The Banana War of 1966-1969

By The Other Guy | May 15, 2020

Born in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily in 1905 to a large mafioso brood, Giuseppe (Joe Bananas) Bonanno led the Family named for him for over three decades.

The old Maranzano Family, originally led by Salvatore Maranzano, was one of the premier Italian organized crime Families in America. Renamed the Bonanno Family after Joe’s elevation to boss in 1931, it boasted a solid coalition of nearly 200 formally inducted members at his 1950s peak.

Joe Bonanno
Joe Bonanno

The overwhelming majority of members and associates were either born in, or their family’s heritage hailed from, the seaside fishing village of Castellammare del Golfo, in Sicily. This made for a very close-knit and loyal rank and file who operated with the utmost secrecy and decorum within the New York underworld.

This borgata boasted pivotal control of international narcotics smuggling from France and Southern Italy, into Canada, for eventual entry and distribution throughout the United States -a steady, multimillion-dollar enterprise developed over several decades.

It was also a prime player in gambling rackets (bookmaking, policy, floating card and crap games), loansharking, labor union racketeering, and the infiltration and deep penetration of several legitimate industries.

The Bonanno mob not only operated in New York City, but had fanned out over the years and now operated across America, Canada and Sicily. Their influence was felt in Northern New Jersey, South Florida, Upstate New York, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Southern California. Montreal in Canada, and the Northwestern area in Sicily (Trapani province). Because of their narcotics networks, Mexico and South America were also touched by “Joe Bananas and his bunch”.

But by the early to mid-1960s an insurrection would splinter this borgata’s previously loyal membership into at least three different “factional camps” and turn the streets of New York City into a shooting gallery. On and off for over three years, many Bonanno members and associates lived life constantly looking over their shoulders for assassins lurking in the shadows. Their routine of daily life became anything but routine.

Many of their street rackets and operations were disrupted, with hoodlums having to leave their homes, wives and children, going into hiding to both protect their immediate families from possible violence, and save themselves from death at the hands of rival mafiosi.

Don Carlo Gambino
Don Carlo Gambino

The estimated 175-200 various capos, soldiers and key associates of the Family had to live “on the hop”, enabling them to move surreptitiously to avoid teams of rival gunmen hunting them, while stalking their adversaries. Left unattended by their absences, racket revenues would dry up, and as time passed the slow grind of “gorilla warfare” wore thin on the troops.

Several of New York’s Commission – the national leaders and bosses of the most important ruling mafia families in the nation tried in vain to reconcile a truce and solidify the Bonanno’s.

Other Family bosses did their best behind the scenes to fracture and divide the various capodecina and “rank and file” soldiers so as to keep the Bonanno’s down “on their knees”, with their eyes on Bonanno assets in order to “raid” Bonanno holdings and steal their racket operations and associates…. it was a mafia mess.

Carlo Gambino and Tommy Lucchese were the two main protagonists. Both vied towards dethroning Bonanno as a boss and expelling him from Cosa Nostra.

California boss Frank DeSimone
California boss Frank DeSimone

The theory they put forth to their fellow bosses and the Bonanno Family rank and file soldiers was that Bonanno had previously plotted to have them both assassinated. Real or contrived, they were now leveraging that accusation to have him tried before the mafia’s tribunal to assess his guilt or innocence.

Another major bone of contention was that Bonanno, always a highly independent operator and a bit “high-handed” within Cosa Nostra, had been slowly but surely coveting the territories of other bosses and borgatas throughout the U.S.

Specific allegations were that he had repeatedly sent several crews of soldiers out to Southern California to scout out new racket operations.

Buffalo’s Don Stefano Magaddino
Buffalo’s Don Stefano Magaddino

Several years earlier several of his men including Nick Guastella and Joe Pizzo had relocated there, and Los Angeles boss Frank DeSimone put in a formal complaint to New York’s Commission that Bonanno was starting to usurp his authority and encroach on him out there in DeSimone’s own backyard.

Additionally, Bonanno’s own first cousin, the powerful Stefano Magaddino, who was the undisputed boss of various parts of Upstate NY/Buffalo and parts of Canada, complained that his cousin was “planting flags all over the world”.

It seems that Bonanno had been purchasing partnership interests in several legitimate major cheese producing factories up in Montreal, Canada, among them the famed Saputo Ltd., a major manufacturer, distributor and exporter of Ricotta, Mozzarella and other Italian-style cheeses.

