Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Salvatore Caruana

Real Name: Salvatore Michael Caruana
Aliases: John Michael Hurley, Vincent Spirito, "Face", Mickey, Sonny
Wanted For: Drug-Smuggling, Drug Trafficking, Money Laundering
Missing Since: May 1987


Details: Salvatore Caruana is a career criminal who is wanted for smuggling narcotics and has connections to organized crime. He was first arrested in 1954 for armed robbery and possession of firearms. By the late 1970s, he had moved into narcotics as a mob soldier with the Raymond Patriarca family in New England. He was involved in the distribution of approximately $40 million worth of marijuana. One distributor has stated that during a particular operation in 1979, he brought $4 million worth of marijuana to Caruana.
During these operations, Caruana was the supervisor. He would show up on the scene at the stash house before the marijuana was sent out and talk to his people. He would make sure that it was weighed correctly. He would also make sure that the quality was good. He would then tell his distributor that he would want a certain amount of money for each pound of marijuana. He often carried guns and also threatened people involved in his operations. If someone messed up, he would threaten to kill them.
Caruana was finally arrested on November 27, 1983. His smuggling operation had begun to collapse after the arrest of several key associates whose testimony led to an eleven-count secret grand jury indictment against him. He was charged with drug trafficking under the "Kingpin Statute" - a federal law which could have meant life imprisonment. He was also charged with marijuana smuggling and possession.
Caruana's bail was set at $500,000; he easily raised $50,000 to post bond the same day. On April 2, 1984, two days before his trial was to begin, he vanished. Two of his close associates signed agreements with the government to cooperate and testify. It is believed that he fled because he felt that the case against him was too strong for him to fight. In 1985, a multi-state task force was established by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the IRS, the FBI, and the U.S. Marshals service to exclusively investigate the Caruana case. They confirmed that smuggling drugs was only the façade for a vast criminal labyrinth. He was laundering enormous amounts of money and was himself a millionaire.
On February 6, 1987, federal agents and local police raided Caruana's home in Peabody, Massachusetts. The house was like a fortress, with several security cameras and an advanced security system. Inside, they found several hidden vaults crammed full of weapons and financial papers. They also found evidence that he was using the alias "John Michael Hurley". With this information, they were able to trace him to a condominium in East Hampton, Connecticut. However, when FBI agents arrived, he had vanished again.
For the next three months, Caruana continued to elude the law. Agents discovered that while he was in hiding, he used computer programs to launder money. He also used computer bulletin boards to contact his wife and his partners in the operation. He knew that these systems were difficult for investigators to access.
Finally, in May 1987, an anonymous tip led authorities to the Motor Inn, a motel in Groton, Connecticut. It was determined that Caruana was using the alias "Vincent Spirito". FBI agents spoke to the motel manager and discovered that the alias was being used to rent a room there. This gave them probable cause to search the room. On May 23, agents from the FBI, DEA, and U.S. Marshals entered his room. However, he had vanished before they arrived.
In the room, they found a number of automatic weapons, along with his clothes and false identification. They also found a briefcase with cash and another weapon. They first thought that he had just left minutes earlier. However, they then found spoiled food and newspapers which suggested that he had been missing for several weeks. His van, keys, wallet, and camera case (which held a Uzi sub-machine gun) were also missing. A month later, however, the van was found at a police impound lot. It had previously been found abandoned at a Connecticut truck stop. Investigators determined that the van had been wiped clean.
Based on the evidence, the FBI believed that Caruana might have been murdered by the mob because he had information on their illegal transactions. However, the fact that no witnesses have come forward and no body has been found suggested that he may have staged his disappearance. Authorities are hoping to find people who have reported seeing him alive after May 1987.
Caruana is on the U.S. Marshal's Top 15 Fugitives list. At the time of his disappearance, he was 6'0" tall, 180 pounds, and had brown eyes and black hair. He has been treated for a hyperthyroid condition. He is a licensed airline pilot and computer electronics expert. He should be considered armed and extremely dangerous. If he is still alive, he would be in his early to mid-eighties. His birthdate is listed as September 30, 1938; however, some sources state that he was born in 1935.
Extra Notes: This segment originally ran on the November 8, 1989 episode, which also featured a roll-call of wanted individuals including Douglas Alan Costa, Lewis Michael Geiger, Lavada Floyd, and Richard Green.
When the segment was re-aired on April 11, 1990, the roll-call featured Floyd, along with Richard Joseph Alvarado, William McGeehee, and Alvaro Zapata.
Results: Wanted. In October 1990, the remains of three men were found buried underneath a garage in Hamden, Connecticut. One set of remains was positively identified as Massachusetts hotel executive Theodore "Ted" Berns, while the other two were never identified. It has been suspected that Caruana was one of the other victims. Berns was allegedly having an affair with Caruana's wife after Caruana went on the run in 1984.
Mob associate Jack Johns led authorities to the remains. He claimed that he, Caruana, and mob underboss William "The Wild Guy" Grasso were responsible for the murder of Berns. He also claimed that mob associates Richard Joseph Beedle and Salvatore "Butch" D'Aquila were involved in burying Berns. Beedle owned the garage where the remains of Berns were found. Grasso was never charged in the case; he was murdered in June 1989. Beedle and D'Aquila were convicted of the burial charges, along with other criminal charges. Johns received immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony.
Before his death in 1989, Grasso told Johns that he had Caruana killed because they suspected that he was about to be captured by the authorities and that he would become an informant. According to Grasso, Caruana's body was also buried under Beedle's garage. However, the other sets of remains found in the garage were never positively identified. Caruana is still listed as a wanted fugitive. Some investigators still believe that he may have faked his death and is still alive.