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US Senate
In 1988, Joseph D. "Donnie Brasco" Pistone testified as a witness before the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs.


Prolog To Joseph Pistone Testimony

In 1976, F.B.I. undercover agent Joseph D. Pistone successfully placed himself within a crew of New York's Bonanno Mafia family. The operation was much more productive than the F.B.I. first imagined. Pistone, known as "Donnie Brasco," became very close with several Mafia members during a grueling 6-year assignment - so close that he was to be proposed for official membership. The intelligence Pistone gathered has been invaluable to the government's war against La Cosa Nostra.

"Donnie Brasco," a hit movie about Pistone's assignment and life in the mob was released in 1997 starring Johnny Depp and Al Pacino. Both the movie and the book are available for purchase through AmericanMafia.com.

Order Donnie Brasco: Movie

Order Donnie Brasco: Book

FBI Shield

Testimony of Joseph D. Pistone, Former Special Agent,
Federal Bureau of Investigation


Mr. Pistone. Thank you. Mr. Chairman, it is a pleasure to be here today to testify on the current status of organized crime in the United States, 25 years after the historic testimony of Joseph Valachi before this same Subcommittee. As you know, my name is Joseph D. Pistone, although for almost 6 years I was better known on the streets of New York City as Donnie Brasco, in my capacity as an undercover agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. My experiences for those years as a close associate of members of the La Cosa Nostra, as well as the insights I gained into the inner working of this criminal subculture, will be the subject of my testimony today. I believe that they may be useful in the Senate's understanding of how this organization has matured since Valachi first publicly exposed it in 1963, as well as helpful in explaining how it has survived the persistent efforts of law enforcement to eradicate it.

On July 7, 1969, I was sworn in as a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. My early career as an agent followed the usual pattern of most agents. I served in various field offices throughout the country. In 1974, I was transferred to New York City and assigned to the truck hijacking squad. This assignment led to my initial exposure to a long-term undercover assignment. In part, because I knew how to drive an 18-wheeler semi-tractor-trailer and I also was versed in driving bulldozers, I was chosen to work undercover in an attempt to infiltrate a ring of thieves who stole trucks, bulldozers, heavy equipment, and luxury cars, and even on occasion we stole airplanes, and this was all done on order. We were given orders and we went out and stole these pieces of equipment. This criminal conspiracy had been operating successfully for years, stealing millions of dollars worth of vehicles along the Eastern Seaboard, from New York to Florida. Based in part upon my successful infiltration of the ring, in February 1976, the FBI and the Florida Highway Patrol arrested the entire ring, which consisted of 30 people, and recovered a significant amount of stolen property. At the time, law enforcement sources deemed this to be one of the largest, most lucrative theft rings ever broken. I subsequently returned to the truck and hijack squad in New York City.

At that time, the FBI was faced with five to six major hijackings per day in the New York City area. Intelligence sources indicated that all were somehow tied to the various New York mob families. Faced with these statistics and the recent completion of four successful undercover operation, my supervisor in New York at the time, Guy Berada, pushed for another long-term undercover operation to attempt to penetrate the upper echelon fences who handled these stolen loads. Based upon Berada's initiative, the FBI Headquarters approved a 6-month undercover operation, to be known as "Sun-Apple." Due to my recent experience as an undercover agent, I was chosen to be the undercover operative in this operation.

On the day in September 1976 that I left the New York FBI office to start my 6-month undercover role, our main goal was not with the intention of infiltrating the Mafia, nor did we have any idea that it would result in my being undercover for all those years. Although an extensive amount of effort and research was done to develop a credible cover for me as Donnie Brasco, a small-time but successful jewel thief and burglar, no one had any idea where it would lead us. The extent of our aims in the beginning was just to get the fences that were dealing with the Mafia. We had decided that if we were successful in this effort, we would significantly hurt the Mafia operation in its pocketbook. Ironically, I never did succeed in infiltrating the Mafia fences.

What I did accomplish was far more significant-I succeeded in infiltrating the Colombo and, later to an even greater extent, the Bonanno Mafia families of New York. Then I was introduced to and worked with the Frank Balistrieri family of Milwaukee and the Santo Trafficante organization of Florida. I had become so accepted by the Bonanno family through my close association to Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano, at the time a top-ranking capo, and Benjamin "Lefty Guns" Ruggiero, a Bonanno soldier, that I had actually been proposed as a soldier in their family.

