Lefty Ruggiero was an FBI informant whose undercover operation led to his arrest and conviction. He later died of cancer.
Alphonse “Lefty” Ruggiero was a soldier in the Bonanno crime family, which was one of the Five Families that dominated organized crime activities in New York City. His life took a significant turn when he befriended an undercover FBI agent named Joseph Pistone, who was posing as a jewel thief under the alias Donnie Brasco. Ruggiero became a mentor to Brasco and eventually proposed him for membership in the Mafia.
The operation lasted for six years, from 1976 to 1981, and it was one of the most successful deep undercover operations in the history of the FBI. The evidence gathered by Pistone led to over 100 convictions of Mafia members, including Ruggiero’s.
After the operation was revealed, Ruggiero was arrested and charged with various crimes. He was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison. However, due to his failing health and the fact that he had not committed any violent crimes, he was released after serving 11 years.
Ruggiero’s life after his release was quiet. He lived the remainder of his days in relative obscurity, suffering from cancer. He passed away on November 24, 1994, at the age of 72. His story, along with that of Joseph Pistone’s undercover operation, was popularized in the 1997 film “Donnie Brasco,” where Lefty Ruggiero was portrayed by actor Al Pacino.