More importantly, in the late 1940s, Bonanno had commissioned his underboss Carmine (Lilo) Galante to establish racket operations up in Canada.

Lilo Galante
Lilo Galante

Lilo did this by personally visiting Canada with several dozen soldiers-enforcers and strong-arming the majority of gamblers, bookmakers, narcotics traffickers and local racketeers to capitulate to his demands of paying a mob “tax” the Bonanno Family imposed on all who operated within their established sphere of influence.

Galante soon firmly established a “decina” or regime of approximately 20 formally inducted Bonanno soldiers under the guidance and leadership of the Cotroni brothers.

The notorious Cotronis – Giuseppe (Pepe), Vincenzo (The Egg), and Frank, were born in Calabria and immigrated to Canada many years earlier. The controlled many varied racket operations, not the least of which was a multimillion-dollar international narcotics smuggling network the likes of which virtually dominated gangland and crossed all borders.

Montreal boss Vic Cotroni
Montreal boss Vic Cotroni

Canada was permeated with multiple “mini-borgatas” run by the Calabrian Mafia, better known today as the N’drangheta, but decades back referred to as “Societa’ Honora” – or the “Honored Society”. They ran more along the lines of small satellite “regimes” of larger organizations back in Italy.

Like today, they were ingrained in the very fabric of Canadian life. But at that time were a largely splintered bunch of small, poorly organized “crews”.

Galante wisely forged alliances with the most powerful of these Calabrians – The Cotroni brothers. By making a pact with these Calabrian racketeers, bringing them under the Bonanno flag to govern all operations there on behalf of Joe Bonanno was nothing less than genius.

They each took the Sicilian oath of the mafia – the burning of a saint’s card in their hands while repeating the ancient oath of allegiance – which formally bound them to Joe Bonanno and his borgata.

In the coming years, the Cotroni’s could arguably be called the most important heroin traffickers in the world, supplying at least four New York families and many other crews across the United States. Joe Bonanno had his hands on the very tempo of it all…they were his disciples.

Add to that his influence over certain members and factions of the Rochester, New York Family (a city officially under the dominion of the Buffalo Family), and Magaddino soon became seriously worried that Bonanno was eyeing his domain.
Soon, even Steve Magaddino (who was also the senior member on the national “Commission”), eagerly and enthusiastically joined in a plot to clip Bonanno’s wings once and for all.

Bill Bonanno
Bill Bonanno

Side Note: Initially at the heart of the conflict was the alleged murder plot against his fellow bosses Carlo Gambino and Thomas Lucchese. A second major bone of contention that eventually was the wedge used to split loyalties of the membership was the undeserved elevation by Bonanno of his son Bill to fill the coveted post of Family consigliere.

A naive Tucson, Arizona-raised college kid still wet behind the ears, Bill had no business and no right to be named to that exalted position over seasoned mafiosi who’d loyally served the borgata for decades. It was a major slap in the face to them and badly smacked of nepotism by the father.

Joseph Bonanno should have known better. But it also showed his arrogance and his defiance to completely ignore mafia decorum to try and create what amounted to a family dynasty for the future. He had become numb to the needs and feelings of his men. Out of touch with the membership.

He had a green-eyed “holier than thou attitude”, making him feel he was above the fray. An “untouchable” or a king so to speak. Better than everybody, and answerable to no one. You made the kid a soldier. If you like, elevate the kid to be a “capo” in a few years. But consigliere? Over the entire rank and file? A position that normally goes to a mafioso with a lifetime of experience in order to properly consul the men?

Bonanno surely must have lost his mind!

Either that, or he’d become so emboldened over the years, so arrogant, that he thought he could shove shit down the throats of all his men and other fellow bosses. To disrespect them in this way was more than many could take… and the fires of discontentment started to smolder.

Joe Bonanno, for his part, first avoided and later disappeared after being summoned by the Commission to explain his actions and defend himself from these potentially deadly accusations.

He sent word that he was “on the lam” from investigators and a pending federal grand jury subpoena awaiting him. As time passed he also faked his own kidnapping, both to confuse law enforcement as well as other mafia bosses. He disappeared again for over a year. For a while, he was able to throw them off balance.

But eventually, the chickens always come home to roost.

