Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Sammy 'The Bull' Gravano

Final Contradiction

On January 2, 2000 Bosko Radonjich, the former leader of the Westies, who acted as the go-between for Gravano in bribing juror George Pape during Diane Giacalones RICO prosecution of Gotti, was arrested at Miami International Airport. It looked as though Gravano might be called to testify again.

 It was not to be. Incredibly, on February 24, Gravano was charged with operating a statewide Ecstasy drug ring in Arizona. It was ironic enough that the man who had abhorred drug dealing by his own crew was now neck deep in it. But that was not the only contradiction. Arrested in the group of 36 drug ring members were Gravanos wife Debra; his son Gerard; his daughter Karen and her husband.

Gravano had once railed against Gotti for getting his son involved in the life. In Underboss, he drove the point home by discussing a meeting he attended with Gotti and Vincent the Chin Gigante:

One thing Ill never forget from that meeting was John telling Chin in sort of a proud way that his son, John Junior, had just been made. Instead of congratulating him, Chin said, Jeez, Im sorry to hear that.

We were a little shocked by this, but Chin was right. Paul Castellano didnt want his kids in the life. None of Chins sons were made. I myself would be dead set against it. I wanted my son to be legitimate, to have nothing to do with what I did.

So here was Chin, whos supposed to be crazy, saying who in their right mind wanted their son to be made? And there was John boasting about it. Who was really crazy?

If John Gotti was crazy for getting his son involved in crime, what does that make Gravano, who dragged his whole family into it?

The investigation into the drug ring began in August 1999. Results showed that the distribution of Ecstasy pills averaged 25,000 per week in greater Phoenix alone. Consuming the pills were the areas teenagers who purchased the drugs for $25 a tablet. State and federal law enforcement officers reported that Gravano served as a mentor to Michael Papa, a former New Yorker who was in charge of distribution for the drug ring. The 24-year-old Papa was one of the founders of a local white supremacist youth gang called the Devil Dogs.

Gravano had been living in Tempe, Arizona, since 1995. As Jimmy Moran, he owned a swimming pool installation operation, Creative Pools, and a construction company, Marathon Development. The former underboss was initially charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute dangerous drugs. Arizona Attorney General Janet Napolitano told reporters, His (Gravanos) primary testimony against the mob doesnt give him a free ride to facilitate drug dealing in Arizona. Gravanos bail was set at $5 million cash.

The investigation by the Phoenix police revealed that Gravano was training the young members of the gang. Surveillance showed that Papas method of operation changed once Gravano got involved. One police sergeant commented, They became more aggressive, showed a lot of force and were more organized. It was almost like they were being schooled.

When police searched Gravanos apartment, they found three guns. Convicted felons are not allowed to possess weapons. At least ten more weapons were found at his wifes home. Despite the fact that Sammys 19 murders included Debra Gravanos younger brother, and the husbands of her friends, she some how found forgiveness for the multiple-murderer. Debra moved to Tempe one year after Sammy moved there in 1995. Arriving with her was her daughter Karen, her daughters fiancée, and a grandchild. David Seabrook, engaged to Karen Gravano, had been convicted of attempted murder when he was 14 years old. Debra opened a restaurant in Scottsdale called Uncle Sals Italian Ristorante.

Gravanos son Gerard, the boy Sammy wanted to shield from a life of crime, was now 23. An employee of his fathers pool company, Gerard, since moving to Tempe, had been convicted for attempting to mail marijuana to New York.

Within days of his arrest, sources were reporting that Gravano was forced back into a life of crime after his legitimate business, opened in the name of Debra and Gerard Gravano, went south in the wake of the Dennis Wagner Arizona Republic interview.

On February 28, 2000 Gravano was formally charged with twelve counts including drug sales, money laundering, possession of three handguns as a convicted felon, and possession of marijuana. Gravano, who in the past had looked down on his associates for getting caught on listening devices, was recorded discussing drug sales with his wife and daughter over a bugged telephone.

The new century was not off to a good start for the Gravano family. In New York, days after Gravanos arrest, Edward Garafola, the brother-in-law Sammy berated continuously in his book Underboss, was indicted in a Wall Street pump and dump stock scam that involved members of the Gambino Family and the Russian Mafia.

