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Joseph Bonanno, known as Joe Bananas, led one of the top New York crime families in the New York from the 1930s to the 1960s.
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He had a second heart attack that year while waiting for his case to be heard, and it was later dropped.
Over the years, Bonanno had been dubbed “Joe Bananas” by the press—a nickname his despised. He strove for respectability. He invested in a number of legitimate businesses, including a dairy farm, a cheese company, and a funeral home. Some of these operations helped with his illegal activities. According to several media reports,
Bonanno is credited with creating the “double coffin”—a coffin with a special compartment for disposing of a corpse beneath another body prepared for burial.
In 1963, Bonanno was named as a leading mob figure by Joseph Valachi in his testimony before a Senate subcommittee. A trip to Canada that same year brought more trouble. He went there to see about investing in a cheese company, but he ended up being arrested in Montreal for lying on his immigration-card application, according to his autobiography. Again, the mob figure was in hot water over the $450 labor-related fine he received in the early 1940s. After spending several days inside a Canadian prison, he was released and no charges were filed against him. It was the first time Bonanno had spent any time in a cell, and the experience unnerved him.
Bonanno faced another hair-raising challenge the following year. On October 21, 1964, he was abducted by two gunmen in front of an apartment building in Manhattan. One of the men reportedly said, “Joe come with us—the boss wants to see you.”
As a strange coincidence, Joseph Bonanno was supposed to appear in front of a federal grand jury around this time. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) theorized that Bonanno was kidnapped to put an end to a power struggle within the mob. In the mid-1960s, he was caught up in a dispute between different factions within the New York mob. Bonanno supported Joe Magliocco, the head of the Profaci family, at a time when many members of Magliocco’s organization were defecting to other organizations. Some thought Bonanno was the driving force behind Magliocco and was out to eliminate Tommy Lucchese and Carlo Gambino. In his autobiography, however, Bonanno disputed this claim.
According to his autobiography, Bonanno was kidnapped by men working for his estranged cousin Stefano Magaddino, an ally of Lucchese and Gambino. He was held for several weeks and then released. Some reports indicate he was set free after promising to retire from organized crime. He also appointed his son Bill as his second-in-command, or consigliere, around this time—another unpopular move that increased tensions within his own organization. Some thought he was setting his son to take over the family after him
After his release, Bonanno went into hiding and in his absence, his son and others loyal to Bonanno struggled for control of their crime family. Longtime Bonanno friend Gaspar DiGregorio had been chosen by the Commission to run the organization in his absence, but Joseph Bonanno reportedly did not accept the Commission’s ruling.
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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.
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