Italian and U.S. agents broke up a major cocaine trafficking network run out of a New York City pizzeria, detaining 13 Italians with links to organized crime on Thursday, police said.
Italy’s elite SCO police and FBI agents captured the men as they slept in their homes in the southern Italian region of Calabria and held them on charges of conspiracy to run an international drug trafficking ring, police added.
The year-long investigation, dubbed Operation Columbus, was led by federal investigators in Brooklyn and prosecutors in Calabria, the region that is home to the ‘Ndrangheta, a mafia group on the Italian mainland akin to Sicily’s Cosa Nostra.
The network is accused of organizing cocaine shipments from Costa Rica to the United States and Europe.
There was no immediate statement from the arrested men or any lawyers representing them.
Italian investigators said they had evidence to show the network’s kingpin was Gregorio Gigliotti, a 59-year-old Calabrian-born man who ran the “Cucino A Modo Mio” (I Cook My Way) pizzeria in the Queens borough of New York.
He was indicted in the United States along with his wife and son last month for importing cocaine and has pled not guilty.
Police seized more than $100,000, six pistols, a shotgun and a set of brass knuckledusters at Gigliotti’s pizzeria and home, U.S. court papers said.
Among those detained by police on Thursday was Franco Fazio, 56, described by investigators as Gigliotti’s ambassador and courier. He traveled extensively between Italy, the U.S. and Costa Rica to set up the drug deals, investigators said.
“The Italian restaurant was the command center for bringing some drug shipments to New York and sending others to Europe or Calabria,” Grassi told reporters in Rome.
Investigators said they had evidence to show the ring was linked to 55 kg (121 lb) of cocaine found hidden in two shipments of fresh cassava from Central America to Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware, in October and December of last year, according to court documents.
They were also looking into whether the men were linked to more than 3 tonnes of cocaine seized in Spain and the Netherlands last year, all shipped in 40-foot (12 meter) long containers of fresh cassava or pineapple, said Andrea Grassi, the SCO officer in charge of the operation.
The latest operation follows a similar one in February last year and another in 2008 in which a Calabrian mafia clan ran a cocaine smuggling operation through New York with members of New York crime families.
The recent operations suggest that the ‘Ndrangheta, which investigators say is Europe’s biggest cocaine dealer, has replaced Sicily’s Cosa Nostra as the main partner of New York’s traditional Italian crime families in smuggling drugs between North America and Europe.
Boom: Joy Reid explains why Andrew Cuomo ‘is the president’
MSNBC host Joy Reid asserted on Sunday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) is now the acting president of the United States for many Americans.
During a segment on MSNBC, a guest lamented that Donald Trump is the president instead of Cuomo, who has gotten national attention over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
"I have to admit that I am a fan of Andrew Cuomo," former ABC News anchor Carole Simpson said, "and wish very much that he were president of the United States now running a national battle against this virus."
"I mean, kind of, isn't he?" Reid said of Cuomo. "I mean, isn't he actually [the president]? I mean, in a way, he is the president."
Navy captain fired by Trump over coronavirus letter tests positive for COVID-19: report
According to a report from the New York Times, the Navy captain relieved of his duties by the Trump administration over a letter drawing attention to dangerous health conditions on his aircraft carrier has tested positive for COVID-19.
The report states, "Capt. Brett E. Crozier, the Navy captain who was removed from command of the coronavirus-stricken aircraft carrier U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, has tested positive for Covid-19, according to two Naval Academy classmates of Crozier’s who are close to him and his family."
Georgia GOP governor orders several beaches to reopen days after acknowledging he’s woefully uneducated on coronavirus spread
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported today that Kemp is reopening Tybee Island and other beaches along the Georgia coast.
Local officials in several of Georgia’s coastal communities reacted with fury on Saturday after Gov. Brian Kemp’s shelter-in-place order simultaneously reopened several of the state’s most popular beaches.
The stupidity and lack of regard of human life on display in Republican-run states is beyond criminal and inhumane. In fact, there are no words to describe this. Because the longer these so-called “leaders” make decisions that are in the best interests of, I don’t know who, the longer it will take to come out of this pandemic that is claiming so many thousands of lives.