By The Other Guy | April 18, 2020
Salvatore (Sally D) D’Ambrosio – born 1925, and raised in South Brooklyn. He resided as a youth at 6957 64th Street. By the early 1950’s he had relocated to 2116 E. First Street.
He was a former GI, having served in the U.S. Army.
Sally had a twin brother named Alphonse (Funzi D) D’Ambrosio, who also was an inducted member of the Profaci Family. Funzi lived just a few doors down from him.
Sally D was an iconic Brooklyn based mafioso who gained a reputation as one of the deadliest hoodlums to ever walk the streets of New York City.
Caught on a body wire worn by an informant in 2010, Family underboss John (Sonny) Franzese reminisced about “Sally D” as being one of the toughest motherfuckers to have ever walked the streets of New York City. And this was coming from a mafioso said by authorities to have killed 30 to 50 men in his life as an underworld enforcer.
He is said to have served in the regime of capo Nicholas (Jiggs) Forlano, and later Carmine Persico after his appointment to caporegime.
Since the 1950s, he had been very involved and played a pivotal figure in several of the most notorious incidents in gangland history, including the killing of Gallo gang torpedo Joseph (Joe Jelly) Gioeli and the attempted murder of Gallo faction leader Larry Gallo. He was also centrally involved in several other killings that were not as well-publicized.
His criminal activities included bookmaking, truck hijacking, receiving and fencing stolen goods, shylocking, extortion, stock thefts, jewelry heists, strong-arm and murder.
He listed his legitimate business as the owner of a Sheepshead Bay fruit and vegetable market.
D’Ambrosio had a police record since at least 1946 for:
– Petty larceny
– Assault (twice)
– Criminally receiving hijacked property
– Grand larceny
– Interstate theft
– Felonious assault and attempted murder (2 counts)
– Attempted police bribery (2 counts)
In 1946, he was one of five young hoods accused by Nassau County police of striping two motorcycles and draining gasoline from gas pumps at a service station. Among his codefendants was future Bonanno soldier Robert (Bobby) Lino. They were all charged with petty larceny.
In 1950, he was one of 14 hoodlums in 3 states indicted in a $150,000 truck hijacking case. The FBI alleged the gang had snatched a tractor-trailer loaded with expensive woolens. Six men were from NYC, seven from NJ, and one from PA., were involved with taking the large load from the Moshassuck Transportation Co., of Jersey City, New Jersey on October 13th from a Manhattan parking lot after the driver had paused for a cup of coffee.
Among those arrested with D’Ambrosio were:
• Martin Sussman and Frank Siegel – convicted burglars who were on parole.
• Morris (Moishe) Schoenfeld – another parolee from Comstock State Prison.
• Max (Mickey Fried) Friedman, Aaron Uram, Anthony DiMarino, Sidney (Sid the Bug) Rabinowitz, all known Brooklyn hoodlums.
• New Jersey brothers Benjamin (Benny Michaels) and Peter (Pete Michaels) Maccia, and a father named Dominick Critelli and his two sons Anthony and Orlando Critelli, all from the Jersey City area.
• The Brooklyn-based Joseph (Red) Traina – was an important member of the Gambino Family and the son of capo Giuseppe (Joe) Traina.
• Nathan Weiss – a businessman who had originally fingered the load for theft with his buddy Siegel, and who moonlighted to fence the load. Rabinowitz and Friedman were the “contact men” who had reached out to the Italian mob in order to initially set up the hijacking.
Originally the thieves were told the load was valued at $75,000. When they discovered it was worth a lot more, double in fact and realized they’d been lied to, D’Ambrosio and Traina took Siegel and Nathan Weiss to the basement of a Brooklyn candy store and beat them severely with pipes and rubber hoses, threatening to kill them if they didn’t deliver the correct amount of monies after “fencing” them.
At the time of their arraignment in court, prosecutors noted that although it was six weeks later, “Siegel still beared the marks of that vicious beating.”
It was also noted that both Friedman and Rabinowitz had recently been arrested and convicted of possessing stolen mail from another missing cargo load.
