The Bonanno/Rastelli/Vitale family of La
Cosa Nostra consists of approximately 195 members and 500 associates, situated from coast to coast,
primarily in New York, Arizona, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California. The group's
patriarch, 85-year-old Joseph "Joe Bananas"
Bonanno, is retired and living in Tucson, Arizona.
Bonanno was forced into exile by other LCN bosses
because he attempted to expand his sphere of influence in the late 1960's and early 1970's, not only
within New York City but also in other areas that
were already the territories of other bosses.
The current family boss is Salvatore Vitale of Dix Hills in Suffolk County, New York. His elevation came as a direct result of the lengthy incarcerations of other high level family members, including boss Philip "Rusty" Rastelli, of Brooklyn. Vitale is the owner of a Long Island catering business, where he meets almost daily with other significant family members.
The group's criminal enterprises include narcotics trafficking, pornography, labor racketeering, hijacking and other forms of receiving stolen property, casino fraud, tax fraud, credit card fraud and forgery, gambling, loansharking, extortion and money laundering. Although the family is active in most of the traditional LCN criminal activities, it is noted primarily for its involvement in the importation and sale of narcotics, mostly heroin. Extensive undercover investigations have revealed that the group has close ties to the Sicilian Mafia in its heroin trafficking. Boss and family founder Joseph Bonanno, a native of Sicily, was at one time recognized as the predominant figure in this illicit market, despite the fact that narcotics distribution purportedly was contrary to original LCN principles. The strong bond between the Sicilian Mafia and the Bonanno group over the past two decades has resulted in billions of dollars worth of heroin being imported into the United States, and criminal liaisons that extend beyond Italy and the United States into Canada and South America.
The Bonanno family's continued involvement in narcotics trafficking was demonstrated during the investigation of the 1989 murder of DEA undercover agent Everett Hatcher. At the time of his assassination, Hatcher had been investigating the multi-kilo cocaine distribution network of Bonnano associate Costabile "Gus" Farace. Immediately after Hatcher's murder, a nationwide manhunt for Farace began, along with 24-hour-a-day police surveillances and harassment of Bonanno family members, especially those believed to be involved in the drug business. The family reportedly became uncomfortable with the unrelenting pressure and decided the best way to end it was to give up Farace. Shortly thereafter, a murder contract was placed on the life of Farace, who was lured to a Brooklyn street corner and shot to death on November 17, 1989. The man suspected of killing Farace was himself found murdered just two months later, in January, 1990.
The family also controls gambling and loan-sharking at the famous Fulton Fish Market in lower Manhattan through caporegime Joseph Chilli Jr. of Staten Island. Chilli had been acting boss of the family (along with Anthony Spero of Brooklyn) for two years before the elevation to boss of Salvatore Vitale. Chilli owns at least four fish companies in the market, which is the largest wholesale fish market in the nation and is the principal source of seafood for the metropolitan area and much of the northeastern United States.
Family associate Anthony Amico Jr. of Florida is currently under federal investigation by postal authorities for his involvement in potentially fraudulent, high pressure, multi-million dollar telemarketing sales schemes that originate in Florida and Georgia but have a nationwide impact.
In New Jersey, the Bonanno family has elevated some of its younger members to positions of authority. Following the death in 1983 of caporegime Joseph "Bayonne Joe" Zicarelli, Gabriel Infanti of Bloomfield became the predominant family member in northern New Jersey. Infanti, who had controlled a gambling network in New York, was well respected in New Jersey, as evidenced by his meeting on December 16, 1985, with John Riggi, boss of the DeCavalcante family. Interestingly, this was the same day that Gambino boss Paul Castellano was murdered in New York City. Infanti himself was declared missing nearly two years later, on December 22, 1987. He is presumed to be dead. It is believed that Infanti has been replaced by caporegime James Tartaglione of Queens, who has been observed meeting with Bonanno family boss Salvatore Vitale almost daily.
Another New Jersey resident who has been gaining influence in the family is Louis J. Attanasio Jr. of Holmdel, a caporegime. Attanasio ran a gambling operation out of a club he owns in Brooklyn. However, he was recently incarcerated for five years for bribing a state trooper and for income tax evasion. When he is released from prison, probably in November, 1990, it is believed that Attanasio will regain his position of authority within the Bonanno family or with the Genovese/Gigante group, with which he also does business.
To fill the void left by several deaths and incarcerations of members in the group, Salvatore Ferrugia of West Orange has come out of retirement and been assigned the status of caporegime. Ferrugia, who is now 75 years old, was at one time family underboss but had been demoted to caporegime by Rastelli. Ferrugia is best known for his close ties to the Sicilian Mafia and the smuggling of illegal aliens from Sicily to the United States.
As previously mentioned, the strength of this organization lies in its long and prosperous involvement in the trafficking of narcotics, supported by its affiliation with the Sicilian Mafia. In addition the group is operating legitimate pizza parlors, cafes and restaurants, from which it can conduct illegal transactions and conceal illegal aliens. The family has also been involved in criminal activity in Atlantic City, such as illegal junkets, credit schemes and other frauds.