Mobsters, both real and fictional, have long captured the attention of the American psyche. But rarely do mafiosi step out of the shadows to tell their own stories of violence, greed, omerta and La Cosa Nostra. Now, National Geographic Channel goes behind the scenes of the hidden empire of crime, money and violence for “Inside the American Mob,” premiering Sun. July 28 at 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. ET.
Real mobsters tell all on ‘Inside the American Mob’
The show delves into the world of the modern Mafia, as told by those who lived it and those who hunted it, to reveal the saga of how U.S. law enforcement took down the deadly, corrupt and unforgiving crime ring known as the American mob.
Each hour examines a pivotal time frame, beginning with 1970 and leading up to present day. Recently declassified files, first-person accounts by federal officials and the mafioso themselves, and rare archival footage shed a new and raw light on one of the most controversial time periods in American criminal history.
Mobsters step forward to offer untold stories – some speaking on camera for the first time. They expose the tricks to staying alive, while revealing the true meaning of La Cosa Nostra, and even what it feels like to have your own father put a hit on you. Sal Polisi, a former associate of the Colombo and Gambino crime families, says, “There was three basic reasons to get killed in the Mafia. It was either A) you were an informant, B) you disobeyed your boss, or the third possibility was that you slept with a ‘made” member”s wife or daughter. That would get you killed for sure.”
Exclusive television interviews include Jimmy Calandra, a gritty member of the Bath Avenue Crew that terrorized the streets of Brooklyn in the late 1990s, who reveals on camera for the first time what it was like to be a Bonanno associate; and “Fat Sal,” a former mobster with the Gambino crime family.
The infamous John Gotti, boss of the Gambino family, is a Mafia legend, but less is known about the ruthless capos and associates who kept the “Teflon Don” at the top of one of the most powerful crime families in America. And while Joe Colombo is remembered as a mafioso who ruled over an army of killers, he is rarely recognized for founding the Italian American Civil Rights League, a successful action group formed to combat “harassment” from the federal government.
FBI agents, informants and police who helped take down La Cosa Nostra through grueling and dangerous undercover operations also step forward to tell their story firsthand, providing a rare look at what it takes to infiltrate the inner workings of a lucrative and cold-blooded empire. According to Rudolph Giuliani, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and former New York City mayor, “No criminal organization in the history of our country has ever infiltrated legitimate institutions of society, including our political institutions, the way the Mafia was able to do. This was tremendous power.” Their detailed accounts shed insight into a world few insiders have discussed in such detail – until now.
Joe Pistone, an FBI legend who, in the most intense undercover operation of its time, infiltrated the Mafia under the name “Donnie Brasco,” opens up in detail about his close relationships with members of the Mafia, how he gained acceptance from his “family” members and how it felt when it came to an end. “I mean, you know, he slept in the bedroom, I slept on his couch, we”d get up in the morning and we”d sit around in our underwear. And here”s me, an undercover FBI agent, and one of the most powerful captains of the Bonanno family sitting there drinking coffee, having a hard roll with butter and watching cartoons on television. I mean, you never see that in the movies. … They found Sonny”s body in “82 in a body bag with his hands cut off. And the reason that they did that was he introduced me to bosses that I shook hands with.”
Additional interviews include Michael Franzese, a former mobster with the Colombo crime family; Sal Polisi, a former associate of the Colombo and Gambino crime families; Lindley DeVecchio, the former head of the FBI squad responsible for surveillance of the Colombo crime family; and Bruce Mouw, the former FBI supervising agent responsible for bringing down Gotti.
Chronicling the history of the Mafia like never before, Inside the American Mob uncovers the raw, violent and corrupt underworld that gripped America for decades.
Stayin” Alive in the “70s
Premieres Sunday, July 28, at 9 p.m. ET/PT
In the early 1970s, a hidden empire of crime, violence and power ruled the streets of New York City. But no one ever admitted in public that the five families of the American mafia even existed until one boss – Joe Colombo – decided to break the rules. Go behind the scenes of Joe Colombo”s fight with the FBI – a civil rights movement that had disastrous results for the mob. Meanwhile, a new generation of agents enters the FBI: Italian-American guys who grew up in the same neighborhoods as gangsters begin working for the bureau and change the game. One of those agents is Joe Pistone, aka Donnie Brasco, who infiltrates a crime family more successfully than any other agent in the history of the FBI. Firsthand accounts from Colombo”s associates and the FBI agents who try to take them down provide insight into a brutal, twisted world of corruption, greed and violence. Learn how Brasco first gained the trust of one of the most secretive and private organizations in history – with the help of jewelry courses and an invitation from a bartender – a move that would be the beginning of the end for the mob, though no one knew it at the time.
Operation Donnie Brasco
Premieres Sunday, July 28, at 10 p.m. ET/PT
In 1978, American law enforcement is at war with the American mob. But for the first time, the FBI has a real chance to strike back. Their secret weapon, agent Joe Pistone, aka Donnie Brasco, has infiltrated the Bonanno family and become close with known killers Lefty “Guns” Ruggiero and “Sonny Black” Napolitano. But Pistone”s life – and the very mob itself – will change forever when he is ordered to kill so he can receive the honor of becoming a “made man.” In an in-depth interview, Pistone opens up about what it was like to go undercover in one of the most notorious and dangerous crime families to pull off one of the greatest deceptions in law enforcement history. Over in the Colombo family, newly made man Michael Franzese is making huge money – millions. But with big money comes a lot of attention, and his suspicions about his own family turning against him are confirmed when his own father betrays him. Franzese reveals to NGC cameras what it was really like to be part of a new generation of gangsters rising up through the ranks of the American mob in the late 1970s.
New York–Philly War
Premieres Sunday, August 4, at 10 p.m. ET/PT
The five families of New York City continue to run the American mob with an iron fist, a million scams and a booming resort town named Atlantic City. The gambling mecca is overseen by the Philadelphia mob, which answers directly to New York. But when an old school Philadelphia don named Angelo Bruno continues to make waves he”s assassinated in 1980 and a bloody new era begins. After Bruno”s heir apparent is also killed, ruthless gangster “Little Nicky” Scarfo takes his place and ushers in the bloodiest period in the history of the American mob. Scarfo”s number two is his nephew, “Crazy Phil” Leonetti, a hit man raised from childhood to be a cold-blooded murderer. Leonetti reveals details about his days as a member of the Philly La Cosa Nostra – including what was going through his mind as he committed murders, what it was like to grow up as the protégé of one of the most violent men in America and how it feels to still have a contract out on his life as he lives on the lam. And former law enforcement officials offer new insight into how they were able to turn Philly mobsters into government witnesses and not only bring down the Philadelphia mob but put New York on the run.
Taking Down the Mob
Premieres Sunday, August 11, at 10 p.m. ET/PT
La Cosa Nostra is ruling the streets of New York, but one man is determined to bring an end to the violence and corruption: U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani mounts the most ambitious Mafia prosecution in history – a case that will bring together an unprecedented arsenal of murder investigations, electronic wiretaps, undercover agents and paid informants. The former mayor reveals in fascinating detail the strategy behind targeting one of the most powerful criminal organizations in the country and recounts the moment prosecutors were finally able to bring a legal assault on the Mafia that leaves it a shadow of its former self. Former FBI agents and informants open up about their undercover operation, including the dangerous yet pivotal placement of bugs and wiretaps at the heart of the beast: inside the impenetrable house of Gambino family boss “Big Paul” Castellano.
Rise & Fall of Gotti
Premieres Sunday, August 18, at 10 p.m. ET/PT
It”s 1986, and a recent court ruling has landed most of the Mafia family bosses in jail, while on the streets of New York it”s every man for himself. But one gangster sees chaos as an opportunity: John Gotti, a Gambino captain with a taste for unbridled violence and a vaulting ambition. NGC chronicles Gotti”s rise to power as boss of the Gambino family – a bloody climb that left many bodies in its wake – as told by his closest Gambino associates and the former law enforcement officials determined to bring him down. Meanwhile, the powerful Colombo family erupts into civil war, turning the streets of Brooklyn into a slaughterhouse. FBI authorities and former mobsters recount the moment that the mafioso started turning into informants, a shocking turn that leads to the fall of Gotti as well as other powerful bosses.
Premieres Sunday, August 25, at 10 p.m. ET/PT
The American mob has reached a low point – it”s the early “90s, and the heads of most of the five families have been imprisoned for life, leaving the families in disarray, torn apart by violence and suspicion. But one family survives these traumas intact by adhering to the strict code of silence: the Bonannos. They attract young recruits like Jimmy Calandra and his circle of friends, who become known as the Bath Avenue Crew. Made men in the Mafia are their role models, and the crew usher in a violent new day in the life of La Cosa Nostra, as the bloodshed in Brooklyn gets out of hand. Calandra reveals to NGC cameras in detail his time on the streets, the best friends he lost and the moment he decided to give it all up. And in a shocking turn of events, FBI officials and Mafia associates closest to the Bonanno family recount the turning point that signaled an end to the American Costra Nostra: the last old-school don, Joe Massino, becoming the first family boss to cooperate with the federal government.
Will you be watching “Inside the American Mob”?