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Dominic “Sonny Black” Napolitano

Retired Intelligence Detective Gary Jenkins brings you the best in mob history with his unique perception of the mafia. In this episode, we explore the captivating story of Dominic Napolitano aka “Sonny Black” and his crew, prominent members of the Bonanno crime family. We delve into Sonny Black’s rise through the mafia ranks, his close bond with Joe Massino, and their involvement in various criminal activities. The dynamics between Sonny Black and Joe Pistone, aka Donnie Brasco, unfold in a tale of trust and betrayal. We uncover Sonny Black’s illegal activities and Joe Pistone’s undercover role, highlighting the dangers of organized crime. Lastly, we examine the aftermath and the impact on the Bonanno family. Plus, we hear retired FBI Agent Doug Fencl’s account of telling Sonny Black that the man he knows as Donnie Brasco is FBI agent Joe Pistone.
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…outside till I could see nobody else was in there, and I went in, and I introduced myself to him, and he’d heard my name before, so he knew who I was, and he went ballistic, and I mean…

[0:00] Well, hey, all you wiretappers out there back here in studio of Gangland Wire, retired intelligence unit detective Gary Jenkins, I’ve got the story of Dominic Sonny Black Napoleon Tano.
He is he will go down in history as the most stand up guy ever, I think, in the mob.
You know, he and Joe Pistone, those are two names that are forever, I mean, forever intertwined in the history of organized crime in the United States.
Their story is one of trust, betrayal, and the dangerous world of the Mafia, and believe me, we know it’s a dangerous spot out there.
Sonny Black Napolitano was a really high -ranking member of the Bonanno family, and one of the five families that dominated organized crime in New York City during the mid -20th century.

[0:44] He was known as a tough, savvy mobster, had risen through the ranks really by his personality, his strong personality, his leadership skills, and a sheer force of will. This guy, he was a man’s man.
He was born in 1930, which doesn’t make him 93 today. That’s kind of hard to believe, isn’t it?
A little history on him. His grandparents were immigrants from Naples now, so he’s Napolitano.
He was not from Sicily. He was from Naples, so he is not born and bred mafia dude.
Sonny Black was born with blonde hair, of all things, but by his 40s, it turned to kind of a gunmetal white silver color.
And to hide that color, he dyed it black, which gave him the nickname Sonny Black.
He was a really close friend to the future Bonanno crime family boss, Joe Massino, all through his mob career.

[1:35] He lived in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. He was born there.
He grew up there. He raised his children there. He died there.
Sonny Black rose to prominence as a soldier when he was taken in the crew of a guy named Mike Sabella in the 1970s, the early 70s.
Now, Mike Sabella was closely connected to Carmine the Cigar Galante and that faction, the Bonanno family. And he was demoted after the cigar was murdered.
Now, the cigar, Carmine, just a little bit about him, you know, he was a really bad dude.
He was one tough mafia gangster.
If you’ve ever seen the picture of the guy laying dead with a cigar clamped between his lips, one of the most famous mob pictures, one of the most iconic mob murder scenes ever, that’s Carmine the Cigar Galante.

[2:26] He got in what was really the original French connection, bringing the heroin over from Turkey to Sicily or France or Sardinia or somewhere over in around the Mediterranean and taking it up to Montreal and then bringing it back down into New York City.
He was a much feared guy, he was the kind of guy that would, when he was in prison, he would just go up to the front of a long line of guys at the telephone and just push aside whoever was on the phone and he took the phone. He was just a little bitty guy too.
If you look on my YouTube channel, I’ve got a picture of him.
You can hear his voice in one of my shorts.
He and his lawyer, Roy Cohen. Anyhow.

[3:07] Mike sabella was connected to the galante and when he got out of the last time and everybody banana was gone and he just like said i’m taking over the commission didn’t really say he was taking over a guy named rusty was kinda in that position he was in the penitentiary at the time and he acted like he was taking over so So, some of the underlings, Joe Massino in particular, wanted to get that, did not want him to be the boss, they wanted Rusty Rustelli to be the boss.
Eventually, Rusty Rustelli, who has noticed this Sonny Black and mentored him and brought him along, when Carmine Galante started to try to take over.

