Hitting Jelly Belly, aka Louie DiBono: Testimony Of Underboss Salvatore (Sammy The Bull) Gravano, Part 13

This installment  delves into more background on the hit on Gambino soldier Louis DiBono, who Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano had an ongoing feud with that predated the Bull's promotion into the Gambino hierarchy.

John Gotti and Sammy i
John Gotti (and Sammy Bull) in 1990 after his acquittal on assault charges.

Gravano also talks turkey about money. Prosecutor John Gleeson asks how much he earned from the construction business and how much he kicked up. Gravano pocketed $100,000 a month ("about a million two a year") of which he kept 20% and “sent 80% up to the boss." 

DiBono earned Gotti’s wrath by ignoring his orders to come in.

Some wiseguys were appalled that Gotti took out DiBono for missing meetings, believing that the former guy, Paul Castellano, never would've ordered a hit on one of his guys because he had simply missed some meetings. But for Gotti, DiBono had committed a death penalty offense after DiBono stopped showing up to bend the knee. And of course Gravano also had seemingly endless problems with DiBono, an erstwhile business partner. (Gravano sought to resolve some of his earliest problems with DiBono via a sitdown during which Gravano pleaded with Big Paul for permission to kill DiBono right there in front of the entire Gambino administration.)

The big picture, in any event, is that DiBono successfully pissed off both his boss and the man who would become his underboss to the extent that both wanted him dead....

The DiBono murder was one of five murders pinned to the Dapper Don by the jury's verdict at the conclusion of his 1992 trial. The DiBono murder was far more consequential for Locascio, who was found guilty of the DiBono murder only. (Locascio was also found guilty of conspiracy to murder Gaetano Vastola, a DeCavalcante wiseguy.)

The Gambinos had difficulties finding DiBono, who certainly didn't go out of his way to make things easier for them. Then, one of Gravano's business partners, Joe Madonia, handed the Bull DiBono's business card. Johnny Gammarano also told Gravano that DiBono was working at the Twin Towers.

DiBono--who at the time of his death held a highly lucrative contract to apply fireproofing foam to the steel crossbeams beneath each floor of the Twin Towers--was shot three times in the head in October 1990  in an underground parking garage at the World Trade Center. He was found by an attendant around 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon lying across the front seat of his 1987 Cadillac. As per the police, the 310-pound construction contractor, who was 63 years old when slain, had been shot outside the car, then pulled onto the front seat and left in the garage.

DiBono was one of eight murders in an 80-count indictment unsealed in early 2008 that charged 62 defendants, including members of the Gambino family “administration,” or executive leadership: acting boss John D’Amico, acting underboss Domenico Cefalu, and consigliere Joseph Corozzo. Also indicted in the case – three Gambino captains, three acting captains, sixteen soldiers, and numerous associates. The crimes spanned more than 30 years "and reflect(ed) the Gambino family’s corrosive influence on the construction industry in New York City and beyond, and its willingness to resort to violence, even murder, to resolve disputes in dozens of crimes of violence dating from the 1970s to the present..."

One of the defendants, Gambino soldier Charles Carneglia, was sentenced to life in prison in 2009 after he was convicted of four murders, including the DiBono murder (the others: the 1977 stabbing murder of Gambino associate Michael Cotillo; the 1983 stabbing murder of Gambino associate Salvatore Puma; and the 1990 murder of Jose Delgado Rivera, an armored truck guard whom  Carneglia and others shot during a robbery at John F. Kennedy International).

Gravano testified that when he noticed that the DiBono murder wasn't being covered on the television or in the newspapers, he had concerns and sent for Gambino wiseguy/Gotti driver Bobby Borriello. 

"I asked him what happened. Was he sure that (DiBono had been killed)? He assured me the guy was dead. He was in the garage in the World Trade Center. Why it wasn’t in the paper or on the news, he didn’t know why."

It wasn't in the news because—as per a National Police Defense Foundation report by J. R. de Szigethy for a special editorial on the 15th Anniversary of 9/11—security at the Twin Towers was so lax in 1990 that nobody found DiBono's body until three days after the shooting.

As de Szigethy writes: "The murder of Louis DiBono betrayed a shocking gap in the Security in place at the World Trade Center; no video camera surveillance photos existed to document who was responsible for this outrageous crime committed in a public place, and no eyewitnesses or ‘ear witnesses’ could be located. What is particularly disturbing about this crime is the fact that DiBono’s dead body had lain in his car for 3 days before his murder was discovered. It should have been self-evident to Trade Center authorities that if a car could be parked for 3 days unexamined in a Trade Center parking lot with a dead body inside, such a vehicle could just as easily be left behind that contained a bomb. That is exactly what happened less than 3 years later, when a rented van was driven without challenge nor inspection into the same parking lot where DiBono had been murdered."

Louis DiBono
DiBono reached the end of his journey in 1990 in a WTC parking garage.

DiBono's actions toward the end of his life were more than a little odd. Did he honestly think he'd be able to duck the Gambino family for the rest of his life? Gravano did make claims about DiBono losing his grip on reality and growing addicted to drugs as well as prostitutes (Sammy was far from a disinterested observer, however). DiBono might have pinned some of his hopes on Frank Locascio, the one figure in the Gotti hierarchy who at least seemed somewhat sensitive to DiBono's plight. Of course, Frankie Loc has been urgently arguing since 2010 that he tried to save DiBono's life by brokering a deal between Gotti and DiBono. He claimed that, under the deal, all would be forgiven if DiBono paid Gotti $50,000. 

Only John Gotti took strong offense at Frank's moves to help DiBono. He even busted Locascio down from Gambino underboss to the position of acting consiglieri.

GLEESON: On November 16, 1989, you signed papers that ended your business relationship with Louie DiBono, correct? 


GLEESON: At that point, were there any outstanding liabilities, as far as you were concerned, for those companies?

GRAVANO: There was one, the tax, state tax. 

GLEESON: I am sorry? 

GRAVANO: The state tax. 

GLEESON: And what kind of liability was that? 

GRAVANO: It was about one hundred twenty-nine thousand dollars owed in state taxes. 

GLEESON: Do you know which of the companies that you owed the state tax? 

GRAVANO: Mario and DiBono Drywall. 

GLEESON: You testified that John Gotti was going to take over Louie DiBono, handling Louie DiBono? 


GLEESON: Did that happen? 


GLEESON: Did you have conversations with him regarding Louie DiBono after that happened?


GLEESON: One conversation or more than one? 

GRAVANO: More than one. 

GLEESON: Did he make any complaints to you? 

GRAVANO: He was dealing with Louie and Louie was doing the same thing, making appointments with him, not showing. John would tell Patsy Conte to meet with him, the meeting was set up, and he wouldn’t show again. 

GLEESON: Did John tell you this? 


GLEESON: Did there come a point when he told you whether he had a solution to the problem?

GRAVANO: I believe he became frustrated and eventually said that he was gonna kill him. 

GLEESON: Do you believe that or do you remember that happening? 

GRAVANO: I remember that happening. 

GLEESON: Do you recall when, for the first time, he told you that that would happen? 

GRAVANO: Not exactly the dates. 

GLEESON: Did he tell you anything about who was going to do it? 

GRAVANO: He was gonna give it to Patsy Conte and that crew. 

GLEESON: Patsy Conte was the captain of Louie DiBono’s crew?


GLEESON: When you say “give to it to them,” what do you mean? 

GRAVANO: He was going to order Patsy Conte to kill him. 

GLEESON: Did he tell you that?


GLEESON: Did you find out, at any point, that some of the complaints about Louie DiBono made to you by John Gotti were tape-recorded? 


GLEESON: Did you have occasion, Mr. Gravano, to listen to recordings made at the Ravenite Social Club in conversations including you and John Gotti? 


GLEESON: And while you were listening to them, did you have occasion to look at some transcripts? 


GLEESON: Let me show you a book of transcripts. The tapes, Mr. Gravano, of those transcripts have already been played to the jury, but I would like to ask you a few questions, if I might...

GLEESON: Let me direct your attention to a conversation from January 24, 1990, in the apartment [above the Ravenite Social Club]. This is a conversation, the tape of which this jury has already heard. Just take a moment to look at the page, please. 

GRAVANO: (The witness complies.) 

GLEESON: Now, do you recall listening to this conversation? 


GLEESON: Do you remember it? 

GRAVANO: Yes.. . . .

GLEESON: [Gotti says:] “And he’s gotta get whacked! Because he’s getting—for the same reason that ‘Jelly Belly’s’ getting it. You wanna challenge the administration? Well, you will meet the challenge. And you’re going.” Who did you understand him to be referring to when he said “Jelly Belly”

GRAVANO: At that point of the conversation, he’s talking about Louie DiBono. 

GLEESON: Is that a name that was used more than once for Louie DiBono? 


GLEESON: Is that his nickname? 

