Johnny Depp, left, and Al Pacino in the Film Donnie Brasco.
Credits: QMI Agency
The cross-border Mafia ties were illustrated by Joe Pistone, a.k.a. Donnie Brasco, a former FBI agent who infiltrated the Bonannos from 1976 to 1981.
Pistone, 73, penetrated more deeply into the underworld than any FBI agent in history and his information helped to put more than 100 mobsters behind bars.
Sitting behind a barricade that shielded him from cameras at the organized-crime commission, Pistone recalled one meeting involving the Montreal Mob in which his own life hung in the balance.
He said "the Canadians" had come to New York to testify against him during a meeting after he had been accused of stealing $250,000 from the Bonannos.
Bonanno solder Anthony Mirra had made up the story out of jealousy over Pistone alter-ego Donnie Brasco's close relationship with family captain Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano, Pistone said.
A close gangster friend told him Mirra called for the false witnesses from north of the border.
"(He) told me 'Donnie, (Mirra) wants this so bad he even brought our people from Canada to this sit-down,'" Pistone said, adding that any mobster found guilty of stealing from the family was doomed.
"If Sonny Black loses that sit-down (meeting), I'm dead," the former agent continued. "There's no appeal system. They come out, 'Alright Donnie, let's go for a ride,' and they kill you."
He didn't identify the Montreal mobsters, but the Cotroni crime family ran Mafia operations in Quebec until 1980, when the Rizzutos took over following a bloody coup.
Pistone said he escaped the pivotal meeting by the skin of his teeth when a mediator sided with him and his boss.
He said the episode was proof the Canadian Mob exerted influence in New York.
"Why would they bring someone from Montreal down to lie for Tony Mirra?" Pistone asked. "So it had to be a close relationship."
Napolitano trusted the agent so much that he recommended Brasco become a "made man," a full-fledged member of the Mob.
But as a test, Napolitano ordered Brasco to murder the son of a rogue gangster who worked with three rival capos marked for death by the Bonannos in 1981.
Pistone wasn't able to find his target and the FBI pulled him out of the Mob in July 1981 before he could be made a full Mafia member.
Napolitano was able to carry out the murders of his three rivals in May 1981, and one of the men on the hit squad was Montreal Bonanno associate Vito Rizzuto, who later became the head of the Montreal Mafia.
Rizzuto is currently wrapping up a 10-year prison term for his part in the murders of the three capos.
Pistone testified behind a shield on Monday because the Mafia still has a price on his head. Police officers were stationed inside and outside the commission's downtown headquarters.
The commission is examining the links between the Mob and public contracting in Quebec.
"You leave your badge and gun in the office. Your whole existence is dealing with the bad guys or attempting to infiltrate the bad guys."
"In a long-term, deep-cover situation, you have to know your enemy. You have to know everything about your enemy. It will keep you alive if you know who you're dealing with."
"We go into the club, we go into the back room, they lock the door, one of the guys takes out his gun, puts it on the desk and says to me: 'Donnie, if you don't answer my questions and convince me that you are who you say you are, the only way you're going out of this room is rolled up in that rug.'"
"Sworn allegiance is to the Mafia family, then your regular family, then the church and then country. Your first allegiance is to the (Mob) family."
"When your boss gives you a contract to kill somebody, you have to accept it. It's your responsibility to make sure that that person gets killed. If you do refuse it, and nobody will, then you get killed."
"(A mobster told me) 'You can lie, you can steal, you can cheat, it's all legitimate.' In our world is that legitimate? But in their world, it's legitimate. They function according to their own set of rules."
"Some rules will get you killed and some rules won't get you killed."
"There's a lot of envy and jealousy in the (Mafia) society. Not that different from Wall Street, except Wall Street don't kill you."
"If your mother is dying in the hospital and your capo asks you to do something, what are you going to do? You go with your capo."
"That's why the Mafia has stayed around so long. If you're caught breaking one of these rules, you're going to die."
"It's important to keep the pressure on (the Mafia). Through movies and television the public has an image of an honourable society. The Mafia is not honourable. They're like an octopus, they just keep growing."
"Any product that the Mafia has their hands in, the public ultimately pays for. They cannot operate without corruption. Who do they corrupt? They corrupt public officials, they corrupt businessmen, they corrupt politicians. Without that corruption, they really cannot operate. Once the public realizes that, it lessens the impact that the Mafia has on all of us."
"Most of the public, they have this romantic view of the Mafia and they see the movies and they see guys sitting around, wearing $5,000 suits, talking elegantly. Believe me, it's not like that. It's 'Kill that so and so.'"
"This is not the movies and this is not the way these guys really are. This is real life. They are a dangerous plague on our society."