By David Amoruso
- Read: Sammy the Bull Gravano is a free man, but also a poster boy for the dangers of dealing with gangsters
Profile below posted in 2001
Sammy The Bull Gravano has gone down in Mafia history as the biggest rat ever to walk the streets of New York. No longer is he known as Sammy The Bull but as Sammy The Rat and since he has thrown away his second chance at life outside prison even his friends at the FBI turned on him. Sammy is despised by everyone on both sides of the law, for the same reason: he double crossed them.
Salvatore Gravano was born on March 12, 1945. Salvatore was the last of five children of parents who were both from Sicily. Gravano and his family lived on 78th street in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, New York. Both of his parents were honest hard working Americans but Gravano was going in a different direction. At school Gravano had enormous trouble with reading and learning the material, it later turned out that he was dyslexic but in those days there was no knowledge about the problem. As a result of his slow learning Gravano became the kid in the class who everybody made fun of, until Gravano decided to use violence to shut them up. Once when he had a fight with two older kids there were two neighborhood wiseguys standing near observing the fight. Gravano was a small kid and took on older and bigger kids, the wiseguys gave him the nickname The Bull because of his looks and the way he fought. And so Sammy The Bull was born. Pretty soon Gravano started with gang life and ran into trouble with the N.Y.P.D.
As a teenager Sammy got involved with a gang named the Rampers, he also picked up boxing and body building. The Rampers was a gang that did burglaries and stole cars. As time past Gravano got more violent, he was involved in a shoot out and not long after that was arrested for assaulting an oficer. Thanks to a good lawyer Gravano walked on that one but was soon back in court when he was arrested for a burglary. The judge gave Gravano the choice: enlist with the army or go to prison. Gravano chose the army thinking he wouldn't be drafted. He was wrong and went into service serving at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. When Gravano got out of the army he went back to his Rampers gang. And back with his gang, Gravano got himself into trouble again. While stealing a car with a Ramper pal Gravano was caught in the act by the owner. The owner then pulled his gun and fired shots at the two gangmembers, Gravano was hit by the side of the head but survived.
Gravano, now 23, had proven his 'skills' and 'balls' and was ready for the next phase of his career. If you wanted to be succesful in crime you needed to be with a different group: the Mafia. After a short talk with Thomas "Shorty" Spero Gravano decided to work for the Colombo Crime Family. Right away Gravano started work. He opened a club of his own in Bensonhurst and started a loan sharking business soon after. A percentage of the money was kicked upstairs to the Family bosses who protected him. Gravano was doing good and making money for the Colombo Crime Family when he received the order to whack somebody. That somebody was Joseph Colucci a member of Shorty Spero's crew. In his book Gravano details the hit: "As that Beatles song played, I became a killer. Joe Colucci was going to die. I was going to kill him because he was plotting to kill me. I felt the rage inside me. You fucking cocksucker, I thought. Even if I wasn’t directly behind him, I felt invisible. I pointed the gun at the back of his head. 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, like it was a blank instead of a real bullet. I knew I couldn’t have missed, the gun was only inches from his head, but I felt like I was a million miles away, like this was all a dream." "I shot a second time in the same spot. This time everything was different. I saw the flash. I smelt the gunpowder. The noise was deafening. Now I saw his head jerk back, his body convulse and slip sideways. I saw the blood. Joe Colucci was dead. He looked like he was sleeping. He looked peaceful. You going to blow me away now? I thought." This would be Gravano's first murder 18 would follow on his road to Mafia history.
After some problems with the Colombo's Gravano was transferred to the Gambino Crime Family and put under the wing of Salvatore "Toddo" Aurello a Capo in the Gambino Crime Family. After a period with the Gambino's Gravano took one last shot at life the legit and honest way. Gravano went into the construction business and did pretty good until he was indicted for murder. Gravano had nothing to do with the murder but a guy he knew had tied him to it and so Gravano was indicted. The costs of the lawyer were too high for Gravano to pay and so Gravano quit his construction job and he and his friend (also indicted in the case) went on a robbing rampage for a year and a half. He also got back with the Gambino Crime Family. Gravano survived the case, he was acquitted but his life was now definitely pointed in one direction: to become a wiseguy.
His Capo Aurello proposed him for membership and around 1975 Gravano became a made guy in the Gambino Crime Family. Gravano soon found himself in a great position. His invlovement in construction grew and his capo Aurello told Gravano to take all construction dealings directly to the boss. The boss at the time was Paul Castellano and Castellano always had more interest in construction this puts Sammy in a nice place. As the years go on Gravano moves towards becoming acting capo of Toddo Aurello's crew. He's doing good but he too sees that all is not well in the Gambino Family. Ever since Carlo Gambino appointed Castellano as new boss instead of the more streetwise Dellacroce the Gambino Family has been divided. Castellano knew this but didn't care and chose to ignore it. His underlings had mixed feelings about their boss, he was smart and ran the Family in a good way but he wasn't a gangster and he didn't show any respect for his soldiers who did the work. After a while things reached a boiling point and the only thing keeping Castellano alive was Neil Dellacroce his underboss.
