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By David Amoruso

Joseph Massino, the first New York mob boss to become a cooperating witness, feels he has earned a release from prison. This week, the New York Daily News reported that the FBI agrees and asked the judge to reduce the former Bonanno big wig’s life sentence as a reward for his unprecedented cooperation. “As the first official boss of the American Mafia to testify publicly, Massino’s cooperation was an important milestone in the decades-long effort by the Department of Justice to dismantle and uproot La Cosa Nostra,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Taryn Merkl stated in papers filed Monday in Brooklyn Federal Court.

If the 70-year-old Massino manages to get released it will be another success for the smart wiseguy who brought back the Bonanno Family from the brink of extinction, heading a meeting of the Commission in 2000, before bringing the whole thing down when he decided to become a rat and give up his former family members. His biggest bargaining chip, besides being an official mob boss, was his loyal underling Vincent Basciano, who had taken over the crime family at his behest. While wearing a wire behind bars Massino set Basciano up for a future life in prison.

It seems omerta, the Mafia’s code of silence, is a thing of the past. When caught and facing serious prison time mobsters are on their hands and knees trying to get their freedom back. Still, those that do their time after committing their crime (allegedly) are respected by most of their colleagues (some simply think they are stupid). Being considered a stand up guy is one of the biggest honors a made man can achieve while he is out on the streets. But you earn that title away from the street, locked up away from your relatives. When you are in a cell while your former friends in the mob are robbing you blind, that is when you decide if you will stay quiet. In the end it all comes down to a personal code of honor.

We at Gangsters Inc. thought it would be nice to check which mobsters committed a lot of crimes but owned up to them and paid the piper without trying to bargain their way to freedom. Here is our unofficial top 5:

Number 5: Vic Amuso of the Lucchese Crime Family

Vic Amuso became boss of the Luccheses at the end of 1986. Together with his consigliere/underboss Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso (photo left: Amuso (1) and Casso (2)), he was handpicked by Antonio “Ducks” Corallo who himself knew he would be spending the rest of his life in prison as he was found guilty in the famous Commission Case.

The Lucchese Crime Family under “Tony Ducks” was a well-run and smooth money-making machine. As Amuso and Casso assumed their leadership positions the family quickly descended into chaos. Fueled by greed, distrust, and paranoia the two men started killing one Lucchese wiseguy after another.

When Casso got word from his corrupt sources within law enforcement that he and Amuso would be indicted in what was labeled The Windows Case both men went on the lam. Amuso must’ve been extremely happy to have a friend like Casso who could count on such useful connections. But after fourteen months as a fugitive police finally apprehended Amuso at a shopping mall near Scranton after an anonymous tipster had told them which time the Lucchese boss would appear at the mall. Was it Casso who ratted out his longtime friend? He sure was in a position to know when and where Amuso would be. And a few years later he proved he didn’t mind being an informant when he became a cooperating witness and told authorities everything he knew about La Cosa Nostra in order to escape life in prison.

But despite all of that Vic Amuso refused to talk. His best friend had stabbed him in the back, but that’s “the life” he chose. He wasn’t looking for an easy way out for the heinous acts he had committed during his long criminal career. By 1993 he knew he would serve the rest of his life behind bars. In 2013, at age 78, he is still there.

Number 4: Vincent Basciano of the Bonanno Crime Family

Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano loved the good life. Earning his nickname because he owned beauty salon “Hello Gorgeous” the Bonanno mobster always tried to look his best. For him this meant expensive clothing, a carefully kept hairstyle, and a nice tan. If anyone had to take a guess who would become a rat back in 2000, Basciano would probably be at the top of a lot of lists.

Operating out of the Bronx, Basciano was known as a man capable of murder. It was one of the reasons Bonanno boss Massino decided to hand him the position of acting boss when he was imprisoned. Despite the FBI’s corrupt dealings with Greg Scarpa Sr and James “Whitey” Bulger the general idea of many criminals is still that the Feds will not allow their informants to commit acts of violence.

But by the winter of 2004, Basciano was no longer operating on the streets but sitting in prison besides Massino. Vinny Gorgeous had been charged with a variety of racketeering charges including murder and was facing a life sentence. In jail the two talked and talked. Massino expressed his desire to continue running the crime family from behind bars and pressed Basciano on several issues including murders he had committed and was planning to commit. Basciano spoke freely, why wouldn’t he? Massino had been ratted out by a long line of Bonanno mobsters and a few months earlier had been found guilty of racketeering. He was going away for a long time and had never showed any interest in cooperating. So Basciano talked about ordering the murder of Randolph Pizzolo, explaining how and why. No harm in that.

Except for the fact that after having been found guilty that summer Massino had joined the government’s side and agreed to wear a wire in prison. Besides life in prison, Massino was also facing a possible death penalty for the murder of capo Gerlando Sciascia. To make all of that go away Massino decided to trade in his loyal dog Vinny Gorgeous. The two even discussed plans to murder prosecutor Greg Andres, the federal attorney who prosecuted all Bonanno cases. Basciano didn’t stand a chance.

After several trials and enough guilty verdicts on racketeering and murder charges Basciano was certain he would never again set foot in his beauty salon ever again. Even a possible death penalty loomed over his head. But Basciano went to trial, lost, and went back to his cell. He had rolled the dice, made a lot of money, climbed to the top of the Bonanno mob, harmed a lot of people, and was now willing to pay for his crimes. Who would’ve thought?

Number 3: Dominick Napolitano of the Bonanno Crime Family

It was a heart-wrenching scene. Lefty, Al Pacino’s character in the movie Donnie Brasco, had found out his mob protégé was an FBI agent. His mafia family knew as well. And they had called him to a meeting. Lefty knew that there would be no meeting. Only a murder. With him as the victim. He had introduced the undercover FBI agent to the mob family and now faced a death sentence for doing so. But that was the life he chose so instead of going to the FBI he left his jewelry and wallet at home and went to the meeting, to a certain death.

The movie Donnie Brasco was a huge hit and still is a fan favorite. Though based on a true story, the movie mixed facts and fiction for “dramatic purposes”. It wasn’t Lefty who went to that meeting. Lefty actually died of natural causes years later. The man who would rather die than run was Dominick “Sonny Black” Napolitano (right), a capo in the Bonanno crime family, and portrayed by Michael Madsen in the film.

Upon arriving at the meeting spot, Sonny Black was pushed down the stairs into the basement of a Bonanno associate and shot. When the first shot didn’t kill him, Napolitano turned to his killers, telling them: “Hit me one more time and make it good.”

How do we know this? Because two of the men present at the killing, one of whom pulled the trigger, would later become government witnesses and testify in court.

Number 2: Sonny Franzese of the Colombo Crime Family

John “Sonny” Franzese is a true mafia dinosaur. Born in 1919 he has spent over 25 years in prison. In 1967 he was hit with a 50-year sentence for several bank robberies and since then he’s been in and out of prison due to parole violations. And various new charges.

As a member of the volatile Colombo crime family, life isn’t easy for Franzese. Always tip-toeing through the tulips as the Colombo factions are usually at war for one thing or another. But Franzese isn’t the one to bitch and moan. Though he was very unhappy when his son Michael decided to give information to the FBI about his criminal exploits. So unhappy that he was rumored to have disowned him.

As he got older his heart softened and the two are said to be on speaking terms again. Maybe because Franzese’s other son, John Junior, had turned state’s evidence and would testify against his father in a 2010 racketeering trial. At least son Michael did not go that far.

Indicted in two separate racketeering cases, Franzese was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison. With his release date set for 2017 it looks like he will spend the remainder of his life in prison. Now in his mid-90s prison still doesn’t faze the elderly gangster. “I die outside, I die in jail. It don't matter to me. I gotta die someplace.”

Number 1: John Gotti of the Gambino Family

Say what you want about John Gotti but he took his oath of silence very serious. Yes, he was caught on tape discussing murders he had ordered, murders he had committed, threats, illegal business, and much more, but he would never cooperate with law enforcement.

As boss he even forbade his crime family members to plead guilty to anything in order to get a lower sentence. Nothing any of them could do about it. Gotti was the boss and he and his relatives set the example. His brother Gene was (and still is) doing a 50-year sentence for running a heroin smuggling ring, while brother Peter is doing 25-years behind bars and is unlikely to get out of prison alive. Other Gottis, including John’s son Junior, all did or are doing their time as well.

In the end being a stand up guy is the only good thing both journalists and mobsters could say about John Gotti Sr. His brash, in-your-face, flamboyant style brought a lot of unwanted attention to the Gambino crime family and sent scores of wiseguys to prison. But it’s probably the only thing Gotti himself wanted to hear. Staying true to the sacred code and rules of La Cosa Nostra was his biggest goal. After breaking many of those same rules at least he remained loyal to the one we all know as “omerta”.

