Mobster Tommaso Buscetta testified against the Cosa Nostra after two sons were tortured and dissolved in acid
Ever heard of the phrase 'Snitches get stitches?' Replace stitches with any of the innumerable numbers of ways one can abuse, torment, torture, and kill someone, and you'll get a vague idea of the fate that awaited Tommaso Buscetta, a man who was simultaneously the most important, most endangered, and most wanted man in American criminal history.
What did Buscetta do to earn that status? He had done something no man had ever dared to before: he had betrayed the Cosa Nostra, the notorious Sicilian Mafia, where he once held a position of power and respect.
Buscetta had switched sides and provided prosecutors with a 3,000-page confession that provided the Italian government with an in-depth look into the functioning of the mafia, as well as incriminating details about politicians who were complicit in the mafia's crimes. He also went on to provide important testimony at the Maxi Trial, which to this day remains the largest anti-mafia trial in human history and which saw 475 mafiosos jailed, many of them for life.
The significance of Buscetta's so-called betrayal cannot be understated either. The mafia was an organization you swore allegiance to in a blood oath, promising to uphold the sacred 'Omerta,' or the 'Code of Silence' regardless of circumstance or personal turmoil.
Breaking this code was a sin that was punishable by death, but Buscetta did so anyway, earning him the moniker 'The Godfather of Two Worlds.'
What prompted him to take such a drastic step? What pushed him to side with those who he had actively derided and targeted his whole life? Part of it was because he had grown disillusioned with the drug trade that had become the mafia's number one source of income and the apparent loss of morals that accompanied it.
But as ridiculous as it may sound, the primary reason was because of a misunderstanding.
Buscetta fled to the United States after the Ciaculli Massacre in 1963, a bombing that killed seven police officers that was the result of an internal mafia conflict known as the First Mafia war. In New York City, he was aided by the local Gambino crime family to get into the pizza business, which was allegedly a front for the mafia's illicit activities.He was convicted of double murder in Italy in 1968, and arrested in New York City in 1970. But because Italian authorities never asked for his extradition, he was released, and he made his way to Brazil.
There, he met his soon-to-be future wife Cristina, and as he was going about building a new life, was arrested and extradited to Italy to face trial for his crimes.
He was sentenced to life in prison but managed to escape after serving eight years. He fled back to Brazil while on a day-release, not just to escape incarceration, but to also get away from the Second Mafia War that had been instigated by Toto Riina, a merciless megalomaniac who wanted to wrest control of the entire drug trade.
To achieve his goal, Riina had embarked on a ruthless murder campaign that saw 400 mafioso murdered between 1981 & 1983. Buscetta knew his life was in danger in Italy, so he felt compelled to flee.
Try as he may, he could not start anew. His past followed him to Brazil, where he was asked to helm a drug-trafficking operation. Buscetta politely refused and thought that was the end, only to realize to his horror that the men who had come to broker the deal had gone back to Italy and fed lies to Riina's ears.
According to mafia code, one is only allowed to kill 'Men of Honor': i.e. those who have committed murders themselves. But Riina had never been one to adhere to such ideals, and in a bid to send a message to Buscetta, targeted his family.
Buscetta's sons were the first to go. They were tortured, killed, and then dissolved in acid, and their bodies were never found. In the months that followed, Riina targeted and killed his brother, his nephew, his son-in-law, his brother-in-law, and four grandchildren.
Having been backed into a corner, he knew the only way out for him and his family was to broker a deal with the authorities. He promised to provide evidence and testify against other mafioso, and in exchange, he was sent to the US under a new identity and citizenship in the Witness Protection Program. Buscetta died in 2000 while still under the programme.
Buscetta's story is the subject of documentary 'Our Godfather,' which premieres on Netflix on September 18.
Watch the trailer for 'Our Godfather' here: