Five almost untouchable Mafia families held the city of New York in their hands in the 70s and 80s, running almost every aspect of the city, that is, until federal agents decided to intervene and take them down. Netflix’s ‘Fear City: New York vs the Mafia’ gave us a look into how they did so. Rather than catching just one of the members of the mob red-handed, the FBI used a plethora of surveillance transcripts and screenshots to slowly dismantle the vast criminal organizations from the very top, breaking their hierarchy and exposing their ties to the Manhattan industries.
We saw a lot of agents and law enforcement officials in the limited series, but an important figure was missing; one, who had a big hand in bringing down these families by collecting evidence straight from the source, Joseph D. Pistone. Joseph, more commonly known by his undercover alias, Donnie Brasco, spent six years with the mob and lived to tell the tale.
Who Is Donnie Brasco?
Born on September 17, 1939, Joseph Dominick Pistone is a former FBI agent who worked undercover for the government organization from September of 1976 to July of 1981. He had volunteered for the job. After a few strenuous FBI gemology courses, he assumed the false identity of a low-level jewel thief by the name of Donald “Donnie” Brasco and infiltrated the Bonanno crime family. Owing to his fluency in Italian, his Sicilian heritage, and his knowledge of mafia idiosyncrasies, he was able to blend into one of the major organized crime groups in the country without any major issues.
Joseph’s operation was only meant to last for about six months, with the focus being on big-time fences and truck hijackings and how they mix in with the mob, however, he soon worked his way into becoming an associate for a crew from the Colombo family. After that, he developed good relationships with people from the Bonanno family and got informed of some of the major activities and businesses of the mob. As this was all during their prime, even though Donnie was stationed in Florida, the information he gave was crucial for what was happening in New York as well.
His co-workers, his friends, and even his informants had no idea about what had happened to him after he vanished from the FBI, it was as if Joseph had never existed. But, he did, inside the facade of Donnie Brasco, who, in the world of wiseguys, was following their code of silence, their cheating, their treachery, and their dirty dealings, making a note of it all just so that he could one day indict them. He was doing his job well. He had opened a lucrative business venture, King’s Court Bottle Club, in Holiday, Florida, and was on his way to becoming a made-man, however, his superiors decided that it was getting too dangerous and set an end date of July 26, 1981, for him.
Where Is Joseph Pistone Now?
As far as we know, Joseph Pistone is alive and well. The evidence that was collected by him led to over 200 indictments and over 100 convictions of Mafia members – and some, who were responsible for his infiltration, were, unfortunately, murdered. The Mafia kicked the Bonanno family off The Commission and put a $500,000 contract on Joseph. But, thankfully, FBI agents were able to get the contract dropped after visiting the bosses in New York. Paul Castellano apparently said that killing him, a federal agent, would “attract too much attention.”
In 1986, Joseph resigned from his job and, for a while, lived a public and yet private existence simultaneously. He published a memoir titled “Donnie Brasco” and gave a lot on television interviews, talking about his life undercover and its aftermath. But, he hasn’t taken any chances by giving out any private information. At the age of 80, he hasn’t let the public see him for quite some time. His last media appearance was his prominent feature in the 2013 mini-series ‘Inside the American Mob.’ What from we can tell, he now acts as a consultant to law enforcement agencies worldwide.
Joseph doesn’t even go by his real name anymore. According to the Washington Post, he has some other name on his driver’s license and his credit cards. Even his last known address is just “west of the Mississippi,” where he said he moved because he liked horses. Joseph will not take any chances, he doesn’t want himself or his family – wife, Maggie, and their three daughters – to be harmed by what he did for his job and his country. Thus, they all live in an undisclosed location under assumed names. They are not under a witness protection program, just very careful. (Featured Image Credit: National Geographic Channel)
Read More: Where Is Jim Kossler Now?