Born in New York, Pagano is the son of Joseph Pagano, a soldier in the Genovese family. In 1973, the New York Police Department (NYPD) arrested Daniel Pagano for selling narcotics to undercover officers. During the arrest, Pagano was shot in the back by police while leaning against a police car.
Meeting with Sharpton 
In the early 1980s, Pagano became acquainted with African-American activist Al Sharpton. In 1983, Colombo crime family mobster Michael Franzese arranged a meeting with Pagano, Sharpton, and another mob associate (who was an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent). The meeting was ostensibly about the mob associate asking Sharpton for an introduction to boxing promoter Don King. However, during the meeting, the associate unsuccessfully tried to enlist Sharpton's assistance in distributing narcotics. After the meeting, the FBI approached Sharpton and allegedly garnered his assistance as an informant against Pagano. However, Sharpton denies this claim to this day.
In the late 1980s, Pagano became a made man, or full member, of the Genovese family. He operated in the Bronx and Manhattan and was close to Genovese capo Dominick "Quiet Dom" Cirillo. With the incarceration of Genovese soldier Joseph "Joe Glitz" Galizia, Pagano was promoted to capo. Pagano oversaw the family's numbers game and sports betting rackets in East Harlem, which were operated by the Pisacano brothers. Pagano also owned a business interest in Third World Records, an African/Latino music label in New York.
In June 1989, Pagano was indicted on charges of illegal gambling, loan sharking and extortion in Westchester County and Rockland County north of New York City. Pagano and his associates mediated disputes between trash haulers in the area, exercised control over a waterfront construction project in Yonkers, New York, and conducted loansharking activities. Pagano eventually pleaded guilty to criminal usuary and promoting gambling.
Gasoline bootlegging 
After become capo, Pagano became the Genovese family contact in the "Gasoline Bootlegging Rackets". Originated in 1987 by the Organizatsiya, a Russian criminal organization in Brooklyn, the scam involved fake transactions of large quantities of gasoline and diesel that were designed to defraud the State of New York out of excise taxes. When the New York Cosa Nostra families discovered the scam, the Genovese and three other families forced Organizatsiya to pay them a cut of their illegal profits. The families set up a group known as the Association to run the scam. Pagano and his trusted aide, mobster Anthony Palumbo, represented the Genovese interests in the Association.
In late 1992 or early 1993, Pagano thwarted a proposed murder of a Russian mobster. Palumbo's business partner, Russian mobster Victor Zilber, asked him to arrange the murder of a Zilber employee, Russian mobster Monya Elson. When Palumbo approached Pagano for approval, Pagano immediately vetoed the hit. Pagano was afraid that killing Elson would cause major problems with the Organizatsia.
In the early-1990s, the FBI and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) set up a fake fuel company in Trenton, New Jersey, as part of "Red Daisy", a sting operation aimed against the bootlegging ring. In February 1992, a suspicious fire destroyed the company facilities. Soon after the fire, a mob associate approached the company owners and informed them that they would have to pay a "mob tax" to sell the bootleg gasoline.
In September 1996, Pagano and Palumbo were indicted on charges of defrauding the government of $77 million in tax revenues. In September 1999, Pagano pleaded guilty to motor fuel tax evasion and was sentenced to 105 months in prison. As a result of his imprisonment, Pagano lost control of many of his former rackets, including the Pisacano brothers illegal gambling operation. On May 12, 2007, Pagano was released from federal prison.
- "Police Shoot Narcotics Suspect, Son of Reputed Genovese Aide; $2,500 Paid" By EDWARD HUDSON New York Times March 25, 1973
- Smith, Greg B. (July 25, 2002). "REV. AL'S MYSTERY MAN WAS A SOLDIER IN MOB". New York Daily News. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
- *"Street-Wise Impresario; Sharpton Calls the Tunes, and Players Take Their Cues" By MARTIN GOTTLIEB with DEAN BAQUET New York Times December 19, 1991
- "5 Are Indicted As Participants In Rackets Ring" By JAMES FERON New York Times June 13, 1989
- "After Emigres Began Fuel Scheme, Traditional Mob Families Moved In, Officials Say" By JOHN SULLIVAN New York Times September 15, 1996
- "A Crime-Cartel Indictment" By TERRY PRISTIN New York Times September 12, 1996
- "Feared Russian Gunman Saved by Genovese Guardian Angel" by Jerry Capeci The Huffington Post September 7, 2010
- "Two Plead Guilty in Fuel-Tax-Evasion Case" US Department of Transportation
- "Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator"