Known by most as “Sammy The Bull”, Salvatore Gravano was born on March 12th, 1945 in Bensonhurst, a Brooklyn neighborhood with a predominantly Italian-American population to Gerry and Kay Gravano, both of whom hailed from Sicily. Gravano fell into crime at an early age. Around the age of ten, his bicycle was stolen by a group of older bullies. A group of mobsters who were watching from a cafe when he confronted the thieves remarked how little Sammy fought “like a bull” while taking on several larger kids at once, earning him the nickname “The Bull”. At the age of 14 he joined the Rampers, a prominent street gang in Bensonhurst.
Despite his father’s attempts to dissuade him, like many of his Ramper colleagues, Gravano drifted into the Cosa Nostra. The mafia had a longstanding presence in the Bensonhurst neighborhood. In 1970, Sammy The Bull made his first kill for the Colombo family. Upon Colombo associate Shorty Spero’s suggestion and to avoid further conflict, Gravano moved from the Colombo family to the Gambino family and joined Salvatore “Toddo” Aurello’s crew.
He became heavily involved in the construction industry. In 1985, he was involved in the corporate takeover and removal of Paul Castellano. John Gotti was unanimously elected as boss who named DeCicco as underboss and Gravano as captain. After DeCicco’s death in 1986, Gravano’s specific position within the family varied. Eventually, he was named by Gotti as underboss.
Gravano pleaded guilty to a superseding racketeering charge. After 11 months alongside Gotti in prison and a total of 23 years in the mob, he decided to cooperate, formally agreeing to testify on November 13th, 1991.
He was released from prison in 1994 and entered into the Federal Witness Protection Program. In 1996, Gravano co-wrote a book about his life, Underboss. He began living very openly and appeared in a nationally televised interview with journalist Diane Sawyer.
In 2000, Gravano was implicated in an international ecstasy ring. On September 7, 2002, he was sentenced in New York to 20 years on the federal charges. He was released early, in September of 2017.
Currently, Gravano resides in Phoenix and is working on several media projects
FRIENDS OF SAMMY
A close childhood friend of John Gotti’s, DeCicco was made underboss in December of 1985 after his involvement in the successful murder plot of the Gambino family’s then boss, Paul Castellano. Days before the murder, Frankie told Sammy: “Sammy, I’ll tell you what. We’ll give [Gotti] a shot. Let him be the boss. We’ll be the power behind the throne. If it don’t work within a year, me and you, we’ll kill him. I’ll become the boss, and you’ll be my underboss, and we’ll run the family right.” Four months after the Paul Castellano hit Frankie was violently killed in a car bomb.
According to Karen, Sammy’s daughter, “Stymie was Joe D’Angelo, my father’s closest friend. Dad said he had met him on the “street.” The two men were so simpatico they even looked alike with their dark brown hair and short stocky builds... They dressed the same, too, in similar sweat suits and sneakers. Stymie owned a bar in Brooklyn called Docks. Dad referred to him as his right-hand man.” “Stymie was gunned down at Tali’s, a bar that my father and Stymie owned together. What should have been a time of celebration was now marred by the loss of his closest friend. The Colombo associate who killed him was drunk and high, and out celebrating the fact he was about to be “made.” Stymie died honorably, protecting the female bartender (who was the widow of a made man in the Genovese family) who was being harassed by the bastard. Everybody in our family was devastated. Stymie was family to us.
Joseph “Old Man” Paruta was one of Gravano's original Bensonhurst crew that he had inherited from Toddo. Sammy got permission and had him made on his death bed. He requested a mercy killing; however, he died of lung cancer before this could happen. Sammy said, “My man of loyalty, of heart and soul, a man of honor, was gone.” “Everybody called Joe the 'Old Man'. He was only about fifteen years older than me but he already had white hair and looked kind of decrepit. He was tough and loyal. Old Man Paruta would kill for me as quick as he would get me a cup of coffee. Over the years, there was nothing I couldn't ask of him.
From being in the Rampers together to Gambino crime family associates, Sammy and Louie Milito were lifelong friends. When Sammy became consigliere in 1986, his old crew was taken over by Louis Vallario. Milito was not pleased with this decision, and made the mistake of telling other crew members that it was he who should have been given the top spot, not Vallario. Gotti wanted Milito killed for being a Castellano Loyalist. Sammy later said, “Louie Milito was a friend of mine, ‘A friend of ours,’ but there came a time when Louie, who had helped me in a few hits, had to be hit himself.
The son of Joseph “Stymie” D’Angelo, Little Joey grew up in the world of the Gambino family. He started driving Sammy around after his father was killed in a Brooklyn bar. He became a made member of the Gambino family in 1994. Joey flipped in 2004 and helped the FBI make cases on over 40 Gambino family members and associates.
Michael DeBatt’s father was a Gambino crime family mob associate and a close friend of Sammy’s who became indebted to loansharks and bookmakers. He died leaving his family under financial strain and heavily indebted. Eventually with Sammy’s help and working on his own criminal endeavours, DeBatt was able to settle his father's outstanding debts to the loansharks and bookmakers. Like his childhood friend Nicky Cowboy, DeBatt became addicted to crack cocaine and consequently Sammy’s restaurant and lounge, Tali’s, where DeBatt worked suffered. Sammy later said, ”I lost control of him. I tried to talk to him, but he's too far gone. He ain't listening. And he's done work (murder) with us and our family. He was a good man, Mike, until this. Not only did I like him, I went back with his father, who was originally with me. Remember, when the father died, I took the kid under my wing. I know the mother, the wife. These people came to my farm in Jersey. They came to my house. They came to my parties. This just tore my fucking insides out. Afterwards, I stayed with them, helped them. But there's nothing I can do about Mike. This was the life.”
Louis “Big Louis” Vallario, Sammy said, “was super loyal and solid. He handled my appointments and kept me straight about what had to be done.” After Old Man Paruta and Stymie died, Louie said, “I know what you're feeling. I can't fill Stymie's shoes, or Paruta's. I wouldn't even try. But I promise I'll be there for you.” When Sammy became consigliere he promoted Vallario to captain, who then took over his crew.
Once a top hitman for Sammy, Nicholas “Nicky Cowboy” Mormando was present for the Fiala hit in 1982. Afterwards, he began “acting like a cowboy”, doing scores without paying Sammy and blowing thousands of dollars on his crack cocaine addiction. Gravano did not approve of the drug use and demoted Nicky from the crew. The last straw came when Sammy got word that Nicky had begun recruiting some of his men for his side activities. Gravano then instructed the infamous crew member Joseph “Old Man” Paruta to kill Mormando.
Married to Sammy’s sister Fran, “Cousin Eddie” Garafola was a made member in the Gambino Crime Family. He made a phone call to his cousin Eddie “The Chink” Garofalo that lured him to his death at the hands of Sammy’s top hitmen Joey D’Angelo and Frank Fappiano. After Sammy cooperated, Eddie joined Thomas Carbonaro in plotting his murder, but was unsuccessful due to Sammy’s arrest in 2000. In 2007, Eddie was sentenced to 30 years, but died in prison in September of 2020. Sammy once said, “He's caused me nothing but trouble with his devious ways, always looking for the angle. He was a schemer, he always knew how to make money. But he's got a big edge with me. His wife is my sister and I ain't ever going to hurt her.”
Thomas “Huck” Carbonaro became an associate of Sammy’s crew through his friend Stymie. Sammy helped his family move from the ghetto into the Bensonhurst neighborhood, and their families became so close that they occasionally vacationed together in Florida to “get away from ‘the life,’ – the everyday grind of being in Cosa Nostra.” After Sammy testified, Carbonaro along with Sammy’s brother-in-law Eddie Garafola were involved in an unsuccesful plot to kill him in Arizona. He aided in two separate assassinations of mobsters who had fallen under suspicion of being government informants and was sentenced to 70 years in prison for a multitude of crimes.
Frank “Frankie Fap” Fappiano was the second cousin of Frankie DeCicco and one of Sammy’s top hitmen. He was the triggerman along with Stymie’s son Joey D’Angelo in the murder of Eddie “The Chink” Garofalo. After his involvement in the murder of Frank Hydell along with Thomas Carbonaro, he turned government witness. He was one of three former Gambino henchmen who cooperated with the government case against John (Junior) Gotti.
Louis Saccenti was a member of Toddo’s original Bensonhurst crew that Sammy inherited. Sammy believed that he lacked a killer’s insticts and was unfit to become a Mafia soldier, so he utilized him as bodyguard and chauffeur. When associate Pauly Marmone who was the president of the union retired, Sammy pushed for Saccenti to replace him.