Joe Pistone Recalls Mob Infiltration As "Donnie Brasco"

Jul 26, 2013

Joe Pistone infiltrated the mob as Donnie Brasco.
Credit National Geographic Channel

As an undercover FBI agent, Joe Pistone was able to infiltrate the American mob so convincingly, both the feds and Mafioso still express admiration for his work today, three decades after his descent into the Bonano family as up-and-coming hood Donnie Brasco.

Originally targeted for a six-month investigation, Pistone wound up spending six years in his new identity as a jewel thief beginning in 1975, traces of his old life erased as he won the confidence of his new mob bosses.

As Brasco, Pistone was so trusted, he was about to be “made” before the FBI finally ended the operation – an operation that has been the subject of several books and the acclaimed 1997 film Donnie Brasco, with Johnny Depp and Al Pacino.

Operation Donnie Brasco led to 200 convictions and put Pistone’s life in danger; it also led the mob to tighten its ranks in the years since.

Joe Pistone’s story is part of a new National Geographic Channel series called Inside The American Mob, which premieres Sunday at 9 p.m.