Philip Rastelli

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Philip Rastelli
Born(1918-01-31)January 31, 1918
DiedJune 24, 1991(1991-06-24) (aged 73)

Philip "Rusty" Rastelli (January 31, 1918 – June 24, 1991) was a New York mobster and former boss of the Bonanno crime family, though he spent all but two years of his reign in prison.


Rastelli was born and raised in Maspeth, Queens. He had three brothers (Carmine, Marinello, and Augustus) and two sisters (Justina Devita and Antonette Brigandi ).[1] Rastelli was married to Connie Rastelli.

Rastelli was heavily involved in loansharking, extortion and drug trafficking activities before joining the Bonanno crime family. Rastelli also had a lunch wagon business. After moving to Greenpoint, Brooklyn where he lived until his incarceration, he met and became close friends with Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano, Carmine Galante, Joseph Bonanno and Joseph Massino.

On December 3, 1953, Rastelli and an associate allegedly shot Michael Russo in Queens. However, Russo survived the shooting and Rastelli, fearing identification, went into hiding. Over the next year, Rastelli's wife Connie repeatedly approached Russo's wife Rose with an offer of $5,000 if her husband did not identify Rastelli. Rose refused the bribe each time. In early December 1954, Russo was shot again and killed in Brooklyn. On December 13, 1954, Connie Rastelli was indicted on charges of attempting to bribe a witness. No one was ever charged in the Russo murder.[2]

In 1969, in an attempt to restore order to the Bonanno family, the Commission appointed a three-man panel to run the family. This panel included Rastelli, Joseph DiFilippi, and Natale "Joe Diamonds" Evola.[3]

Boss of Bonanno family[edit]

On July 21, 1971, Rastelli was indicted in Riverhead, New York on loansharking charges. The loansharking ring, centered in Babylon, New York and Islip, New York, charged victims from 250 to 300% interest annually and generated over $1 million per year in revenue for the Bonanno family. On December 28, 1972, Rastelli was convicted in state court on seven counts of loansharking.[4][5]

On August 28, 1973, Evola died and Rastelli became acting boss of the Bonanno family. On February 23, 1974, at a meeting at the Americana Hotel (now the Sheraton New York) in Manhattan, the Commission named Rastelli as boss.[6] He was the first member of the Queens faction to lead the family; the previous bosses had all come from the family's birthplace in Brooklyn.

Although Rastelli was endorsed by the Commission, the real power in the family soon migrated to rival and former consigliere Carmine Galante, who was released from prison at the same time.[7]

On March 6, 1975, Rastelli was indicted on racketeering charges involving extortion. Nine years earlier, Rastelli had established a trade association of lunch wagon operators and taken control of the industry. Any operator who refused to join the Association and pay its stiff fees faced vandalism and physical assault.[8] On April 23, 1976, Rastelli was convicted of extortion.[9] He was convicted of the anti-trust and extortion on August 27, 1976 and given one year on the anti-trust violation and three concurrent ten-year sentences on the extortion.

First prison term[edit]

Sent to federal prison in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Rastelli's main contacts to the Bonanno family were mobsters Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano and Joseph Massino.[10]

In 1979, the imprisoned Rastelli allegedly ordered Galante's murder. The other Commission members had decided that Galante was bad for their business and gave Rastelli permission to remove him.[11] Napolitano was later promoted to caporegime for his efforts. Rastelli was now the undisputed boss, controlling things from behind bars through the use of acting bosses such as longtime Bonanno mobster Salvatore "Sally Fruits" Ferrugia.

There was a dispute within the Bonanno crime family about whether Rastelli should be the boss, which led to an internal war in 1981. This resulted in the murders of several people including opposition leader Bonanno caporegime Alphonse "Sonny Red" Indelicato, who was one of those who opposed Rastelli remaining the boss. This power struggle and its bloody results were witnessed by FBI agent Joseph "Donnie Brasco" Pistone, who was working undercover.

Operation Donnie Brasco[edit]

Rastelli was paroled from prison in late 1983 and quickly began an attempt to restore order, unity and respect to his crime family which had been greatly damaged and diminished from underworld power and influence due to the constant infighting since Joe Bonanno's ousting in 1964 and the Donnie Brasco incident, which caused the Bonanno crime family leadership and its members to lose credibility within the American Mafia.

By 1983, Rastelli had delegated much of his authority to Massino, who was his most frequent visitor in prison. Although he was not acting boss, it was understood that he was Rastelli's deputy.

