Italian and American police have arrested dozens of suspected mobsters on both sides of the Atlantic for their alleged roles in a joint drug smuggling plot between New York's Gambino family and Italy's Ursino clan from the 'Ndrangheta or Calabrian Mafia.
The Mexican cartels would ship cocaine loads with packed fish or fruit from Guyana ports, and "the ‘Ndrangheta guaranteed smooth import and export from Italy thanks to a corrupt port official in Gioia Tauro, Calabria" as reported by John Marzulli for the Daily News. "The 'Ndrangheta determined to move deadly narcotics across international boundaries, attempting to build a bridge of criminality and corruption to stretch from South America to Italy and back to New York," said assistant U.S. attorney Marshall Miller as reported by Philip Pullella for Reuters.
Seven reputed mobsters and their alleged associates were arrested in New York, and have been identified by U.S. prosecutors in Brooklyn, NY as "Raffaele Valente, aka 'Lello,' of the 'Ndrangheta syndicate, Gambino family associate Franco Lupoi, Bonanno associate Charles Centaro, aka 'Charlie Pepsi,' Dominic Ali, Alexander Chan, Christos Fasarakis, and Jose Alfredo Garcia, also known as 'Freddy'" as reported by Allen Pizzey for CBS News. The government further identifies Fasarakis an an employee of Alma Bank in Brooklyn, and allege that he, Ali and Centaro "laundered more than $500,000 in funds that they believed were the proceeds of narcotics and illegal weapons trafficking" on behalf of Lupoi who was the suspected ringleader on the Gambino end according to a press release.
Federal prosecutors "said Lupoi is 'associated' with Gambino underboss Frank Cali and capo Pietro (Tall Pete) Inzerillo, but they were not charged" as reported by John Marzulli for the Daily News: "FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos said that mob associates do not usually carry out rogue operations of this magnitude and that the Gambino hierarchy 'probably knew, but that's part of the ongoing investigation.'"
Lupoi's alleged connection to the 'Ndrangheta was through his father-in-law Nicola Antonio Simonetta who was a one-time Canadian resident but arrested in Italy as reported by Adrian Humphreys for the National Post: "Canada was the planned destination of cocaine being smuggled into Europe from South America," and Lupoi "claimed he could get anything across the Canada-U.S. border without passing a checkpoint."
A "key role was played by an American undercover agent, identified only as 'Jimmy,' who managed to gain the trust of the initially highly suspicious 'Ndrangheta clans" as reported by Nick Squires for The Telegraph.
In recent years the Calabrian Mafia has eclipsed the Sicilian Mafia as Italy's most powerful crime group due to its obscene profits from the cocaine trade in Europe, and it has become entrenched in Australia, Canada and the United States with surprisingly little push back from law enforcement in those countries although today's action by the FBI in the U.S. is a promising start.
The Calabrian Mafia is suspected of backing a breakaway group from the Rizzuto family in Montreal, QB Canada for control over the drug rackets in Montreal and New York, and the turf war has resulted in dozens of murders over the last few years.
This blog long has called for the U.S. Treasury Department to designate the Gambino crime family as a transnational criminal organization under Executive Order 13581 for its suspected overseas partnerships in the international drug trade which would freeze its members' assets and ban Americans from conducting any business with them. Inexplicably, the revenuers have ignored this powerful tool in going after the Gambino and other Mafia families and left their economic infrastructure in place.
Drug trafficking always has been the mother's milk for the Italian Mafia. For example, the Sicilian Mafia and Mafia families in New York and other U.S. cities operated a $1.6 billion cocaine and heroin smuggling scheme from 1975 to 1984 using pizzerias as fronts in drug case known as the Pizza Connection, and in 1958 mob boss Vito Genovese was convicted with several others for running heroin out of his gay bars in Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side.
Further reading that may be of interest:
02/12/14 UPDATE: The "seven suspects arrested in the New York area all pleaded not guilty in federal court in Brooklyn on Tuesday" as reported by Joseph Goldstein for The New York Times:
Joseph Mure, a lawyer for Charles Centaro, said he was a deliveryman. * * * Mr. Mure said of his client, "It appears as though he does not have any involvement with these drugs or guns. Does he know these guys in Italy? I don’t think he had any dealing with any of them. When you live in a neighborhood such as Brooklyn, you sometimes know certain people. You know people who get picked up in a case, but you may not necessarily be involved."
Four defendants -- Valente, Lupoi, Chan and Garcia -- are being held without bail, and the other three -- Centaro, Fasarakis and Ali -- are free on bail as reported by CNN.