Friday, December 29, 2023

The Life We Chose: My Washington Times On Crime Column On Mobsters William 'Big Billy' D'Elia And Russell Bufalino

The Washington Times published my On Crime column on The Life We Chose, a true crime book about the Bufalino Cosa Nostra organized crime family in Pennsylvania.   

I thought Matt Birkbeck’s book about mobsters William “Big Billy” D’Elia (seen in the above photo) and Russell Bufalino (who was portrayed by Joe Pesci in Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman”) was interesting, especially the sections on South Philadelphia, where I grew up, currently live, and where I’ve covered organized crime as a reporter for many years.


I was skeptical, however, of some of the book’s claims, such as the subtitle that the Bufalino crime family in Pennsylvania was the most powerful Mafia family in America. Some of Mr. D’Elia’s claims also did not ring true to me.

I contacted Mr. Birkbeck (seen in the above photo) and asked him about the Russell Bufalino crime family.


“Russell’s enormous power and influence came in large part from the Teamsters and via his connection to Jimmy Hoffa as well as his cousin William Bufalino, the general counsel paired by Russell with Hoffa in the 1940s,” Mr. Birkbeck replied.


Did you come across other evidence to support the assertions of William D’Elia?


“Yes. I had a research assistant, who happens to be a very good reporter, work with me, and we were able to confirm some of what Billy told me,” Mr. Birkbeck said. “During the two years I interviewed him, I never found he had lied or embellished his life and career.”


Why did you write the book? 

"I knew who Billy was and that he had never spoken to anyone before, not law enforcement, not the media. S0, I thought it would be a great opportunity to add to the history of the Mafia in America as well as the secretive, unknown world of the Bufalino Family. He didn't disappoint."  

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