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Views: 28546

Comment by dino ortiz on June 17, 2013 at 8:21pm

Nice info, food for thought.Just when you think it's all over,here comes a good story about a few individuals that give "our thing" some hope. Ha!

Comment by Gangsters Inc. on June 28, 2013 at 2:23pm

And there's a lot of guys I did not name. I'll do a follow-up at a later date. Any suggestions are welcome.

Comment by jack straw on January 1, 2014 at 7:41pm

benny eggs 16 years for being a true wise guy

Comment by Gaspar Vetrano on May 28, 2015 at 8:34am

I have told this story til I am blue in the face, Over 30 years ago I lived in NYC , I went from being a pimp to selling Heroin because I had got a connection that was selling me number 4 Heroin at cost, I had a crew of 25 young black men and 122nd street and 143rd street in Harlem, one of my apartments was ar 520 East 72nd street, which was between york ave. and the East river, My Godfather who was on the lam for whacking Joe Barboza came to my place with this little chubby guy by the name of John, John said "You shud be wit us" we can pratec you ya know" I declined and asked for my Godfather to take his friend out of my house, The bottom line was my Godfather Joe "JR" Russo, died in the can as did John and a whole bunch of other so called wiseguys, I am of Sicilian decent, refused being made a couple of times I got busted on June 28, 1984 as did my entire crew of 25 young black men, we all did time and not one of my men rolled, we all went to prison and everyone of my men stood up strong and did their time!!! Try to find that type of conviction today. HUH, right you won't

Comment by Gaspar Vetrano on May 28, 2015 at 8:43am

I have one book out. "I make no apology by Gaspar Vetrano, it was published by Publish America, Barnes and Noble give it 4 stars. It has sold over 2 million copies, I am working on my new one "The price we pay" which will be sold in the usa sometine in the next 6 months, if you google me or email me at gasparvetrano@aol.com you can buy a copy for $24.00 signed. Have a great day

Gaspar

Comment by John Ramsey on April 26, 2016 at 8:36am

 A stand upJust a comment on Gaspar Vetrano.You had a good business going there, Gaspar, my friend. The majority oorld frowns on drugs, especially heroin..But hey,people have been taking it in its various forms for hundreds of years. All you were doing was providing a service that people wanted. If they couldn't get it they'd be sick as fuck.,I  et your ccustomers loved you,unless they didn't pay up!Anyway if you ddidn't sell it somebody else would. Good luck from England. A stand up guy,you are. 

Comment by John Ramsey on April 26, 2016 at 8:39am

Gaspar, excuse my spelling, I'm 65 and my eye sight is bad!

Comment by Troy W Winter on May 27, 2016 at 10:03pm
I'm writing this with no disrespect to the men listed or people commenting previously. I just wonder what is stand-up about stealing, extortion and murder. I'm 6ft. Tall and weigh 295 Pds. I bounced at bars and weekends around Flint, Mi. as a second job to suppourt my family thus giving me several opportunities to make money the wrong way. flint is the worst of the worst.voted worse place to live in America.I have three children. One with cerebral palsy and the money was tempting. Most of these men cheat on spouses. The one person you are supposed to trust in this world.I have done time in Outside of Chicago.Something I'm very ashamed of. What I'm trying to is understand these men are obviously very smart. Why not take the time and effort in the real world. I bet most would be very successful. What's wrong with one woman. All this family,,success without worrying friends will shoot you in the head or long vacations at the greybar motel.
Comment by Fabio Mazzara on January 28, 2017 at 2:16pm

Yes it's true Gotti never became a rat, but that didn't matter cuz he had already single-handedly sunk several high ranking bosses from other families with that big mouth...and he knew it. Overheard countless times talking in a bugged social club about other family members and was largely responsible for implicating several high profile bosses on wiretap, resulting in several indictments in the 80's. As the new acting boss after the much publicized murder of his former boss, he would make all his underlings pay homage to him at a well known Gambino social club that was constantly under FBI surveillance. Among other stupidly flamboyant things like his neighborhood firework celebrations after beating a federal indictment, Gotti broke almost every cardinal rule of omerta that would have made Carlo Gambino himself turn over in his grave. Gotti was a classic example of the egoistic Americanized Hollywood gangster that would set in motion Cosa Nostra's downfall. If only he did become a government witness, he simply would have doubly went down as the dumbest boss in the history of the 5 families. But what do you expect when you put a Napoletan in charge of a centuries old Sicilian tradition. Fugetaboutit!

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