Who Killed Carmine Galante And Why: Weighing The Evidence (Series Conclusion)

In the back, Sally!

etting sentenced to 20 years in prison on narcotics charges in 1962 was just about the worst possible thing that could happen to the ambitious Carmine Galante—short of, say, getting blasted in the face with shotguns while dining with amici stretti on the back patio of his favorite restaurant.

Key Bonanno members circa 1980
1980 Giuseppe Bono wedding: Phil Giaccone, Dom Trinchera, JB Indelicato, and Bruno Indelicato were major participants in Galante murders.

Lilo spent most of the 1960s and almost half of the 1970s in various prisons. By the time he departed on parole, he was already “yesterday’s man,” as Adrian Humphreys and Lee Lamothe dubbed him in The Sixth Family: The Collapse of the New York Mafia and the Rise of Vito Rizzuto, adding: “Internationally, the underworld had realigned in his (Galante's) absence: the French Connection, along with Galante’s Corsican and French colleagues in Europe and Canada, was unraveling. The European traffickers had spread through Europe and South America and formed direct alliances with the Bonanno and Gambino families in New York City—if not the other families as well—without Galante.”

When Lilo returned to New York, management of the crew in Canada had begun to evolve away from him. The two-man ruling panel he and Joe Bonanno appointed in the 1950s—the Calabrian Vincenzo (Vic) Cotroni and the Sicilian Luigi Greco, who were able to impart a striking level of stability—was dissolving by the early 1970s. Cotroni faced legal and medical problems and was trying to step toward retirement. Greco met a horrifying death by accidental immolation in 1972. In the face of losing its historically effective leadership, the Montreal Crew also was dissolving into feuding factions, with Cotroni's Calabrian lieutenant Paolo Violi facing off against the cocky, ambitious Sicilian Nicolo Rizzuto (father of Vito). In January 1978, the Rizzuto faction would murder Violi and take control of the crew. 

"Once the Rizzutos were in power, The Sixth Family … sever(ed) the firm ties Galante had had with the city under Violi. What need was there now for Carmine Galante and his grabbing, controlling demands?” Lamothe and Humphreys wrote.

The Bonanno family in New York also had changed drastically in the decade-and-a-half that Galante was cooling his heels in jail. Since the 1960s, a plethora of tough new Sicilian recruits (mostly illegals) had begun landing in the New York underworld. While Galante and most wiseguys believed the loyalty of the zips went solely to Lilo, the zips actually remained true to their kin in the Sicilian Cosa Nostra—and the heroin trafficking enterprise they were building, as was later detailed in the Pizza Connection Case, which initially included the Galante murders among the charges.

Curiously, the decina Galante created in Montreal in the 1950s to be his praetorian guard played a key role in facilitating the rise of his arch rival/executioner Phil (Rusty) Rastelli. (RCMP wiretaps planted on Violi circa 1973 helped fill in critical blanks in Bonanno crime family history.)

Russell Mauro
One of the masked killers: Russell Mauro was slain in 1991.

From time immemorial, American wiseguys slipped into Canada whenever they needed to get out of Dodge, say, to duck a subpoena, avoid arrest, etc. (Infamous Genovese turncoat Joe Cago Valachi was known to lam it in Canada before he flipped). After Galante established the crew, Bonanno wiseguys generally went to Montreal for sanctuary, Rastelli among them. In the early 1960s especially, Rastelli would slip into Montreal to avoid arrest (and to possibly duck that ferocious first wife of his). 

Rastelli, when he rose to acting Bonanno boss, remembered the Montreal Crew.

In 1973, while Lilo was still playing pinochle in Atlanta, Rastelli, ever the politician, began to cultivate Paolo Violi, who was running the Montreal crew for Cotroni. Specifically, Rusty wanted Violi’s vote in an upcoming election regarding who would run the Bonanno family as formal boss.

In November 1973, Violi and other members of the Montreal Crew slipped across the border into New York and went to the Americana Hotel in Manhattan to meet a group of Bonanno wiseguys that included Rastelli, Nicholas (Nicky Glasses) Marangello, and Joseph Buccellato. (At the time, Cotroni was facing legal problems in Montreal and wasn't allowed into the US legally.)

