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173: Donnie Brasco with Joe Pistone and Leo Rossi

In the movie Donnie Brasco we see the story of an FBI agent who goes into deep cover infiltrating the New York mafia families. The truth is Donnie Brasco was the under-cover name for Joe Pistone. He joins us today along with actor and Joe’s co-host on the Deep Cover Podcast, Leo Rossi.

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Note: This transcript is automatically generated. There will be mistakes, so please don’t use them for quotes. It is provided for reference use to find things better in the audio.

Dan LeFebvre  01:39

We’ll get into some of the details about the true story behind the movie. But first, I want to ask you Joe, what was it like the first time you saw the movie about you? Overall, do you think it did a good job of capturing the essence of the undercover operation?


Joe Pistone  01:53

Well, the first time I saw the the completed movie, you know, during the course of the film, you see dailies you know what your shot during the day, but you don’t see the whole the whole movie. I was in the theater with Johnny Depp. It was funny because near the end, I look at him he looked at me and I had a couple tears in my eyes. And he had a couple of tears in his eyes. Because you know it was man, they made a movie about me, you know about the case. And it’s It’s surreal. As far as the movie goes, they were probably 85% on the money. As far as reality. There are some scenes in a movie that strictly Hollywood. And if I may, to your listeners, that you may have seen the movie or going to see the movie Donnie Brasco is that I never slapped my wife. That actually was not in the original script. That was that was put in on the day. I never slapped my wife. We never went to a psychiatrist. Because I never never was home that much to go to a psychiatrist with her. And I didn’t have a bag of $300,000 in a bag. And I didn’t saw that guy’s leg off with a hacksaw. If you saw the movie after those three guys were killed. I mean that was legit, hose three guys were killed, but I didn’t saw his leg off with a hacksaw. So other than that the movie was pretty pretty much on the money. They were the four glaring mischaracterizations if you saw in a movie, I’m driving across the George Washington Bridge got to go to Jersey to go home. Well, my family lived across the country. So, you know, once we started that operation, I very seldom got home to see my family.


Dan LeFebvre  03:48

Okay. Yeah, it wasn’t nearly as as close as the movie makes it seem.


Joe Pistone  03:51



Dan LeFebvre  03:53

I want to actually ask you this as well, Leo, since you’re more familiar with the the movie making side of Hollywood and acting and stuff that and but now that you’re making the cover podcast with Joe, what was your perspective on the movie, Donnie Brasco. And how has it changed since the first time that you saw it?


Leo Rossi  04:10

Well, you know, the first time I saw it, and I didn’t know Joe at that time, but um, I thought it was very authentic. I thought it was just very well made, you know, and I said, you know, who is this lunatic that would go deep cover for all those years? I said, this guy’s got to be looked at. No, I thought it was I was watching something that showed me there are still heroes in America. And that’s the way I felt. And then when I met him, you know, he didn’t disappoint.


Joe Pistone  04:47

You know, as they say it, then I guess the movie has legs. Right, Leo?


Leo Rossi  04:52

Oh, we pray for that.


Joe Pistone  04:56

You can’t go a week without that movie. Not being On television, before the country got shut down with the virus, Dan, I do a lot of work overseas for the State Department and DOJ, I’d wake up in Estonia. You know, I fall asleep with the television on I wake up at three o’clock in the morning I say Christ I know that voice. And it’s the movie it’s like you know, it’s crazy but thank thank God thank you God


Leo Rossi  05:32

Yes, you know they didn’t they have is that it’s one of the top three mafia movies that of all time. Yeah, yeah. And Joe and I talked about this Joe’s got his favorites you know and everything. But what we both agree on that as far as authenticity, and and really nitty gritty Street. Goodfellas did it. Certainly Donnie Brasco, did it The Godfather was more like an opera. And it just was it was beautiful, wonderful film. But you know, I think we’re missing a little bit of that. nitty gritty Enos, you know,


Dan LeFebvre  06:12

yeah, not not, not quite as realistic. Yeah,


Joe Pistone  06:15

yeah. Yeah.


