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Joe Pistone Recalls Mob Infiltration As "Donnie Brasco"

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.

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.
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