Sammy “The Bull” Gravano was involved in nineteen murders. He started out doing them by by his own hand. Sammy already had eight victims before joining forces with John Gotti in 1985, when they killed Gambino Crime Family boss Paul Castellano. The bloodshed would only accelerate after Gotti and Gravano took over. Here is the story of Gravano’s 19 victims.
Joseph Colucci – Sammy Gravano and Joseph Colucci were both lower level mafia associates in 1970 and part of the same crew. They worked under Thomas “Shorty” Spero, and bank robberies were one of their main income sources. Spero recruited Gravano, knowing that he he had an extremely tough up and comer on his hands. Gravano was willing to kill if asked, and Shorty decided to take his young recruit up on the offer.
Shorty’s nephew Tommy Spero was having sex with Colucci’s wife. When Colucci found out, he threatened to kill the Speros and Gravano. Sammy commented in his book Underboss about Camille Colucci being drop dead gorgeous with great legs. Sammy got back in the confidence of Colucci just long enough to set him up, shooting him from the back seat after a night of drinking.
Gravano later described the surreal feeling he had as the bullets left his gun and entered Colucci’s head. The killing showed his higher ups that young Sammy Gravano was a stone cold killer. Even Carmine “The Snake” Persico was impressed. Very few men could pull something like that off and have no feelings about it. To Sammy, it was a piece of business. It was also just the beginning of a 20 year murder spree.
Alan Kaiser – It had been seven years since the Colucci killing. Alan Kaiser was just a sixteen year old kid when he was shot to death by Sammy Gravano and Louie Milito. Kaiser had done absolutely nothing wrong. He simply resembled a man named Aldo Candido, a man who robbed one of Sammy’s nightclub businesses the week before. Gravano was injured in the robbery and vowed revenge, leading to the case of mistaken identity.
The Kaiser killing was a complete mystery until 13 years later when Gravano cooperated with the FBI. It was a horrible look for Sammy and Milito and pretty much got swept under the rug. Sammy neglected to tell the Kaiser story in his book. During his many interviews, he detailed nearly every other killing including the one of his brother in law, never once mentioning Kaiser.
The ironic part of this killing was the participation of Louie Milito. He was a long time friend of Gravano. They committed many crimes together and were both now members of the Gambino Crime Family. Later when Gravano became underboss, his best friend Louie Milito became disgruntled and complained too loudly. Gravano had him killed too.
John Doe – Gravano later recalled the killing of a biker who had also been involved in the attempted ransacking of one of Sammy’s nightclubs. Some people say this incident may have been the inspiration for the bar scene in A Bronx Tale. Sammy was showing that his businesses were not to be trifled with. The name of the man killed has never been revealed, but he was shot dead by Gravano himself.
Sammy was again accompanied on this hit by his partner Louie Milito. They did things the right way by going to Gambino boss Paul Castellano to get permission to wipe out the Biker gang. They shot the leader of the gang but he lived. Gravano and Milito were now looked at as up and coming hitmen in the mafia. These guys could be called upon when someone needed to be killed.
Nick Scibetta – This was one of the most horrific murders that Gravano was involved in. Nick Scibetta was Sammy’s brother in law, the brother of his loyal and loving wife Debra. “Nicky” had a very serious cocaine problem and was using Sammy’s name to borrow money from loansharks. His behavior began to annoy the mafia and embarrass Sammy. He gave Scibetta several warnings.
The problem reached a point of no return after Scibetta went to the cops to have a local enemy arrested. He had also insulted the daughter of a Gambino capo. It was decided that Scibetta would be murdered. Sammy was consulted and after some initial misgivings, decided to go along with the murder. Nick Scibetta would disappear, although authorities would confirm his death when they found his hand.
Sammy was able to keep this secret from Karen until years later. He was exposed after cooperating with the FBI. She was devastated to find out the truth. Karen ultimately stayed with Sammy and he went back to his old ways. They were both arrested years later in 2000 along with both kids for running an ecstasy ring in Arizona.