The culmination of my years of living daily as an associate of these Mafia members was my testimony in over 10 trials and even more grand juries throughout the United States. This testimony resulted in more than 200 indictments and over 100 convictions of members of organized crime across the country. Rather than dwelling upon either these trials or the day-to-day activities of my undercover life, for purposes of my testimony, I have been asked by the Subcommittee staff to discuss some of the more significant observations I gleaned from my experience concerning the innerworkings of organized crime. At the outset, I think it is important to observe that law enforcement's success in our operation should once and for all destroy the romantic illusion about the Mafia. Organized crime is neither invincible nor honorable. Combined with the series of publicized prosecutions in New York and elsewhere that the Subcommittee is reviewing in its hearings, law enforcement has shown that this secret society called the Mafia is no longer so secretive. Its ranks can be penetrated, its meetings recorded, and its hierarchy indicted, convicted, and all sent to jail. This is not to say that the Mafia is beaten. Nor is it to say that they will not learn from their past mistakes to become even harder to attack in the future. As an example, due to my infiltration of the Bonanno family, I understand that the New York families have instituted new rules to thwart future undercover penetrations. They have reinstituted the requirement that before someone is made a soldier, he will have to "make his bones," that is, he will have to kill someone. In addition, they are now requiring two "wiseguys" to vouch with their own lives for the new member, rather than as before, when only one did so. I hope that just as the myth of invincibility has fallen, my infiltration and the recent criminal trials have also put to rest the romantic illusion that the Mafia is an "honorable society." There is no honor among these thieves. They deal in drugs, death, and deception. Though they continually claim to have rules of conduct that they live by, in reality their lives revolve around breaking these rules in a boring, never-ending life of trying to beat the system, both society's and the Mafia's.

One thing I will never forget from my 6 years with them is the daily grind of trying to make a "score" that they face from the time they wake up in the morning to the time they go to sleep at night. This is not the romantic life of "The Godfather" or television drama but, rather, is a life of treachery, violence, and, ironically, boredom. While I acted the part of Donnie Brasco, my day would pretty much follow the same routine as that of the other wiseguys. I would usually get to the club or restaurant where they hung out every morning and hang out with them. They spent every waking hour thinking about how they were going to make money. They did not think or talk much about their wives, girlfriends, families, hobbies. The mob was their job as well as their whole life. What they did for a living was on their minds far more than it is with ordinary, "straight" citizens. At night, if not out pulling a score, they would hit various nightclubs or restaurants popular with the wiseguys and sit around planning new scores or reminiscing about old ones. This routine never changed. Their whole life revolved around the Mafia and, more importantly, the local crew or group that they worked with. Once claimed by a particular soldier, you worked with and for him and his crew. You could never work with another soldier or crew without his approval.

Everyday, you would have to check in with your captain or, in my case, the wiseguy who had claimed me, and tell him what you were doing. There was no such thing as taking a couple of weeks off for vacation, unless you first had your captain's approval. Every score you did had to be approved. There is a surprising similarity which marks the inner workings of the Mafia and contemporary terrorist organizations.

The families are broken down into small, separate cells, commonly called crews. You work with that crew and rarely ever deal with any other crews. In all likelihood, a member of one crew may not even know who are the members of another crew in his own family. A strict "need to know" policy is enforced. No one asked about what other members were doing or even who they were. There were people I worked with closely for 6 years who never told me their last names, only their nicknames. If you did inquire, you were viewed with great suspicion, since it could only mean you were a cop or an informant. To say the least, this latter rule complicated my undercover role and contributed to its longevity. This street policy of not asking too many questions also, as in terrorist cases, makes investigations and later prosecutions so difficult.

Rarely are things discussed over the phone, and rarely do cooperate ing witnesses know much beyond their own cell or crew. Thus, it is not surprising that sometimes a long-term Mafia member will decide to cooperate with the Government but have little information concerning his family or other families that operate in the same city or neighborhood. Fortunately for our investigation, Lefty Ruggiero, a Bonanno soldier who became my business partner when I was on the streets, took it upon himself to educate me in the ways of being a wiseguy. He spent hours telling me about the proper conduct for mob members and associates while criticizing others for not complying with it. Nevertheless, he would then turn around and break the rules when it served his purpose, or if he could make an extra buck doing so. He best summed up this world of deception by once telling me that what was so great about being a wiseguy was that, "You can lie, steal, cheat, kill, and it's all legitimate."

I think this last statement of Lefty Ruggiero is very insightful. It helps explain why the Mafia exists and why it is so difficult to destroy. To Lefty and all the rest of the people I met in the mob, what they do is legitimate. They do not view themselves as morally reprehensible, they do not think of themselves as being criminals. Coming from a subculture where crime is acceptable, where their elders, friends, and neighbors view criminal behavior as normal, as even honorable, these men would take issue with being called criminals or gangsters. To this subculture, cooperating with the Government is morally reprehensible and criminal. That is why it is so significant when Government agents successfully convince a wiseguy or an associate to become a Government witness. Such occurrences are extremely rare and important events, since for whatever motives—whether revenge or self-preservation—they indicate a conversion from one value system to another. When a wiseguy turns from his value system, he disgraces himself and his family, which then loses the respect of its neighborhood.

Senator Nunn. Mr. Pistone, I am going to ask you to stop right there. We have a vote going on and we have about 4 minutes to complete the vote. Senator Roth has already gone over to vote and he will be back, and when he comes back we will go ahead with your testimony.

