Bonanno crime family
Mugshot of Joseph "Joe Bananas" Bonanno, who was boss from 1931 to 1968
FounderSalvatore Maranzano
Named afterJoseph Bonanno
Founding locationNew York City, New York, United States
Years active1890s–present
TerritoryPrimarily New York City, with additional territory in New Jersey, South Florida, Arizona, Las Vegas,[1] Northern California and Montreal
EthnicityItalians as "made men" and other ethnicities as associates
ActivitiesRacketeering, loan sharking, money laundering, murder, drug trafficking, extortion and illegal gambling[2]
AlliesColombo crime family
Gambino crime family
Genovese crime family
Lucchese crime family
Milwaukee crime family
Rizzuto crime family
Castellammarese clan
RivalsVarious gangs in New York City, including their allies

The Bonanno crime family (pronounced [boˈnanno]) is one of the "Five Families" that dominate organized crime activities in New York City, and in the United States, as part of the criminal phenomenon known as the American Mafia.

The family was known as the Maranzano crime family until its founder Salvatore Maranzano was murdered in 1931. Joseph Bonanno was awarded most of Maranzano's operations. Under the leadership of Bonanno between the 1930s and 1960s, the family was one of the most powerful in the country. However, in the early 1960s, Bonanno attempted to overthrow several leaders of the Commission, but failed. Bonanno had disappeared from 1964 to 1966, ensuing the "Banana War" that lasted until 1968, when Bonanno retired to Arizona. Between 1976 and 1981, the family was infiltrated by an FBI agent calling himself Donnie Brasco, becoming the first of the New York families to be kicked off the Commission. The family only recovered in the 1990s under Joseph Massino, and by the dawn of the new millennium was not only back on the Commission, but also was the most powerful family in New York. However, in the early 2000s, a rash of convictions culminated in Massino himself becoming a government informant, the first boss of one of the Five Families in New York City to do so. The Bonanno family were seen as the most brutal of the Five Families during the 20th century.[3]


Sicilian origins

The origins of the Bonanno crime family can be traced back to the town of Castellammare del Golfo located in the Province of Trapani, Sicily, their boss Giuseppe "Peppe" Bonanno and his older brother and advisor, Stefano.[4] The clan's strongest ally was the leader of the Magaddino Mafia clan Stefano Magaddino, the brother of Joseph's maternal grandmother. During the 1900s, the two clans feuded with Felice Buccellato, the boss of the Buccellato Mafia clan. In 1902, Magaddino arrived in New York and became a powerful member of the Castellammarese clan.[5] After the murders of Stefano and Giuseppe, their younger brother, Salvatore, took revenge by killing members of the Buccellatos. In 1903, Salvatore married Catherine Bonventre and on January 18, 1905, she gave birth to Joseph Bonanno. Three years later Salvatore moved his family to New York City, and began establishing dominance and control in the Castellammarese community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. While operating in Brooklyn, the Castellammarese leaders were able to preserve the criminal organization's future.[4] In 1911, Salvatore returned to Sicily and died of a heart attack in 1915.[6] In 1921, Magaddino fled to Buffalo, New York to avoid murder charges,[5] and the Castellammarese clan was taken over by Nicolo Schiro.[7]

Castellammarese War

"Cola" Schirò in 1923
"Cola" Schirò in 1923

Main article: Castellammarese War

In 1930, violence broke out between a faction led by Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria and members of the Castellamarreses over the theft of Masseria's bootleg liquor. This soon developed into a full out war known as the Castellammarese War.[8] At the time, the Castellammareses were led by Nicolo "Cola" Schirò, who tried to work with Masseria. Schirò was replaced by Salvatore Maranzano, who wanted to take control over New York's underworld. Under his leadership, the bloodshed continued.[8]

The Castellammarese faction was more organized and unified than the Masseria family. Maranzano's allies were Buffalo family boss Stefano Magaddino, Detroit family boss Gaspar Milazzo and Philadelphia family boss Salvatore Sabella, all Castellammarese.[8] The family included mobsters Joseph Bonanno, Carmine Galante, and Gaspar DiGregorio. Maranzano was also close to Joseph Profaci future boss of the New York Profaci family. Finally, they established a secret alliance with the Bronx Reina family boss Gaetano Reina, a nominal Masseria ally.

