Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Bonanno Family

'What's There to Say?'

Joseph C. Bonanno
Joseph C. Bonanno

On the evening of October 20, 1964, Joseph Bonanno, the boss of the New York crime family that bore his name, sat down to dinner at an uptown restaurant with three of his attorneys: William Maloney, his partner Joe Allen, and Bonanno's Arizona attorney Lawrence D'Antonio.  The sixty-year-old Bonanno was scheduled to appear before a grand jury the next day, and the lawyers had assembled to counsel him.  Bonanno would later refer to this time of his life as being between a "hammer and anvil."  The federal government was actively pursuing him for his organized-crime activities while at the same time the Mafia Commission, the mob's ruling body in America, had gotten wind of his plans to revamp their ranks through a series of planned assassinations in order to make himself   boss of all bosses.

Charles Luciano
Charles "Lucky" Luciano

Bonanno felt he deserved the vaunted position since in his estimation he, unlike his so-called peers, was the only remaining "man of honor" in the tradition of the Sicilian Mafia.  "Wealth," he would later write in his controversial 1983 autobiography, was a "by-product of power."  According to Bonanno, Lucky Luciano and his ilk concerned themselves with "the most primitive consideration: making money"-an interesting statement coming from a man whose crime family made most of its profits from the sale and distribution of narcotics.  During his unprecedented 33 year reign, Bonanno used his considerable ill-gotten gain to extend his empire beyond the New York City area, acquiring major interests in Arizona, California, Canada, Cuba, and Haiti.   

The boss and his lawyers lingered long after their meal was over that night and finally left the restaurant close to midnight.  They flipped up their overcoat collars against a steady drizzle as they flagged down a taxi.  Bonanno, Maloney, and Allen got in, and Maloney told the driver to go to his apartment building at 36th Street and Park Avenue where they planned to continue their conference.  Bonanno had been invited to stay at Maloney's apartment that night, so he wouldn't have to commute into Manhattan from his Long Island home for the next day's hearing.  In his autobiography, Bonanno says that although he knew he was in hot water, he didn't fear for his life and traveled without a bodyguard.

When the taxi pulled up at the curb in front of Maloney's apartment,   Allen got out first and walked to the canopy at the entrance to get out of the rain while Bonanno and Maloney argued over who would pay the fare.  Bonanno insisted, and Maloney conceded, following his partner to the canopy as their client paid the driver. 

Bonanno stepped onto the sidewalk, closed the door, and the taxi pulled away.   He didn't notice the two men walking toward him until they grabbed him by the arms and roughly hustled him toward the corner.

"Come on, Joe," one of the men said.  "My boss wants you."

According Bonanno's account, "they were tall, had long coats and brimmed hats."

Maloney shouted at them, but a gunshot into the sidewalk at his feet sent him scurrying for shelter.  

The two men dragged Bonanno to a waiting car and shoved him in the backseat, ordering him to "crouch on the floor...head down."   The car sped off, making several sharp turns that jostled the boss.  Finally the car stopped turning and picked up speed.  Bonanno assumed they were on a highway. 

The two men told Bonanno he could sit up now and instructed him to sit between them.  Their driver kept his eye on the road, and they started apologizing to Bonanno for having to manhandle him.  That's when Bonanno recognized the two "sad faces."  One was his cousin, Nino Maggadino, brother of Stefano Maggadino, the mob boss of Buffalo.  The other man was Stefano's son Peter.

"Cosa si puo dire?" Peter said to his uncle Joe in Sicilian-accented Italian.  "What's there to say?"

Bonanno said nothing.  He knew why his cousin Stefano had ordered this kidnapping.  Bonanno had put out a contract on Stefano Maggadino's life, but the plot had been revealed and thwarted.  Obviously this was Maggadino's retaliation.

The car's headlights swept the curving entrance ramp that led to the George Washington Bridge.  Through the car windows, Bonanno could see the shimmering waters of the Hudson River and the brightly lit Manhattan skyline to his left as they made their way to New Jersey.

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