Mr. Pistone. OK.

Senator Nunn. So if you will pause until Senator Roth comes back, we will take a very brief recess. I am going to ask the cameras to stay as you have been instructed and make sure that that is done to protect the security and identity of the witness.
[Short recess.]

Senator Roth [presiding]. The Subcommittee will please be in order. The witness will continue with his testimony.

Mr. Pistone. Thank you.
The neighborhood where the wiseguys regularly hang out is always aware of their presence and their positions in the Mafia. Whether from fear or respect, the neighbors protect the wiseguys from police surveillance. The wiseguys in return will help out the neighborhood by ensuring that no disorganized or street crime operates in the area. I have heard of more than one occasion where some hapless criminal was punished for committing crimes unwittingly {This text formatted courtesy of Rick Porrello's AmericanMafia.com} within an area protected by the local Mafia crew. Law enforcement and society in general have to be aware of this subculture phenomenon in order to succeed in eliminating it. As long as this subculture exists and to some extent is supported by the rest of society, there will be new subculture members ready and willing to replace those who are convicted or killed by rival gang members.

However, let me clearly state that I am not in any way trying to be an apologist for the Mafia. I am not saying that we should either pity or feel sorry for these people. If anything, my years on the street has made me less tolerant of them and what they stand for. But what I am stating is that in order to successfully eliminate this cancer in our midst, we cannot view them as we do other criminals. Nor can we measure our success, as we do in other areas of law enforcement, by the numbers of arrests and convictions. In the case of organized crime, we must not merely focus on the individuals or even the criminal organization, since it is to some extent similar to other structured organizations, but rather we must keep in the forefront of our attack the subculture that produces the Mafia membership.

That brings us to another point that I believe bears attention by this Subcommittee, namely the role of gambling. Quite candidly, I must admit that I did not fully understand the importance of gambling to the organized crime family before I went undercover. Gambling is probably the most important source of income for the Mafia. It is the blood that pumps through the veins of the system 365 days a year. It keeps the organization alive when other, more lucrative scores or crimes fail. Although narcotics trafficking may be a major moneymaker for various members of the mob, not every member of the family may be involved in it. On the other hand, every Mafia member was involved in gambling and used the profits from it to sustain his other activities. It is the most important source of income for the mob, not only because of its size but, more importantly, because of its steady, uninterrupted flow.

For example, Lefty Ruggiero ran a small bookmaking operation. Nevertheless, I knew from just two or three of his customers that he was bringing in $20,000 to $25,000 every weekend. Sonny Black told me that from his bookmaking operation, he was making an average of $70,000 per week. As you quickly realize, these figures can mount up. They in turn are used to bankroll other mob activities, such as drug buys, payoffs, lawyers' fees, and investments into legitimate businesses. It would appear to me that until our society realizes that each small, innocent bet on the numbers or horse races supports the organized crime subculture, we are never going to fully eradicate the Mafia. This is one area where the statutes are already on the books to break the mob. The main stumbling block is society's attitude toward gambling, which finds its way into law enforcement's lack of interest in pursuing these offenses due to the judicial system's reluctance to punish the violators. This vicious circle must be broken to effectively cut off the monetary and societal support for the Mafia subculture.

To our good fortune, it appears to me that time and the recent Federal and State law enforcement efforts bode well for the future. From my own observations as well as from the candid admissions of many of the Mafia members I met, it appears that the Mafia may never again be as strong as it once was. One reason is simply the passage of time. With each generation, the Mafia subculture moves closer to mainstream America. The oldtimers who exhibit the strongest values of the Mafia are aging and slowly dying off. They are being replaced by younger wiseguys, 25 to 35 years of age, who do not possess the same, strong family values. This is slowly Americanizing the Mafia and, with it, the strong attachment to kinship and family honor, I continually heard the older members complaining about this phenomenon. They were concerned that the new members cared more about themselves than they did about the family or crew — "our thing" was turning into "my thing" within the Mafia, just as the larger American society is facing the new realities of the "me generation."

As in the larger society, the Mafia subculture is also facing the problems of drug abuse. Although the older members have always dealt with the importation and sale of narcotics, very few were users. But what I noticed was that the younger members were more and more likely to be "turning on" to the same drugs as their "straight" compatriots. Added to the erosion of its values, the Mafia is also, for the first time in the 25 years since Valachi, facing a concerted onslaught of indictments and investigations.

