‘BONANNO CRIME FAMILY’ STORY
Joys and sorrows of American mobsters wives, of Italian origin, are successful in USA thanks to a controversial reality show. I am referring to “Mob Wives”, the American reality television series airing on VH1 that made its debut April 17, 2011. It follows six Staten Island women after their husbands or fathers are arrested and imprisoned for crimes connected to the Mafia. Staten Island is a New York borough under the control of the Bonanno crime family, and these relatives have been described as “rats and stoolies“, since discussing private family business on TV that violates the mafia code. The current season 2 started on January 1, 2012 at 8 PM has two new cast members: Ramona Rizzo and Angela “Big Ang” Raiola, while season three is expected to begin filming in July 2012 and will debut late December 2012. The idea for the show came from Jennifer “Jenn” Graziano, sister of Renee Graziano, the daughter of Anthony Graziano, current ‘consigliere’ (counselor) of Bonanno.
A SHORT BONANNO CRIME FAMILY STORY
The Bonanno family is one of the “Five Families” that dominates organized crime activities in New York City within the nationwide criminal phenomenon known as Mafia or Cosa Nostra. The origins of the Bonanno crime family can be traced back to the early 1880s in the town of Castellammare del Golfo located in the Province of Trapani, Sicily. During the 1900s, top members of the Bonanno, Bonventre, and Magaddino Mafia families relocated to New York, forming the Castellammarese clan due to their rivalry with Felice Buccellato, the boss of the Buccellato Mafia clan. These newly arriving began establishing dominance and control in the Castellammarese community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The conflict started when members of the Castellammarese Clan began hijacking truckloads of illegal liquor that belonged to Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria, while one of the group’s leaders Salvatore Maranzano also wanted to take control over New York’s underworld and then, took control of the Castellammarese Clan, continued a bloody Mafia War. Finally, Maranzano established a secret alliance with Bronx Reina family, Boss Gaetano Reina, a nominal Masseria ally. 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. After Maranzano’s death, Bonanno was awarded most of Maranzano’s crime family directing his family into illegal gambling, loansharking, and narcotics. The family also built significant criminal interests in California and Arizona and with the support of his cousin, Buffalo crime family, boss Stefano Magaddino, he also expanded into Canada. The stable power relationship between the families collapsed with the death of Joe Profaci in 1962. Bonanno was now threatened by an alliance of Tommy Lucchese and new boss Carlo Gambino. At the same time, Bonanno was facing rising discontent within his own family that in 1963 led to a civil war inside the family, widely referred to in the media as the “Banana Split”. The war finally brought to a close with Joe Bonanno suffering a heart attack and announcing his permanent retirement in 1968. The commission accepted this offer, with the stipulation that he never involve himself in New York Mafia affairs again under pain of death. Both factions came together under Sciacca’s leadership. His replacement was Natale “Joe Diamonds” Evola as boss of the Bonanno family. Evola’s leadership was short lived – his death (from natural causes) in 1973 brought Phillip “Rusty” Rastelli to the throne. Due to the infighting of the Bonanno family, it was spurned by the other families and stripped of its Commission seat. Rastelli took charge of a seemingly hapless, doomed organization. Rastelli’s former friend Carmine Galante became a powerful and dangerous renegade. When eight members of the Genovese family were murdered on Galante’s orders for trying to muscle in on his drug operation, the other families decided he had outlived his usefulness at the head of the Bonanno family. On July 12, 1979, Galante was shot dead by three men, at a restaurant in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn. Rastelli took over once again, but the family’s internal strife was far from over. Three renegade capos began to openly question Rastelli’s leadership and apparently to plot to overthrow him. With the blessing of the other families, Rastelli had the three men wiped out in a hit arranged by then-street boss Dominick “Sonny Black” Napolitano, as well as the future Boss Joseph “Big Joe” Massino . Subsequently, Rastelli proposed Donnie Brasco, who had been involved in the murder, as a full family member. In reality, Brasco was undercover FBI agent Joe Pistone, conducting what would become a six-year infiltration of the family. Rastelli’s death in 1991 saw the promotion of Massino to the top spot who assigned a group of capos to oversee a particular enterprise and report to underboss Salvatore Vitale. Over the next 10 years the family regrouped while the other families’ bosses were in prison. Massino and Vitale were charged with the crime in 2003 after two of their capos turned themselves over as witnesses for the government. Then a new name came in the limelight, the Bonanno family Boss Vincent Basciano, who named Brooklyn business owner Salvatore “Sal the Ironworker” Montagna, as the new “acting boss” of the Family. Vincent Basciano was convicted on charges of conspiracy to murder, attempted murder, and illegal gambling and was sentenced to life imprisonment in late 2007, while Salvatore Montagna was deported to Canada in April 2009 and then assassinated outside in Quebec on November 24, 2011.