Avenging John Gotti: The Plot to Kill Sammy the Bull Gravano

“I didn’t know the Gambinos sent a hit team for Sammy. Kudos for that...”
--Text message from a blog source. He's not congratulating me....

Teflon Don John Gotti
Gotti at his zenith.

After posting the"ban the bomb" story, I received an email with details about the bomb the Gambinos were going to use to finish Sammy the Bull Gravano.

"(It) was a directional Claymore-style bomb. It could have caused collateral damage ..."

The two communiques inspired me to write this...

As underboss, Gravano operated a loanshark book with $1.5 million on the street. This racket alone put at least $300,000 a year in his pocket.

As per his agreement as a defector, Gravano was allowed to keep $90,000 of his multimillion-dollar cash and property assets. He also was given $1,400 a month for living expenses. Still, Gravano departed the Witness Protection Program after eight months, in December 1995, because the financial aid and security regulations were too restrictive for his taste.

"Jimmy Moran" then settled with his wife and two children in Arizona.

In 1997 he negotiated a deal with writer Peter Mass for his biography. Underboss netted him at least $250,000, with which he started up a swimming-pool construction company in Phoenix. Interestingly, Gravano named it Marathon, the same name of one of his mobbed-up businesses in Brooklyn, a concrete firm.

It's noteworthy that in November 1999, Gravano made a guest-speaking appearance at an FBI supervisor meeting in Phoenix. Sammy played the same role he'd donned years earlier during the Gotti and Gambino trials, that of the reformed wiseguy/reluctant gangster who always had a law-abiding citizen waiting to burst out, not an inconvenient drug trafficking murderer that one-time Luchese underboss Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso had sought to conjure forth). Gravano, the celebrity witness, spoke about how the evil Mafia operated. He was walking a figurative tightrope.

In February 2000, Sammy the Bull, his wife, his son, his daughter, and her boyfriend were arrested on state and federal drug charges. An indictment accused him of being the boss and financier of a $500,000-a-week Ecstasy empire.

Drug charges had been raised in cross-examinations of Gravano at the trials of Gotti and other mobsters, unsuccessfully.

As Selwyn Raab wrote in Five Families, "Sammy’s deceit had fooled the FBI and he remained on good terms with agents until his narcotics bust by Arizona authorities."

Eventually, in the same Brooklyn federal courthouse where he testified many times as a Mafia defector, Gravano and son pleaded guilty to conspiracy. He'd been jammed up with the same evidence that had done in Gotti: secretly taped conversations, testimony from turncoats,

Gravano was nailed cold discussing drug profits. Members of his Ecstasy crew testified about how Gravano liked to be addressed as “Boss” and “Big Man.” He taught them about weapons and tactics and in a raspy voice spoke about organizing a new kind  of mob in Arizona.

“He couldn’t sit in Arizona and be a pool salesman or run a construction company,” Linda Lacewell, an assistant U.S. Attorney, said at a hearing. “He wanted the old days back; he wanted ‘the life’ back, the power back.”

Arizona authorities seized $400,000 from Gravano’s properties and book royalties.

 "Assailing Gravano as incorrigible for violating the leniency and trust extended to him by the government and the judicial system, Federal Judge Allyne Ross sentenced him to twenty years. The term was four more years than recommended in sentencing guidelines, indicating the government’s outrage at Gravano’s betrayal."

Years later, on May 15, 2003, the public learned that Gravano's Arrest Saved Him From Murder, Officials Say (as the New York Times reported).

"Two mob figures, acting on orders from the upper echelons of the Gambino crime family, were in the final stages of an elaborate plot to kill Salvatore Gravano with a bomb in Arizona in 1999 when his arrest narrowly averted his murder, federal authorities said yesterday."

The case followed a yearlong investigation by the FBI 's Gambino squad. Thomas Carbonaro, a soldier in the family, was charged in the plot. ...