Dan LeFebvre  06:17

And one thing I know a lot of movies do is to create a lot of fictional or composite characters simplify the storyline. Of course, we know Donnie Brasco was real. But then the other main characters in the movie are Al Pacino’s character, Benjamin ruggero, or lefty. Then there’s Sonny black, Nikki and Polly are kind of the the main characters there. Were they all based on real people?


Joe Pistone  06:39

Yes, they were. Michael Madsen played Sonny black and of course ruggerio was played by out the Chino and the other individuals were based on real individuals that were in in Sonny’s crew in the crew that I that I hung around with in a binotto family


Dan LeFebvre  06:57

in the movie, the way that it shows you getting connected with the mob Joe is as Don the jeweler, and there’s a job at the very beginning of the movie where left the S Don to looked at diamond. The diamond is according to the movie for Ghazi are fake. So that’s how the movie shows you getting in with the mob. But what I found interesting was throughout most of the rest of the movie, there’s not really any other jewelry related jobs. Was that actually how you got connected with the mob as a jeweler?


Joe Pistone  07:24

Yeah, who has a jewel thief? Yeah. And actually, that wasn’t my real introduction into any mob guys. Actually, the first me I had infiltrated was the Colombo’s. And then I moved over to the, to the bonanos. And that scene in real you know, in real life came later on when I had first met ruggerio. You know, again, they’re they’re making a two hour movie. So they had a you know, they had to have a good, a good entrance, so to speak. But I actually made contact with with Luke Casey’s, but I never really hung around with them doing anything illegal. Then I was introduced to the Colombo’s and I spent time with the Colombo’s. And then after having a problem with a couple of Colombo guys, I had to get get away from them. And that’s when I started hanging around with the bananas. But that like, again, that scene came later on in the operation.


Dan LeFebvre  08:25

Okay, so they sped up the timeline quite a bit in the movie. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Speaking of getting connected, Leo, how did you get connected with Joe and with the idea to start your podcast?


Leo Rossi  08:35

Before I answer that you said, speed up the movie? I have movies that I did. I wish they speeded up right through the damn thing. And it lasted two minutes.


Joe Pistone  08:48

I don’t know if you know, but but Leo’s made like 109 movies.


Leo Rossi  08:52

Yeah, it’s actually 112 Joe.


Leo Rossi  09:04

When you are filming a movie that’s based on truth. We have a thing in our business. Joe is well aware of it now. And it’s called dramatic license. And Joe was on the set all the time. And they still, you know, we’re trying to push to do things that really didn’t happen. But it’s what did you say? Joe? It’s about 70% on the money 75%.


Joe Pistone  09:36

About 85, yeah.


Leo Rossi  09:38

I but you know, so it’s on the money. It but there are some things that they take, you know, Liberty with and they say dramatic license. It’s part of the nature of the beast. And what you want to do is make a good movie, you know, and still be authentic.


Dan LeFebvre  09:58

And one of the those things that They did change that we kind of talked about a little bit earlier, Joe was when Donnie Brasco is going home to his wife and three kids. And that’s, it seems like there’s there’s quite a bit of interaction there. But I also noticed there’s quite a bit of interaction with the FBI agents where he’s handing off tapes, we see written reports and so on. There’s 1.1 scene where some of the dialogue says, when the agent says that it’s standard operating procedure to, for her to have Donnie check in at least once a day, maybe miss a day or two here or there. But as I was watching this, it seemed like, for being deep undercover, there’s a lot of contact with the family, FBI, how well did the movie do showing your contact with the FBI in your family while you were undercover?


Joe Pistone  10:49

Well, I only had one contact agent. It wasn’t like that, I met with two three guys, and I would meet with him whenever I felt I had any information of value. So I, you know, maybe sometimes I meet him every two weeks. Maybe I’d see him every three, four weeks. So that was infrequent. And as I said, my family lived across country, so I didn’t see them too often. But, you know, again, I was told by the writers and the director that, you know, we got to make you a likable person. And that’s the way they made me a likeable person by more interaction with my wife, and more interaction with with the FBI, because they said, you know, you’re doing stuff that normal FBI agents don’t do. So we got to make you likable. That’s the only way we can make you likable. If that made any sense. I don’t know. But that’s what they did.


