U.S.A.

A bloody feud in the ‘family’

JANE O'HARA December 7 1981
U.S.A.

A bloody feud in the ‘family’

JANE O'HARA December 7 1981

A bloody feud in the ‘family’

It was an inside job all the way. When FBI undercover agents infiltrated the hermetic, familial underground of gangland, one agent was so successful that he was considered for induction into the Mafia as a “made” member. Last week, after hounding a trail that led alternately to a shallow grave in Queens, N.Y., a toney New York townhouse owned by the late shah of Iran’s twin sister, and the tangled world of racketeering and narcotics from Tampa to Milwaukee, the FBI made its move. And capping what has been hailed as an investigation unparalleled in the agency’s history, a federal grand jury in New York indicted six top mobsters from the Bonanno clan.

Four of the accused are alleged to have executed three members of their own family in a power struggle over the inheritance of the narcotics game. That has been a bloody battleground ever since the 77-year-old padrone, Joseph (Joe Bananas) Bonanno retired to Arizona 10 years ago. The bulletriddled body of one of the victims, Alphonse (Sonny Red) Indelicato, a well-known Bonanno capo (boss), was found in a vacant lot in Queens last May. The bodies of the other two mobsters have not

been found. But indictment papers based on evidence of an FBI mole last week claimed that all three were gunned down in a classic Godfather shootout at a family meeting.

But murder was only one of the charges in the Manhattan Federal Court indictment last week. The six were also accused of an attempted armed robbery at the fashionable Beekman Place home of Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, racketeering and distribution of narcotics. One of the indicted men, Dominick (Sonny Black) Napolitano, the 51-year-old Bonanno capodecina (overboss), is officially still at large. But investigators believe he may have been killed in reprisal for the executions of his fellow mobsters. Benjamin Ruggiero, 55, has been in custody since August as a murder suspect, as have John (Boobie) Cerasani and Nicholas Santora. James (Jimmy Legs) Episcopia, who rushed handcuffed into the Manhattan court building shielded by his attorney’s briefcase, faces conspiracy charges along with his cohort Antonio (Boots) Tomasolu. If found guilty, the six men face prison terms of up to 20 years and $25,000 fines on each count.

For the most part, the Mafia carries on its activities as furtively as a colony of ants. But last week’s indictments were only the latest in a series of events that have involved the Bonanno family in unwelcome publicity. In September, a Gambino family lieutenant, Frank Piccolo, was murdered, probably by Bonanno hoods, and the fear was that the two crime clans were at war for control of the underworld. That speculation received support last week from police inspector Anthony Fabrizi of Bridgeport, Conn., where Piccolo’s body was found. “What we hear suggests that the two mob groups are fighting it out to the finish,” he said. The indictments may only be beginning. -JANE O’HARA

JANE O'HARA