In October of 1961 “Sally D” was being hunted by police for questioning in connection with the murder of former Profaci soldier and Gallo loyalist Joseph Magnasco and the attempted strangling of Lawrence Gallo.
Authorities issued a nationwide alert for D’Ambrosio who went missing for months before he surrendered to authorities.
Side Note: See several paragraphs below for the story and details of those attempted murders.
Sally D’s 22-year old beautiful girlfriend Palma Vitale was jailed on criminal contempt charges after she refused to testify before a Kings County Grand Jury investigating the violence connected with the Gallo-Profaci mob war. She was convicted of contempt of court but acquitted of a perjury count. She was accused of hiding D’Ambrosio from police after the attempt on Larry Gallo’s life and refusing to answer questions about his whereabouts. She later received a suspended sentence from a sympathetic judge who scolded her saying that “she had no business associating with a worthless character like D’Ambrosio.”
In a related criminal case, D’Ambrosio was indicted on two counts for the attempted bribery of the two lead detectives handling Palma Vitale’s contempt and perjury case that was probing Sally. He tried to influence their testimony and attempted to have them use their positions to dismiss the case against her.
Also in 1961, while investigating the gang warfare, police while acting on a tip, raided a Sheepshead Bay apartment, arrested four people and seized a small arsenal of weapons said to have been stockpiled for the upcoming factional war including 6 rifles, 2 shotguns, a sawed-off shotgun, a .38 revolver and a supply of ammo.
They were said to be minions of D’Ambrosio, and among those nabbed was future Gambino hood Greg DePalma, and a future Colombo soldier James (Jimmy O’Toole) Spitalere. Authorities also recovered a truckload of hijacked clothing valued at $8,500.
They were charged with receiving stolen goods, grand larceny, and violation of the Sullivan laws.
Known criminal associates of D’Ambrosio over the years included such top Brooklyn mobsters as:
• Giuseppe (Joe) Profaci
• Joseph Colombo Sr.
• Carmine (The Snake) Persico
• Joseph (Crazy Joey) Gallo
• Lawrence Gallo
• John (Sonny) Franzese
• Nicholas Forlano
• Alphonse (Funzi D) D’Ambrosio
• Thomas (Beansie) Ocera
• Ferdinand (Freddy Red) Delucia
• Joseph (Joe Jelly) Gioeli
….nearly the entire Profaci borgata and most of Brooklyn’s top mafiosi, as well as that of the other four New York Families either knew, or knew of D’Ambrosio.
Whoever didn’t know of him, soon found out with the highly-publicized incidents which I describe below.
D’Ambrosio and his close associate Carmine Persico gained gangland infamy for the attempted strangling of Larry Gallo at the Sahara Lounge in Brooklyn in 1961. This assault would be one of the pivotal events to ramp up the violence between the Profaci and Gallo warring factions.
Pretending to still be allied with the Gallos, Junior Persico met with Larry to discuss their delicate state of affairs and smoldering conflict within the Family. But once Larry showed up at the bar (alone) for the meeting with Persico, Sally D came out from the shadows of the bar and quickly looped a garrot around Gallo’s neck, with Sally D and Junior at opposite ends tugging to squeeze the life out of their adversary.
Gallo collapsed to the floor with his wound-be killers descending to the ground along with him still pulling at the taut rope, and within seconds of finishing him off when a neighborhood NYPD patrolman happened into the bar, just making his rounds, checking to see that everything was okay.
The nervous bartender Charlie Clemenza, (a Profaci Family associate), tried to wave the cop off, letting him know all was fine when the officer noticed feet sticking out from behind the corner of the darkened bar. He started to question what was going on as he walked toward the unconscious Gallo. At that moment Sally and Junior raced out from a darkened corner where they had hidden, knocking the cop on his ass, and ran outside to make their escape in a waiting getaway car.
As they exited the bar, the policeman’s partner, officer Melvin Blei, saw the commotion andtried to stop the assailants. Sally D raised his revolver and shot Blei square in the face enabling the two Profaci hoods to escape. (Blei survived.)
