August 12, 1982-The body of Dominic “Sonny Black” Napolitano is found at the corner of South Street and Bridge Avenue in the Arlington section of Staten Island, New York. Napolitano had been summoned to a meeting on August 17, 1981 at the Flatlands home of Ron Filocomo to discuss recent developments surrounding the revelation that former associate Donnie Brasco was an undercover agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In the bureau is known as Joseph D. Pistone. Pistone had infiltrated the Bonnano crime family by posing as a fencer of stolen jewelry. He worked undercover for five years. The operation was suspended when it was learned that Pistone had been asked to take part in a murder which would have resulted in him becoming a made member of the crime family.
This New York Times bestseller is Pistone’s memoir of the five dangerous years he spent with the members of the Bonnano crime family. Playing a cat and mouse game, he moves back and forth between the mafia and government circles carefully taking measures to hide his real identity and assigned task. The family is filled with hardened gangsters and murderers making each move a carefully calculated risk. Falling under the tutelage of Benjamin “Lefty” Ruggiero, Brasco quickly becomes ingrained into the mafia way of life. And through his eyes and ears, we witness the dysfunctional relationships that define the mafia and their families. Pistone’s developing relationship with Ruggiero, whom he wanted to save from what he believed to be a certain death, is one of the book’s saddest moments. Ruggiero survived the fallout and served time in jail before dying of cancer in 1994. Pistone has appeared in specials and on television to re-tell his story about his time in the Bonnano crime family.
Hollywood took an interest in Pistone’s story and in 1997, the film “Donnie Brasco” was relased. Johnny Depp stars as Piston with Al Pacino assuming the role of Lefty and Michael Madsen as Sonny Black. Pacino was awarded for best actor by the Boston Society of Film Critics Awards for his portrayal of Ruggiero. The film is very close to the book and Depp and Pacino turn in great performances. It is a New York City film classic about life in the the five families. If you enjoy this film then the book is a must read.