GRAVANO: No. Once we talk about killing him, we gave him a nickname of “Jelly Belly.” 

GLEESON: When he said “you want to challenge the administration, you’ll meet the challenge,” what did you understand him to mean by that? 

GRAVANO: Louie DiBono was defying the boss’s orders. He’s defying the administration. 

GLEESON: How was Louie DiBono defying the administration? 

GRAVANO: He’s refusing to come in, he’s refusing to listen, and he’s doing whatever he wants. The other example would be a guy doing drugs behind his back, defying him. 

GLEESON: Did there come a point when you discussed with John Gotti whether other people were gonna be used to kill Louie DiBono? 

GRAVANO: As it went on, he got more and more frustrated. I asked him if he wanted me to take care of it. He said no, he would put Bobby Borriello, Charlie Carneglia, and a guy named Tony on it. He would add to the people who were on it already.

GLEESON: You offered to do it yourself? 


GLEESON: You were willing to kill him? 


GLEESON: You mentioned Bobby Borriello, Charlie— 

GRAVANO: Carneglia. 

GLEESON: And the kid Tony? 


GLEESON: Were they made members of the Family? 

GRAVANO: Bobby was. 

GLEESON: Whose crew is he in? 

GRAVANO: He was with Pete Gotti. 

GLEESON: Did you continue to discuss, with John Gotti, the efforts of those people to try and kill Louie DiBono? 

GRAVANO: Say that again? 

GLEESON: Did you discuss with him, after he told you those people would be doing it rather than you, did you discuss it with him? 


GLEESON: At any point, did you obtain any information about Louie DiBono that was helpful in trying to kill him? 

GRAVANO: Toward the end, Joe Madonia came to me with a card, that Louie DiBono was working downtown New York for a big company, and asked me if Louie might be able to get him some drywall work, and he gave me the card, the name of the company he was working for. . . . .

GLEESON: Did anyone else give you any information about Louie DiBono? 

GRAVANO: Johnny Gammarano told me where he was working, as well.. . . .

GLEESON: Do you recall where it was Louie DiBono was working? 

GRAVANO: In the World Trade Center. 

GLEESON: Did you pass along the information [on DiBono] you got from Johnny Gammarano to anyone? 

GRAVANO: It was the same exact information as the card. 

GLEESON: Did you pass it along? 


GLEESON: To whom? 

GRAVANO: To John. 


GLEESON: Did there come a point when you learned that Louie DiBono was murdered? 

GRAVANO: A couple of weeks after I passed that information. 

GLEESON: Who did you learn it from? 

GRAVANO: I learned it from—John told me that he was gone. 

GLEESON: Did he tell you anything else other than he was gone? 

GRAVANO: I don’t think so. 

GLEESON: Was it in the newspaper? 


GLEESON: Was there ever a point when it was in the newspaper? 

GRAVANO: A couple of days later when he was found. 

GLEESON: What do you mean, “a couple of days later”? 

GRAVANO: A couple of days after he was killed, he was found. 

GLEESON: In between, did you talk to anybody about his being killed? 

GRAVANO: I talked to Bobby Borriello once. 

GLEESON: What did you say to him? 

GRAVANO: It didn’t come out on television or in the paper and I asked him what happened. Was he sure that happened? 

GLEESON: What did he say?

GRAVANO: He assured me the guy was dead. He was in the garage in the World Trade Center. Why it wasn’t in the paper or on the news, he didn’t know why. Then it came right out. 

GLEESON: I am sorry? 

GRAVANO: And then it came out then. They found him, and it came out. 

GLEESON: A couple of days later? 


GLEESON: Were you a member of the administration when the decision was made to kill Louie DiBono? 


GLEESON: Did you discuss it with John Gotti? 


GLEESON: Did you agree with the decision? 


GLEESON: You offered to do it yourself? 


GLEESON: Were you personally involved in the murder? 


GLEESON: Did you provide information to John Gotti with the intent that it be carried out?

GRAVANO: Yes.. . . 

GLEESON: By the way, Mr. Gravano, did Louie DiBono ever come into the club after John Gotti was complaining about the fact that he wouldn’t come in? 


GLEESON: Do you recall when that was? 

GRAVANO: Not exactly. 

GLEESON: Have you had occasion to listen to a club conversation from March 28, 1990? GRAVANO: Yes. 

GLEESON: Did you recognize that conversation? 


GLEESON: Was that the day that Louie DiBono came in? 


GLEESON: Was he expected?


GLEESON: Could you describe to the jury what happened that day? 

