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Joseph "Big Joey" Massino
Born January 10, 1943 (1943-01-10) (age 67)
New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.

Joseph Charles "Big Joey" Massino (born January 10, 1943), known in the media as "The Last Don" or "The Horatio Alger of the Mob", was a Maspeth, Queens restaurateur and former head 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 for his crimes, 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]

Contents

Personal life

Massino is the father of two daughters named Joanne and Adeline. He is the uncle to Anthony Vitale and Joel Vitale, the two children produced by his brother-in-law and underboss Salvatore Vitale and his sister Josephine. 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.

He was a one time neighbor of John Gotti, Gene Gotti, Peter Gotti and Alphonse Indelicato. He owned and managed CasaBlanca in Queens, where he personally made the pasta sauces and ravioli.

Massino first met his future wife Josephine in 1956, marrying her in 1960. He drove a lunch wagon 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 became a made man in 1976 or 1977. In the early days Philip Giaconne had been Massino's caporegime before he was promoted in 1979 after the murder of Carmine Galante. He was one of the most powerful caporegimes in the Bonanno crime family, including his business associate and friend Dominick Napolitano, whose murder he would later order.[2]

Businesses

Massino owned 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]

Rise to power

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, a rising star in the Gambino crime family. The Borelli hit put Massino close to becoming a made man, or full member, of 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. He was placed under Capo Phillip "Philly Lucky" Giaccone. Massino had yet to attract any serious attention from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In 1977, Joe Massino went on trial for the 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 in his favorite restaurant; some say Massino was present outside the restaurant. Rastelli took over the family and Massino was promoted to caporegime only three years after becoming a made man.

Murder of the three capos

In 1981, Massino got word from his informants that Alphonse 'Sonny Red' Indelicato, Dominick 'Big Trin' Trincera and Philip 'Phil Lucky' Giaccone were stocking up on automatic 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 crime family boss Paul Castellano for advice; they told him to act immediately. Massino and fellow captain Dominick "Sonny Black" 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.

After receiving permission to murder their rivals, Massino and Napolitano agreed to lure the three renegade capos to a sit-down regarding the future family leadership of the Bonanno crime family. When the three captains Indelicato, Giaccone, and Trinchera turned up with Frank Lino, Gerlando Sciascia, Vito Rizzuto and Napolitano burst out of a closet, killing Trinchera, who had charged at them, instantly. Seconds later, Giaccone and Indelicato were shot to death, but Lino escaped unscathed.

However, there was one other who was allegedly meant to be killed with the three captains: Anthony Indelicato, Alphonse Indelicato's son and soldier in the Bonanno crime family. After the disposal of the bodies, he disappeared from the radar for some time, but when he re-surfaced, Massino and Napolitano turned to mobster Benjamin "Lefty" Ruggiero and family associate Donnie Brasco and gave them the 'contract' so Brasco could become a made man in the Bonanno family.

Donnie Brasco

However, Massino would later come 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 reportedly accepted the contract, he disappeared and the FBI soon revealed that "Donnie Brasco" was really Joseph Pistone, an undercover agent for the organized crime division in the FBI. In August 1981, the Bonanno family blamed Napolitano for bringing an undercover agent into their midst, as well as almost 'making' him. In order to send a message, Massino was reportedly ordered by Philip "Rusty" Rastelli behind bars to make Napolitano disappear. 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.

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. Joe discovered a wire tap in his social club, J&S Cake Social Club in Maspeth, Queens. Joe later handed over the wire to the FBI.

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." His former best friend, brother-in-law and Underboss Salvatore Vitale testified against Massino at his 2004 trial, claiming that his family had been neglected by Massino when he was in prison.

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. Like Napolitano, Mirra died for bringing Brasco into the family. Soon after the Mirra murder, Massino went into hiding with Duane 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 in New 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.

1987 trials

Massino soon decided to turn himself over to police custody to face all his 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.

The family regroups

The Bonanno family had fallen into disfavor after the Donnie Brasco debacle; the Five Families threw the family off the Mafia Commission. Massino is credited with bringing the family back.[1] Joe Pistone called Massino "the last of the old-time gangsters."[1] 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]

New charges

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, due to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft's office -- a first for a mob boss and for an Italian member of American organized crime.

Government informant

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 three capos killed in a 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; and Indelicato, Giaconne and Trinchera. 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 Cosa Nostra 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 gone informant. On June 23, 2005, Massino was sentenced to life in prison.

In popular culture

The book The Last Godfather: The Rise and Fall of Joey Massino by Simon Crittle was released in March 2007.

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Corliss, Richard. Crittle, Simon. ""The Last Don", Time Magazine, March 29, 2004. Accessed June 21, 2008.
  2. ^ King of the Godfathers: Joseph Massino and the Fall of the Bonanno Crime Family by Anthony DeStefano
  3. ^ Raab, Selwyn. "A Mafia Family's Second Wind; Authorities Say Bonannos, All but Written Off, Are Back", The New York Times, April 29, 2000.

External links

Business positions
Preceded by
Salvatore "Sal" Catalano
Bonanno Crime Family
Underboss

1981-1988
Succeeded by
Salvatore "Handsome Sal" Vitale
Preceded by
Phillip Rastelli
Bonanno Crime Family
Boss

1991-2004
Succeeded by
Vincent Basciano
Preceded by
Vincent Gigante
Capo di tutti capi
Boss of bosses

2000-2004
Succeeded by
None
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