Salvatore (Sammy The Bull) Gravano Testimony, Part 14: On Gambino Garbage Kingpin Jimmy Brown

We're breaking one of our Cardinal Rules by posting this installment without an introduction (we might add one retroactively). We've been focusing exclusively on finishing our profile of onetime Bonanno family powerhouse Carmine (Lilo) Galante...

James "Jimmy Brown" Failla
Jimmy Brown despised the media, especially photographers.

As noted when we kicked off this series, the following is a continuation of the direct examination of Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano by John Gleeson, then then-Assistant US Attorney, during the 1992 racketeering and murder trial of Gambino boss John Gotti and reputed acting consiglieri Frank (Frankie Loc) Locascio....

GLEESON: You mentioned a number of times Jimmy Brown (James "Jimmy Brown" Failla)?


GLEESON: What was his responsibility?

GRAVANO: Controlled the garbage industry for us.

GLEESON: Did he also run a—


GLEESON: When you say “controlled the garbage industry,” what do you mean?

GRAVANO: Private garbage industry. He is the head of the association and he controls the union, [Local] 813, Bernie Edelstein answers directly to Jimmy Brown so he controls the garbage industry for his Family.

GLEESON: Local 813 is what union?

GRAVANO: Garbage.

GLEESON: That is a union responsibility for the garbage?

GRAVANO: Yes. The drivers, I would imagine.

GLEESON: Are you familiar with the details of how Jimmy Brown controlled the garbage haulers?


GLEESON: Are there any boroughs where the Gambino Family controls the garbage?

GRAVANO: Yes. Manhattan, Queens, and we are partners out in Long Island.

GLEESON: How is the Manhattan—how is that industry controlled in Manhattan?

GRAVANO: Through Jimmy Brown, through the association.

GLEESON: The association of garbage haulers?


GLEESON: How was it controlled in Queens?

GRAVANO: His cousin is in charge of the association there.

GLEESON: What is his cousin’s name?

GRAVANO: Right now it is not at the tip of my tongue.

GLEESON: Was his cousin in the Gambino Family?

GRAVANO: He is an associate.

GLEESON: You mentioned your partners in Long Island, is that correct?


GLEESON: Who is the Gambino Family partners with?

GRAVANO: Lucchese Family.

GLEESON: Who controls that?

GRAVANO: Sally Avelino, a captain, controls the industry out there, and we are partners in it and they send us our end usually through Jimmy Brown.

GLEESON: When you say they send you your end, what is an end?

GRAVANO: Whatever money is taken out of that industry is divied up fifty percent for us, fifty percent for our administration.

GLEESON: Did you ever have any involvement in the money by that partnership?


GLEESON: Do you know how much Jimmy Brown turns in to the boss?


John Gotti and Sammy the Bull Gravano
John Gotti and Sammy The Bull Gravano enter Brooklyn Federal court in May 1986.

Putting a Contract on Tommy Sparrow

GLEESON: In 1989 Jimmy Brown came to the administration regarding a murder?


GLEESON: How did that come about?

GRAVANO: Came into John and said a made member, Tommy Sparrow, was—went to the grand jury and was going back. He was advised by his attorney to tell the truth and cooperate and that is exactly what he was going to do.

GLEESON: Whose crew was Tommy Sparrow in?

GRAVANO: Made member in Jimmy Brown’s.

GLEESON: Sparrow his nickname or real name?

GRAVANO: I don’t know. That is how I know him.

GLEESON: Did you know him well?


GLEESON: Did Jimmy Brown report this to John Gotti?


GLEESON: As a result of that, what happened?

GRAVANO: John Gotti told me about it. Told me that he had given them a contract to kill him.

GLEESON: He had given a contract to—

GRAVANO: Jimmy Brown. A contract to kill Tommy Sparrow. And he believed Louis Fats and Danny Marino were on it. He wasn’t sure how fast it would get done. He told me to get on it and make sure it was done before he went in to the grand jury.

GLEESON: Before Tommy Sparrow went back to the grand jury?


GLEESON: Did you get on it?

GRAVANO: I got involved immediately.

GLEESON: What did you do once you got involved?

