Bonanno Son Convicted of Fraud; 2nd Acquitted

United Press International

A federal court jury returned a fraud conviction against a son of one-time Mafia chieftain Joseph (Joe Bananas) Bonanno, but acquitted another son.

Joseph Bonanno Jr. was convicted in U.S. District Court on Thursday, and his brother, Salvatore, was acquitted after three days of deliberation and a two-month trial.

The government charged that the Bonannos tried to defraud investors of $240,000 in a scheme to market posters depicting U.S. Presidents, flags of the states and segments of the U.S. Constitution.

The alleged scam was based in Salt Lake City and carried out in Sacramento and San Jose.

Phony Purchase Orders

Sunburst Inc. of Salt Lake City used phony purchase orders from a variety of companies, including 7-Eleven stores, as collateral for money that investors thought was to be used to print and market the posters. Instead, the prosecution alleged, the money invested went to the Bonannos to pay a bail bond for Salvatore Bonanno and to purchase a charter for an offshore bank.


Joseph Bonanno Jr., 40, was found guilty of eight counts of fraud and one count of conspiracy and acquitted on 20 other counts.

He completed a four-month sentence in San Diego last November for making a false statement in connection with a drug investigation. He is awaiting trial in Oakland on charges that he participated in a home-improvement scam that cheated the elderly.

His brother, Salvatore, was sentenced in March to four years in prison on charges stemming from the home-improvement scam.

In the Sacramento trial, the prosecution accused Joseph Bonanno Jr. of fraudulently misrepresenting plans to produce a large multicolored historical poster that showed pictures of President Reagan and the other 39 Presidents, nine versions of the flag, all 50 state flags and every state capital, bird, tree, flower and motto, among other features.

‘It’s a History Book’

“It’s a history book,” Joe Bonanno Jr. said of the ill-fated U.S. Presidents Historical Poster. “There are your first eight years of school on this poster, right here.”

The verdicts came four years to the month after the first arrests were made. A third defendant in the case, Jerome Gatto, pleaded guilty before trial, which was delayed by motions to suppress search evidence.

Jury Foreman Kenneth Grubaugh of Sacramento said jurors determined that Salvatore Bonanno was questioned and advised in the poster investment plan but did not participate.