Details of Disappearance Gargano was last seen at approximately 12:30 p.m. on July 10, 1994. He was leaving his family's residence on Ridge Boulevard in the New York City borough of Brooklyn at the time; he planned to go jet-skiing. Gargano never returned home and has not been seen again. He was a student at Pace University in 1994.
Federal informants stated Gargano was murdered by John Pappa, a member of the Colombo crime family. A photo of Pappa is posted with this case summary. Authorities believe he had a disagreement with Gargano's cousin, Anthony "Tigger" Dellavecchia. Dellavecchia supported James "Jimmy Frogs" Galione, who was a member of the Luchese crime organization.
Pappa believed that Dellavecchia was involved in the murder of Pappa's best friend. Dellavecchia was reportedly protected by the Lucheses and could not be harmed without permission from the heads of the Mafia families. Pappa allegedly told others that he intended to avenge his friend's death by murdering Gargano instead.
Gargano was involved in a physical confrontation with Luchese associate Michael "Mikey Flattop" De Rosa at T-Birds, a Brooklyn area bar, in early July 1994. De Rosa was injured by Gargano in the brawl and reportedly told Gargano he planned to kill him as he was escorted outside of the establishment. Pappa allegedly believed that he could murder Gargano and the death would be blamed on De Rosa after the fight occurred. Gargano disappeared days after the incident at T-Birds.
Another Luchese member was indicted on unrelated charges in 1997, three years after Gargano's disappearance. The man told authorities that Pappa bragged about murdering Gargano in 1994 and said that his remains would never be located. Pappa was convicted of four Mafia-related murders in 1997 and is currently serving two life sentences plus an additional 65 years in an Indiana federal prison. Pappa continues to maintain his innocence in Gargano's disappearance. He has never been charged in the case, but he is considered the main suspect.
Investigators received a tip that Gargano was buried in the foundation of Sunshine Collision, an auto body repair shop in Coney Island, New York in 2000. A search of the property was conducted in May 2000, but was halted when the building became unstable. No evidence was located.
Gargano's family sent a letter to Pappa in prison in 2001, pleading with him to reveal the location of Gargano's remains. In 2012, a witness testifying at the trial of Colombo crime boss Thomas "Tommy Shots" Gioeli said Gargano had been shot and beaten to death at Sunshine Collision. The witness said his body was ultimately buried at an industrial park near Farmingdale, New York.
Authorities had excavated the area, but didn't find Gargano's remains. Organized crime figure "Big Dino" Calabro was charged with Gargano's murder, but he was ultimately acquitted.
The Gargano family has received numerous threats throughout the years for continuing to investigate and publicize Gargano's disappearance, but they have not ceased their efforts. Foul play is suspected due to the circumstances involved in his case.
- New York Police Department
Updated 1 time since October 12, 2004. Last updated November 24, 2014; distinguishing characteristics and details of disappearance updated.