By MACKENZIE GANTER
International prosecutors made a combined 24 arrests in New York and Italy on Tuesday as part of an operation to take down a drug smuggling ring associated with ‘Ndrangheta, one of the worlds most powerful criminal syndicates.
Seven defendants were changed in a 15-count federal indictment in Brooklyn Federal Court with narcotics trafficking, money laundering and firearms offenses.
The arrestees were reputed members of the Gambino and Bonanno crime families, prosecutors said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been working closely with the Italian National Police for two years in attempts to take down the transatlantic crime ring, officials said.
“We owe a lot to the INP and New York is a better place today because of them,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos.
The ‘Ndrangheta is a Southern Italian-based criminal organization known for extreme violence. Centered in Calabria, the ‘Ndrangheta is divided into groups of 30 to 35 members, called locali, who often work in connection with the Sicilian Cosa Nostra. According to U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch, the willingness of ‘Ndrangheta to independently collaborate with foreign groups is relatively new.
“We see it as a growing trend of the part of ‘Ndrangheta,” said Lynch in an international tele-press conference. “Because of family ties overseas, the ‘Ndrangheta see an opportunity in the West.”
“’Ndrangheta’s clan members conspired with members of the Gambino organized crime family in New York in an attempt to infiltrate our area with their illegal activities,” said Venizelos.
“I don’t think they have a major foothold in this country,” said Venizelos when asked of ‘Ndranfheta’s past, “and we will continue to make sure they don’t.”
Brooklyn residents Franco Lupoi, 44; Dominic Ali, 55; Charles Centaro, 50; Christos Fasarakis, 42; and Raffaele Valente, 42; and Manhattan residents Jose Alfredo Garcis, 42; Alexander Chan, 46, arraigned later.