Behind closed doors at the Americana, Rastelli told Violi that he (Rastelli) had been made acting boss of the Bonanno family and that he had a chance to make his position official. In a few weeks, Rastelli told Violi, the captains in the Bonanno family were going to meet and vote a new boss into office. Rastelli explained that Montreal would have a vote, and he made very clear that he wanted Violi’s vote.

Bruno Indelicato, Frank Lino
Bruno Indelicato, left, Frank Lino.

Violi responded by asking Rusty for permission to straighten out new soldiers in Montreal. (Was Violi already seeking to beef up his ranks in the face of growing pressure from the Sicilian faction?)

No, Rastelli told him. Inducting new soldiers in Montreal now would be impossible (though clearly leaving open the door to straightening out newbies perhaps later).

Violi, apparently satisfied that the seed was at least planted, said he would be quite thrilled to help Rusty attain high office.

Three weeks later, Violi sent Roméo Bucci, a “senior” member of the decina (as Violi described him) to New York to register Montreal’s vote at the meeting to select the administration of the Bonanno family. That important meeting also was held at the Americana Hotel. 

The results of the election for Bonanno family boss were revealed on March 19, 1974, at the Reggio Bar, when Violi told Nick Rizzuto that Phil Rastelli had been elected boss, Nicky Marangello underboss, and Stefano (Stevie Beef) Cannone consigliere. (The bar, like Violi’s telephones, had been meticulously wiretapped by the RCMP.)


Galante was slain because he hijacked the position of boss from the Bonanno family's official boss while that boss was in prison. Rastelli communicated his plight to members of the Commission. The Commission—having grown tired of Galante what with his hatred of the Gambino family, small army of zips, moves to control drug trafficking, psychotic need to be Bonanno boss, and ongoing efforts to expand his power base—agreed and approved the hit.

Carmine Lilo Galante in death
Galante showed no fear even in death.

To execute the effort required different factions of the Bonanno family to come together in agreement on the need to take out a common enemy. (Each faction could have had its own separate motives as well.) There were at least four key factions involved in the hit: Rastelli and his loyalists; the three "rebel" capos who wanted to take control of the family away from Rastelli (and by extension Joe Massino); Sonny Black Napolitano, who also apparently wanted to take control of the family away from Rastelli and Massino; and the Sicilian "zips" making fortunes from heroin trafficking and whose loyalties resided in Sicily.

Initially, investigators targeted only one of the factions from the belief that the Galante hit had something to do with the Sicilian traffickers in the Bonanno family. Many of these Sicilians became made members of the Bonanno family even though they were already straightened out in Sicily, something which eventually would be declared a no-no in America. Wiseguys are not allowed to have cross-affiliations today. Circa the 1970s, this was a new phenomenon that caused confusion. Cross-affiliations seemed to be allowed at least initially (consider the made Sicilians who Galante straightened out alongside New York-based Bonanno soldiers). However, it was specifically ruled that wiseguys previously made in Sicily could not seek higher office in an American crime family as a member of the administration. That decision was arrived at regarding Salvatore (Toto) Catalano, a onetime major figure in the Bonanno crime family who was central to the Bonanno-linked drug trafficking network. He became street boss of the zips following the Galante slayings.

Alphonse Sonny Red Indelicato
Alphonse Sonny Red Indelicato.

Catalano was the initial top suspect in the Galante slaying. 

“Mr. Catalano is an American who speak very little, almost nothing,” Sicilian hit man/turncoat Luigi Ronsisvalle said. “He don’t talk with nobody.” (Mr. Catalano wasn't an American, however. He arrived here with his brothers in 1966 and was a baker and pizzamaker who eventually settled near Knickerbocker Avenue, where he would fashion a world for himself and his closest confidants.)

Ronsisvalle arrived in the US in the mid-1960s linked to a cadre of 12 shooters imported from Sicily by Joe Bonanno to beef up his ranks for battle. Ronsisvalle would cause the Feds headaches by recanting his Pizza Connection testimony but also filled important blanks about Knickerbocker Avenue and Catalano, especially in 1976 when Catalano took over the Brooklyn stronghold after the murder of Bonanno capo Pietro Licata.

