Bonanno Crime Family
Updated: Feb 14
By Christian Cipollini // Exclusively for MobCity Productions.
“Sicilians like to deal with each other man to man, eyeball to eyeball. It’s no different when they
fight. They take fighting very personally. They believe In personal, not abstract, honor.”
- Joe Bonanno
Among the infamous five New York crime families, the Bonanno organization stands alone in
this distinction - it’s the only one retaining its name, unchanged since the formation of the family
structures in 1931. After the assassination of self-declared Boss of Bosses, Salvatore Maranzano, when the newly formed commission convened, Joe Bonanno received a territory based out of Williamsburg Brooklyn, and an organization comprised a large Castellammarese contingent. The family name survives to this day, whereas the other four families collectively, and respectively experienced more name changes reflective of leadership shifts (both organic transition and hostile coup alike).
Bonanno was born in Castellammare del Golfo in 1905 and Mafia roots were already established in his bloodline prior to arriving in the United States as a three year old. His full immersion into the American fold however wasn’t until the early 1920s upon going to work for Salvatore Maranzano.
According to his own memoirs published in 1983, Bonanno held a great deal of respect for his mentor, saying, “When I was a boy in Castellammare, Maranzano was a chief warrior under Uncle Stefano Magaddino; he was a hero of mine. When he called me to him, I gladly answered the call.”
Regardless of admiration and allegiance, when war broke out between Maranzano’s and
Giuseppe Masseria’s factions in 1930, younger soldiers from both camps quickly realized the
stifling effect on business and the toll on lives this conflict caused. Subversion ensued first on
the Masseria side. Joe the Boss was deposed in a hail of gunfire while lunching in April 1931,
but the champion Maranzano would only enjoy the victory for a few shorts months. The self-
proclaimed Capo di tutti Capi got his card pulled that September, marked by even more gory
brutality than than what had been levied upon Masseria.
“By November 1931, the five New York Fathers were now Luciano, Gaetano Gagliano, Joe
Profaci, Vincent Mangano and me,” Bonanno stated in his book. “At 26, I was a newborn star.”
Details are few and far between when it comes to the question of exactly ‘how’ he, a Maranzano
loyalist, a. Survived the 1931 overthrow of Maranzano., b. And then, was awarded one of the
newly carved up territories. Perhaps Bonanno was progressive enough to cement his trustworthiness in the eyes of the new powers, or maybe he saw the writing on the wall and secretly conspired with the others dead set on permanently removing most of the old guard and its ideology.
In any event, Joe Bonanno took control of what remained of Maranzano’s organization and
stayed at the helm until 1963 - when a bizarre series of events unfolded. Bonanno’s suspected
role in plotting against several rival family heads caused, or contributed to, a disappearing act.
He and co-conspirator Joseph Maggliocco were called before the ruling commission, but Joe
was a no show. He fled to Canada. Maggliocco faced the music and, presumably because of his ailing health, was allowed to live, but fined and forced to retire. After the Canadians tossed
Bonanno out, he allegedly got kidnapped in New York just before a scheduled appearance to
testify for a grand jury. In the interim, the Commission installed another boss, but this didn’t sit
well with Bonanno nor his loyalists, who had expected his son to take the position.
Infighting got messy and new boss Gaspar DiGregorio couldn’t get a handle on it. Joe Bonanno reappeared around 1966 and tried to reinstate himself and/or influence. The Commission finally had enough with family quarreling and forced DiGregorio into retirement while placing another boss in charge of the Bonanno clan. Joe was eventually able to intervene and extinguish the flames of family turmoil. In 1968 the deal called for Bonanno and his son’s retirements. The family then
moved to Arizona. Joe died in 2002.
Want to read more?
Subscribe to www.mobcityproductions.com to keep reading this exclusive post.