FBI surveillance photo
Born in Little Italy, Manhattan to Sicilian parents from Castellammare del Golfo. He was a close relative of Castellammarese mobster Dominick "Mimi" Sabella and his brother, the early Philadelphia crime family boss Salvatore Sabella. Mike Sabella became a soldier for the Bonanno family serving under boss Joseph Bonanno in 1957. He was involved in gambling and loansharking during the 1950s.
Before the Bonanno wars of the 1960s, Sabella had been a soldier first in the crew of fellow Castellammarese Carmine Galante and later under Joe Notaro, both top Joe Bonanno loyalists. During the conflict between the Bonannos and Gaspar DiGregorio, Mike Sabella initially remained loyal to the Bonanno faction, but eventually the Commission convinced him to join DiGregorio's group. As a result, he was rewarded with a promotion to capo of his old crew.
Sabella worked closely with Nicholas Marangello, Galante's consigliere and became a close confidant to his former captain Carmine Galante, who by the mid-1970s had become the street boss of the organization. Sabella's crew was among the largest in the Family, with interests stretching from Manhattan and New Jersey area down to Florida.
He is the father of two sons, Arthur Sabella who was born in c. 1957 and Steven Sabella who was born c. 1966, who is estranged from his family. During the 1970s, Sabella became the owner of Casa Bella, an upscale restaurant in Little Italy that served as his primary meeting place.
FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone was undercover in the Bonanno family under the name "Donnie Brasco"; a jewel thief expert and Mafia associate. Pistone soon began working with several of the made men who worked for Sabella's crew, such as Anthony Mirra and Benjamin "Lefty Guns" Ruggiero. After the takeover of Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano, Donnie Brasco continued to work with the crew. Before the Donnie Brasco Operation was ended, Pistone was proposed to become a made member of the family. After the disclosure of Pistone as a federal agent working undercover, Sabella was indicted with Frank Balestrieri, boss of Milwaukee, but was cleared of all charges. It is alleged that Sabella became aware that Pistone's business partner was an agent working undercover and tried to warn Sonny Black but was largely ignored.
After the murder of Carmine Galante in 1979, Mike Sabella and several other Bonanno leaders were demoted as a result of their close association with Galante while he was street boss. Sabella was replaced as capo by his former underling Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano. After the assassination of the three captains: Sonny Red, Big Trin, and Philly lucky, Sabella decided to sell his restaurant and remained a low level figure throughout the 1980s. It is said that he had over 1 million dollars on the street as shylock money. His successor, Sonny Black, would later be brutally murdered, allegedly as a result of his close association with "Donnie Brasco"; however, former mob boss Joe Massino has testified that Napolitano was killed for trying to take over the family. Sabella died from complications from diabetes in 1989. He was 79 years old.
- Pistone, Joseph D.; & Woodley, Richard (1999) Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia, Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-66637-4.
- Pistone, Joseph D. (2004). The Way of the Wiseguy, Running Press. ISBN 0-7624-1839-7.
- Pistone, Joseph D.; & Brandt, Charles (2007). Donnie Brasco: Unfinished Business, Running Press. ISBN 0-7624-2707-8.
- DeStefano, Anthony. The Last Godfather: Joey Massino & the Fall of the Bonanno Crime Family. California: Citadel, 2006.
- Raab, Selwyn. Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires. New York: St. Martin Press, 2005. ISBN 0-312-30094-8