During his absence, a civil war would break out within the ranks, with Carlo Gambino working behind the scenes encouraging the various Bonanno capos to break with Bonanno and vote in a new “Representante” to lead them.

New Jersey’s Simone DeCavalcante, better known as “Sam the Plumber”, boss of a small 30-member borgata, was appointed by the Commission to negotiate with Joe Bonanno and try to persuade him to “come in” and declare his position against these multiple accusations…Bonanno largely ignored Sam, paving the way for a bloody gang war that tore at the very fabric of their Family.

A major miscalculation on the part of Signore Giuseppe Bonanno.

This is their story!

Side Note: I want to explain what a underworld gang-war actually looks like. When the phrase “mafia war” is used by the police and the media, lay people automatically conjure up images of rival mafia factions loading up and having constant daily gun battles on the streets, with dozens and dozens murdered or wounded. A military type open warfare…most often that’s not reality.

Not every single soldier or associate of the Family is necessarily involved in the action. Although all those connected need to be cautious, it’s usually only certain segments or key regimes that are “tapped” to be engaged in active warfare so to speak. Many of the older members, as well as loose associates usually are not involved, most often staying on the sidelines just waiting it out.
The combat is more like a gorilla-type warfare, in that most often key “surgical strikes” are directed at top members of the opposition as the norm.

To dominate the rival faction and win the conflict, the violence is usually directed at the men thought to be pivotal as the decision makers and top “torpedos” who control the opposition. Because once they are knocked “out of the box”, the war is usually won.

So, it’s most often a careful game of “cat and mouse”, with the violence often slow to happen because these key combatants are usually in hiding to protect themselves. Weeks and often months in between “hits” or shootings and murders is not unusual.
Depending upon how deep the “bench” is of the opposing forces, the battle could go on for several years until the antagonists are either killed or throw up the white flag. When all is said and done, often the scorecard of fatalities and those injured amounts to no more than a dozen to two dozen mafiosi.

And yet, it was indeed a bloody, deadly battle. Just not what Hollywood would have us envision. In reviewing the chronology of warfare below, you’ll notice that the violence was directed at those in power such as the hierarchy bosses of each faction and their key men.

January 28, 1966 – After months of tension and fruitless talks, a Bonanno Family administration meeting was finally set up between the dissident factions to iron out their differences in order to reach a peaceful settlement within the borgata.

Gaspare Di Gregorio
Gaspare Di Gregorio

Gaspare DiGregorio, a veteran capo and close personal boyhood friend of Bonanno was to speak for the rebels. Bonanno’s son Salvatore (Bill) Bonanno, who had been formally inducted to the membership in 1955 and recently elevated to consigliere, was to speak for his father and the established Bonanno hierarchy.

Side Note: Gaspare also happened to be the brother-in-law of Buffalo boss Steve Magaddino, having married Steve’s sister. In fact, Di Gregorio had been elevated to serve as Family head at the urging of Magaddino himself. It was twofold for Magaddino.

Grand Jury probe into the Troutman Street shooting
Grand Jury probe into the Troutman Street shooting

He would usurp Bonanno and be able to gobble his Canadian holdings, and help his in-law Gaspare elevate his career with Magaddino in the background as the “puppeteer” which would give Magaddino greater power as well, both on the Commission and greater influence within a major New York City-based borgata…a win-win situation for Magaddino.

The meeting was scheduled to take place on Troutman Street in the Ridgewood section of Brooklyn. A quiet old-fashioned Italian area and a traditional Bonanno stronghold.

On the evening of the “sit down”, Bill Bonanno and his entourage arrived in two cars and parked several blocks away, preferring to walk the rest of the way out of an abundance of caution for both law enforcement surveillance and possibly opposing, unfriendly forces.

As they approached Troutman Street, they spread out a bit, walking in two’s to avoid exposure. Suddenly, Bonanno thought he saw a shadow move in a doorway. Before he could react, several volley’s of gunfire erupted from doorways and windows of homes on both sides of the street.

Caught like fish in a barrel and ducking for cover, they scrambled between parked automobiles and vestibules, firing back with several handguns they’re brought along for protection as they ran down Troutman Street doing their best to avoid getting struck by bullets.

What was probably no more than a minute or two, seemed like an eternity as they jumped back into their cars and hightailed it out of the neighborhood.