I do not think we have ever faced situation where more bosses and underbosses are currently in jail. Since these indictments have been more devastating on the older and more respected members, they have added to the weakening of the Mafia subculture. Nevertheless, Mr. Chairman, this in no way means the war is over and the Mafia is beaten. As I have stated before, there is a large pool of potential members and leaders just waiting to take over from those we convict. To a large measure, the rise in the prominence of the Sicilians and other emerging groups who still maintain the older values and traditions in organized crime is indicative of the new wave of future criminal leaders starting to fill the vacancies. We cannot to any degree slow down our assault upon organized crime. If we do, we will lose our greatest opportunity in 25 years to control this problem. My biggest fear is that we will consider stopping too soon in this effort. Now is not the time. Senators, for the Government to declare victory and sue for peace. I am encouraged by the attention that this Subcommittee is giving to this serious topic, that such shortsightedness will not occur. Thank you very much for your attention and the opportunity to express my views. I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have at this time.

Senator Nunn [presiding]. Thank you very much, Mr. Pistone. You have already touched on this in your testimony, but to get spe cific with you, would you have any particular recommendations to the Senate and the Congress, based on your experience in dealing with organized crime as to how law enforcement can be more effective and, most particularly do you have any kind of recommendations for changes in the law?

Mr. Pistone. Well, I think basically we have to get back to prosecuting the gambling cases. As I mentioned in my statement, gambling is the lifeblood of the Mafia, it is an activity, an illegal activity where they gain daily money, money daily, everyday, and through this illegal obtaining of proceeds is where they finance their other criminal activity, such as their drug activities and their activities dealing in stolen property, extortion, or whatever other activities that they are involved in. Everyone that I was associated with in the Mafia was involved in gambling operations and made illegal proceeds from this gambling operation.

Senator Nunn. What kind of gambling? Can you give us some examples?

Mr. Pistone. Basically, horse betting, football, betting on football games, basketball games, baseball games, this type of gambling.

Senator Nunn. What about the numbers game?

Mr. Pistone. And numbers. Numbers is a big moneymaker, and everyone in the neighborhood plays the numbers. They have the nickel numbers, 10-cent, quarter, 50-cent numbers, and basically almost every wiseguy is involved in a numbers operation.

Senator Nunn. Now, is that a gambling network, when they are betting on football games, basketball games, is that one organized on a neighborhood basis, is it organized on a city basis, or does it go through a national-type system where they have layoffs on their bets, edges and that kind of thing?

Mr. Pistone. Well, the operation that I was involved in was run by an individual named Nicky Marangello, who at the time was the underboss of the Bonanno family, and it was a Bonanno family operation that had various members throughout New York and Brooklyn involved in taking the bets and then turning it in to Mar angello and other individuals that were the upper echelon of the family, and they were running it. Now, how they operated from there, I cannot answer that.

Senator Nunn. You mentioned that it actually is a subculture, that organized crime is actually a subculture. Could you explain that a little bit more?

Mr. Pistone. Yes. These individuals that become members of the Mafia, they are not people that start out later in life to be Mafia members. They are individuals that have grown up in the neighborhood, have been associated with crime as youngsters and associated with Mafia members as youngsters. As a general rule, there is some type of family bond, real family, not Mafia family, a father,an uncle, a cousin, so all during their formative growing up years, their upbringing, as an example, it may never occur to them that it is wrong to pay off a policeman, say, {This text formatted courtesy of Rick Porrello's AmercanMafia.com} it is not wrong to gamble, it is not wrong to steal from the local candy store when you are 8 or 9 years old, and all through these years they basically do not leave their neighborhoods, so they do not see in the outside world that there are other rules other than what is confined within that neighborhood.

Senator Nunn. Are policemen looked on as enemies in the neighborhood?

Mr. Pistone. Basically, yes.

Senator Nunn. Senator Roth?

Senator Roth. Yes. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. When you described the LCN as a subculture, that seems to also include a subgovernment, which means they live by the rules of their organization—is that correct?

Mr. Pistone. That is correct. They consider anyone outside of their organization, they call them a citizen or a straight, and they do not consider that the outside, the citizen or the straight person is living within their rules.

Senator Roth. You explained that both time and law enforcement are successfully combining to Americanize this subculture. Is there anything that can be done to speed this process along?

Mr. Pistone. Well, I think what we have to do is not let up in our fight against the Mafia right now. I think what we have a tendency to do is attack a group, get it on the run, and then move on. I think now is the time to keep them, now that we have them down, keep them down, keep the pressure on them, show the public that the Mafia is not an honorable society, that the Mafia is not invincible, and to publicize any time that we have any kind of indictment or any kind of law enforcement pressure on any of the Mafia members, to let the people know, let the public know that this is going on, let the public know who the individuals are that are dealing with the Mafia, make them public.

Senator Roth. Now, this Subcommittee, as well as law enforcement, has been involved in investigating and prosecuting the LCN for 25 years. Can you tell us how law enforcement's response to or ganized crime has changed?

Mr. Pistone. Well, I think it has changed in that we finally realize that we can, through the RICO statute, prosecute the upper echelon of organized crime, that we are not confining ourselves to the lower echelon guys, the connected guys and just the soldiers, and by stripping away this invisible screen that was put before the bosses, the underbosses and the captains, this is what has made us successful and will continue to make us successful.

