures or videotaping his testimony.

The ex-agent on trial, John Connolly, said he didn't want Blake to enforce a subpoena that could require Pistone to take the stand because of fears for his safety. "He's a friend of mine. His wife is a friend of mine. I know his children. If something happened to him, I can't live with myself," Connolly told the judge.

Pistone posed as a jewel thief in 1976 to infiltrate New York's Bonanno family, eventually spending six years with the mob and ultimately putting more than 100 gangsters in jail. His book about the experience was made into a 1997 film starring Johnny Depp and Al Pacino.

Connolly's attorneys say a Mafia contract for Pistone's killing remains in effect even though he has frequently given lectures and appeared on television. Media organizations covering Connolly's trial said they would not object if Pistone testified in sunglasses and a hat -- a disguise he has previously worn in public -- but Pistone wouldn't go along.

"There's got to be some exceptional reason" to ban cameras, Blake said. "I just don't see it in this case."

Connolly, 68, faces life in prison if convicted of conspiracy and murder in the 1982 killing of gambling executive John Callahan. Prosecutors say Connolly provided information to Boston mobsters who were his FBI informants that led to Callahan's slaying by a hit man.

Pistone's testimony was intended to show the difficulty of investigating organized crime and handling informants who are often violent criminals themselves.

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

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Alyssa Milano is a Wisegal

Alyssa Milano Wisegal Alyssa Milanohas been tapped to star in the Lifetime original movie "Wisegal," a drama inspired by the true story of a women who became a trusted messenger for the Mafia.

Milano will play Patty Montanari, a widow with two young sons who becomes romantically involved with Frank Russo, a captain in a Brooklyn crime family who persuades her to work for the organization as a courier transporting millions of dollars from Canada into the U.S. When Patty learns that Frank has murdered his son, she realizes what he is capable of and begins to fear for her life and her sons' lives.

The movie will be executive produced by Joe Pistone, a real FBI agent who infiltrated the mob. "Donnie Brasco," the 1997 feature film starring Al Pacino and Johnny Depp, was based on Pistone.

"Wisegal" will premiere early next year.

Lifetime Networks president of entertainment Susanne Daniels was enthusiastic about having Milano in a Lifetime project, noting that she had worked with her when the actress was co-starring in the 1998-2006 drama series "Charmed" on WB Network, where Daniels was head of programming.

"We have been looking for the right project for her great talent, and she's ideal as the star of this riveting story," Daniels said.

"Wisegal" is produced by Daniel H. Blatt Prods. Pistone is executive producing with Daniel H. Blatt, Leo Rossi and Anthony Melchiorri; Danielle McVickers is co-producing. Jerry Ciccoritti is directing from a script by Shelley Evans.

Thanks to Kimberly Nordyke

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Donnie Brasco Extended Cut

Friends of ours: Bonanno Crime Family, Benjamin "Lefty" Ruggiero
Friends of mine: Donnie Brasco

In the 1970s, FBI undecover agent Joe Pistone infiltrates the mob, leaving his family behind and assuming the false persona of the "jewel man" Donnie Brasco. His assignment: to become a trusted insider with the infamous Bonanno family by gaining the confidence of a low-level gangster.

Lefty Ruggiero is an aging, two-bit hit-man who sees a new future for himself with the smart, young thief Donnie Brasco and enlists him as his protege. Together the two men enter into a camaraderie that will not allow either one to distance himself emotionally. Meanwhile, Donnie begins to get lost in the distance between his real and undercover selves.

As Donnie moves deeper and deeper into the Mafia chain of command, he realizes he is not only losing the line between federal agent and criminal, between who he pretends to be and who he actually is, he is also leading Lefty, his closest friend, to an almost certain death sentence.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Unfinished Business of Donnie Brasco

The only real mobster I ever met was a funny little guy named Fred. He was short, stooped and rumpled, with basset-hound eyes and pallid skin. A wise-cracking, kewpie-doll of a guy with a cigarette hanging out of the side of his mouth. Maybe you remember him. Fred Roti, former alderman of the old mobbed-up First Ward. The representative, as Harper's Magazine once described him, of the "Italian business interests" in City Hall.

