16 arrested in joint anti-mafia raids in Italy and the US

AFP - [email protected]
16 arrested in joint anti-mafia raids in Italy and the US
File photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Italian police and the FBI launched a joint operation on Wednesday against suspected members of the mafia in Sicily and New York, targeting the powerful Gambino crime family and its associates.


Warrants for the arrest of 17 suspects were executed, seven in the Palermo region of Sicily and 10 in New York, Italian police said in a statement.

They stand accused of crimes ranging from mafia and criminal association to extortion, arson and auction rigging, it said.

The US Department of Justice later clarified that only 16 of the suspects had actually been detained, saying one individual targeted in Italy remains at large.

It confirmed ten alleged members or associates of the Gambino family had been arrested in the US raids, charged with racketeering conspiracy,
extortion, witness retaliation and "union-related crimes".

"As alleged, for years, the defendants committed violent extortions, assaults, arson, witness retaliation and other crimes in an attempt to dominate the New York carting (waste disposal) and demolition industries," US Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.

In one incident, the US government alleges, two of the suspects coordinated a "violent hammer assault" on a member of a demolition company with whom they
had a financial dispute - and then circulated the pictures to others in the industry.

Italian police said investigations had also highlighted extortion against restauranteurs of Sicilian origin in New York, as a way of pressuring their families back home.

The Gambino family is one of five linked to the Cosa Nostra based in New York, according to US prosecutors. The others are the Genovese, Lucchese, Colombo and Bonanno families.

The Cosa Nostra became famous as the inspiration for the "Godfather" films, although it has since been surpassed in wealth, power and global reach by the 'Ndrangheta mafia, based in the southern Italian region of Calabria.


But the Italian police said their investigation with the FBI, which began in April 2021, confirmed the "robustness" of US-Italian crime links and highlighted "the American interest in the organisational affairs of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra".

The US defendants include Joseph Lanni, a 52-year-old alleged Gambino "captain" - head of a crew - also known as "Joe Brooklyn" and "Mommino", along with alleged "soldiers" and associates, authorities said.

The New York mafia has been weakened by several blows in recent years, including arrests, fratricidal struggles and competition from other criminal organisations, but they are still considered active.

The reputed boss of the Gambino clan, "Frank" Cali, was shot and killed outside his home in the New York borough of Staten Island in March 2019.


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