FBI links up with Italians to nab Mob don suspects
New York's notorious Gambino family and alleged mafia dons in Sicily were targeted in a series of raids carried out by more than 200 officers from the FBI and the Italian police.
The operation was an aggressive move against the crime families' hopes of re-establishing their presence on Sicily, from where they fled during a vicious war between rival clans in the 1980s.
The war was waged by Salvatore "Toto" Riina, a murderous boss of bosses nicknamed The Beast for his brutality, who was arrested in 1993 and died behind bars in 2017.
He had waged a vendetta against rivals in the Inzerillo family, forcing many of them into exile in the US. Since Riina's arrest and imprisonment, the Inzerillos had been trying to reclaim their old turf in and around Palermo, in league with the Gambino family of New York, police said: "The investigation has shown the strong bond established between Cosa Nostra (in) Palermo and US organised crime, with particular reference to the powerful Gambino crime family of New York."
Nineteen people were arrested in the joint operation, codenamed 'New Connection', which was conducted by Italian anti-mafia police and their counterparts from the FBI.
They included Francesco and Tommaso Inzerillo, respectively the brother and cousin of Totuccio Inzerillo, a mafia don who was gunned down with a Kalashnikov rifle on the orders of Riina in the 1980s.
Also arrested was Salvatore Gambino, not a member of the American clan but the mayor of the town of Torretta near Palermo. He is charged with mafia association.
"Didn't we win the election for you?" he was asked by another one of the arrested men, Simone Zito, an Italian who was living in the US, according to a conversation wire-tapped by police.
Addresses in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia were raided by the FBI. Video surveillance showed Thomas Gambino, the son of alleged mobster Joseph Gambino, discussing the sale of land in the Dominican Republic.
"The Gambino and Inzerillo families brought to their knees by the forces of law and order," Nicola Morra, the president of Italy's parliamentary anti-mafia commission, wrote on Twitter. "We can defeat the mafia."
Police confiscated assets and businesses worth around €3m. The alleged mafiosi were involved in a wide range of illicit businesses, from online betting to whole food supplies, investigators said.
"The Inzerillos were ethnically cleansed out of Palermo by Riina. The ones who were not murdered were given literally minutes to get out," said John Dickie, professor of Italian studies at University College London and the author of 'Mafia Republic - Italy's Criminal Curse'. (© Daily Telegraph, London)