Leo Rossi  11:55

Here. They were they were shooting in a breeze there. Yeah, that’s just what happens. And Joe was on the set. I mean, you know, that’s the one thing that always stuck out with me. We did a one man show, Joe wrote it with myself and Bobby moresco, wonderful writer. And Bobby directed it. And we opened in Chicago Center for the Performing Arts. And on opening night, Joe’s three daughters were there. And afterward, you know, was a big success. And I got to talk into them. And the one thing they said is, we didn’t know how lonely it was for daddy. You know? Because, you know, he wasn’t with the wise guys. You know? 24 seven, almost, but then he was by himself. And that’s, that’s quite a sacrifice to make.


Dan LeFebvre  12:51

Yeah, yeah. And it’s one that you don’t really think about when you’re just watching the movie. Because the in the movie, you get the sense that okay, I can pretty much go home whenever you want and see your family. And but that’s not the case.


Joe Pistone  13:03

Yeah, exactly. Then they didn’t show much of, you know, of my apartment. And you know what I mean? Just hanging around the apartment. So yeah, you’re right. I mean, you know, now that you think about it, that it was very good observation.


Dan LeFebvre  13:19

I have to ask about the lion. The movie shows it as a gift from Sonny black to lefty, because he likes animals. And then after that, there’s a scene lifting and dining, go grab, like, like 40 or 50 hamburgers and feed it through the car window. And later we see in the parking lot was that real?


Joe Pistone  13:36

Actually, then we did have a line. And what happened was, is that we got it as a cub. And these guys thought that was cute. They forgot that cubs grew up to be lions, you know, and we kept it in the club. Oh, wow. And Dennis started to get big. I mean, and then then it became, you know, kind of nasty because it was it was Elian. So what we did was a sunny blacks cousin at a warehouse that was vacant. So we put the lion in the warehouse. Anyone there we go every day and throw it steaks, you know? And then it got to be you know, this is crazy. What are we doing with this lion? You know, because, number one, the lion was eating $100 a day. And so, who’s going in there to clean up the joy, you know? So what we did was they called a Wrangler, an animal Wrangler. And he says, I don’t want the lion you tell me what you want me to do with it, but I’m not. And this made that this made the New York papers. They say well get it, take it to the park and change it to a tree in the park. It


Leo Rossi  14:51

make sense, right?


Joe Pistone  14:54

To do it alive roosterfish and once you do that, we’ll call the local tree. Think and tell them hey, there’s a line. Jane did a tree. Well a desk Sergeant Hey, he thought it was BS. You know, he thought it was, you know, some drunk guy calling and hallucinating. So what the hell are we going to do? There’s this lion chains chain did a treat in a park. So they got this couple from the neighborhood. And they gave him a couple 100 bucks. And they said, hey, look, you go to the precinct tell him you’re walking in a park, and there’s a lion change to a tree at this location. So they finally believed it. And it made it made the Oh, I think it was both the post and the end. The news was from page lion found chained to a tree. And it says it says a bark. But we did have a lion for for about six or eight months. Yeah.


Leo Rossi  15:56

You know, it’s it’s amazing that these guys are so sharp with the criminal activities, right? But as far as like, we don’t think cubs gonna grow up to be a lion. Would you think it was a midget? And then Joe tell the story about left the Milwaukee and that thing, I don’t want to give it away. But geography, he wasn’t too good at geography.


