By Joe Anuta
Joseph Massino, the Howard Beach Mafia boss who ran operations of the Bonnano crime family often out of a restaurant in Maspeth was in court to testify against his subordinate ï»¿last week.
Massino, known as “The Last Don,” is the first don of a La Cosa Nostra crime family to take the stand as a government witness.
By doing so, he could get the death penalty for acting boss of the Bonnano crime family Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano, who is accused of ordering the murder of Randolph Pizzolo.
Massinoï»¿, 68, appeared in a black velour track suit and black-rimmed spectacles as he sat on the witness stand last week in Brooklyn federal court to explain some of the jargon that peppered taped conversations between Massino and Basciano in 2005, when the two mobsters were incarcerated in a federal prison in Brooklyn and Massino was wearing a wire.
Prosecutors painstakingly pored over the transcripts of the audio so Massino could clarify terms like “he caught a delusion,” which means someone who is paranoid about being murdered.
Often Massino’s blunt answers provided candid explanations of names that would come up, like “Alfred.”
“He was a wiseguy in the Bonnano family,” Massino said.
Or he would shed light on slightly vague metaphors from Basciano, like when the latter said in a taped conversation, “It’s your show. I’m only out here running it for you.”
Massino clarified: “He’s running the Bonnano family.”
But at other times, it seemed Massino could not fathom the need to further explain.
When a prosecutor asked the aging mobster what he meant by saying someone “had a hair up his nose about Michael,” Massino responded, “He had a bug up his ass.”
When Massino was asked to clarify what he meant by calling Vic “a boob,” he just repeated, “He was a boob,” which drew muffled snickering from several people in the federal court room.
Massino also incorporated food metaphors into his testimony.
“It takes all kinds of meat to make a good sauce,” he said at one point, as a metaphor for the many types of mobsters who constitute a good crime family.
Basciano did his fair share of talking on the tapes as well as the two discussed laundry, women and food. At one point he said, “I was f—–g made for this life.”
Basciano was previously convicted of attempted murder and other charges in 2004, and then convicted in 2007 of murdering a Bronx drug addict and sentenced to life imprisonment.
But Massino made plenty of serious statements as well. When Basciano was taped saying, “I told them who to use,” Massino told prosecutors that meant Basciano gave the order to use two members of the Bonnano family to murder Pizzolo in 2004.
Massino had been in federal prison since 2005, when he was convicted of his involvement in seven murders.
He was charged in an eighth killing and possibly faced the death penalty, but Massino took a plea deal and received two life sentences instead.
Before he was in jail, Massino operated much of the Bonnano family business out of Casablanca Restaurant, at 62-15 60th Lane in Maspeth.
Massino also owns property in his native Howard Beach and testified that he decided to cooperate with federal investigators to ensure his wife and mother were financially secure while he served time in jail.
As part of the deal, Massino relinquished millions of dollars in assets to the federal government, including 400 to 500 gold bars stashed in the basement of a Howard Beach home. In exchange, his wife and mother were allowed to keep five houses to support themselves through rental income.
While on the stand, he answered prosecutors’ questions calmly and matter-of-factly, even when prosecutors played recordings of Massino discussing other mobsters who had worn a wire or his relationship with Basciano.
“I’m your boss, but I’m not your boss,” Massino said in a taped conversation. “I’m also your friend.”
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.