Son sentenced in assassination plot after mobster father murdered in McDonald's drive-thru

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Friday, April 14, 2023
Mob father murdered: Son sentenced in plot to assassinate
Sylvester Zottola survived six assassination attempts only to be gunned down in McDonald's drive-thru. His son Anthony Zottola was sentenced Friday. Dan Krauth has the story.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- He survived getting his throat violently slashed after burglars broke into his home. Then, someone held a gun to his head and it misfired.

That's all after he was shot at by a gunman while driving down the expressway.

71-year-old mob associate Sylvester Zottola survived six assassination attempts over a one-year period, only to get gunned down and murdered doing something he did often - ordering a cup of coffee at a McDonald's drive-thru in the Bronx.

"It was a hit, there's no doubt about it," said retired NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce. "It's a unique case in the fact that it overtly looks like a mob related case and it wasn't."

During all of those assassination attempts, Zottola had no idea his own son Anthony was behind the attacks on his life.

It sounds like a story out of a mob movie, but it's not, its real life.

On Friday, Anthony Zottola was sentenced by a federal judge in Brooklyn to life behind bars without the possibility of parole. After a six week jury trial, he was convicted of hiring gang members to kill his father to get the family fortune.

The hitman hired to fire the fatal shots, Himen Ross, was also sentenced Friday to life in prison.

Anthony Zottola Courtesy: U.S. Attorney's Office

"Over the course of more than a year, the elderly victim, Sylvester Zottola, was stalked, beaten and stabbed, never knowing who orchestrated the attacks," said United States Attorney Breon Peace. "It was his own 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 Sylvester, known as Sally Daz, made a fortune off joker poker machines and invested that money into a multimillion dollar real estate portfolio.

"It's a lot of money for a street guy," said Boyce.

"He was good friend with Vincent Basciano," said Boyce. "Sylvester was an associate, he wasn't made."

Assassination Attempts Gone Wrong

Back in September of 2017, someone punched and knocked Sylvester Zottola to the ground outside his home, it was captured on home surveillance video.

Then in November of 2017, police records show he was "menaced at gunpoint by a masked individual," while driving down the Throgs Neck Expressway.

On December 27th of 2017, three men broken into his home and slashed his throat. He survived.

Sylvester Zottola hospitalized after home Invasion Courtesy: U.S. Attorney's Office

"We didn't think he was going to make it," said Boyce. "He was in the ICU for a while, it was a question whether he was going to pull through and as history shows, he did pull through."

After recovering from the slashing, in June of 2018 a hooded man held a pistol to Zottola's head outside his home, but the gun misfired. Zottola got out his own gun and fired back. It's captured on home surveillance camera.

A month later, someone tried to kill his son Salvatore. A gunman walked up to him outside his home and opened fired just a few feet away. Salvatore was hit, but rolled down the street when the shots were fired which ultimately helped save his life. The incident was also captured on surveillance cameras. He was hospitalized but survived.

A gunman fires at Salvatore Zottola. Courtesy: U.S. Attorney's Office

The Murder

On October 4th of that year, Sylvester was shot multiple times while in the drive-thru of McDonald's.

A McDonald's employee working the drive-thru window witnessed what happened and called 911. She told the dispatcher "We're just taking care of customers, somebody just ran to the car and shot at him."

"It was an old-fashioned hit, right out of a mobster movie," said Boyce.

Police later found a tracking device on Zottola's car. The hitmen had been tracking his movements.

Anthony Zottola being questioned by the FBI. Courtesy: U.S. Attorney's Office

They also obtained text messages that showed Anthony plotted the murder with gang member Bushawn Shelton.

Anthony was one of 10 people charged in the death of his father. When police arrested him, he told detectives, "I had a feel you were coming. When I don't know but I can thank you that it was after Father's Day and it was after all my kids' birthdays."

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