On this date in 1981...
FBI Special Agents Doug Fencl, Jim Kinne and Jerry Loar visited Motion Lounge, a nightclub and Bonanno Crime Family headquarters at 420 Graham Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in late July of 1981 (the specific date is in doubt). They pulled Bonanno capodecina Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano aside and revealed that Special Agent Joseph D. Pistone had successfully infiltrated Napolitano's organization as part of the "Donnie Brasco" undercover operation.
|FBI agents Loar, Kinne and Fencl (left to right)|
leaving Motion Lounge.
According to Pistone's book, Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia, the encounter occurred on July 28. Pistone wrote that the agents showed Napolitano a photograph of Pistone in the company of several fellow federal agents. As the photograph was shown, the agents asked Napolitano, "Do you know this guy? He's an FBI agent. We just wanted to tell you."
Napolitano had known and confided in Pistone - believing him to be jewel thief Brasco - for months. But he remained poised in front of the other agents and replied, "I don't know him, but if I meet him, I'll know he's an FBI agent."
Pistone could only have heard of this encounter second-hand. Fencl, who was actually there, recalled it differently for his testimony in the 2004 trial of Bonanno boss Joseph Massino. He placed the encounter two days later, July 30.
"I asked [Napolitano] if he knew Donnie Brasco and Tony Rossi, and he said that he did, and I told him they were FBI agents," Fencl testified. "I told him I wanted to make sure of his safety and that he was going to have a potential problem with the Bonanno Crime Family"
Fencl offered Napolitano his business card, hoping that he would contact Fencl and agree to cooperate with law enforcement. Napolitano refused, saying, "You know better than anybody that I can't take that, but I know how to get a hold of you."
Despite the government warning, Napolitano made no effort to protect himself. After Fencl, Kinne and Loar left the lounge, he scrambled to inform Mafia higher-ups of the possible infiltration and to locate the man he knew as Brasco. Napolitano was soon murdered by his underworld colleagues - under orders from rapidly rising Bonanno leader Massino - for taking the undercover agent into his orbit as a crime family associate. Late in the year, Napolitano was called to a meeting with bosses. He did not return.
The Brasco operation began in 1976 as an effort to penetrate the "fences" who processed stolen goods for organized crime families in New York. Special Agent Pistone first encountered Bonanno members in front of a mob social club on Madison Street in lower Manhattan. He gained the trust of Manhattan-based Bonanno soldier Benjamin "Lefty" Ruggiero and his immediate superior Napolitano.
Donnie Brasco's true identity was publicly revealed for the first time in the federal racketeering conspiracy trial of Ruggiero and four other defendants in the summer of 1982. Judge Robert W. Sweet refused a prosecution request to allow the agent to testify only under his code name, finding that doing so would hamper defendants' ability to cross examine the primary witness against them. Pistone took the witness stand on August 2, 1982. His testimony focused on four of the five defendants. All four were convicted on August 27. The fifth defendant - charged on the basis of informant testimony - was acquitted. Ruggiero, then fifty-six, was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for racketeering conspiracy including three murders.
- DeStefano, Anthony M., "Hardened felon chokes up on stand," Newsday, May 27, 2004, p. 22.
- Lubasch, Arnold H., "3 of 5 convicted of conspiracy in 'Bonanno Family' rackets," New York Times, Aug. 28, 1982, p. 1.
- Lubasch, Arnold H., "6 get jail terms in rackets case tied to mobsters," New York Times, Nov. 16, 1982, p. B1.
- Lubasch, Arnold H., "Defense assails agent's actions in Mob inquiry," New York Times, Aug. 6, 1982, p. B1.
- Lubasch, Arnold H., "F.B.I. agent, dropping disguise, tells court of life inside the Mob," New York Times, Aug. 3, 1982, p. 1.
- Lubasch, Arnold H., "F.B.I. infiltrator says Mob chief told of slayings," New York Times, Aug. 4, 1982, p. B1.
- McPhee, Michele, "'Brasco's long wait," New York Daily News, Jan. 19, 2003, p. 10.
- Pistone, Joseph D., with Richard Woodley, Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia, New York: NAL, 1987, pp. 363-368.
- Schmetterer, Jerry, and Paul Meskil, with D.J. Saunders, "Victim was mobster who let fed agent in," New York Daily News, Nov. 16, 1982, p. 3.
- Smith, Kati Cornell, "Brasco fiasco," New York Post, June 5, 2004.
- Weiss, Murray, "Find body in a bag," New York Daily News, Aug. 13, 1982, p. 29.