My mother was a shy, quiet woman who'd married Dad just before her 18th birthday.
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She was old-fashioned and loyal, steadfastly standing by her man and never asking questions — the perfect mafia wife. As the years passed, Dad's business grew. We moved to a bigger house in an expensive suburb and I went to a private school.
Mostly it was children of wealthy lawyers, doctors and businessmen. That's when I began to realise how different we were. For a start, Dad didn't look like the other fathers. He had tattoos on his arms, wore flashy jewellery and swore a lot. I knew the mafia were accused of crimes, from murder to racketeering, but I was too young to understand what it meant and I couldn't reconcile that gangster image with my father. What I know now is he was living two lives: Over the years I heard the stories of violent mob crime, especially after mafia boss Paul Castellano was murdered in I wasn't totally naive and part of me suspected Dad had been involved.
I knew he'd been there when Paul was killed, and he disappeared for two weeks after.
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Sometimes I'd come downstairs and find Dad sitting by himself in the dark. I'd make a joke, then Dad would start chatting away as if nothing was wrong, though we both knew it was. It was just our way of dealing with the things we couldn't talk about.
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I guess Dad thought he was protecting us — what we didn't know couldn't hurt us — r maybe he just didn't want us to know about that side of his character. When I was 19, everything changed. The FBI were closing in on Dad and he'd agreed to testify against high-ranking mob members in return for a shorter sentence for his own crimes. We'd always had it drummed into us never to "grass" on people: Now I felt Dad had betrayed us all and I refused to move with my family when they joined the witness protection programme.
These mobsters, unlike earlier generations, never embraced Cosa Nostra as a way of life. For them, it was a business, a way to make money. And when they found themselves under indictment and facing 20 years to life, they made a business decision: How do I cut my losses?
For years, the rite of passage into a Mafia family — known as a making ceremony — was a closely guarded secret. The formal ritual was sacrosanct and seldom discussed, even among members of the crime families.
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The ceremony usually takes place before a celebratory dinner and is conducted by the boss or the underboss of the crime family. It begins with a formal, almost Baptismal-like questioning of the candidate, whose trigger finger is pricked with a pin. The blood is then wiped on a religious card depicting a saint. The FBI secretly recorded one ceremony in by planting electronic listening devices in a home in suburban Boston where members of the Patriarca family were to be made.
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A year later, a New Jersey mob figure who was cooperating with the state police wore a body wire to his own initiation. Somebody who wants to make a name for himself within the mob. Murder is the tool used to enforce the code of conduct in the underworld. Pistone, as Donnie Brasco, had violated that code. Cooperating witnesses and their families have an opportunity to walk away from the life. Run by the U. Marshals Service since and commonly but incorrectly referred to as the Witness Protection Program, the service provides relocation, a new identity and a financial stipend to help a witness get reestablished in another part of the country.
Experience: I was the daughter of a mafia boss
The program has set up new lives for more than 8, witnesses not all of them Mafiosi and 9, of their family members. The downside, and one reason some cooperators eventually opt out, is that witnesses and their families can never return to visit with friends and relatives they have left behind, a hardship that many find too difficult.
Most film and TV depictions of the Mafia show it operating completely on its own. And indeed, when they were the big dogs in the game — from the late s through the s — Italian American Mafia organizations rarely interacted with other criminal groups. The one exception was an occasional overlap with the Sicilian Mafia, but then they were criminal cousins whose roots went back to the same family tree. Today the American Mafia, while still a player, is no longer the monolithic underworld power that it was in the days of Luciano and Al Capone.
Michael Franzese, a Colombo family capo, described his dealings in the s with Russian mobsters in a multimillion-dollar gasoline tax fraud scheme this way: