Earlier this month the FBI busted an alleged drug smuggling scheme between New York's Mafia and Italy's Calabrian Mafia.
Of course, regular readers of Friends of Ours were not surprised to learn about the transatlantic alliance. After all, for years this blog has warned that the drug trafficking Calabrian Mafia – or ‘Ndrangheta -- was entrenched in the United States and Canada with surprisingly little push back from law enforcement. Indeed, the crime group is suspected of backing a breakaway faction from the Rizzuto family in Montreal, QB Canada for control over the drug rackets in Montreal and New York, and it necessarily would have to hook up with New York’s Mafia in order to push product in their territory. According to the FBI the Calabrian Mafia has partnered with reputed associates from the Gambino and Bonanno families that are obvious choices given their long-standing involvement in the international drug trade.
The only surprise about the bust is its narrow reach into the supposed scheme concerning both smuggling logistics and involved players. For example, the feds allege that Mexican cartel-supplied cocaine would move from Guyana, South America into Gioia Tauro, Calabria but clam up in explaining how the product would move from Italy to Canada and then into New York which of course was the entire point of partnering with the Gambino and Bonanno families. And curiously no made members – let alone any bosses -- from these two crime families are named defendants in the indictment; rather, only a reputed associate from each -- Franco Lupoi and Charles Centaro, respectively -- have been charged.
The failure to address the drug pipeline from Canada into New York or to include additional defendants aren’t minor gaps in the smuggling scheme but gaping holes. Indeed, Lupoi supposedly claimed he could smuggle anyone from Canada into New York through an Indian reservation which straddles over both jurisdictions, and a law enforcement source said it’s likely the drug operation was approved by his Gambino bosses. So why doesn’t the indictment reflect these components? As currently framed the indictment touches only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
The FBI states its investigation is “ongoing “ but the bust has provided the Gambino and Bonnano families with a heads up, and its undercover agent “Jimmy” who infiltrated the purported plot is now out of any information loop. Lupoi allegedly was instrumental in brokering the joint alliance between the Gambino family and the Calabrian Mafia, and due to his supposed ties to reputed underboss Frank Cali and soldier Pete Inzerillo perhaps the feds hope to flip him before bringing a superseding and more expansive indictment.
The bust has raised more questions than it’s answered, and the $64,000 question is what role, if any, Calabrian mobsters from New York – and perhaps even their Gambino and Bonanno partners -- have with the ongoing resurrection against the Rizzuto family in Montreal, Canada for control over the drug pipeline into the Big Apple. Among those charged in the New York drug bust was reputed ‘Ndrangheta associate Raffaele Valente, and in successfully keeping him behind bars pending trial the government alleged in a court-filed detention memorandum that “Valente has been recorded on Italian court-authorized wiretaps bragging about the armed and violent group he has assembled in New York.” Moreover, among those killed in the ongoing drug war in Montreal was former Bonanno boss Salvatore "Sal the Ironworker" Montagna who was allied with the Calabrian Mafia until their relationship soured.
The one thing that has been seemingly confirmed by the bust is that the Gambino and Bonanno families include foreign nationals among its members and associates who are deeply involved in the global drug trade. However, the question remains when the U.S. Treasury Department will designate them as transnational criminal organizations under Executive Order 13581 to freeze their assets and ban Americans from conducting any business with them.
Further reading that may be of interest: