In 2004, Joseph Massino was convicted of seven murders and given life in prison; a year later, he faced the death penalty for an eighth. To avoid such a fate, save his wife from prosecution, and maybe even get a reduced sentence one day (he hopes — no such thing has been promised), Massino began ratting on his crime buddies. This would be fairly unremarkable except that Massino was the boss of the Bonanno crime family, making him the “only official boss of a New York crime family ever to cooperate with federal authorities.” Yesterday, he testified in a trial against his handpicked successor, Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano, who is accused of ordering a hit. Because Massino is such a high-ranking figure, the trial is bound to be full of revelations about the modern-day mob. Here are some of the things we’ve learned so far:
The Benefits of Being a Party Pooper: Massino ordered the closing of the family’s social clubs to make it harder for agents to keep watch over them. “If you close the club,” he said, “it takes 50 F.B.I. agents to watch 50 people.”
When Not to Talk About Mob Things: In a club, in a car, on cell phones, on regular phones, in your house.
When to Talk About Mob Things: Face-to-face while walking around outside; in foreign countries; in a walk-in refrigerator.
Where Secret Messages Are Hidden Sometimes: In the middle of a can of Pringles.
A Little Help From His Friends: Massino was aided over the years by two NYPD detectives, an FBI agent, and a Pennsylvania state trooper.
How a Mob Boss Gets Started on a Life of Crime: Robbing homing pigeons at the age of 12.