NEW YORK – Joseph Massino (search), who went from the New York Mafia's last old-school don to its highest-ranking turncoat in a betrayal that rocked organized crime, was sentenced to life in prison Thursday after admitting his involvement in eight mob murders.
Massino received two life sentences after he admitted ordering the slaying of Bonanno family (search) captain Gerlando "George from Canada" Sciascia (search) and waived his right to appeal his conviction last year for seven other slayings.
Drawn, gray and speaking in a half-whisper, Massino told the judge: "As the boss of the Bonanno crime family, I gave the order."
"And the order was what?" the judge asked.
"Kill George from Canada," Massino responded.
The sentencing in federal court is hardly the last chapter for Massino: He has been cooperating with authorities and could take the stand against former confederates including his successor Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano (search), whom he recorded in jail allegedly plotting the killing of a top mob prosecutor.
Massino, 62, dodged a potential death sentence because of his cooperation with the government.
He took over the Bonanno family in the early 1990s when it was still reeling from its penetration by FBI agent Joe Pistone (search), who was embraced by the Bonanno hierarchy in his guise as jewel thief Donnie Brasco (search).
Massino became known as "The Last Don" for his strict enforcement of discipline that allowed the family to dodge law enforcement while the heads of New York's other four mob families sat behind bars. Once tipping the scales at 400 pounds, he reigned from his Queens restaurant, CasaBlanca.
He also ruthlessly eliminated rivals, including Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano (search), who introduced Brasco to the Massinos. Napolitano was shot to death and his hands chopped off to discourage other mobsters from shaking hands with informants.
Judge Nicholas Garaufis said that the government's investigation of the Bonannos, which has led to 51 convictions over the last three years, revealed the brutality behind fictionalized depictions of Mafia life.
"The activities, rituals and personalities of the world of organized crime have been deeply romanticized in the popular media of the past 30 years," Garaufis said. "However, this trial, like so many trials before it, has once again laid bare the true nature of organized crime."
Massino was unable to prevent his betrayal by his brother-in-law and underboss "Good Lookin"' Sal Vitale, who testified against him at his murder trial last year.