ITALY, US ARREST 24 IN MOB DRUG SMUGGLING CASE

NEW YORK (TIP): Reputed mobsters in New York City and Italy joined forces in a failed conspiracy to smuggle large amounts of heroin and cocaine, with one suspect suggesting that the drugs could be concealed in frozen fish bound for an Italian port, authorities said.

Law enforcement officials on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean said yesterday the scheme involved Italy’s powerful ‘ndrangheta organised crime syndicate and New York’s Gambino organised crime family. A sting operation resulted in 24 arrests, 17 in Italy and seven in New York. The investigation targeted a new cocaine trafficking route from South America to the southern Italian port of Gioia Tauro, Italian anti-Mafia police said.

In exchange, the Italians were to provide heroin to the American market. Officials, using wiretaps and an undercover agent who infiltrated the Brooklyn-based mob, said they thwarted the delivery to Italy of about 500 kilogrammes of pure cocaine that was to have been hidden in shipments of canned coconuts, pineapples and frozen fish being shipped from Guyana to Gioia Tauro. The plot unfolded in 2012, when one of the ‘ndrangheta suspects visited his son-in-law, Franco Lupoi, in Brooklyn.

The father-inlaw claimed he knew a corrupt customs agent in Italy who “would guarantee the safe arrival of container ships containing contraband,” court papers filed in New York said. In a recorded meeting with the undercover agent, Lupoi later explained that he could have cocaine packed into fish and frozen, saying “it takes a day to defrost and then it takes a day to take out,” the court papers said. The papers also accuse Lupoi of travelling to Italy, where he sold the undercover more than 1 kilogramme of heroin that he believed the undercover planned to smuggle back to the United States for resale, the papers said.

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