Sammy the Bull' Gravano, Devil Dogs founder arrested in drug raid


Gravano arrested
Michael Ging/
Copyright 2000, The Arizona Republic
Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano is escorted to jail by a Phoenix Police officer to jail after being arrested in raids on a criminal syndicate dealing in the designer drug Ecstasy.
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� Mobster reveals life in Valley

� Man of contradictions still proud of his history

� Devil Dogs escape close public scrutiny

By Dennis Wagner
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 24, 2000

Mafia hit man and turncoat Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano was arrested this morning along with a co-founder of the Devil Dogs gang in raids on a criminal syndicate dealing in the designer drug Ecstasy.

Gravano, who declined to comment, was booked into Maricopa County jail on suspicion of drug trafficking. Authorities said he also may be charged with operating syndicate.

Police said Gravano’s criminal enterprises targeted “normal” Valley teenagers and rave music clubs. The drug operation, which police allege was financed by Gravano, sold upward of 30,000 Ecstasy pills a week. The pills, some laced with heroin and methamphetamine, looked like candy and were stamped with Nike swooshes and other symbols. They were bought by the syndicate for $6-$7 each and sold for $25 a pill, police said.

“Gravano is a nice headline grabber,” said Ken Tims, commander of the Phoenix police Drug Enforcement Bureau, “but that’s not the story. . . . Your kid could put this in his mouth right in front of you, and you’d have no idea what he’s taking.”

Investigators planned to arrest as many as 54 people while serving warrants at 14 businesses and homes. Among those taken into custody was Mike Papa, 23, a co-founder of the East Valley white-supremacist gang known as the Devil Dogs, which police allege took part in drug trafficking and other crimes.

Investigators also planned today to arrest Gravano’s wife, Debra, and the couple’s two children – son, Gerard, 24, and daughter, Karen, 27.

Salvatore Gravano was “controlling the Ecstasy market in Arizona,” according to a Phoenix police report, working through his family and Papa.

Today’s raids were conducted by Phoenix and Gilbert police, the state Department of Public Safety, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Customs officers. Investigators said Ecstasy, a euphoric stimulant popularized by the rave culture, was shipped to Phoenix from contacts in other states.

The drug, also known as MDMA, was reportedly distributed through dance clubs and bars throughout the Valley.

In July, authorities began an investigation into the use of designer drugs among high school kids, focusing on the Valley’s rave culture, in which teenagers and young adults dance, sometimes trance-like, for hours to to extremely loud music.

Undercover police agents attended all-night raves and concluded that the overwhelming majority of those at the concerts were using Ecstasy.

Tims said these drug users did not act or dress like the users of other drugs like methamphetamines, cocaine or marijuana.

“The culture is different. The people attending the rave parties were your normal, everyday kids,” Tims said. “It was like mainstream USA.”

Gravano admitted to murdering 19 people during his years as a New York mobster. He avoided prosecution for most of his crimes by helping federal prosecutors send Mafia boss John Gotti to prison, then capitalized by writing a book on his exploits.

After completing a federal prison term, Gravano settled in the Valley of the Sun with his family, using the pseudonym Jimmy Moran. He quit the federal Witness Protection Program about two years ago but remained under the protective watch of federal agents.

His life here was outed by The Arizona Republic – over the objection of FBI officials in New York and Arizona – in a special report last year.

The Republic also has published a series of articles on the Devil Dogs, a group that originated at Highland High School in Gilbert about 1993.

Members are known to bark like dogs and shout racial epithets during assaults. Photographs show them mugging with firearms and flashing White Power signs. In a recent story, the Republic reported that gang members had purposefully recruited the sons of public figures as a means to gain protection from law enforcement.

Several members were recently sentenced to prison terms, even after Gilbert school officials testified on their behalf, seeking leniency.