Joe Pistone  16:22

To share in the story. The FBI had an undercover operation going in Milwaukee. So I engineered to get the bonanos to come out to Milwaukee to form a marriage with the Milwaukee mafia family. So many other undercover agents. Were in a car and we’re right in. The other undercover agent is showing us around the city. And we’re down along the lake. And he says to me a lefty You know, that’s that’s one of the great lakes. So, lefty looks at him. He said, That’s not the lake. And what is it? He said it’s the ocean. So I said, No, left, that’s the lake. He said, Donnie, you know, sometimes you’re stupid. I says, Well, yeah. So you know, on the on the Great Lakes, they have these big freighters. You know, he says, you see that big ship out there? I said, Yeah. He said, You think that ship can sail in the lake via net big sto ocean? I said, Yeah, left. You’re right. That’s the ocean.


Dan LeFebvre  17:31

At some point, just give up. All right.



I was working. He argue. You’re in the middle of the country.


Leo Rossi  17:44

Oh, man. That’s the big surprising thing to me. And knowing Joe, as well as I do over all these years, was that he didn’t figure out a way to kill lefty types.


Dan LeFebvre  17:58

He told me a lot of patience there, huh?


Joe Pistone  18:01

It was a tough guy to deal with man. He was he was tough. It was tough. But it was my you know, he was my Rabbi man. He was my rabbis for the mob.


Leo Rossi  18:13

You know, there’s a there’s a funny thing that a lot of these mob guys. They know the history of the mob.


Joe Pistone  18:23

He was he was an encyclopedia Leo. Encyclopedia. Okay.


Leo Rossi  18:28

Yep. Yep. You’re always you’re supposed to know your business. I mean, I went in and pitch the movie once to young executives at Paramount. And at the end of my pitch, I said, Really, this is a modern day on the waterfront. Now, wait a minute, you don’t have to know all the movies.


Joe Pistone  18:50

But you haven’t. But you’ve got to know on the waterfront if you’re at a business.


Leo Rossi  18:55

meeting me. And it was blank stares. And I realized they didn’t know they’re not into history of your business anymore. You know? Yeah, it’s a different thing.


Joe Pistone  19:07

Leo, what’s


Dan LeFebvre  19:09

one of your favorite stories that you’ve learned since starting the podcast and diving in deeper to all that, really that?


Leo Rossi  19:16

Joe does not suffer fools. I’ve learned this. Joe does not like people that just to show their power position, break bowls, and try to keep you under their thumb. Okay. And that led to Joe quitting the FBI. And we get into that in the second season. But, yeah, and jealousy. I you know, from outsider looking in. There was a lot of jealousy toward Joe, because, you know, they thought that he was just I don’t know, what was I garden party that he put his life for the day, every night if you go out, you don’t know, you know. But that’s that’s probably the biggest Yeah.


Dan LeFebvre  20:08

Going back to the movie, there were a few times where we see you Joe almost getting caught. There’s at the time at the Japanese restaurants where dining refuses to take off his boots, we find out later, there’s a tape recorder in there. There’s another scene where Donnie gets recognized as jopa stone by a US Attorney named Holman in the airport. And so we see Donnie has to punch him out to not blow cover that any of those close calls actually happened.


Joe Pistone  20:34

Yeah, yeah, they did was a former a USA to work with and that we were I was in the airport with with Sonny black. And we were going the opposite way. We’re going to cross and he’s calling, you know, hey, I hadn’t seen him in a long time. And to shut them up by you know, I walked up to him and give them a crack. And Sonny says, Why’d you do that? And I said, Sonny, that guy was going for my prick. Would you want me to do?


Dan LeFebvre  21:06

Many have to think fast in order to come up with


Leo Rossi  21:09

you know, kids pay a lot of money for improv classes. Joe could have thought it was a whole bag of tricks.


Dan LeFebvre  21:20

Leo, what’s, what’s a true story that you’ve learned through the podcast, it really stood out to you as being something that was different from the way that the movie shows something happening. You know, it’s,


Leo Rossi  21:31

there’s just, you’re with guys, that and I always knew there was danger, okay, we say danger. But they, what’s the line? It’s always a friend that does the deed. So these guys that you’re getting close to, if you got somebody who knows how to join, if there was some suspicion, some slip up. I mean, it’s all those meetings you go to late at night in warehouses, you could get popped at any one of those. And Joe, nobody could tell him that, oh, everything is just sealed and know that it’s not that way in real life. And there was just many times they said, you really? What Why would you go, because I had to go. But Joe, you know, that guy didn’t like you. He had the goal. And, you know, thank God that it always, you know, he survived it all.


