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"In the late 1960s, a Florida-based member of the Bonanno Crime Family began to cooperate with the FBI. He shed light on gangland murders, spilled secrets about LCN members and gave the FBI a front row seat to the turmoil within the Bonanno organization. His cooperation was never suspected by his crime family, and he died a member in good standing. Now, clues found in declassified FBI documents may help to reveal his identity for the first time..."
"On July 11, 1963, two men wearing makeup disguises entered the Flowers By Charm flower store in Brooklyn, New York, and fired five bullets at the owner before fleeing. Lying dead on the floor was forty-year-old Gambino Crime Family member Alfredo Santantonio... Informant Gregory Scarpa told the Federal Bureau of Investigation that "it was common talk in Brooklyn that [Santantonio] was killed because he was cooperating with the Government."
By the early 1960s, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was able to persuade two members of the Philadelphia Crime Family to reveal confidential information about La Cosa Nostra. The informants were sons of prominent LCN members who could trace their crime family connections to the 1920s. They provided agents with an inside look at the history, structure and membership of the Philadelphia Crime Family back to its earliest days.
Salvatore “Bill” Bonanno's quick rise within the Bonanno Crime Family divided the membership and set off a shooting war that the press dubbed the “Banana War.” The conflict reshaped the New York underworld and took down the last remaining boss of New York’s original five families. The Federal Bureau of Investigation had a front row seat to it all after they developed a secret source at the crime family's highest levels.
Declassified FBI documents show that more than ten Chicago Outfit members began to "talk" soon after Sam Giancana was deposed as boss and fled Chicago. The turnaround, up from virtually zero high-value informants in 1965, was due primarily to a more aggressive approach by law enforcement and the ongoing turmoil within the Outfit after a succession of bosses were quickly jailed.
In 1965, Anthony Lima, former boss of the San Francisco Crime Family, began sharing confidential information with federal law enforcement. He provided an insider's view of organized crime from the highest levels. Lima told agents about his induction ceremony, provided details about the history of the Pittsburgh Crime Family, and identified LCN members in Pittsburgh and the San Francisco Area.
According to Roemer, the three “best” Outfit informants were Richard Cain and two others who to this day are known only by their codenames, "Sporting Goods” and “Romano.” But who were "Sporting Goods" and "Romano"? A careful reading of Roemer’s books provides compelling clues. When combined with declassified FBI reports, the identities of these informants can finally be revealed.
Ralph Pierce was a longtime Outfit member who controlled gambling activities on the South Side of Chicago at the time of his death in 1976. The Federal Bureau of Investigation described Pierce as "one of the top half-dozen leaders of organized crime in Chicago for decades." He was also the FBI's most productive confidential informant inside the Outfit during the 1970s.
Samuel Mannarino was a prominent La Cosa Nostra figure in Western Pennsylvania for decades until his death in 1967. He met with FBI agents throughout the mid-1960s after being forced into retirement from the rackets. His revelations to the agents never went very far, but he did shed light on his criminal past and the history of the Pittsburgh Crime Family.
As the FBI entered the fight against organized crime on a national level, it benefited from membership data and organizational history obtained through confidential informants from a small Mafia family in northern California. For a brief period in the 1960s, there may have been more member-informants active in San Jose than any other LCN crime family.
Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, the Outfit gambling wiz made famous through the character Sam "Ace" Rothstein in the movie Casino, fed information about organized crime activities and mob hits to the FBI under the codename, "Achilles." The full extent of Rosenthal's cooperation has remained a mystery, but newly released FBI documents show for the first time some of the information he shared with federal agents.
Dominic "Butch" Blasi was a La Cosa Nostra member who served as the appointment secretary to three Outfit bosses in Chicago going back to the 1950s. He was with former boss Sam Giancana on the night Giancana was killed and became the prime suspect in the murder investigation. He also was a secret informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Most of Blasi's informant file remains classified, but some revealing portions recently have become available.
Federal Bureau of Investigation surveillance and intelligence obtained through several early 1960s underworld informants (including a mysterious Profaci Crime Family associate whose cooperation predated Valachi's) triggered an evolution in law enforcement terminology. The old name for traditional Italian organized crime, "Mafia" was eventually discarded in favor of a new name, "La Cosa Nostra."
Vincent "Fat Vinnie" Teresa achieved notoriety in the 1970s after he became a cooperating witness against the mob. The former New England Crime Family mobster testified at more than a dozen mob trials and made a televised appearance before a United States Senate committee investigating organized crime. Teresa's tales of mob life and his distinctive appearance made him the most infamous mobster in America for a time.