Alphonse "Sonny Red" Indelicato (February 25, 1931 - May 5, 1981) was a caporegime in New York City's Bonanno crime family who was murdered with two other capos in an infamous gangland slaying.
Born in New York City, Indelicato was a stocky man with broad shoulders, a sculpted torso and dark hair. On his left arm he had one tattoo of two hearts and a dagger and a second tattoo that said "Holland 1945." The meaning of the second tattoo is unclear. Indelicato wore large tinted sunglasses which may have been adopted from Bonanno capo Cesare Bonventre. He preferred bright, garish casual clothing; orange t-shirts, bright red shorts, baseball jackets, striped track suits, multicolored socks and blue jeans.
Indelicato was particularly fond of a pair of custom-made red leather cowboy boots, which may have been the source of his nickname "Sonny Red". Other mobsters described Indelicato as being opinionated, charismatic and swaggering. Indelicato was a violent man; he once drove an ice pick through a victim's chest into the floor below, requiring a tire iron to pry the body loose. Indelicato's family came from Siculiana, in Agrigento, Sicily. Indelicato was the father-in-law of Bonanno associate Salvatore Valenti and ex-son-in-law of Bonanno capo Charles Ruvolo. Indelicato was also related to Gerald Thomas Indelicato, an education adviser to Governor of Massachusetts Michael Dukakis, and Giuseppe Indelicato, a heroin trafficker. Indelicato was married first to Ruvolo's daughter, with whom he fathered his son Anthony Indelicato. Indelicato later married Margaret Elizabeth McFhadden, but the two later became estranged. Indelicato introduced his son to organized crime at an early age. Father and son socialized and conducted business together.
In 1950, Indelicato was convicted in New York of possession of heroin and served six months in jail. On December 26, 1951 Indelicato participated in a shooting at a social club that left one man dead and another wounded. The wounded victim later identified Indelicato as the shooter. Indelicato was convicted of murder and attempted murder and sentenced to 12 years at Sing Sing State Penitentiary in Ossining, New York. In 1966, Indelicato was released from prison and placed on lifetime parole due to his major involvement with organized crime narcotics distribution. These parole restrictions would keep Indelicato from attending the wedding of Sicilian mob boss Giuseppe Bono.
Over the next 15 years, Indelicato built a strong power base in the Bonanno family with those who were unhappy with boss Phillip Rastelli's leadership. Indelicato could count on the support of at least four Bonanno capos. With each capo controlling an estimated half-dozen to a dozen other soldiers, Indelicato's faction was a tight-knit, significant force. He was cocky towards Boss Phillip Rastelli and disrespectful to capos Joseph Massino and Dominick Napolitano, but dismissive toward the Bonanno family's Sicilian faction.
Indelicato was in a solid position to seize control of the family from boss Phillip Rastelli. Indelicato had strong connections to the other Five Families of New York, including senior members of the Colombo crime family. Indelicato and his Bonanno rivals had been profiting from the distribution of the Sicilian faction's heroin from Montreal. In late 1980 or 1981, Indelicato allegedly received a heroin shipment worth $1.5 million on consignment from Gerlando Sciascia and Joseph LoPresti, but then later refused to pay for it. Vincent Gigante was backing Indelicato at the time. At the time of his murder, Indelicato was being investigated for his suspected role in the 1972 slaying of Colombo crime family capo Joey Gallo.
Planning a coup
In 1974, Boss Phillip Rastelli was sent to prison just as Joseph Bonnano's former right hand man and long time Bonnano power Carmine Galante was being released from prison after serving a lengthy prison sentence. Upon his release Galante felt that he was "owed" the position of boss and no one else in La Costra Nostra was his equal. Galante made it clear that he wanted to assume total control of the family from Rastelli as well as anointing himself as "The Boss Of All Bosses" amongst the other families. Galante cornered the heroin market and refused to share the profits with any of the other families. He also used the the Sicilian faction of the Bonnano family known as the "zips" as his personal bodyguards.
In a display of power Carmine Galante declared war on the Genovese and Gambino families, gunning down several of their soldiers in attempt to make them bow down to him as the Boss of Bosses. However, the other families became fed up with "The Cigar" problem and the commission approved a hit on Galante. It was said they even reached out to the original father of the Bonnanos, Joe Bonanno, who also agreed that Galante should be hit. In 1979, Dominick Napolitano, Dominick Trinchera and Anthony Indelicato murdered Galante in a New York restaurant. Alphonse Indelicato, who was aligned with the Galante faction of the Bonnanos, attempted to take over as boss, but was thwarted by Dominick Napolitano and other Rastelli loyalists. After the murder of these 3 capos Sonny "Black" Napolitano became the acting street boss of the Bonnanos while Rastelli finished out his sentence in prison.
The Indelicato faction included Phillip Giaccone, Dominick Trinchera, son Anthony, Indelicato's brother Joseph Indelicato, Michael Sabella, Frank Lino, Nicholas Marangello, Steven Maruca and Cesare Bonventre. As the feud progressed, Sabella, Maruca and Marangello switched sides to Rastelli. Indelicato was reluctant to start a civil war inside the Bonanno family and therefore met with Rastelli loyalists to discuss a compromise. However, the meeting was unsuccessful and Indelicato prepared for a struggle. Indelicato then agreed to a second meeting to try again for an agreement.
The second meeting was scheduled on May 5, 1981, at Brooklyn's Embassy Terrace. That morning, Indelicato ordered the men not attending the meeting to disperse themselves around the city; if the meeting went badly, they would be safe from retaliation. Some men stayed in Indelicato's Staten Island territory while others went to Thomas Pitera's home in Brooklyn. Before heading to the meeting, Indelicato told Frank Lino, Phillip Giaccone and Dominick Trinchera, "If there is shooting, everybody is on their own, try to get out."
At the meeting Gerlando Sciascia escorted the three capos into a storeroom in the restaurant. Salvatore Vitale and two other Bonanno gunmen stepped out of a closet, said "Don't anybody move, this is a stickup" and started shooting. Indelicato, Giaccone and Trinchera knew at that instant that their worst suspicions had been realized; they had been lured into a trap. The capos were shot to death with shotguns and pistols. Indelicato tried to run out the exit but fell when a shotgun blast hit him. The three capos were unarmed, as was the rule when attending a peace meeting.
The mobsters delivered the bodies to a vacant lot in Ozone Park, Queens used by the Gambino family as a graveyard. Several Gambino mobsters then buried the bodies. The site was later called "Gangland graveyard". According to FBI agent "Donnie Brasco" Joseph Pistone, the murderers were Dominick Napolitano, John Cersani, Joseph Massino, Massino's brother-in-law Salvatore Vitale, Joseph DeSimone, Nicholas Santora, Vito Rizzuto, Louis Giongetti, Santo Giordano and Gerlando Sciascia. Benjamin Ruggiero and John Cersani were lookouts, and were sent in after to clean up the massacre and dispose of the bodies along with Dominick Napolitano, James Episcopia and Robert Capazzio.
After his father's murder, Indelicato's son Anthony went into hiding in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Joseph Massino wanted to kill him also, but he had missed the meeting. His father brought Frank Lino instead, who was the sole survivor of the massacre because he escaped the club last second which saved his life. The Rastelli faction tasked Joseph "Donnie Brasco" Pistone with finding and killing Indelicato, which quickened Pistone's removal from his undercover operation. Years later, Anthony Indelicato went back to work for the Bonannos and took over his father's old crew.
On May 24, 1981, 19 days after the murders, children playing in the lot were drawn by an odd smell to a section of dirt and garbage. Kicking the loosened soil, a boy discovered a hand. The boy told his parents who called police. New York police officer Andrew Cilienti arrived at the lot to find a body wrapped in a bedsheet. Technicians successfully retrieved fingerprints from the body and later identified the victim as Indelicato. Four days later, Alphonse's son-in-law Salvatore Valenti identified the body. New York City Police Department's cold case squad did not discover the remains of Giaccone and Trinchera until 2004.
After Rastelli's 1991 death in prison, Massino became the official boss of the Bonanno family. However, in 2004, with the help of now government informant Salvatore Vitale, Joseph Massino was convicted of ordering seven murders, including those of Indelicato and was sentenced to life in prison.
In popular culture
- Indelicato was portrayed as "Sonny Red" in the 1997 film Donnie Brasco by Robert Miano. Unlike the film, Pistone was not involved with the Indelicato murder. In addition, Indelicato was ambushed and killed in a restaurant storeroom, not a home basement.
- In the 2017 Canadian mini-series Bad Blood, in a flashback, Sonny Red was portrayed by Joe Di Mambro