(3 of 5)
Gelando (George from Canada) Sciascia. Found dumped in the Bronx in March '99 with five bullet holes in his head and torso. The coiffed Sicilian ran the Bonannos' Montreal franchise. According to court documents, he quarreled with another captain, Anthony Grazino, over the latter's supposed cocaine use. Massino, the government claims, backed Grazino and said Sciascia "had to go." This is the one murder charge that doesn't date back to the Reagan years, and Massino could be executed for the crime because it occurred after '94--when a federal murder-in-aid-of-racketeering law was updated to include the death penalty.
"This is the broadest and deepest prosecution ever of a New York City organized-crime family," says U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf. "Thirty-five defendants are facing 23 murder or attempted-murder charges." Rapid-fire indictments have scooped up Bonannos from Staten Island to the Bronx. In addition to squeezing informants and clocking countless hours of surveillance, two C-10 agents used "forensic accounting" techniques to follow a paper trail through Massino's murky bookkeeping. The knockout blow was delivered in September, when James (Big Lou) Tartaglione recorded acting Bonanno boss Anthony (Tony Green) Urso allegedly conspiring to murder the families of Bonannos who were cooperating with the encroaching G-men. "Why should rats' kids be happy where my kids or your kids should suffer because I'm away for life?" said Urso, according to court documents. "If you take one kid, I hate to say it, and do what you gotta do, they'll think f______ twice."
The Massino trial is the latest and, the feds hope, final chapter in a century-old soap opera that began in the early '30s with Luciano's anointing of Sicilian-born Joseph Bonanno, then just 26, to rein in one of New York's warring crime gangs and sit on the newly formed Mafia Commission (Bonanno died in 2002 at 97). Bonanno's son Bill, 72, admits he ran the family for a brief, chaotic period in the '60s (true) and claims that he and his father were Mario Puzo's inspiration for Michael and Vito Corleone (debatable). He subscribes to Puzo's vision of the Mafia as a grand old society that the New World corrupted. (For full effect as you read this, play some Nino Rota music on your inner iPod.) "They came from a culture and a tradition that taught people what was right and what was wrong," he says. "When they tried to transfer it to this country, that tradition got diluted by the marketplace mentality of American society. The friendships, the family ties, the trust, loyalty, obedience the glue that held us together that's not there anymore. What's out there today is nothing but a parody of what it used to be. I don't even recognize it."
He might recognize it in Big Joey, who reintroduced the sternest Mafia traditions and insisted that his men honor them. Massino (who often used the alias Messina in his early days) was born in '43 and raised in Brooklyn, where he befriended Vitale and in his teens married Vitale's sister Josephine. The couple settled in Howard Beach, Queens, where they still live in a house decorated with white marble and crystal chandeliers.
In the '60s Massino's uncle owned a shop in Maspeth, where the young man made sandwiches for catering trucks, frequently driving one himself and selling coffee and cakes to workers in a Long Island City truck yard. The wiseguy soon became a wide guy. "He'd eat half the sweets on his truck," says ex-FBI agent Colgan. Government witnesses at his '87 trial said Massino fenced merchandise, from Kodak cameras to electric appliances, that workers stole from the platforms and loaded onto his truck. By the '70s, he had allegedly expanded his operation into a truck-hijacking racket. With connections at airports and on the waterfront, say feds, he and his crew would flag down trucks, usually prearranged "give-ups" with the O.K. of the drivers. He once scored 2,000 cases of Chicken of the Sea, another time 500 cartons of Mitsubishi sneakers.
During this period Massino forged an alliance with a Howard Beach neighbor and natural rival, John Gotti, then a rising enforcer in the Gambino clan. "They were running in the same area of Queens," says Colgan, "doing the same things, hijacking trucks, selling stolen goods." Twenty years later, Gotti's recommendation helped make Massino the Bonanno boss.
One Colgan story illustrates the symbiotic relationship between mobster and fed. In '81 Colgan led a team of 40 agents who planted a microphone in the ceiling at J&S. "It lasted maybe 12, 24 hours, then it went quiet," the ex-agent recalls. "Joey repeatedly swept the place. We knew we were compromised." Colgan's boss wanted the pricey piece of equipment back. So when Colgan spotted a wiseguy entering the social club, he coattailed himself inside. The wiseguy took a swing at him, and several other men rushed him. "The next thing, I hear, I don't see, 'Relax, everybody. It's only Pat.' And it's Joey. He says, 'I figured you'd be back.' He walked into the back and brought out our equipment, throws it on the bar. Then he says to me, 'I understand you've been promoted.' I'd become a supervisor. I knew that Joey had just been made a captain, so I said, 'Yeah, Joey. I understand you've been promoted too.' He just chuckled." If this sounds like the sporadic humane contact between a German soldier and an English soldier on the Somme battlefield, it is. "It was a war," Colgan says. "And there was a professional respect for your adversary. But if it was his life or my life, hah, goodbye. We'd both be shooting. And only one of us would've walked away."