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The Last Godfather -- And the First One to Flip

Massino's mugshot. How many men had to gaze into those cold, steely eyes
before breathing their last.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Joseph Massino
Born January 10, 1943
New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.

Joseph Charles "Big Joey" Massino (born January 10, 1943), also known as "The Last Don", "The Horatio Alger of the Mob" and "The Ear", is an American mobster and former boss of the Bonanno crime family, who eventually turned government witness. He was convicted in July 2004 of racketeering, seven murders, arson, extortion, loansharking, illegal gambling, conspiracy and money laundering.

To avoid the death penalty, Massino turn state's evidence, agreed to testify against his former associates and was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2005. He was referred to as the "Last Don" by the media because at the time, he was the only official head of the Five Families not in prison.[1] His leadership was recognized in 2000 at a meeting of the bosses of four of the five families.[1]

1 Biography
1.1 Early years
1.2 Rise to power
1.3 The three capos murder
1.4 Operation Donnie Brasco
1.5 John Gotti
1.6 Mirra and Bonventre murders
1.7 1987 trials
1.8 The family regroups
1.9 Informant
2 References
3 External links

Early years

Massino first met his future wife Josephine in 1956, and married her in 1960. He had a lunch wagon business and served factory workers in Maspeth, Queens and sold Christmas trees during the winter season. When his daughter Adelaide was born he had to take loans from relatives to pay for the hospital. In 1966 he bought his first home in Maspeth to be close to his parents. He was a close friend of Carmine Rastelli and Martin Rastelli, brothers of Phillip Rastelli who ran a depot for lunch wagon supplies.

Massino is the father of three daughters named Joanne, Adeline and Linda. . He stands at 5'10" with brown hair and brown eyes and weighs 300 pounds. His grandchildren referred to him by the pet name Poppy. As he grew older he enjoyed entertaining house guests by bellyflopping and swimming with neighborhood children that he would invite over into his backyard pool. Massino's family is of Catholic Faith. He was a one time neighbor of John Gotti, Gene Gotti, Peter Gotti and Alphonse Indelicato.

Massino owned and operated the CasaBlanca Restaurant in Maspeth, Queens, an Italian restaurant and catering firm, as well as Cafe Via Vento, also in Maspeth, and other New York and Florida properties.[1] He once convened a meeting of four of the Five Families at CasaBlanca, and he allegedly ran his operations from the restaurant, setting it as the family's main headquarters.[1] At CasaBella, Massino personally made the pasta sauces and ravioli and claimed that CasaBlanca had the best pizza in the city.
[edit]Rise to power

Big Joey Massino.

Massino was a protege of Phillip Rastelli and his brothers in the 1960s. Massino began running a lunch wagon in Maspeth, New York, selling pastries and coffee to dock workers. He was also involved in truck hijacking, running numbers and fencing stolen goods such as coffee, liquor and clothes. In 1975, Massino murdered Vito Borelli at the behest of Paul Castellano of the Gambino crime family. The Borelli hit put Massino close to becoming a made man in the Bonanno family.

Massino was arrested for conspiring with Raymond Wean to receive 225 cartons of merchandise stolen from an interstate shipment contained in the Hemingway truck. Both men made bail. In 1976, Massino became a made man and was placed in Philip Giaccone's crew. Massino had yet to attract any serious attention from the FBI. In 1977, Massino went on trial for truck hijacking but was acquitted.

On June 1, 1976, close to Massino's social club and deli in Maspeth, the body of Joseph Pastore was found in a dumpster with two shots in the head. Pastore was a truck hijacker who supplied Massino with stolen goods to fence. Massino and Richard Dormer (Pastore's half brother) were taken to the morgue to identify the body. Prior to the murder, Massino had his brother-in-law Salvatore Vitale borrow $9,000 from Pastore on behalf of Massino.

In 1979, Bonanno de facto boss Carmine Galante was shot to death at his favorite restaurant; Massino was allegedly present outside the restaurant. Rastelli took over the family and Massino was promoted to caporegime three years after becoming a made man. He was one of the most powerful caporegimes in the Bonanno family, along with his friend Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano.[2]
[edit]The three capos murder

In 1981, Massino got word from his informants that Bonanno capos Alphonse "Sonny Red" Indelicato, Dominick "Big Trin" Trincera and Philip "Phil Lucky" Giaccone were stocking up onautomatic weapons. Their plan was to kill the Rastelli loyalists within the Bonanno family and take complete control. Massino turned to Colombo crime family boss Carmine "Junior" Persico and Gambino boss Paul Castellano for advice; they told him to act immediately. Massino and fellow capo Dominic Napolitano went to the Commission for approval to kill the three plotters. The Commission gave Massino their blessing and said they would accept Rastelli as the continuing Bonanno leader.

Massino and Napolitano lured the three renegades to a sit-down regarding the future family leadership of the Bonanno family. When the three capos arrived with Frank Lino; the assailantsSal Vitale, Vito Rizzuto and Napolitano burst out of a closet holding shotguns and pistols. Trinchera, Giaccone and Indelicato tried to escape but were shot to death. Lino escaped unscathed by running out the door. Indelicato's son Anthony "Bruno" Indelicato was meant to be killed as well but missed the meeting when the capos decided to take Frank Lino instead. Bruno fled New York, but when he re-surfaced, Massino and Napolitano turned to soldier Benjamin "Lefty" Ruggiero and associate Donnie Brasco and gave them the 'contract' so Brasco could become a made man in the Bonanno family.
[edit]Operation Donnie Brasco

Massino later came into conflict with Napolitano over Napolitano's proposal to admit mobster Donnie Brasco to the family before Massino's loyal associate Salvatore Vitale. Vitale had been a loyal soldier as well as a participant in several killings, including the three capo slayings, while Brasco had only been known for a few years and hadn't taken part in any sanctioned mob hits. Although Brasco accepted the contract, he disappeared and the FBI soon revealed that "Donnie Brasco" was really Joseph Pistone, an undercover agent for theorganized crime division in the FBI. In the book Donnie Brasco: Unfinished Business, Pistone wrote that years earlier, he had actually arrested Massino as part of a truck hijacking bust. However, when introduced to Massino as Donnie Brasco, Massino did not recognize him.

In August 1981, the Bonanno family blamed Napolitano for bringing an undercover agent into their midst, as well as almost making him a member. In order to send a message, Massino was ordered by Philip "Rusty" Rastelli behind bars to kill Napolitano. Their former renegade Frank Lino and Steven Cannone drove Napolitano to the house of Ronald Filocomo, a Bonanno family associate. Napolitano was greeted by captain Frank Coppa. Knowing that he was finished, Napolitano simply asked the men to kill him quickly. The two hitmen threw Napolitano down the stairs and shot him to death in the basement. Whilst Napolitano's body was prepared for disposal, Lino went outside to a nearby van and told the occupants that Napolitano was dead. One of the men in the car was Massino.
[edit]John Gotti

By now Massino was a close friend of Gambino crime family capo and eventual boss, John Gotti, his neighbor in Howard Beach, Queens.[3] Massino owned a cut in the house of a high stakes dice game operated by Gotti on Mott Street in Manhattan. Massino discovered a wire tap in his social club, J&S Cake Social Club in Maspeth, Queens. Massino handed over the wire to the FBI who came to pick it up.

Although a friend of Gotti, Massino later became upset with Gotti's flamboyance and openness to media attention he also later found out that Gotti was bad-mouthing him calling him "a punk" and "a hungry whale swallowing anything he can get" and informants testified he remarked, "John set this thing of ours back a hundred years."
Mirra and Bonventre murders

On November 23, 1981, six men were indicted on racketeering charges. They were Napolitano, Benjamin Ruggiero, Nicholas Santora, John Cersani, James Episcopia and Antonio Tomasulo. At the time of the indictment, the government did not know that Napolitano had been murdered in August. On February 12, 1982, Anthony Mirra was shot in the head by his nephew Joseph D'Amico. D'Amico had been sent to kill him by Richard Cantarella, who got the order from Albert Embarrato after consultation with Massino.

Mirra had recently been released from prison, but had previously befriended Brasco and was responsible for initially bringing him into the family. Like Napolitano, Mirra died for bringing Brasco into the family. Soon after the Mirra murder, Massino went into hiding with Duane "Goldie" Leisenheimer. On March 5, 1982, Massino and other family members were charged with conspiracy to murder Indelicato, Giaccone and Trinchera. While in hiding, Massino was visited by many fellow mobsters, including Gotti. Massino received cash from his associates inNew York City.

On August 12, 1982, Napolitano's body was discovered with his hands cut off. This was supposedly to warn anyone else from letting an undercover agent shake hands with a made man. In 1984, Rastelli was released from prison and Massino ordered the murder of Bonanno soldier Cesare Bonventre. Still a fugitive, Massino summoned Vitale, Louis Attanasio and James Tartaglione to his hideout. Despite the fact that Rastelli was the family head, Massino was considered by most mobsters to be the real power in the family.

Bonventre was called to a meeting with Rastelli in Queens. He was picked up by Vitale and Attanasio and driven to a garage. Once inside, Attanasio then shot Bonventre twice in the head. After Bonventre staggered out of the car, Attanasio killed him with two more shots. The task of disposing of Bonventre's corpse was handed to Gabriel Infanti. Infanti promised Vitale that Bonventre's remains would disappear forever. However, after a tipoff, the remains were discovered on April 16, 1984, in a warehouse in Garfield, New Jersey, stuffed into two 55-gallon glue drums. Bonventre was killed because he was considered to be a threat to the family.
1987 trials

Massino soon decided to turn himself over to police custody to face charges. In 1985, Massino was indicted for labor racketeering along with Rastelli, Carmine Rastelli, Nicholas Marangello and 13 other defendants. In October 1986, Massino was found guilty of violations of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (one count), the Hobbs Act (one count) and the Taft-Hartley Act (nine counts). In January 1987, he was sentenced to a ten-year prison term.

On April 18, 1987, Massino went on trial for truck hijacking and conspiracy to commit the triple murder. Raymond Wean and Pistone testified against Massino. Massino was acquitted of conspiracy to commit triple homicide, the conspiracies to murder Joseph D. Pistone and Anthony "Bruno" Indelicato, and the hijacking charges. During one of the courtroom breaks, Massino asked Pistone who was to play him in the Donnie Brasco movie, to which Pistone replied that they could not find anyone fat enough to play him.
[edit]The family regroups

The Bonanno family had fallen into disfavor after the Donnie Brasco operation and the Five Families kicked the family off the Mafia Commission. Until Massino's capos turned state's evidence against him, no made member of the Bonannos had turned informant, which gave the family an advantage over the other four of the Five Families and helped them become, in the 1980s, the most powerful crime family on the streets in New York.[1] Massino is credited with bringing the family back to power.[1]

Massino ordered his men to touch their ears when referring to him and never say his name out loud due to FBI surveillance. Massino gained the nickname "The Ear" because of this. Massino took a great number of precautions in regards to security and the possibility of anything incriminating being picked up on a wiretap. He closed the long-standing social clubs of the Bonanno family and often conducted family meetings in foreign countries or remote locations within the United States.

The infiltration of Donnie Brasco became somewhat of a blessing in disguise for the Bonanno family. When the Mafia Commission Trial indicted the New York crime families, the Bonnanos escaped conviction due to the fact that the family had been kicked out of the Mafia Commission. By dodging this bullet, the Bonnanos kept its leadership intact and were able to consolidate its power once again. Pistone called Massino "the last of the old-time gangsters." [1] Massino was later charged with ordering the murders of Napolitano and Mirra. Massino was scheduled to go on trial for the second time for a separate murder trial, which he was also expected to lose. If convicted, he faced the death penalty.

In October 2004, the FBI began digging up bodies at an infamous mob graveyard in Queens known as "The Hole". They were looking for the bodies of the three capos killed in the Bonanno civil war in the 1970s. They also hoped to find the body of John Favara, who accidentally killed Gotti's son, the body of Tommy DeSimone, murdered in 1979 for killing William Devino and Ronald Jerothe. The FBI said only that this operation was based on "credible information" from an informant.

On February 4, 2005, the FBI revealed that Massino was the source for the graveyard. Hoping to save his life and his assets, Massino had begun to cooperate sometime in late September 2004 by recording conversations with his acting boss, Vincent Basciano. This is the first time that an official boss has turned informant. Bonanno members Sal Vitale, Frank Lino, Frank Coppa, Richard Cantarella, Joseph D'Amico and Duane Leisenheimer testified against Massino. On June 23, 2005, Massino was sentenced to life in prison. Massino suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure.

^ a b c d e f g Corliss, Richard. Crittle, Simon. ""The Last Don", Time Magazine, March 29, 2004. Accessed June 21, 2008.
^ King of the Godfathers: Joseph Massino and the Fall of the Bonanno Crime Family by Anthony DeStefano
^ Raab, Selwyn. "A Mafia Family's Second Wind; Authorities Say Bonannos, All but Written Off, Are Back", The New York Times, April 29, 2000.
Crittle, Simon, The Last Godfather: The Rise and Fall of Joey Massino Berkley (March 7, 2006) ISBN 0425209393
DeStefano, Anthony. The Last Godfather: Joey Massino & the Fall of the Bonanno Crime Family. California: Citadel, 2006.
Pistone, Joseph D.; & Woodley, Richard (1999) Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia, Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-66637-4.
Pistone, Joseph D.; & Brandt, Charles (2007). Donnie Brasco: Unfinished Business, Running Press. ISBN 0-7624-2707-8.
[edit]External links
Reputed Crime Boss Goes On Trial in New York, May 9, 2004, Associated Press
An Archetypal Mob Trial: It's Just Like in the Movies, New York Times, May 23, 2004
New York's 'Last Don' Convicted,, July 30, 2004
Skeletal Remains Are Believed to Be Those of Mob Captains, New York Times, October 13, 2004
Business positions
Preceded by
Salvatore "Sal" Catalano Bonanno Crime Family
1981-1988 Succeeded by
Salvatore "Handsome Sal" Vitale
Preceded by
Phillip Rastelli Bonanno Crime Family
1991-2004 Succeeded by
Vincent Basciano
Preceded by
Vincent Gigante Capo di tutti capi
Boss of bosses
2000-2004 Succeeded by

Categories: 1943 births | American mobsters of Italian descent | Acting bosses of the Five Families | Bonanno crime family | Bosses of the Bonanno crime family | American people convicted of murder | People convicted of racketeering | People convicted of murder by the United States federal government | Mob bosses | Mobsters sentenced to life imprisonment |American prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment | Prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment by the United States federal government | Capi di tutti capi | Living people | People from New Haven, Connecticut | People from New York City | People from Queens | American arsonists | American money launderers

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