Freddy liked to hang out at the City Hall press room and share coffee and jokes with the beat reporters. In fact, he was the Art Linkletter of the city council. Freddy thought reporters, just like kids, say the darnedest things!

I happened to be there on the day he asked his legendary question: "So, boys, what should my campaign slogan be this year?"

"Vote for Roti," Bob Davis said without skipping a beat, "and nobody gets hurt!"

Furtive glances. A pause. A long pause. It seemed to get awfully hot all of a sudden, too. And then that old Linkletter look spread slowly across Roti's gnarled face. "You're baaaad," he chortled to relieved laughter all around.

If we're lucky, that's as close as most of us will ever get to an honest-to-goodness wiseguy. But Joe Pistone, a k a Donnie Brasco, has lived in the belly of the beast.

Pistone is the former FBI agent who went undercover as a Mafia soldier for six years and helped cripple the Five Families of New York. He told his story in a best-selling book that later became a movie starring Al Pacino and Johnny Depp.

Now, Pistone is back with a sequel. Donnie Brasco: Unfinished Business promises to reveal the tales that he couldn't disclose earlier. Unfortunately, it seems more like a ploy to cash in one more time on the Donnie Brasco brand. The book has all the drama of a night out with the boys, reliving the glory days. And it reads with all the charm of a 300-page federal indictment.

And that's a shame, since if you can endure the self-congratulation, insufferable stories about being on the set with Al and Johnny, and a Jack Webb -- just the facts, ma'am! -- style of storytelling, there are some fascinating insights here into what mobsters are really like, and what it takes to bring them down.

The best stories illuminate the moral ambiguity inherent in the double life of an undercover agent. In the name of the law, he has to be ready to break the law. To catch a criminal, he has to risk becoming one.

For the first time, Pistone admits to crimes that would have ended the Donnie Brasco operation if his superiors in the FBI had known about them -- hijackings, burglaries, armed robberies and beatings. "I had to gain the trust of criminals and gangsters," he says, "and there is only one way to do that. You got to do what you got to do."

Pistone tells a chilling story about a capo -- his boss -- ordering him to kill a mob enemy. It's a wiseguy's ultimate test. "The people I had been assigned to infiltrate engaged in murder the way a cabbie goes through a yellow light," Pistone writes. "I had long ago made my decision of what to do when this predictable occasion arose. If Bruno's there, he's gone. If I have to put a bullet in his head, I will."

There is a nagging conflict between what Pistone thinks he can achieve and what his FBI superiors think is reasonable -- and safe.

After blowing one assignment for his mob bosses, Pistone is called to a summit to face the music. He knows the FBI would rather pull the plug on the operation than risk his life. Pistone also knows the basic rule of mob life is "not to rat, and not to run." So he goes, without telling the FBI. "I was finally in so deep I was lying to the FBI by omission," he says. "Because of my job I lied regularly in my personal life to those I was closest to. I was finally in the mud at the deep end."

One reads on in anticipation and, finally, irritation, waiting in vain for more stories packing this kind of tension. The closest he comes is a brief description of how Donnie Brasco was ordered to abort his undercover pose just as he was on the verge of becoming a "made member" of the Bonnano crime family, a decision he describes as having "the keys to the vault and suddenly throwing them away." But there's no elaboration, no sense of what the debate was like, and what was really lost.

Instead, an interminable, mind-numbing timeline of recent mob cases descends into a tirade on a trial in which Pistone claims everyone involved -- wiseguys, investigators and prosecutors -- are angling ineptly for book deals. The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight winds up as The Gang That Couldn't Write Straight.

Thanks to Joe Kolina, a Chicago journalist with a long-standing interest in what Bonnano family soldier Lefty Ruggiero described as "the underworld field."

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

"Bizarro FBI" Roots for "Defendant"

When Lin DeVecchio goes to court, he never goes alone.

His lawyers are there, making arguments. The news media are there, taking photographs and notes. His wife sometimes shows up, making small, sorrowful faces as she grips him by the hand. Then there are the men who make a path for him as they escort him back and forth through the crowd. The ones with the gray hair and the jowls, the stern faces and the off-the-rack suits.

Almost from the moment he was charged in March with helping to commit four murders for the mob, R. Lindley DeVecchio has been surrounded by this posse of supporters: retired F.B.I. men who for years were not only his colleagues, but also his friends.

