FBI and Italian police target Gambino and Inzerillo Mafia in Sicily

A 200-strong force of FBI and Italian police targeted the New York Gambino family and the Sicilian Inzerillo Mafia during dawn raids this morning in Sicily and the US.

Eighteen suspected gangsters were arrested in Palermo, including Salvatore Gambino, the mayor of the Sicilian town of Torretta, while another was detained in New York.

The crackdown comes as police say the Inzerillo clan are seeking to re-establish their old power-base in Sicily with the backing of their Gambino allies in New York. 

Two of those arrested – Francesco and Tommaso Inzerillo – are the brother and cousin respectively of Salvatore ‘Totuccio’ Inzerillo, a don who was murdered in a vicious war in the 1980s forcing his family into self-imposed exile in the US.

Suspect Rosario Gambino, wearing shades and a Ralph Lauren shirt, is taken into custody during an anti-Mafia operation by the Italian Police and the FBI in Palermo, Southern Italy on Wednesday morning

Suspect Rosario Gambino, wearing shades and a Ralph Lauren shirt, is taken into custody during an anti-Mafia operation by the Italian Police and the FBI in Palermo, Southern Italy on Wednesday morning

Suspect Rosario Gambino, wearing shades and a Ralph Lauren shirt, is taken into custody during an anti-Mafia operation by the Italian Police and the FBI in Palermo, Southern Italy on Wednesday morning

An FBI agent escort head of the Inzerillo clan, Tommaso Inzerillo, after operation 'New Connection' made sweeping arrests this morning - he is the cousin of Salvatore 'Totuccio' Inzerillo, a mob boss who was murdered in a ferocious Mafia war in the 1980s

An FBI agent escort head of the Inzerillo clan, Tommaso Inzerillo, after operation 'New Connection' made sweeping arrests this morning - he is the cousin of Salvatore 'Totuccio' Inzerillo, a mob boss who was murdered in a ferocious Mafia war in the 1980s

An FBI agent escort head of the Inzerillo clan, Tommaso Inzerillo, after operation ‘New Connection’ made sweeping arrests this morning – he is the cousin of Salvatore ‘Totuccio’ Inzerillo, a mob boss who was murdered in a ferocious Mafia war in the 1980s

Two police officers escort Thomas Gambino, including one from the FBI, in this morning's operation, he is considered to be a key player

Two police officers escort Thomas Gambino, including one from the FBI, in this morning's operation, he is considered to be a key player

Two police officers escort Thomas Gambino, including one from the FBI, in this morning’s operation, he is considered to be a key player

The FBI said they secretly filmed key player Thomas Gambino holding a covert meeting with the head of the Inzerillo family, Tommaso, on a rubber dinghy off the coast of Palermo last summer

The FBI said they secretly filmed key player Thomas Gambino holding a covert meeting with the head of the Inzerillo family, Tommaso, on a rubber dinghy off the coast of Palermo last summer

The FBI said they secretly filmed key player Thomas Gambino holding a covert meeting with the head of the Inzerillo family, Tommaso, on a rubber dinghy off the coast of Palermo last summer

Salvatore Gambino, mayor of the Sicilian town of Torreta, is escorted by police officers on Wednesday morning

Salvatore Gambino, mayor of the Sicilian town of Torreta, is escorted by police officers on Wednesday morning

Salvatore Gambino, mayor of the Sicilian town of Torreta, is escorted by police officers on Wednesday morning

Salvatore ‘Toto’ Riina, head of the Corleonesi family, launched a bloodbath on the Mediterranean island in the 1980s, forcing the Inzerillo family to flee as he took over. 

But Riina’s old empire has been in turmoil since he died in prison in 2017 after spending almost a quarter of century behind bars.

And those who Riina had wanted dead – dubbed ‘the runaways’ – created a ‘special link between Palermo and New York,’ said Italian prosecutor Roberto Tartaglia.

These Inzerillo ‘runaways’ have looked to reclaim their old business since Riina’s death, police said, helped by Gambino backers in New York. 

‘They were the losers who ran away so they wouldn’t be killed by the Corleonesi (under Riina),’ said Palermo police commissioner Renato Cortese. ‘They continue to be losers.’ 

Among those arrested was Thomas Gambino, considered by the FBI to be a key player. 

During their investigation, they said, they secretly filmed Gambino holding a covert meeting with the head of the Inzerillo family on a rubber dinghy off the coast of Palermo last summer.  

