Here's What's Wrong with Mafia-related Journalism

Ever hear of the Blogger News Network?

Neither have I, but I came across the website when a story it was running caught my eye, namely FBI Busts 5 Bonanno Crime Family Members, Plus A Gambino.

The News said this guy was
Hector Pagan. He's not. I
viewed a pic that named him Vinny TV.
I named him that in the caption.
A reader straightened me out,
pointedly telling me I was wrong.
So who the hell is this guy?

(April, 2017: This isn't a story I'd bother writing these days but back then it was the "passion to blog" that fueled me. This is the kind of story that allowed me to build whatever traction I have these days....)

It represents much of what's wrong with how the media covers the Mafia today.

In this case, the reporter lacks context and seeks to inflate what is essentially a rewritten news release. He'd have done better simply using the source material for what it was.

I have touched on this topic previously. In fact, what caused me to launch this site was the need to write one particular story.  Philip Carlo and the Quacking Duck, the very first story I ever wrote, was posted here in January 2011. Then, I was compelled to write Department of 'Tell Us Something We Don't Know': The Inspiration for The Godfather Was Not 'Lucky' Luciano -- DUH!, posted in February of 2011.

The post was about a book written by a U.K. author who claimed that Salvatore Lucania -- better known as Lucky Luciano -- had been "heralded ... as the model for legendary mafia boss Don Vito Corleone," from The Godfather.

As I wrote in the post: First off, who ever said Luciano was the model for The Godfather? He was certainly not. I have heard that Vito Genovese was often considered to be the basis for the character; even Joe Profaci and Joe Bonanno were said by some to be Puzo's inspiration (all three Dons were involved in Mafia wars, and tried to assume control of the Commission, which is what the Corleones of fiction finally accomplished.)

 It may even seem plausible that Don Corleone (named after the Sicilian town that historically has been a hot bed of Mafia activity) into whom Marlon Brando breathed such incredible life via his spectacular award-winning performance was based on a composite of several underworld characters.

But that is not the truth. Though Puzo may have stolen a little bit of this and that from some or all of those infamous mobsters, there was a single person on whom the Godfather was directly based, and it wasn't even a mobster.

No, the fact is, Puzo the writer himself has admitted Vito Corleone was based on Puzo's own mother!
Brandi mimicked Frank Costello to create
The Godfather's voice.

The author, Tim Newark, also claimed that his book will shock American biographers who, until now, have always painted Lucky as the seminal gangster.

Well, that's because Luciano was the seminal gangster -- he is widely considered the father of the modern Mafia.

Among a dozen other books, I have read Selwyn Raab's excellent "Five Families"; Raab is a respected journalist for the New York Times, and I will put my trust in his work more than anyone else's.

As for the Blogger News Network story, I am going to run the article and note the perceived problems.

While the FBI may not seem to be making great inroads into the Mexican Mafia, they continue to hammer away at the more established crime families of New York. [These Mafia's have nothing in common and require different law enforcement tactics; the comparison merely attempts to create the appearance that this article is broader than it is.]The latest bust coming on Jan/27 with a 14 count indictment against 5 Bonnano falily[spelling anyone?] members and a Gambino foot soldier.
The charges contained the usual mixture of Racketeering, Loansharking, Extortion, Illegal Gambling and Drug Distribution.[They are RICO charges, what other "usual mixture" of crimes would they contain?
One thing that has become crystal clear over the past few years is that the FBI wants to cut the head off the world of organized crime, in days gone by they would merely go after the foot soldiers who were easy pickings, today the aim for the people at the top of the food chain. (The FBI has wanted to destroy organized crime since the late 1950s. It couldn't go after the bosses because the laws were not on the books yet. Agents chased associates and soldiers because they were the ones exposed. Does this even require more comment? Apparently, I believed so when I first wrote this:
[Over the past few years? Days gone by? How about decades? The FBI developed this strategy, oh, I don't know -- 40-50 years ago? RFK's Justice Department actually started the paperwork that would later seal the Mob's fate. It took a while for the FBI to catch up, thanks to J. Edgar, possibly the mob's greatest ally in its history. G. Rober Blakey had to basically pound into the FBI's collective head, after the supposed cross dresser croaked, that the laws they needed to dismantle Cosa Nostra were already on the books -- the RICO Act, which Blakey himself had written years earlier. You can check out an interview I did with him here -- Exclusive Interview With G. Robert Blakey] 
This latest round of arrests included Vincent Badalamenti, also known as “Vinny TV”. Vinny is a made member of the Bonanno family and more importantly a current member of the family’s administration. In fact until his arrest he was the highest ranking member of the Bonanno family not currently cooling their heels behind bars.
Also rolled up were Anthony Graziano, also known as “TG,” [Actually TG was arrested last year and has been in prison serving out a previous sentence when hit with this indictment] and Nicholas Santora, also known as “Nicky Mouth,” who are captains in the Bonanno family and former members of the Bonanno family administration. 
[If only he'd known about Mouth's connection to Donnie Brasco!] Vito Balsamo is an acting captain in the Bonanno family, and Anthony Calabrese is a soldier in the Bonanno family.

