Ex-Bonanno crime boss to be released from pen

By Bianca Fortis

In less than two months, Joseph Massino, the former mob boss of the Bonanno crime family, will be released from prison.

Citing his substantial cooperation in prosecuting his former cohorts, Brooklyn federal prosecutors sought a reduction in his original sentence of two life terms. A federal judge commuted the Howard Beach resident’s sentence last week. He was the first head of one of the Five Families in New York to turn state’s evidence.

After a life of crime that spanned more than three decades, Massino was arrested in January 2003. In August 2004, after a 12-week trial, he was convicted of a laundry list of crimes, including multiple acts of murder, attempted murder, conspiring to make and making extortionate extensions of credit, illegal gambling, money laundering conspiracy, arson and arson conspiracy.

Beyond his two life sentences, the former “Last Don” was also required to forfeit $7,672,581 in cash, 257 gold bars, the Casablanca Restaurant in Maspeth, the Café Via Veneto restaurant in Ridgewood and other property, according to a motion filed by prosecutors in Brooklyn federal court.

Shortly after Massino was convicted, he indicated he wanted to meet with government officials. He did so on a number of occasions. He agreed to become the first high-ranking mafia member to rat out his colleagues, ending his tenure as the head of the Bonanno family, according to the motion.

Most notably, Massino provided evidence against Vincent Basciano, who had taken the reins of the family after Massino. Massino recorded conversations with Basciano in which Basciano detailed the reasons he ordered the killing of Randolph Pizzolo, an associate of the family. Basciano was convicted of all charges and sentenced to life in prison.

The former mob boss also testified in open court, which “helped to dismantle the very organization to which he had once sworn his loyalty — and as to which he had dozens of men swear their loyalty,” according to court documents.

His testimony led to the conviction of several other associates.

Massino also provided information regarding his personal involvement with the Bonanno family and about the infamous Five Families of La Cosa Nostra in New York City.

“Massino’s encyclopedic knowledge of the Mafia in New York City, and his candor regarding his own crimes and those of others, made him a credible and effective witness,” court documents said.

Massino has served 10 1/2 years in prison. With good-time credit, he has served approximately 12 years. Prosecutors requested a 60-day period in order to implement security arrangements to protect Massino from his former friends.

Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at bfortis@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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