Neil Dellacroce had his protoge called John Gotti. Gotti already had expressed his feelings about Castellano but Dellacroce managed to keep him quiet. Untill he died. Gotti had already been acting capo for Dellacroce's crew but now things would change. Castellano didn't like Gotti and could have him demoted or whacked for his crews drugdealing now Dellacroce was gone. Gotti had plans of his own and when Castellano failed to show at the wake of Dellacroce and pay his respects his faith was sealed. Gotti had already been reaching out throughout the Family for support to whack Castellano and had enough back up, when Gravano was asked to join in he decided to go along with the hit and help plan it. And so the hit on Castellano went through and Castellano and his underboss Bilotti were both whacked on the streets of New York. The hit put John Gotti in the position of boss and Gravano close to the power.
During Gotti's reign Toddo Aurello decided to step down and Gravano became official capo. Since the hit on the boss was against Mafia rules and one Family, the Genovese, wasn't included in the preperations Gotti and friends still had to watch their steps. Gigante boss of the Genoveses was a friend of Castellano and didn't like the new boss. He would take revenge for his dead ally. Gotti's underboss and Gravano's friend Frank DeCicco was killed by a carbomb. Gotti was supposed to be killed as well but didn't attend the meeting and so only DeCicco was blown up. DeCicco's death left a position and Gotti appointed Gravano and Ruggiero as underbosses. Under Gotti the Gambino Family came under enormous pressure from the FBI and it would'nt be long or Gotti would go down.
In September 1986 Gotti was in court fighting the feds and won, not because of his lawyer but because Gravano got to the jury pool and managed to bribe one of them. As time passed Gravano became more successful in his legitimate businesses, he could sense some jealousy from John Gotti, despite the fact that Sammy claimed he was kicking up $2 million a year to him from his dealings with the Teamsters alone. At this point, while Gotti was actually out of prison for a few years, Gravano was named official consigliere and Frank Locascio named acting underboss of the family this was around 86 87. Life under Gotti was faster than it ever was for Gravano, before Gotti Gravano had killed eight people in fourteen years under Gotti he had killed eleven people in six years. Between November 30, 1989 and January 24, 1990 Gotti would spill enough of the family’s secrets to finally bring the walls crashing down. In January 1990 Gotti went to trial for ordering an assault on carpenter’s union boss John O’Connor. On February 9, 1990 Gotti was acquitted. Overnight the “Dapper Don” had become the “Teflon Don,” and his ego would grow even bigger. But the feds had one more case up their sleeve. The feds had Gotti's headquarters bugged and had him on tape discussing hits, his people and his organization. They even had him on tape badmouthing Gravano.
When Gravano heard the tapes where Gotti was badmouthing him Gravano flipped for 50% he was almost sure he was going to turn to the FBI but he was having second thoughts. But when Gotti was trying to let Gravano take the fall by claiming Gravano had run wild and started whacking people on his own accord Gravano decided to break Omerta and flip. He turned to the FBI and told them all they wanted to know. He would testify against Gotti and send him to prison for life. Scores of other mobsters went to prison because of Gravano's testimony and he was granted a sweet deal. He got a second life.
After serving minimal time for 19 murders Gravano was released and went into the Witnes Protection Program and started his new life in Arizona. Most people on both sides of the law would give a lot to have a second chance like Sammy especially those who had done so much bad but Gravano thought nothing of it and wasn't satisfied. He wanted more, and so he started his own ecstacy organization with some help of his son, wife and daughter and a local neo-nazi organization known as the Devil Dogs. Together they ruled the Arizona drugtrade. Life was great for Gravano, he got away with 19 murders, he got away from Gotti's hitmen and he had his own drug organization which was raking in 100.000s of dollars. Life was good for a drugselling rat, but then the bubble burst. On Feb. 24, 2000, Gravano, his wife, son, daughter, and son-in-law were arrested on drug charges by Arizona authorities. Ten months later, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn charged Sammy Bull and son Gerard with buying thousands of Ecstasy tablets in Brooklyn for distribution in Arizona. On May 25, 2001, two weeks before his federal drug trafficking trial was set to begin, Gravano and the Baby Bull pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges that carry about 20 years in prison for Salvatore Gravano, according to federal sentencing guidelines. Their prison terms will be concurrent -- served at the same time -- as whatever sentences they ultimately receive for their crimes in Arizona.
- Read: Sammy the Bull Gravano is a free man, but also a poster boy for the dangers of dealing with gangsters