They watch his back. Personally guarantee his million-dollar bond. Solicit money for his legal bills. Scoff at his accusers. Interview — or, some have said, intimidate — witnesses in the case. And at every chance they get, tell whoever cares to listen that Mr. DeVecchio is an innocent man.

Sixty-five years old and retired from the F.B.I., Mr. DeVecchio stands accused in a state indictment of four counts of second-degree murder. The Brooklyn district attorney’s office says he helped an informant in the mob, Gregory Scarpa Sr., kill four times in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, so that Mr. Scarpa could rid himself of rivals and win bloody battles in a war within the Colombo family.

To a federal agent, there is nothing more toxic than a corruption charge — which even by association can ruin a career. And the charges faced by Mr. DeVecchio are radioactive: that he gave secret information to Mr. Scarpa in exchange for $66,000.

Which makes it all the more remarkable that 19 former F.B.I. agents have put their names and reputations on the line to save their troubled friend. These were not the bureaucrats or pencil pushers of the New York office, but its veteran undercover and investigative men. “We’ve all worked with Lin since the early 1970’s,” said Joseph D. Pistone, the real-life Donnie Brasco, who infiltrated the Bonanno crime family as an undercover agent in the 1970’s.

“We’re all veteran street guys,” Mr. Pistone said. “If anyone could smell something bad, it would be us. And with Lin, we never smelled bad.”

The so-called Friends of Lin DeVecchio have a total of 480 years of street experience, give or take a few, and while most spend their time these days on a golf course or at the shore, they remain encyclopedic on the subject of the mob.

Who knows better than us, they say, what happened 20 years ago at Carmine Sessa’s bar or at Larry Lampesi’s house near McDonald Avenue in Brooklyn? (Both places will figure prominently at trial.) “We gathered the information,” said James M. Kossler, who from 1979 to 1989 was Mr. DeVecchio’s boss.

Much of that information has been posted on a Web site, www.lindevecchio.com, which attempts to refute the state indictment with transcripts of federal trials and with private F.B.I. reports called 302’s. There is information about how to donate money toward Mr. DeVecchio’s legal expenses. The Web site also levels personal attacks against the state’s lead prosecutor, Michael Vecchione; its chief witness, Linda Schiro, Mr. Scarpa’s former companion; and Sandra Harmon, who is a self-described relationship coach and the co-author with Priscilla Presley of a tell-all book on Elvis Presley, and who had planned to write a book with Ms. Schiro but wrote one instead about Mr. Scarpa’s son.

Mr. DeVecchio’s supporters make no bones about their deep disdain for the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, who they say considers a good Mafia case to be rounding up gamblers on Super Bowl Sunday. “Here you have a rackets bureau that doesn’t know a thing about organized crime,” Mr. Kossler said. “They don’t know what they’re doing. If they had a track record of making great O.C. cases, fine — but they don’t.”

The bad blood between the state and the F.B.I. goes back many years, to at least 1992, when Mr. Scarpa went into hiding after Brooklyn prosecutors obtained a warrant for his arrest on a gun possession charge. From April to August of that year, court papers say, Mr. Scarpa met or spoke with Mr. DeVecchio seven times, but the F.B.I. neither informed the state of his whereabouts nor arrested Mr. Scarpa.

Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for Mr. Hynes, waved off accusations that the office was incompetent. “These people who are making these allegations can’t possibly know the depth of the evidence we have compiled to make this case,” he said.

Part of that evidence is likely to include the testimony of Lawrence Mazza, Mr. Scarpa’s one-time disciple, who has already told investigators that Mr. Scarpa had a friend in law enforcement, whom he used to call “the girlfriend.” Mr. Mazza, who now works at a gym in southern Florida, said that several weeks ago, one of the retired agents paid him a visit. Without saying exactly what happened, he said the agent had tried to intimidate him in connection with the case.

Mr. Kossler scoffed at the charge, saying the former agent had gone to Florida merely to interview Mr. Mazza on Mr. DeVecchio’s behalf. As a witness for the prosecution, Mr. Mazza is of obvious interest to the defense, he said. While the prosecution has said in court that intimidation of witnesses may have occurred, it will not publicly discuss Mr. Mazza’s accusation.