[3:49] The Bonanno family was split into two factions.
One was loyal to Rustelli, and the other one was loyal to Carmine Galante.
Rusty Rustelli, through Joe Massino, took action.
They set up the three capos that were really loyal to Galante, called them into a sit -down.
It’s a real famous murder, the murder of the three capos, brought in people from Canada to be the hitmen, as well as a younger guy named Wack Wack and Delicato, who will come back into this story before it’s done.
And these three capos were Alphonse Sonny Red in Delicato.
These three capos were Alphonse in Delicato, who was Quack Quack’s father, Dominic Trinchera and Philip Giacconi.
He set him up, called him into a sit -down. And so when you go into a sit -down, it’s a pretty famous story, but you may not have heard it. When you go into a sit -down, you don’t bring any weapons.
You’re not, you think you’re gonna be some negotiating going along.
And Joe Massino set this up and he had Vito Rizzuto and another guy from Canada.

[4:52] So they killed the three capos.
One guy got away was Frank Leno. He was supposed to go in, but he ran off.
He will eventually turn and talk a lot about and tell a lot about this night when this happened. We need to get back to Sonny Black.
Mike Sabella is demoted after the execution of the three capos and Carmine Galante, and Sonny Black takes over that crew, which becomes a really powerful crew.
Sonny Black, he had the Italian -American Veterans of Foreign Wars Club at 415 Graham Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, again, Williamsburg.
He had the Motion Lounge, and he lived up over the Motion Lounge at 420 Graham Avenue.
He also had expanded out to Pasco County, Florida.
He had an illegal casino down there. That was part of the whole Joe Pistone story.
He had a tennis club, a nightclub called the Kings Court Bottle Club in Holiday, Florida. So, he was an up -and -comer.
He could have been somebody. He could have been the boss.

[5:53] Now, his headquarters, of course, as I said, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Motion Lounge were in the heart of Williamsburg, Italian neighborhood.
His crew was involved in burglary, extortion, robbery, bank robbery, loan sharking, hijacking, bookmaking, casino operations, illegal casino operations.
And drug trafficking of all the involved in everything and really one of the most successful crews in the Bonanno family at the time and had Benjamin Lefty Ruggerio and a couple others name names you may have heard Nicholas Santora, Lewis, Frank Lino about ten or fifteen others and as well as the old capo mike sabella he just took his demotion and stayed in the crew and it was just the crew that left you zero Brasco met Donnie Brasco and introduced him into and took him away from Tony Mirra.
Really when they had that sit down, then somebody else came in and Sonny Black, in a way, won out.
Lefty acts like he won out, but Sonny Black really is the one that won out and said, we’ve got Donnie Brasco, this jewel thief, this great jewel thief that came out of nowhere. He’s ours now.
He was a pretty good size, real gregarious, handsome gangster.
He was adored by women and looked up to by men.
He had a lot of leadership, natural leadership abilities. He had kind of an easy manner.

[7:13] All of his people around him were comfortable with him, but everybody also knew behind this genial demeanor, he had a spine of steel, and he put the mafia life above everything else.
When he took that oath of omerta, when he took that oath, he lived by that oath his entire life, as we will see at the end.
I kind of think it was this genial personality that allowed Joe Pistone, Donnie Brasco, to gain his confidence.
I think Sonny Black really was like, he was kind of a good guy and he looked for good guys and Donnie Brasco or Joe Pistone took advantage of that and probably didn’t really pump him up, but he probably just had good, solid, regular conversations with him and, brought him in money, brought him in stuff that looked like it was swag and they could make some money on it.
And he was a genial guy himself if he wanted to be, you know, Sonny Black really probably maybe saved Joe Pistone’s life when he was falsely accused of earning a whole bunch of money like $250 ,000.
And holding back on that, and they had to sit down about that.
He really thought so much of Joe Pistone, aka Donnie Brasco, that he set him on a path to be made.
That was a bad decision on Dominic, Sonny Black, Napolitano’s part.
This path, of course, led through a murder.
The Importance of Earning One’s Bones

[8:32] You make your bones. It’s long known that you make your bones to earn your button, as they say, and all the different little words that they use for that.
You got to murder somebody for the boss.
Joe Massino had handed Sonny Black the job or the contract of tying up a loose end from the murder of the three capos.
And that was Bruno Wack -Wack and Delicato, who was a Bonanno soldier and had been promoted a capo for participating in the murder of Carmine Galante.
His father, Alfonse Delicanto, of course, was one of that crew that that wanted somebody else other than Joe Messino and Rusty Rustelli to take over the Bonanno family.
And so you’ve always got the son, Alphonse Indelicatos, or Sonny Red, I think they called him.
His son is out there. If you set out to kill one brother, you better kill them all, is the saying I’ve always heard.
But you set out to kill a father, you better kill a son too, more than likely.
Sometimes you can buy people off. I think in the Gallo’s situation, they bought off one of his, whichever one of his brothers it was, Albert, I think, Ken Twist, bought him off and he lived out his life as a capo.
And he didn’t do anything, nobody did anything to him after the murder of Joe Gallo.
But I think they didn’t think they could pacify Wack Wack, Bruno and Delicato.
So he gave that job to Sonny Black and Sonny Black turned around and gave this job to the new guy to let him earn his bones.
Donnie Brasco’s Chance to Be a Made Guy

