Deep Cover: The Real Donnie Brasco
Deep Cover: The Real Donnie Brasco

Episode 40 · 2 months ago

S3 EP5: The Milwaukee Tapes


Following last week’s focus on the casino deal between Traficante, Sonny Black, and the Bonnano family– in this episode, stakes are raised even higher as Donnie Brasco finds himself in a bit of a pickle between in Milwaukee with Tony Conti and Lefty Ruggiero.

Joe takes us through several FBI tapes detailing the ins and outs of their biggest target on the Milwaukee crime scene: Frank Balistrieri, boss of the Milwaukee, Wisconsin family.

As Joe begins to fight an internal battle between family and work, we hear how he's at risk of creating distrust from Lefty Ruggiero as he continues to keep the many stories he's crafted and his real identity a secret as he continues to help the FBI collect evidence.

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We all love mob movies, Scarface, The Godfather. The list goes on and on, but there's one movie that speaks to me more than all the others, Donnie Brasco. It's actually based on a true story, and you know what they say, truth is stranger than fiction. I'm Leo Rossi. I've spent my life behind and in front of the camera creating stories about the Mob. We're going to go off the page and talk to the real life Donnie Brasco. This is Deep Cover, the real Donnie Brasco with Job Stone and Leo Rossie. Hello, everybody, our loyal listeners. This is Leo Rossi and Joseph deep Stone a k a. Donnie braw Go saying we're ready to go with another tape. Good morning, Joe, Good morning Leo. We've got some things here, Joe that we're gonna ask your expertise, as we always do. But there's, like Ricky Ricardo has said, there's a lot of splaining to do here, Joe, a lot of splaining. This is an operation by the FBI. Is that what you call it, Joe? An operation? Yeah, an undercover undercover operation. Okay, do they give it code names or not? Yeah? Each one has a code name, and this code name the Milwaukee one, well, the Milwaukee one was Timber Timber. Okay, I see a lot of trees there. Yeah, well you know a big guy post of the family Timber fee falls fast. Oh see see you got to lay it out for you, buddy, because how good? What is the big trees? And I didn't think that good? Okay, And we're gonna play a nice chunk of the tape Tony County. Now he's not an informant, he's a watch So he's an FBI undercover agent. FBI undercover agent. Okay, have you worked with him before? Yes, I did it. Yeah, I would assume, okay that it's a bigger comfort zone if you do work with the guy before. Oh definitely. Yeah. And did you not that you know you had the hand of God? But did you give him the okay? I mean before they selected him. No, he was already in that operation. Uh. What I did was when they when they contacted me to uh see if I could help out to move the operation along faster. I asked who the undercover was and they said it was Tony. And since I already knew him and I had worked with him. Then I said, okay, I'll you know, I'll reach out to my Banano Contacts family to see if I can hook him up with the Belistrari's out in Milwaukee. Okay, so are our guy there,...

Tony Conti, that's just a working name. He had already tried to make in roads with the machines, the gambling machines. Correct, that's exactly correct. Yet now these machines, because I I, you know, I didn't have that much of a myth spent use ute ute um. But are they uh mostly poker machines? What are they? Well? No, they were typical. Remember back in the Daily Or they had the cigarette machines in every bar, every restaurant, pinball machines, Oh, I got it. Yeah, it wasn't like it wasn't as sophisticated as the poker machines. Yet. Yeah, well they had poker machines too, and they they had the pool tables. Remember the pool tables where you put a quarter in or whatever to play a game of pool. That's those type polkball machines. Yeah, it was all you know, it was all vending. We've already established that in Milwaukee. It's more of a you know, knock around town a lot of bars and all. That's probably very lucrative. Yeah, I forget the number of bars in Milwaukee, but don't forget they had the breweries there. Sure, so there was a bar on on almost every corner. Wow. And the interesting thing I found out Leo, that in the bars, the beer caps were hooked up right into the breweries through underground uh piping. That's unbelievable. Wow, you talk about get your beer fresh. Um, I'll make this real quick. Um. I was got out of college and I worked uh big company that they had Continental Can Bush Continental Can the third Avenue, and they had Anteuser Busch as a client. So I went down there with the man, you know, the regional manager there, and he said, we're gonna go to the Bud Budweiser Brewie playing Oh next morning. Okay, I had my pancakes and I wait from picks me up. We actually saw the Clagsdale's Joe as we drove through the gate, the big right, and we get there. We go to the Michelo place. First, How you doing a good morning? Shook hands? He said, what you don't want to Mike? Do I want to make I just have pancakes, but I don't want to be rude. It's like, yeah, I'll have a mick. Now. We went to Budweiser. He yeah, you want a bud. I was cropped by ten o'clock in the morning and I assed the guy. I said, how do you guys do this? Oh? He says, you drink some corgnac coach your stomach and that. Oh good. Good to though with your pancakes. You all right, please roll the tape Milwaukee, wisconsinant the automobile tape conversation amongst Brasco, Left, Due, Gerio and Tony CONTI the most fantastic Now, um, Joe, Uh, what we...

...forget is there were no cell phones back then. So the beeper was the thing. Yes, yeah, the people I mean the cell phones were as big as a small votewagon, remember they were, I mean the cell phones were you know, we're big as a small voteswagon. So the main the main form of communication was a beeper. Yeah, I mean, Lefty is like over the moon for this, the most fantastic thing. Yeah, you know he was. Really you can get right back to the person that's trying to contact you. Yeah, yeah, okay, So with you know, the beeper and everything. I also want to say that the where was the mic here? Because it's static. We're not gonna play a lot of this to our listening audience. But when you're driving like that, where was it stashed? It was secreted somewhere in the automobile. I don't want to say where it was. Yeah, and uh, you know it's uh you have to pick and choose. And I hope we picked and choose some places where the it's audible enough we can comment on it. Okay, could you roll it again? Stuff? But I want to we don't have to work, never get I wouldn't get on. I don't want to wear open Yeah, what are you gonna do? Your head? Shut the company? Okay, Now, you know you're driving around in a car, and you know it's not all business. You make small talk, right, Joe exactly, and you learn a lot about people I think are listening audience, learns a lot about Lefty and his view on life. Wear a helmet driving a motorcycle. Well it's a no brainer, right, you're making me laughing. Of course it's a no brainer. And he said, Okay, we got it. Hap we get a little insight into h Lefty Lefty two Guns Rogerio, Joe's mentor at this time in the Banano crime family. Okay, could we move on, Please tell me one thing, all kinds of okay, all right, I think everybody out there heard it deep pretty clear. We're in Milwaukee.

Last time I looked, it was in the middle of the country. And Lefty said, what to you? Joe asked me where the ocean was? Uh so, look, he's street wise. We know he's street wise. But what class did he missed? Geography? He missed, he missed a lot of things, Joe, Well, I think it was rock geography. And really, you and Tony you really had a bite back on your tongue there because it was too easy, you know, and you did it with dignity. Well you know you can't. Uh you know, you're you're not there to embarrass the guy. I mean, you know, everybody makes a mistake. And he thought the ocean was in the middle of the country too. I mean he saw a body of water which was one of the Great Lakes, and he figured this body of water so big it must be the ocean. Yeah, yeah, okay, that's that's Lefty lot. We call that Lefty logic good, Uh could we continue? Please? How many pigs you haven't got done at all? Should get one right order? When they touch your everything, you got to fight, you care by one machine that the guy own a body of machine. If I find a customer, come out, what kind of machine you want? At first I don't have incial question rucial purchase. You got Alicia machine. Then after day you want to buy a certain machine. Okay. I was like, shall they go for that? Kind of like, okay, this is something that I question. Ultimately, you were not going to bring in this operation any machines in, were you or were you willing to go on the line the FBI to purchase the machines and bring them in. Oh, Tony had already he had a warehouse. He had some machines in a warehouse that they had that they had. Yeah, okay, so the operation was up and running to that it was up and running. Oh yeah, it was up and running before I got there. You know, Um, what he has said in this entire tape, which you know we're editing because of the interference, was you talk about we know, Lefty smokes and he coughs, you know, and you're in a closed car and everything. But when he starts bragging, he actually said world. I mean, well to him, you know, don't forget his his world is little Litly and Brooklyn, you know, Graham and Withers, where the where the motion lounge was, and of course where he lived down in uh little at Me. You know, that's his world.

So he's known all over the world. His world. Now he does something in this tape that he brings your girlfriend into it. And she had an accident or she was in the hospital. What are you going to do? Well, once I see it, you know, she's writing everything and she went to this call. She's gonna be all right, let's talk. She's not the thinking you're talking about it. I mean, I happened to like that girl. But so what you could do? And if she's able, she can't go back to work right, No, not for a couple of weeks. So why don't you bring your in Hay and help Donnie set it up? Tony set it up that travel. Here's your nin you know, travel. She's going on a plane. She'd be happy, you know. And the most the most beautiful place you got over here, that's over there. What was that situation? Well, it's a very uh touching situation. Uh, an incident where my wife was in a very serious car accident. Uh. So I had to get I had to get home where you know, where they lived. And I told him that my girlfriend in California was in a serious car accident. I had to get out to California. Oh so um, oh right, so that was real that Maggie, your wife really was in a car accident. Yeah. That that that really happened. And unfortunately I had to use it as an excuse to get, you know, to get home. Yeah. Well, you know, um, he am always being the scammera lefty. He even mentions, why don't you bring around here? You know in Milwaukee? Is there what he says? You know they bring around? Oh my god, he never did meet your girlfriend? Correct, No, no, no he did not. You know, it's we laugh about this. But this operation, the target was who Joe Frank Balistrai, the Boston Milwaukee family and the Milwaukee The whole Milwaukee family are very heavy, heavyweight family and all of this year hearing now was to get the big man, to get Frank Blistari and his operation exactly. So the point of this was clear, very clear, leoh, let me ask you a question. Did you mention about becoming a friend of ours and the Motion Lounge? Oh? Okay, here's the thing. Joe came up with this which you know he keeps keeps right on the game, babe. For you out there are loyal listeners to become a member in the Motion Lounge, and...

...then you become a friend of ours, right, Joe ours? Ours? Correct? Friend of ours? Um? So at the end of this particular episode, we will give you all of the things that you will get by being a member of the Motion Lounge. I think it's time for break, Lee, or what are you thinking? You know what, Let's take a break and get back to the tapes. Okay, our loyal listeners, you're about to hear an ad. But if you don't want to hear the ad, join our subscription link in the show notes. Welcome back, everybody. Let's move on to the next tape. Please, Hey, don't what are you doing? Okay, what are you doing? Stop? Stop? Yeah? Where you are now? Pencil cool? Yeah? I called you a couple of times. I got Mrs why why, a lot of complaints about the money I gotta give him, and fucking bomb you catch up to him. For guy, I don't want to listen. I'm gonna uh, I don't know how far I get tomorrow, but you know, I want to get down there and if I hit this guy up for about four or five hundred, you know, and then I'll fly in. Yeah, all right, this guy I met, this guy, he's got a yacht down he got a sixty five boat down in lord of Dale. And don't you know, he doesn't work with nothing. So I see if I can, well when I when I get down there, you know, and I to stay with him a day or two, you know, and let's try to milk up for about five hunter and then I'll fly in. All right, Oh sorry, you get some money out of him, and you drove the kind of expense there was in a ridiculous Well, I'm not staying any motels. I'm you know, I'm just driving and eating. That's all the year. What he call up? They said, They told me he hasn't paid his bills or anything. They told me he hasn't picked up any messages. We haven't picked up that's what they told me. The message service. They said they haven't heard from the guy any I don't know were you gonna do with it? What was the name of that card place? I want to call see if he turned his car and the card place, I don't know where the hell it is I drew that crep away. Well, I got everything, all right, we'll get it to me when I call you the morning. I'll call you the morning. What time you going out? All right? I got no fight there in practical right, Well, i'll call you about the ten o'clock your time, all right? Okay, Joe, First of all, know the geography lesson Pensacola? Well, where's that Florida,...

Pensacola, Iowa? Whoever heard it? Come on left? And so a lot of things come out in this show. You introduce the boat. Uh, this guy, he's got a yacht d boat down in Louderdale. The potentiality of the boat and that is as you explained in the previous episodes. That's the ab scam boat that was on the cover of Time or newsweek. Yeah, that's correct. Yeah, a scam. So you slid that in to be used in the operation at a later date, correct, Yeah, you know, because we're we would go down to Miami and uh, every once in a while, Fort Lauderdale, and uh, the guys like to go out, you know, have a good time. So I figured I'd take him out on the on the app scam boat, which was really an FBI boat, I said before, Yeah, which was perfect. I mean it works so well, classy boat. Everybody's sit and having a good time, and Donny Brasco gets ingratiated more and more. Correct, Yeah he does. But uh, that ingratiated almost got me killed, you know. Yeah. That all came down at the at the sit down. Yeah, and left you said, hold it over your head. Yeah. Now the other thing was that was mentioned in there. Why a lot of complaints about the money I gotta give him. He's getting his balls twisted. They want money from him from who, Well, don't forgetting. Now, at this juncture, we had formed a marriage with the Balustraarris, remember that, right, We had formed a marriage after I forget how many weeks the barrass Balustraari stopped doing business with Tony. They wouldn't return his calls, he couldn't get in to see him, so we had no money coming in from that operation. Don't forget. At that point in time, Mike Sibella was our captain and Mike is looking for his cut of the operation. Okay, so he's looking for his taste of this, right what is? He wanted to get his beak wet, you know as they say. Now um also was mentioned that he was twisted at his balls and I guess yell and h put some guy in the hospital, and it was he talking about Tony. Yeah. Nice, yeah, but you'll break his legs or something. Well, you know, because uh, he figured he was scamming us, you know. Yeah, and now I don't normally take Lefty side Joe because you're the man. But when he said that you're driving down, I don't know how far get tomorrow, but you know, I want to get down there and ship. I hit the sky up for about four or five, you know, then...

I'll fly in ridiculous you know, to Florida to get five hundred dollars out of sub guy. He said, it's ridiculous. I gotta sort of go with Lefty or this would be. But were you were you like also you know, stolen for time and stuff like that. Yeah, I was still I was stolen for time. Yeah. Yeah. We had to come up with some stories on where Tony was and etcetera, etcetera. So, yeah, so and what you did introduce here was he hasn't picked up his messages. They told me he hasn't, So you had that covered. That set's a nice thing. And he hasn't paid his bills. They told me he hasn't paid his bills. Or I think now at this point, was Tony out of the the operation? Yeah, of course he was because uh, like I said, we had lost all contact with the Balustraari's uh and and uh, we didn't really know what was going on. And I don't know if you if you remember the first time that we hadn't met Balustraari and some of his boys. One of the guys that geez, we were out looking to clip you guys before they knew that we were hooked up with the Bananos. Because the word had gotten out that that Tony was trying to put machines and stops, restaurants and bars that balustra you know, Balusteri controlled all of that. So they had gone out looking to clip us. Um. You know, I wonder how many people in their chosen profession, you know, find out after the fact that because you didn't make a sale, you're gonna get clipped. You're gonna get whacked. You're gonna I geez was Okay? Now again, what time you going out? I again? Lefty with the poverty? Oh my god, mirror with the poverty. Lefty with the poverty. This is a broken record with these guys, Joe, They're all the same Leo. They always got money in their pocket, but they're always trying to get money from somebody else. So they all, you know, they all cry poverty, they all cried for a mouth, and they're walking around with a couple of thousands in their pockets. So yeah, we're getting used to Lefty and his uh and his routine. Okay, could we roll tape please? Appreciating Karl was made in the evening of March sixth, nineteen seventy nine. What are you doing? Nothing but what you do now? You check out these people? Yet you're not calling No? What calling you with it? Oh? No? No? What are you crazy? All right? This stump with down? What do you not? You think I'm not... that your politan shot at that company? Yeah? Ext your twenty seven? Tell me are worried about Letten? You get me any money? Yeah? I get some? Yeah? This guy knows not. You know, I gotta you know, I just can't say him, we're not cremit, tell you something that I want to say you. I got other things on the Friar Day story. Okay, go go go by show for fifts and give it to him. Let him buy it, let him give me the money. Shout as I can take care of this here joint take care of where I got through all By Street and a couple of days. You stay there, you're coming to come out. They play to you. Let me they do something with this guy when he gets When I get some him and they're not gonna come in, I'll play in. I understand it that. But see what you get to people if you get Joey with your credit cards, joy with your credit card. We got six with to pay it? Yeah right, don't right. I'm don't get a firm, but I don't want to, you know, I don't want to blow like I gotta. I gotta affiftated, but I don't really want to price fifty five tomorrow oclock get a guy wants eight dollars. Yeah understand, Yeah, you know what I can over here much good thing. The manager noticed me. You have to you know he closed and asked him called me right back, all right, I'm his friend. Were just kind of tried up being a total weight. Okay, I got on the hide, right, Okay, Joe. A lot of stuff happening in here. First, you're not using that thing I gave you. What's he talking about on the call? Well, he wanted me to check on the car that CONTI had supposedly rented. The rental car. He had given me a number of a guy to call, and you know, I'm dancing around basically this whole thing. No, no, you're dancing. But the thing is, was he talking about a stolen credit card or something that you use? Did he gave you? I gave you some Yeah, yeah, oh that's what it was. Okay, yeah, because it was like, you're not using it. And then one of my nuts, yeah, like I gotta I gotta go use a credit card. That's you know, that's scammed out. I'll tell you something. The scamming with this guy never ends. It's seven it's I mean, it is a wow. And in the movie you guys show it, you really do. In the movie Donnie Brasco, it's right there. Um, and some of the things it's like It's almost like the Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight, remember that movie? Yeah there, okay, Now what's this thing he's advising you to do with your credit card? So you get cash in your hands. Let me give me the money. Go buy a jewelry. Go buy a piece of jewelry, all right, with your credit card. And then what you do is you turn it in somewhere and we sell it, you know,...

...and you got the cash, and you you know, you're you're banging out the credit card. You're not gonna pay the credit card anyway. I mean, that's his that's his thinking, not mine. That's him. Well, it's uh. Then he goes on the litany like I wants eight dollars, knows me of things. He mentions he needs the money for this joint, and I gotta go on Mulberry Street. I ordered, I owe five hundred and fifty five. I have to pay it by twelve o'clock eighty to somebody else a thousand and rent. Thank god. The guy he knows me, the manager man, what joint is he talking about? Well, what he's talking about is that he had a like a fast food chicken take out and he had to pay the rent on that, and then the thousand is is an apartment, and then the eight hunter is money that he owed Mike Sibella. I mean, so this guy is spinning around like a top man. And if you weren't, you know, in deep cover, this is what a guy working his way up would have to go through to his mentor to the guy he belonged to. Oh, exactly, that's your apprenticeship there. Oh yeah, oh yeah. And if you don't do it, he showed disrespect. You know, your aspirations are being a made guy will never happen. So you're always proven, proven, and he's always tested test. That's they all do. They all do. Yeah, Mirror did it in a little more severe way, I would imagine Tony Mirra. Yeah. Well Mayor Mayor had it. You know, he was marriages nuts and well lift, he's not too far behind him. Joe, Uh, could we roll it again? Please? Yeah, alright, talk to this guy. He's got are so told me he got a call from Chicago p Day about three weeks ago. Car was found. They towed it in. It was guard at the Howard Johnson next door to the airport. The keys are on the floor and the back seat was out, and he said he's been getting calls from people that want to know if if he's heard from, you know, from County. He's been yeah, that was a couple of months ago. Oh well then uh, let's you know. He didn't say he should you know when, but he said he's got the car. He said he got a call from the Chicago Police Department that they had the car and if he wanted to come and get it. He said, the back seat was out, there was car was cleaned out, the keys were on the floor to the car. When this is what the cops told him when they found it. He said, the Chicago police is there. You know, he doesn't...

...know what's going on. He says that the March March rent is you know, has to be paid, and he hasn't heard from him the village with the restaurant. I don't know. I'm just telling you what he's telling me about about the car. He said that the rent March hasn't been paid February and March hasn't been paid. He got the country, which do I know. I'm just telling you. I says that does he owe your money? He said he oways be February and in the March. It's a long term lease, he said. I don't know, he says, about three weeks ago, which is about right right. You should have got a call from the Chicago pa. All right, you got this year today when I can get it from the guy six o'clock, you know, the guy. Yeah, I know, I could come up with us something, but I don't. You know, I don't want to put up your married now. Everything that you're saying there, Joe, it's all made up, correct, of course, Yeah, of course exactly. So did did you have it all written in front of you what you would say if he said that or this? Or did you just off the top of your head. No, I'm just off the top of my head, just you know, whatever he comes up with, I'm answering it just off the top of my head, you know, because I don't know what the hell he's gonna say. So I can't. I can't pre you know, pre programmed it in my mind what I'm gonna say. Joe, I gotta look, I know you love time, buddy. You're you're taking a delight in this. You are taking a delight. It runned him around the block and we see his agitation, his agit the building. That's a great job, buddy. And oh yeah, why the back seat out of the car. The keys are on the floor, and you know you you came up with that. What does that signify? Well, if you remember I said that there was a well there actually was a big art heist in Chicago around the time, right, you did mention, right, I said that he was in on it. And you know, maybe that's where he had the art when he when he was transporting it, you know, so he had to take the seat out. You know, I'm just throwing these things out to him, that there was blood in the car. I don't know if you remember that. Yeah, that comes up to yeah, so maybe they whacked them. Just throwing things out to him to give him things to think about. You know, there's no seat, you know what, why isn't there a seat? And then just come up with different different ideas and different scams and why there wasn't one. Another thing he mentions, which is use your American Express right, use your credit card? You right? Yeah, yours? Of course yours? Right? Yeah? Mine? And then he says us restaurant. He noticed that...

Tony, when you was out to dinner, paid with his express card. He clocks everybody. Oh yeah, Leo, five better capa on the street man. Yep, yep, he don't know his geography, but five beta Kappa when he hits the streets. Okay, everybody, we have hit the end of this particular episode. I just want to remind you you can listen to a copy of the full tape if you become a member of the Motion Lounge and a friend of ours. Joe has insight into things that you know, when we hear them, it doesn't mean much to us, but what he answers makes this operation go forward and ultimately to be successful. Um, Joe, great work. Thank you. Uh, stay tuned and you'll find out about how to become a member of the Motion Lounge and be a friend of ours, right Joe, yep, I love that you came up with that, but then I knew that all right. Thank you everybody. Bye. Thanks for listening to this episode of deep Cover. Get behind the scenes conversations, access to Joe's full tapes, add free video episodes, and a m as with Joe and Leo for just five a month. Visit deep Cover podcast dot com slash subscribe for more information. Deep Cover is produced by jam Street Media executive producers Mattie Stout and Quinn Greenhouse, thanks to executive producer John Moser at MBB Management and Rudy Solo at Rudecat Entertainment from jam Street Media.

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