GRAVANO: I got ahold of Louie Fats, Danny Marino told me that “Philly Dogs” would be on it. He wasn’t coming in. They were talking with him, and I got in touch with Joe Watts to get a place ready.

GLEESON: Place ready for what?

GRAVANO: To bury him. I told—we made an appointment one night. I told Louie Fats to make an appointment with Tommy in a last-ditch effort, Jimmy wanted to talk to him and he could talk, just wanted an opportunity for Jimmy to talk with him and everything would be okay. He wasn’t sure if he would come out of his café to meet.

GLEESON: Who wasn’t sure?

GRAVANO: Louie Fats. I told him if he doesn’t come out we will go back and we will kill him right in the café. When I got things set up, I came back to a place, a warehouse, glass factory warehouse, in Brooklyn where it was done. I went back—I got out of the car with Danny Marino, “Philly” was waiting.

GLEESON: Where were you when—

GRAVANO: Brooklyn.

GLEESON: Whose glass factory?

GRAVANO: “Philly Dogs’ ” son.

GLEESON: You drove there, did you drive with anybody?

GRAVANO: Danny Marino.

GLEESON: He is a captain on the chart, Government Exhibit 84 [showing the structure of the Gambino Family]?


GLEESON: When you got there with Danny Marino what happened?

GRAVANO: We got out of the car, Lou Fats called me over to the side to talk to me. He told me Tommy came with them, he already did it, he was dead and inside the factory.

GLEESON: Louie Fats told you he shot Tommy?

GRAVANO: Yes. He asked me to help to put the body in a van. I did. I walked back. I told Danny Marino to get in the car. When we got in the car I said it is already done, follow the van out to Staten Island. We went out to Staten Island and parked the van in the back of the diner. We gave the keys to Joe Watts who was there, and Fat Dom, they took the body. The other guys took me home. And that was the end of it.

GLEESON: Two of the people you mentioned in your description of this were “Philly Dogs,” and Louie Fats, who were they?

GRAVANO: Louie Fats was acting captain under Jimmy.

GLEESON: Jimmy Brown?

GRAVANO: Yes. And “Philly Dogs” is a made member in that crew.

GLEESON: Did Joe Watts and Fat Dom take the body away?


GLEESON: Did they ever tell you where it went?


GLEESON: Were you part of the administration when this murder was ordered?


GLEESON: Did you agree with John Gotti’s directions?


GLEESON: Did you participate in it?


[. . . .]

GLEESON: Before you were arrested on this case, on December 11, 1990, how frequently did you speak to John Gotti? 

GRAVANO: Four, five times a week.

GLEESON: Did you speak to him in person or over the phone? 

GRAVANO: In person. 

GLEESON: Where? 

GRAVANO: Mostly down New York. 

GLEESON: When you say “down New York,” do you mean the Ravenite Social Club? 


GLEESON: Approximately what time of day would you see him down at the Ravenite Social Club?

GRAVANO: At night. 

GLEESON: Approximately what time? 

GRAVANO: Between six o’clock and eight o’clock.

GLEESON: Did you ever have to send a message to him or contact him earlier in the day?


GLEESON: When did he start his day? 

GRAVANO: About twelve, one o’clock. 

GLEESON: Where did he start it? 

GRAVANO: In Queens. 

GLEESON: When you say Queens, what do you mean by that? 

GRAVANO: 101st Avenue, Bergin Hunt & Fish Club. 

GLEESON: From time to time did you ever have to send a message to him earlier in the day than the hours that you would spend at the Ravenite? 


GLEESON: How did you do it? 

GRAVANO: I would have Big Lou get in touch with his brother Pete. 

GLEESON: Big Lou is the captain who took over your old crew? 


GLEESON: Were you concerned while you were the underboss of the Gambino Family about electronic surveillance? 


GLEESON: Why were you concerned? 

GRAVANO: That none of our conversations would get picked up. 

GLEESON: Did you take steps to prevent them from getting picked up? 


GLEESON: What steps did you take? 

GRAVANO: We took walks in the street. We whispered. We went up to the apartment [above the Ravenite Social Club]. We felt the apartment was safe because an eighty-year-old woman owned the apartment. 

GLEESON: Did you feel it was safe to talk up there without being intercepted? 


GLEESON: Did you ever discuss the possibility that that apartment was bugged? 




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