A wiseguy is a made man (soldier) who's been straightened out, getting his button when the books open. An associate (half assed wiseguy) is connected but not made and must work with one who has put a claim on him. A wiseguy has to kick up about half his earnings to his capo, who in turn tithes to the boss. An associate gets whatever the fuck his mob partner gives him.
The Water Wheel Inn on Saw Mill River Road in Ardsley NY - Nicky's uncle Carmine "Charles" Santoro (he spelled the surname differently), a Jimmy Durante lookalike, owned the restaurant from 1978 to 1981. Your Humble Webmaster worked there as a bartender, pouring the nephew a drink on occasion. Befitting his nickname, Nicky was loquacious and a generous tipper. The place was struck by Jewish lightning in December 1992.
Nicholas “Nicky Mouth” Angelo Santora was born on June 21, 1942 in New York City. He was the son of Modesto Santora, a soldier for the Profaci (later Colombo) crime family. Nicky became a made man in the Bonanno family along with Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano, Benjamin "Lefty Guns" Ruggiero and Joseph "Big Joey" Massino in the mid-1970s while boss Philip "Rusty" Rastelli was imprisoned. Nicholas "Nicky Cigars" Marangello ran the day-to-day operations as underboss. Rusty's reign was threatened by Carmine "Lilo" Galante, getting out of jail around the same time Rusty went in, who felt he was the rightful boss because he had been the underboss to Joseph "Don Peppino" Bonanno, the family namesake. Lilo consolidated his power by importing Sicilian Mafioso, known as Zips (so named by their American counterparts because they spoke Italian so fast), who were loyal to him. Nicky started out in a crew led by Lilo supporter Michael "Mikey" Sabella, and became heavily involved with extortion, loansharking, labor racketeering, illegal gambling, truck hijacking and murder for hire. By 1978 Rusty had heard rumors of Lilo acting as the new boss. Caporegime Alphonse "Sonny Red" Indelicato was approached by Rusty to organize the murder of Lilo. Sonny Red approached Nicky, whose job was to deliver the message to mobsters Sonny Black and Cesare Bonventre and report back to Sonny Red. Since Mikey was loyal to Lilo, it had to happen without his knowledge. On July 12, 1979 Lilo was murdered just as he lit up a cigar after finishing lunch at Joe and Mary's Italian-American Restaurant in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, along with friend Leonard Coppola and restaurant owner and cousin Giuseppe Turano. The shooters were Anthony "Bruno" Indelicato (Sonny Red's son), Dominick "Big Trin" Trinchera, Sonny Black and Louis "Louie Gaeta" Giongetti, who were all hired by Sonny Red. After Lilo’s death several of his supporters, including Mikey, were demoted as Big Trin, Sonny Black and Bonventre were promoted to capos. It is suspected his execution was aproved by the heads of the other four New York families, deciding Lilo's greed and ambition over the control of the multi-million dollar heroin business were a threat to all their interests. Rusty remained the boss. The Motion Lounge crew (named after the bar in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn owned by Sonny Black, who kept racing pigeons on the roof), with Sonny as capo and soldiers Nicky, John “Boobie” Cersani, John Zancocchio, Edward Barberra, Lefty, Mikey, Joseph Puma, Steven Maruca, Salvatore "Sally Fruits" Farrugia, Antonio "Boots" Tomasulo, Anthony "Mr. Fish" Rabito, Frank DiStefano, Salvatore "Paintglass" D'Ottavio, James "Jimmy Legs" Episcopa and associate Donnie Brasco (Joseph D. Pistone, an FBI agent working undercover) would receive massive income as one of the most profitable crews in the family. Sonny Black, after three years of work in Brooklyn, moved operations to Florida in 1980, where he and Brasco set up loansharking, illegal gambling, extortion, and racketeering operations with the permission of longtime Florida boss Santo Trafficante. It was around this time that Nicky would be put in charge of the entire Florida operation. Back in New York, Rusty’s leadership was no longer popular, and Sonny Red saw himself as the heir apparent. He and two other capos, Big Trin and Philip "Phil Lucky" Giaccone, began planning on taking over the family. On May 5, 1981 - just when a new war was about to break out within the family - Sonny Red, Lucky Phil, and Big Trin were shot to death in an ambush at the 20/20 Club in the Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn, an after hours place run by future Gambino underboss Sammy "The Bull" Gravano. Regarding Big Trin, Nicky told Brasco "You shoulda seen when they shot him, about 50 pounds of his stomach went flying!". Sonny Red's body turned up three weeks later buried in the popular Mafia necropolis known as the Gangland Graveyard in the Ozone Park section of Queens, but the remains of the other two mobsters were not unearthed until 2004. According to Pistone, the murderers involved in the triple assassination were Nicky, Sonny Black, Big Joey, Salvatore "Good Looking Sal" Vitale, Joseph DeSimone, Vito Rizzuto, Louie Gaeta, Santo Giordano, and Gerlando "George From Canada" Sciascia. Lefty and Boobie were lookouts and helped dispose of the bodies along with Nicky, Sonny Black, Jimmy Legs and Robert Caposio. Bruno went into hiding after the three capo slayings. Nicky took over the Motion Lounge crew when Sonny Black was promoted to street boss for Rusty, who was still incarcerated. Brasco's FBI operation ended when Sonny Black ordered the murder of Bruno and gave the contract to Donnie, necessary work in becoming a made man. FBI agents visited Sonny Black days later and revealed that Brasco was really Pistone, who had spent over four years with Sonny Black’s crew. The order came down shortly thereafter to kill Sonny Black for having allowed such an unprecedented breach in Mafia security. On August 17, 1981 he was asked to come go a meeting at the Staten Island home of Ernest "Kippy" Filocomo. He was driven there by Frank LIno and shot by Robert Lino and Ronnie "Monkey Man" Filocomo. His badly decomposed body was found in the Mariner's Harbor section of Staten Island on August 12, 1982 - the hands had been severed as a warning against violating Mafia security. The