Needless to say, the NYPD didn’t take kindly to that, and soon began an intensive and relentless search for the shooters.
Side Note: This intense scene was recreated several times in film, the most memorable of which was the scene in The Godfather with the Rizzotto brothers attempting to strangle “Frankie Five Angels” Pentangeli in a Brooklyn bar.
Side Note: This incident is also how “Junior” Persico gained his second nickname of “The Snake”, for his duplicity in betraying the Gallos.
Another strategic murder recreated on the silver screen was the real-life killing of Gallo torpedo “Joe Jelly” Gioelli. A close lifelong friend of D’Ambrosio and Persico as well as the Gallo brothers, Joe Jelly accepted an invitation to go deep-sea fishing on D’Ambrosio’s boat off Sheepshead Bay for a nice day of sun and mob fun.-Side note: remember, this was before the official split in the Gallo faction while the Gallo’s believed the other soldiers like Persico and D’Ambrosio were still allied with them.
The three buddies went out together, but only two came back in to dock the boat. Mob lore has it that Gioelli was shot and dismembered on deck, and then his body parts thrown overboard into the ocean to let the sharks eat the deadly Gallo loyalist, neatly disposing of any evidence.
….several days later, a car sped down President Street in Red Hook, and Profaci operatives threw a package out the window onto the sidewalk in front of the Gallo headquarters at #51 President Street. When Gallo gang members who were present unwrapped what turned out to be an topcoat they recognized as Joe Jelly’s, they discovered several large dead fish inside. The message? ……”Joe Jelly sleeps with the fish”!
Side Note: This was another iconic scene recreated in The Godfather. It’s the one where Tessio comments “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fish”. But it actually happened in real life.
THIS was who “Sally D” was!
Fast forward to 1969. Boss Joseph Colombo had been elected to be the “Representante” of the entire borgata in 1964. Colombo soon completely revamped and remodeled the Family, restructuring the hierarchy by demoting certain older, less active men who had been capo’s and elevating others to their posts. Younger, more ambitious mafiosi who in his mind would better carry the rank and file soldiers into the future, and produce more revenue for the Family in doing so.
But strangely he did not elevate D’Ambrosio, despite Sally certainly deserving the promotion for all the service and “work” he’d put in to the borgata over the years. Even suggestions and a personal request by Carmine Persico and some of the other “well thought of” members did little to sway the boss. Junior and Sally himself supposedly had a talk with Joe Colombo about this very subject. But still nothing.
In fact, within several months of their little fireside chat, Sally D and his close friend and sidekick Ferdinand (Freddy No Nose) DeLucia, another feared Family soldier and top gunsel, disappeared.Neither of them were ever seen again.
Through the years word had come out that the true reason for killing D’Ambrosio and DeLucia was that Boss Joe Colombo had feared their ambitions. It is alleged that he had gotten the word, or had just gotten the gut feeling, that they had set their greedy mafioso eyes on the boss seat, his seat, and were planning a coup to overthrow him and seize power in the Family for themselves.
Well, whatever the true reason or reasons for their Houdini Act and presumed murder will never be known. Whether they’d actually planned to overthrow Colombo is a mystery as well.
What is not a mystery is that Salvatore (Sally D) D’Ambrosio, 46 years old at the time, and Ferdinand (Freddy No Nose) DeLucia, or as he liked his friends to call him “Freddy Red”, only 39 years old, were never seen again…the year was 1969.
RIP Sally and Freddy!
Side Note: Future Colombo soldier Tommy Ocera, one of Sally D’s closest young associates whom he was “grooming” for great things, was almost killed along with his boss and Delucia that fateful day they disappeared. Ocera was to accompany them but was told to meet up later.
Tommy missed the “Grim Reaper” at that moment. But hours later, Tommy got his “buckwheats”. Lured to a Manhattan hotel room, he was beaten by a half-dozen hoods with blackjacks and pipes intent on killing him…he survived….but that’s a story for another day.
Please read our biography on Alphonse D’Ambrosio for more on this storyline.
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