Sammy "The Bull" Gravano Research Papers Example

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Family, Crime, Social Issues, Life, Law, Boss, Criminal Justice, Drugs

Pages: 6

Words: 1650

Published: 2021/01/05


The story of Sammy “the bull” Gravano is not a first of any kind. It was not a turning point in his life and is still vulnerable. In fact, his family felt adversely towards him even after he turned to the government. His position as the new underboss was perfectly well timed for his betrayal of at least two Italian drug families. However, if Sammy had stopped here; he would have been hailed as a popular American hero. His involvement in the ecstasy ring and subsequent imprisonment has cost the American public a very turbulent time. It was merely a story reminding law enforcement that some criminal elements cannot be trusted with a second chance. Despite losing quite a bit of reputation, he remains today as one of the most hardened criminals to have ever passed through the criminal justice system.

Childhood years

Unlike several crime families that operated during that period, the family where Sammy was conceived and delivered was that of a small dress factory employee. Sammy was born in 1945 to Gerry and Kay Gravano. He was the third child among two other girls. Sammy was dyslexic and was unable to cope up with academic pressures. At a very young age, Sammy started his interaction with crimes such as brawling and shoplifting. Years that followed Sammy’s academic years were troublesome with Sammy brawling openly with several school bullies. Eventually by the time he was a sixteen year old, the school decided not to put up with his violent behavior and asked him to leave. Sammy’s father, Gerry was desperate to steer his son’s life away from crime and attempted to influence several different remedies; including religion (Biography, 2015).
After completing a short stint with the U.S. Army, Sammy was given an honorable discharge with the rank of corporal. In 1971, Sammy married Debra Scibetta. He suddenly became the brother-in-law of two prominent mob bosses; Gambino capo Edward Garafola and Mario Garafola. He also shared a close friendship with Gerard Pappa, his childhood friend.

Initial criminal involvement

Although Sammy’s initial brushes with crime was for petty offences such as shoplifting fruits, his style of fighting caught the attention of local mob undersides. It was these men that gave him the nickname “The bull” on account of his brutish fighting. Despite several attempts by his father to dissuade him from a life of crime, Sammy joined the Colombo crime family. He learned the trade of the mob such as hijacking, larceny, racketeering, loan-sharking and running gambling dens using a legitimate store front. In 1970, Sammy committed his first murder. Although his criminal career was studded with several high profile murders, the murder of Joseph Colucci earned him the respect that helped him to enter the Gambino crime family.

Gambino membership

Sammy’s first test in the Gambino crime family came in the form of his brother-in-law’s killing for using insulting language about the daughter of one of the bosses. Although Sammy initially wanted to kill the mob boss, however; Frank DeCicco convinced Sammy that such opposition would be futile. Subsequently, only the hand of Nicholas Scibetta was ever recovered. The details of his gory filled murder remain a mystery to this day.
There are also exploits of a clash between Sammy and his associates with a biker gang. Sammy is believed to have been injured at the time and yet managed to kill members of the biker gang.
Castellano Gambino was more of a mogul than a traditional racketeer. He had developed a construction business to provide a front for his crime organization. Sammy had always been perceived by the Gambino family as a mobster with the temperament of a cowboy. However, Sammy dispelled these notions when he joined the plumbing division of Castellano’s construction company. This increased his standing within the mob including that of his boss; Castellano Gambino. The success in the construction business made Sammy a millionaire with several expensive hobbies. He also earned the reputation of being an income earner among his mob associates.
Mob families are always prone to infighting and in 1980, tensions between mob bosses almost escalated into a civil war. However, the situation was averted when Sammy “The Bull” Gravano abducted and murdered the cousin of one of the warring bosses. This event quickly reduced the intensity and eventually fizzled out.
In 1982, Sammy once again hit mob headlines when he set up an ambush and killed businessman and drug trafficker Frank Fiala over the terms of closing the sale of the Plaza; an establishment that was maintained by Sammy for the mob.
Sammy also shot to fame when he and his crew murdered Castellano Gambino after changing allegiance to John Gotti. Castellano was against any of his crews engaging in drug trade. However, the elder Gotti and his crew were at the time pursued by the FBI regarding drug trafficking. This resulted in the elder Gotti and his crew being killed. Sammy joined up with John Gotti and murdered his former boss along with the inner circle.

Career as an Underboss

After the death of Castellano Gambino, John Gotti appointed Sammy as the Underboss. One of the first actions that Sammy performed as the Underboss was to have his long term associate and crew member Nicholas "Nicky Cowboy" Mormando killed. Mormando had grown reckless and such behavior is not taken lightly in the mob.
There were several other murders to follow including Michael DeBatt with a drug problem that affected his marital life, Francessco Oliverri for killing a Gambino family member in a fight, Louie Milito a former crew member over spreading rumors and the murder Louie DiBono for allegedly embezzling the crime family’s funds.
The hierarchy of the Gambino family and Sammy’s position in it interested law enforcement to focus on bringing Sammy in to topple the grip that the mob had over the state. This was also the same time when the FBI contacted Sammy about a possibility of a deal if he would turn in his mob family in exchange for his freedom and the safety of his family.

Turning Government Witness

Sammy, in 1991 did what nobody including his family could have predicted; he turned state’s witness against the mob (Raab, 1991). This decision left his family and the mob ties in shock. He handed over to the FBI several conversational tapes between him and John Gotti that eventually was instrumental in the clampdown of the Gambino crime family. The deal included a minimal sentence and the condition that he would never testify against his former crew. He received both and served four years of a five year jail term until 1994.
Once released, Sammy and his family were inducted into the witness protection program. He was given a new name and occupation to live in Arizona with his family. However, this was not the lifestyle that Sammy was used to. In addition the limitation in his contacts with friends and family members was too much to take for Sammy. Although popular belief is that he was unable to stay away from a life of crime along with the dividends it brought. Eventually he and his family moved out of the witness protection program in 1995. He began to give interviews and lived a well-publicized life. He even dared his former associates on occasion to try and “snuff” him out.
During this brief period of legal acceptance, he completed and published the book, “Underboss”. However, the profits from the proceeds of book sales were seized by authorities in the view of several lawsuits from Sammy’s former victims and their families (Raab, 1997). Eventually an interview with the Arizona Republic resulted in a contract being opened with Sammy’s name on it.

Re-engaging criminal activity

Sammy Gravano re-engaged in criminal activity probably over the proceeds of the book being seized or he simply missed the power that used to have. He forged a partnership with a twenty three year old gang leader known as Michael Papa. He had befriended Sammy’s son and headed the street gang, “Devil Dogs”. Although he had the expertise once to trafficked drugs, he only gained marginal success with this enterprise.
Street gang members were not professional criminals such as the mob crews that worked with Sammy. In addition, the inner ring that he had created was porous. He was eventually arrested along with his wife, daughter and son based on the same kind of evidence that secured John Gotti a life sentence in 1993; conversational tapes. It would have seemed that this former mob boss was being dished with some of his own medicine.
Although Sammy pleaded guilty in both Phoenix and New York, the drug laws had become extremely harsh over the years (Feuer, 2001). Furthermore, the justice department had already given Sammy a new lease of life and there was no more consideration available to tap on. Both states sentenced Sammy to identical prison terms however allowed that they run concurrently. His family (wife and daughter) was luckier and only received multiple years in probation. His son however, was slapped with a nine year jail sentence. This brought about the comprehensive end to an illustrious career in crime to a grinding halt.

Recent charges and present day life

There were attempts to charge Sammy with the murder of a New York police officer in the 1980s. The indictment was pronounced in 2003. However, this case fell through once the state’s star witness and former mob hitman Richard Kuklinski died. The murder charge for Louie Milito was also tried in court after the wife of the deceased claimed in her book that former members of Sammy’s crew had testified to that effect. He was also briefly charged with the murder of an elderly woman during a botched job.
Although he boasted to fellow inmates that he had killed over nineteen people during his life of crime with the Gambino family, he had grown weak and hardly left his cell. The only times he is seen outside his cell is to pick up food occasionally. The end of his violent career did not come by the bullet or by an ordered hit. It has come with disease and rot.
His estranged family published books of their own and deeply regretted Sammy’s betrayal of the Gambino crime family as well as their family. In recent times he had been visited by his daughter who claims that their relationship was on the mend.
The once feared mobster will not be eligible for parole until 2019 and even if he is released, it is almost certain that he would be monitored for the rest of his natural life by law enforcement agencies (Raab, 2005).


Raab, Selwyn (2005). The Five Families: The Rise, Decline & Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empire. St. Martins Press. New York: New York.
Raab, Selwyn (1997). New York Stakes Claim On Mobster's Book Money. Retrieved from:
Raab, Selwyn (1991). U.S. Says Top Gotti Aide Will Testify Against Boss. Retrieved from:
Feuer, Alan (2001). Gravano Pleads Guilty To Drug Sales In Arizona. Retrieved from:
Biography Staff (2015). Sammy "The Bull" Gravano. Retrieved from:

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