After Reina's murder on February 26, 1930, members of the Masseria faction began to defect to Maranzano.[8] By 1931, momentum had shifted to Castellammarese faction. That spring, a group of younger mafiosi from both camps, known as the "Young Turks", decided to switch to Maranzano and end the war. This group included future mob bosses Charles "Lucky" Luciano, Vito Genovese, Frank Costello, Tommy Lucchese, Albert Anastasia and Joe Adonis.[9] As leader of the Young Turks, Luciano concluded a secret deal with Maranzano and promised to kill Masseria. The war finally came to end when Masseria was killed on April 15, 1931.[8]

Maranzano's murder and the Commission

Main article: The Commission (mafia)

Luciano seized control of the commission after murdering Maranzano
Luciano seized control of the commission after murdering Maranzano

After Masseria's death, Maranzano outlined a peace plan to all the Sicilian and Italian Mafia leaders in the United States. There would be 24 organizations (to be known as "families") throughout the United States who would elect their own boss.[8] In New York City, Maranzano established five Cosa Nostra families: the Luciano family under Lucky Luciano, the Mangano family under Vincent Mangano, the Gagliano family under Tommy Gagliano, the Profaci family under Joseph Profaci, and the Maranzano crime family under himself. Maranzano created an additional post for himself, that of capo di tutti capi, or boss of bosses.[8]

Although Maranzano was more forward-looking than Masseria, at core he was still a "Mustache Pete". It did not take long for Maranzano and Luciano to come into conflict: Luciano was not pleased that Maranzano had reneged on his promise of equality, and soon came to believe he was even more hidebound and greedy than Masseria had been. At the same time, Maranzano had grown uncomfortable with Luciano's ambitions and growing power and secretly plotted to have him killed. When Tommy Lucchese alerted Luciano that he and Vito Genovese had been marked for death, Luciano felt he had to strike first. On September 10, 1931, gangsters hired by Luciano, who were not known to Maranzano or his men, murdered Maranzano in his office.[8] Luciano had become the dominant crime boss in America and replaced the "boss of bosses" title with The Commission to regulate the Mafia's national affairs and mediate disputes between families. Luciano supposedly sanctioned the "Night of the Sicilian Vespers," in which many old world Sicilian-born mafiosi were killed throughout the country by the Luciano family, thus replacing the old ways the "Mustache Petes" did business with new "modern" ways. He also awarded Joseph Bonanno leadership of the Maranzano family.[8]

The Bonanno era

After Maranzano's death, Joseph Bonanno was awarded most of Maranzano's operations. At 26 years old, Bonanno was the youngest Mafia leader in the nation.[10] Years later, he claimed not to have known about the plot to eliminate Maranzano, and only learned later that Maranzano had planned to kill Luciano due to a falling-out over influence in the Garment District. By Bonanno's account, he believed a renewed war with Luciano would serve no purpose, since Luciano only wanted to run his own rackets.[11] However, mob expert Anthony Bruno argued that it was very unlikely that Luciano would have allowed him to live had he still backed Maranzano.[12] Bonanno directed his family into illegal gambling, loansharking, and narcotics. The family also built significant criminal interests in California and Arizona. With the support of Buffalo crime family boss Stefano Magaddino, Bonanno also expanded into Canada.[13]

Like Maranzano before him, Joseph Bonanno embraced the Old World Mafia traditions of "honor", "tradition", "respect" and "dignity" as principles for ruling his family. He was more steeped in these traditions than other mobsters of his generation;[9] for instance, he considered himself the "Father" of his family, as Maranzano had before him.[14] The Bonanno family was considered the closest knit of the Five Families because Joseph tried to restrict membership to Castelammarese Sicilians. He strongly believed that blood relations and a strict Sicilian upbringing were the only way to uphold the traditional values of the Mafia.[15]

Over the years, Joseph became a powerful member of the Commission, owing to his close relationship with fellow boss Joe Profaci. The bond between the two became even stronger when Joseph's son Salvatore "Bill" Bonanno married Profaci's niece Rosalie in 1956.[16] The Bonanno-Profaci alliance deterred the other three families from trying to move in on their rackets.

The stable power relationship between the families collapsed with the death of Joe Profaci in 1962. Joseph Bonanno was now threatened by an alliance of Tommy Lucchese and new boss Carlo Gambino, and rising discontent within his own family. Many of the family members had begun to complain that Joseph spent too much time at his second home in Tucson, Arizona.[16]

In 1963, Bonanno made plans to assassinate several rivals on the Mafia Commission—bosses Tommy Lucchese, Carlo Gambino, and Stefano Magaddino, as well as Frank DeSimone.[17] Bonanno sought and got the support of Profaci's successor, Joseph Magliocco. Not only was Magliocco bitter from being denied a seat on the Commission, but Bonanno and Profaci had been close allies for over 30 years prior to Profaci's death. Bonanno's audacious goal was to take over the Commission and make Magliocco his right-hand man.[18]

Magliocco was assigned the task of killing Lucchese and Gambino, and gave the contract to one of his top hit men, Joseph Colombo. However, the opportunistic Colombo revealed the plot to its targets. The other bosses quickly realized that Magliocco could not have planned this himself. Remembering how close Bonanno was with Magliocco (and before him, Profaci), as well as their close ties through marriages, the other bosses concluded Bonanno was the real mastermind.[18]

The Commission summoned Bonanno and Magliocco to explain themselves. Fearing for his life, Bonanno went into hiding in Montreal, leaving Magliocco to deal with the Commission. Badly shaken and in failing health, Magliocco confessed his role in the plot. The Commission spared Magliocco's life, but forced him to retire as Profaci family boss and pay a $50,000 fine. As a reward for turning on his boss, Colombo was awarded the Profaci family.[18]

In October 1964, he returned to Manhattan, but on October 21, 1964, the day before Bonanno was scheduled to testify to a grand jury inquiry, his lawyers said that after having dinner with them, Bonanno was kidnapped, allegedly by Magaddino's men, as he entered the apartment house where one of his lawyers lived on Park Avenue and East 36th Street.[19][20] FBI recordings of New Jersey boss Sam "the Plumber" Decavalcante revealed that the other bosses were taken by surprise when Bonanno disappeared, and other FBI recordings captured angry Bonanno soldiers saying, "That son-of-a-bitch took off and left us here alone."[21]

The "Banana War"

During Bonanno's two-year absence, Gaspar DiGregorio took advantage of family discontent over Bill's role to claim family leadership. The Mafia Commission named DiGregorio as Bonanno family boss, and the DiGregorio revolt led to four years of strife in the Bonanno family, labeled by the media as the "Banana War".[9] This led to a divide in the family between loyalists to Bill and loyalists to DiGregorio.[9]

In early 1966, DiGregorio allegedly contacted Bill about having a peace meeting. Bill agreed and suggested his grand-uncle's house on Troutman Street in Brooklyn as a meeting site. On January 28, 1966, as Bill and his loyalists approached the house, they were met with gunfire; no one was wounded during this confrontation.[22]

Bonanno reappeared on May 17, 1966, at Foley Square.[22] In 1968, DiGregorio was wounded by machine gun fire and later suffered a heart attack.[22] The Commission eventually became dissatisfied with DiGregorio's efforts at quelling the family rebellion, and eventually dropped DiGregorio and swung their support to Paul Sciacca. In 1968, after a heart attack, Bonanno ended the family warfare by agreeing to retire as boss and move to Arizona. As part of this peace agreement, Bill also resigned as consigliere and moved out of New York with his father.[9][16]

Rastelli regime

Mugshot of Carmine Galante in 1943
Mugshot of Carmine Galante in 1943

Sciacca's replacement was Natale "Joe Diamonds" Evola.[23] Evola's leadership was short lived, and his death in 1973, from natural causes, brought Philip "Rusty" Rastelli to the head position.[20][24] On February 23, 1974, at a meeting at the Americana Hotel in Manhattan, the Commission named Rastelli as boss.[25] On March 6, 1975, Rastelli was indicted on racketeering charges involving extortion. Nine years earlier, Rastelli had established a trade association of lunch wagon operators and taken control of the industry. Any operator who refused to join the Association and pay its stiff fees faced vandalism and physical assault.[26] On April 23, 1976, Rastelli was convicted of extortion in United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.[27] On August 27, 1976, Rastelli was sentenced to 10 years in prison, served consecutively to a four-year state sentence for conspiracy, criminal contempt of court, and usury.[28]

In Rastelli's absence, Galante seized control of the Bonannos as unofficial acting boss.[29] The New York crime families were alarmed at Galante's brazen attempt at taking over the narcotics market.[29] Genovese crime family boss Frank Tieri began contacting Cosa Nostra leaders to build a consensus for Galante's murder, even obtaining approval from the retired Joseph Bonanno.[30] In 1979, they received a boost when Rastelli and Joseph Massino, sought Commission approval to kill Galante; the request was approved.[31][32] On July 12, 1979, Galante was shot dead by three men, at a restaurant in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn.[33][34]

Donnie Brasco and the three capos murder

Joseph D. Pistone, alias Donnie Brasco
Joseph D. Pistone, alias Donnie Brasco

Joseph Pistone, alias Donnie Brasco, was an undercover FBI agent tasked with infiltrating the Bonanno family. After months of planning, in September 1976, Pistone started his undercover operation—an operation that was initially intended to last for around six months turned into several years.[35] Pistone first spent six months in the Colombo family before he shifted to the Bonanno family by developing a relationship with Anthony Mirra.[36] When Mirra was sent to prison, Pistone was tutored in the ways of the Mafia by Bonanno soldier Benjamin "Lefty" Ruggiero, whose captain was Mike "Mimi" Sabella.[36] After the murder of Galante, Pistone reported to captain Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano.[36][35]

Following the Galante hit, Massino began jockeying for power with Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano, another Rastelli loyalist capo. Both men were themselves threatened by another faction seeking to depose the absentee boss led by capos Alphonse "Sonny Red" Indelicato, Dominick "Big Trin" Trincera and Philip Giaccone.[37] The Commission initially tried to maintain neutrality, but in 1981, Massino got word from his informants that the three capos were stocking up on automatic weapons and planning to kill the Rastelli loyalists within the Bonanno family to take complete control. Massino turned to Colombo crime family boss Carmine Persico and Gambino boss Paul Castellano for advice; they told him to act immediately.[37]

Massino, Napolitano and Gerlando Sciascia, a Sicilian-born capo linked to the Montreal Rizzuto crime family, arranged a meeting at a Brooklyn social club with the three capos for May 5, 1981. They had four gunmen, including Vitale and Bonanno-affiliated Montreal boss Vito Rizzuto, hiding in a closet to ambush them.[38] When Trinchera, Giaccone and Indelicato arrived with Frank Lino to meet Massino, they were shot to death, with Massino himself stopping Indelicato from escaping.[39][38] Lino escaped unscathed by running out the door.[38] The hit further improved Massino's prestige, but was marred by both Lino's escape and the discovery of Indelicato's body on May 28.[40][41][42]

Massino quickly won Lino over to his side,[43] but Indelicato's son, Anthony "Bruno" Indelicato, vowed revenge.[44] Napolitano assigned associate Donnie Brasco, who he hoped to make a made man, to kill Indelicato.[44] However, Brasco's operation was ended on July 26, 1981.[35] Pistone's undercover work led to over 200 indictments and over 100 convictions of Mafia members.[35] On August 17, 1981, Napolitano was shot and killed in a basement by Ronald Filocomo and Frank "Curly" Lino as punishment for admitting Pistone into his crew.[45][46][47] On August 29, 1981, the FBI intercepted and arrested Ruggiero.[48] Ruggiero received 15 years under the RICO act.[35] In February 1982, Anthony Mirra, the man who had brought Pistone to the family, was also killed.[49][50]

In 1985, Rastelli was indicted along with other Cosa Nostra leaders in the Mafia Commission Trial, however, when Rastelli was indicted on separate labor racketeering charges, prosecutors decided to remove him from the Commission trial. Having previously lost their seat on the Commission due to the Brasco infiltration, the Bonannos family suffered less exposure than the other families in this case.[51][52][53]

Under Massino's command

Rastelli died on June 24, 1991.[54] Soon afterward, Massino's brother-in-law, Salvatore Vitale, convened a meeting of the family's capos where Massino was acclaimed as boss. Vitale and other capos had pressed Massino to become boss since the late 1980s. However, Massino was reluctant to take this step as long as Rastelli was alive, citing long-standing Mafia tradition that a boss retains his title until he retires or dies. He did, however, designate Vitale as his messenger while he was incarcerated, and ordered Vitale to "make me boss" as soon as Rastelli died.[55]

Massino was 49 years old at the time he formally became boss, and knew he potentially had a long reign ahead of him if he could avoid the pitfalls that landed other bosses in prison. With this in mind, Massino adopted a more secretive way of doing business than had been the case for mafiosi during much of the 20th century. He shut down the family's social clubs, believing they were too easy to bug. He all but ended joint rackets with other families, believing that there was too much risk in depending on other families. He also streamlined the family's chain of command, assigning a group of capos to oversee a particular enterprise and report to Vitale, whom he named underboss. When Massino was granted supervised release in 1992, he retained Vitale as his messenger until 1995 since Massino was not allowed to associate with known mafiosi. However, since Vitale had never been convicted of a mob-related crime, the FBI had no reason to be suspicious of the two brothers-in-law meeting together.[56]

Massino was angered by family namesake Bonanno's tell-all book, A Man of Honor, considering it a gross violation of the code of omertà. To that end, he changed the family's name to "the Massino family." At the same time, he barred family members from speaking his name. Instead, they were to point to their ears when referring to him—a nod to how Genovese boss Vincent Gigante told his men to point to their chins rather than use his name. Remembering how close Pistone/Brasco had come to actually being made, Massino required any prospective soldier to be "on record" with a made man for at least eight years before becoming made himself. He also strongly encouraged his men to volunteer their sons for membership, believing that they would be less likely to turn informer and be more loyal.[57] However, the family already had a reputation for loyalty. It had been the only family in the modern history of the New York Mafia (i. e., since the Castellammarese War) to have never had a made man turn informant or government witness. Massino used this as a point of pride to rally his crime family.[58]

Within a few years, the Bonannos had regained their Commission seat with Gotti's help. By 1998, a rash of convictions in other families left Massino as the only full-fledged New York boss who wasn't in prison. The FBI reckoned him as the most powerful boss in the nation. His stature put him in a position to set general policies for the entire New York Mafia.[59]

Downfall and Massino turns state's evidence

FBI mugshot of Joseph Massino
FBI mugshot of Joseph Massino

The family managed to avoid being ensnared by the FBI until 2000, when a pair of forensic accountants who normally worked on financial fraud cases discovered that Barry Weinberg, a businessman who had partnered with capo Richard Cantarella in several parking lots, had failed to report millions of dollars worth of income over a decade. Told he faced a long prison term unless he wore a wire and incriminated his Bonanno partners, Weinberg agreed to cooperate. One of Weinberg's other partners, Augustino Scozzari, also agreed to cooperate. Between them, Weinberg and Scozzari captured hundreds of incriminating statements from Cantrella and his crew.[60] In October 2002, armed with this evidence, the government won a 24-count RICO indictment against 21 Bonanno soldiers and associates. The biggest names on the indictment were Cantarella—who was serving as acting underboss while Vitale was awaiting sentencing for loansharking and money laundering—and capo Frank Coppa.[61] Already serving time for fraud, Coppa agreed to turn informer rather than face the prospect of an additional conviction that would effectively send him to prison for life. He was the first made man in the Bonanno family's history to turn informer.[62][63] He was followed shortly afterward by acting underboss Cantarella, a participant in the Mirra murder,[64] who was facing racketeering and murder charges[65] and whom Coppa had implicated in the Perrino murder along with Vitale.[66] A third, Joseph D'Amico, subsequently turned state's evidence with the knowledge that Cantarella could implicate him for murder as well.[67] All of these defections left Massino, at last, vulnerable to serious charges.[68]

On January 9, 2003, Massino was arrested and indicted, alongside Vitale, Frank Lino and capo Daniel Mongelli, in a comprehensive racketeering indictment. The charges against Massino himself included ordering the 1981 murder of Napolitano.[69][70] Massino was denied bail,[71] and Vincent Basciano took over as acting boss in his absence.[72] Massino hired David Breitbart, an attorney he had originally wanted to represent him in his 1987 trial, for his defense.[73]

Three more Bonanno made men would choose to cooperate before Massino came to trial. The first was James Tartaglione; anticipating he would shortly be indicted as well he went to the FBI and agreed to wear a wire while he remained free.[74] The second was Salvatore Vitale. In custody Massino again put out the word, to a receptive Bonanno family, that he wanted Vitale killed.[75] After learning of Massino's earlier plans to kill his brother-in-law from Coppa and Cantarella, prosecutors informed Vitale.[75] Vitale was already dissatisfied by the lack of support he and his family received from Massino after his arrest.[76] On the day he was arraigned with Massino, Vitale decided to flip as soon as it was safe to do so; he formally reached a deal with prosecutors in February.[75][77] He was followed in short order by Lino, knowing Vitale could implicate him in murder as well.[74] Also flipping was longtime Bonanno associate Duane Leisenheimer, concerned for his safety after an investigator for Massino's defense team visited to find out if he intended to flip.[78]

By the time the trial started, Massino faced 11 RICO counts for seven murders (due to the prospect of prosecutors seeking the death penalty for the Sciascia murder, that case was severed to be tried separately), arson, extortion, loansharking, illegal gambling, and money laundering.[79] By this time, Time magazine had dubbed Massino as "the Last Don", in reference to his status as the only New York boss not serving a prison sentence at that point.[80][81] The name stuck.[82][83][84] After deliberating for five days, the jury found Massino guilty of all eleven counts on July 30, 2004. His sentencing was initially scheduled for October 12, and he was expected to receive a sentence of life imprisonment with no possibility of parole.[82] The jury also approved the prosecutors' recommended $10 million forfeiture of the proceeds of his reign as Bonanno boss on the day of the verdict.[85]

Immediately after his July 30 conviction, as court was adjourned, Massino requested a meeting with Judge Garaufis, where he made his first offer to cooperate.[86] He did so in hopes of sparing his life; he was facing the death penalty if found guilty of Gerlando Sciascia's murder. Indeed, one of John Ashcroft's final acts as Attorney General was to order federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty for Massino.[87] Massino thus stood to be the first Mafia boss to be executed for his crimes, and the first mob boss to face the death penalty since Lepke Buchalter was executed in 1944.[88]

Massino subsequently claimed he decided to turn informer due to the prospect of his wife and mother having to forfeit their houses to the government.[89] Mob authors and journalists Anthony D. DeStefano and Selwyn Raab both consider the turning of so many made men as a factor in disillusioning Massino with Cosa Nostra,[86][90] the former also assuming Massino had decided to flip "long before the verdict".[86] Massino was the first sitting boss of a New York crime family to turn state's evidence, and the second in the history of the American Mafia to do so[91] (Philadelphia crime family boss Ralph Natale had flipped in 1999 when facing drug charges).[92]

Basciano and Montagna's leadership

Vincent Basciano
Vincent Basciano

In July 2004, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn claimed to have convicted 75 mobsters or associates of the Bonanno family in the 4 preceding years.[93] In June 2005, 12 Bonanno family member and associates, 7 over the age of 70, including acting Rabito were indicted and arrested on charges of operating a $10 million a year gambling ring."[94]

After the arrest of Massino, Vincent Basciano became acting boss.[95] In 2006, Basciano was convicted in a racketeering trial for attempted murder and running an illegal gambling operation. However, due to a hung jury, Basciano was not convicted of the 2001 murder of Frank Santoro.[96][97] After Basciano's first murder trial, prosecutors retried him on those counts on which the jury hung in the first trial. On August 1, 2007, Basciano was convicted of murdering Santoro, who tried to kidnap Basciano's son,[98][99] and was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment.[100] He named Brooklyn business owner Salvatore "Sal the Ironworker" Montagna, as his "acting boss" during his trials.[97][101][102] Montagna was closely associated with the Bonanno Sicilian faction, including Baldo Amato and capo Cesare Bonventre. Nicholas "Nicky Mouth" Santora served as "acting underboss" and Anthony Rabito as the alleged consigliere.[103]

On February 6, 2007 acting underboss Nicholas Santora, acting consigliere Anthony Rabito, captains or former captains Jerome Asaro, Joseph Cammarano, Jr. and Louis Decicco were indicted on racketeering charges.[104]

Following the deportation of Montagna to Canada in 2009, he was succeeded by Vincent Badalamenti as Bonanno family acting boss.[105]

Current position of the family

In 2013, Michael Mancuso was named the new official boss of the family.[106] Mancuso is the first man to hold the official boss title since Massino became a government witness in 2004.[106] Mancuso's underboss Thomas DiFiore took over as acting boss in his absence,[106] but was replaced by Joseph Cammarano, Jr in 2014 following DiFiore's arrest, guilty plea and 21-month prison sentence.[107] In December 2016, the FBI observed over a dozen ranking members of the family host a dinner together in recognition of Cammarano's new position.[108]

Bonanno associate, Charles "Charlie Pepsi" Centaro, was sentenced to 33 months in prison on September 15, 2015, after being convicted of money laundering, it was alleged that he had laundered over $500,000.[109] Centaro, along with Bonanno/Gambino associate Franco Lupoi were involved in a large cocaine, heroin and weapons trafficking operation that stretched from New York to Italy. The Gambino crime family from New York and the 'Ndrangheta Mafia from Calabria were also involved.

In November 2017, the FBI arrested several individuals in New York City, including members and associates of the Bonanno and Gambino crime families on charges of narcotics trafficking, loansharking and firearms offenses. They included Damiano Zummo, a reputed acting captain in the Bonanno crime family.[110][111] In November 2015, Zummo[112][113] was involved in the induction ceremony of an undercover police agent, which was secretly recorded, in Canada.[114][115] Zummo played a major role in the ceremony and named others at a higher level in the organization on the recording.[116] A Brooklyn court official later said, "The recording of a secret induction ceremony is an extraordinary achievement for law enforcement and deals a significant blow to La Cosa Nostra." The recording also led to the arrest of 13 mobsters.[117]

On January 12, 2018, 8 members of the Bonanno family were arrested and charged with racketeering, extortion and related offenses. Street boss Joseph Cammarano Jr. and consigliere John "Porky" Zancocchio were included. Genovese and Lucchese crime family members Ernest Montevecchi and Eugene "Boobie" Castelle were also arrested.[118][119] The charges were assault and aid resulting in serious bodily injury, extortion, loansharking, wire and mail fraud, narcotics distribution, conspiracy to commit murder, extortion conspiracy, racketeering and racketeering conspiracy.[120] Joseph "Joe Valet" Sabella was identified as a captain and George Tropiano as an acting capo.[121][122] Made members Domenick Miniero, Albert "Al Muscles" Armetta and Joseph "Joey Blue Eyes" Santapaolo were charged with RICO and extortion conspiracy, Armetta was accused of assaulting a person on Halloween in 2015.[123]

On August 15, 2018, Judge Dora Irizarry sentenced nephew of Vincent Asaro and former Bonanno acting captain, Ronald Giallanzo, to 14 years imprisonment.[124][125] Giallanzo was previously arrested in March 2017 alongside Bonanno soldiers Michael Palmaccio and Nicholas Festa. Festa and Palmaccio admitted to the extortion of 7 individuals and each paid $500,000 in forfeiture.[126] Giallanzo was accused of operating a loanshark and illegal gambling business from 1998 to 2017. He agreed to pay $1.25 million in forfeiture and to sell his five-bedroom mansion in Howard Beach, Queens which was constructed using the criminal proceeds of his loansharking business. He was ordered to pay $268,000 in restitution to his victims and admitted to his participation of extending and collecting extortionate loans from five individuals.

In October 2015, Sylvester Zottola ("Sally Daz"), age 71, an associate of the Bonanno family, was fatally shot at a McDonald's on Webster Avenue in the Bronx; authorities described the killing as a Mafia-style assassination. The killing occurred after several attacks targeting Zottola, and his son, Salvatore Zottola, over the preceding months.[127][128] According to the court records, the elder Zottola had been a close associate of Vincent Basciano.[128] In October 2018, federal prosecutors indicted Bushawn Shelton, allegedly a high-ranking member of the Bloods gang, with attempting to hire a hitman to kill Sylvester and Salvatore Zottola.[129] In June 2019, federal prosecutors issued a superseding indictment, charging Anthony Zottola, Sr. (the son of Sylvester Zottola and brother of Salvatore Zottola), Shelton, and six others with a murder-for-hire conspiracy and related charges. The charging document alleged that Anthony Zottola, Sr. hired Shelton to arrange the hit,[130] and that "Shelton in turn outsourced the job to several other members of the Bloods."[131] The case is awaiting trial, with federal authorities possibly pursuing the death penalty.[127]