Nine handguns were later recovered off the street that night by responding police cruisers during the investigation after residents frantically called to report multiple shots fired.

THIS event can be viewed as the official start of what would become known as the “Banana War”.

May 1966 – Boss Joseph Bonanno comes out of hiding to bolster his troops. After having been in hiding for months he has several carefully orchestrated “group” strategy meetings with his capos and section leaders. He then fades back into the woodwork, leaving the New York metropolitan area in the hands of his trusted men.

His brother-in-law, garment firm owner, and capo Frank LaBruzzo, is named as an interim leader to help augment his nephew Bill Bonanno and capo turned underboss John (Johnny Burns) Morale behind the scenes.

Frank Mari
Frank Mari

July 20, 1966 – DiGregorio faction soldier Frank (Frankie T) Mari is machine-gunned on 14th Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Mari was one of the rebel’s top gunman and war strategists. Although shot three times and wounded in the chest and foot, he survives and recovers to fight another day.

Mari will become one of the most important combatants during this conflict.

By this time, the Kings County District Attorney Aaron Koota had empaneled a special grand jury to investigate the gangland killings and shootings.

Scores of Bonanno mobsters were subpoenaed to testify before it. The vast majority pled their 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

Having run into this mafia “brick wall”, Koota soon dusted off a provision in the law that allowed a witness to be granted “immunity from prosecution. This soon became a big problem for the wiseguys because once granted, knockaround guys had no shield and no excuse for not testifying.

Of course, none of them opened their mouths. The result? Dozens and dozens of Bonanno members and selected racketeers from several other families who’d also been called to testify found themselves in the Brooklyn lockup.
Charged with “contempt of court” – for either criminal or civil contempt, or both, defendants usually faced 30-days in jail and a $250 fine on each count.

Side Note: If the wiseguy chose to talk to the grand jury but was caught in a lie, the penalty was even worse. Perjury carried up to five years in prison.

The caveat was that as soon as the 30-day “jail bid” was near ending, the defendant was again hauled before the very same judge and jury and asked the very same exact question he refused to answer the first time.

The result? Another 30-day term. This became a revolving door with many a wiseguy who ended up serving 30, 60, 90, 120 days in county jail. There were many other hoods that served even longer.-As the “Banana War” killings ramped up, prosecutors utilized this tool in their law enforcement arsenal more and more to clear the streets of mafia combatants of both factions.

Side Note: After the bloody triple-gangland murders of the D’Angelo brothers and Frank Telleri in late 1967, law enforcement pulled out all stops and jailed mafiosi by the droves in a semi-successful attempt to halt the wanton violence.

With this great success realized, local district attorneys soon lobbied the state to revamp and expand the contempt laws. The result was an enhanced misdemeanor jail sentence of up to one year in prison. In time, they further lobbied successfully for contempt to become a felony with up to four years of imprisonment for refusal to talk.

Nassau County District Attorney William Cahn, an early proponent of such tactics against the Colombo Family followed suit. A shameless publicity hound to begin with, hundreds were subpoenaed before the Nassau Rackets Grand Jury. And just as quickly the Nassau County Jail in East Meadow was filled to the brim with over 100 mob figures from all Five Families.

These mob grand juries typically ran for up to 18 months’ duration. But with their great success in jailing legions of mobsters from all the families, especially the Colombo and Bonanno crews, prosecutors requested (and received) multiple extensions. Essentially extending these probes, (and the draconian imprisoning) of literally hundreds of mob figures and their associates for several years to come.

October 1967 – Bonanno faction soldiers and loyalists Vincent (Lefty) Cassese and Vincent (Vinny Carroll) Garofalo are shot and wounded while standing on a street in North Brooklyn’s Fort Greene area.

Sereno Tartamella
Sereno Tartamella

Both Cassese and Garofalo were active as policy racket bosses in that neighborhood, and Garofalo was the kid brother of iconic Bonanno underboss Francesco (Frankie Carroll) Garofalo, who had retired back to Castellammare in Sicily years earlier by at least 1955. Frank was a loyal friend and supporter of Bonanno throughout the conflict from afar.

Side Note: During the early Machiavellian machinations between the plotting brothers-in-law Magaddino and Di Gregorio, a little known soldier by the name of Sereno Tartamella aka “Bobby T”, the Beauty Culturist Union official son of deceased veteran consigliere John Tartamella, was appointed as a trusted “courier” to deliver messages back and forth between Buffalo and New York.

He was chosen because he too was related through blood and marriage to both Magaddino and Di Gregorio. It would eventually also make him a murder target, and bring him front and center to the attention of police authorities.

Frankie 500 and Smitty D’Angelo
Frankie 500 and Smitty D’Angelo

November 10, 1967 – Cypress Gardens Italian Restaurant; in the bloodiest single event of the conflict, the recently elevated Sciacca faction consigliere Thomas (Smitty) D’Angelo, his legitimate liquor-salesman brother James D’Angelo who worked for Alpine Wine & Liquors owned by Profaci capo Antonio Magliocco and policy racketeer and soldier Frank (Frankie 500) Telleri are machine-gunned to death by a lone assassin while dining in Ridgewood, Queens.

Smitty D’Angelo – a convicted hijacker, and Telleri were important operatives who headed a large numbers-policy network in the Ridgewood/Greenpoint area.

March 4, 1968 – Aging 68-year old Sciacca faction underboss Pietro (Skinny Pete) Crociata is attacked by rival gunmen as he sits in his car in front of his Ridgewood home. Crociata, an important highly-respected Family figure was shot four times and seriously wounded. He survives…but is out of the action after that.

An elder statesman, Crociata was thought to have been a stabilizing force in bringing many of the old time Bonanno loyalists under the Di Gregorio/Sciacca umbrella. His attempted killing was designed by Joe Bonanno to destabilize the opposition, a “surgical strike” so to speak.

Also in early 1968 – A Kings County Grand Jury summons to testify and later indicts a gaggle of rival faction members on civil contempt, these include capos Sereno Tartamella, Michael Consolo, Nicholas Marangello, John Morale, Michael Sabella; and soldiers Frank Bonomo, Pasquale Gigante, Rosario Morale and John Fiordilino.

The contempt of court jailing’s start
The contempt of court jailing’s start
(click to enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)

Months later they additionally serve subpeonas on Salvatore Bonanno, Peter Notaro, Bruno Capio, Camillo Sardegna, Steve Menna and Frank D’Ambrosio – all Bonanno faction members.

A bunch of Bananas remain quiet
A bunch of Bananas remain quiet
(Click to enlarge)
DA Aaron Kota jails clammed up hoods
DA Aaron Kota jails clammed up hoods
(Click to enlarge)

Sciacca members were not spared. Those summoned included soldiers Antonio Adamo, Anthony Cosenza, Girolamo Asaro, Michael Nido, Frank Tartamella, Philip Giaccone, Anthony Lisi, capo Michael Casale, and soldier Michael Zaffarano.

(Click to enlarge)

March 11, 1968 – Soldier Samuel (Hank) Perrone – a key enforcer, sometime driver and close aide to Bill Bonanno is shot to death by dual gunmen as he left his trucking business, Bingo Trucking Co., in the Greenpoint section.

Samuel (Hank) Perrone
Samuel (Hank) Perrone

As he stepped from his car to purchase cigarettes, his killers quickly ran up hitting him multiple times with twin .38 caliber revolvers. He was dead in the gutter before the ambulance arrived.

Perrone was a prime suspect in several hits weeks earlier. His killing was thought to have been payback for the Crociata hit

April 2, 1968 – Veteran Queens-based Sciacca faction capo Michael (Mike Bruno) Consolo is shot six times and killed outside his home as he parked his car in the Glendale section. Police said the killers were standing so close to Consolo that he had powder burns on his body.

A former close confidant of the imprisoned Carmine Galante, Consolo was a very important capo who was thought to have jumped fences, with both sides as having been possible assailants.

Michael Consolo
Michael Consolo
The pressure is on
The pressure is on (Click to enlarge)
(click to enlarge)

Then a few weeks later on April 5, 1968 – William (Billy) Gonzalez, a trucking company employee of Hank Perrone and considered a mob associate is gunned down in the Bronx.

Less than two weeks later on April 17, 1968, Francesco Crociata, believed to have been a cousin of Pete Crociata, is accosted and shot to death while sitting at a card table inside the Rossini Democratic Social Club in Brooklyn. A Sciacca faction soldier, he was suspected of having participated in the Perrone killing.

Paul Sciacca
Paul Sciacca

By mid-1968, newly installed interim acting boss Gaspare DiGregorio chose to relinquish his position.

He cited poor health (he had a very bad heart condition) as his reason. In truth he was also said to have not be up for the fight, choosing to fade off into the sunset rather than lead the rebels. After repeated heart attacks and hospitalizations, he would finally succumb and die of heart failure on June 11, 1970.

(Click to enlarge)

A little known but respected old-timer named Paul Sciacca was installed as his replacement. Sciacca, of Massapequa, Long Island, owned two large dress factories in Brooklyn. With only one arrest for burglary in his youth, he was thought of as the perfect low-key capo to lead the troops.

He soon demoted several older, placid capo’s while simultaneously elevating several others to their posts for the upcoming fight. Younger, aggressive soldiers like Mari who could be counted on to more than hold their own and to bring the bloody street war to Joe Bonanno’s front stoop if required.

Also in mid-1968, suspected Bonanno loyalist Salvatore Indovina, an ex-convict and known hoodlum, was shot to death as he crossed 18th Avenue in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. Indovina had a record of eight arrests and was under indictment for a $16,000 heist at the time of his murder.

August 1968 – The Bronx home of Bonanno faction capo Joseph (Little Joe) Notaro is targeted by a firebomb. It was not seriously damaged. Notaro remained one of Joe Bonanno’s staunchest supporters throughout the entire conflict.

He originally served under Bonanno legend Carmine (Lilo) Galante, and although Lilo was imprisoned serving a 20-year narcotics sentence during the war, he instructed his minions to stay loyal to Bonanno….and you didn’t fuck with Lilo.

Soldier Pete Notaro
Soldier Pete Notaro
The FBI also bombed soldier Pete Notaro
The FBI also bombed soldier Pete Notaro (click to enlarge)

Late 1968 – The FBI warns multiple Sciacca faction members that law enforcement had gotten reliable information from their informants that these particular mobsters lives were in danger with eminent murder plots in motion against them. Nassau and Suffolk County police and rackets squad detectives even patrolled their homes regularly as a precaution.

Among the notified targets were acting boss Paul Sciacca, and capos Nicholas (Nick the Battler) Di Stefano, Michael (Mike the Sailor) Casale, and Bobby Tartamella.

September 18, 1969 – The newly appointed Sciacca faction underboss/acting boss Frank (Frankie T) Mari and consigliere Michael (Mike Adams) Adamo disappear after attending what they thought would be a high level Family strategy meeting in Brooklyn…they were never seen again.

Side Note: One theory for their disappearance and presumed murders was that they had tried to seize the Family “throne” from Paul Sciacca without being officially voted in. Whatever the true motive, they vanished forever without a trace.

(Click to enlarge.

Early in 1969 – Sciacca faction loyalist and capo Philip (Rusty) Rastelli associate Thomas Zummo was first thought to have been one of the last killings in the war. Zummo was gunned down in the vestibule of his girlfriend’s apartment house.

It later came out that he was shot by Rastelli associate and future boss Joe Massino over a semi-unrelated issue of jealousy or money.

Philip (Rusty) Rastelli
Philip (Rusty) Rastelli
Tommy Zummo
Tommy Zummo

Gaspare Magaddino
Gaspare Magaddino

1970 – Gaspare Magaddino – Joe Bonanno’s Sicilian born cousin is found shotgunned to death in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Magaddino, an established mafioso back in Sicily, was being sought by both police and Sciacca faction hitmen as the prime suspect in the D’Angelo/Telleri triple-killings.

He was thought to have stepped in to help his cousin Joe’s cause. He paid with his life. At the time of his killing police found he was carrying a revolver in his jacket pocket.

There would be several other incidents, including several well-publicized bombings in Arizona of Joe Bonanno’s home, that of one of his soldiers Peter Notaro, and several close associates. But it was later proven that these bombings had been the “black bag” type work of FBI operatives.

It was done to try and “stir the pot” and increase the violence between the various Family factions…all coming to you courtesy of your local FBI office. So much for law and “order” and the quelling of gang-war disturbances.

Back in the latter part of 1968, much time had passed and an already wore out Joe Bonanno, his son Bill and a small contingent of approximately 20 loyal followers, realizing the futility of the war, had completely relinquished control of the borgata.

They agreed to give up the fight and leave New York forever. They all migrated out to the Tucson, Arizona area where most had previously established residences and lived out the rest of their days in relative peace.

