The Mobsters who Fled to Britain

When the authorities start closing in on the Italian crime world, even the toughest mobsters flee to Britain. Some to hide and blend in; Some so they can keep running their criminal organizations

Being associated with the Mafia is not recognized as a crime in Britain. The Mafia isn’t even recognized as a criminal organization. Gangsters have a good chance of evading any punishment if they can lie low for a while. If they wait long enough, they will avoid any chance of extradition back to Italy. But these plans don’t work out for all of them.

Drug runners, forgers, racketeers and even high-ranking members of the Camorra. By no means a complete list, here is a sprinkling of Mafioso who have settled in Britain.

Francesco Tonicello

An armed robber with links to the Mafia Veneta was wanted for crimes in Italy in the 1990s including drugs, fraud, and forgery.

Tonicello fled Italy to London before the Italian authorities could catch up to him.

He spent years on the run, during which time he perfected the art of disguise, continuously changing his hair color and style, facial hair and glasses.

He used eleven different identities during his years on the run. One where he pretended to be an immigrant, Gianluca Cappello living in an apartment in Vauxhall, South London.

He worked different odd jobs including working in a small magazine kiosk. Of course, he wasn’t completely on the up and up as he stole unsold copies of The Evening Standard newspaper and sold them on Vauxhall Bridge.

Vauxhall Bridge

Vauxhall Bridge where Francesco Tonicello sold stolen Newspapers

It seems his final downfall was Tonicello’s love and homesickness for Italy.

A care package sent from his mother in Italy to his address in Vauxhall was intercepted by local authorities while they were surveilling his residence. It contained cheese, salami, and panettone. But more than that, it confirmed his true identity.

In the middle of the night, the Metropolitan Police raided Tonicello’s home. Even to the end when they were arresting him he tried to convince them that he was not the man they thought he was.

Gennaro Panzuto

Panzuto fled Naples to Britain in 2006 after he was linked to a murder and implicated with the Camorra gang.

Once in Britain, he rented a trailer in Scorton, Lancashire and started getting involved in a variety of scams with a British businessman. One of which involved shipping Italian shoes without paying tax.

Panzuto’s mafia roots started to come through as he became known as a “heavy”, intimidating their rivals and debtors including at one point biting a man’s ear off.

Gennaro Panzuto who broke the Mafia's code of silence

Gennaro Panzuto who broke the Mafia’s code of silence

Life in prison did not sit well with Panzuto so he agreed on a plea deal involving breaking omertà, the mafia code of silence. In return, he would be given a new identity upon his release.

Panzuto really felt at home in England and during his time at the trailer park flew his wife – and girlfriend over for visits.

He was a popular, well-liked resident of the trailer park. When he was arrested in 2007 it came as a shock to his local community who had no idea an Italian mafioso was living in their midst.

Ann Hathaway

This former dancer, North of England native met her Sicilian gangster husband, Antonion Rinzivillo, when she was just 23 and vacationing with friends in Rome. They were married a few months later.

This Mafia godmother helped run her husband’s criminal empire while he was in prison for drug trafficking and murder.

The Rochdale local met Sicilian gangster Antonion Rinzivillo when she was 23 and holidaying in Rome with friends, and married him a few months later.

The honeymoon was over after a few years when Rinzivillo was arrested and imprisoned. Italian authorities say Hathaway took over her husband’s crime empire laundering cash and carrying Pizzino, messages, to her husband’s captains to keep them up-to-date on goings-on.

Ann Hathaway who ran her husbands criminal empire while he was in prison

Ann Hathaway who ran her husband’s criminal empire while he was in prison

She traveled regularly between Milan and Gela, making sure that the local businesses

She also traveled between Milan and Gela, to make sure local businesses kept up their “Pizzo” – payments to the mob.

“She is his go-between, she has the authority to represent him, and claim payments in his name,” a prosecutor said at the time. “She was treated with the respect and deference his name commanded.”

Hathaway left her lavish Roman lifestyle in 2005 and moved back to the Greater Manchester area. Two years later she was arrested but managed to strike a plea deal after admitting her Mafia Association.

She received a two-year suspended jail sentence with a five-year probation period. She told the media that she was “destroyed” by the experience.

Antonio La Torre

Brother of Augusto La Torre, the former head of the powerful La Torre clan from Mondragone, Antonio La Torre is a multi-billionaire real estate developer, restaurateur, and member of the Camorra.

He moved to Aberdeen, Scotland in 1984 setting up two restaurants that proved extremely popular during the 20 years he was there.

But the restaurants were just a money-laundering front for a criminal organization back in Italy.

Nicknamed “The Don of the Don”, in 2004, even in his absence he was found guilty and sentenced for various crimes including racketeering, extortion, robbery, and counterfeiting.

Camorra member, Antonio “The Don of the Don” La Torre

Camorra member, Antonio “The Don of the Don” La Torre

The following year he was arrested in Scotland and extradited to Italy. He spent nine years behind bars. He was released in 2014.

In 2018 he was arrested again after police raids revealed evidence that Antonio and his brother Augusto, who was serving 22 years in prison for murder and extortion, were plotting to murder an “anti-mafia” magistrate and his deputy.

He was arrested in a seaside town to the north of Naples called Mondragone and detained on charges of illegal possession of firearms, attempted extortion, attempted robbery and Mafia involvement.

The charges were eventually dropped but Antonio still had to report to police on the firearms charge.

Domenico Rancadore

In 1993, after being found not guilty of Mafia-related crimes, this Sicilian crime boss fled to Uxbridge in outer London to open a travel agency with his wife.

After being found not guilty of Mafia-related crimes in 1993, Sicilian crime boss Domenico Rancadore fled to leafy semi-suburban Uxbridge in outer London and opened a travel agency with his wife.

Nicknamed “The Teacher”, his new life was a far cry from his lifestyle as head of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra crime family.

With a new identity, Rancadore now known as Marc Skinner, blended in well to British life. He was well-liked by his neighbors who described him and his family as “the nicest people that you could wish to meet.”

Domenico Ranadore who fought extradition and won

Domenico Ranadore who fought extradition and won

Back in Italy, in 1999 he was convicted of being a part of a criminal organization and the Italian authorities formally requested his extradition. According to Vittorio Teresi from the prosecutor’s office in Palermo: “The crime of Mafia association is not recognized in the British legal system. The extradition request was not even considered.”

Rancadore was finally arrested in August 2013 under a new European arrest warrant. As soon as he saw the police approaching his house in Manor Waye he tried to escape out of the back door but ran straight into the police.

Westminster Magistrates Court denied bail for Rancadore and set an extradition hearing for November 2013. In March 2014, District Judge Howard Riddle finally decided that he could not be extradited back to Italy.

Rancadore still has an outstanding seven-year prison sentence in Italy but it’s very unlikely he will serve any time. Under Italian law, the case expires once double the time of the sentence (in this case 14 years) has passed.

Rancadore raised serious concerns for the British authorities. He said “I’m not going back, they’ll kill me”

He’s still in Britain, though his exact location is unknown.