Best known as a cast member on VH1's reality series Mob Wives, Karen Gravano was born into the Mafia. Her father Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" operated as the Gambino family's underboss and is one of the mob's most notorious federal informants.
After testifying against the Gambino family's crime boss John Gotti, Karen and her family moved to Arizona under the federal witness protection program in 1992. While there, Karen became a licensed aesthetician and launched her own day spa. She also gave birth to her daughter Karina.
Despite creating a better life, Karen could not escape the mob life and soon found herself aiding in her father's ecstasy ring, which transported the drug from New York to Arizona. In 2001, Karen pleaded guilty to using wire communications for drug-related transactions and received three years of supervised probation while Salvatore faced a 12-year term, her mother received 5-years probation and her brother Gerard faced 9-years sentence.
Ensuing 10 years of living in Arizona, Karen moved back to Staten Island in hopes of creating her own identity apart from her father's dishonorable conduct. She found her chance when she joined the cast of the reality series Mob Wives. The show premiered on April 17, 2011, and documented the lives of seven wives whose husbands were imprisoned for their ties to the Mafia.
The show was an immediate hit and debuted its second season in January 2012. But, Salvatore's past ultimately came back to haunt Karen in season 2's episode 10 "Fire Away" in which she fires multiple guns and talks about the first time she discovered a pistol under her father's mattress. Soon after the episode aired in 2012, victims of Salvatore demanded an investigation into whether or not Karen had violated her probation for handling a firearm. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Philadelphia Field Division looked into the issue, but found no means for a criminal investigation. Karen later released a statement through her rep, which stated, "My probation terms have been over since 2003. At that time, I filed a motion to have my constitutional rights restored and to my knowledge, they have been restored. They're doing everything they can to discredit me because of their personal issues with my father."
Aside from reality TV, Karen authored her tell-all memoir Mob Daughter: The Mafia, Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, and Me! (2012).
The third season of Mob Wives most recently premiered on January 1, 2013.