Australian authorities suspect that the Calabrian Mafia also known as the Ndrangheta are behind recent violent attacks on pizzerias in Melbourne. The attacks are part of an extortion scheme targeting local food wholesalers, restaurants, and even supermarkets. Known to its members in Australia as the L’Onorata Societa the criminal organization has established powerful connections across the country. The Calabrian Mafia has grown to become the most powerful Mafia organization in Italy and continues to expand its reach into other countries such as Canada,Australia, and even the United States among others. Control of the European drug trade has allowed them to generate obscene profits and grow their criminal organization.
They have even shown up in countries like Germany bringing with them violence and treachery often associated with the Mafia. Back in 2007 in Duisburg, Germany six members of the Pelle-Votari clan of the Ndrangheta was gunned down by rival mobsters from the Nirta-Strangio clan in from of a local pizzeria. Just after the incident in Germany a Ndrangheta deserter named Giorgio Basile told Italian authorities that the Germans must realize that where there is pizza there is the Mafia. This statement may be proven to be more and more accurate after the recent incidents surrounding the pizzerias in Australia.
The FBI along with Italian authorities recently busted a drug smuggling scheme between the Ndrangheta and the New York Mafia that was shipping cocaine into the United States from Canada. Canadian and Italian authorities also believe the Calabrian Mafia backed a break away faction from the Rizzuto crime family in Montreal leading to a bloody turf war for control of that cities lucrative drug rackets. Seems that the Ndrangheta are willing and able to work with just about any criminal organization any where in the world if there is a profit to be made making them more dangerous then many of their counter parts.
Defense team for reputed Lucchese crime family soldier Nicodemo Scarfo Jr and associate Salvatore Pelullo in the FirstPlus Financial racketeering trial went on the offensive. Prosecutors claim that Scarfo the son of former Philadelphia mob boss Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo along with Pelullo headed a hostile mob takeover of the financial service company looting millions of dollars from it. They claimed in the indictment that Pelullo back in 2007 acquired and created companies as part of the scheme to take over FirstPlus Financial and defraud the companies investors. But defense attorney’s attacked the prosecutions allegations using the testimony from one of the governments own key witnesses who offered an insight into the take over from the witness stand.
“Nicky Scarfo jr and Sal Pelullo”
Key witness Cory Leshner a lawyer who prosecutors claimed worked for Scarfo and Pelullo at FirstPlus handling day to day operations that included managing credit and bank accounts used to conceal the money being pilfered by the mafia. Leshner facing a possible 100 yeas in prison decided to cut a deal with prosecutors and testify against the reputed mobsters in return for a plea deal of only five years in prison for his crimes. But while testifying Leshner claimed that Pelullo launched the businesses included in the governments indictment before he even knew that the FirstPlus Financial firm even existed.
Defense lawyers attacked this part of Leshners testimony claiming that it contradicted the governments theory and allegations that Pelullo created these companies as tools to use for taking over FirstPlus. It is still unclear how this will play into the juries assessment of the indictment as a whole but it is a interesting twist in what is a very complicated case. Little Nicky Scarfo and former Lucchese family boss Vittorio “Vic” Amuso were both identified pre-trial as unindicted co-conspirators in the case and it is believed that money from the scam benefited the Lucchese family of the New York Mafia as well as the Scarfo’s.
After spending the last two years in prison held with out bail while going through two racketeering trials Philadelphia mafia boss Joseph “Uncle Joe” Ligambi is finally back home. Ligambi has now spent twelve years of his life in prison after doing 10 years for the Frank” Frankie Flowers” D’Alfonso murder before having the conviction over turned back in 1997. According to law enforcement and underworld sources Ligambi now 74 is telling everyone he has had enough and he is done with the mob and has stepped down. Now many people are wondering of he really means it but with history of Philly mob bosses leading to either a coffin or a jail cell and after such a close call at two different trials could anyone really blame him. Looking back at the six previous Philadelphia mob bosses who preceded Ligambi four ended up doing extremely long prison terms and two were murdered so perhaps it is the smart move.
Ligambi was seen by many as a Philly mobster who had a foot in both camps on streets now looking for a piece of the pie and could possibly bridge the gap peacefully between the two. Former Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino associates Steve Mazzone , John Ciancaglini, and George Borgesi are all now back on the streets along with many former Scarfo organization mobsters from the 1980′s. Merlino has been living in Florida since his prison release and also claims he is done with mob life. If both Ligambi and Merlino are out as possible leaders of the Philly mafia then who steps in to fill the void becomes the major question. Law enforcement sources claimed that Mazzone has been acting boss of the mob in Philadelphia while Ligambi was on trial and is a leading candidate to take over along with Scarfo era mobster Phil Narducci.
