BROOKLYN (PIX11) — A jailhouse phone call played at the “murder for hire” trial in Brooklyn federal court alluded to a Bloods leader, Bushawn “Shelz” Shelton, recruiting gang members for the operation.

“I thought it was a job! A 9-5,” one man said during the call.  “I thought he’s talking a real 9 – 5. Instead, he’s talking some ‘Joker’ s–t!”

The use of the word “Joker” is believed to be a reference to the eventual victim, Sylvester Zottola, who was tied to the “Joker’s Poker” gambling machines seen in many bars around the city.  

Police said Zottola was connected to the imprisoned boss of the Bonanno organized crime family, Vincent “Vinny Gorgeous” Basciano. In addition, Zottola’s oldest son, Anthony, is charged with murder conspiracy, accused of hiring Bushawn Shelton to organize hits on his father and his brother, Salvatore.  Salvatore survived a July 2018 shooting, but the father was not so lucky in October that year when he was killed at a McDonald’s drive-thru in the Bronx.

FBI special agent, Michael Zoufal, said the jailhouse phone call referred to Bushawn Shelton.
“His name is Shelz or some s–t like that,” the caller said.

Bushawn Shelton has pleaded guilty in the murder for hire case, along with a number of other Bloods members charged with murder conspiracy.

Anthony Zottola is on trial with Himen Ross, the alleged McDonald’s shooter and, for the first time, prosecutors entered Ross’ government photo and one of his Instagram posts into evidence.  Ross is seen wearing a black T-shirt with the phrase “I Could Be Ya Worse Nightmare” emblazed on the front, with three purple devils over the photo.

Alfred Lopez, another alleged Bloods associate, is also on trial.

Defense attorneys are expected to cross-examine the FBI special agent into next week.