Ronsisvalle, who sported a thick Sicilian accent, said if FBI agents were looking at Catalano for the Galante hit, “they were on the right track.”

Robert Stewart, Newark Organized Crime Strike Force chief who also was one of the lead prosecutors in the Pizza Connection Trial, alleged that Galante was killed because he posed an obstacle to Catalano, Giuseppe Ganci (who was Catalano's business partner, confidant, and shadow) and other zips running the Bonanno family’s main drug distribution ring, including Baldo Amato and Cesare Bonventre.

Catalano was considered one of Lilo's top lieutenants, until Lilo was killed. Shortly after the Galante murder, Catalano vanished from New York City, hopping on a flight to Sicily, where he married a distant relative in a civil ceremony. The fact that he left the country so soon after the Galante murders drew attention to him.

At one point, while Rastelli was still incarcerated, Catalano was elevated to acting boss of the whole Bonanno family and was then considered for the position of official Bonanno boss (which probably would have been the death knell for Joe Massino's Mafia career). However, Catalano was unable to hold the top job due to his inability to communicate clearly in English. There also were problems when it was learned that he had previously been made in Sicily. His reign as acting boss lasted about a week.

Salvatore (Toto) Catalano
Salvatore (Toto) Catalano, street boss of Bonanno family's zips.

“They were looking to make him boss and I think they were pushing Phil Rastelli aside, but he couldn’t be [boss] because he was already made in Italy,” Sal Vitale, former Bonanno underboss and Joe Massino's onetime pal/brother-in-law, has said. “You can’t have allegiance with two—you are either all Italy or all United States.” 

Catalano was taken out of the game in 1987 when he was sentenced to 45 years in prison for his role in the Pizza Connection.

Catalano, today 81 years old, was released from prison on November 16, 2009, and reportedly moved back to Sicily. 


Key insight into the Galante murders was provided by turncoat capo Frank Lino. A longtime Bonanno wiseguy, Lino had family members spread throughout the New York crime families. He flipped following his 2003 arrest for a sweeping 19-count RICO indictment. Lino's charges included the murder of Dominick (Sonny Black) Napolitano, who was found dead the summer of 1982 about a year after he was reported missing. Napolitano's hands had been chopped off and his body stuffed inside a body bag, then dumped in a swamp on Staten Island. 

Lino's testimony about the Galante murders contradicts what Massino later said on the stand. Massino, in testimony, claimed to have some knowledge about the background of the hit, but said he had played no direct role. (Curiously, Massino's testimony about no involvement in the Galante hit apparently has been “overlooked” by major mob scribes we regularly read. At least we never read a word about it until we found that Reddit page.) Then again, when he testified in 2011, Massino had much to gain (e.g., a get-out-of-jail free card) from disassociating himself from the triple slaying as much as humanly possible. Massino, convicted of seven murders and facing an eighth, as well as a possible seat in the death house, had enough blood on his hands and probably recalled the fate of the late Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso, former Luchese underboss who flipped but had so many murders on his ticket that the Feds felt like they were dealing with Hannibal Lecter and subsequently found an excuse to toss his agreement and keep him in jail until COVID-19 finally took him. But back in 1979, Massino was a recently made soldier: Someone in his shoes on the street would want murders linked to their name (not to mention one of the most storied hits in US Mafia history) for street credibility. So in a nutshell: in 1979, Massino had reason to maximize his role; in 2011, he had cause to minimize.

Galante on page one New York Post

Lino testified that Anthony (Bruno) Indelicato, Napolitano, and Massino were all bumped up to captain following the Galante murders. 

Lino said Indelicato had told him that he was the masked shooter who shot Lilo's luncheon companions, Joe Turano and Leonardo (Nardo) Coppola.

