Critique Of Sammy The Bull's Podcast On "A Hit Team From New York" (By Someone Who Knows)

The following includes a detailed interview with former Gambino associate Salvatore (Fat Sal) Mangiavillano.... After publication, this story earned the certification of former Gambino capo Michael (Mikie Scars) DiLeonardo.

In one of his latest podcasts, A Hit Team From New York Came To Arizona To Kill Me (posted below), Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano describes what he would like to do to Thomas (Huck) Carbonaro, the Gambino soldier who more than 20 years ago flew to Arizona with associate Salvatore (Fat Sal) Mangiavillano expressly to kill the former Gambino underboss. (Hint: Gravano doesn’t want to share a slice of pizza with Huck.)

Louis Saccenti, Huck Carbonaro, John Gammarano, Sammy Gravano.
FBI surveillance: from left: Louis Saccenti, Huck, John Gammarano, Sammy Gravano. 

Gravano details a hypothetical scenario that involves two guys bringing Huck into a room to have a brief chat with Sammy the Bull.

“I would tell him, bro, we went through a lot. You were in my crew. I broke your cherry – you did your first hit with me.”

Sammy says he’d remind Huck that “I moved you into a two-family house in Bensonhurst. I put up money, and you paid me back a little at a time.”

Then, he’d refresh Huck on some rules. “You know families are off limits,” he’d remind Huck, referring to the mob's well known rule about not touching a wiseguy’s family, no matter how badly the wiseguy screws up.

“You got info from my brother-in-law Eddie (Garafola) about where my wife and children live. You told Fat Sally.”

Then, Sammy says he’d tell Huck, “You’re a friend of ours because I made you a friend of ours. On today, the last day of your life, you brought these people to my fcking house. Would you shoot me in front of (my family), leave my body pouring out blood in front of them?" he says he’d ask Huck. Referring to his family, he adds, “Would you kill them too? I want the answer. The truth. I am going to shoot you in the head, and you won’t feel anything.” But “if you lie, it will take three days (for me to kill you).”

Gravano, having risen to the number two position in the Gambino family as John Gotti's underboss, flipped after the December 1990 arrests of the Gotti administration. He copped to 19 murders, helped bring down Gotti and as much of the Gambino family as possible, and testified against members and associates of various other crime families. He served five years and entered the witness protection program, which he departed in 1995 when he moved with his wife and children to Arizona.

Carbonaro, 74, who came up in Gravano's Gambino crew, was convicted in 2004 of murders and other crimes and handed three consecutive prison terms of 20 years each, plus a consecutive term of 10 years. He resides at a Federal medical center in Devens, Massachusetts. A recent compassionate release request filing was denied. In all likelihood, he will die in prison. His projected release is in March 2063.

The plot to kill Gravano arose in 1996, according to court filings, when an imprisoned John Gotti, during a visit, reminded brother Peter of some unfinished business with Gravano. “That’s a bill that’s gotta be paid,” John told his acting boss/brother. Then in 1999, Gravano flexed his muscles via an interview with the Arizona Republic that touted how the former underboss was no longer using a fake name and hiding in the witness protection program. Instead, Sammy the Bull, Former Gambino Underboss, was living with his family in Arizona. The Gambinos ‘’interpreted that as he was rubbing their faces in it," one FBI agent said.

Gravano, who says he hates Huck, dismisses Fat Sal, saying he didn’t know him, adding Fat Sal’s arrest for drugs led to the murder plot's demise. Ironically, it was GRAVANO’s arrest in February 2000—before the would-be assassins could move in on him—for running an Ecstasy dealing ring and subsequent imprisonment that caused the plot to fizzle out. In 2002, Gravano was sentenced to 20 years by Judge Allyne R. Ross of Federal Court for the Eastern District of New York,  the maximum possible sentence, more than what the sentencing guidelines called for. Gravano’s history made the risk of recidivism ''virtually a certainty'' unless he was ''incapacitated by incarceration," Judge Ross said. (In other words, the draconian sentence wasn't payback for Gravano's stark betrayal of his former Federal handlers. )

These days, Sammy has been enjoying a profitable third act leveraging the power of his words—once again—only this time for his "Our Thing" podcast, which has around a half-million subscribers. He has become a sun in the small universe of mob podcasters, around which numerous lesser podcasters revolve. Each of Gravano's podcasts regularly garners hundreds of thousands of views. Sammy, who is no longer under oath to the Mafia—or to the Feds—seemingly speaks freely, and we'd bet those of his subscribers who aren't familiar with Gambino family history and mob life probably take Sammy's word as gospel. (Except for those retired FBI agents who are carefully reviewing Sammy's podcasts in bids to solve cold cases, of course.)

