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Top Mafia don turns rat on his ex-captain

A mafia boss, who ordered a killing in the Donnie Brasco case later dramatised in a Hollywood film, has become the first chief of one of New York's infamous Five Families to break "omerta" -- their code of silence -- and testify against one of their own.

Joseph Massino, the jailed former chief of the Bonanno crime family, gave evidence late on Tuesday in the trial in Brooklyn of Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, who served as one of his captains. Basciano (50) is accused of ordering the murder of Randolph Pizzolo, an associate who fell out with the family.

Massino did not disappoint observers hoping for a performance worthy of classic Mafia cinema, as he compared life in the mob to his parallel career running CasaBlanca, an Italian restaurant.

"It takes all kinds of meat to make a good sauce," said the 68-year-old during his five-hour testimony. "Some people, they kill. Some people, they earn, they can't kill."

Asked about his duties in the family, he said bluntly: "Murder." Identifying Basciano, Massino pointed at "the guy sitting in the grey suit", who chewed gum and stared back at his alleged former boss.

Massino began helping police after being convicted in 2004 for orchestrating a 25-year campaign of murder and racketeering with the Bonannos.

Among his murders was that of a gangster who had vouched for Brasco, the pseudonym of the undercover FBI agent Joseph Pistone, who infiltrated the Bonannos for six years in the 1970s and 1980s.

Brasco's story was made into a film, starring Al Pacino and Johnny Depp, released in 1997.

While imprisoned with Basciano in 2005, Massino agreed to wear a wire and betray his former underling.


He told the court Basciano had said to him he had killed Pizzolo. "He said he was a scumbag, a rat, a troublemaker, a bad kid," said the former boss.

Basciano, serving a life sentence for a 2007 killing, could face the death penalty if convicted of murder and racketeering.

He denies the charges and claims he took credit for the murder to protect a friend, another of the Bonannos, who carried out the killing.

Massino, who is serving two consecutive life sentences for eight murders, explained that by testifying he was violating the sacred "omerta" he had sworn to obey.

He is seeking to reduce his sentence, spare his wife from prosecution, and let her keep their home. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent