Lefty Ruggiero, portrayed by Al Pacino in the film “Donnie Brasco,” was a real-life mobster who was betrayed by undercover FBI agent Joseph Pistone, who infiltrated the Bonanno crime family using the alias Donnie Brasco. After the operation was revealed, Ruggiero was arrested and faced a potential life sentence. However, he died of cancer in 1994 before he could stand trial.
In more detail, Lefty Ruggiero’s life took a dramatic turn after the FBI operation ended. The real name of the undercover agent was Joseph D. Pistone, and he spent six years infiltrating the Bonanno and Colombo crime families. When the operation was finally disclosed, it led to over 100 convictions of mafia members, including the indictment of Ruggiero on racketeering charges.
Ruggiero, whose full name was Benjamin Ruggiero, was deeply affected by the betrayal. He had taken Pistone, whom he knew as Donnie Brasco, under his wing, treating him like a son and teaching him the ways of the mafia. The revelation that Brasco was an FBI agent was a devastating blow to Ruggiero’s reputation within the mob and his personal sense of trust.
After his arrest, Ruggiero was released on bail due to his poor health. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer, which eventually metastasized to his brain. The illness took its toll, and Ruggiero passed away on November 24, 1994, at the age of 72, without ever facing trial for the charges stemming from the Donnie Brasco operation. His death marked the end of a tumultuous period in the history of organized crime, one that was immortalized in the 1997 film “Donnie Brasco,” where his character’s fate is a poignant element of the story.