A mobster and narcotics smuggler eludes authorities

Salvatore Caruana

Salvatore Caruana

Salvatore Michael Caruana is a suspected narcotics smuggler who allegedly has ties to organized crime.   Since 1984, he has been the object of an intense manhunt by U.S. law enforcement officials. However, he hasn’t been seen for more than twenty years.

Caruana’s criminal history dates back to 1954, when he was charged with armed robbery. By the late seventies, he had moved into narcotics as part of an organized crime syndicate in New England.

Joseph Keefe was a Special Agent for the Drug Enforcement Agency:

Mr. Caruana was involved in the distribution of approximately $40 million worth of marijuana. We have testimony from just one distributor, that in one particular operation he himself brought $4 million to Mr. Caruana. In these marijuana operations that Caruana was involved, he was the supervisor. Caruana would show up on the scene himself at the stash house before the marijuana was sent out and talk to his people, make sure it was weighed correctly, make sure the quality was good. He would then tell his distributor that I want X amount of dollars for each pound of marijuana that’s here. He’d carry guns… He would threaten to kill you. There’s no question. If you messed up, he’d threaten to kill you.”

Eventually, Caruana was caught. His smuggling operation collapsed with the arrest of several key associates. Their testimony led to an eleven-count Grand Jury indictment.

Caruana was charged with drug trafficking and faced the possibility of a life sentence. Bail was set at $500,000 which Caruana easily posted. He was released the same day.

Two days before his trial, Salvatore Michael Caruana disappeared. Special Agent Keefe has a theory why:

“Two of his close associates signed agreements with the government to cooperate and testify.   I think he felt that our case was much stronger with these two witnesses coming into the case to testify against him.   And I believe he just didn’t want to come in and face that because I think he felt that he would face some serious time in jail.”

U.S. Marshals closed in

U.S. Marshals closed in

A federal task force looked deeper into Caruana’s operation. They discovered that smuggling marijuana was only a small part of his criminal life. In fact, Caruana was laundering enormous amounts of money and was actually a multi-millionaire.

When federal agents raided Caruana’s home they found several hidden vaults filled with weapons and financial papers. What they didn’t find was Caruana.

Evidence soon led authorities to a condo he owned in Connecticut. By the time the federal agents arrived, Caruana had disappeared.  

Arthur Roderick Jr. was an Inspector for the U.S. Marshal’s Service:

“He’s a very smart guy, he’s probably one of the most cunning and sly fugitives that we’ve come across in a very long time.”

Three months later, an informant led authorities to the motel in Groton, Connecticut. Inspector Roderick was one of the first to arrive on the scene:

“When we first got into the room, it appeared like he had just got up to get a newspaper, that he could be coming back any minute. But once we started looking at specific items in the room such as the newspaper and spoiled food, it looked like he hadn’t been there for a couple of weeks.”

Inside the motel room, Inspector Roderick found a sawed-off shotgun and a briefcase:

“In the briefcase was a semi-automatic .22 and cash. From what we found at the motor inn, you could assume that he had been killed by organized crime people who thought that if he was caught he might talk. But we don’t have the body. And if it was an organized crime hit, I would think that they would want to leave the body behind so that we wouldn’t keep poking our noses into his business, which eventually would lead back to them.”

Caruana’s van had been abandoned at a Connecticut truck stop. When Marshals dusted for fingerprints, they found the van had been wiped clean.   According to Inspector Roderick, there are doubts Caruana is still alive:

“What we’re looking for is somebody to come forward and tell us that they have seen Salvatore Caruana alive after May of ’87. He could very well have been killed.   But we really don’t have anything to point to that. We don’t have anybody coming forward and saying yes I saw him abducted from the truck stop. It appears that he’s done a very smart thing. He hasn’t maintained contact with the people that he knew before we were chasing him.”

Salvatore Caruana has used the aliases John Michael Hurley, Vincent Spirito, and “Face.” He should be considered armed and extremely dangerous.