In a joint operation called the New Bridge, Italian and U.S. authorities have revealed that mafia in Italy and New York worked closely together to establish a new drug running route. On Tuesday morning, February 11, seven mafia members, related to the Gambino family in New York, were arrested. In Italy, police arrested another 17 members who are related to the Calabrian mafia. The operation included more than 20 locations in both New York and Italy.
During a two-year investigation, the Italian police and the FBI discovered the two families were working on a new cocaine trafficking scheme. A fish wholesaler in the Italian port city Gioia Tauro was controlled by the Calabrian mafia, which would allow the crime families to traffic cocaine inside frozen fish from South America to Gioia Tauro. To guarantee passage, the families had also accomplished to involve several customs officials in both ports.
The two-year investigation began in 2012 when a FBI undercover agent infiltrated in the Gambino family, based in New York. According to the FBI reports, the undercover agent gained trust of the Calabrian mafia family as well. Recordings of three mafia members proved their plans to start off with putting 500 kilograms of cocaine inside frozen fish. In addition, they also spoke about trafficking cocaine in pineapples; however, this plan was eventually put aside.
The Calabrian mafia, also known as the ‘Ndrangheta, is considered to be one of the most powerful and dangerous crime families in the world. According to authorities in Italy, the Calabrian mafia family includes more than thousands of members from numerous affiliated groups, which enables them to easily work together with mafia branches abroad, such as the one in New York. Each town in southern Italy is said to be controlled by a different group of the Calabrian mafia and experts state that in some towns, every male adult is a suspected member of the Calabrian mafia. Italian authorities believe that the group controls a large amount of cocaine trafficking throughout Europe.
In New York, organized crime is supposedly dominated by five major families. The Gambino family is one of them. The group is named after Carlo Gambino, who became the boss of the group in the late 1950s. Although the family is primarily based in New York, their operations extend to other parts of the U.S. as well, such as California. The Gambino family is known for its wide variety of criminal activities, including drug trafficking, murder for hire, money laundering, prostitution, hijacking, extortion and fraud. Previously, the family was also charged with dumping of toxic waste.
In 2008, the Gambino family was also targeted by the FBI in an investigation, called the Old Bridge, which was similar to the latest investigation, the New Bridge. At that time, the FBI was not sure yet whether the New York based Gambino family worked together with the mafia in southern Italy, as the collaboration has started only in the past few years. Prior to working together with the Calabrian mafia, the Gambino family already had long-established ties with the Sicilian mafia.
By Diana Herst