Lino said Russell Mauro, a Bonanno soldier who had been close to Anthony (Sonny Red) Indelicato, also was part of the trio of masked gunmen who pushed their way through the restaurant and onto the back patio. Mauro shot Galante, Lino said he'd been told. (Mauro was made a capo in 1985 or 1986, and was slain in May 1991 when he wasn't included in an indictment that some believe should have included him. One of those frequent Sal Vitale-led hit teams working on Massino's orders did away with Mauro in a social club on May 29, 1991.)

Lino said that Bonventre and Amato also were in on the Galante hit.

Lino said that Bonanno capo Dominick (Big Trin) Trinchera was the third masked shooter, the one with the big belly who shot the son of the restaurant owner. (Big Trin was the first member of the Galante hit team to bite the dust; he did so alongside Sonny Red and Phil Giaccone in 1981.)

Lino also said that Massino, Philly Lucky Giaccone, JB Indelicato, and Sonny Red had been stationed outside the restaurant to ensure nothing went wrong.

So the three masked shooters who carried out the three murders, according to Lino, were Bruno Indelicato, Mauro, and Trinchera, with the main shooters on the back patio being Bruno and Mauro, and the third, who watched the staff and shot John Turano, the 17-year-old son of the owners, was Big Trin. One problem with this "official" scenario arises based on what one of the masked gunmen was heard to shout inside the restaurant right before the bullets and shotgun pellets (and paper wadding, etc.) started flying: “In the back, Sally!” A more likely suspect to be "Sally" would be someone named Sally—and a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation would highlight Salvatore (Toto) Catalano as a very good candidate. Catalano, we believe, was the only suspect who got on a plane and fled the country afterward (in case there were immediate arrests in the wake of the killings?). If Catalano were on the hit team, based on his quiet, low-profile ways, we could believe he would never want to be identified, even internally, as one of the three gunmen who killed Carmine Galante. Catalano, a onetime street boss of the Bonanno's Sicilian faction and a candidate for boss of the whole Bonanno family, as noted earlier, was a large man with a big belly. So was Big Trin. Wearing a ski mask would anyone be able to tell them apart? (We're just speculating out loud and have no proof whatsoever to press this argument other than the allegation that one of the witnesses inside the restaurant during the incident claimed to hear one of the masked men shout the name Sally to another. How did Catalano and Big Trin stack up in terms of height?)


The getaway car, a blue Mercury Montego saloon, was found a few hours after the hits in an industrial section of Queens on Ingraham Street near Gardner Avenue, less than a half-mile from the restaurant. Police lifted fingerprints from the middle and ring finger of Bonanno wiseguy Santo Giordano from the inside driver’s window. Giordano was a skilled mechanic who operated a gas station in Queens. He was also a licensed pilot. In 1981 he became a paraplegic when he was accidentally shot in the spine during the massacre of the "rebellious" Bonanno capos (each of whom also was alleged to play a role in the Galante murder). Giordano died before he could face justice. He and another man were killed in July 1983 when Giordano's twin-engine plane crashed in flames at Long Island's Bayport-Edwards Airport on its maiden flight. Giordano was 40. 

From left: George from Canada, Vito Rizzuto, Giovanni Ligammari, and Joe Massino.

A February 1985 superseding indictment to the Pizza Connection Case identified Giordano as a participant in the Galante murder conspiracy, along with Salvatore Catalano, Giuseppe Ganci, Baldassare Amato, and Cesare Bonventre. By then, Bonventre also was dead, killed in April 1984, one day prior to the passing down of the initial Pizza Connection indictment. Bonanno capo Louis (Louie Ha Ha) Attanasio Jr., shot him in the head more than once and his body was hacked to pieces and stuffed into three 55-gallon glue drums. (Another job accomplished courtesy of a Vitale-led hit team.)

In the Pizza Connection indictment, Federal authorities alleged that three other men, still unidentified, had been the masked shooters. Chief prosecutor Richard A. Martin argued that the evidence would show ''the murder of Carmine Galante was carried out by defendants in this case in furtherance of their drug trafficking enterprise.''

Defense lawyer Paul B. Bergman argued that the murder was ''far removed'' from the drug conspiracy. In February 1986, the judge agreed with the defense, ruling that evidence about the Galante murder could not be presented to the jury. Judge Pierre N. Leval, who conducted the trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan, ruled that the Galante murder did not provide proper evidence for the drug charges and could create ‘’substantial prejudice.’’