GRAVANO: I don’t know exactly who it was. I believe Patsy Conte or Paulie Graziano came into the club and said Louie DiBono was outside. After refusing to come to a lot of the meetings, he was outside and that he was gonna come in just about unannounced. I guess he thought he caught us off guard and he was pretty safe. 

GLEESON: Did he catch you off guard? 

GRAVANO: Yes and no. 

GLEESON: What do you mean by that? 

GRAVANO: He caught us off guard in that we didn’t know he was coming, but not that we couldn’t react to it. As a matter of fact, at one point in the conversation with John, the FBI is outside watching the club and I tell John, in a low tone, that if he sends for somebody with a gun with a silencer, we’ll turn up the music. He could leave, tell Louie DiBono to be back in a half hour, and I will kill Louie DiBono right in the club. We’ll close the club, come back two, three in the morning, and take him out. 

GLEESON: When he came in, you offered to kill him in the club? 


GLEESON: You listened to the conversation on tape, correct? 


GLEESON: Is your offer on the tape? 

GRAVANO: Not really. You can’t hear it. It’s in a whisper. 

GLEESON: Is the reaction of the people in the club on the tape? 


GLEESON: What was the reaction? 

GRAVANO: They laughed a little bit and just passed over the idea. 

GLEESON: Were you serious about it? 


GLEESON: Did DiBono come into the club that night? 


GLEESON: Did he have a conversation with you in the club? 

GRAVANO: I don’t remember if he talked with me. 

GLEESON: Do you remember whether he talked with anybody? 

GRAVANO: I believe he talked with John. 

GLEESON: Were you present when he spoke to John? 

GRAVANO: I might have been. 

GLEESON: Do you remember, one way or another? 

GRAVANO: I am not sure. 

GLEESON: Why didn’t you kill him that night? 

GRAVANO: We just passed that idea up.. . . .


GLEESON: You testified that you controlled the Gambino Family’s interest in construction. Is that correct? 


GLEESON: Were there any other people in the Family with interest in construction? 



GRAVANO: There was quite a few people interested in construction. Outside of me and my crew? 


GRAVANO: There was Joe Watts had interest in construction, the Westies, Bosco, the boss of the Westies, had interest in construction. Quite a few people. 

GLEESON: Were your interests larger than all the others?


GLEESON: Were you the principal person involved in the construction industry in the Gambino Family? 


GLEESON: Did you share your earnings with anybody? 


GLEESON: With whom? 

GRAVANO: With the boss. 

GLEESON: Generally speaking, what percentage of what you earned through the Gambino Family interest in construction was shared with the boss? 

GRAVANO: What I was handling for the Family, the unions and deals, I kept twenty percent and I sent eighty percent up to the boss. 

GLEESON: Did you send it up in check or cash? 


GLEESON: How much money did you turn in on average, Mr. Gravano? 

GRAVANO: Average one hundred thousand dollars a month, about a million two a year. 

GLEESON: Who did you turn it in to? 

GRAVANO: To John through Pete. 

GLEESON: Was—did you bring it down to the Ravenite Social Club? 


GLEESON: Did you have a regular practice how you turned in the money you turned in? 


GLEESON: What was the practice? 

GRAVANO: When the money accumulated to a big number, I would talk to John, his brother Pete would come to my house Sunday early in the morning, and I would give it to him in some sort of bag or box or whatever. 

GLEESON: Other than the money that you turned in from construction, did you collect any other money to be given to John Gotti? 


GLEESON: What money? 

GRAVANO: On his birthday or Christmas when the captains chipped in to give him a gift, I collected that money generally. I turned that in as well. 

GLEESON: Was there, generally speaking, a size of a birthday gift to be given by each captain? 

GRAVANO: Approximately three thousand dollars each. 

GLEESON: How about Christmas gift? 

GRAVANO: Same thing. 

GLEESON: Did people turn in more for a birthday or Christmas gift? 

GRAVANO: That was their own business. 

GLEESON: Did they give that to you? 


GLEESON: Did they turn it in to you? 


GLEESON: Did you learn whether people turned in more? 

GRAVANO: No, that was their personal business with the boss. 

GLEESON: Did you ever turn in more than that as a gift? 


GLEESON: Birthday or Christmas gift? 


GLEESON: When you became part of the administration did you become familiar with other industries that the Gambino Family controlled? 


GLEESON: You mentioned a number of times Jimmy Brown? 


GLEESON: What was his responsibility? 

GRAVANO: Controlled the garbage industry for us. 

GLEESON: Did he also run a—