Gravano is in a unique position: He can say whatever he wants without the threat of pushback from authoritative sources who could contradict him. Huck, of course, is in prison and won't be commenting anytime soon—on Gravano or anything else. So we thought it would be interesting to see what Fat Sal Mangiavillano—the Gambino associate who flew to Arizona with Huck—had to say about Sammy's podcast.

What did Fat Sal have to gain by helping the Gambino family kill the person who betrayed John Gotti? In short, a quantum leap in his status on the street. He would attain Mafia membership. Fat Sal's effort would be formally acknowledged by the Gambino family. He would become a Gambino soldier.

But as things turned out, Mangiavillano found himself in a similar position to Gravano. He also would earn the mob’s wrath and take the witness stand to point the finger at his alleged partners-in-crime.

Prior to being pulled into Huck's orbit on a mission, Mangiavillano—a veteran bank robber and self-taught wizard who built and used computerized surveillance systems—was at the top of his game, masterminding bank robberies all over the northeast for a crew he was affiliated with.

Sal could build sophisticated gadgets and gizmos that “were right out of James Bond,” as one source said. The stuff Sal built was deployed mostly to defeat bank surveillance. (Once, in 1992—before computers, the internet, and widescale bank surveillance were ubiquitous—Mangiavillano planted a hidden wireless camera inside a bank count room so he and his confederates could spy on the bank’s employees and know the exact moment when the vault was opened—so they could burst in as if on cue to steal all the cash.)

As for the robberies, according to BOYLE V. UNITED STATES - SUPREME COURT BRIEF, Mangiavillano and his crew pulled off organized, multijurisdictional bank thefts over 10 years, including from 1991 through 1999, "using stealth and force to rob financial institutions in numerous locations," including New York City, Long Island, upstate New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The group, which committed more than 30 night-deposit-box thefts, included Mangiavillano, Tommy Dono, Beck Fiseku, Chris Ludwigsen, William Galloway, and Gerard Bellafiore.

Mangiavillano is in the history books for being the first to originate the scheme of stealing from bank night-deposit boxes, and he instructed the others on how to carry out such thefts. Before Mangiavillano's imprisonment for bank burglary in 1996, he generally assumed the role of "organizer" who would assemble the participants for a theft or series of thefts. The participating members would meet to plan their operations in advance. After the planning was complete, the members would assemble the tools needed to execute the plan, including crowbars, hammers, screwdrivers, ratchet sets, flashlights, chains, and fishing gaffs, as well as walkie-talkies and police scanners.

Many of the night-deposit-box thefts were highly successful, with the group netting as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars per score. The group also attempted more traditional bank-vault burglaries and bank robberies. Before executing a bank-vault operation, group members conducted surveillance of the targeted bank and gathered the requisite tools, which could include special cutting tools, industrial-strength drills, blow torches, gas tanks, water hoses, and walkie- talkies. The bank-vault burglaries occurred in the early morning hours when the banks were closed.

We asked Sal to watch Sammy’s podcast and offer his feedback. (Among his first comments, Sal noted that his background information is detailed in a Supreme Court filing, which he said was “actual paperwork” unlike the “fictitious paperwork" Sammy references in his podcast digression.) We also asked Sal to discuss how he met Huck and became affiliated with the Gambino family in the plot to get Gravano.

As for killing Gravano’s family and Cosa Nostra protocol, Sal said, “No one was going to touch a hair on the head of any of Gravano’s family members. The rule is that you can’t kill in front of women and children—and you can’t kill any family members. This is because they believe if you hurt women and children, the full power of the law will come down on your head. At the time, we also believed that by just killing Gravano that the FBI would come down really hard on us because of his status as a Super Rat. You would also have to worry about the cooperator then killing family members in retaliation, and that’s not farfetched. There is a mistaken belief that a cooperator becomes a punk, which is definitely not true. Some of us changed our name and address and make a legit living, but we didn’t become punks—maybe we become a little humbler—but definitely not punks.

“The part about Sammy being Cosa Nostra and what he would do to Huck. Sammy says he breaths sleeps and eats Cosa Nostra, but he really doesn’t and he never did. If he did, he would’ve stood up instead of ratting everybody and their mother out. Part of the Cosa Nostra pledge is they prick your finger and drip your blood on a figure of a Catholic saint. Then, they light the saint on fire and put it in the hands of the inductee, and they say repeat after me, “if I reveal the existence of Cosa Nostra, I will burn like the saint in my hand.” When you admit to the existence of Cosa Nostra to the FBI, you burn like the saint that they burned in your hands. You don’t belong anymore, and as far as they are concerned, you never did, no matter what excuse you have for ratting out one guy (John Gotti). What’s Sammy’s excuse for ratting out the other 999 men and women? Yes, he ratted out the woman juror, and there is paperwork on that.

"Huck he really breaths, eats, and sleeps Cosa Nostra. No one can ever take that from him. Huck is Cosa Nostra to the core, and he has proven it. Gravano is describing a fantasy story when he talks about two guys grabbing Huck. Well, this is not a fairytale, this is real: Huck is a gangster, a made member of the Gambino family, in good standing with the Gambinos and with Cosa Nostra, Huck has more than two guys willing to kill for him. Recall the April 1998 murder of Gambino associate/confidential Federal informant Frank Hydell. And some of Huck’s guys are back in the street and are more than willing to kill and have already proven that they can do the time for the murder."

Previous reporting supports that. We noted that if Huck were released from prison and embraced his old life, there is a crew ready to follow him, which would likely include Huck nephew Tommy Dono, 48, who was proposed for membership in the Gambino family in 2001 and was recently released from prison following a 15-year hitch for the Hydell murder, and nephew-in-law Kevin Granato, 61, a former Colombo associate. He spent about 30 years in prison for drug dealing, multiple murders, and racketeering and is likely a made member of the Gambino family today.

In discussing the in-progress plot to kill him, Sammy describes a scene involving Huck and Sal debating who would shoot Gravano, claiming, "Huck said, 'I am not going near (Gravano), he won't run, he’s got a gun." Gravano then says, "Fat Sal was like, 'I am not doing that either," meaning shoot Gravano. Since neither wanted to walk up on Gravano and shoot him, they buried a device that spins and shoots shotgun shells, as Gravano described it, near a stop sign that they knew Sammy stopped at every morning. But "it was half-buried and it didn't work," Gravano said.

As for that alleged conversation between Huck and Sal, Sal says, "That didn’t happen. Neither one of us ever said we wouldn’t shoot him."

Gravano's office, Sal said, "was the main point of attention, and was the location we would set up electronic surveillance. Also, Gravano stated we were there in Arizona for six months, which was not true. We arrived in Phoenix sometime in December 1999, and within two weeks, I secured Arizona driver’s licenses for me and Huck under fictitious names through the DMV in Arizona. We found Sammy’s office not by accident like he claims. And nobody gave us the address, we found it because of Gravano’s blunder, and we secured multiple guns in Arizona before heading back to New York for the holidays and securing the surveillance equipment that we would need to complete the mission."

As for that device, Sal said, “Gravano said we 'invented an explosive device.' I didn’t invent a claymore mine, and it was never buried at a stop sign nor was it going to be buried at a stop sign. The stop sign would be a good place to hide and wait for him and shoot him. He probably got his information from his law enforcement friends, who are telling him half-truths or what they heard from a third party and told Sammy so Sammy has material to use on his podcast—instead of stories of him and his crew rolling a drunk outside Docks bar for Christmas money. By the way, he was already a made guy when he and some others rolled the drunk. Just imagine how much money a drunk truck driver would have, split probably 10 ways. Only two people really know what happened, me and Huck."

Sammy also says that the plot to kill him was called off because "Fat Sal ... got pinched for doing drugs and he ratted on everyone and they all got pinched."

Says Sal, "I was never a drug user nor did I get in trouble for drugs, nor did me and my old friends ever roll a drunk—a drunk who was actually a hard-working man. That was way below my standards and against my criminal morals."

As for the timeline of Sal’s arrests: “I was arrested for bank burglary and racketeering conspiracy in the “Bank Crew Case” in June of 2000. That was the third time I was prosecuted by the Federal Government. I pled guilty on that case, and I was awaiting sentencing (seven years) and then automatic deportation after I finished serving my sentence." Deportation was in the cards because Sal, whose parents legally immigrated to the USA when he was 8, never became a US citizen. He possessed a green card, which the government had already taken from him for a prior conviction.

"On December 11 of 2001 I was indicted on a fourth Federal case—because of cooperators telling on me—for racketeering conspiracy, which was for armed takeover bank robbery and conspiracy to commit armed takeover bank robberies, and the interstate transportation of stolen money.

"Soon after Huck sent me $50 for Christmas, an outright joke. My friends from Canada were sending me $300 a month, and they never made any money with me.

"I flipped on the 4th of July weekend 2002, two years after surrendering on the Bank Crew Case, after running into Sammy's brother-in-law Eddie Garafola (a reputed Gambino soldier) in the bullpens at the Federal lockup in Brooklyn. (I was going to court for an evidentiary hearing.)

