Phillip "Rusty" Rastelli (January 31, 1918 Maspeth, Queens - July 24, 1991) was a New York mobster and former boss of the Bonanno crime family.
Rastelli was born and raised in Maspeth, Queens in 1918. He had three brothers (Carmine, Marinello, and Augustus) and two sisters (Justina Devita and Grace Iacomini). Rastelli was married to Connie Rastelli.
Rastelli was heavily involved in loansharking, extortion, bookmaking, and drug trafficking activities before joining the Bonanno crime family. Rastelli also had a lunch wagon business. After moving to Greenpoint, Brooklyn where he lived until his incarceration, he met and became close friends with Dominick Napolitano, Carmine Galante, Joseph "Bananas" Bonanno and Joseph Massino.
On December 3, 1953, Rastelli and an associate allegedly shot Michael Russo in Queens. However, Russo survived the shooting and Rastelli, fearing identification, went into hiding. Over the next year, Rastelli's wife Constance repeatedly approached Russo's wife Rose with an offer of $5,000 if her husband did not identify Rastelli. Rose refused the bribe each time. In early December 1954, Russo was shot again and killed in Brooklyn. On December 13, 1954, Connie Rastelli was indicted on charges of attempting to bribe a witness. No one was ever charged in the Russo murder. Constance Rastelli was a legend in the New York Underworld for her history of aiding her husband's career in crime, going so far as the drive his getaway car in several capers. She kept track of his gambling records and loansharking customers and managed his illegal abortion mills.
When Rastelli was indicted, it was Constance who bribed the witnesses against him. She could be wildly jealous. Legend says that on one occasion concerning her husband's infidelities, she emptied a pistol at him, but missed every shot. Another time she reacted to his cheating by going to the FBI and swore out a statement that Rastelli was a drug dealer. She was visited by Lucchese narcotics boss "Big John" John Ormento, who warned to keep quiet. When she kept talking to the FBI the end came. She was shot to death by persons unknown in 1962.
In 1969, in an attempt to restore order to the Bonanno family, the Commission appointed a three-man panel to run the family. This panel included Rastelli, Joseph DiFilippi, and Natale Evola.
Boss of Bonanno family
On July 21, 1971, Rastelli was indicted in Riverhead, New York on loansharking charges. The loansharking ring, centered in Babylon, New York and Islip, New York, charged victims from 250 to 300% interest annually and generated over $1 million per year in revenue for the Bonanno family. On December 28, 1972, Rastelli was convicted in state court on seven counts of loansharking.
On August 28, 1973, Boss Natale Evola died and Rastelli became acting boss of the Bonanno family. On February 23, 1974, at a meeting at the Americana Hotel (now the Sheraton New York) in Manhattan, the Commission named Rastelli as official boss. However, the real power in the family soon migrated to rival and underboss Carmine Galante, who was released from prison at the same time.
On March 6, 1975, Rastelli was indicted on racketeering charges involving extortion. Nine years earlier, Rastelli had established a trade association of lunch wagon operators and taken control of the industry. Any operator who refused to join the Association and pay its stiff fees faced vandalism and physical assault. On April 23, 1976, Rastelli was convicted of extortion. He was convicted of the anti-trust and extortion on August 27, 1976 and given one year on the anti-trust violation and three concurrent ten-year sentences on the extortion.
Operation Donnie Brasco
Rastelli was paroled from prison in late 1983 and quickly began an attempt to restore order, unity and respect to his crime family which had been greatly damaged and diminished from underworld power and influence due to the crime families second insurrection in 1981 and the Donnie Brasco incident, which caused the Bonanno crime family leadership and its members to lose face within the American Mafia.
Over the years there has been a belief that the American Mafia was not directly involved in the drug trade as some bosses ordered their men not to get involved with drugs, but many disobeyed, and for the Bonanno crime family the drug trade became one of its most lucrative rackets as the Montreal branch was heavily involved in the drug trade, importing narcotics into Canada and transporting it to America, where the Bonanno family's Zip or Sicilian faction, along with the other crime families controlled the wholesale distribution of the drugs to other crime groups across the country.
Rastelli was indicted in the famous Mafia Commission Trial of 1985, but severed from the trial as prosecutors were in favor of pursuing extortion charges concerning Rastelli and his underboss Joseph Massino. Getting kicked out of the Mafia Commission because of the Donnie Brasco infiltration, actually prevented the Bonanno family from getting caught up in the Commission Trial, which sentenced many mafia bosses and members to prison.
On October 14, 1986, Rastelli was convicted on 24 counts of labor racketeering. On January 16, 1987, Rastelli was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison.
Rastelli received a 12-year prison sentence in 1987, removing the 69-year-old boss from the streets and preventing him from leading his crime family in freedom. On July 21, 1991, Rastelli was released from prison once again on humanitarian grounds. He died in a Queens hospital three days later on July 24, 1991 of liver cancer at the age of 73. Joseph Massino took the leadership of the Bonanno crime family after Rastelli's death in 1991. At least one source claims Rastelli never was released, dying in prison on June 24, 1991.