Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Sammy 'The Bull' Gravano

His Mouth, His Downfall

Ironically, as Gotti had once raged against Angelo Ruggiero for his non-stop talking, it was Gottis inability to keep quiet, and his indiscreet conversations that brought about his downfall. With all the information Gotti revealed in just five taped sessions in the Cirillo apartment above the Ravenite, the government had enough to prepare its final case.

John Gotti Jnr (AP)
John Gotti Jnr (AP)

After the OConnor acquittal, Gotti was enjoying his last few months of freedom. His son, John A. Gotti, known as Junior, was married in an elaborate wedding celebration in April 1990. Over the summer, the Gambino leadership realized the government was planning another indictment for what they werent sure. One gang source in the New York Police Departments intelligence division reported back that the Southern District was planning to indict Gotti for the Castellano/Bilotti murders. When fall arrived, Gotti decided to prepare the family for the next indictment.

Gotti knew that if he were indicted that he would be taken off the street and would probably be incarcerated for 12 to 18 months, even if he were acquitted. His other concern was that Gravano would be indicted also. Gotti then made Gravano the official underboss of the family and ordered him to go on the lam.

In late October, government surveillance reported that Gravano was not showing up at his usual haunts. After saying goodbye to his wife, Gravano left with his driver, Louie Saccente, and hid out first at a cottage in the Pocono's which his father-in-law owned. He soon left for Florida, staying in a plush hotel for a few weeks before moving back north to Atlantic City.

When the government issued a subpoena for Gravano to provide them with new photographs and fingerprints, he officially became a fugitive. Gravano claims in his book that he came up with a plan to convert a Brooklyn warehouse into a safe house. Through messages he discussed the plan with Gotti who insisted Gravano come to the Ravenite to finalize his plan. Gravano groused that Gotti refused his plea to schedule the meeting at a secret location since the club was under constant surveillance. The king insisted that the meeting be held in the throne room of his castle! Sammy said sarcastically.

Gravano claims, I was only inside the club about fifteen minutes before the door blew up and a slew of FBI agents came in.

The arrests of Gotti, Gravano and Frank Locascio took place on the evening of December 11, 1990. In the book, Gotti: The Rise and Fall, authors Jerry Capeci and Gene Mustain contradict one aspect of Gravanos tale. They claim FBI surveillance actually saw Gravano enter the Ravenite the night of December 10 and, noting his return, scheduled their raid for the following night.

The three men, along with Thomas Gambino who was arrested in the garment district that same night, were placed in the maximum-security section of the MCC. Gambino was bonded out the following day, but Gotti, Gravano and Locascio were denied bail during a hearing held on December 21. At this hearing the recordings from the bugs planted in the Cirillo apartment, located above the Ravenite, were played. Gravano was astounded at what came across on the tapes. On December 12, 1989 the listening devices picked up a meeting between Gotti and Locascio while Gravano was downstairs in the club.

On the tapes Gotti blasted Gravano. Peter Maas writes, The spin Gotti put on these hits enraged Sammy. The tapes portrayed Gotti as a long-suffering boss saddled with a mad-dog killer who hounded him to obtain authorization for hits until he finally threw up his hands and bowed to Sammys wishes.

In the hallway after the court session, Gravano remembers, I kind of looked at him, and he finally said, Youre disturbed? and I said, Fucking A, Im disturbed. I think we got to talk about those tapes.

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