Dominick “Sonny Black” Napolitano – Made Famous in “Donnie Brasco”

Santo Trafficante Sr. and Sonny Black

Dominick “Sonny Black” Napolitano came into this world on June 16, 1930 and was raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where he got his start as a petty thief. Although his descendants were from Naples, Italy, he was born with blond hair and as he grew into adulthood died it jet black which earned him the nickname “Sonny Black”.

As a gangster, Napolitano controlled parts of Pasco County and Holiday, Florida under the approval of the Trafficante crime family and Santo Trafficante Jr. However, Napolitano was also considering a bookmaking operation in Orlando, at the time a growing gambling district for the mob.

Napolitano owned an apartment building and social club called the motion lounge in New York. An avid pigeon enthusiast, he kept his pigeons on the rooftop of the apartment building. The pigeons had pedigree bloodlines that descended from prize pigeons in France, Germany, and Russia. He one thousands racing his pigeons. Undercover FBI agent Joseph Pistone a.k.a. Donnie Brasco said Napolitano loved visiting his pigeon coop to think.

“Sometimes when we were up on the roof with the pigeons, sunny would lean on the railing and look out over the rooftops of the neighborhood where he had lived all his life. I wondered what he was thinking about.”

            Napolitano often schooled Brasco in the workings of the Mafia and would repeat the same thing over and over.

            “The whole thing is how strong you are and how much power you got and how fucking mean you are-that’s what makes you rise in the mob. Every day is a fucking struggle, because you don’t know who’s looking to knock you off, especially when you become a captain or boss. Every day, someone is looking to dispose of you and take your position. You always got to be on your toes. Every fucking day is a scam day to keep your power and position.”

In 1979 after Carmine “The Cigar” Galante was murdered, Napolitano was promoted to capo replacing his mentor Michael Sabella who was demoted. Napolitano took over Sabella’s crew and became a close and trusted confidante of the imprisoned gangster Philip “Rusty” Rastelli, boss of the Bonanno crime family. However, not all was well with the Bonanno family. After Gallant’s death the family split into two factions, one group aligned with Rastelli, and another group aligned with the Sicilian faction, led by Alphonse “Sonny Red” Indelicato.

It was the job of Joseph Massino and Napolitano to aid Rastelli in ending the struggle and killing the three capo’s opposed to him. Napolitano and Massino new a time would present itself when they could act against the three men, Alphonse Indelicato, Dominick Trinchera, and Philip Giaccone, but until then Napolitano stayed busy with his businesses.

Napolitano owned an Italian-American war veterans club in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, The Motion Lounge, an illegal casino in Pasco County, Florida and a tennis and nightclub called The King’s Court Bottle Club in Holiday, Florida. The Motion Lounge was the headquarters for Napolitano where he and his crew were involved in several illegal activities including burglary, robbery, bank robbery, loansharking, hijacking, bookmaking, casino operations, drug trafficking, and extortion. They were one of the most successful crews in the Bonanno crime family.

When asked about Napolitano agent Pistone said, “Dominick was more observant and disciplined than his old capo Michael Sabella and had a watchful eye. In mob circles, he had an excellent reputation for personal loyalty to his sidewalk soldiers. He would kill you in a minute if you crossed him.” Pistone also remarked how Napolitano was very accurate with small-caliber pistols. In public he was never flamboyant or brazen, always polite. He carried his own suitcases when traveling and was not a 24-hour gangster, meaning you could talk to him about other things besides the Mafia. On occasion Pistone and Napolitano would go out for dinner or have coffee and just “shoot the breeze” like two friends.

Pistone was one of few people that Napolitano could rely upon. As Pistone’s infiltration continued over the years Napolitano remarked how he would nominate him to be “made”, a term used in the Mafia that meant he would become inducted as a full member. In other words they would “open the books”.

On May 5, 1981 the opportunity to kill Indelicato, Trinchera, Giaccone presented itself. The three men were led to Brooklyn’s Embassy Terrace for a sitdown and to discuss a compromise with the Rastelli faction. Waiting for them was the Napolitano crew armed with shotguns and pistols. When Indelicato and the other two men entered one of the gunmen stepped out of the closet and said, “don’t anybody move, this is a stickup” a key phrase to begin open firing. Moments later Indelicato, Trinchera, and Giaccone were dead and the split in the Bonanno family over.

Indelicato was close to his son Bruno. Napolitano new if Anthony wasn’t with them during the murders he would have to be killed to prevent retribution for his father’s murder. Pistone and Benjamin “Lefty” Ruggiero were tasked with murdering Bruno Indelicato.

After six years as an undercover agent in the Bonanno crime family, Joseph Pistone was pulled from the operation. Two day’s after ending the operation known as “Donnie Brasco” FBI agents visited The Motion Lounge to inform Napolitano that his trusted friend and associate of six years was an agent.

Napolitano new that allowing an FBI agent to infiltrate his crew was a death sentence for him. On August 17, 1981 he was

The Cast and Crew of the 1997 Hit Movie Donnie Brasco

“sent for” a term used when Mafia leaders summon you to a meeting. Before leaving for the meeting Napolitano handed his jewelry to his favorite bartender, who had worked for him at The Motion Lounge. He also handed him the keys to his apartment so his pet pigeons would be cared for. When he arrived to the meeting at Bonanno associate Ron Filocomo’s home in Flatlands, Brooklyn, Napolitano was pushed down the staircase to the basement and shot to death by Filocom and Frank Lino with 38 caliber revolvers. When the first shot misfired, Napolitano told them, “hit me one more time and make it good”.

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