Toddo Aurello was a low-key Gambino Family capo involved in a notorious underworld murder. He was also a mentor to Sammy Gravano.
Salvatore (Toddo) Avarello – aka “Toddo Aurello,” “Little Toddo,” “Salvatore Aurello,” “Sal Aurella,” and “Sal Aurelio” – was born in Sicily, Italy on March 22, 1910, to Calogero and Carolina Avarello (nee Falletta.) He also had three younger siblings named Carmella, Rose, and Louis. By 1930, the family lived at 152 Cherry St. in Manhattan.
In 1938, Toddo’s father passed away, and by 1940, the family moved to 8621 Bay 16th Street in Brooklyn. Toddo was now head of the household. His mother passed away in 1947.
Brooklyn would always be the center of Toddo Aurello’s world and where he would reside and operate for the remainder of his days. In 1942, he married Lucia Forgione, and the couple had two children together, including a son named Charles who was born in 1943. By 1950, Toddo and his family were living at 8418 17th Ave. in Brooklyn.
NYCPD #B-124515, FBI #831983
Toddo Aurello – A “Dress Bandit”
In May 1934, when he was only 20 years old, Toddo Aurello became known as the “dress bandit” by newspapers after he and two other young hoodlums pushed their way into a Brooklyn apartment and robbed two women of cash and jewelry – after forcing them to remove all their clothing.
According to reports, Aurello and his buddies approached the apartment of Hermina Aponte, who lived at 79 Prince Street in Brooklyn, rang the doorbell, and forced their way into her apartment after she opened the door. At the time, her friend Dolores Castalana was visiting with her, but it didn’t matter to the young hoods. At gunpoint, they made both women undress down to their stockings and shoes and then robbed them of $40 cash and a wristwatch valued at $100.
The robbers had told the ladies to take off all their clothes hoping it would prevent them from chasing down the three young hoods when they fled the apartment. But clothes or no clothes, Aponte and Castalana weren’t about to let the robbers get away.
After the assailants fled and took off by car, Aponte and Castalana ran to a window, flung it open, and started screaming at the top of their lungs. Their screaming caught the attention of an NYPD patrolman named Frank Rogers, and reminiscent of an old “cops and robbers” car chase out of the movies, he started chasing after them in his patrol car. Rogers even fired 10 gunshots at the fleeing suspects in an attempt to subdue them.
Eventually, the hoods abandoned their car and ran for it, but Aurello got caught and was arrested. His two buddies, however, got lucky and escaped.
Aurello was charged with attempted assault and armed robbery with a gun, and the future mafioso was held in lieu of $5000 bail. But two weeks later, the charges were dismissed after Brooklyn Magistrate David Malbin cited a lack of clear evidence to support the charges. Apparently, although Aponte and Castalana were able to identify Aurello as one of the assailants after his arrest, by the time the case reached the court, the women were unsure if Aurello was really one of the men who robbed them.
The Tommy Rava Murder
In later years, Toddo Aurello was accepted into the ranks of Cosa Nostra. By all accounts, despite his wild hijinks as a kid, he was a low-keyed member who operated successfully under law enforcement’s radar for most of his underworld career.
By at least the early 1950s, Avarello had been identified as a local organized crime figure by the New York Police Department’s Intelligence Squad. By the late 1960s, federal law enforcement authorities said Avarello was then serving as the “capo di decina” over a Gambino Family crew based in Brooklyn. The FBI later stated that Avarello led this regime from approximately 1969 until he “stepped down” in 1986. He then, subsequently, went into semi-retirement.
In 1963, a “Top-Echelon” FBI informant, identified only as NY-3461-C-TE named dozens of local hoodlums for the FBI as actually being “made” members of the Mafia. The name Salvatore (Toddo Aurello) Avarello was prominent on that list.
Some in law enforcement circles also suspected that Toddo Aurello was involved in the late-1950s disappearance and presumed murder of Anastasia Family loyalist and capo regime, Armand (Tommy) Rava, in South Florida.
On September 28, 1967, another FBI informant, identified only by the code name NY-T-7, advised that Family power Tommy Rava had been killed in Florida in late 1957 or 1958 following his unsuccessful attempt to take over the Anastasia Family with Aniello Dellacroce.
