Bonanno crime boss Joseph Massino was found guilty Friday of racketeering and other charges, including having a role in the slaying of the man who let FBI agent “Donnie Brasco” infiltrate the family.
Betrayed by his ex-best friend and seven other mob turncoats, Massino was also convicted of arson, extortion, money-laundering and other charges as the jury convicted him on every count. The once-powerful mob boss and close friend of late Gambino family head John Gotti faces life in prison at his sentencing.
Massino, 61, a former 400-pounder known as “Big Joey,” stood impassively in Brooklyn federal court as the litany of guilty verdicts was read. His daughter, sitting in the courtroom, whispered, “Oh, God.”
Among the killings Massino was convicted of was the slaying of Dominick “Sonny Black” Napolitano, who unwittingly introduced “Brasco” to the Bonannos. The murders were part of the racketeering count.
A turncoat witness said Napolitano was thrown down a flight of steps into a basement and shot to death as he begged for his former friends to finish him with a final bullet.
FBI agent Joe Pistone, posing as jewel thief Donnie Brasco, was embraced by the Bonanno hierarchy from 1976-81, and what the agent learned led to more than 120 convictions and the near-collapse of the crime family. The Brasco saga later became a movie starring Johnny Depp and Al Pacino.
The verdict, reached on the fifth day of jury deliberations, was a crippling blow to both the Bonannos and Massino, who was also dubbed “The Last Don” for his ability to avoid jail while the heads of New York’s other four Mafia families were all behind bars.
Since his 1992 release on a racketeering rap, Massino dodged prosecution while bringing the Bonannos back from the brink of extinction.
Massino oversaw the Bonanno comeback from his Queens restaurant, CasaBlanca, where mobsters mingled beneath pictures of Bogart and Bergman. In his efforts stymie prosecutors, Massino instructed his minions to tug their ear when referring to him, rather than speak his name — an effort to defeat government wiretaps.
His two-month murder and racketeering trial was the most formidable organized crime prosecution since the 1997 case against Genovese boss Vincent “The Chin” Gigante.
Eight mob informants, including Massino’s brother-in-law and former underboss, Salvatore “Handsome Sal” Vitale, testified against him. Defense attorney David Breitbart said the mobsters lied under oath to win favorable treatment from prosecutors.
Massino and Vitale, friends since they were teens, sat uneasily in the courtroom for nearly a week as Vitale detailed their mutual life of crime. Vitale told how he and Massino plotted and committed various murders, including the 1981 slayings of three rival Bonanno captains during a war for control of the family.