At its core, the DeVecchio case is about the tenuous give-and-take that exists between an agent and a confidential source. Prosecutors say that Mr. DeVecchio abused that give-and-take, giving Mr. Scarpa names and addresses of men who wound up dead.

Mr. DeVecchio has said that in the 12 years he “ran” Mr. Scarpa, he never leaked a secret and never received anything more than a Cabbage Patch doll, a bottle of wine and a pan of lasagna.

As for the Friends of Lin DeVecchio, they maintain it takes a special sort of man to handle Mafia informants. He must speak the language of the street and of the F.B.I. He must appreciate the criminal mind without admiring it. He must be able to cultivate trust among those who trust no one but themselves. “That’s the fine line the agent has to walk — to always remember who he is and who he’s dealing with,” said Christopher Mattice, who served for many years as the F.B.I.’s informant coordinator in New York. “You have to talk the language and make them understand you understand what’s going on.” And most important, he said, you must remember that no conversation between an agent and a mole takes place in a vacuum. Questions fashioned to elicit information give information: If Agent X asks about Gangster Y, it means that he is interested in Gangster Y. If Gangster Y winds up dead, is that Agent X’s fault?

For now, Mr. DeVecchio’s trial is scheduled to open at the beginning of next year, and his federal friends are planning to attend. “The bond is very close,” said Douglas E. Grover, Mr. DeVecchio’s lawyer. “It’s not just that they worked together; it’s like they were in the Army together, like they went through the wars.”

Should things go poorly for Mr. DeVecchio, his supporters will not quit, they say. “We’ll continue to do what we’re doing,” Mr. Kossler said. “We’ll fight this as far as it has to go.”

Thanks to Alan Feuer

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mob Murder Suggests Link to International Drug Ring

FBI file on Rockford Mobster Joseph J. Maggio shows likely motive for his 1980 killing and Mob efforts to gain access to FBI files - By Jeff Havens

Friends of ours: Joseph J. Maggio, Joseph Zammuto, Pietro Alfano, Gaetano Badalamenti, Frank J. Buscemi, Jasper Calo, Joseph Zito, Frank G. Saladino, Charles Vince, Phillip J. Emordeno, Benjamin "Lefty Guns" Ruggiero, Michael Sa Bella, Tony Riela, J. Peter Balisrieri, Bonanno Crime Family, Carmine "Lilo" Galante, Gambino Crime Family, Carlos Gambino, Pasquale Conte Sr., Tommaso Buscetta, Frank Zito, Vito Genovese, Genovese Crime Family, Paul Castellano, Joe Bonanno, John Gotti
Friends of mine: John S. Leombruni, "Donnie Brasco"


He was found dead in the back seat of his car along Safford Road by two Winnebago County Sheriff's deputies on April, 6, 1980. The victim, Rockford Mob member Joseph J. Maggio, was shot once in the side of the head at close range with 6.35mm bullet, which was made in Austria.

His killer has never been charged, and the shooting remains an open and unsolved case. However, according to Maggio's extensive FBI file, a "prime suspect" was identified by unknown sources, and the motive for his killing was "a result of his objection to LCN [La Cosa Nostra or Mafia] entry into the narcotics business in Rockford." And according to an October 1984 FBI document, an unknown informant "was instructed by his 'associates' in either Las Vegas or Los Angeles that Maggio had to be killed. [Redacted] 'associates' are members of the LCN."

Maggio's murder and FBI file provides another piece to the puzzle that may one day directly link Rockford to the Mafia-run heroin and cocaine smuggling conspiracy of the 1970s and 1980s, which was known as the "Pizza Connection."

Of the nearly 1,500 pages The Rock River Times requested from Maggio's FBI file, only 90 pages were released by the U.S. Justice Department. Most of the 90 pages released were heavily redacted or censored for content.

However, the information that was released shows the Mob's determination to not only scam ordinary citizens out of money through businesses that appear completely legitimate, but also gain access to FBI files.

ORIGINS

Less than two months before Maggio was killed, he and other Mafia members met "several times" in February 1980 with Rockford Mob boss Joseph Zammuto in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. — where Zammuto vacationed during the winter each year.

Exactly what was discussed at the meeting is not known. However, Maggio's heavily redacted file indicates an unknown individual or group "began dealing narcotics in Rockford in August 1980, with Zammuto's sanction."

As to who began dealing drugs with Zammuto's approval is not known due to Maggio's redacted FBI file. However, what is known is John S. Leombruni was convicted in 1983 for trafficking cocaine in Rockford and the surrounding area.

According to a March 4, 1984 article in the Rockford Register Star, "There were indications in 1982 that a six-moth investigation by the FBI of cocaine traffic in Rockford had turned up Mob connections. Twelve persons were indicted, including John S. Leombruni, who was described as the city's biggest cocaine dealer. ...Leombruni had lived in Las Vegas the year before his arrest." And according to the Register Star article, an FBI affidavit indicated, Leombruni "was run out of town by 'the Mafia chief in Las Vegas.' Court approved wiretaps showed Mob involvement in the Rockford cocaine case FBI agents said, but were not allowed as evidence in Leombruni’s trial." He was tried in federal court in Rockford.

The sequence of incidents, from published sources, suggests a strong link between the Rockford Mob and other participants in the Pizza Connection, whose second in command for Midwest operations was Oregon, Ill., pizza maker Pietro Alfano.

According to a source for The Rock River Times, Alfano, now 70, "retired" and returned to Sicily shortly after his release from federal prison in 1992. As of 2004, Alfano's son operated the restaurant, which was still in business in Oregon.

Ralph Blumenthal, reporter for The New York Times and author of the 1988 book Last Days of the Sicilians, wrote that Alfano immigrated to the United States between 1963 and 1967 from Cinisi, Sicily, a town about 8 miles west of Palermo near the Mediterranean Sea.

Cinisi was also the hometown of former Sicilian Mob boss Gaetano Badalamenti, who was born in 1923, and died in 2004. Badalamenti became head of the Sicilian Mafia in 1969, but fled for his life to Brazil in November 1978 in the wake of the "Mafia wars" in Sicily.

Alfano and other Mob members born in Sicily, but working in United States, were referred to as "Zips" by their American-born counterparts. According to Selwyn Raab, former New York Times reporter and author of the 2005 book Five Families: The rise, decline and resurgence of America's most powerful Mafia empires, the term "Zip" may be Sicilian slang for "hicks" or "primitives."

DRUGS AND INTELLIGENCE FILES

On April 8, 1984, Alfano and Badalamenti were apprehended by police in Madrid, Spain. Authorities charged that they, along with 29 others overseas and in the United States, participated in a multinational, $1.65 billion heroin/cocaine smuggling and money laundering conspiracy.

The conspiracy stretched from poppy fields in Afghanistan to banks in Switzerland, ships in Bulgaria and Turkey, pay phones in Brazil, and pizza restaurants in New York, Oregon, Ill., and Milton, Wis. The conspiracy would become known as the "Pizza Connection," the successor to the 1950s' and 1960s' "French Connection."

Interim Chief of the Rockford Police Department Dominic Iasparro, head of the Rockford area Metro Narcotics task force, has been with the agency for about 32 years. Iasparro recalled area drug trafficking during the time of the Pizza Connection.

"As I understand it, the drugs weren't coming out here—they were staying in New York," Iasparro said during an April 12, 2004 interview.

In addition to being head of the local narcotics unit, Iasparro was also responsible for destroying police intelligence files concerning Rockford Mob members in the mid-1980s that Iasparro said was part of a nationwide effort to purge such information. Maggio's dossier was among the files requested by The Rock River Times last year, but apparently destroyed during the purge.

IMMIGRATION AND SPONSORSHIP

Under what circumstances Alfano arrived in the United States is not clear. However, what is clear is Alfano and other Zips in the Midwest and on the East Coast were employed in the pizza business. Also apparent is former Rockford Mob boss Frank J. Buscemi was reported by the Register Star to have facilitated the immigration of "several cousins to Rockford from Sicily and set them up in business."

What is not certain is whether Buscemi, a Chicago native, sponsored Alfano's move to Illinois. Buscemi was owner of Stateline Vending Co., Inc., and Rondinella Foods Co., before his death in Rockford on Dec. 7, 1987. Rondinella was a wholesale cheese, food and pizza ingredient distributor.

Stateline Vending began operating from the basement of the Aragona Club on Kent Street before moving to 1128 S. Winnebago St., which was owned by former Mafia Advisor Joseph Zito and Mobster Jasper Calo. The vending business eventually settled at 326 W. Jefferson St., in Rockford, before it was dissolved in 1988, after Buscemi’s death.

Winnebago County court documents from 1988 indicate alleged Rockford Mob hit man Frank G. Saladino worked for Rondinella in the 1980s when Buscemi owned the business. Saladino was found dead April 25, 2005 in Hampshire, Ill., by federal agents that went to arrest him on charges of murder and other illegal Mob-related activities.

According to Buscemi's recently released FBI file, Buscemi was also the target of a federal investigators from 1981 to 1986 in connection with Maggio's murder and "extortionate business practices."

"These allegations involved Buscemi's cheese distribution business, RONDINELLA FOODS, and his vending machine operation, STATE-LINE VENDING." Buscemi's also indicates that the investigation produced "numerous leads of extreme value, including contacts between Frank J. Buscemi and the subject of an ongoing Boston drug task force investigation."

Despite the years of investigations, Buscemi was never charged with any crime before his death in 1987. Also unknown is whether Zammuto's only sister, whose married name is Alfano, was related to Pietro Alfano through marriage.

BUSINESS MEETING

The Mob's historic ties to the vending machine business is significant in establishing an indirect link between the Rockford Mob and the Pizza connection because of a meeting that took place in July 1978 in Milwaukee between Mob members from New York, Milwaukee and Rockford.

In July 1978, federal court documents show Rockford Mafia Advisor Joseph Zito, Mob Underboss Charles Vince, and Phillip J. Emordeno along with other members of the Milwaukee and New York Mafia were alleged to have tried to extort money from a competing upstart vending machine company owner. The owner of the company the Mob members tried to shakedown, was actually an undercover federal agent named Gail T. Cobb who was masquerading as Tony Conte, owner of Best Vending Co.

According to page 229 of Raab's book, legendary FBI agent Donnie Brasco, whose real name was Joseph P Pistone, was "used" by Bonanno Mob soldier Benjamin "Lefty Guns" Ruggiero "on cooperative ventures with other families in New York, Florida and Milwaukee."

Blumnenthal wrote on page 42 of his book that in 1978 Pistone traveled to Milwaukee to vouch for Cobb, and "Pistone helped Cobb cement an alliance between the Bonanno and [Milwaukee Mob boss Frank P.] Balistrieri clans."

Actor Johnny Depp portrayed Pistone in the 1997 movie Donnie Brasco, during the time in the late 1970s when Pistone infiltrated organized crime. ("Lefty Guns" Ruggiero was played by Al Pacino.)

The Register Star described the 1978 meeting in their March 1984 article as being partly arranged by Rockford Mob members. The article concluded the meeting "confirmed long-held intelligence information that...[the Rockford Mob] possessed the influence to deal directly with the Milwaukee and New York organized crime families." The meeting was set to quash a possible violent conflict between Cobb and Mafia members.

Ruggerio's Mob captain, Michael Sa Bella contacted Tony Riela—a New Jersey Mob member with ties to the Rockford Mafia. Riela called Rockford to schedule the meeting, and Ruggiero called Zito several times. Vince also called Balistrieri’s son J. Peter Balisrieri shortly before the meeting.

According to the Register Star article, "on July 29, 1978 Cobb met the three Rockford men and Ruggiero at the Centre Stage Restaurant in Milwaukee. ....Ruggiero told Cobb that the vending machine business in Milwaukee was controlled by the mob," and if Cobb wanted to enter the business he would have to share his profits with the Mafia or be killed. Since the New York and Milwaukee crime families worked together, "Cobb also was told he would have to pay a portion of his profits to the Bonanno family," which was headed at that time by Carmine "Lilo" Galante.

DEATH ON THE PATIO

Blumenthal wrote that the shotgun assignation of Galante in the mid-afternoon on July 12, 1979 while he was dining on the patio of a restaurant in Brooklyn, N.Y., marked a tipping point in the power struggle to control drug trafficking in America. Pizza Connection prosecutors believed Galante’s murder "cleared the way for Sicilian Mafia rivals in America to set up the Pizza Connection."