The suspects are accused of Mafia association, aggravated extortion and fraud while operating wholesale food supplies and gambling dens, ANSA reported.

Around £2.7million in real estate and other assets were seized by Italian authorities, CNN reported.

Central Anti-Crime Director of the State Police Francesco Messina

Central Anti-Crime Director of the State Police Francesco Messina

Prosecutor Salvatore De Luca

Prosecutor Salvatore De Luca

Central Anti-Crime Director of the State Police Francesco Messina (left) and Prosecutor Salvatore De Luca (right) talk during a news conference after a coordinated crackdown

Suspect Antonino Fanara is marched through the centre of Palermo on Wednesday morning as members of the public watch on

Suspect Antonino Fanara is marched through the centre of Palermo on Wednesday morning as members of the public watch on

Suspect Antonino Fanara is marched through the centre of Palermo on Wednesday morning as members of the public watch on

A suspected gangster, Francesco Inzerillo, is hauled away by police officers this morning in the massive operation - he is the brother of Salvatore 'Totuccio' Inzerillo, a mob boss who was murdered by Riina's men in the 1980s

A suspected gangster, Francesco Inzerillo, is hauled away by police officers this morning in the massive operation - he is the brother of Salvatore 'Totuccio' Inzerillo, a mob boss who was murdered by Riina's men in the 1980s

A suspected gangster, Francesco Inzerillo, is hauled away by police officers this morning in the massive operation – he is the brother of Salvatore ‘Totuccio’ Inzerillo, a mob boss who was murdered by Riina’s men in the 1980s

Two policemen escort Santo Cipriano as part of the crackdown on the Mafia allegedly attempting to re-establish themselves in Sicily

Two policemen escort Santo Cipriano as part of the crackdown on the Mafia allegedly attempting to re-establish themselves in Sicily

Two policemen escort Santo Cipriano as part of the crackdown on the Mafia allegedly attempting to re-establish themselves in Sicily

Two police officers escort Gaetano Sansone arrested in Palermo as part of the anti-Mafia operation in the Sicilian capital

Two police officers escort Gaetano Sansone arrested in Palermo as part of the anti-Mafia operation in the Sicilian capital

Two police officers escort Gaetano Sansone arrested in Palermo as part of the anti-Mafia operation in the Sicilian capital

‘The investigation, dubbed “New Connection”, has registered the strong bond established between Cosa Nostra Palermo and U.S. organised crime, with particular reference to the powerful Gambino crime family of New York,’ a police statement said.

The Gambino crime operation is one of the five historic Italian-American Mafia families in New York.

Past charges against family operatives have included murder, loan sharking and illegal drug distribution.

The boss of the family, Francesco ‘Franky Boy’ Cali, was gunned down in front of his Staten Island home in March. It was not clear if his murder had anything to do with tensions in Sicily.

Cali was married to Pietro ‘Tall Pete’ Inzerillo’s sister Rosaria.

Pietro was found dead in the boot of his car with $5 stuffed in his mouth on Staten Island after Riina ordered the murder of his brother, the Inzerillo chieftain Salvatore during the 1980s war in Sicily.

Cali’s marriage into Mafia aristocracy perpetuated his ascent and helped forge deep ties between the Gambinos and the Inzerillos who fled Sicily. 

The surviving members of the Inzerillo clan were granted pardons by Riina’s Corelonesi clan after the war on the condition that they never set foot in Sicily again.

That condition appears to have been breached as those ‘runaways’ have returned in the wake of Riina’s death. 

Masked police officers lead Giuseppe Sansone away this morning in the Sicilian capital

Masked police officers lead Giuseppe Sansone away this morning in the Sicilian capital

Masked police officers lead Giuseppe Sansone away this morning in the Sicilian capital

Two policemen escort Alessandro Mannino arrested in Palermo on Wednesday morning - many of the officers concealed their identity from photographers

Two policemen escort Alessandro Mannino arrested in Palermo on Wednesday morning - many of the officers concealed their identity from photographers

Two policemen escort Alessandro Mannino arrested in Palermo on Wednesday morning – many of the officers concealed their identity from photographers

Antonino Fanara dressed in a green-striped shirt is lead away this morning by two officers, one wearing a mask and sunglasses

Antonino Fanara dressed in a green-striped shirt is lead away this morning by two officers, one wearing a mask and sunglasses

Antonino Fanara dressed in a green-striped shirt is lead away this morning by two officers, one wearing a mask and sunglasses

Gabriele Militello is taken in by police officers this morning, in an operation involving a joint task force of 200 officers

Gabriele Militello is taken in by police officers this morning, in an operation involving a joint task force of 200 officers

Gabriele Militello is taken in by police officers this morning, in an operation involving a joint task force of 200 officers

Giuseppe Lo Cascio looks down the barrel of the camera lens as he is taken in by officers

Giuseppe Lo Cascio looks down the barrel of the camera lens as he is taken in by officers

Giuseppe Lo Cascio looks down the barrel of the camera lens as he is taken in by officers

Giuseppe Spatola grins as he is taken away by officers holding a sheet of paper in his hands

Giuseppe Spatola grins as he is taken away by officers holding a sheet of paper in his hands

Giuseppe Spatola grins as he is taken away by officers holding a sheet of paper in his hands

Once all-powerful on Sicily, the Mafia has been squeezed over the past two decades, with many bosses put behind bars, many of its businesses sequestered and many locals ready to defy it.

Despite these setbacks, prosecutors have warned repeatedly that the group is looking to rebuild.

The state’s fight against the Mafia got serious in 1992 after the group murdered two of Italy´s top magistrates, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, triggering national outrage and finally forcing complacent politicians to act.

Police said Wednesday’s arrests were a fitting way to mark the 27th anniversary of Borsellino’s death, which falls on Friday.

Italian newspapers revelled in the story.

‘The Godfather returns’, was the headline in the daily La Repubblica.

‘In Palermo, it’s three am, and muggy. In New York, it’s 9pm on an evening that looks like rain,’ the paper wrote.

‘A WhatsApp message is sent. It’s the sign the police and their FBI colleagues have been waiting for.

‘Off they go, through the streets of Passo di Rigano, Boccadifalco, Torretta and at the same time, Brooklyn, Staten Island, New Jersey. Because from Sicily to the US, the old Mafia has returned,’ it said. 

Two policemen escort Calogero Zito away this morning, the suspects are accused of Mafia association, aggravated extortion and fraud while operating wholesale food supplies and gambling dens, ANSA reported

Two policemen escort Calogero Zito away this morning, the suspects are accused of Mafia association, aggravated extortion and fraud while operating wholesale food supplies and gambling dens, ANSA reported

Two policemen escort Calogero Zito away this morning, the suspects are accused of Mafia association, aggravated extortion and fraud while operating wholesale food supplies and gambling dens, ANSA reported

Two policemen escort Francesco Di Filippo through Palermo on Wednesday morning

Two policemen escort Francesco Di Filippo through Palermo on Wednesday morning

Two policemen escort Francesco Di Filippo through Palermo on Wednesday morning

Antonino Lo Presti was arrested along with 17 others in the Sicilian capital on Wednesday morning

Antonino Lo Presti was arrested along with 17 others in the Sicilian capital on Wednesday morning

Antonino Lo Presti was arrested along with 17 others in the Sicilian capital on Wednesday morning

Antonio Di Maggio is taken away by two officers wearing ball caps in Palermo this morning

Antonio Di Maggio is taken away by two officers wearing ball caps in Palermo this morning

Antonio Di Maggio is taken away by two officers wearing ball caps in Palermo this morning

Salvatore Riina, the boss of bosses

Salvatore ‘Toto’ Riina, also known as ‘the Beast’, led a two-decade reign of terror as head of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra organisation from the late 1970s until after he was jailed in 1993.

Born a farmer’s son in Corleone – a city name made famous by the Godfather films – Riina began killing as far back as the 1950s.

He then used death squads to kill on his behalf and eliminate rivals as he rose to the top of the Corleonesi crime family.

Once installed at the top, he began a scorched-earth campaign against other families, with hundreds of people killed on his orders.

Eventually he would rise to become ‘il capo dei capi’ – the Boss of Bosses’. 

Salvatore 'Toto' Riina pictured in 1996 as he is jailed for 26 consecutive life sentences for - among other things - 150 murders

Salvatore 'Toto' Riina pictured in 1996 as he is jailed for 26 consecutive life sentences for - among other things - 150 murders

Salvatore ‘Toto’ Riina pictured in 1996 as he is jailed for 26 consecutive life sentences for – among other things – 150 murders

Just one assassin, Giovanni Brusca, estimated that he had killed up to 200 people on behalf of Riina.

