Friday, October 29, 2010
Mobster-turned-informant gets time served, witness protection
Former Bonanno crime family underboss Salvatore Vitale, who switched sides to become one of the most helpful government informers in U.S. mafia history, was sentenced Friday to time served and is heading into witness protection.
Known as "Good Looking Sal," the 62-year-old mobster had pleaded guilty to participating in 11 murders, along with a host of other offenses such as extortion and gambling, that could have put him behind bars for the rest of his life.
But federal prosecutors asked the judge to sharply reduce his sentence - despite an adult lifetime dedicated to crime - citing Vitale's seven years of cooperating with government investigators that helped decimate the Bonanno organization and severely damage the four other New York crime families.
The feds described his assistance in a single word: "devastating." To wise guys, Vitale's considered "super rat."
Vitale told Judge Nicholas Garaufis "I've committed some horrible crimes which I'm truly ashamed of, and I pray for forgiveness."
Garaufis sentenced him to time served - which has been seven years - plus five years probation.
Since his 2003 arrest, Vitale identified more than 500 mob members and associates in New York, New Jersey, throughout the U.S., Canada, and beyond.
He provided information and evidence about more than 30 murders, attempted murders, and murder conspiracies planned and plotted by the mafia, federal prosecutors told the judge.
Vitale pulled back the curtain and provided secrets about all five New York-based Cosa Nostra families, as well as the DeCavalcante family in New Jersey. He identified locations where the mob met and detailed their criminal enterprises, leading to the prosecution of high ranking members of the Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, and Genovese crime families.
His knowledge included clues about nearly three decades of mob hits. Included was the 1976 murder of Vito Borelli, who was dating the daughter of Gambino boss Paul Castellano, whom he apparently insulted, the feds believe.
Another was the 1992 execution of Thomas and Rosemary Uva on Christmas Eve, after the pair was suspected of knocking over mob-controlled social clubs in what became known as the “Bonnie and Clyde” robberies, prosecutors wrote. Vitale testified about the hits in a trial.
He also recounted his and others’ roles in the 1981 murder of Bonanno captain Dominick “Sonny Black” Napolitano, only weeks after the crime family learned that a young mob associate who worked under Napolitano was actually undercover FBI Special Agent Joseph Pistone.
The saga was later chronicled in the film “Donnie Brasco.”
Vitale was born in Brooklyn and lived in Queens and Long Island. His employment history in legitimate jobs was “brief,” prosecutors say, and included work in the catering business and a stint as a “narcotics corrections officer” for the State of New York.
In custody for the past seven years, the feds have taken special security precautions to protect him from a mob assassination.
His defense lawyers said that during his time behind bars, Vitale has voluntarily completed an anger management course, worked in the prison factory, regularly attended confession, and assisted a priest by setting up the chapel and running the religious service.