Tommy Spero – Gravano and Spero had once been friends and part of the same crew. Spero was the nephew of Shorty Spero, Sammy’s original boss. The two men had done many joint ventures together in the early 1970’s. After Sammy left that crew and became a Gambino, the two men became adversaries and their rivalry lasted for years. Gravano decided to close the door on the rivalry and Spero was shot to death in February 1980.
John Favara – The Favara killing took place just a month after the Tommy Spero killing. By now, Sammy’s reputation as a killer was known well amongst his Gambino family peers. Favara was the man who had accidentally run over and killed John Gotti’s 10 year old son Frank. Favara then made another colossal mistake, he refused to leave the neighborhood. He was a neighbor to the Gotti’s and continued living his life like nothing happened.
John Gotti and his wife Victoria were hell bent on revenge. Victoria had even attacked John Favara with a baseball bat. In the end, Gotti decided to recruit a team of Gambino killers to abduct and kill Favara while he was on vacation in Florida. Favara disappeared in March of 1980, never to be seen again. Years later, Gotti would remember the favor Gravano did for him when he took over the family.
John Simone – The murder of “Johnny Keys” Simone was ordered by family boss Paul Castellano. Simone and Anthony Caponigro had been responsible for the unsanctioned murder of Philadelphia mafia boss Angelo “The Gentle Don” Bruno. Caponigro was then murdered by infamous mob hitman Joe “Mad Dog” Sullivan shortly after. Castellano decided to use Sammy Gravano to take care of the other piece of business.
Gravano actually cozied up to Simone, getting to know him over a period of time. Simone was being extra cautious, knowing exactly what happened to Caponigro. Eventually, Gravano and his partner Louie Milito would convince Simone to take a ride together. They drove him to a deeply wooded back road in Staten Island. Simone put up no resistance, only asking if he could take his shoes off, which Gravano allowed before Milito shot him in the back of the head.
Both Mad Dog Sullivan and Gravano later expressed respect to how Caponigro and Simone handled themselves during their killings. Caponigro launched at Sullivan like a “runaway rhinoceros” according to Mad Dog who later did a long documentary. Simone went calmly, accepting his fate without struggle or complaint, only asking to take off his shoes. Gravano never saw this behavior from any other victims.
Frank Fiala – Fiala was a high rolling drug trafficker who was in the process of purchasing one of Sammy’s nightclubs, the Plaza Suite. Gravano was reluctant to sell the club at first, but Fiala had offered him a whopping one million dollars which was five times the value of the Plaza Suite. Sammy accepted a one hundred thousand dollar down payment from Fiala. The problems started almost immediately.
Fiala right away moved in and began exerting his power in the club, before the deal had been completed. When Gravano became annoyed and confronted him, Fiala pulled out an Uzi. Sammy played it cool and talked Fiala down, knowing he was going to kill him at the first opportunity. Gravano was genuinely disgusted and outraged by the arrogance of Fiala and gathered his team of hitmen after leaving the club that day.
Gravano, Louie Milito and another crew member Michael DeBatt then ambushed Fiala outside of the club that night. Sammy stepped in front of Fiala distracting him as Milito dropped him with a shot from behind. Louie Milito then shot Fiala once in both eyeballs. this was a message to others about the danger of disrespecting Sammy Gravano. Although more than a dozen people were close by, none stepped forward.
Paul Castellano & Thomas Bilotti – It had been a relatively lengthy three years since Sammy had been involved in a murder. This double murder would be unlike any other, and it would make world wide headlines. John Gotti had started a plot to take over the Gambinos, and a number of powerful capos were backing his move. To solidify his support, he knew he had to get the support of Sammy Gravano and Frankie DeCicco. Gravano joined team Gotti after the invitation.
Paul Castellano had proven to be a rather greedy boss. He upped the amount of tribute that was expected from family members. Paul was also seen as out of touch and aloof, he had no respect for the street level mobsters who were bringing in the money. Castellano was even having some serious legal troubles, having recently been indicted in two different federal cases. He was very unpopular with the rest of the family.
Parked across the street from Sparks Steak House in Manhattan, Gotti and Gravano watched as their team of chosen shooters gunned down Castellano and Bilotti as they arrived. Big Paul and Bilotti were left dead in the streets in what is the most infamous mob hit of all time. It was December 15, 1985, and the Gambinos now had a new hierarchy, led by John Gotti and Sammy Gravano.
Gravano and Gotti drove by the crime scene to have an up close look. The murder launched them to the top of the mafia, and put the mafia on the front pages of the news everyday. Needless to say, many of the other bosses like Vincent “The Chin” Gigante were furious with Gotti for his actions. But despite several attempts, they never killed him or Sammy, they did get Frank DeCicco, blowing his car up and killing him.
Nick Mormando – “Nicky Cowboy” Mormando was a longtime member of Sammy’s crew who had developed an addiction to crack cocaine. Nicky Cowboy was once a top hitman for Sammy. He was there for the Fiala hit in 1982. Nicky began acting like a cowboy afterwards, doing scores without paying Sammy and blowing thousands of dollars away on drugs. It was a dangerous game.
Gravano did not approve of the drug use and demoted Nicky from the crew. Nicky then began to make noise about forming his own crew, which infuriated Gravano. The last straw was when Sammy the Bull got word that Nicky had begun recruiting some of his men for his side activities. Gravano had killed several men in the past for less. He decided Cowboy had to go immediately.
First he went to Gotti and got permission to do some house cleaning. Gravano then instructed the infamous crew member “Old Man” Joseph Paruta to kill Mormando, which he did with two shots to the back of the head. Sammy was in the car directly behind and watched the entire incident unfold. They dumped his body a few miles away in a vacant lot.
Robert DiBernardo – He was a captain in the family who was instrumental in aligning Gotti and Gravano for the takeover. Unfortunately, Robert DiBernardo found himself in hot water soon afterwards. The reasoning for the murder is somewhat unclear. Gravano said that Gotti ordered it through Angelo Ruggeiro, while Gotti claimed on a wiretap that Gravano wanted to do the hit and he just approved it.
Gravano set up a meeting with DiBernardo where his trusted gunman Joseph Paruta shot DiBernardo in the back of the head while Sammy observed. Gravano took over DiBernardo’s business, making it a profitable venture for himself. The killing would later become a point of contention between Gotti and Gravano. Gotti felt like he was duped into allowing the murder so Sammy could make more money for himself.
Michael “Mikey” DeBatt – Mikey DeBatt was another member of Sammy’s crew who like his good friend Nicky Cowboy became addicted to crack cocaine. Like Mormando, Mikey also participated in the killing of Frank Fiala, the pushy drug trafficker who wanted to take over Sammy’s bar in 1982. DeBatt was actually able to gain the confidence of Fiala, per Sammy’s instructions.
Mikey was sick with fear that he was going to be murdered by his own men, and he was right. His wife actually approached Sammy Gravano pleading for help for her husband. Instead of helping, Gravano coldly decided to have DeBatt killed. While he genuinely knew and liked Mikey and his family, he wasn’t about to let a crack addict take down his empire.
He was gunned down inside of one of Sammy’s nightclubs. The cash register was emptied to make it look like a robbery. After Sammy admitted to the crimes years later, the families of Mormando, Joe Colucci and DeBatt filed wrongful death suits against Gravano. This would not be the first or last killing Sammy ordered of a crew member.
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Louie Milito – Louie Milito was Sammy’s lifelong best friend and partner in crime. Louie had been there all throughout Sammy’s rise in the Gambino Crime Family. Gravano was now consigliere. A serious rift in the friendship occurred when Sammy named Lou Vallario captain of his old crew. Milito was devastated by the choice, feeling betrayed by his best friend. Milito had put in a lot of work through the years.
Milito had actually left Sammy’s crew after that. He had another thing going against him, he was considered a Castellano loyalist. After rejoining the crew under Vallario, Milito still remained defiant and openly complained. Gravano had been holding off Gotti, who wanted Milito dead. After hearing all the things Louie was saying, he could no longer let the disrespect go unchecked.
Milito was lured in under the pretense of a meeting. Present in the social club were Sammy, John’s brother Gene Gotti, Lou Vallario and John Carneglia. While sitting at a table in discussion, Carneglia quietly snuck up behind Milito and shot him in the head. Such treachery was nothing new for Sammy Gravano. He had killed partners before and even killed his wife Debra’s brother Nick Scibetta. Business as usual.
Francessco Oliverri – Shortly after having his best friend killed, Gravano was on site for yet another murder. Francessco Oliverri had beaten a made Gambino family member to death. Gotti ordered his death and gave the job to Sammy, his trusted killer. Gravano and Robert Bisaccia tracked Oliverri down. Gravano waited in the car while Bisaccia got out and shot Oliverri to death on May 3, 1988.
Willie Boy Johnson – He was a longtime close friend of John Gotti, but Willie Boy Johnson had been exposed as an informant in court. Willie Boy had been one of Gotti’s chief enforcers for over 20 years. They met when Gotti was a fast rising 17 year old neighborhood gangster. Gotti and his crew affectionately referred to the Native American bruiser as “Wahoo”.
It was in courtroom hearing that Johnson was exposed as prosecutors were trying to convince him to testify against Gotti. According to Gravano, Johnson had not left town because John Gotti assured him that he would be safe. He was no longer part of the crew, but they wouldn’t kill him. Willie Boy had been one of the men who abducted and killed John Favara back in 1980.
John Gotti and Sammy Gravano were not about to let a “rat” slide away unpunished. They coordinated to come up with a plan on how to kill Johnson without getting caught. They decided that they would be suspects regardless, and decided to kill Johnson right outside of his home. Willie Boy thought he was in the clear, but on August 29, 1988, he was shot to death as he walked out of his home on the way to work.
It was the exposure of Johnson that created a massive rift between the FBI and state prosecutors. FBI agents were furious that the informant was unnecessarily exposed, killing off the one insider that they had close to Gotti and Gravano. Because of the problem, less information got shared and Gotti would continue to beat cases for a few more years.
Thomas Spinelli – At 77 years old, Thomas Spinelli was a longtime Gambino associate who had never been made. Gotti and Gravano believed that the old man nicknamed “Tommy Sparrow” had become an informer. Spinelli had in fact testified in front of a federal grand jury and was scheduled to appear again. Sometime in 1989, Spinelli was summoned to a meeting and he would never be seen again.
Eddie Garofalo – Much like the Robert DiBernardo killing, Sammy Gravano walked away from this murder with more money. Garofalo was a big player in the construction business. He had done tons of business with Sammy over the years but in 1989, they found themselves in a bitter dispute. Gravano ordered Garofalo to be killed and he was shot dead on August 9, 1990.
Louie DiBono – This would be the very last murder on the long resume of Sammy The Bull Gravano. Sammy had issues with DiBono that went years back. He once accused DiBono of stealing from the family in front of Paul Castellano, a move that almost got Sammy killed himself. He had asked permission to kill DiBono, a made man, and he was denied by Castellano.
DiBono continued running hs rackets, controlling construction in the World Trade Center. In October, 1990, DiBono’s bullet riddled body was found in his car in the underground parking lot of the World Trade Center. Gravano’s last murder was surely his most satisfying one, He’d been wanting to kill DiBono for years. Gotti would soon be heard on a wiretap discussing the murder and why it happened, leading to his downfall.