All the world’s a stage – and our platform grew more bizarre, and dangerous, this week. Convicted mob hit-man Salvatore “Sammy The Bull” Gravano has been released from prison on parole. In 1989, the 72-year-old mobster confessed to 19 murders (including his brother-in-law) but avoided death row after taking a generous plea deal which brought down his former boss, John Gotti. His plea allowed only 5 years behind bars (of which he served one) but in 2000, he was arrested again for running a large organized drug distribution ring and sentenced to 20 years in the slammer. He was released on September 18, 2017.
Brooklyn Federal Judge Allyne Ross denied a bid by Gravano to receive an early release two years ago because of the ‘staggering severity’ of Gravano’s criminal history. It’s unclear what prompted the change in stance but many believe Gravano’s daughter, Karen Gravano, star of the TV show Mob Wives, rallied for his release.
Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano
Gravano was originally a mobster for the Colombo crime family. Under the guidance of boss Carmine “The Snake” Persico, Gravano participated in crimes such as hijacking, armed robbery, racketeering, loansharking, illegal gambling, and murder for hire. His first hit was Joseph Colucci in 1970.
“I felt the rage inside me…. Everything went in slow motion. I could almost feel the bullet leaving the gun and entering his skull. It was strange. I didn’t hear the first shot. I didn’t see any blood. His head didn’t seem to move…. I felt like I was a million miles away, like this was all a dream.”
Jealousy within the ranks prompted Gravano to leave the Colombo family to join the Gambino’s where his illegal activities shifted to include sophisticated schemes involving construction, trucking, and garbage disposal in New York City and New Jersey.
List of Salvatore Gravano victims
- Joseph Colucci (1970)
- Alan Kaiser (1977) – 16-years-old, murdered while walking down the highway in Brooklyn. Shot in chest and head with a shotgun. Murder was a case of mistaken identity.
- Nicholas Scibetta (1978) – all that was ever recovered was one of his hands. How he was killed remains unknown. He was declared dead in 1985.
- Jackie Calabro (1980) – New York Police Detective, was approaching his home when a van was used to block his progress. Shot in head with shotgun.
- John “Johnny Keys” Simone (1980) – Gravano granted Simone’s request to die with his shoes off before shooting him in the back of the head.
- Frank Stillitano (1981) – body found when police were investigating a car that had been parked in Lot C of a Philly airport for more than a week. Trunk was ajar and inside was Stillitano with a black hood over his head.
- Frank Fiala (1982) – Ambushed outside his club, he was shot in the head. Afterward, both eyes were shot out and Gravano urinated in his mouth.
- Paul “Big Pauly” Castellano (1985) – ambushed after exiting his Lincoln Towncar. He died in a barrage of bullets.
- Thomas Bilotti (1985) – died in the ambush of Big Pauly (see above). Shot six times with final bullet to the head.
- Nicholas “Nicky Cowboy” Mormando (1986) – worried that Nicky was about to leave the family, Gravano sought permission to kill him from John Gotti. Nicky was shot twice in the back of the head. He left behind ten children including a six-week old baby daughter.
- Robert “DiB” DiBernardo (1986) – hit ordered by Gotti after DiBernardo made negative remarks about him. Shot twice in back of the head.
- Michael DeBatt (1987) – Shot several times in neck and head. Murder remained unsolved until Gravano confessed in 1995.
- Francesco Oliveri (1988) – Knowing Oliveri moved his car each morning because of alternate-side parking rules in front of his apartment house, he was ambushsed and shot several times.
- Liborio “Louie” Milito (1988) – A mobster himself, he was called to a bar to discuss a hit. While drinking coffee, was shot in back of head with .380 caliber handgun with a silencer. Then shot under the chin.
- Wilfred Johnson (1988) – Mob hitman and FBI Informant, he was ambushed in front of his home. Shot 19 times including six shots to the head.
- Thomas Spinelli (1989) – was due to testify before grand jury when he we disappeared. Gravano confessed Spinelli had been shot to death in 1989. His body was never found.
- Louis “Louie” DiBono (1990) – a mob soldier, DiBono was murdered in his Cadillac Deville inside the underground parking garage in the World Trade Center.
- John Santiago
After his initial plea arrangement in exchange for testimony against John Gotti and the Gambino Family, Gravano joined witness protection. He obtained plastic surgery to change his appearance, then moved to Tempe, Arizona under the assumed moniker, Jimmy Moran. It is well-known that John Gotti’s brother, Peter Gotti, placed a contract on Gravano in retaliation for his turncoat testimony against his brother. It is unknown if the contract is still open.