The ongoing court testimony by former mafia chieftain Joseph Massino in Brooklyn Federal Court (the first time that a New York mafia boss has ever testified against his underlings) brings back into the public eye the tumultuous events of Massino’s career in the Bonanno crime family.
One of the most disastrous events in the history of the Bonannos occurred in the late 1970s when a undercover agent for the FBI infiltrated the family and fed information to his government handlers on the crime group’s activities for six years before he was pulled out for his own safety.
That agent was Joseph Pistone, who convinced the New York wiseguys that he was a jewel thief named “Donnie Brasco.” The subterfuge was so successful, that “Brasco” was nearly proposed for official membership in the Bonanno family (i.e., becoming “made”).
That didn’t happen since Pistone was withdrawn from his undercover mission during an internal war for family control.
Afterwards, Pistone testified in court and helped to send dozens and dozens of mobsters and associates to prison.
The revelation of Pistone’s presence devastated the Bonannos and made them the laughingstock of the other New York crime families.
Under Joseph Massino’s leadership, however, the Bonannos gradually regained the respect of their peers and eventually resumed its place as a fearsome criminal organization.
Pistone’s book on his experiences was turned into a very successful film simply called “Donnie Brasco” starring Johnny Depp and Al Pacino.
However, due to the constraints of a two-hour movie and the realities of Hollywood filmmaking, there were some important differences between the movie and book. Here are some of those differences: