Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Beth Smith and Salvatore Spinnato

Real Name: Salvatore P. Spinnato
Aliases: Sal Oliverio
Wanted For: Fraud, Kidnapping, Assault
Missing Since: January 1997


Details: In May of 1988, Baltimore, Maryland resident Elizabeth "Beth" Smith met a fifty-four-year-old man named Sal Oliverio. She was a computer consultant and a single mother with two children. He ran a physical therapy business and told her about his distinguished Navy career. He even stated that he was POW in Vietnam for two years. She fell in love with him and the two were married in October of 1988.
Beth later quit her job to help run Oliverio's company. Before long, his charming facade seemed to go away. She discovered that he appeared to be losing money with his business. However, he said that he would take care of it. Shortly before their third wedding anniversary, Beth made a shocking discovery in a box in their basement. The box had "Lexington Correctional Institution" written on it. Inside were newspaper articles and other papers about Oliverio. The papers indicated that his real name was Salvatore Spinnato and that he had spent time in prison for bank fraud. He had been running scams for years and had taken over a quarter of a million dollars from one investor. On occasion, he would also work as an informant for the FBI.
Because of the deception, Beth decided to divorce him. The two maintained a platonic relationship because Spinnato still owed her money. In June of 1996, Beth was preparing to leave on a trip for ten days. Since her new boyfriend, Greg, was also going to be gone for part of that time, she asked Spinnato to watch over her seventeen-year-old son. A few days after Beth left, Spinnato called Greg, claiming that he needed to meet with him immediately. On July 3, they met at a local convenience store. Spinnato claimed that Beth's son was involved with drugs and that he was afraid that he would get in trouble.
The two agreed to meet again at a home that Spinnato was remodeling. However, when Greg arrived, he was attacked by Spinnato and an accomplice, Paul Homer Shaffer. He was beaten with a club and shocked with a taser. When he asked why he was being attacked, Spinnato said that it was because Greg was "with his wife". Greg recognized Shaffer as a prospective buyer that visited his house a few weeks earlier.
Greg convinced Spinnato that he would break up with Beth and not go to the police. Surprisingly, Spinnato let him go. Of course, Greg immediately went to the police to report the attack. Shaffer was arrested and charged with kidnapping and assault. Spinnato was also arrested, but he was later released on bail. He vanished in January of 1997, not long before the trial began. He has been on the run ever since.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the May 16, 1997 episode.
The movie American Hustle was partially based on Spinnato.
For his safety, Beth's boyfriend was given the fictitious name "Greg".
Results: Captured. Spinnato was arrested on August 26, 1997, just a few months after the story first aired. Spinnato and Shaffer were both found guilty of kidnapping, assault, and false imprisonment in 1998. Spinnato was sentenced to thirty-five years in prison and Shaffer was sentenced to twenty years in prison. Spinnato has since been released.