|In New York, an alleged mob associate was arrested as part|
of a series of coordinated raids between U.S., Italian law
More than 20 were arrested. In the U.S. one Ndrangheta member was arrested, as well as the two Mafia associates, and four others related to the various groups involved in the ring.
A 15-count indictment unsealed Tuesday identified the suspects as Ndrangheta member Raffaele “Lello” Valente, Gambino associate Franco Lupoi, Bonanno associate Charles “Charlie Pepsi” Centaro, as well as Dominic Ali, Alexander Chan and Christos Fasarakis, all of Brooklyn, and Jose Alfredo “Freddy” Garcia of New York.
Those arrested here will be arraigned in Brooklyn Federal Court on drug, money laundering and weapons charges.
READ ABOUT THE NDRANGHETA'S DEADLY HISTORY HEREProsecutors said the New York associates also conspired with the Ndrangheta to traffic cocaine and heroin to be stashed in shipments of pineapples, frozen fish and other food.
The shipments traveled through ports in Guyana, where Mexican drug cartel members facilitated deliveries, prosecutors said. The Ndrangheta guaranteed smooth import and export from Italy due to a bribed port official in Gioia Tauro, Calabria.
Shipping containers originating from Guyana were seized in Malaysia. The containers held over $7 million in cocaine hidden in pineapples and coconut milk, prosecutors said.
The Gambino and Bonanno families have long-established ties to the Sicilian Mafia, but the Calabria-based 'Ndrangheta syndicate in recent years has come to dominate its Sicilian competitors, as well as the Neapolitan Camorra. The Gambinos are believed by law enforcement to have the strongest ties to Sicily;
In particular, Gambino family boss Domenico "Italian Dom" Cefalu, underboss Frank Cali, and Gambino capo Bartolomeo "Baboots" Vernace all have strong ties to Sicily.
Frank as been considered to be the Gambino "ambassador to Sicilian mobsters" and he is linked to the Inzerillo Mafia family, from Palermo. "Cali is seen as a man of influence and power by organized crime members in Italy," according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Lipton.
The investigation that prompted the bust involved undercover agents and wiretaps, which offered evidence that the Calabria-based Ndrangheta was hopping over its historic competitors to make inroads into the United States by forging ties with New York mob families.
Italian investigators estimated the street value of the haul would have been about 750 million euros (or $1 billion).
The operation began in 2012 when investigators detected a plan by members of the Ursino clan of the Ndrangheta to smuggle drugs. An undercover agent was dispatched to Italy and infiltrated the clan. An undercover agent was also involved in the handover of 2.8 pounds of heroin as part of the infiltration operation.
The FBI and Italian investigators intercepted email messages between mobsters in Italy and the New Socco Enterprise fruit canning company in Georgetown, Guyana.
During the investigation police wire taps indicated the group was also considering arms trafficking on a considerable scale; this plan however never moved beyond the initial stages.
The Ndrangheta is based in the southern region of Calabria, in the toe of the Italian "boot." In the past decade, the group has aggressively expanded and is considered to be among the world's largest cocaine traffickers, often working closely with Mexico's big time narcotraficantes to supply Western Europe. Called "the Octopus" by some, the Ndrangheta has wrapped its tentacles around Europe, as well as South America, Australia and now America as well.
In 2012 during the investigation of 34 Ndrangheta members, Italian authorities uncovered a stronghold based in New York City, a major stopover along the Ndrangheta's international drug trade, where its members meet up with cocaine-laden members of the Mexican cartels. The FBI, at the time, said the Ndrangheta is among its top priorities.
Members of the group landed here much earlier, however, and are known to have run intimidation schemes in Pennsylvania mining towns in 1906.
“The Ndrangheta is an exceptionally dangerous, sophisticated and insidious criminal organization, with tentacles stretching from Italy to countries around the world,” Brooklyn U.S. attorney Loretta Lynch said at a press conference today. “The ‘Ndrangheta’s efforts to gain a foothold in New York have been dealt a lasting blow.”
Although the Ndrangheta operates independently, it historically has worked with Cosa Nostra primarily due to the geographical proximity between Calabria and Sicily; the two groups share in a common culture and dialect. It turns out the structure of the Ndrangheta is thought to be more Mafia-like than the previous view that it had a more clannish-based, horizontal structure.
It is the unparalleled, shocking brutality of the Ndrangheta that differentiates it. The Ndrangheta fed a living man to a group of hungry pigs and last month allegedly murdered a three-year-old boy, his uncle, and the uncle's Moroccan girlfriend over a drug debt.