“Good Times Past for Philly Mob: From left: Ralph Abbruzzi,George Borgesi,Frank Gambino,Joey Merlino,and Joseph Ligambi “
But at this point does anyone really want the job and is it worth it. The mafia in Philadelphia is but a shell of its former self and the money just isn’t there anymore according to mob insiders and law enforcement. It once dominated the Philadelphia underworld but now it is but a minor player with drug kingpins with large wads of cash taking over the streets and even mob staples like gambling challenged by local casino’s along Jersey shore and in the city. Ligambi has himself likely taken all this into consideration and has decided there is nothing left worth fighting for. After 14 years as the head of the Philadelphia mafia a run which was seemingly peaceful and one would think somewhat lucrative he may be smart enough to walk away on top.
Ligambi’s ride into the sunset may yet be a bumpy one even if he does intend to hold to his word and step aside as a mob leader. The upcoming trial of Anthony Nicodemo a reputed Ligambi organization member for murder of Gino DiPietro could turn into a problem Ligambi. Law enforcement sources familiar with the case believe that Nicodemo is buried and it is possible that he could do like many mobsters before him and decide to turn rat and save himself. He could possibly supply evidence linking Ligambi to three yet unsolved murders that happened under his watch. The mob hit in 1999 on Ronnie Turchi, the 2002 mob hit of Raymond “Long John” Martorano, and the 2003 John “Johnny Gongs” Casasanto hit. So only time will tell of Ligambi indeed is stepping down and if he can do so with out any of his previous misdeeds coming back to haunt him.
Back in the mid-1980′s a plot was formed by then Sicilian mafia boss of bosses Toto “The Beast” Riina to assassinate the former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani. At the time Giuliani was working as a federal prosecutor focusing his efforts on taking down the New York mafia as well as forging close links with anti-mafia prosecutors in Italy including Giovanni Falcone. Falcone along with fellow Italian anti-mafia prosecutor Paolo Borsellino were assassinated on orders from Rinna by a massive bomb attacks just in 1992. Now according to claims by a mafia “pentito” or supergrass named Rosario Naimo who was a made man in Cosa Nostra or the Sicilian mafia but lived for years in the United States Riina wanted Giuliani to suffer the same fate as his Italian counterparts.
Naimo claims that he was ordered by Riina to pass along a message to the Gambino crime family asking them to help assassinate Giuliani for his aggressive investigations into the mafia. These claims by Naimo seem to corroborate claims made by Giuliani himself that the mafia had put out a $800,000 contract on his head. Giuliani while doing an interview on the Oprah Winfrey channel last year said he was aware that the mafia contract had be issued during his first year as mayor because of his work as a U.S. Attorney. He also claimed that after getting a conviction of a certain New York mafia boss for 100 years he also had a contract out for his death worth $400,000. Giuliani joked that he felt kind of bad that the price for killing him had went down in value from 800k to 400k.
These claims by Naimo are very possible because the Sicilian mafia has long held close ties to the Gambino family which still remain in place today. Toto Riina was finally captured by Italian authorities and was convicted for the murders of Falcone and Borsellino among other mafia crimes and has been in prison since 1993. But even from prison he continues to make threats against current Italian anti-mafia prosecutors getting caught on a secret wiretap talking about have them slaughtered like tuna. The American mafia has long held the belief that the killing of such important officials like Giuliani was bad for business and perhaps this was part of the reason why the hit against him was never carried out.
Another son of legendary mob boss Carmine “The Snake” Persico is set to start a prison sentence for his mob ties. Michael Persico is set to join his father Carmine and his brother Alphonse “Allie Boy” Persico behind bars after his sentencing on February 28th baring any postponements. Michael was believed by many to be the good son of the family steering clear of his dads mafia business. But the feds have had a different opinion insisting Michael has long been involved in Colombo crime family business but was smart enough to not become an actual member of the mafia as his father and brother did. Although Persico and his lawyer claim he is simply a victim of profiling being targeted by feds because of his family name but he is simply an honest businessman.
But the feds claim that there is plenty of evidence that hints to Michael’s involvement in the Colombo family. Legendary Colombo captain John “Sonny” Franzese was once caught on tape by an undercover informant praising the approach to the mob lifestyle used by Michael Persico saying “He don’t have to be a goodfella, he is doing different kind of work”. That along with information from former Colombo mobsters turned rat including alleged capo Carmine Sessa indicated there was also an illegal side to Michael’s legitimate businessman public profile. Sessa said Michael supplied his brother Alphonse with 100 thousand dollars to help the Persico faction in the 1990′s during the deadly Colombo family civil war.
Sessa also says a meeting took place on th eve of the war at the Persico family compound in Saugerties involving high level Colombo family leaders with one of the Colombo hierarchy John Staluppi showing up in a helicopter. Also at this meeting was alleged Capo turned government witness John Pate who claims Michael and Alphonse discussed how to kill the leader of the rival faction Victor “Little Vic” Orena. This information along with other aspects lead to Michael Persico being charged with racketeering and multiple murders included in a sweeping indictment back in 2010. But the young Persico was able to cut a deal with the feds in 2012 just before his trial was set to begin.
The plea deal is a sweet one for Persico as he only had to plead guilty to loan-sharking charges instead of racketeering or murder. Instead of facing life in prison at trial Michael now will be facing a sentence of only 37-46 months. The deal did include a condition that his cousin Theodore Persico an alleged mob capo in Colombo family had to also plead guilty and agree to a plea deal which he did and is now facing a sentence of 12 years. Michael and his lawyer were also able to sweeten the pot some by having an agreement added to plea deal that feds could not seek future prosecution for any of previous charges including the murders and racketeering. Seems as if both Michael and Theodore both got plea deals they couldn’t refuse.
The last two decades has produced several major indictments and convictions against the five families of the New York Mafia. Plagued by cooperating witnesses from with in their own ranks and increased pressure by a strengthened effort from the FBI lead to a stiff decline in the power of the Mafia in New York. But despite these waves of convictions and a decline from its heyday all five of the La Cosa Nostra families the Gambino, Lucchese, Genovese, Bonanno, and Colombo families have all survived. Former federal prosecutor and head of the organized crime unit for U.S. Attorneys office in Brooklyn John Buretta says not only does each of the families exists but they still have a hierarchy. Amid constant rumors of their demise the New York Mafia has shown an uncanny ability to adapt and a sustain a high level of persistence.
Now with counter-terrorism becoming a top priority for law enforcement among other things like cyber crimes they have substantially cut back resources once devoted to organized crime at both local and federal levels. The FBI at one time at squads dedicated to each of the five families now only two squads remain one code named C-5 assigned to the Bonanno, Genovese, and Colombo families and C-16 assigned to the Lucchese and Gambino families. Budget constraints with in the NYPD has also caused a drastic cut back in overall detectives including ones in specialty squads dedicated to organized crime according to the president of the NYPD’s detectives union Michael Palladino. This has given organized crime a chance to reorganize and once again strengthen according to law enforcement sources and mob insiders.
Special agent in charge of the Criminal Division of the FBI’s New York office Richard Frankel said the 2014 New York Mafia families are now as powerful as they have been in years. Although not at the levels they once were when the mafia was at its peak they have staged a comeback in recent years and re-established themselves. He says they have adapted somewhat to law enforcement’s tactics and techniques and moved on to a more old school low level approach to doing business. The Mafia today has reverted back to its roots of operating in the shadows becoming as invisible as possible along with some new techniques for doing business to help protect its leadership.
The Genovese family known as the “Ivy League” of organized crime is believed to now use a rotating panel of leaders which run the day by day operations of the family avoiding the possibility of prosecutors targeting any one certain boss. Many if not all of the mob families have also adopted the “need-to-know” tactics used by terrorist cells so that each faction with in the family isn’t aware of what crimes other factions in the family are involved in making the information prosecutors can gain from informants more limited. Many of the other families have gone to the “street boss” model using a lesser known mobster to carry out orders from the hierarchy and interact with the lower level members adding an extra layer of protection.
The Genovese family is believed to currently be the strongest of the New York mafia families with as many as 200 made men leading the way with the Colombo and Lucchese families being the smaller of the families with approx 100 or so made members each. Even though these numbers are less the they were in years pasts the gap is not as substantial as many would think and the number of mob associates still remains in the thousands. While mafia families today still have a problem with newer members not following the mafia codes and rules as old school mobsters once did they are finding ways to somewhat counter act it to remain functional and profitable.
Former Colombo crime family leader Thomas “Tommy Shots” Gioeli is awaiting sentencing for a racketeering conviction but not quietly it seems. The mobsters sends his rants and comments via email to family members who them post them to social media like Twitter. Gioeli decided to use his outlet to blast New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for his decision to keep schools open during a major snow storm last Thursday. The Mayors decision was questioned by numerous people and now it includes the Mafia. Tommy Shots said “How long is reckless Mayor de Blasio gonna play chicky with the lives of our children” having sent it out to his over 600 followers on Twitter.
Gioeli has even complained about his sentencing being delayed because prosecutors were granted a “snow day” which was not entirely accurate. Its Gioeli himself who has sough adjournments for his sentencing over the last couple of years. A government source commenting on Gioeli’s social media rants said “any idiot can have a blog”.
Over the years the Sicilian Mafia also known as Cosa Nostra has been forced to adapt to the changing landscape in Italy. Increased pressure from law enforcement and the strengthening of key rivals like the Calabrian Mafia have weakened the strength and power of the Sicilian Mafia. But as many mafia experts and Italian law enforcement sources point out the Sicilian Mafia has not gone away but has simply become a more low key organization of late. Unlike the past they are no longer so easy to see as they are no longer the peasant leaders and are now graduates and do business in suits along side bankers and politicians. Many believes this just makes them more dangerous then ever before as they expand their illegal operations more and more into the legitimate business world.