The sweep also brought in Gambino member James LaForte. The indictment does not explain how LaForte was involved with the Bonanno members, only that he faces some loansharking charges. [That is how he was involved: loansharking, which is part of the "usual mixture" mentioned earlier -- by name.]

It is early days in this case but at least one organization The New York Post is suggesting that once again the FBI had help from the inside. The finger is being pointed at Hector Pagan a former Bonanno Associate turned DEA informer. Hector’s ex wife is Renee Graziano who is the daughter of Anthony Graziano, so the road map certainly exists.

[This article was posted TODAY; how can the "reporter" not know that this is already established fact; it seems like the writer knows Pagan is a DEA informer, but he can't or won't connect the dots from Pagan to TG's arrest last year. It's only been covered for months by hundreds of newspapers besides the New York Post Organization. And no mention of the Mob Wives angle... geez.]

What I find interesting are the ages of the people arrested. Graziano (71) and Santora (69), then Balsamo (55) and Badalamenti (53), finally Calabrese (44) and LaForte (35). In simple terms it is indicative of three generations of mobsters. While Organized Crime has never been a big feature on Career Day at school. It is becoming more and more evident that it may not be a career that lasts a lifetime! At best the hours are lousy, the benefits not great, and the food awful, because a good deal of your career is likely to be spent cooling your heels behind bars.

[Once again? What a simple-minded line of inquiry this is. Why didn't he take a look at why the DEA is involved? From what I understand, the Feds and DEA teamed up to make this bust, something rarely done in mob cases.]


  1. Totally agree with you.

    I often visit your site and I enjoy it.
    Keep up the good work!


  2. The same goes for aviation related reporting.. For every article that is covering a small plane crash that has the correct description of the aircraft and the description of the mishap, there are 50 grossly inaccurate reports that only portray the incident in it's most base sensationalist depiction. The most recent one describes a guy flying a "drone" discovered some environmental damage.. The guy is flying a radio control plane, but the "D" word gets more eyes, sigh.

  3. It sounds like with aviation, reporting mistakes could cause deaths -- that gives the journalist the most important mandate of all, not to commit errors that could cause death and destruction.

    There is so much more that is wrong with that article above that I could've pointed out. Like the "affected" phrases, like "This latest round of arrests..." and "While Organized Crime has never been a big feature on Career Day at school." He's trying to sound worldly, never mind the second example is a fragment, not even a sentence.

  4. Great Article. Plus, foot soldier? It's not like the Genovese Family has an air battalion or the Lucheses are operating a Navy. Otherwise, I appreciate this website. I'm a fellow mob-junkie and I've been waiting for a site like this, that is not only free, but is updated almost daily, and is authored by someone who has a solid interest in all aspects of modern mob activity, as opposed to those with passing infatuations. Five Families is awesome. I'm on page 500-something right now. I hesitated to read it for quite some time, because I assumed it would simply be a collection of tales that I already knew about through reading other books. I was dead wrong. Not only are there new, refreshing looks at aspects of cosa nostra that tend to be overlooked (in regard to Colombo activity and Genovese activty), but he adds some really great insight on history that has been redundantly covered (gotti, casso). Anyway, great site. Keep up the good work.

  5. Thanks Mike D! Why don't you join the site -- become a "member". Blogspot calls it "follower" but I think of it as a member. AND ALL OF YOU -- JOIN THIS SITE! BECOME A MEMBER... I have been looking around trying to find a free gift I can send each member; I wanted to do it in sync with this site's one-year anniversary but I haven't been able to put it together yet. I promise, I will keep trying -- but assume no free gift is on its way anytime soon, because I don't want to try to bribe people to join...

    Thanks again, Mike! Keep up the comments, my friend!!!

    1. Actually my ebook is available for free to all those who join... just email me if interested... "Fast Eddie" was an old nickname of mine -- glad I dropped it back when I did! Hikes...


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