Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Killing for the Mob Then Decimating It in Court

Of all the life lessons that Salvatore Vitale took from a boyhood friend he idolized, two of them became practically second nature: as a child, he was taught how to swim; as an adult, he was instructed how to kill.  The latter skill, he would later admit, was one he practiced regularly on behalf of the friend, Joseph C. Massino, who would marry Mr. Vitale’s sister, become the boss of the Bonanno crime family and eventually elevate Mr. Vitale to serve as the underboss.
Mr. Vitale’s criminal life story is laid out in sharp relief in a remarkable document that federal prosecutors in Brooklyn filed under seal last month. An inch thick, it contains a story that spans more than three decades and touches on 23 murders, 11 of which Mr. Vitale directly participated in, and many other crimes that he and other mob figures committed.
But the document, which was unsealed this week, also tells another story: how the Bonannos were decimated, in some measure through Mr. Vitale’s betrayal in 2003 of the crime family and his own extended family, as he became a star government witness. Using his testimony, federal prosecutors and F.B.I. agents have been able to imprison 51 mob figures, including Mr. Massino and the last four acting bosses of the Bonanno family.
Mr. Vitale, 62, is to be sentenced on Friday. Prosecutors have called his cooperation “groundbreaking by any measure,” and filed the 122-page document to seek a more lenient sentence than the mandatory life term set forth in the advisory sentencing guidelines.
In a 10-year assault on the Bonanno family, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecutors have convicted a total of 135 members and associates, making Mr. Vitale perhaps the most prolific mob turncoat since Salvatore Gravano, who testified against the Gambino boss John J. Gotti.
Prosecutors say Mr. Vitale has identified more than 500 organized crime members and associates in the United States and abroad, and information he has provided has led to prosecutions of high-ranking members of the Colombo, Gambino and Genovese families, in addition to Bonanno family figures.
He has also provided information that led investigators to uncover murder victims buried decades earlier, including in a mob graveyard in a swamp on the Brooklyn-Queens border where two men killed in 1981 were interred. But some see his cooperation, and the government’s effort to secure a more lenient prison sentence for him, possibly even one that would release him into the witness protection program, in a very different light.
David Breitbart, who defended Mr. Massino at his 2005 murder and racketeering trial, criticized the government’s handling of Mr. Vitale and its use of cooperating witnesses in general, noting that a half dozen admitted killers who testified against his client have been released into “the population at large.”
“I don’t want them living next door to me, and I don’t see how the government justifies that,” Mr. Breitbart said. “They take someone on and they use him and they file a 120-page motion in order that the individual can go home.”
Until 2002, the Bonanno family stood out among New York’s five Mafia clans in that it had never had a “made” member cooperate with the government and testify in court. That distinction was due in part to the obsessive fear of informants and infiltrators, borne of an undercover F.B.I. agent’s years-long penetration of the family in the 1980s, which cost two Bonanno figures their lives. (The case became the basis for the 1997 movie “Donnie Brasco.”)
But Mr. Vitale’s cooperation helped break the Bonanno family, leading to a historic event in organized crime in the United States: Mr. Massino’s own betrayal, nearly two years later, of the crime family he headed. An unprecedented act, it made Mr. Massino, an Old World stalwart known as the Last Don, the first Mafia boss in this country to cooperate with the F.B.I. and prosecutors.
Mr. Vitale thus helped create such an embarrassment of riches for investigators that it prompted one F.B.I. official to complain jokingly at the time that there were more insiders providing information on the crime family than agents on the squad assigned to investigate it.
Slender, soft-spoken and polished, Mr. Vitale, who grew up in Brooklyn and Queens and attended City College for a year, made an effective witness. Often, when he answered questions, he said “True,” rather than yes, giving his responses an air of authority.
He served in the Army as a paratrooper for two years, stationed in Mainz, Germany, and worked as a U.P.S. truck driver and a New York State correction officer before he began working for his childhood friend, Mr. Massino, driving a catering truck to sell coffee and pastries at factories and car dealerships on Long Island.
Mr. Vitale, whose silver hair always appeared carefully combed (he was known as Good Looking Sal), came to idolize Mr. Massino, who was nearly five years his senior.
During the course of his three decades with the crime family, his portfolio of crime was substantial and varied. He told agents and prosecutors of committing arson, burglary, hijacking, loan sharking, extortion, insurance fraud, illegal gambling, money laundering, obstruction of justice and securities fraud.
And then there were the murders. Mr. Vitale pleaded guilty in April 2003 to racketeering conspiracy and murder-in-aid of racketeering, admitting to 11 killings between 1976 and 1999.
The document methodically maps out the various aspects of Mr. Vitale’s work with the government. It is known as a 5K motion, for section 5K1.1 of the sentencing guidelines, under which prosecutors can argue for a term shorter than that set out under the advisory guidelines if a defendant has provided “extraordinary cooperation.”
In some ways, the lengthy document adds little new information to what the government has already said in court papers and what Mr. Vitale has said from the witness stand at six trials in United States District Court in Brooklyn, where he will appear before Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis in his own case on Friday afternoon. But it weaves together the various narrative strands, trials and cases that were brought, in part, on information Mr. Vitale provided.
Two of the prosecutors who led the assault against the Bonannos, Greg D. Andres and John Buretta, prepared the 5K motion, and, with other submissions, argue for a sentence far shorter than the mandatory life term he faces.
Judge Garaufis, who has presided over cases against scores of Bonanno figures, including four of the trials at which Mr. Vitale testified, will consider the motion, along with a companion document that remains sealed.

Betrayed by a Mafia Underboss

Salvatore Vitale, a former underboss of the Bonanno crime family, helped put away 51 organized-crime figures through his testimony as a government witness, 38 of them for murders.
Name Nickname Rank Sentence
Joseph Massino* Joey Bonanno boss Life Imprisonment
Vincent Basicano* Vinny Gorgeous Bonanno boss/acting boss Life Imprisonment
Anthony Urso* Tony Green Bonanno acting boss/acting consigliere 20 Years
Michael Mancuso* Michael Nose Bonanno acting boss 15 Years
Alphonse Persico* Allie Boy Colombo acting boss Life Imprisonment
Lawrence Dentico* Little Guy Genovese acting boss 51 Months
Louis Attanasio* Louis Ha Ha Bonanno acting underboss/captain 15 Years
Joseph Cammarano Sr. Joe C Bonanno acting underboss 15 Years
Nicholas Santoro Nicky Mouth Bonanno acting underboss 36 Months
Anthony Rabito Fat Anthony Bonanno acting consigliere 33 Months
John DeRoss* Jackie Colombo acting underboss Life Imprisonment
Jerome Asaro Jerry Bonanno captain 30 Months
Peter Calabrese* Peter Rabbit Bonanno captain 15 Years
Dominick Cicale* Donnie Bonanno captain Facing Life Imprisonment
Louis DeCicco Louie Electric Bonanno captain 40 Months
Joseph DeSimone* Joe Desi Bonanno captain 12 Years
Frank Lino* Curly Bonanno captain Facing Life Imprisonment
Robert Lino* Little Robert Bonanno captain 27 Years
Daniel Mongelli*
Bonanno captain 24 Years
James Tartaglione* Big Louie Bonanno captain Facing Life Imprisonment
Michael Cardello* Mickey Bats Bonanno soldier/captain 10 Years
Louis Restivo*
Bonanno soldier/captain 10 Years
Baldassare Amato* Baldo Bonanno soldier/captain Life Imprisonment
Anthony Indelicato* Bruno Bonanno soldier/captain 20 Years
Dominick Pizzonia* Skinny Dom Gambino captain 15 Years
Robert Attanasio* Bobby Ha Ha Bonanno soldier/acting captain 10 Years
Generoso Barbieri* Jimmy the General Bonanno soldier/acting captain Facing Life Imprisonment
Joseph Cammarano Jr.* Joe C Jr. Bonanno soldier/acting captain 27 Months
Anthony Furino Anthony Black Bonanno captain/acting captain 24 Months
Anthony Aiello* Ace Bonanno soldier 30 Years
Sandro Aiosa
Bonanno soldier 12 Months
Giacomo Bonventre Jack Bonanno soldier 9 Months
Peter Cosoleto* Petey Boxcars Bonanno soldier 10 Years
Joseph DiStefano Joe Shakes Bonanno soldier 24 Months
Anthony Donato*
Bonanno soldier 25 Years
Anthony Frascone Anthony Stutters Bonanno soldier 12 Months (and 1 Day)
Gino Galestro*
Bonanno soldier 24 Months
Emanuel Guaragna Manny from the Bronx Bonanno soldier 20 Months
Steven LoCurto* Stevie Blue Bonanno soldier Life Imprisonment
Anthony Navarra
Bonanno soldier 3 Years Probation
Philip Navarra
Bonanno soldier 21 Months
John Palazzolo*
Bonanno soldier 10 Years
Richard Riccardi* Big Richie Bonanno soldier 10 Years
Vito Rizzuto* Vito from Canada Bonanno soldier 10 Years
Johnny Joe Spirito* Johnny Joe Bonanno soldier 20 Years
Paul Spina* Fat Paulie Bonanno soldier 106 Months
Joseph Torre
Bonanno soldier 24 Months
Frank Ambrosino*
Bonanno associate Facing Life Imprisonment
Anthony Basile*
Bonanno associate Facing Life Imprisonment
Ronald Filocomo*
Bonanno associate 20 Years
Patrick Romanello* Patty Muscles Bonanno associate 10 Years



Post a Comment