Dan LeFebvre  22:37

I want to ask about the family side of things. We talked a little bit about, you know how the movie at through a lot of that in and it didn’t really happen. But after the operation was over, and you’ve got a chance to reconnect with your family more? How did that affect them? And you know, knowing that these dangers that, you know, they didn’t know how lonely it was, but they didn’t know all the dangers and all that. And I don’t know if I’m listening to the podcast now. Maybe they’re hearing some details about things that they didn’t know, how did how did that operation affect your family?


Joe Pistone  23:10

Well, you know, the only thing I guess I can say, Dan, is that thankfully, you know, all my kids turned out great. Nobody has ever showed resentment is what I’m saying. You know, and I think the reason being is that they know the reason why I did it. They know it wasn’t because I wanted to get away from the, you know, guys go into undercover because they want to get away from their families, or they want to get away from their their supervisors. That wasn’t the reason I did, I did it. Because to me, that was a good way of conducting the investigation. So they knew that that I had good intentions. And normally, you know, because that wasn’t the first undercover operation I had, you know, and what the effects is, the only thing I could say is they all turned out to be, you know, good, good kids. And I think that that’s a testament to their mother, you know, raising them, and that they knew the real reason why you know why I did my undercover work.


Leo Rossi  24:12

And also, once the people meet Maggie, Joe’s wife. She’s tougher than he is.


Dan LeFebvre  24:22

Yeah, well, that’s good. I mean, that’s good. Good to know. Because that is something that, you know, the movie puts a lot of emphasis on the family side and the strain and the marriage and you know, asking for divorce and, and and with the kids. And so it’s good to hear that. That part of it is not true.


Joe Pistone  24:38

Yeah, like I say, you know, we’d never went to psychiatrists, you know, did we have beef on the telephone, you know, because most of my contact was on the phone and you know, for instance, you’re 1500 miles away and it’s like, the lawnmower don’t work. Who gives an F Get a Lawnmower Man. Or one time dishwashers broken we’ll call a Maytag guy. I said he’s not doing anything. You see him sitting there all day. That didn’t go over too good, though that that called for a hang up, you know?


Leo Rossi  25:20

Joe can be a servic when he chooses. Yeah, he’s got a whole treasure trove of one liners.


Joe Pistone  25:29

But you know, it’s all good. It all turned out good knock on wood. And thank God, you know, thank God first.


Dan LeFebvre  25:36

We did talk about this very briefly, but I want to ask about probably the most violent scene in the movie when we see Sonny black and his guys ambush Sonny red and his guys in the basement of the house. How accurate was that scene in the movie?


Joe Pistone  25:49

Those guys did get clipped. But it was actually in a restaurant. It was a setup, where they thought they were going to sit down to iron out iron out differences in the family. But it was pretty gruesome. I mean, they, you know, they opened up on a pretty good


Dan LeFebvre  26:06

sounds kind of like what you were saying, Leo, where you go to a meeting and you never know, when that might be the end?


Leo Rossi  26:12

Yeah. I mean, Joe probably went to hundreds of meetings over the six years, you know, that could have turned ugly man. And and you just don’t know. I mean, Now, one thing that people did know, they knew the bananas that were you know, Joe was in that crew. They knew that their time on this earth was limited. Because they brought him in Tony Mira, lefty ruggero Sonny Black napoletana. Now, you know, lefty made it through because he was going to a meeting where it was going to be whacked. But Sonny black knew. Well, let me ask Joe. Joe, do you believe he knew? Definitely he was going to get clipped when he went to that meeting? Oh, definitely.


