A former Mafia boss who once ordered executions on suspected mob turncoats made gangland history Tuesday with his own betrayal, becoming the highest-ranking member of the city's five Italian organized crime families to testify against one of his own.
Joseph Massino took the witness stand at the Brooklyn trial of Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, who served as one of Massino's captains in the Bonanno crime family. Prosecutors allege that Massino secretly recorded Basciano admitting he ordered a hit on an associate who ran afoul of the Bonannos.
Moments after being sworn in, Massino pointed across the courtroom and identified Basciano — "the guy sitting in the gray suit" — as the crime family's former acting boss. The defendant smacked gum as he stared back at the government's star witness.
In clipped tones, Massino testified that he had led a life of crime for more than three decades. Asked about his duties as boss, he replied, "Murder. ... Making captains. Breaking captains."
Massino, 68, broke ranks and began cooperating with investigators after his 2004 conviction for orchestrating a quarter-century's worth of murder, racketeering and other crimes. While imprisoned together in 2005, the former Bonanno boss agreed to wear a wire and chat up Basciano.
Basciano "told me that he killed him," Massino said in recounting a conversation about the 2004 slaying. "He said he was a scumbag, a rat, a troublemaker."
Prosecutors say Basciano — the one-time owner of the Hello Gorgeous beauty salon known for his explosive temper — rose to his leadership role after a series of Bonanno defections and successful prosecutions decimated its leadership.
The 50-year-old defendant faces the death penalty if convicted of racketeering, murder and other charges. He is already serving a life term for a conviction in a separate case in 2007.