This Informant stated that Rava was killed by “Little Toddo” Avarello, Jimmy Brown’s cousin. According to the informant, James Failla – aka “Jimmy Brown” – was “boss of the garbage carter’s association.”
An internal FBI report, written at the time by the informant’s FBI handler, stated the informant described Rava’s assassination as having occurred as follows:
“Avarello and several other individuals stopped Rava’s automobile on a highway in Florida. Rava at the time was accompanied by an individual whose name the informant could not recall, but whom he described as being a tall slender male.
The informant recalled that Little Toddo was a “soldier” under Rava, but that there had been “bad blood” between them over a long time.
Informant stated that when Rava and his companion got out of their car, he was approached by Toddo and his followers with guns in their hands. Toddo told Rava that he had the contract to kill him. Rava reportedly said to Toddo, “Do you know what you’re doing? You’re not qualified to kill a man of my stature.” Whereupon Toddo and his associates shot Rava’s associate and emptied their guns into Rava’s chest. However, Rava did not fall. Rava, according to the informant, stood facing his assassins with blood spouting out of his chest and looked contemptuously at Little Toddo and his associates.
This display of masculinity on the part of Rava infuriated Toddo, who, with the others, repeatedly beat Rava over the head with their guns until he finally fell dead. Both Rava and his associate were reportedly then buried.”
The informant further reported that Aniello Dellacroce was also up for the “hit parade” during this time, but was able to make amends and got himself “reinstated” with Carlo Gambino and the newly formed Family hierarchy, who had since taken over the Anastasia Family.
An Active “Soldier”
Avarello was also repeatedly mentioned during U.S. Senate Committee Hearings on Organized Crime in America. These hearings, held in 1983 and again in 1988, reviewed documents by the NYCPD Intelligence Unit which were given to the committee that named Salvatore Avarello as an active “soldier” in New York’s Carlo Gambino Crime Family.
Little in the way of specifics were ever known about Avarello’s actual underworld career. He seems to have had the persona of a very quiet racketeer. What is known is that he and his crew dabbled in the local gambling rackets and in loansharking. His men were also known to engage in various thefts, the fencing of stolen goods, and suspected strong-arm work over the years, mostly within Kings County (Brooklyn) and Richmond County (Staten Island).
He numbered among his closer associates, over the years, such important Brooklyn-based mafiosi as Peter (Petey Pumps) Ferrara, James (Jimmy Brown) Failla, Paul (Paulie Zak) Zaccaria, Carmine (The Doctor) Lombardozzi, Constantino (Big Paul) Castellano, Aniello (O’Neil) Dellacroce, and James (Jimmy the Clam) Eppolito; not to mention, Family boss Carlo (Don Carlo) Gambino himself.
The Gravano Connection
During his years as a “skipper,” Toddo Aurello also knew a young, aspiring hoodlum named Salvatore Gravano, who was friendly with Aurello’s, son Charlie. Toddo later took Gravano under his wing and groomed him in the proper ways of Cosa Nostra. But despite his best efforts, it seems Aurello either neglected to teach his young student some key lessons, or Gravano missed the value of what Aurello had taught him.
Aurello eventually “sponsored” both Gravano and his own son Charles (Charlie Boy Aurello) Avarello for formal membership into the Gambino Crime Family.
Gravano quickly rose within the Gambino Family ranks, soon becoming notorious as “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, John Gotti’s #2 man and the Gambino Family underboss. He later became even more notorious as the FBI’s top Mafia informant. He earned a new nickname, “Sammy the Rat” Gravano, the man who brought down Gotti. He also buried Gotti’s alleged consigliere Frank Locascio, along with dozens of other mafiosi in a variety of Mafia Families all along the eastern seaboard.
Toddo Aurello must have had a fit as the old man watched from the sidelines, knowing full well that he was personally responsible for bringing such a cancer into the inner sanctum of their borgata.
Salvatore (Little Toddo) Avarello died on February 22, 1998. A quiet ending to an equally quiet career for a highly-respected mafioso. He was 88 years old. His son, Charlie Boy, reportedly died some twenty years later, in 2018.
Until next time…”The Other Guy”