Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Bonanno Family

'My Thing'

Phillip Rastelli
Phillip "Rusty" Rastelli

After the Cigar was snuffed out, Rusty Rastelli returned as boss of the Bonanno Family.   According to The Mafia Encyclopedia, the family now concentrated on "home video pornography, pizza parlors (regarded as an excellent business in which to hide illegal aliens), espresso cafes, restaurants, and a very large narcotics operation."  But three of Rastelli's capos—Philip "Philly Lucky" Giaccone, Alphonse "Sonny Red" Indelicato, and Dominick "Big Trin" Trinchera-weren't satisfied with their allotted piece of the narcotics pie and pushed for a bigger share.  They openly challenged Rastelli's decisions, and before long the family was once again on the verge of splitting into two warring camps. 

Rastelli went to the Commission and asked for permission to take care of the problem the old-fashioned way, sending the three rebel capos to an early grave.   The Commission refused his request, but then reconsidered when they learned that the trio was planning to overthrow Rastelli. 

The contract to take care of the three rebels was given to capo Joseph Massino who organized a hit team largely comprised of shooters from the family's Montreal branch, reasoning that they could escape to Canada as soon as the deed was done.  The shooters included Montreal boss Vito Rizzuto and the Sicilian-born capo Gerlando "George from Canada" Sciascia.  Massino lured the three capos to a sit-down at a social club in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, to supposedly iron out their differences.  As soon as everyone was comfortable, four shooters wearing ski masks burst out of a closet and shouted that this was a stickup.  As reported on, Vito Rizzuto started the shooting by firing at the largest target, 300-pound   "Big Trin" Trinchera.  "George from Canada" Sciascia shot   "Sonny Red" Indelicato in the head.  "Lucky Philly" Giaccone ran for his life, but Massino pulled his gun and dropped Giaccone before he made it to the door.   The shooters left the building immediately, and a second team led by Bonanno capo Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano arrived to supervise the cleanup crew.

These murders, however, did not solve the Bonanno Family's problems.  The narcotics trade was just too lucrative to stay away from, and many of Bonanno members flocked to it despite Rastelli's orders.  The family was out of control, and with their troublesome history, they lost their seat on the Commission.

Dominik "Sonny Black" Napolitano
Dominik "Sonny Black" Napolitano

The family's fortunes sank even lower when it was revealed that FBI Special Agent Joseph Pistone had infiltrated their ranks so deeply, he had actually been proposed for full membership.   Working undercover as jewel thief "Donnie Brasco," Pistone was taken under the wing of soldier Benjamin "Lefty Guns" Ruggiero who was part of capo "Sonny Black" Napolitano's crew.  Pistone spent six years inside the Bonanno Family.  His undercover work and subsequent courtroom testimonies helped win convictions against over 100 wiseguys from crime families across the country.   "Sonny Black" Napolitano paid with his life for letting "Donnie Brasco" into the Bonanno fold.   Juries in New York, Tampa, and Milwaukee found "Lefty Guns" Ruggiero guilty on a number of charges, which resulted in a twenty-year sentence. 

Benjamin "Lefty" Ruggiero
Benjamin "Lefty" Ruggiero

Special Agent Pistone also testified against boss Rusty Rastelli who was convicted on federal RICO charges and sentenced to 12 years in prison.  His disastrous reign as boss of the Bonanno Family ended in 1991 when he died of liver cancer in a prison hospital.

Pistone, in his book Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia, sums up the problems that the Bonannos and all the mob families faced as a new generation of gangsters moved up through the ranks "La Cosa Nostra -'Our Thing'- is becoming 'My Thing' in the hands of the younger generation."  He points to the lure of easy drug profits and drug use by these younger mobsters as corrosive influences that have had a cancerous effect on the Mafia.

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