Over the years, there has been the belief that the American Mafia was not directly involved in the drug trade, as some bosses had ordered their men not to get involved with drugs. Many disobeyed, however, and for the Bonanno family, the drug trade became one of its most lucrative rackets; its Montreal branch was heavily involved in the drug trade, importing narcotics into Canada and transporting them to America, where the Bonanno family's Zip, or Sicilian faction, along with the other crime families, controlled the wholesale distribution of the drugs to other crime groups across the country.

In 1985, Rastelli was indicted along with other Cosa Nostra leaders in the famous Mafia Commission Trial. Getting kicked off the Mafia Commission because of the Donnie Brasco infiltration actually prevented the Bonanno family from getting caught up in the Commission Trial, which sentenced many Mafia bosses and members to prison. However, when Rastelli was indicted on separate labor racketeering charges, prosecutors decided to remove him from the Commission trial. Having previously lost their seat on the Commission, the Bonanno suffered less exposure than the other families in this case.[12]

On October 14, 1986, Rastelli was convicted on 24 counts of labor racketeering.[13]

On January 16, 1987, Rastelli was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison.[14] Shortly before then, he named Massino underboss, though he had been operating head of the family for some time before then. With Rastelli all but assured of dying in prison, he also designated Massino acting boss. Unusually, Rastelli gave him two powers rarely given to acting bosses—approving new members and ordering murders.


On June 4, 1991, Rastelli was released from the Federal Medical Center (FMC) in Springfield, Missouri on humanitarian grounds.[1]

On June 24, 1991, Rastelli died at Booth Memorial Hospital (now New York Hospital) in Queens from liver cancer at age 73.[1] He is buried in Saint John Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens.[15]

Joseph Massino took over leadership of the Bonanno family after Rastelli's death.


  • Contract Killer: The Explosive Story of the Mafia's Most Notorious Hit Man, Donald "Tony the Greek" Frankos, by William Hoffman and Lake Headley
  • DeStefano, Anthony. The Last Godfather: Joey Massino & the Fall of the Bonanno Crime Family. California: Citadel, 2006.
  • Pistone, Joseph D.; & Woodley, Richard (1999) Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia, Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-66637-4.


  1. ^ a b c Narvaez, Alfonso (June 27, 1991). "Philip Rastelli, 73, A Reputed Leader Of a Crime Family". New York Times. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  2. ^ "Held in Bribe Attempt" (PDF). New York Times. December 14, 1954. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
  3. ^ DeStefano. King of the Godfathers. p. 51.
  4. ^ "5 Indicted in Suffolk for Usuary" (PDF). New York Times. July 21, 1971. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
  5. ^ Andelman, David A (December 30, 1972). "Suffolk Arrests 13 Linked to 2 Mob Gambling Rings" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
  6. ^ Schneider, Stephen (2009). Iced : the story of organized crime in Canada. Mississauga, Ont.: Wiley. p. 267. ISBN 0-470-83500-1.
  7. ^ Franks, Lucinda (February 20, 1977). "An Obscure Gangster is Emerging as the Mafia Chieftain in New York" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
  8. ^ Seigel, Max H (March 7, 1975). "Crime Figure is Accused in Lunch Wagon racket" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
  9. ^ Seigel, Max H (April 24, 1976). "U.S. Convicts Reputed Leader of Crime Group in Shakedown" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
  10. ^ DeStefano. King of the Godfathers. p. 86.
  11. ^ Capeci, Jerry (2004). The complete idiot's guide to the Mafia (2nd ed.). Indianapolis, IN: Alpha Books. ISBN 1-59257-305-3.
  12. ^ DeStefano, Anthony M. (2008). King of the godfathers (Trade paperback ed. (updated). ed.). New York: Citadel Press/Kensington Publishing. p. 15. ISBN 0-8065-2874-5.
  13. ^ Buder, Leonard (October 16, 1986). "LEADER OF BONANNO CRIME FAMILY CONVICTED OF LABOR RACKETEERING". New York Times. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  14. ^ Buder, Leonard (January 17, 1987). "RASTELLI OF BONANNO FAMILY FACES 12-YEAR PRISON TERM". New York Times. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  15. ^ "Philip Rastelli" Find A Grave

External links[edit]

American Mafia
Preceded by
Natale "Joe Diamonds" Evola
Bonanno crime family

Succeeded by
Nicholas Marangello
Preceded by
Carmine Galante
Bonanno crime family

Succeeded by
Joseph Massino