||New York| Phillip Rastelli
Birth: January 31, 1918 - Queens
Death: June 24, 1991 - Ossining, New York
Phillip 'Rusty' Rastelli was the boss of the Bonanno family from the 1970's until his death in 1991 and was mentor of future leader Joseph Massino.
Rastelli was born in 1918 as one of 8 children and was raised in Queens, New York. He was cousin to Louis Rastelli, a capo in the Bonanno organization. He quit school at the age of 15 and 3 years later was convicted for the first time after he killed someone during a motor accident while driving without a license. After his conviction he continued his life in crime with robberies and illegal gambling. In 1940 he and Santo Bretagna were arrested for stealing $266 from a man in Lower Broadway. Bretagna, an early associate of the Rastelli brothers, would later be executed at Sing Sing prison for killing a man.
To have a legal income he listed his job as a radio dispatcher for a taxi company. Rastelli is also believed to have used his first wife, Connie, in several robberies as a getaway driver. Connie herself wasn't a sweetheart as she had nearly escaped prosecution for murder and maintained an abortion mill. The relationship was discribed as chaotic and Connie was a woman who liked to be in full control. When she discovered that her husband was having an affair with a younger woman she went furious, reputidly beating his misstress until she bled. When Rastelli eventually demanded to divorce she went even further by becomming a federal witness. In 1962 she was killed in the doorway of her home by an unidentified gunman. It is widely believed that Rastelli was responsible for the death of his wife.
Elevation within the Family
Rastelli had already proven his zero-tolerance for witnesses by killing his former wife, and proved it again by ordering a hit on his own uncle, Louis Rastelli, after believing the old man was going to become a witness. The murder attempt failed but his uncle was left paralyzed. In 1972 his new wife Mildred died of cancer at the age of 53 and was buried at the family plot. The following year Rastelli took over the Bonanno family from Natale Evola, who also had died of cancer. During those years the Bonanno Family expanded their drug affairs by starting the infamous "Pizza Connection", a massive drug trafficking ring from Sicily towards America. Sicilian mobsters were brought in over the years to secure the relations between them and Sicily. Partially because of these imported Sicilians, often referred to as 'zips', they had absolute dominance over the other American Families in the highly profitable drug business.
However, after only leading the organization for 2 years he was arrested and sentenced due to extortion charges. Former underboss Carmine Galante unofficially took over the family when he was released from prison in 1973. Soon Galante surrounded himself with the zips and became the absolute leader of the drug business. In 1979 the other families had about enough of Galante and approached Rastelli to have him assassinated. With Galante out of the way tensions between them and the other families would vanish and the "Pizza Connection" drug ring could be more divided between the New York families. In July 1979 Galante was gunned down while eating at his cousins restaurant. Two "Zips", who worked as Galante's personal bodyguards, participated in the slaying. However, the murder of a Mafia boss like Galante didn't go unnoticed. Papers headlined the "Godfathers murder" and the FBI also became aware that something big was going on inside Mafia circles. Rastelli also had to deal with other problems as a faction of the family thought his leadership wasn't good anymore because he sat behind bars. This erupted in a dispute within the Bonanno Family about whether or not Rastelli should remain the boss.
Rastelli decided to fight back and ordered the murders of Dominick Trinchera, Sonny Red Indelicato and Phillip Giaccone, the three capo's who had formed an alliance against him. Rastelli turned to his most trusted capo Joe Massino to perform the killing. During the 1980's Rastelli appointed Anthony Spero as his consigliere and Joe Massino as his underboss. Both Rastelli, who was allready serving a prison sentence, and Massino were convicted during the 1985-1987 Case against the Commission Members. Rastelli made headlines in tabloids by fainting in the courtroom during a hearing in 1985. He received a 12 year sentence in addition to the sentence he was currently serving for directing a massive labor racketeering conspiracy from 1964 to 1985. According to the New York Times of January 17, 1987, he showed no emotions while hearing his sentence. Also his brother Carmine was found guilty and was sentenced to 6 years. On July 21, 1991 he was released from prison for humanitarian reasons and died 3 days later in a Queens hospital of cancer.
(Source: telegraph.co.uk, "Philip Rastelli, 73, A Reputed Leader Of a Crime Family" NYtimes June 27 1991, "Rastelli of Bonanno family faces 12-year prison term" NYtimes January 17, 1987)
.:Back to American Mafia:.