Teresa Marino, who at the age of 38 is also a grandmother, is thought to have managed the powerful Porta Nuova faction of Cosa Nostra in Palermo, while her husband – and the clan's actual leader – Tommaso Lo Presti was behind bars, La Repubblica reported.
Marino was arrested this week as part of an operation that saw 38 mafia members from different clans arrested.
The violent Lo Presti was busted on April 19th 2014 as part of a blitz that saw Italian forces jail 19 suspected mafia bosses in a bid to stop a gang war breaking out following a spate of violent killings in the Sicilian capital.
But following Lo Presti's arrest Marino allegedly took over the day-to-day running of the clan – which is said to have included conducting a thorough spending review.
Marino was also forced to reduce payments to the wives of other incarcerated mafiosi in a bid to save money.
“The investigation shows the ability the mafia has to restructure itself,” said Salvatore Altavilla, who led the investigation into Marino.
Marino was also allegedly instrumental in finding new ways to recycle drug dealing profits, including setting up an illegal trade in fish products.
Instrumental to the success of the investigation were the 27 extortion attempts that business owners reported as Porta Nuova tried to establish its monopoly over legal fish vendors in Palermo.
“The operation also reveals the level of control the mafia has on the Sicilian economy,” Altavilla added.
Altavilla also described how residents in the Borgo Vecchio district of Palermo – where the clan is based – had come down to the streets to show their appreciation for two of the mafiosi as the criminals were arrested.
“It's still very deep-rooted in Sicily. This is the seventh operation in the past few months.”