Joe Pistone  27:07

Yeah, yeah. Okay. You don’t get called to a meeting and leave all your money, your keys except your car keys, your ring, you know, all your possessions with the bartender and he says that a bartender. I just got called to a sit down and I’m probably not coming back coal on that he’s in give him the Judy, you know, so he knew he was gonna get clipped. That’s a real gangster. You know? That’s a real gangster man.


Leo Rossi  27:34

Yeah, if I’m correct, Joe, nobody in that whole crew flipped?


Joe Pistone  27:37

No, not during that operation. I mean, they flipped 10 years later, maybe you know. Okay. Yeah, 15 years later, but none of our guys none of the guys that we arrested at that particular time flipped guys. bonanos flipped. You know, like I say maybe 1520 years later. I mean, they were they were tough. Yeah, every one of them they were tough.


Dan LeFebvre  28:03

The way the movie shows the whole operation ending there’s the contract that lefty and Donnie are given to wax on the red sun Bruno. And then left he says it’ll make dhania made guy. They track him to a boat just before they attack the FBI shows up and rest everyone. And as I was watching as I got man, this timing is that it seemed like you know, Hollywood’s perfect timing?


Joe Pistone  28:24

That was Hollywood. Perfect.


Dan LeFebvre  28:27

How did it really come to an end? Well, what


Joe Pistone  28:29

happened was is that there was a obviously, a rift was in the banano family for power. The guys I was with Sonny black and the other guys, you know, were the ones that took out the three captains that were that were trying to take over the family. There was supposed to be four guys there only three showed up. And then I get the contract to kill the guy that didn’t show. So now there’s a war going on and you know, within the family. So basically, they figure Well, you know, now it’s time to shut the operation down because now it’s a shooting war. So we just close the operation down and and then I start going to grand juries, etc. And, and that’s when they start whacking guys. That’s when they start whacking Mira and Sonny black. And well Julie Greco. Julie, the Colombo guy got whacked first. And then like, like Leo said, left, he was on his way to the club and picked up on a wire that that they’re gonna whack and when he gets there, they said and the FBI grabbed him off the street.


Leo Rossi  29:39

You know what I never asked you, Joe, when you know the contract was on Bruna was given to you. If that was another couple that you know was supposed to be there didn’t show up. He said guys look coming over. Would they have let that go as opposed to knowing Bruno’s father was clipped in that hit. And he would never No, no, no,


Joe Pistone  30:06

they would not have given him a pass at all. Yeah, never. Yeah. No. Yeah. Because remember, he was in on the gallente hit. He was a shooter, right? Yeah. So, yeah. On the karma gallente hit. So no, they would never have given him a pass.


Dan LeFebvre  30:21

It seems like they were talking earlier, there’s a lot of improv E to that, what sort of ideas are like kind of racing through your head? You try to talk yourself out of some of these situations, like when you get that contract? Is that something like, okay, right away, you know, that you have to end this operation that’s been going on for so long?


Joe Pistone  30:38

No, you know, you get the contract. And you say, okay, and you, you know, you go look for the guy, I get in touch with my contact agent and tell them, Look, this is a story. I got the contract to kill Bruno. So the deal was, if I find them, I’ll call the FBI. And they’ll come and snatch him. And we’ll stage you hit. Or if they find them first, because they’re out looking for him, too. We do the same thing. We’ll stage your head and then say that, you know, that that I whacked him? I mean, obviously, I’m not gonna go whack them, you know?


Dan LeFebvre  31:08

Well, right. That’s why I’m, that was kind of my, my point. There is like, you gotta have mind racing. Okay, how do I have to make this look? Yeah.


Joe Pistone  31:19

But you know, let me say this, if it came to a situation between me and him, it was gonna be him. Because what these guys, when you’re given a contract, that your responsibility that the guy gets killed. So if you’re a mob guy, you don’t negotiate and, and I can’t, you know, I can’t say, you know, I’m really an undercover FBI agent, because they kill me on the spot, because they say you, you’ve been doing this, you know, that going on six years. And you’re telling us you’re, you’re an FBI agent. So you know, you have to you have to play along with it. And so I went out looking for him I went to Miami look for, because that’s where they thought he was. But if it came down to a situation was me or him it was going to be hidden because I’m not dying for a gangster. No.


Dan LeFebvre  32:13

But you mentioned were you saying you’re not going to come out and say that you’re an FBI agent. But that leads me into my next question, because at the very end of the movie, we see that scene with lefty, you know, leaving all these things. But then, FBI agents show up to show photos of Donnie Brasco to Sonny black, and even then they still don’t believe that you were an agent. They think that this is a trick. Do they still not believe after they were told?


Joe Pistone  32:39

No, they didn’t. They thought that the FBI had kidnapped me and was trying to flip me. And it was their, their way of telling them that you know, you guys should flip and but yeah, they didn’t. They didn’t believe it until actually until some indictments came out. And then of course, you know, on indictments it it mentions undercover agent. So


Leo Rossi  33:04

Well, I think in my business now, which shows business to the movie business, Joe would have heard, because the guy still believed that he was not the FBI agent. Who is that and the Academy Award for Best Actor shows pitch.


Joe Pistone  33:28

That’s funny.


Dan LeFebvre  33:30

At the very end of the movie, there’s some texts that talks about those indictments, it says that you collected evidence that led to over 200 indictments, over 100 convictions. And there was also a $500,000 contract.


Joe Pistone  33:41

You know, that was wrong. And I the first I saw that was when I started a movie. I mean, nobody ever. Nobody ever asked me about that. You know about those credits, and we actually convicted 235 people. That’s how many convictions we add over all the trials. Oh, wow. And I was like, where to help they get those numbers from? Nobody ever asked me how many? How many convictions we had?


Dan LeFebvre  34:06

Seems like the simplest thing to fix in a movie too. It’s just text.


Joe Pistone  34:09

Yeah. Well, you know, they know more than you do. You know, that’s, I guess that’s their reason. Joe, didn’t


Leo Rossi  34:17

your picture. appear in the post? Or was it the Daily News? early on? When, like when all of a sudden this thing broke? And you come out from deep cover? I thought there was a picture of you in the newspaper, was it? No. Okay. Yeah, because that’s got to be sacred material man. You know, you can’t put your kisser in the newspaper.


Dan LeFebvre  34:45

Well, after it was over what was what was it like? Did you feel relief that it was over? I mean, you’ve been doing it for years. Was it like once it was actually over?


Joe Pistone  34:54

That was the first operation that I didn’t want it to end at that time only because I had been proposed for membership and the family. I was due to get inducted into the bananas in December. And with this war going on and everything, and the FBI Didn’t they didn’t want to wait. So we close it down. And it was July 27. But, you know, my, my thing was what, you know, why close it down? You know, I mean, can you imagine embarrassment? When it comes out, they inducted an undercover FBI agent into a mafia family. I mean, because, you know, up until that point, everybody thought the mafia was untouchable, which they basically were, you know, but there was no downtime, because once the operation ended, I go to DC for a debriefing. And then I have to go to the Southern District of New York, the Eastern District, New York, Miami, Tampa, and Milwaukee, I have to go to those districts that sit down with the attorneys that are prosecuting the different cases, go to grand juries. You know, there was no going to the islands and relaxing. And then once all the indictments came out, then you start preparing for court. So that operation was a six year operation. And I think I testified for a little over six years. That’s it. So Oh, wow.


Leo Rossi  36:25

I don’t know if I should say this, Joe. But we are doing the comedy version of Donnie Brasco. In a movie, at the end with Joe comes out, he goes, I’ve gone to Disneyland.


Joe Pistone  36:41

And then they presented me with a Corvette.


