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Wednesday, 30 May, 2001, 14:11 GMT 15:11 UK
FBI and the mafia: A tale of betrayal
A hitman-turned-informer who helped the FBI jail mafia godfather John Gotti has been convicted of supplying millions of dollars worth of drugs after being released from the federal witness protection programme.
BBC News Online's Chris Summers investigates the latest embarrasment for the FBI.
The name Salvatore "Sammy The Bull" Gravano has come back to haunt the FBI.
Gravano, a New York mafiosi responsible for 19 murders, was controversially offered a new life by the Feds after he agreed to testify against his boss John Gotti.
It must have been a major disappointment to the FBI's New York field office when, in February 2000, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents arrested Gravano and others in connection with a massive ecstasy ring in Arizona.
Gravano has now cut another deal with the federal government - this time pleading guilty to the drug charges in return for more serious charges of running a criminal enterprise being dropped.
Gravano, 55, now faces up to 15 years in prison and still faces other drug charges in Arizona.
His lawyer, Lynne Stewart, said the case was a "vendetta" pursued by prosecutors who felt betrayed by her client.
She said Gravano only provided funding and said of allegations that he had set up an Arizona mafia. "That's pure Hollywood. That's HBO," she said.
Ms Stewart said Gravano was seeking a similar plea bargain over the pending drug charges in Arizona but a spokeswoman for Arizona's attorney general said he would still go on trial in September.
The deal comes after a series of blunders - the most recent being the failure to hand over documents which has led to a delay in the execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
'Evil in human form'
Rosanne Massa, whose brother was killed by Gravano, said: "If evil had to take on human form, Sammy is it."
The FBI said the original deal with Gravano was a price worth paying to jail its number one target - his boss, the Gambino godfather John Gotti.
But when Gravano gave evidence, Gotti's fate, and that of 36 other mafiosi was sealed.
In 1992, Gotti was jailed for life for murder and racketeering - a conviction which not only boosted the FBI but also the profile of District Attorney Rudolph Giuliani, who later became Mayor of New York.
He was given a new identity and settled down to live anonymously as Jimmy Moran, building contractor.
Under his "sweetheart" deal with the FBI he had been allowed to keep millions of dollars of ill-gotten cash.
In 1996 he chose to leave the programme and by the end of 1998 he had resumed his life of crime.
Isolated from his mafia cohorts, Gravano found a new crew - a gang of young white supremacist drug dealers known as The Devil Dogs.
The alliance was formed after Gravano's 23-year-old son, Gerard, became friendly with the Devil Dogs' leader, Michael Papa.
Papa, 23, was a promising medical student who spent his spare time pumping iron and using steroids. He became Gravano's protegé.
Within months Gravano and The Devil Dogs had sewn up the booming market in ecstasy on the Arizona nightclub circuit.
In September 1999 Gravano spoke at a conference of FBI supervisors about the use of informers.
At the same time as he was speaking to these elite crimefighters, he was flooding Arizona with millions of dollars' worth of ecstasy.
His supplier, it is alleged, was the Israeli mafia.
But the Devil Dogs were amateurs compared with the New York mob, and their bragging and excessive violence soon drew the attention of the police, the FBI and the DEA.
On 24 February 2000 DEA agents swooped on addresses all over the Phoenix area and arrested 45 people, including Papa, Gravano, his son and wife Debbie.
"It is a delicious irony that the king rat has betrayed by a baby rat," says Ron Kuby, a lawyer who represents Gravano's New York victims.
He told BBC News Online: "Gravano is an unrepentant sociopath.
"All of his victims were incredibly hurt that the government made a deal with him, freeing him from prison after he had committed 19 murders. They were utterly betrayed.
"The happiest day of their lives came when he was indicted in Arizona."
Possibility of another deal
Mr Kuby said the FBI, in their desperation to win their vendetta against Gotti, had done a deal with Gravano, who had "wrapped himself up in the American flag" and portrayed himself as something other than a "degenerate".
Gotti's lawyer, John Mitchell, claims Gravano knows a lot of sensitive information and he does not believe the FBI will let "their man" go down.
He was not be surprised by the plea bargain and believes there may be another one in Arizona.
He said the FBI used to be revered as an agency beyond reproach but he said several incidents in recent years had tarnished their reputation.
"You saw it with McVeigh. They thought they could keep 3,000 documents from his lawyers.
Gotti's own health has deteriorated in recent months. He has been transferred to a prison hospital in Springfield, Missouri, and is suffering from the advanced stages of cancer.
Mr Mitchell told BBC News Online: "My client is not the type of man to comment, but there is a delicious irony that they have turned on Gravano."
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