In the end, it was the cold, unforgiving numbers that helped
whack the fortunes of Joseph Massino, the last of the big New York crime bosses
to be sent to the pen. For years, the leader of the Bonnano family kept a tight
leash on his captains—and his own profile—as his fellow Mafia Dons
were famously carted off to prison.
Massino became the official boss of the Bonnano family in 1992 after the
death of boss Rusty Rastelli a year earlier. Massino was fresh from a prison
stint and quietly rebuilt the Bonnano family from the ashes of an embarrassing
trial that had caused the family’s eviction from Mafia circles. Massino
restored the Bonnano family through muscle, a web of criminal schemes, and
a strict adherence to “omerta,” the Mafia code of silence. He was
considered by many in the law enforcement community to be untouchable.
That loyalty helped create a dangerous and powerful enterprise that traded
heavily in gambling, extortion, loansharking and money-laundering. Massino
and his associates were also tied to several murders, including the slayings
of fellow mobsters who betrayed the family.
But Massino’s “omerta” code would slowly disintegrate as
FBI investigators pieced together a case against the crime family using an
innovative blend of traditional shoe-leather surveillance and forensic accounting.
Two special agents, Jeffrey Sallet and Kimberly McCaffrey, both accountants
before joining the Bureau, engineered the plan. They employed a “building
block approach” using subpoenaed financial records to help pin lower
level Bonnano associates to crimes. Facing hard evidence and hard time, the
associates—mob bosses, bankers—agreed to cooperate. Up the chain
it went. Every step of the way, Sallet and McCaffrey corroborated mobsters’ admissions
with seized financial documents. Their plan turned up information and targets
that might have been missed by traditional investigative methods.
Faced with mountains of evidence, one of Massino’s trusted captains
eventually turned on his boss, leading to Massino’s arrest in 2003. Massino
was convicted last summer for murder conspiracy, racketeering, and extortion,
to name a few charges. He was sentenced in June to life in prison.
For more than 70 years, the Bonnano family had stood alone as the only New
York organized crime family in which no inducted member had cooperated with
authorities. In the end, even Massino agreed to cooperate with investigators.
Roslynn Mauskopf, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, whose
office prosecuted the cases, said the indictments “represent the broadest
and deepest prosecution ever of a New York City-based organized crime family.”
Organized Crime website | More
stories on Organized Crime