The Sicilian Turncoat
Although turning informant is a dangerous decision for an American Mafioso, it can be dangerous for their entire family in Italy. But while the violence of the Italy-based groups kept their defectors to a minimum in the early years of the Mafia, as time went on more and more mobsters decided to make the move to assist the police. One of the most significant was Tom-maso Buscetta. His testimonies at trials in the 1980s resulted in the conviction of dozens of American and Sicilian gangsters.
Courtesy of AP Images/Mike Derer
Former mobster Henry Hill smiles during an interview at the Essex County Jail in Newark, N.J., Friday, May 9, 1997. Hill, fifty-three, whose autobiograpy inspired the movie Goodfellas, was arrested in a Newark hotel room with his girlfriend on parole violations in California.
The Sicilian Mafia was known for its violent vendettas. Throughout the twentieth century hundreds of mobsters and family members were killed due to personal conflicts, in addition to the many more who were taken out for business reasons. Police officers and judges were also vulnerable to attack.
A Gangster's Gangster
As one of seventeen children, Buscetta had to work hard to help out his family. He was born into poverty. But by the time he was a teenager he was running errands for local Mafia bosses. By the mid-1940s he was a full-fledged member of the Porta Nuova family, smuggling cigarettes and working in the narcotics trade.
The Pizza Connection case stemmed from an investigation into heroin smuggling activities. Authorities learned that a group of Sicilian mobsters had established an extensive network of heroin traffickers in pizzerias throughout the United States. The network was headquartered out of a Queens, New York, pizza parlor. In total, over twenty Mafiosi were convicted.
Fleeing an escalating Mafia war, Buscetta came to New York, where he worked for the Gambino crime family before moving to Brazil. In South America, he was picked up on an old murder warrant from Sicily. Deported back to Italy, Tommaso was sent away for life.
Turning Against the Sicilians
Prison is not easy for anyone, so they say, but Buscetta was having a difficult time. To make matters worse his two sons were murdered as part of yet another Mafia war that was turning the streets of Palermo red with the blood of gangsters and family members. Buscetta decided it was time to make his move. But rather than further the violence, he met with an anti-Mafia judge. Buscetta let loose the deep, dark secrets of the Mafia, as well as alliances with the American mob. He testified in the infamous Pizza Connection trial in New York as well as the Maxi-Trial in Italy, which led to the convictions of over 300 gangland figures.