(Click to enlarge)

Side Note: Named among this small contingent or “regime” who joined Bonanno and his son in exile was:

Peter Magaddino

Rosario (Russ) Andaloro

Charles (Charlie Batts) Battaglia

Michael Cosenza

Antonio (Short Pants) Cacioppo

Paul Campanella Jr.

Antonio Badalamenti

Edward Duci

Nicola Guastella

Giuseppe Pizzo

Pietro (Pete) Cinquemani

Angelo Monte

Salvatore (Sam) Bruno

Dr. Gregory Genovese

Peter Notaro

Prospero Mule

Anthony Sciuto

Carlo (Buddy) Simari

Peter Sciortino

Giuseppe Titone

...they would live and associate with one another socially through the ensuing years, but most stayed retired from the rackets.

Side Note: In 1970, a major offensive was launched against over 100 mob figures in a massive narcotics sweep throughout the country.

In the New York area, boss Paul Sciacca was arrested along with a key capo by the name of Mike Casale, among several other associates. In time all charges were dismissed. But this arrest and the ensuing aggravation and publicity it brought convinced Sciacca to step back and retire.

Natale Evola
Natale Evola

In his place by mid-1970, the Bonanno Family was being headed by former longtime “capo di decina” Natale (Joe Diamond) Evola.

The Commission finally approved his appointment as the “Official” Boss of the borgata. Highly respected by the entire membership, Evola was able to bring all the dissident factions together under the Bonanno roof, and for the first time in years the borgata was running smoothly and without incident.

It soon came to the attention of authorities who jailed him on a 30-day contempt of court sentence after he balked at answering questions from the Brooklyn Grand Jury.

(Click to enlarge)

Side Note: Unfortunately, Evola would die of cancer by 1973. If he had lived, the Family’s future history and fortunes would have been much different than it became….but that’s a story for another day.

Having been officially banished from Cosa Nostra by the Commission, Bonanno no longer had contact or was recognized by his former rank and file membership. ALL mafia members throughout the underworld in the United States were instructed to not give him any “confidence” or to associate with him or his minions in any way…They became “persona non grata”.

His two sons Bill and Joe Jr., would be arrested, convicted and jailed in both Arizona and Southern California on various fraud and tax charges in the coming years. But these were not “mafia” related cases, but rather separate schemes the brothers ran in conjunction with independent criminals. They were no longer within the “Cosa Nostra” sphere or orbit.

Side Note: It has come out in recent years through FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), that indeed during the height of the “Banana War” Bill Bonanno had provided information to several FBI agents about the inner workings of the mafia over a period of several years.

So it seems he turned “Rat” plain and simple. I’m sure this was as his faction was struggling and losing control of the Family, and Bill tried using his cooperation as a way of “striking back” at those whom he viewed as his enemies and detractors.

Both he and his father would also write several books about their life exploits, gave several interviews to news reporters and primetime television shows, and end up making a mob movie… basically going “Hollywood” to cash in on the “mafia craze” gripping the nation.

It could be viewed as just another way they “hustled” cash, running the ultimate “racket” so to speak. One they couldn’t be put in prison for either.

The Bonanno’s can be seen as early pioneers so to speak of the current craze in the mob today. That of capitalizing on their former mafia memberships with books and movies, as so many former mobsters do nowadays!

Giuseppe (Joe) Bonanno died in 2002 at the very ripe old age of 97.

He had virtually outlived all his mob contemporaries, both friend and foe alike…and died a multimillionaire! His son Salvatore (Bill), died only six years later at the age of 75 in January of 2008.

Side Note: In a twisted and ironic finality and encore to Joe Bonanno’s illustrious and colorful underworld career is the fact that the autobiography he wrote “A Man of Honor”, caused him to go to jail for the only time in his nearly 50-year mafia career.

An ambitious young New York mob buster by the name of Rudy Guiliani read the book front to back, and was captivated by its contents. He subsequently subpoenaed Bonanno to testify at the famed “Commission Trial” about the machinations of how the Commission truly operated as Bonanno had detailed in his book.

Honoring the code of Omerta’ that he had vowed to more than 60 earlier, Bonanno clammed up. Although sick and infirm as an old man of almost 80 years of age at that point, he was cited for contempt of court and jailed for almost a year, finally being released in a wheelchair… but he insisted on standing up and walking out of federal prison on his own two feet as a final act of defiance.

He lived as a “Man of Honor” to the end!

Postscript: Today, the Family formerly headed by Joe Bonanno is still in existence, but it’s a far cry from the heady days of yesteryear. Gone is the secrecy, tight cohesion and military precision that they were once known for.

Over the last 50 years, the Mafia in general, and the Bonanno’s, in particular, have fallen hard. Repeated law enforcement assaults on the Family have knocked out succeeding “administrations”, keeping them in a near-constant state of flux. Coupled with the constant internal jealousies and resultant killings, the “fabric” of the borgata has become a shell of its former self.

The lists of bosses, interim leaders,capo’s, soldiers and key associates that have either been killed, jailed for life, or turned federal informant over the years include such former important Family figures as:

Those Murdered:

• Carmine (Lilo) Galante

• Alphonse (Sonny Red) Indelicato

• Philip (Phil Lucky) Giaccone

• Dominick (Big Trin) Trinchera

• Dominick (Sonny Black) Napolitano

• Anthony Mirra

• Gerlando (George) Scascia

• Sal (The Ironworker) Montagna

• Cesare (The Tall Guy) Bonventre

• Russell (Russ) Mauro

Serving Decades or Life in Jail:

• Philip (Rusty) Rastelli

• Nicolo (Nicky Glasses) Marangello

• Stefano (Stevie Beef) Cannone

• Salvatore (Toto) Catalano

• Louis (Louie Haha) Attanasio

• Robert (Bobby Haha) Attanasio

• Peter (Petey Rabbit) Calabrese

• Vincent Asaro

• Benjamin (Lefty Guns) Ruggiero

• Anthony (Mr. Fish) Rabito

• Anthony Spero

• Joseph (JB) Benanti

• Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano

• Robert (Bobby) Lino

• Anthony (Bruno) Indelicato

• Thomas (Tommy Karate) Pitera

• Vito Rizzuto

• Gerald (Jerry) Chilli

• James (Jimmy Legs) Episcopia

• Patrick (Patty) DeFilippo

• Anthony (Tony Green) Urso

• Anthony (TG) Graziano

• Nicholas (Nicky) Santora

• Baldassare (Baldo) Amato

• Stephen (Stevie Blue) Locurto

• John Palazzolo

Who Turned Informant:

• Salvatore (Good Looking Sal) Vitale

• Richard (Shallackhead) Cantarella

• Paul Cantarella

• Louis (Big Lou) Tartaglione

• Dominick (Donny) Cicale

• Frank Lino Sr.

• Joseph (Jersey Joe) Bonanno

• Generoso (Jimmy the General) Barbieri

• Frank Coppa Sr.

• Pietro (Petey Rose) Rosa

• Joseph (Joe Mook) D’Amico

• Michael (Sonny) Maggio

• Nicholas (PJ) Pisciotta

• Peter (Petey Bullshit) Lovaglio

• Thomas (Sharkey) Carrube

• Vincenzo (Enzo) Morena

…among many, many others not listed in the various categories above.

• And last, but certainly not least was the official boss of the Family, who chose to become the biggest “Rat” of all – Joseph (Fat Joey) Massino….

And the list goes on and on!

What intelligent Bonanno associate or former soldier has the stomach today (or lack of brains) to wanna follow those bad actors into the underworld abyss?

Murky waters at best that any roll of the dice is almost preordained to stop at “Snake Eyes”, likely guaranteeing the mafia dice player to lose his bet!

More than at any other time in previous underworld history your odds of either ending up in a box before your time, behind prison bars for decades, or if your apt to go that route, turning “rodent” to try and escape your fate like a punk is more prevalent than ever.-And for what? To what end do you risk it all? What is the trophy or reward that you seek? If it’s monetary gain you seek, then keep moving fella. Because in today’s underworld, there are few riches to be had.

Between the rats that lurk behind every corner today, and the sophistication of law enforcement technology you’re lucky if you last five years out there on the streets. Coupled with the sheer lack of mob opportunities, and I think you start to get the idea of where I’m coming from and what’s what.

Anyway… enough of my mob history lesson. Hope you’ve enjoyed this historical chronology of the Bonanno Family.

Please clink into our link for the other “Gangland Wars” I’ve written about for some very interesting additional reading. Till next time!

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