In 1999 Pelligrino was jailed for theft and impersonating an FBI agent. In jail he contacted literary agent Joel Gotler of the Artist Management Group, a talent agency in Hollywood, and convinced him that he was actually Michael Gambino, illegitimate grandson of Carlo Gambino. When he was released in 2001, Gotler sold his story to Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, for a $500,000 advance.
Pelligrino used a ghostwriter to make a book ''The Honored Society'', a novel that was supposedly based on his own experiences as a gangster. In the book he claimed that he had been 12 years in prison for bribery, gambling, extortion, kidnapping, money laundering, murder and pimping and had decided to come clean when serving time. The book was published November 2001. Pelligrino appeared on ''Good Morning America'' to promote his book. He claimed that he was a son of Carlo Gambino's unknown son Vito, who had been born in Sicily and later immigrated to USA.
As it happens, Carlo Gambino has a great-grandson named Michael, who lives in New York. Carlo Gambino's son Thomas Gambino instructed his own lawyer Michael Rosen to expose the impostor. Rosen contacted the publisher to inform them.
Simon & Schuster withdrew the book. On August 27, 2002 Simon & Schuster sued Artist Management Group, accused it of misrepresenting Michael Gambino, demanded return of the money and millions of dollars in damages. Pelligrino's lawyers defended their client by stating that he did believe he was Gambino's grandson and that the book was fiction, not a biography.