Once upon a time, there was a man named Sam Gravano, “Sammy the Bull” his associates called him. Sammy was not a nice man. In fact, for much of his career was was a hit man in the Mafia family headed by John Gotti, Sr…known in the NYC tabloids of the 1980s and 90s as “the Teflon Don.” Sam Gravano says he killed 19 people in the service of John Gotti, until he turned on him, ratted him out, and took the Teflon off him, and put a prison inmate’s suit on him.
For these, and other services as a witness against his once-fellow-mobsters, Gravano was awarded a mere 5 year prison sentence, and when it was done, a new life in the Federal Witness Protection Program. Gravano got a new home in Tempe, Arizona, a new name, Jimmy Moran, and a new identity as the owner of a construction company. But this straight life was, Gravano admitted to a reporter who had tracked him down, “boring.”
More exciting was the drug business, and the profits which came from distributing the party drug Ecstasy. Discretion did not come easy to Sammy the Bull, nor to the White Supremist gang known alternatively as the Devil Dogs, White Power and Hitler’s Youth who were primary accomplices in the drug business. When they all got busted in the year 2000, Gravano, his wife, and his two children were among 36 people arrested.
Gravano pleaded guilty to this sideline to being a protected witness, got a 20 year sentence, served 15, and got out of prison fairly recently.
Unfortunately, Gravano’s story of continued criminality while in the Witness Protection Program is not unique. One study, done some 20 years ago by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Bill Moushey, turned up some 20 murders, allegedly committed by protected witnesses during the first 25 years of the program.
Gerard Shur, who helped design the program, doesn’t deny its flaws, but he says, over the years, the recidivism rate of 18% of protected witnesses returning to crime is actually better than the rate for most unprotected former convicts.
This statistic is reassuring in general, and so, I guess, is the $50,000 compensation payment given to surviving relatives of people who are killed by protected witnesses, but it provides little consolation to victims of years of scams pulled off by a Mafia soldier once known as Frank Gioia Jr, but now called Frank Capri and living in the Phoenx, AZ metropolitan area. Frank Gioia, was a 3rd generation Mafioso, a “made man,” and pretty much a run-of-the-mill “soldier” in NYC’s Lucchese Family. Frank Capri’s second life, was as a federally protected witness and con-man.
Robert Anglen investigates consumer issues for The Arizona Republic, where he has worked since 2003. From 2011-2015, Anglen worked with Call 12 for Action at 12 News as part of a joint broadcast and publishing project. He co-led the team through some of its most successful years. In 2014, Call 12 for Action recovered more than $2 million for consumers, something no television station in the country had achieved. His award-winning investigations have exposed fraud, crime and corruption. He has written about abuses within the probate court system, questionable charities tied to a worldwide televangelism ministry and was named reporter-of-the year in 2005 by the Arizona Press Club for stories linking Taser stun guns to deaths across the country. On Sept. 11, 2001, he was only blocks away from the World Trade Center collapse and wrote first-person accounts from Ground Zero. Born in Los Angeles, he has worked as a skip tracer, bill collector, cab driver and process server.