Years after the 1979 slayings, new technology allowed police to identify a palm print on the door handle of the getaway car. The print was then connected to Bruno Indelicato, aka Whack-Whack, son of the late capo Sonny Red. Bruno also had been linked to the murders via the surveillance recordings outside the Ravenite on the same day Galante was killed. Indelicato was seen allegedly reporting to Gambino underboss Aniello (Neil) Dellacroce and Bonanno consigliere Stefano (Stevie Beef) Cannone about a half hour after the killings. (Both Dellacroce and Cannone died before they could be prosecuted for their alleged crimes in the Commission Case.)

The Commission Case indictment, unsealed on February 26, 1985, included the Galante murder as one of the predicated acts of racketeering, alleging that it had been “in furtherance of the Commission’s efforts to resolve a Bonanno family leadership dispute.”

A Supreme Court appeal ruling related to the Commission Case that was filed in 1989 implicated Big Trin as well, noting: "Petitioner, a soldier in the Bonanno family (Bruno), and fellow Bonanno soldier Dominic Trinchera, among others, carried out the Commission’s plan to assassinate Galante and his associates. They prepared for the murders for several months, obtaining a stolen getaway car and a cache of firearms. The man who supplied the weapons testified that Trinchera had boasted that his position in the family would improve after the executions."

FBI most wanted ad with Carmine Persico
The FBI wanted Junior Persico really badly while he was with cousin and Fred DeChristopher.

A filing in the Commission Case included this summation of the Commission's involvement in the Galante murder:

"The testimony of Fred DeChristopher concerning appellant Persico's statement that he had voted against the Galante murder provided evidence that the Commission had taken a vote on the matter. This was consistent with other background evidence introduced at trial to the effect that the Commission retained for itself an exclusive prerogative to approve any murders of family bosses. Moreover, there was evidence at trial that the Commission had established a "death penalty" for anyone who might murder a boss without prior Commission approval. After the Galante murders, however, Indelicato was not eliminated, but was promoted by the Commission to the rank of "capo".

"There was other specific evidence of Commission involvement in the Galante murders. The murders were a product of multifamily coordination, which is one of the functions of the Commission. In addition to the foreknowledge of the boss of the Colombo family (Persico), there was evidence that the murder was foreknown by another member of the Colombo family (Andrew Russo). The jury also viewed a surveillance tape of Indelicato being congratulated by Bonanno family consigliere Stefano Cannone, and consulting with Gambino family underboss Aniello Dellacroce, at the Gambino headquarters less than half an hour after the murders.

"Finally, there was testimony from an undercover agent (Joseph D. Pistone, aka Donnie Brasco) that, because of the Bonanno family's internal dissension and instability, the Commission controlled that family very closely. At the time of the murder, there was an internal dispute between rival Bonanno bosses Philip Rastelli and Galante. There was specific testimony that after Galante was murdered, the Commission actively reorganized the Bonanno family under Rastelli and returned autonomous control to the family for the first time in a decade. The jury could reasonably conclude that the Commission approved the murder of Galante in order to resolve the Rastelli-Galante dispute and to restore order and autonomy to the Bonanno family."

Big Trin was killed in 1981 alongside Phil Giaccone and Sonny Red, the three "rebel" Bonanno capos who were whacked over their attempts to take the Bonanno family away from Rastelli (and Massino).

Convicted during the Pizza Connection trial, Baldo Amato, 70, today resides at Gilmer FCI and is serving a life sentence.

Bruno was sentenced to 40 years in prison. In 1998, Indelicato was released on parole. In February 2006, Indelicato was charged with murder and racketeering for the 2001 murder of Bonanno associate Frank Santoro. In August 2008, Indelicato pleaded guilty and was soon after sentenced to 20 years in Federal prison.

Today, Bruno, 75, is a free man. He was released nine days prior to the publication of this story, according to the BOP inmate locator site. He is the sole surviving shooter in the Galante murders to still be alive and on the street.


Former Colombo boss Carmine Persico seemed to be the only ally Galante had at the time of his murder.