contract came from Nicky and Big Joey on behalf of Rusty. Nicky became capo of Sonny Black's crew and Rusty was released from prison, but Nicky was soon indicted due to the testimony provided by Pistone. A total of 100 Bonanno mobsters would be tried and convicted, including Rusty and Bruno who were both found guilty of racketeering and the murder of Lilo along with nine other Mafia associates in the infamous Mafia Commission Trial in 1986. Nicky, along with Lefty, Boots and Mr. Fish were convicted in a six week jury trial for illegal gambling racketeering, distribution of narcotics and conspiracy to do the same in the mid 1980s, each receiving an 8 to 10 year prison sentence. Also in 1986 Rusty was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Released due to heart disease on July 21, 1991 he died three days later in a Queens hospital. Big Joey took over as boss the next month. Upon Nicky's release in 1992 he created a partnership with newly promoted acting consigliere Mr. Fish in extortion, loansharking, illegal gambling, drug trafficking and money laundering operations in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx throughout the mid 1990s. Nicky, Mr. Fish and Big Joey's brother-in-law Good Looking Sal, expanded their operations to become the top earners in the family toward the late 1990s. The Bonanno family was brought back into the Commission again after being expelled because of the Brasco fiasco. In November 2000 longtime consigliere Anthony Spero was indicted on loansharking, racketeering and murder - in 2001 he was sentenced to life imprisonment. That gave Mr. Fish a promotion as the official consigliere. In 2003 Big Joey and underboss Good Looking Sal were indicted and held without bail for racketeering, arson, extortion, loansharking, money laundering, illegal gambling, conspiracy and seven murders. Because of this Nicky was promoted to acting underboss. Also indicted were capos Anthony "Tony Green" Urso and James "Big Lou" Tartaglione, who both agreed to wear wires and turn government witnesses. As Nicky and Mr. Fish kept under the radar, Good Looking Sal also turned informant when Tony Green and Big Lou served him up to the government on murder and racketeering charges. Big Joey went to trial in March 2004 as did capos Michael "Mikey Nose" Mancuso and Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano for racketeering charges, murder and conspiracy. In October 2004, the FBI began to dig up the Gangland Graveyard and found the remains of Lucky Phil and Big Trin. Big Joey, hoping to avoid a death sentence for ordering the murder of George From Canada in 1999 (in 1994 a Federal murder-in-aid-of-racketeering law was updated to include the death penalty making him, if convicted, potentially the first mobster executed since Murder Inc.'s Louis "Lepke" Buchalter in 1944), began to cooperate sometime in late September 2004, recording conversations with acting boss Vinny Gorgeous (convicted and jailed in July 2007). In 2005 Nicky was indicted along with Mr. Fish and 17 others in a loansharking and illegal gambling operation that stretched from Brooklyn to Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island, earning over $200,000 weekly from January 2003 to July 2004. From 2004 to 2007 he was the reputed underboss with Salvatore "Sal the Iron Worker" Montagna as the acting boss. Nicky was released from the Loretto Federal Correctional Institute in southwest Pennsylvania on September 16, 2009.
Reputed Bonnano Boss Sues City Over Failed Hit
By Julia Marsh New York Post February 14, 2017
Reputed Bonnano underboss Nicholas “Nicky Mouth” Santora is suing over a failed hit – by the City of New York. The 74-year-old Donnie Brasco-era wiseguy suffered four “potentially fatal” falls in jail and is in “critical condition” in a Nassau County hospital after Department of Corrections officials refused to give him a wheelchair or treat him for head injuries, according to a new Manhattan Supreme court suit. “We don’t even know if he’s going to make it out of the hospital,” Santora’s attorney, Michael Talassazan, told The Post. Santora alleges in court papers that he was held on an excessive $1 million bond for “nonviolent, white-collar offenses” of corruption, loan-sharking, gambling and drug dealing. His suit says the district attorney “used a phone call between Mr. Santora and his son-in-law to fabricate a tale that insinuated that Mr. Santora was attempting to smuggle a weapon into jail.” Talassazan said his client was recorded saying,”Go call the girl with the 22,” although he was talking about a niece who won a $22 million personal injury case and not a .22 caliber gun. The DA also “maliciously downgraded the severity of Mr. Santora’s serious health concerns on numerous occasions during bail applications, solely to keep Mr. Santora in jail,” the suit says. Talassazan said his client takes blood pressure medication and has poor balance. “The Department of Correction has humiliated him, caused him to be permanently injured and deprived him of constitutional, civil and human rights,” the suit says. Specifically he wasn’t given prescribed medications or treated for provided with medical care after repeatedly falling and hitting his head, the suit says. Santora first landed in Rikers Island in 2013. A 2016 proceeding resulted in a mistrial and a new trial is scheduled for April. A day after he was finally released from jail last month Santora took another tumble, hitting his head and face and has been hospitalized ever since, according to court papers. A spokesman for the city’s Law Department said, “We will review the allegations in the complaint.”
Living with his daughter in Franklin Square NY, Nicky Mouth died on October 27, 2018.
For more on Nicky's world you need to read Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia by Joseph D. Pistone with Richard Woodley (1987) and The Last Godfather: The Rise And Fall Of Joey Massino by Simon Crittle (2006)
You might want to watch Donnie Brasco (1997) directed by Mike Newell starring Al Pacino and Johnny Depp, very loosely based on actual events.
Big Joey Massino
Joe as a dapper young lad - R.I.P. partner in misadventure, Waterwheelian comrade-in-arms, good friend.
November 17, 1940 - September 17, 1996