Volume 76, Number 15 | August 30 -September 5, 2006

Notebook

On the trail of ‘Mad Dog’ Sullivan, Mafia hit man

By Ed Gold

You wouldn’t expect too much excitement as a publisher of books on fashion and retailing, but there I was in my conference room in Greenwich Village in 1971 discussing with two well-armed detectives a Mafia hit man who had escaped from Attica.

I know it’s hard to believe, but the hit man in question was Joseph “Mad Dog” Sullivan, whom the police had been hunting for several weeks since he had broken out of prison. They expected him to show up at Fairchild Publications, on 12th St. between Fifth Ave. and University Place, and possibly try to reach my office, which was unnerving to say the least.

What I learned from the officers is that Sullivan knew one of the clerks on my staff named Gail. They had put a tap on her phone and they had guessed right. Sullivan called her and made an appointment to meet her. They told Gail to be out of the building.

The police posted two agents dressed as sweepers in our lobby, and they had other colleagues within a two-block area just in case.

Sullivan was no ordinary criminal, having been the first inmate ever to break out of Attica.

The police plan was to capture him in the lobby at Fairchild. If he somehow managed to reach my office I was to remain calm, tell him Gail was out and that I didn’t know whether she was coming back to work that day.

As it turned out, Sullivan entered the lobby and got suspicious when he spotted the sweepers. He turned heel and headed east to University Place. The officers in the lobby followed him and alerted colleagues in the area.

Sullivan turned south at University and walked to a station wagon in the middle of the block. He reached into the trunk where he had a shotgun, the police later told me, at which point he found that he was surrounded and surrendered, and was returned to Attica.

He had apparently not gotten too stiff a sentence when first incarcerated. I believe he had been found guilty of manslaughter after a fatal fight in a bar. In any case, he was paroled in the mid-’70s.

I thought I had heard the last of him, but then one day one of my staffers passed around wedding pictures in the office, and there was a neatly dressed Sullivan in his wedding suit, along with his bride, Gail, who always had eccentric tastes. Fortunately, she no longer worked at Fairchild.

The problem with Sullivan is that he liked his profession. According to Internet reports, he was later linked to heavy activity in the Hell’s Kitchen area. He was retained by one Fat Tony Salerno of the Genovese crime family to eliminate several members of a Hell’s Kitchen Irish mob.

A blog, AmericanMafia.com, with contributions from a team of investigative journalists in the Rochester, N.Y., area, completes the Sullivan story.

According to the journalists, in 1981, he was hired in northern New York State to rub out a Teamster local vice president, John Fiorino, to prevent him from testifying before a federal organized strike force, and to discourage others who might be tempted to testify.

That December, the investigative group continued, he used a shotgun on Fiorino, who was eating in a restaurant, and fulfilled his contract.

He tried to be careful, wearing a bulletproof vest, but he wasn’t careful enough. His fingerprints were found at the crime scene. He was captured after a shootout with F.B.I. agents, tried for murder and convicted.

Sullivan was profiled in a Sullivan family biography that alleged that he had been involved in many murders. He is described in the biography as “handsome, athletic and poetic.” He is said to have dressed as a priest for one of his assignments.

One report linked him to the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa.

Gail, according to a former staffer at Fairchild, has since divorced him and now uses her maiden name. They had two children. Always full of surprises, Gail named a son after Ramsey Clark, the former U.S. attorney general who is now a defense lawyer for Saddam Hussein.

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