Italian waiter’s drug dealing past catches up with him on Facebook
Published 13/02/2012 | 10:23
AN Italian's freewheeling four years on the run from justice came to an abrupt end when photographs he posted on Facebook of his new life in London led to his arrest.
Michele Grasso, 27, from the hilltop resort town of Taormina in Sicily, fled Italy in 2008 on drug-dealing charges.
As far as the Italian authorities were concerned, he disappeared without trace. On his Facebook profile he listed his place of residence as 'Alcatraz'.
But after four years as a fugitive, confidence – or cockiness – apparently got the better of him.
He posted a series of photographs on Facebook of him having a good time in London, including posing next to the wax work figure of President Barack Obama at Madame Tussaud's, waiting for a red double-decker bus and smoking a cigarette in front of a snowman with a carrot for a nose.
But the set of images also contained, crucially, pictures of the restaurant in Woodford, north London, where he had found work as a waiter.
In one of the photos, the name of the restaurant was clearly visible.
In an operation to track him down code-named 'Big Ben', Italian police contacted Interpol, who got in touch with the Metropolitan Police, who arrested Mr Grasso and had him extradited back to Italy.
He was flown back under a police escort and remanded in custody in Rome's Regina Coeli prison.
If convicted of drug dealing, he faces five years in jail and a fine of €24,000.
A similar case occurred last year, when a young woman inadvertently betrayed her boyfriend, a mafia fugitive, by uploading their holiday snaps on Facebook, giving police vital clues as to his location.
Salvatore D'Avino had been on the run for four years, with police believing he was living under an assumed identity in Morocco.
But in August last year he travelled to Spain, apparently so that his heavily pregnant girlfriend could give birth.
The photos she uploaded enabled Spanish and Italian police to capture D'Avino as he was filling his car with petrol in a town near Marbella on the Costa del Sol.
D'Avino, a member of one of the drug-dealing clans that make up the Camorra mafia, was on the list of Italy's 100 most wanted criminals.