Karen Gravano’s father Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano former underboss of the Gambino crime family, brought down John Gotti

VH1’s series Mob Wives features real women who are connected to the mob, and the results promise to be fascinating.

One of the women, Renee Graviano, is the daughter of consigliere of the Bonanno crime family Anthony Graziano (who is currently incarcerated;) but another, Karen Gravano, is the daughter of the former underboss who took down Gotti.

According to her VH1 bio, Karen was only 19 in 1991 when her father, Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, who then had the #2 position of the Gambino crime family (after conspiring with Gotti to kill the family’s former don Paul Castellano), became an FBI informant.

Gravano’s involvement with the Gambino Crime Family

Gavano had been responsible for a string of murders, and was brought in with Gotti and other members of their “family.” After listening to FBI tapes of Gotti calling him “greedy,” accusing him of “creating a family within a family,” and implying that Gavano had a blood lust and made up excuses to kill people, Gravano made the decision to testify against Gotti in exchange for a reduced sentence. Although he was involved with racketeering and 19 murders, he only served five years.

Life after pirson

After that, he moved to Scottsdale, Arizona. Karen lived in New York for a while after her family relocated because she didn’t agree with her father’s decision to turn on his crime family. She eventually relocated to Arizona to be with her family, and opened up a spa business. She recently moved back to Staten Island where she is running into old connections (who often are still bitter about what her father did.) Renee Graziano is one of those people. She says she’s known Karen Gravano forever, but once her family found out what Sammy the Bull did, Graziano’s father told Renee to cut off all contact, which she did.

Sammy the bull Gravano mob wives - Karen's dada
Salvator “Sammy the Bull” Gravano

Gravano teamed up with writer Peter Maas to write Underboss, and account of his life in the Mafia, and as an FBI informant. His daughter Karen, who is coming to terms with Gravano’s actions, moved to New York from Arizona (to be on Mob Wives) and to write a book about her own personal experience.

The Gravano family weren’t just laying low, twiddling their thumbs, and working as pool contractors in Arizona, however. the entire family was busted in 2000 for being involved in an Ecstasy-ring. According to the NYDN:

Gravano also ran an illicit operation that distributed up to 30,000 Ecstasy pills a week to the youth of metro Phoenix.

Gravano’s wife Debra, daughter Karen, his son, and 32 other people were also involved:

The most devastating allegation concerns Feb. 11, when Gravano and his wife, Debra, and daughter, Karen, allegedly discussed drug sales and money laundering over the telephone.

How Salvatore Gravano became “Sammy the Bull”

Sammy’s nickname isn’t related to any crimes he committed, or as he himself joked, his prowess in bed. He did get the moniker from the mob however, when he was still a small boy. When he was around nine years old, he got his bike stolen in Bensonhurst, the Italian Brooklyn neighborhood he grew up in. He later spotted the kids with his bike near where the gangsters hung out, and decided to jump the kids to get his bike back. He fought with all his might, and held his own until the wiseguys came over and broke up the fight. They allegedly said “Did you see little Sammy? He’s like a little bull.”

Click here to read more about the Ecstasy ring.

web analytics

Pin It
  • Watching_the_Train_Wreck!!

    You and VH1 are missing a whole part of the background of Karen Gravano here. When the family relocated to Arizona, and Karen joined them – the whole family – Karen, her brother Gerard, the Mother and Sammi were all involved in some kind of drug-ectasy ring. This is what landed Sammi back in jail. It also put the brother Gerard in jail and it might have involved a plea deal or some kind of arrangement that limited or removed Karen and her Mothers jail time completely.

    Now, my facts above may not be exactly correct. I’m writing this based on articles I’ve read in the past about this family. Please do some additional research and verify or fill in the missing pieces. Please…

    This ‘Mafia’ princess was as much a member and participant as the other criminals in this organization.

    Let’s not portray her as some poor child that is being labelled simply by the acts of her father.

    • Elizabeth

      Personally I think Karen is a good person, but if it came down to it, if I were in that mob, I would take the fall for Karen and Gerard Gravano. Shoutout to the Gambino mob:way to go! I still love ya.

      • april huffman

        Listen I watch the show and coming from a bad back ground, you cant control what your parents do. However you have to pay the bills and feed your kids.So to the haters shut up and how do you pay the bills? Just because she is in the news do sent mean she is any different than us.

  • jason

    at the end of the day Karen has a record but it dont mean people cant change…your parents always lead by example so of course when they are banking she is gonna follow their lead. but as you can see she has took her past and she is doing something with it there are those mistakes in life that your gonna make, but at the end of the day those mistakes can make you or break you…and for sammy they have broke him but for karen it has made her. Dont hate because karen is a bad bitch! because on the brighter side the ladie is a wonderful mom.