Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Sammy 'The Bull' Gravano

Glued to the Mob

Although Gravano had already carried out his first hit for the mob, his decision to continue a life in organized crime had not yet been cemented. In April 1971 Gravano married 17-year-old Deborah Scibetta. Gravano was 26. After a honeymoon in the Pocono Mountains, it was back to business.

A former Ramper sidekick, Louis Milito, introduced Gravano to Michael Hardy and Alley Boy Cuomo. Hardy was a drug dealer and would set up buys only to have Gravano and Cuomo bust in at the last moment pretending to be detectives. The drug dealers would be handcuffed and Cuomo and Gravano would take any money the men had while Hardy grabbed the drugs.

With Tommy Spero, Gravano opened a store he called the Hole in the Wall. He supplied it with merchandise described as slightly damaged, which regular department stores would not purchase for resale. Initially, while trying to sell the goods out of a car trunk, they had little success. Then Tommy Spero came up with the idea to tell potential customers that the merchandise was hot. Gravano claimed, People thought they were making a big score, getting stolen stuff.

Tommys father, Ralph Spero, wanted in on the new enterprise, but soon afterward Gravano realized he was robbing us blind. The incident led to tension between the Spero family and Gravano. Despite selling his interest in the store, problems continued between Gravano and Ralph Spero culminating in Shorty Spero, Ralphs brother, giving Sammy an official release from the Colombo Family after confirming that the Gambino Family would take him in. Later, both Shorty Spero and his brother Ralph would become mob murder victims.

After his transfer to the Gambino Family Gravano became a member of a crew headed by Salvatore Toddo Aurello, a family capo whose ties went back to the days of Albert Anastasia. Aurello took Gravano under his wing and taught him many valuable lessons about dealing with people. Aurello became Gravanos mob mentor and a father figure.

Marlon Brando in The Godfather
Marlon Brando in The Godfather (AP)

During the early 1970s Gravano saw the movie The Godfather. He claimed, It was a validation of everything I believed in. It was basically the way I saw the life. Despite his new affiliation and revelation Gravano was now married and his family obligation, and his first child led him to tell Aurello that he was packing it in. He was going to start a legitimate life out on Long Island. Gravano began a concerted effort at a law-abiding career in the construction business, working with members of his wifes family. Gravano claims that he was spending as much as nine or ten hours a day on jobs. In spite of the long hours and hard work, he and his wife were still living in Debras sisters apartment, sleeping on a mattress in one of the bedrooms with their new daughter, Karen.

Gravano didnt mind putting in the long hours. In fact he was toying with the idea of opening his own construction firm. However, a telephone call was about to change his career path. New York Assistant District Attorney Eugene Gold had recently requested that a grand jury issue indictments against Gravano and Alley Boy Cuomo for the 1969 murders of two brothers, Arthur and Joseph Dunn. Although the two had not been involved in the killings, their old partner in crime, Michael Hardy, had offered the two up in an effort to get even with several members of the Colombo family with which he had been at odds.

Gravano and Cuomo fled to Florida, but returned after determining, We didnt kill nobody. They turned themselves in and were placed in the Brooklyn House of Detention. Joining them was Gravanos old friend Louis Milito. Gold, the prosecutor, was out to get Colombo family capo Dominick Mimi Scialo, who had once killed a close friend of Gravano while he was with the Rampers. Gold told Gravano that if he rolled on Scialo he would get a total walk. Despite the fact he despised Scialo, Gravano was not about to become a rat yet.

Gravanos greatest fear, along with Cuomo and Militos, was that Scialo would kill the three of them in order to face the indictment alone. While still in jail, they made a pact to kill Scialo themselves. Once the trio made bail, they found out the Colombo family had killed that Scialo because he was deep into drugs. Despite this, Gravano and Cuomo were still facing trial for the double murder of the Dunn brothers and the legal expenses were mounting.

Gravano quit his construction job and said, Me and Alley went on a robbing rampage for a year and a half, stealing anything that wasnt nailed down. Im out every single night, seven days a week, robbing and stealing with Alley Boy, just to pay their lawyers. One week after the trial began, the Brooklyn prosecutors office moved to dismiss the charges against Gravano, Cuomo and Milito. Although he was acquitted, Gravano claims the experience sealed his future in a life of crime. In Underboss he reveals:

That pinch changed my whole life. I never, ever stopped a second from there on in. I was like a madman. Never stopped stealing. Never stopped robbing. I was obsessed.

Gravanos Mafia mentor, Toddo Aurello, soon proposed Sammy the Bull for membership into the Gambino Family.

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