On March 13, 2019, Cammarano Jr. and Zancocchio were acquitted of racketeering and conspiracy to commit extortion charges.[132][133] On May 25, 2019, former family consigliere Anthony Graziano died.[134] As of 2019, Bronx capo John "Johnny Skyway" Palazzolo leads the family as street boss alongside the now-released Mancuso.

Castellammarese connection

In 2020, the Italian police together with the FBI discovered a strong link between the Bonannos and the Castellammare del Golfo Mafia family, in particular to Francesco Domingo. During the investigations, several meetings between Domingo and members of the Bonanno family were monitored.[135] According to the reports, the Sicilian boss is considered the point of reference to the Bonannos' affiliates in Sicily. Most of the summits and meetings were held at Domingo's house in the Gagliardetta district, in Castellammare del Golfo.[136]

Historical leadership

Boss (official and acting)

Street boss

The Street boss is responsible for passing on orders to lower ranking members. In some instances a Ruling panel (of capos) substituted the Street boss role. The family may choose to assemble a ruling panel of capos if the boss dies, goes to prison, or is incapacitated. During the 1960s family war, a ruling panel of capos controlled the decision making of the family. In some instances the Acting boss uses a Street boss to divert law enforcement attention.

Underboss (official and acting)

Consigliere (official and acting)

Current family members



Queens faction

Brooklyn faction

Staten Island faction

Manhattan faction

Bronx faction

Long Island faction

New Jersey faction


Imprisoned soldiers

Past members

Family crews

The Bonannos and the Canadian factions

Royal Canadian Mounted Police chart of the Bonanno crime family's crew (decina) in Montreal
Royal Canadian Mounted Police chart of the Bonanno crime family's crew (decina) in Montreal

In 1953, boss Joseph Bonanno sent Carmine Galante to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, to supervise the family drug business there where he worked with the Calabrian Vincenzo Cotroni of the Cotroni crime family in the French Connection.[268] Police also estimated that Galante was collecting gambling profits in Montreal worth about $50 million per year.[269] In April 1956, due to Galante's strong-arm extortion tactics, the Canadian Government deported him back to the United States.[270] Rizzuto was an underling in the Sicilian faction, led by Luigi Greco until his death in 1972.[271] As tension then grew into a power struggle between the Calabrian and Sicilian factions of the family, a mob war began in 1973.[272][271] Capodecina Paolo Violi complained about the independent modus operandi of his Sicilian 'underlings', Nicolo Rizzuto in particular.[273] In 1977, Rizzuto and Violi met face-to-face in the home of a Montreal resident for a last-ditch effort to resolve their differences, according to a police report. But the peace talks failed, and most of the Rizzuto family fled to Venezuela.[273] The Sicilians killed Violi in 1978, his brothers, and others.[271] With the death of Vincenzo Controni in 1984, from natural causes, the Rizzuto crime family became the most powerful Mafia family in Montreal.[271] The FBI considers both the Cotronis and the Rizzutos to be connected to the Bonanno crime family,[274] but Canadian law enforcement considers them to be separate. The Rizzuto family is sometimes referred to as the Sixth Family.[268] In 1988, Nicolo Rizzuto was convicted of cocaine trafficking and his son Vito Rizzuto became boss of the family.[271] Vito Rizzuto was arrested in January 2004, and extradited to the United States on murder charges in August 2006. In May 2007, Rizzuto accepted a plea deal for his involvement in the May 1981 murders of three renegade Bonanno capos in New York, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. During his time in prison, his son Nicolo Rizzuto Jr. was murdered on December 28, 2009, while his father Nicolo Rizzuto Sr. was murdered on November 10, 2010.[275][276][277] He was released from prison on October 5, 2012, and subsequently died on December 23, 2013, from complications of lung cancer.[278]

Government informants and witnesses




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Further reading