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Officials: Gang associate charged in Bronx mob-style killing

A Brooklyn man who prosecutors said had ties to the Bloods gang was arrested and charged Thursday with involvement in last week’s  mob-style slaying of a Bronx man with links to organized crime, officials said.

Bushawn Shelton, 34, is accused in a federal criminal complaint of plotting with a confidential government witness to lure Sylvester Zottola, 71, so that he could be killed. Shelton is also accused of trying to have the witness, whose identity wasn’t revealed, kill Zottola’s son Salvatore as part of the combined murder plot, according to court papers unsealed Thursday.

At Shelton's appearance in Brooklyn federal court late Thursday, Asst. U.S. Attorney Lindsay Gerdes said agents earlier in the day recovered a loaded gun and $45,000 in cash from his East New York home.  Officials said Shelton told his grandmother recently the cash came from his T-shirt business.  Magistrate Judge Ramon Reyes ordered Shelton held without bail.

Neither Zottola nor his son were named in the complaint as the intended victims but the wording of the document and the dates of the acts — including the Oct. 4 shooting at a fast-food restaurant in the Bronx — made clear the charges related to attacks on both Zottolas.

The elder Zottola, who FBI officials, court documents and other sources have said had a history of ties as an associate of the Bonanno and Lucchese crime families, was shot multiple times and killed as he waited last Thursday at a drive-through lane of a Bronx McDonald’s. The assailant got into a waiting vehicle and fled the scene, authorities said.  Investigators made the latest arrest with the help of license plate readers and the confidential witness, records show.

Zottola had also survived a stabbing at his Throgs Neck home last December when he walked in on some burglars, the complaint stated.  Zottola lost some money in that attack, police said.

The complaint also lists an early morning July 11 attack that authorities said related to Salvatore Zottola in which he was shot several times as he rolled away on the pavement.  Police believe Salvatore Zottala's actions probably saved his life.

A motive for the attacks wasn’t listed in the complaint. The court documents alleged that Shelton, whose LinkedIn page stated he worked as a branch manager at a Hempstead employment agency, arranged for different drivers to accompany the confidential witness on visits to various locations and provided the witness with a firearm to kill Zottola and his son.

The dynamics of the crimes — including the targeting of a man linked to organized crime and the appearance of an alleged gang member as a suspect — had some cops and those familiar with the Mafia suggesting the mob was reaching outside its usual ranks for hits. 

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