Italian police and FBI say cocaine ring based in New York pizzeria broken up

Theguardian.com ITALIAN POLICE say an ope­ra­tion con­duc­ted with US FBI agen­ts has tar­ge­ted a major cocai­ne traf­fic­king ring based in a New York City piz­za restau­rant. Poli­ce said three suspec­ts con­nec­ted with the piz­ze­ria in the city’s Queens borou­gh were detai­ned. Italy’s Cen­tral Ope­ra­tions Ser­vi­ce (SCO) poli­ce and FBI agen­ts also arre­sted 13 men as they slept in their homes in Italy’s sou­thern Cala­bria region on suspi­cion of being part of an inter­na­tio­nal drug traf­fic­king ring. 

The year-long inve­sti­ga­tion, named Ope­ra­tion Colum­bus, was led by fede­ral inve­sti­ga­tors in Broo­klyn and pro­se­cu­tors in Cala­bria, the region that is home to the ndran­ghe­ta, a main­land ver­sion of the Sici­lian Mafia. Ame­ri­can agen­ts sei­zed 55kg (121lb) of cocai­ne hid­den in two shi­p­men­ts of fresh cas­sa­va from Cen­tral Ame­ri­ca to Phi­la­del­phia and Wil­ming­ton, Dela­ware, offi­cials said. Last year, more than 3 ton­nes of cocai­ne were sei­zed in Spain and the Nether­lands, all ship­ped in 40ft (12m) con­tai­ners of fresh cas­sa­va, accor­ding to an Ita­lian poli­ce offi­cial. Inve­sti­ga­tors suspect the same ring was behind that haul. 

A Cala­brian-born man who ran the Cuci­no A Modo Mio (I Cook My Way) piz­ze­ria in the Queens borou­gh of New York was arre­sted in March along with his wife and son for smug­gling cocai­ne into the US. The Queens man was descri­bed by poli­ce as asso­cia­ted with New York’s Geno­ve­se cri­me fami­ly. More than $100,000 (£66,000) , six pistols and a shot­gun were sei­zed during his arre­st. The late­st ope­ra­tion fol­lo­ws a simi­lar one in Februa­ry last year in which a Cala­brian mafia clan ran a cocai­ne smug­gling ope­ra­tion throu­gh New York with mem­bers of the Gam­bi­no cri­me fami­ly. The recent drug stings show that the ndran­ghe­ta, which inve­sti­ga­tors say is Europe’s big­ge­st cocai­ne dea­ler, has repla­ced Sicily’s Cosa Nostra as the main part­ner of New York’s tra­di­tio­nal Ita­lian cri­me fami­lies in smug­gling drugs bet­ween North Ame­ri­ca and Euro­pe.

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