US Customs special agent Gately (aided by freelancer Fernandez) describes a sting operation that brought down two Mafia operatives and transformed them into useful turncoats for the federal Protected Witness Program. Leo Fraley and Joe Cuffaro were not hardened mob insiders but victims of their environment. Fraley was the son of an honest teamster truck driver who drifted into the fringes of the mob while stoning ``scabs'' at steel mills during strikes and beating them for cash. He was eventually taken in by Dominic ``Mad Bomb'' Denobis, one of the original members of Murder, Inc., who made Fraley a liaison between the American mob and the Medellin concern in Colombia. The book's first chapter shows him being canoed through the rain forest in the magisterial company of an English- accented drug lord named Velasco en route to a cocaine rendezvous; the surreal trip is made amusing by the wary discomfort of the tough Yankee urban mobster forced by ``business'' into an exotic environment, and the picture of a jungle drug factory is fascinating. Cuffaro's is a different story. He came to the US at the age of 17 after his father, a marble wholesaler from Palermo, was bombed out of business by the Mafia. In a bitterly ironic twist, the Gambino family in New York made the wholesaler proprietor of one of their groceries and trained Joe as a master meat-cutter at one of their dubious meat market ventures in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Perhaps Cuffaro retained some bitterness over this humiliation of his father. In any case, after the successful sting and the incarceration of Cuffaro and Fraley, both men seemed to take a perverse delight in mocking their fellow mobsters locked up with them. An entertaining and well-researched book, carefully put together and structured. Its evocation of working-class ``wiseguy'' life is unfailingly and depressingly authentic.
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