Anthony Zottola was sentenced to life in prison yesterday without the possibility of parole by a federal judge in Brooklyn (NYC) after being convicted of hiring gang members to kill his father to obtain the family fortune.
The 71-year-old Sylvester “Sally Daz” Zottola was killed by the “Bloods” gang while sitting behind the wheel of his car waiting for coffee at a McDonald’s drive-thru in The Bronx on October 4, 2018, his grandson’s birthday.
The hired hitman who shot him, Himen Ross, was also sentenced to life in prison Friday. “It was a success, there’s no question about it,” Robert Boyce, a former NYPD chief of detectives now retired, wryly told ABC News. “It’s a unique case in that it overtly looks like a mob-related case, and it wasn’t.”
Alfred Lopez, who prosecutors said was Ross’ getaway driver, was acquitted. Several other men had pleaded guilty to participating in the plot, The New York Times reported in October.
The Zottola patriarch had survived six assassination attempts in one year, unaware that his son Anthony was behind the attacks. In one of the attacks, three men broke into his home shortly after Christmas 2017 and slit his throat, but he survived.
“For more than a year, the elderly victim, Sylvester Zottola, was stalked, beaten, and stabbed, not knowing who orchestrated the attacks,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace. “It was his son, who was so determined to control the family’s lucrative real estate business that he hired a gang of hit men to murder his father.”
Detectives said the “Sally Daz” patriarch made a fortune from joker poker machines and invested that money in a multimillion-dollar real estate portfolio.
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Evidence at trial included hundreds of texts between the conspirators and testimony from a hitman who described the clumsy assassination attempts. Immediately after gangster Shelton received word that the hit had been made, he texted Anthony and asked, “Can we party today or tomorrow?” according to the prosecution.
Not only his father but also his brother were victims of Anthony: Salvatore Zottola, 45, survived a shooting on July 11, 2018, in front of his waterfront home in The Bronx.
He later testified during the trial against his brother, saying that his father had been friends with mobsters but was not a “made member” of “La Cosa Nostra.” He claimed that his father’s income came from providing pool tables, jukeboxes, and poker machines to bars and restaurants and some 30 properties in The Bronx, generating approximately $1.5 million a year in rental income.
“He didn’t deserve this,” Salvatore Zottola said of his father’s murder after the guilty verdict against his brother Anthony last October. “None of us deserved it.”
Defense attorneys denied that Anthony had conspired to kill his father and brother. They said he had been taken advantage of by a group of criminals with whom he had cultivated a relationship because he felt he needed protection from the mob.
The Cosa Nostra operates through entities known as “families,” of which there are five in New York: Bonanno, Genovese, Lucchese, Colombo, and Gambino. The elder Zottola was reportedly an associate of Bonanno and Lucchese.