Senator Roth. Similarly, how do you think organized crime itself has changed?

Mr. Pistone. Well, I think it has changed in that with the younger members coming up, they are not as dedicated to the society as the older individuals. It is more of their looking out for the individual. They do not have that tie to the tradition. On the other hand, they have changed by diversifying more in their illegal activities, they are putting more of their illegal proceeds into legal businesses, legitimate businesses.

Senator Roth. As I am sure you are aware, many people believe your underground activities were among the most successful in penetrating the LCN. First of all, I want to congratulate you. I know you did it at tremendous personal risk.

Mr. Pistone. Thank you.

Senator Roth. But I would like to ask you how you feel you were able to be so successful, how did you become accepted by them, and what advice would you have for the future?

Mr. Pistone. Well, one reason is because I am Italian. I mean that is obvious. Another reason is that I grew up in a large city, I grew up knowing mob guys, so I was not awed when I became an FBI agent or when I went undercover by the LCN, by the Mafia. I think another is I did not have any grind, I did not go undercover saying I was going to go with the Mafia. It was my job and whatever organized crime, whatever group I would investigate, that was going to be my job. Also, the fact that I knew that, no matter what I did, I was not going to reform anybody, they were going to lie, steal, cheat, murder and kill, whether Joe Pistone, Donnie Brasco, was there or not, so my main goal was to gather evidence for later prosecutions. I was not a reformist or a social worker nor a reformer, and that is the mind set I had, and I also maintained that if they found out who I was, they would kill me just as soon as they have killed their best friends.

Senator Roth. Now, you did do it at great personal risk. What kind of influence did it have on your family? Would you do it again? If some friend or some agent is being proposed for similar activities, what would you recommend to him, particularly as to how he could reduce the influence and impact on his family?

Mr. Pistone. Well, number one, I would not recommend it for a married agent, with children. It had a tremendous toll on my life that way, because I was married, I had children. I was fortunate enough that I have a very loving and great wife and she was able to raise my children to the point where they are now without any problems. But there is a tremendous strain. You have a financial strain. In the first undercover operation, I spent $3,000 of my own money which I was never reimbursed for, basically because at that point in time—these were on phone calls and on meals—at that time there was really no set program in the FBI for funding agents while they were under.

At the point of time that I worked under, there were not any provisions for an agent to take time off, comp time off to spend that with his wife. There was no program for anyone to get involved with counseling the wives, which I understand now that is all being instituted by the FBI. I think I was lucky in the fact that a lot of my success came from that I had a wife who was strong and when I was away she ran the household, she took care of the children, and she took care of her own life. Every undercover agent that I worked with except one during that period has gotten divorced. So I have to give a lot of my success to my wife, really.

Senator Roth. To your wife herself.

Mr. Pistone. That is correct.

Senator Roth. In contrast to the movie "The Godfather" you have testified that the LCN is neither romantic nor honorable, and I understand that vicious retaliations occurred when you came in from the cold. Can you tell us what the results were inside of the LCN after the exposure of your undercover role?

Mr. Pistone. Yes. When it was disclosed to the LCN who I was and that I was in reality an agent and when they finally realized it, 17 days after the disclosure Sonny Napolitano was killed, Sonny Black, who I was closely aligned with. A contract was put out on Lefty Ruggiero. When the FBI found out about the contract, that is when we arrested him for his own protection. He was due to get killed the day the FBI arrested him. Another individual by the name of Tony Mira got killed. They also have come back, from what we understand from informants, they have reinstituted the fact that at one point in time they had eliminated that you would have to kill somebody to become a member. I understand that has been reinstituted, and they have now reinstituted where two individuals, two wiseguys have to vouch for an individual, and they have to say that they have known them since, if not childhood, for 15 to 20 years, so it puts two wiseguys on the line versus one.

Senator Nunn. Let me just continue that for a minute. If we get into any areas that you think from a law enforcement point of view it is not advisable to talk about it, just let us know that and we will defer the question.

Mr. Pistone. All right.

Senator Nunn. What led to the decision for you to come in from your undercover assignment?

Mr. Pistone. Well, since 1979, when Carmine Galante got killed,there became two factions within the Bonanno family fighting for control of the family, and I was aligned with Napolitano and Ruggiero, who were aligned with Rusty Rastelli, who became the boss of the families at that point in time. This struggle continued up through 1981. In May 1981, Rastelli faction, which included Napolitano, myself, Ruggiero, and of course others, these individuals murdered three captains who were the top members of the opposition. At this point in time, there was a shooting war going on between the factions and I had been given—-

Senator Nunn. Between the families?

Mr. Pistone. It was within the Bonanno family.

Senator Nunn. Within the Bonanno family, all within the family?

