The New York mob boss often called “the last don” was convicted yesterday in a federal racketeering case that centered on charges that his bloody 25 years as the dominant power in the Bonanno crime family included seven murders and a host of other crimes.
The conviction of the boss, Joseph C. Massino, 61, on all 11 counts followed a startling trial that included damaging testimony from his own brother-in-law and underboss and an unusual claim by the defense lawyer that if Mr. Massino was a crime boss, he was a peaceful one opposed to rubouts.
The verdict was a pivotal victory for federal prosecutors in their decades-long war of attrition against the New York mob. When he was arrested last year, Mr. Massino, a Queens restaurant owner, was the only boss of New York’s five Cosa Nostra families who was not in prison.
The investigation that led to his conviction was one of the most expansive ever of a mob family, Roslynn R. Mauskopf, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, said yesterday. She said the investigation has resulted in charges against more than 60 others, many of whom have pleaded guilty.
“This conviction marks an important step in our fight against organized crime in New York,” Mr. Mauskopf said after the verdict in Brooklyn federal court.
The jury is to return on Monday to consider a government request that Mr. Massino forfeit more than $10 million as the proceeds of his crimes.
The nine-week trial unveiled the stories behind infamous mob murders and put a spotlight on a mob family fraying under pressure from an ambitious investigation. It also displayed the erosion of the Mafia’s code of silence. Among more than 70 witnesses were six inducted Bonanno members, the first “made” members in Bonanno history ever to testify for the prosecution. The description of Mr. Massino as “the last don” was a headline writer’s shorthand that reflected his skill at remaining in power while other bosses went off to serve long prison terms. To some, he typified an old-style Mafia boss, a fleshy chieftain who presided over a broad criminal enterprise from a table at his Maspeth restaurant, CasaBlanca.
At the time of his arrest, “Massino was the most powerful mobster in the country,” the F.B.I.’s assistant director, Pasquale J. D’Amuro, said yesterday.
Mr. Massino faces life in prison when he is sentenced by Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis on Oct. 12. He is to be tried separately for the 1999 murder of a Bonanno captain and could face the death penalty.
The 11 counts included separate allegations for the seven murders and other items listed as racketeering acts stemming from Mr. Massino’s 25 years as a Bonanno power. Included in the verdict were charges of loan-sharking, arson, illegal gambling, money laundering, sports betting and extortion.
During the trial, Mr. Massino all but conceded through his lawyer, David Breitbart, that he was the Bonanno boss. The verdict appeared to be an unqualified rejection of Mr. Breitbart’s unusual defense of suggesting Mr. Massino was a peaceful leader who had put a stop to killing during his reign.