"Eddie had been charged in a multi-defendant racketeering case in the Southern District (which is Manhattan) and was sitting all alone in a bullpen that holds 20 guys, which was strange. The only time they don’t put others in the bullpen with a single inmate is because of a separation order, which are mostly put on cooperators. I could see and smell fear all over Eddie. I smirked and thought, here comes case number five. A few days later, I made a hasty decision to cooperate. I can give you 100 excuses, but I won't. At the end of the day by street code, I am still a rat/stoolpigeon—I don't like it, but it's the truth, I crossed the line. I can't take it back and I won't make half-baked excuses and blame guys who stood up. These are the rules of the street, not only Cosa Nostra."

The following, which was only lightly edited, is Sal describing how he met Huck Carbonaro and got involved in the plot to kill Gravano.

I met Huck in the early 1980s when I was around 16 years old. I was a car thief and supplied stolen cars to different chop shops. One of the chop shops was run by Rico, a friend of Huck's. Both Huck and Rico were in Sammy Gravano's crew and both used to hang out at Docks bar. Me and my partners in crime would go there to pick up payments for the cars we had dropped off to Rico.

That arrangement ended one night when my friend got into a beef with the son of a Luchese wiseguy.

List of wiseguys Gravano helped convict
List of who Gravano helped convict. (Source: Gangster BB)

My friend shot him to death outside Docks bar. We all left and never dealt with Rico again. (Note, Docks was a bar in Brooklyn owned by Joe D’Angelo, aka Stymie, a close friend who was also on record with Sammy and later proposed for membership by Sammy.)

I would see Huck when we would go to an afterhours bar. Huck was the door man, Sammy owned the place.

Around 1988, I am involved in chopping and tagging stolen cars. Two of the guys who are bringing the stolen cars to me were Gerard Bellafiore and Chris “Paciello” Ludwigsen. They and Tommy Dono also start getting involved in smash-and-grab burglaries. I knew Tommy from when he was young through his older brother Nicky. Tommy was already starting to show good traits as a criminal: he was quiet and had balls. Our friendship really bonded when me and Tommy got arrested. It was a case of mistaken identity and the cops handcuffed us to the bottom of radiators in separate rooms and beat us for 10 hours straight. They mistook us for some guys who had mugged an off-duty cop, who had been robbed of his gun and badge. After the beatings, they brought the victim in and he told the cops: “The guys who robbed me were Puerto Ricans and these two guys are Italians.”

Then they put us in a cell together, and one of them even introduced us to each other. “Since you two guys don’t know each other’s name, Sal, that’s Tommy.”

In 1993, I got approached by a guy from the Colombo family. He was was an old timer and a professional bank burglar. He wanted me to shut down the ADT alarm system for the entire New York City metropolitan area. The plan was to do a bank safety deposit vault in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn. We didn't have enough guys to do it. At the time I had an auto body shop in Bensonhurst, and I was also tagging stolen cars and shipping them to Atlanta.

Eddie Boyle was a career car thief and he would do business with me. I knew him to be a quiet and very smart and ballsy guy. He was on record with Huck, so I asked Tommy what did he think about asking Eddie to join us for the vault burglary. Next thing I know, Tommy is reaching out and asking if we can take Huck, who wanted to come. So we met up with Huck and told him he was welcomed to join us.

Huck started hanging around us all the time after that.

I go to prison in 1996 for a bank burglary in Dover Delaware. I was ordered deported from the USA. In late September of 1999, I rode a Jet Ski across the Niagara river from Canada and got into a car on the Buffalo, New York Side of river, which had been parked for me.

I got in touch with Tommy to let him know that I was home, and he and Huck came to meet me. Tommy was going to jail the next day. Huck took me for a walk-talk to tell me to help him find and kill Gravano. He said that he had gotten the order from Peter Gotti.

Why did he need my help? He knew that I was capable and willing to commit violence, I was able to get work cars registered in fictitious names, I was able to get real identifications in fictitious names, he knew that I was a meticulous planner (down to the slightest of detail). I was known on the street to be a highly skilled thief who specialized in coming in stealth, which is what they needed to get Gravano. Huck, who had done robberies with me, knew my capabilities—knew that I was not some rah-rah type of guy that went blabbing. And for the record, at that point in my life, I did not want to become a member of Cosa Nostra, I did not need it, I was very capable of earning money on my own, and protecting myself, and Cosa Nostra would put a damper on my life. I would have to follow all their rules. I still had to follow the order to kill, however, because I was deeply involved in criminal activity with them and knew the details of a plot to kill a legendary rat/top-echelon informant, which would bring law enforcement like a freight train aimed at the Gambino Family. Also, to refuse the order would show a weakness, which would have people questioning my future loyalty.

Sal added at the end of his email: May Charlie Boy (the son of Toto Aurelio) rest in peace. Charlie Boy passed away. A true member of Cosa Nostra to the core, he would never refuse an order, no matter who the boss was. Peter Gotti gave the order, but the order was from John Gotti Sr


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