Unlike his predecessors Riina was known to order the killings of women and children, breaking with a long-held Mafia code of not slaughtering innocents.

He also went to war with the state – murdering journalists, police, prosecutors and judges who attempted to expose his empire and bring him to justice.

Riina’s campaign of terror came to a head in 1992 when he had two of the country’s top magistrates – Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino – killed in a car bombing.

The following year he was finally arrested, brought to trial and in 1996 he was jailed for 26 consecutive life terms on charges including 150 murders.

Officials believe the true murder total was likely far higher.

The highway in Palmero where Riina had two of the country's top magistrates -  Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino - blown up in 1992 for investigating him

The highway in Palmero where Riina had two of the country's top magistrates -  Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino - blown up in 1992 for investigating him

The highway in Palmero where Riina had two of the country’s top magistrates –  Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino – blown up in 1992 for investigating him

His control over Sicily did not end with his arrest, however, and he attempted to keep running his empire from behind bars.

In 1994 he infamously ordered the murder of a 15-year-old boy – the son of a man who had collaborated against him.

The boy was strangled to death and his body dissolved in acid. His partial remains were not discovered until 1996.  

Riina’s notoriety prompted a backlash against the Cosa Nostra, which in the past had enjoyed support among locals for providing them with jobs.

Riina died in jail in November 2017, just days before his 87th birthday, from complications follow cancer treatment.

His wife, a schoolteacher 14 years his junior who was the sister of two alleged Cosa Nostra bosses, and their three children were allowed to visit in order to say their goodbyes.

Riina’s eldest son, Giovanni, had to be brought to his bedside from prison, where he is also serving a life sentence for four murders. 

Gambino boss Francesco ‘Franky Boy’ Cali

Over three decades of Mafia peace were blown apart by the murder of Gambino crime lord, Francesco ‘Franky Boy’ Cali earlier this year in New York.

The 53-year-old was shot six times and run over by a truck outside his house in the leafy Todt Hill neighbourhood of Staten Island on the night of March 13. 

His wife and young children were inside the house and one man, believed to be a family member, ran outside, collapsed and cried, ‘Papa! Papa!’ 

Cali’s murder was the first hit on a Mafia boss since John Gotti arranged the assassination of then-Gambino head Paul Castellano in 1985.  

Gambino crime family boss Francesco 'Franky Boy' Cali died after being shot six times and run over by a pickup truck in front of his home in Staten Island on March 13

Gambino crime family boss Francesco 'Franky Boy' Cali died after being shot six times and run over by a pickup truck in front of his home in Staten Island on March 13

Cali was promoted to acting boss of the Gambino crime family in 2015

Cali was promoted to acting boss of the Gambino crime family in 2015

Gambino crime family boss Francesco ‘Franky Boy’ Cali died after being shot six times and run over by a pickup truck in front of his home in Staten Island on March 13

Francesco Paolo Augusto Cali was born to Sicilian immigrants in New York and married John Gambino’s niece, Pietro ‘Tall Pete’ Inzerillo’s sister Rosaria, according to Repubblica.

Pietro was found dead in the boot of his car with $5 stuffed in his mouth on Staten Island after Riina killed his brother, the Inzerillo chieftain Salvatore in the 1980s war in Sicily. 

Cali’s marriage into Mafia aristocracy perpetuated his ascent and helped forge deep ties between the Gambinos and the Inzerillos who fled Sicily.

He served on the family’s ruling panel for several years before being promoted to acting boss in 2015, replacing the previous leader Domenico Cefalu, also known as ‘Greaseball’.

The organisation reportedly focused its efforts on heroin and Oxycontin trafficking under his leadership.  

Investigators are seen with forensic equipment outside the home of the mob boss earlier this year

Investigators are seen with forensic equipment outside the home of the mob boss earlier this year

Investigators are seen with forensic equipment outside the home of the mob boss earlier this year

Among law enforcement officials, Cali was known as a ‘real quiet old-school boss.’

He was considered to be a foil of his former boss John Gotti because ‘no one ever sees him’.

Cali only had one criminal conviction, having spent 16 months for a 2008 federal extortion charge in connection with a failed bit to build a NASCAR race track in Staten Island.

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