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Donnie Brasco was the alias of Joseph Pistone, an undercover FBI agent that infiltrated the Bonanno crime family.
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Donnie Brasco was the alias of undercover FBI agent Joseph Pistone, who was born in 1939 in Erie, Pennsylvania. The FBI created the alias of Brasco to stem the rising truck hijacking numbers, but Brasco was able to rise quickly within the ranks and be nominated for membership in the Bonanno crime family. Eventually, Brasco was pulled and the mission was ended for Pistone's safety.
In 1976, FBI undercover agent Joseph Pistone successfully infiltrated New York's Bonanno Mafia family. Going under the name of "Donnie Brasco", Pistone became close to several Mafia members during an assignment that lasted five years and the information he amassed over that time led to hundreds of arrests.
In 1974, Joseph D. Pistone was transferred to New York and assigned to the truck hijacking squad of the FBI. There were five to six major hijackings per day in the New York City area and intelligence sources indicated that all were somehow tied to various Mafia families. The FBI organized a six-month undercover operation, known as "Sun-Apple" to infiltrate the fences. The FBI gave Pistone a new identity as a small, but successful, jewel thief and burglar called Donnie Brasco.
Pistone went to school to learn about precious gems, and the FBI set him up with an apartment in New York and one in Florida, while his family lived in another part of the country. He targeted bars and restaurants he knew were frequented by certain mob members until one day he got into a conversation with Benjamin 'Lefty' Ruggiero.
Ruggiero had worked as a loyal foot soldier for the Mafia for 30 years and killed 26 people in total. Brasco impressed him and the two joined forces as business partners, with Ruggiero becoming his mentor and sponsor—if Brasco let the family down Ruggiero would pay with his own life.
An average day would start with checking in with Ruggiero, Brasco's captain, and then hanging out in a bar or nightclub trying to think of new ways to make money or advancing up the Mafia ladder. Brasco always worked with the same people and never asked what other members were doing or even who they were. Too many questions were viewed with great suspicion and this rule complicated his undercover role and contributed to its longevity.
During his time undercover Brasco was ordered to commit four contract killings. There was no question of refusal, so Brasco would either manipulate himself out of the hit at a later date or, if that proved too difficult, the FBI would stage a fake killing.
He was able to see his wife Maggie and their three daughters once every three or four months for a day on average. Discussing the outlines or ramifications of the case would have been a breach of security, so his family had no idea what he was doing, which took a tremendous toll on their relationships.
On July 12, 1979, the head of the Bonanno family, Carmine Galante, was shot dead. A war broke out between the rival leaders within the family, which quickly split into two factions.
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Bootleggers, smugglers, drug dealers, hit men—all these occupations are the provenance of mobsters, who operate in ethnic, family and business networks. Mobsters' real life crimes, and Hollywood's fascination with them, has earned them a special place in the American imagination. From Al Capone's Chicago crime ring to Bugsy Siegel's Las Vegas racket, these mobsters have made their names notorious from coast to coast.
Infamous Mobsters 31 people in this group
Famous People Born in 1939 57 people in this group
Famous People Born in Pennsylvania 221 people in this group