[10:00] And that’s what Joe Pistone, he told his superiors, you know, hey, I got a chance to be a made guy. All I got to do is kill this guy. Whack, whack.
Well, you know, you can do a lot of workarounds.
I think there was no workaround. If they could have gotten.
Whack, whack in and convinced him to go into witness protection and moved him out of town for a year cross country.
And then Donnie Brasco could have gone back and could have phonied up a death like law enforcement has done more than once, taking a Polaroid picture of a bloody looking body or something like that.
And I threw it in the ocean or I buried it really deep, taking his wallet or something away from him and showed that as proof that he did the job.
But they, you know, they knew better.
They knew better. I just don’t think that would have worked.
I don’t know. What do you guys think? Would that work or not?
So it’s time for Donnie Brasco to start tying up loose ends and for the rest of the Bonanno squad to start putting together the cases.
And they’ve got all this wire tap and all this, you know, recorded conversations when he wore a wire and all these different scams he was in on around the country.
Tying Up Loose Ends and Building the Case

[11:02] And they went to Milwaukee with them and went to Florida and got kind of hooked up with Trafficante down there. I mean, it’s Donnie Brasco.

[11:10] It’s Joe Pistone did one hell of a deal. It could have gotten bigger and bigger.
But I guess you would have had to sacrifice Whack Whack.
So so the FBI is not going to do that. I know a lot of people have this really negative impression.
I think they’re corrupt and think that like that one who was Scarfa’s Lin Delvecchio was corrupt and allowed him to do murders and things like that.
And we did have one John Connolly, I think, in Boston that turned a blind eye.
But whoever was in charge of the Bonanno squad then, he didn’t do it. He’s not going there.
And so they just start taking the case down. First thing you got to do with Sonny Black is he is the central key figure in this.
It had he has face to faces with the boss, with John Massino and everybody else.
And he had face to faces with Donnie Brasco.
And he’s the one that handed that job to him. they’re gotta go tell him that.

[12:05] Hey, Donnie Brasco is an agent.
He’s not a cooperating witness. He’s not a snitch. He’s not an informant.
He’s a real deal FBI agent.
So they selected a guy who just happens to be a friend of mine and lives here in Kansas City now, Doug Fensel.
He was in the Bonanno squad at the time. And they selected him because Sonny Black had mentioned him on a wiretap one day, something about it being a good guy.
So they knew that Doug would be more trusted than some unknown agent.
I think they even sent him with a picture of Joe Pistone with his badge or something with some other FBI agents that they all knew.
Here’s a story right out of Doug’s mouth about what happened that day.
And later on, I’m going to have Doug tell you a funny story about what happened when he went in to talk to Lefty Rosario.
The Decision to Come Out from Undercover

[12:49] Well, you know, the decision was made that Joe was going to have to come out from undercover.
And I think that what precipitated that was he had gotten the contract to kill Bruno Indelicato, who was the son of Sonny Red.
And I think he was supposed to be at that meeting where the three captains were killed, but he didn’t go.
Joe got the contract and they decided it was time that he should probably come out. It was getting too dangerous for him.
They wanted to try to roll somebody.
Joe thought the best candidate would be Sonny Black, who he thought was a pretty reasonable guy.
They were trying to figure out who they wanted to go talk to him, and they decided on me because Sonny Black had told Joe before that I had talked to him on several occasions, and he said for an FBI agent, he’s a pretty stand -up guy.
So they decided I’d be the guy. We had a conference before we did it, and at that conference, we took pictures.
It was me and Joe. It was the case agent down in Florida.
Joe was also down in Florida and had cases down there. And then I think it was the case agent in New York, maybe, but there was three of us.
And they wanted to get him alone.
Confronting Sonny Black with the Truth

[13:59] And of course, he always had his people under him. He was the captain.
So we had people always with him.
And so we would go out early in the morning and sit in the car. It was summer and hot.
And we’d sit in the car and the surveillance team would be on Sonny’s apartment.

[14:13] And there was always people around. So we were there for about three days before.
In the morning, they determined that nobody was there except Sonny.
So then we went and I banged on the door at the bottom of the steps.
And he said, who is it? And I told him it was me. Very cordially.
He says, well, come on up. So myself and the two other agents went up and he said, have a seat.
And we sat at his, uh, it’s like a little living room table. So we all sat there.
He didn’t seem, he didn’t seem anxious or nervous or anything.
You just, what do you guys want? And I said, uh, do you know Donnie Brasco?
And I can’t remember if she acknowledged he knew him or not.
You know, he was a, he was a tough guy and he knew how to play a game.
And I said, well, Donnie Brasco is really Joe Pistone. He’s an FBI agent.
He was like, it was nothing.
I mean, he’s like, oh, okay, this…
Like I said anything, I thought he was going to jump up and down, fall on the floor, but he just took it like I was telling him today’s Sunday.
We got done. If I recall, I didn’t have to show him the picture because he didn’t say anything that I don’t know who he is or anything like that.
So I thought that he probably acknowledged the fact passively that he knew who he was.
We were leaving and I gave him my card and I said, Sonny, I said, you know better than anybody what this is going to mean.
And he didn’t say anything. And I gave him the card.

[15:36] Two agents for me walked down the steps and I was leaving the door.
And he goes, Doug, I said, yeah. And he says, you know better than anybody, I can’t do this.

[15:45] And we left. And that’s the story.

[15:48] So that’s pretty good. You know, he just says, I can’t do it.
I just, you know, you know, he told Doug, as you heard, he said, I just can’t do it.

[15:57] He was loyal to the code, man. When this is all revealed, of course, Sonny Black’s got to go back and tell people, he’s got to go back and tell whoever the underboss is and Joe Massino that, you know, here’s what’s going on.
Here’s what’s coming down.
Joe Pistone’s undercover role is revealed

[16:10] I screwed up, boss. You know, hey, as a supervisor, you guys are ever a supervisor out there as a sergeant, somebody come in and say, I screwed up, boss.
I’d rather you come in and say I screwed up, boss, rather than let me find it out from somewhere else. I had to find it out from a newspaper guy one time that one of my guides had screwed up out there. I was mad. Boy, was I mad.
He didn’t last long after that. Joe Pistone’s undercover role is revealed.
The new banana boss and the man who’d handed out this contract to kill Whack Whack to Sonny Black, who tried to give it to the FBI agent.
So Joe Messino, when he was really disturbed by this breach of security, he was really upset. He really put in a whole bunch of rules after that.
He took on the deal about, well, you don’t say my name, do like the chin, you only point to your ear.
And a lot of them started doing that, point to some part of their body rather than saying their name.
They had a brother -in -law, Salvatore, handsome Sal Vitale, and he’s also his underboss for quite a while in the Bonanno family, and he would become a cooperating witness.
Sonny Black’s body discovered, speculation about his fate

[17:11] And he reported that Joe Massino ordered the murder of Sonny Black, Napolitano, and this is what he said.
I have to give him a receipt for the Donnie Brasco situation.
The FBI will later learn that on August 17th, 1981, someone called Sonny Black to a sit down at a private house in Brooklyn, in the flatlands.
I thought it was, I think they buried his body over in Staten Island.

[17:33] Napolitano, he suspected this was going to be his end.
We’ve heard this before, when Tony Spilotor was called to a meeting up there in Chicago, had to come back from Las Vegas.
Before he went to the meeting with his brother, he took all of his jewelry off and left his billfold with his wife.
Napolitano did the same thing. He gave his jewelry to his favorite bartender, who worked in the motion lounge, which was right underneath his apartment.
Sonny Black had this old school habit, hobby, not habit, hobby of keeping pigeons on his apartment roof.
And you’ve seen those guys where they have this long stick and they let their pigeons go out and fly around, fly around. I don’t know, do they fight with other groups?
They have all these different pigeon coops on top of apartment buildings there in Manhattan.
And then they all come back to their resting spot. He gave that bartender the keys to his apartment so somebody could go up and take care of his pigeons.
Bonanno, Capos, Frank Lino, and Stephen Cano drove Napolitano to the meeting.
We find out all this from Sal Vitale later on.
One of them pushed Sonny Black down in the basement stairs, and as he lost his footing and he went on down the stairs, they just started shooting him.
It’s reported that one of the guns misfired and Sonny Black looked up and nobody was shooting at him.
He said, hit me one more time and make it good. Now, that’s a man’s man there.
Man, I remember in The Wire, if you remember in The Wire by any chance, you watch that.
There’s a when Stringer Bell is going to be killed by that guy that was a Muslim and Omar.

[19:00] He didn’t have a gun and they do. And he said, OK, get it on, you know, and they did. In an event that kind of shows the humanity of Sonny Black, I always like to find this human side of him, kind of normal side.
They’re not just automatons. They’re just not these stone -cold killers who don’t care about anybody.
His girlfriend contacted Joe Pistone, probably through the FBI, because he was deep, deep, deep hiding by then.