Dan LeFebvre  36:47

Is there anything that didn’t make it into the movie that you wish had,


Joe Pistone  36:52

I would have liked to have seen more of how I engineered and, you know, I don’t know how much you know about the mafia dam. But, you know, the mafia has, throughout the United States, each family has their own territory where they can conduct their business, one family can’t go into another family’s territory. And I wish there was more of showing how I was able to form a marriage between a bonanos and the Milwaukee family to do business and bonanos and sent the traffic Kenny and Florida to do business. That was just touched on lightly. And what happened in Milwaukee. As far as that operation getting blown. I wish that would have been shown more because there were some would have been some good danger scenes, if that’s the correct word. And then the three sit downs that they had over me with this gangster Tony Mira, where he claimed I stole money from the family, if you get convicted, that you’re dead, you know, because that’s one of the things that will get you killed stealing money from the family. You know, luckily, Sonny black was my lawyer, you know what I mean? At the sit downs, he represented me and he won all three sit downs, but if he loses, I’m dead, you know, they kill you. There’s no way to get out of it. You know,


Dan LeFebvre  38:15

that’s pretty much like a trial. It sounds like,


Joe Pistone  38:17

yeah, that’s basically what it is, you know, they bring their sides in lie. Just like politicians, right? When they’re having hearings, and are they so they bring their side and they lie. And then I mean, my side was honest, because I didn’t steal money. But normally, it’s you know, they bring their witnesses in a lie, and the other side brings their witnesses in a lie. And, you know, they have a middie mediator. And he decides, you know, which side wins, you know, and Sonny black was was a stronger advocate, you know, for me, and it was all the truth. You know, I had nothing, nothing ligers I never stole You know, one time was 250,000. And then I don’t know what it was another time, you know, because Mary didn’t like me. We got into a beef and he wanted to get rid of me and it was the best way to get rid of me. So


Dan LeFebvre  39:08

it sounds like that would be an Yeah, way to get rid of somebody if you don’t, you don’t want them you just pin this on them and no, yeah,


Leo Rossi  39:16

yeah. Just Yeah, just walk them after. Well, you know, Joe, really in the annals of crime, the mafia organized crime. What he did, how he used the word Joe engineer. He engineered himself into dealing with to capos to capos due to heads of families, Frank bullish theory in Milwaukee, and Santo trafficante in Miami and he shook hands with the Dell with them. It’s unheard of. He was he wasn’t a made guy. Although Sonny black did a couple times did introduce you as a friend of ours. Yeah, but I mean, that is unheard of that he anybody could get that close. Even if he wasn’t undercover, because he wasn’t a made guy. Unbelievable. It’s very rare to sit down with a boss, you know, if you’re not in his inner circle,


Dan LeFebvre  40:17

would that be seen as suspicious that you’re able to get that close?


Joe Pistone  40:21

suspicious? To whom? By whom?


Dan LeFebvre  40:24

I’m just thinking, you know, if, if it’s if that’s so rare, and other members of either family or noticing that you’re trying to get close to the boss, if that starts to raise some warning flags or anything?


Joe Pistone  40:40

Well, if you don’t do it, right, yeah, we had a proposition form and I was able to convince the banano said that the proposition was, would be beneficial to us. But you know, I always had conversations, where I always left it up to them, you know, look, it’s not my decision if you want to, if you want to trust so and so. You know, that’s your decision.


Dan LeFebvre  41:03

Well, thank you guys so much for coming on a chat about Donnie Brasco. I know we’ve mentioned a few times you do have your own podcast that dives into a lot more detail we ever could hear in a single episode here. But for someone that’s listening to this and wants to get more information, can you give an overview of your show and where they can find it?


Joe Pistone  41:20

Yeah, it’s a deep cover. They’re real Donnie Brasco, and jam, street media Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcast.


Leo Rossi  41:31

I don’t think you’ll be disappointed Joe and I get down. And it’s I have a good time. And the reason results from you know, the different viewers and and their comments has been thumbs up. So we continue to continue.


Dan LeFebvre  41:49

Thank you again so much for your time, guys.


Joe Pistone  41:52

Thank you, Dan. Appreciate it.


Leo Rossi  41:53


See you!



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