Raab said on page 207 that Galante attempted to injure the other four New York Mob family's interests in the drug trade, especially the Gambino crime family. "Perhaps even more grievous, after Carlo Gambino's death [Galante] had openly predicted that he would be crowned boss of bosses."

Although Frank Balistrieri and others would be sent to prison as a result of Cobb and Pistone's efforts, no Rockford Mob members were indicted in the Milwaukee case. The same may also be said about the Pizza Connection conspiracy.

SHOOTING ON THE SIDEWALK

Unlike Galante, Alfano survived a Mob attempt on his life.

After emerging from a Balducci's delicatessen in Greenwhich Village N.Y. the evening of Feb. 11, 1987, Alfano was shot three times in the back by two men who emerged from a red car. The shooting occurred during the October 1985 to March 1987 Pizza Connection trial.

Blumenthal wrote the failed assassination attempt was allegedly arranged by Gambino family associates, which left Alfano paralyzed below the waist and confined to a wheel chair.

Blumenthal alleged Salvatore Spatola, a convicted heroin and cocaine smuggler, said the attempted killing of Alfano had been arranged by Pasquale Conte, Sr.— a captain in the Gambino family.

The exact motive for Alfano's shooting appears to be a mystery. However, Blumenthal wrote that convicted New Jersey bank robber Frank Bavosa told the FBI and New York police he and two other men were paid $40,000 to kill Alfano "allegedly because of his continuing drug-trafficking activities."

AUTONOMOUS BUT UNITED

Even though the Rockford Mob has historically been considered part of the Chicago Mafia, which is known as "The Outfit," Tommaso Buscetta, Sicilian Mafia turncoat and lead witness in the Pizza Connection trial testified that Italian-based Mobsters based throughout the world acted as one in achieving their objectives.

Supporting that claim is a statement from Thomas V. Fuentes, special agent in the organized crime section for the FBI. During a 2003 broadcast on the History Channel, Fuentes said a Nov. 14, 1957 meeting of Mafia bosses from throughout the United States in Apalachin, N.Y., was in part to decide whether American Mob members would act cohesively to cash in on the drug trade.

Specifically, Fuentes said: "We believe that the main purpose was for the bosses of the American families to decide whether or not they would engage jointly in heroin trafficking with their cousins in Sicily."

Rockford Mob Consuleri Joseph Zito's brother, Frank Zito, boss of the Springfield, Ill., Mob was one of those who attended the Apalachin conference, according Joseph Zito's FBI file.

Also in attendance at the Apalachin meeting with Zito were at least 58 other Mob members, which included Carlo Gambino; Vito Genovese, boss of the New York Genovese crime family; Gambino’s brother-in-law Paul Castellano; and Joe Bonanno. Castellano would be Gambino’s successor after Gambino’s death in 1976. Castellano was murdered in 1986, and was succeeded by John Gotti, who died in a Missouri prison medical center June 10, 2002.

SCAM IN ALABAMA

In addition to a probable motive for Maggio's killing, Maggio's FBI file shows Mob's determination to not only steal money from citizens, but gain access to FBI files.

Maggio was convicted on Dec. 6, 1972 on seven counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy. The conviction was obtained after an unidentified male informant said the conspiracy involved a "boat registration scheme", wherein the name United States Merchant Marine was used to collect funds for a national boat registration service.

"He said they planned to circulate a letter to all boat owners for a $10 contribution, which would then be used as a registration fee for a registry to be maintained by the company [United States Merchant Marine Service, Inc.]. ...

"[Redact] had asked him if he had any idea how the United States Merchant Marine Service could patch into the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) National Crime Information Center (NCIC)."

Maggio was born Aug. 30, 1936 in Rockford, where he lived his entire life, until his death at age 43. Maggio married in 1959, and had three sons and one daughter. He became a made Mob member in approximately February 1965.

About the author: Jeff Havens is a former award-winning reporter for the weekly newspaper The Rock River Times in Rockford, Ill. Havens lived most of his life in the Rockford area, and wrote dozens of news articles about the Mob in Rockford and Chicago.

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