[19:23] And he told him, or let him know that shortly before Napolitano was killed, he told her, said, you know, I don’t really have any ill feelings towards Pistone or Donnie Brasco, He probably called him Donnie, said he was just doing his job.
And if anybody was responsible for taking me down, I’m glad it was Joe Pistone, because he’s a good guy. He liked it.
She said that Napolitano had really, really liked Joe Pistone, and he was really upset when he found out he was an agent.

[19:51] He just couldn’t believe he was an agent because of the things they’d done together and the conversations they’d had and the feelings they’d share.
Well, when he was first killed, Sonny Black, nobody knew that he was killed.
You know, just hadn’t seen him around for a while.
But a few days later, an FBI surveillance team saw Workman dismantling his pigeon coops on top of the apartment above the motion lounge.
About a year later, a passerby will find his body or a body.
At South Avenue and Bridge Street in Arlington in Staten Island.

[20:22] And the police report will say that somebody cut his hands off and his facial features, he was so decomposed, they used dental records to identify the body.
But ever since then, there’s been some speculation that that was not really him.

[20:36] So could it be? Could it be in hiding out there? Could it be?
It wouldn’t be in witness protection because they wouldn’t know.
But the government wouldn’t pay for anything unless he came back and testified and helped him out. And I don’t think he knew that deep of secrets, unless maybe he arranged for another Joe Pistone to go in who’s still hiding, still undercover. I doubt it.
You know, I suppose he had enough money. Maybe he could go to South America and live up in the mountains.

[21:01] And, you know, as long as he had the cash to go down there and somebody had kind of supported him, he could possibly do that.
But I got a feeling probably Sonny Black, that was his body.
Joe Massino arrested for multiple crimes, including murder

[21:11] In 2003, Bonanno boss Joe Massino was arrested and charged with a ton of crimes.
And one of them was the murder of Napoleon Tano’s racketeering and Rico and the whole nine yards.
And at that time, prosecutors will claim that Napoleon Tano was killed by Massino.
Massino ordered him to be killed because he had allowed his crew to be compromised.
And when they found the body, the hands had been cut off. And they claimed that was a warning to other mobsters to follow the rule about proper instructions, you know, like shaking hands and that kind of thing.
And I’ve heard that, but maybe it was tried to keep the body from being identified.
Also, Joe Massino was convicted in 2004 and sentenced to life imprisonment.
He’ll eventually be the first boss, the last Don, I think is the name of the book about him, who will come in and put a whole bunch of other people in the penitentiary and really deal a fatal blow, at least for a period of time, to the Bonanno family.

[22:07] And kind of an aside, they were then, because of all this, the Bonanno family was like not a family anymore as far as the other families were concerned.
So during the commission case, they didn’t include the Bonanno family in it, but they got Joe Messino and Rusty, they already had Rusty Rustelli, but they got them all on something else.
You know, when Joe Pistone was asked about Sonny Black’s murder, he said, you know, my intention was just to put people in jail and not get him killed.
And he was really sorry for Napolitano’s murder. But you know, there’s collateral damage in that world.
There’s collateral damage. I remember working with informants and thinking, OK, you know, what are you going to do if this gets that guy killed?

[22:47] Are beat up really bad. He’s playing the game. I understand.
We all understand we’re playing a game here.
You just got to take your lumps. Acceptance is the answer to all my trouble and acceptance is the answer to everybody’s troubles.
So this story about Sonny Black, Napoleon Tano, and Joppa Stone is really the most fascinating and in some ways, harrowing tales in the history of organized crime.
And it’s a cautionary tale too about the dangers of trust. And it’s a testament to the bravery law enforcement officers who can, like Joe Pistone, who put their lives on the line to bring these criminals to justice.
A lot of people have glorified these mob guys. You know, if you’re on the other end of it, if you’re not just having fun with it like we do, most of us do, if you’re on the other end of it, if your business is the one that’s being taken over and busted out, if you’re the guy that got cheated in some kind of a scam, if you’re the guy that borrowed some money thinking you could pay it back and when you can’t pay it back.
And then again, they take over your business, they bust it out, or they beat you up really bad, or you’re the one of the victims.

[23:54] Then, you know, it’s not quite so romantic. So I really appreciate you guys listening to this.
And don’t forget, I like to ride motorcycles.
And you know, I have this Facebook page called Gangland Wired Group.
And it’s really gotten popular. And if you, you know, if you want to see a lot of stuff, lot of pictures and learn some more information with people and make comments about it, about mob locations in Chicago and New York, particularly.
Get on that Facebook group.
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