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|New York|  Joe Massino

Birth: January 10, 1943

Death: /












Joseph Massino was the boss of the Bonanno family from 1991 until his conviction in 2004. After his underboss/brother-in-law Salvatore Vitale testified against him he eventually shocked the underworld and became a federal witness himself, making him the highest level turncoat ever in the history of the American Mafia.

Early life
Joseph Massino was born in 1943 in Queens, New York. Living in poor conditions he became attracted to the easy-making-money life of crime. As a child Massino started off robbing homeing pigeons. During that time he became best friends with Salvatore Vitale. Both men were close and Massino was even asked for Vitale's wedding as his best man and became godfather to one of his children. Together with Vitale he quietly rose the ranks of the Bonanno family by hijacking trucks. After making his bones he was "made" inside the organization in 1977.

One man army
When Carmine Galante was murdered in 1979 the Bonanno family became devided into 2 factions. One faction supported the jailed Phillip Rastelli, and another faction opposed their jailed boss. By then Massino had made it as a capo under "Rusty" Rastelli and was determined to help his leader. Massino was also recorded saying he acted as a "one man army" for Rastelli against all of their enemies. Those enemies included Bonanno capo's Alphonse Indelicato, Dominick Trinchera and Phillip Giaccone. Their revolt however wouldn't last long. May 5, 1981, was the date which ended the opposing faction in one smash. Trinchera, Giaccone and Indelicato were lured to a social club with the false pretence of discussing the families future. When the 3 capo's arrived they were immediatly ambushed. They were beaten, kicked and eventually shot to death. The hit team consisted out of Salvatore Vitale, Montreal leader Vito Rizzuto, Gerlando Sciascia and Frank "Curly" Lino. Vitale later told prosecutors that Massino was also present during the rubbout and even smacked one of the capo's in the face before they were slaughtered.

1970's surveillance picture of Joe Massino.
Later that year Massino and Rastelli descided another capo had to go in order to restore the health of the Bonanno family. That man was Dominick Napolitano, who had helped Massino in the killing of the 3 capo's a couple of months earlier. As loyal as he was, he made a critical mistake by letting an undercover FBI agent getting to far inside the organization, even offering him a spot inside the inner circles of the family as a made man. Unaware that Donnie Brasco was in fact an FBI agent, he did settle his faith and was murdered in August 1981. One year later his body washed up in Staten Island with both hands cut off. However, Napolitano wasn't the only one of his crew who was punished. In 1982 Anthony Mirra, a streetsoldier who introduced Brasco to Napolitano, was shot to death by his own nephew in order of Massino and Rastelli.

That same year Massino was sought by the police for conspiracy in the murder of the 3 capo's but went into hiding. He remained a fugitive for about 3 years and even ordered the murder of Cesare Bonventre, a former bodyguard of Carmine Galante, in the meantime. In 1985 he finally turned himself in to authorities. He was set on trial together with boss Phillip Rastelli, who was allready serving a prison sentence, and 15 others for racketeering. In 1987 he was brought in connection with the murders of the 3 capo's but was acquited for that crime. He however was sentenced to 10 years.

Becomming the Bonanno boss
In 1991 Phillip Rastelli passed away and it was clear who would follow his footsteps as the new boss. During the late 1980's Massino was allready regarded as the man who was pulling the strings of the family. Once he was regarded as the new official boss he placed Salvatore Vitale as his underboss and kept Anthony Spero as consiglieri. In 1993 Massino was released from prison and slowly made the family strong again. He closed down a couple of Bonanno social clubs to avoid surveillance and lived in a modest house in Queens, respecting the old rules of keeping the Cosa Nostra secret by not showing off with his earned fortunes. He was also said to have been close to flamboyant Gambino boss John Gotti. However, Salvatore Vitale later revealed in court that Massino actually wasn't that fond of Gotti at all. He even quoted Massino saying "John set this thing of ours back one hundred years!" due to all his public appearances. Massino even failed to appear during Gotti's funeral in 2002.

Arrest and convicton
Massino's empire however started to crumble when in 2001 consiglieri Anthony Spero was arrested and sentenced to live. Spero's successor, Anthony Grazia, was also convicted only one year later. In 2003 eventually Massino was arrested for the murders of Dominick Napolitano and Anthony Mirra. Things didn't look good as about 8 Bonanno turncoats were set tot testify against him. Amongst them was his best friend and brother-in-law Salvatore Vitale, who was arrested a couple of months prior and chose the federal protection program instead of years behind bars. The fact that Vitale felt he was shoved away in Bonanno business the last few years also helped in his descision. Massino would eventually set trial for arson, extortion, money-laundring and above all, 7 murders: Anthony Indelecato (1981), Domincik Trinchera (1981), Phillip Giaccone (1981), Dominick Napolitano (1981), Anthony Mirra (1982), Cesare Bonventre (1984) and Gabriel Infanti (1987). The case was led by prosecutor Greg D. Andres and Massino was found guilty on all charges, being sentenced to 2 life terms. In 2004 he was also ordered to pay up $9 million to the government as proceeds of his crimes. He even faced the death penalty for ordering the 1999 murder of Gerlando Sciascia.

In January 2005, Massino however shocked the underworld. After being nailed down by several Bonanno turncoats, it was revealed that he had been helping prosecutors too. The news even reportidly shocked his own wife. He had secretly taped prison conversations with several Bonanno members, but mainly with his successor Vincent Basciano. The conversations proved to be worthy and a murder plot to kill prosecutor Greg Andres was revealed. In June that same year his lawyer, Thomas J. Lee, was arrested and charged with racketeering, conspiracy to commit murder and obstruction of justice. Lee, who represented members of the Bonanno family, helped them in committing crimes by carrying messages to and from the family's imprisoned boss, including requests to carry out killings. In October 2009 about 15 Bonanno members were arrested for crimes ranging from extortion to illegal gambling. The investigations were brought up after testimonies by Joseph Massino.

The man who once ruled the Bonanno family with an iron grip was now holding it tight round it's neck. Massino helped the government in prosecuting several of his own men, but still tried to keep some influence in the Bonanno organization. However, after his betrayels the family was struggling to reform and therefore shoved him away for good. They also stopped taking orders from Vincent Basciano, who was handpicked by Massino as his successor but was eventually also betrayed by him. It looks that the Massino chapter is closed in the Bonanno history and that they don't want anything to do with him anymore. Some believe that the Sicilian faction, the so called "Zips", have taken over the organization.

(Source: "King of the Godfathers" by Anthony DeStefano; "Defendant linked to mob murder plot" Nytimes April 30, 1988; "Mob Aide Turned Informer Tells of His Boss's Misdeeds" Nytimes June 30, 2004; "Bonanno Crime Boss Is Sentenced to 2 Life Terms" Nytimes June 24, 2005, "Mob Boss's Lawyer Charged With Aiding Murder Plot" Nytimes June 25, 2005; huffingtonpost.com, nydailynews.com)


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