Gravanos lawyer cried foul, claiming Sammy had been arrested without a warrant and had been denied access to an attorney. In an attempt to get Gravano released on bail, attorney Larry Hammond sent a letter to the FBIs New York office requesting that agents come testify on Gravanos behalf. The request was denied. The now embarrassed FBI office let it be known that Hammond would have to subpoena the agents if he wanted their testimony.

Attorney General Napolitanos office was inundated with letters from the families of Gravanos victims pleading that they keep the confessed murderer behind bars. Jackie Colucci, the brother of Sammys first victim, wrote Gravano, makes millions off the backs of poor people. He is a sick vicious animal who has been living in a mansion while I drive a 12-year-old car and still pay a mortgage.

On May 2, 2000, Brooklyn federal prosecutors dropped the charges against Bosko Radonjich, claiming that Gravanos arrest on drug charges destroyed his credibility as a witness.

In June 2000, a bizarre twist to the drug ring story emerged. Philip Pascucci was arrested on drug charges in Texas. While cooperating with authorities, Pascucci claimed he began selling Ecstasy pills to Gravano in late 1998, long before Sammy was exposed in Dennis Wagners article and his businesses went flat as was claimed. What made the tale really fascinating was that Pascucci said Gravano asked him to lure attorney Ron Kuby to San Antonio so Sammy could kill him.

Court papers filed claimed, Gravano expressed his intent to kill the lawyer because he was angry with him due to litigation against Gravano brought by victims survivors. Kuby, stunned by the allegations, joked that the plot would never have worked because he hated Texas and would not have traveled there. Then on a more serious note, Kuby stated, What is most disturbing is that it was the government of the United States that gave him the ability to do this.

Kuby, an ardent opponent of the death penalty, thought it ironic that Gravano would seek to carry out the murder plot in a state that would surely execute him for just one murder, while as a conspirator in 19 others he had walked free. The alleged murder conspiracy all but destroyed Gravanos chances of having his bail reduced.

On July 6, another indictment was handed down in New York City charging 17 people with operating the largest wholesale Ecstasy ring in the city. The ring was one of the suppliers to Gravano in Arizona. Charged as the mastermind of the ring was Ilan Zarger, an Israeli-born mobster, who was caught on tape threatening to whack Gravano over a price dispute.

In November, a judge dealt Gravano a blow when he refused to release his home, business, bank accounts and vehicles, all seized under Arizonas anti-racketeering law. Prosecutors were even successful in tying up $275,000 Gravano earned from the book, claiming the funds should be impounded as potential restitution for the families of Sammys victims. The prosecutors efforts led Gravano to ask for a publicly funded lawyer. At this point, life on a farm in Montana must have looked pretty good to Sammy.

Gravano, who is facing 30 years if convicted in Arizona, was indicted on separate drug charges in New York in mid-December and could face 20 years there. This indictment came as more information from the charges against Ilan Zarger spilled out. It was reported that Gravano threatened a rival drug dealer from Zargers gang. I own Arizona. Its locked down. You cant sell pills here without going through me, Gravano was alleged to have said.

Also named in the latest indictment was Gravanos son Gerard and Michael Papa, who was said to have choked one of Zargers dealers outside a Phoenix nightclub. In January 2001, both Gerard and Papa pleaded innocent to charges in a Brooklyn federal courthouse before each was released on $200,000 bail.

As of this writing, Gravano and his family are still awaiting trial in two states. Only Sammy remains behind bars.

Is Sammy the Bull still feared? On January 8, 2001, Ilan Zarger pleaded guilty to a federal drug conspiracy charge. The man, who had once boasted on tape that he was going to whack Gravano, accepted a deal that leaves him facing 20 years in prison when he is sentenced later this year. But, Zarger wont have to testify against Gravano.

Hes got family, stated Zargers attorney. Its a very dangerous thing to testify against Sammy Gravano.

Living in fear of Gravano? Sammy would have enjoyed hearing that. After all, thats Sammy. Sammy to the core!

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