Mr. Pistone. Within the Bonanno family, there had been two factions. An individual by the name of Bruno Indelicate escaped the assassination, and I was given a contract to kill him. Besides being given this contract, at this point in time everybody was car rying guns and it was basically a shooting war going on, and the FBI felt—and so did I—felt that it was a good enough time to get out, since everybody was getting killed, but that is the basic reason we terminated the operation.

Senator Nunn. In other words, you did not protest too much at that stage, right?

Mr. Pistone. Well, basically being a dyed-in-the-wool FBI agent, in law enforcement, I did put up kind of a stink, if you will, be- cause I had been proposed for membership, I was due to become a made member of the Bonanno family in December and we terminated the operation, I think it was July 27, so this would have been the first time in history, and this would have, I thought, really would have devastated the Mafia when I surfaced, say you made an FBI agent, I think that would—and that was one of the reasons I argued for, but I lost the argument.

Senator Nunn. Could you tell us a little bit more about the contract that they asked you to carry out in terms of murder?

Mr. Pistone. Yes. Bruno Indelicato was one of the shooters in the Carmine Galante killing, and his father was Sonny Red, who was one of the captains that Napolitano had killed, and he had escaped getting killed by not going to the meeting. He was a cocaine addict, and I guess he was high on cocaine and missed the meeting that they had called. So Napolitano summoned me, I was down in Florida at the time, we had a bottle club outside of Tampa, FL, that we were running for the mob, and——

Senator Nunn. What kind of club?

Mr. Pistone. A bottle club, it was a night club—and he summoned me by telephone to come to New York, he said he wanted to speak to me, so I flew from Tampa to New York City and I went to the club, which at the time was the Motion Lounge in Brooklyn, on Graham and Wither Street, and Napolitano sat down in the back room and he told me about the hits, that they killed the three cap tains and he wanted me to—he gave me the contract to get Bruno, whom he referred to as "the kid who had escaped," and he had in- formation that he was down in Miami, so he sent me down to Miami with another wiseguy by the name of Sally Paintglass. When we got down to Miami, we hooked up with another wiseguy out of Miami named Steve Marucco, and he was to aid us in finding Indelicato. What the FBI was going to do was we were going to arrest Bruno if we could find him, pull him off the street, because we knew that he was due to get hit and we were going to arrest him for his own protection, but we did not find him, the wiseguys never found him until later, he surfaced a couple of years later.

Senator Nunn. Was he eventually killed?

Mr. Pistone. No, he was convicted in the commission trial in New York City, and I think he got sentenced to 35 years in that trial.

Senator Nunn. You mentioned that there was a money problem and yet you were involved in all sorts of activities where the members of the mob were taking in huge amounts of money. Did you not get some of that money and, if so, were you allowed to utilize that?

Mr. Pistone. The way it worked, what we had was we had a gambling operation going in Tampa, outside of Tampa, a gambling shylock operation, which was financed by the Bonanno family. We through Ruggiero and Napolitano, had borrowed money from the Bonanno family and we were to pay back 2 percent a week on this money that we used to finance this gambling operation, and all of the proceeds that we made, we just turned it back into the shylocking operation, so that is how we utilized the money.

Senator Nunn. You did not get to keep the money yourself?

Mr. Pistone. No.

Senator Nunn. You did not get anything, you did not keep any| of the money?

Mr. Pistone. Well, any moneys that I got from Ruggiero, we turned in to the FBI.

Senator Nunn. But did you not get enough money to cover youri living expenses from the gambling proceeds? In other words, does organized crime pay for the living expenses, are you on an expense account, or is it all of it out of your own pocket?

Mr. Pistone. Well, you get a salary but, you see, since I was a connected guy at that time, I was not a made guy, it was determined by Ruggiero and Ruggiero was kind of a leech, so my end he took, since I was the lowest guy on the totem pole.

Senator Nunn. So the lowest guy on the totem pole does not always get a lot of money, is that what you are saying?

Mr. Pistone. That is why he has to continually do scores, and that is why they do a lot on their own and—you know, the old saying "honor amongst thieves," there is no honor amongst thieves. The way it works is every time you pull a score, a percentage of it has to go to the individual above you, so what the wiseguys do is they will pull a score and if the score is, say, $200,000, they will say the score was $150,000 because they know that if they are on the bottom, the guy up top is going to get more of the proceeds, so they will pocket $50,000 and split $150,000.

Senator Nunn. So there is your "honor amongst thieves"?

Mr. Pistone. That is correct.

Senator Nunn. Tell us a little bit more about the people that you say you hung around with, the members of the mob, you went to coffee with them in the mornings, you got bored a lot of times because there was not that much activity on some occasions, you went to nightclubs at night, tell us a little bit about those individuals, how do they treat their families and so forth, what kind of individuals are they, how do they fit into the environment they live in?

Mr. Pistone. Well, they fit into their own environment very well. They do not fit into the straight world at all, because they cannot fathom doing anything legitimate as a first means of making any type of money. The one thing you have to remember about a Mafia member is it is Mafia, and then his family, and then God, and then country or country-God, but the Mafia is placed first and foremost in his daily, everyday routine, from the time he wakes up until the time he goes to bed, he is a 24-hour Mafia member and that is all he is thinking, is Mafia, how to make scores, how to get money, how to maintain whatever position he has in that family. It is an everyday struggle, everyday your existence is struggling to stay alive and to maintain whatever position you have in the family, and what dictates your position and how you rise is how much a money earner you are, how much money or how many different activities you can bring together for that crew or for your boss, that determines your respect in the Mafia.

Senator Nunn. You mentioned Mafia first, family next, God, then country. Tell us about family relationships, are they loyal to their family in general, or does it just vary on an individual basis?

Mr. Pistone. Well, I would say it is on an individual basis. Of course, they are no different than you or I with their children. They all love their children. But most of them I dealt with, their children were all involved in the Mafia. Napolitano had a son that was a thief, Ruggiero had a son that was a thief. Now, they were in their twenties. Other individuals that I dealt with that had children that were 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, they were all well aware of what their fathers were doing and they were all thieves in their own right. So, I did not find anyone that I dealt with that tried to steer their sons away from a life of crime.

Senator Nunn. You mentioned God and religion, are they really religious people or were those just words?

Mr. Pistone. Well, they are religious in that they believe in God, they believe in not going to church but they believe in the church. You say how could they believe in God and murder? Well, you have to remember, to them, killing another Mafia member is not like you or I would think of robbing somebody and killing them, it was part of business. If someone did wrong within that society and his punishment was death, you killed him because it was part of business. Every Mafia member has in his head that at some point in time he may be whacked out or killed if he does something wrong, so it is not wrong for them to kill somebody within their society. It would be no different than the police coming and arresting somebody in their mind and the man being sentenced to the electric chair.

Senator Nunn. In other words, they have just as much right in their own mind to go out and kill someone that has done something that breaches their rules——

Mr. Pistone. That is correct.

Senator Nunn [continuing]. As society believes that a judge and a prosecuting attorney and a prison warden and the executioner have to carry out the judicial sentence within our system of laws, is that right?

Mr. Pistone. That is correct, yes, sir.

Senator Nunn. What about the question of country? You mentioned family, God, and country. What is the general rule in terms of their sense of feeling toward the United States or toward any kind of government, local. State?

Mr. Pistone. Well, in conversations, you have to realize that they sit around, we sat around many days discussing problems with Iran and Russia, and their whole feeling of - they like the United States, of course, because they could never make this kind of money in any other country, you know, free enterprise.

Senator Nunn. They believe in the free enterprise system, according to their definition?

Mr. Pistone. Correct. And they would—you know, their general attitude and feelings were that we should deal more harshly with these countries that do not agree with the U.S. system. You know, at that point in time we were having trouble with Iran and some of the conversation was, you know, "I don't know why they just don't send the Marines or the CIA over there and eliminate them."

Senator Nunn. In other words, they are hawks on foreign policy, is that right? [Laughter.]

Mr. Pistone. Correct, Senator. ]

Senator Nunn. What about the narcotics trafficking, can you give us your observations on that? We hear from some that narcotics trafficking is off limits for the family, and we heard witnesses during the course of these hearings saying that the younger members are breaching family rules and going forward with narcotics trafficking but it is against the rules, so to speak. I think you have a little different view of that, do you not?

Mr. Pistone. Well, from the time I was in, it was always against the rules, so to speak, to deal in drugs, but anybody that could would, basically because of the money. Now, you have to understand that only certain people in certain families were involved in large-scale drug importation and distribution, such as the Sicilians and the Bonanno family, the Pizza Case, this latest case that was broken. You find that there are only a certain small element in that family that have a largescale operation.

The other drug dealings were of the type I was involved in. There might be three or four individuals involved in drug transactions, but you would not discuss these drug transactions or your drug business with another member of your crew if he was not involved in it. It was only confined to the four or five individuals involved in that trafficking of the drugs. So you could have somebody who was a good friend of yours, but if he was not involved in that you did not discuss it with him. But everyone tried to get involved in narcotics, because of the great amount of money involved. A lot of these wiseguys did not have the ability to move around the country. Once you got these guys out of New York City, they were like fish out of water. Some of them, in the beginning I had to take them, as they schooled me in the Mafia, I had to school them on how to make airline reservations. I am talking about a 49-year-old man, telling him how to make airline reservations to three different cities, with an open return, because we did not know what date we were going to return to New York City. So they did not have that type of mobility and they could not go to another city where there was a Mafia family without first getting permission. So if they did not have the sanction of their boss in this narcotics transaction, they could not carry it to another city, so that is why we see that in these cases you see basically the Sicilians involved or ranking members of families involved in major narcotics. That was my experience anyway.

Senator Nunn. So with your experience, most of them stayed involved in their own neighborhood and their own city?

Mr. Pistone. Correct.

Senator Nunn. Senator Roth?

Senator Roth. How does publicity or public exposure hurt the LCN?

Mr. Pistone. Well, I think it hurts them in that if they are exposed, it takes away our movie image of them, that they are invincible and that they all walk around in $2,000 suits and that they cannot be touched. Also, if they are exposed along these lines, it may help to have legitimate businessmen who at this point would think twice before becoming involved with a Mafia member if he knows that this individual has been in the newspapers or there has been articles about this individual as being associated with the mob.

Senator Roth. One of the things that has intrigued me, we talk about skimming off some pretty huge sums of money, and yet when you watch the movies that the FBI were showing earlier and so forth, the style of life, at least on the surface, does not seem to be extraordinarily expensive, or is that inaccurate?

Mr. Pistone. No, I do not think it is, because no matter what you say, they are basically street people, street thieves, ruling by fear and intimidation. They have not risen above this, that I have seen to date. I know a case of one individual from I think it was January, February, March, April, May—from January to May, he made illegally $1.5 million, by June he was broke, so, you know, they are not going out buying IRA's or investing in IBM. It is basically, the majority of them, you know, you might have $100,000 in your pocket today and tomorrow you are out borrowing from the shylock. That is how their basic life is, they are living for today.

Senator Roth. In your earlier statement, you talked about how the LCN depended particularly on gambling as a principal source of income. Now, we have had other witnesses—and it may be because there are differences in different regions—talk about skimming off funds from the unions as being a principal source. What is your understanding as to the principal source of funds for the LCN?

Mr. Pistone. Well, again, I can only go by my experiences and the individuals that I hung around with, and the people that I was associated with, both in the Colombo and Bonanno families, their principal source was gambling, stolen property, extortion-type methods of gaining money, and drugs. But gambling, like I say, because it was an everyday revenue, they did not have to worry about, you know, making the connection with the drugs or making a score on a robbery, they knew that that gambling revenue was there at the end of each day.

Senator Roth. Did you have any association or contact with the LCN-controlled labor unions?

Mr. Pistone. No, the individuals that I was associated with, unions were not one area that they got into.

Senator Roth. Now, it is my understanding that you operated in Florida as well as New York. Did you see any evidence in Florida of cooperation or deals between the LCN families and emerging drug trafficking groups, such as the Colombian cartel?

Mr. Pistone. Well, at one point in time, myself and Ruggiero had a meeting with a Cuban banker who was going to introduce us to some Colombians for the purpose of me going to Colombia to purchase cocaine, however that fell through ironically because the banker, after about 20-25 minutes of the meeting, completely turned off to the deal and we found out later that during the course of the conversation he became afraid of me, and his comments were that if the deal did not go through he knew that I had the eyes of a killer, when next to me was sitting Ruggiero, who had 28 hits under his belt. [Laughter.] So I do not know whether that is a compliment or a—but we also had individuals that frequented our club outside of Tampa that told us that they had contacts with different Colombians for cocaine, but we never went through with those deals, due to just the logistics of having to go to Colombia and the amount of money.

Senator Roth. My last question is, where do you see the LCN going from here, how do you see them developing in the future?

Mr. Pistone. Well, I do not think we will ever see the—we are talking about the American faction?

Senator Roth. Yes.

Mr. Pistone. I do not think we will ever see them as strong as they were 10-15 years ago, and the reason being is that, of course,all the major bosses right now are in jail or under indictment, but also they are old, these individuals are old. The individuals, as I mentioned prior, that are coming in, it is more of a "me-type situation," they are becoming Americanized. They do not have that traditional value that the old-timers have. I think one of the main things that is destroying it is this drug problem, in that besides becoming involved in profits from drugs, a lot of the young generation is using it and I think this is leading to they just do not have the closeness any more, so as generations come along I think they are going to be another organized crime group to deal with and not have the strength that they had in the past.

Senator Roth. I want to thank you again for being here today and for your contribution.

Mr. Pistone. Thank you.

Senator Roth. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Senator Nunn. Thank you very much, Senator Roth. Mr. Pistone, we appreciate very much your being here. We appreciate what you have done for law enforcement, at considerable risk to your own life and I am sure considerable discomfort and frustration to your family from time to time, and we take note of what you said about your wife. That is quite a tribute that you made to her and I hope you will express our appreciation, representing the Senate, for her strength and her willingness to make sacrifices so that her husband could serve the interests of the U.S. Government and the citizens of this country, so we are very grateful to you. We do not have any more questions at this time. We may from time to time have to get back in touch with you for clarifications or for your advice as we proceed. The Subcommittee will stand in recess in just a moment. I want to first thank the members of the news media for your understanding and cooperation in having the screen here, which is necessary and has been necessary from time to time. We do not use it unless have to and we do not use it unless the witness believes that there is some danger and they have a credible reason to believe that, and certainly our witness today believes that and has every reason to make that request…

END testimony




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