NEW YORK -- Gregory Scarpa Sr. lived by the blood oath of the Mafia. Now gangster blood is slowly killing him. Mr. Scarpa, a reputed Colombo crime family big shot who dodged bullets for years, was hit by a deadly foe -- the AIDS virus -- after getting a blood transfusion from a member of his crime crew.
The transfusion occurred when Mr. Scarpa was hospitalized for an emergency hiatal hernia operation in 1986.
Sources familiar with a Brooklyn civil lawsuit said Mr. Scarpa, known for his swagger and elegant suits decades before John Gotti, contracted the virus after he and his family rejected screened blood from the hospital blood bank in favor of blood from friends and relatives.
Among those donating blood was Paul Mele, a Scarpa associate who already was suffering from the disease but probably didn't know it, the sources said. The donor has died of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, they said.
Mr. Scarpa is suing Victory Memorial Hospital, where the operation took place, for negligence and malpractice.
Also named in the $1.5 million lawsuit is the surgeon, who Mr. Scarpa charges botched the operation and failed to block the use of the tainted blood.
The lawsuit says Victory Memorial and Dr. Angelito Sebollena should not have allowed untested blood to be used no matter what the patient and family wanted.
Hospital representatives would not comment on the case.
After becoming ill, Mr. Scarpa was replaced as a capo by his son, Gregory Jr., now serving a 20-year sentence on federal drug charges.