Fred DeChristopher was an insurance salesman married to Persico's cousin. DeChristopher testified in Manhattan at the Federal trial regarding the Mafia Commission. DeChristopher quoted Persico as saying that he had shared a prison cell with Galante. Also Lilo "was a friend and the top man in the Bonanno family. And quite frankly, I voted against him getting hurt,'' the witness quoted Persico telling him.

DeChristopher said another brother-in-law, Andrew Russo, also a member of the Colombo family, clapped his hands and displayed ''a big smile'' on learning that Galante had been killed.

DeChristopher also testified about how his home had been used as a hideout for around three months by Persico, who he said confided in him about many things during their time together.

Federal agents arrested Persico at DeChristopher's home in Wantagh, on Long Island on Feb. 15, 1985. DeChristopher received a $50,000 reward.

Defense lawyer Frank A. Lopez, during cross-examination, asked DeChristopher about his specific motivation for informing on his brother-in-law and his associates.

''I think what they do is despicable,'' DeChristopher said. ''They are the most despicable people on the face of the earth. And that's why I began to do it.''

DeChristopher also testified that during the time Persico was staying in his house he also said that Carmine Galante had once proposed a contract of marriage between his daughter, Nina, and Persico's son, Alphonse (Little Allie Boy).

Since Junior Persico, who died in prison in 2019, served as his own attorney, he had the opportunity to question the man who turned him in to the FBI. It was quite the scene, according to reports that detailed Junior's parrying with DeChristopher, which "had jurors laughing and the judge pounding his gavel for order."

"The normally sedate courtroom proceedings dissolved into chaos several times as Persico, speaking in a thick Brooklyn accent, conducted a Runyonesque dialogue with prosecution witness Fred DeChristopher, a cousin by marriage who has admitted turning Persico in to the FBI for a $50,000 reward," as the AP reported on October 6, 1986.

The following is excerpted from that AP report by John M. Boyle.

DeChristopher previously admitted to money problems that led to his salary being garnished, but insisted under questioning by Persico that he owned the house he once lived in at Farmingdale.

″You know I bought the house,″ growled DeChristopher.

″You couldn’t buy socks!″ snapped Persico as the courtroom erupted in laughter and U.S. District Judge Richard Owen fought unsuccessfully to suppress a smile.

DeChristopher, who testified Persico hid from the law at his Long Island home from Nov. 1, 1984, until his arrest on Feb. 15, 1985, kept addressing Persico by his nickname ″Junior,″ to the consternation of Anthony Cardinale, defense attorney for another defendant, reputed Genovese crime boss Anthony ″Fat Tony″ Salerno.

Cardinale objected each time DeChristopher used the offending nickname, saying it was ″demeaning these proceedings,″ and the judge admonished the witness not to call Persico ″Junior.″

When Persico asked DeChristopher if he remembered a meeting on Dec. 7, 1984, the witness replied: ″No, I remember Dec. 7, 1941.″

That led Persico to claim DeChristopher lied about an injury he received during World War II.

″Did you tell your children you were hurt fighting the war, when in fact you fell down a ladder?″

DeChristopher replied that he always told people he was injured falling off a ladder.

″That’s a lie,″ stormed Persico. ″You weren’t wounded. You fell!″

″Yeah, but there was action going on,″ said DeChristopher as laughter rippled through the court again.

″Were you running to hide?″ Persico asked.

″No, I don’t hide, Junior, that’s the problem,″ DeChristopher said.

DeChristopher previously testified that Persico confided in him about his criminal activities while hiding out at his Wantagh home.

″Did I - Mr. Persico - ever use the word ‘crime family’?″ Persico asked DeChristopher.

The witness admitted he hadn’t.

″Did I ever use the word ‘made member’ (of the Mafia)?″ Persico asked.

″You used to use (the phrase) ’my very close friends,‴ said DeChristopher.

″Didn’t I have a lot of friends?″ insisted Persico.

″You hated Paulie Castellano and you called him your close friend,″ said DeChristopher.

This completes the series on Carmine Galante, which will eventually be republished as one large-format story.

Other stories in this series: