Anthony Mirra

Anthony Mirra

Anthony Mirra also known as "Tony" (c. 1922 Lower East Side, Manhattan - February 18, 1982 Lower Manhattan) was a "street-soldier" for the Bonanno crime family who worked under caporegime Michael Zaffarano, involved in extortion, gambling and drug trafficking. He is famous for being the individual to introduce Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent Joseph Pistone into the Bonanno family, which led to its major downfall.

Mafia roots

Mirra was born to first generation immigrants from Mira, Italy in Lower East Side, Manhattan. He is the nephew of Bonanno crime family caporegime Alfred Embarrato and uncle to street soldier Joseph D'Amico. Mirra was a cousin of capo Richard Cantarella, capo Frank Cantarella, Bonanno crime family mob associate Joseph D'Amico, mob associate Joseph Padavano and Bonanno crime family capo Paul Cantarella.


Mirra was born in the poverty-stricken Lower East Side, Manhattan at Knickerbocker Village where he lived in the same apartment building as Embarrato, Richard Cantarella, and D'Amico. Anthony was once a good friend of Benjamin Ruggiero, Anthony owned the Lunchbox Lunchonette in Little Italy, Manhattan not far from Ruggiero's bar. His relatives D'Amico, Embarrato and Cantarella became involved in major racketeering schemes at "The New York Post" distribution center behind their housing complex, but Mirra moved on to more successful and prosperous racketeering endeavours.

Pistone said says that Mirra was the nastiest and most intimidating man he met during his seven years of being undercover. Mirra stood at 6'2" and weighed 210 pounds. By age fifty, Mirra had spent more than half of his life in and out of federal prisons. It is estimated that by 1975 Mirra had murdered thirty to forty people, although he was never convicted any murders. Mirra had a reputation of being ruthless killer with unpredictable mood swings. He was the self-confessed assassin of Anthony Carfano and comedian Allan Drake's wife, Janice Hansen in 1959. Due to Anthony's irrational behavior nobody could ever build a close relationship with him. He would never talk about anything that did not involve criminal activities. Unlike most mobsters, Anthony never drank alcohol, only ginger ale. The only family he was close to in his life time was his biological mother. Joseph Pistone says, "One day you might ask him, "How's your mother, Tony?" He might say, "Okay." Another day you ask him, and he might answer, "What the fuck you so nosy about?"

Even with his mood swings and arrogant manner Anthony displayed regularly he was a womanizer who enjoyed group sex. Women became attracted to him, even though he treated them like dirt. As a child and into his adolescence he had never shown any interest in friendship or romantic relationships, and was bullied throughout his childhood by peers which ended in violent fights, and usually with the other one getting stabbed. Anthony never married but had many girlfriends that ranged from "bimbos to movie stars". When he wasn't "hustling" them, he abused them, physically and berated them with insults. Anthony remained a recluse from his fellow mobsters. As an adult Anthony would visit his mother regularly, every Sunday to drive her to mass, Mother's Day and her birthday. On the day of his visits he would not commit any cimes the day before, the day of, or the day after visiting. Anthony was the first initial contact FBI agent Joseph Pistone made in his undercover operation which led to his infiltration of the Bonanno crime family. He introduced Pistone to Benjamin Ruggiero and offered the FBI agent a job handling his slot-machine route. Not long after their partnership sparked up in 1975 Mirra in fled New York City after being indicted for drug trafficking. The FBI caught up with him three months later and he was sent to federal prison again for eight and a half years. After the sudden and untimely death of his capo Michael Zaffarano Mirra took over the Bonanno crime family pornography empire and worked under the equally powerful Sicilian capo Cesare Bonventre. Mirra also muscled in on several Little Italy, Manhattan restaurants and bars.

A knife man

Mirra was known among fellow mobsters as a "knife man". It was a common practice for all mobsters to carry knives, because they were routinely rousted by police officers and didn't want to be caught with illegal firearms on them. Mirra carried a folding knife with a long blade. It was uncommon for mobsters to ever use their blade, preferring the use of a firearm, unlike Mirra. While Pistone was undercover he was repeatedly warned by fellow mobsters that, "If you ever get into an argument with him [Mirra] , make sure you stay an arm's length apart, because he will stab you."