But even with this new look the Siclian Mafia is still as violent and as treacherous as ever. The violent history that included bloody turf battles and a shocking war against the state that led to murders of police officials and politicians stands as a constant reminder of lengths Cosa Nostra will go to survive. The assassinations of anti-Mafia judges Paolo Borsellino and Giovanni Falcone as recently as 1992 via bombings showed that no one was out of the reach of Cosa Nostra even if it is seemingly not as powerful as years past. Even though the amount of violent acts in recent years has significantly decreased recent threats by jailed former Cosa Nostra boss Toto Riina proves its still a way of doing business for the Mafia.
“Salvatore Toto Riina“
Riina issued threats against current anti-Mafia magistrate Nino Di Matteo from prison with some sources claiming explosives had been readied. Judges like Di Matteo are closely guarded and isolated but as history has proven the Mafia can and has killed them when ever they like. These new threats against Di Matteo are likely because of his recent investigations into the negotiations between the state and the Sicilian Mafia in the early 1990′s after the bombings of Falcone and Borsellino. Di Matteo has already brought many of those who became accomplices to Cosa Nostra to trial including senior police officials and an internal affairs minister.
“Matteo Messina Denaro“
This new low profile way of doing business may be helping to keep the Sicilian Mafia out of the headlines to an extent but they are still conducting business as usually across Italy. They still maintain a level of violence needed to maintain what is left of their power base and are responsible for vast amounts political corruption along with collections of “Pizzo” or protection money from a large number of people and businesses. There is also a influx of new and younger mobsters and leaders like Matteo Messina Denaro attempting to re-establish the organizations ruling panel and increase its membership. Some believe this could lead to a resurgence of Cosa Nostra if law enforcement does not keep the pressure on.
The infamous St. Valentines Day Massacre took place 85 years ago today orchestrated by Chicago Outfit boss Al Capone. A turf war between rival mafia factions in Chicago led to the brutal massacre which claimed lives of seven mob associates. The battle between the North Side Italians led by Bugs Moran and the South Side Italians led by Al Capone was one of the bloodiest time in Chicago mob history. Moran and Capone were at war for control of the lucrative bootlegging business in Chicago. On February 14, 1929 two men dressed as cops along with others in suits and overcoats lined up seven members of Moran’s North Side Gang along with two collaborators John May and Reinhardt Schwimmer along wall of a garage on North Clark Street and executed them. It remains today as one of the most sinister mafia executions in the history of the American Mafia.
Major mafia raids were conducted this morning in a joint operation between the FBI and Italian Police targeting the Gambino crime family of the New York mafia and the Calabrian Mafia or Ndrangheta in Italy. The two notorious organized crime families were involved in a drug trafficking operation that operated a new drug smuggling route from Latin America into Europe. Feds raided targets in the United States, Italy, and even Canada in an effort to break up the link between the U.S. Sicilian based mafia and the Ndrangheta. More then thirty suspects from the American mafia and the Italian mafia were being targeted. The operation being called “New Bridge” in Italy included up to 20 locations in and around Goia Tauro one of Europe’s biggest shipping ports.
“U.S. and Italian authorities hold joint press conference to announce operation and arrests“
FBI has confirmed that seven suspects connected to the Gambino family and Bonanno family of New York mafia were arrested and are set to appear in federal court at some point on Tuesday. Included in the raids in New York was Franco Lupoi an alleged associate of the Gambino family. It Italy arrested included the alleged boss of the Ursino clan of the Ndrangheta Fransesco Ursino along with Giovanni Morabito who is the nephew of convicted mob boss Giuseppe know as ‘u’ tiradrittu‘.
According to reports the operation began with FBI infiltration of the Gambino family back in 2012 using an undercover agent who also gained trust of some of the Ndrangetha members. The operation code name “New Bridge” may seem familiar to some because of an operation by the FBI in 2008 called “Old Bridge” that also targeted the Gambino family and its links to the Sicilian mafia in Italy. Both the Gambino and Bonanno family have long established ties to the Sicilian Mafia in Italy and recently the Ndrangheta.
Also taken into custody by the feds in the U.S. were Alexander Chan, a middle man between South American Cartel and Lupoi; Dominique Ali , connected to the Gambino family and Lupoi; Charles Centaro, an alleged Bonanno family associate;Raffaele Valente, aka ‘Lello’ of the ‘Ndrangheta syndicate;Charles Fasarakis,an Alma Bank of New York official. Frank Lupoi is noted as being the direct contact between the Gambino family and the Ursino clan in Italy.