Reputation on the streets

Mirra was always in trouble, either with the authorities or fellow mobsters because of his obnoxious behavior and insults. Anthony had no real allegiance to anybody and always in trouble with the authorities which gave him a bad reputation on the street. He was widely despised but just as widely feared. Everyone tried to avoid contact with him. Mirra never spent his own money and demanded that everything was "on the arm" or free of charge when he was with anyone. Mirra also extorted from the food stands at the Feast of San Gennaro which was held in Little Italy, New York City. In Joe Pistone's view, Mirra was a better money earner than Benjamin Ruggiero. At the time Pistone met him, within four months of being out of prison he said he'd made more than $200,000 for himself. He had a large territory under his control and numerous mafia contacts. It was widely believed by the authorities and fellow mobsters that he was a psychopath. People around him put on an act that they were Mirra's friends because they feared him. He once dated a lesbian vendor who worked at the Feast of San Gennaro and got her a street vendor stand. After she told Anthony of her sexual orientation Mirra threatened to kill the girl if she returned to the stand.

Criminal enterprising

He also was involved in a vending machine operation that dealt in slot machines, peanut vending machines, video arcade machines and pinball machines that were distributed all over New York City. He had them installed in stores, luncheonettes, social clubs and after-hours establishments. The slot machines, since they were illegal would be installed in the establishment's back room or basement. He would open the machines with a key he carried and give the store owner his cut of the profits $25 and up. This coin collection route produced $2,000 a week. Mirra was involved in "strong arm" schemes and extorted from several bars and restaurants. Each of the owners would pay him $5,000 a week in protection money which he would become irrational if he did not receive.

The Bonanno civil war

In 1979 following the takeover of Phillip Rastelli as leader of the Bonanno crime family the family divided into two factions. The "Red" Team led by capos Alphonse Indelicato, Dominick Trinchera and Phillip Giaccone including Cesare Bonventre, Gerlando Sciasca, Nicholas Marangello and Michael Sabella, and the "Black" Team led by Dominick Napolitano and Benjamin Ruggiero.

Taking a stand against the family

The day before Phillip Giaccone, Dominick Trinchera and Alphonse Indelicato were to be executed, Mirra announced at the Toyland Social Club to Nicholas Marangello that he was joining the opposition. On May 5, 1981, the day of the executions Dominick Napolitano called Mirra's uncle Albert Embarrato and told Albert to come down to The Motion Lounge for a "sit down". At the sit down, Napolitano had two of his sidewalk soldiers flank Embarrato on either side of him until Napolitano received confirmation that the executions were followed through. Dominick would later tell Joseph Pistone, "When [he] Albert heard that, he turned ash white. He thought we were going to hit him too. But I just reamed at him about Tony, told him Tony was no good; and that he [Albert] better recognize that and act right himself." Albert agreed.

The aftermath of Operation Donnie Brasco

On February 18, 1982 his cousin Richard Cantarella lured Mirra to a parking garage on North Moore Street and West Moore Street in Lower Manhattan. As Cantarella and his uncle Alfred Embarrato kept watch outside, his cousin, Joseph D'Amico climbed into Mirra's burgundy Mercedes Benz and shot him in the temple at point blank range. When the New York Police Department tapped on his window, hours later, Mirra looked like he was sleeping: his head had fallen forward so his chin rested on his chest, and his eyes were closed, but blood drizzling from his ears indicated otherwise. He was shot three times, two behind his ear and one in the cheek. A forth bullet had lodged itself in his left knee. So much blood had drained down inside Mirra's jacket and into the seat of his pants that even his yellow boxer shorts were saturated red. Cantarella had been given the contract to murder Mirra by Joseph Massino. The hit was in retaliation for the Donnie Brasco infiltration. After Massino had Dominick Napolitano murdered the year before, Mirra went into hiding, fearful that he was next to be slain. Massino figured Mirra would trust his own members of his family which was the reason Massino gave Cantarella the assignment. It is ironic that the site of Mirra's execution was in the proximity of the current Bonanno crime family consigliere Stefano Cannone overlooking Pier 25, part of the South Street Seaport on the Hudson River in Lower Manhattan.


*Pistone, Joseph D. and Woodley, Richard, "Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia" Random House 1990 ISBN 5552531299
*Crittle, Simon, "The Last Godfather: The Rise and Fall of Joey Massino" Berkley (March 7, 2006) ISBN 0425209393
*Dearborn, Mary V., "Mailer: A Biography" Mariner Books (December 10, 2001) ISBN 0618154604
*May, Allan, "Colletti & Drake: Women In the Wrong Place At the Wrong Time"
*Carpenter, Teresa, "Mob Girl: The biography of Arlyne Weiss"

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