A hooded suspect is escorted by FBI agents from their Manhattan offices in New York. Credit: Reuters
Police in New York and Italy broke up a major trans-Atlantic mafia ring on Tuesday, arresting 24 people accused of plotting to move hundreds of millions of dollars in drugs between South America, Italy and the United States.
The sting operation involving undercover agents and wire taps offered more evidence that the Calabria-based 'Ndrangheta has overtaken its Sicilian cousin, the Cosa Nostra, and was trying to make inroads in the United States by forging ties with the Gambinos, a New York mob family.
FBI and Italian agents carried out Operation New Bridge just after midnight in Brooklyn and just before dawn in Italy, officials said.
Those arrested were accused of international drug trafficking, money laundering and membership in organized crime.
The clans of the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta, a version of the Sicilian mafia on the southern mainland, and members of the Gambino mafia family in New York, were in the advanced stages of plans to smuggle some 1,000 pounds of pure cocaine from Guyana in South America to the port of Gioia Tauro in Calabria.
Investigators estimated the street value of the cocaine after cutting at about $1 billion.
The drugs, supplied by Latin American cartels, were to have been sent to Italy hidden in shipments of canned fruit. Some of it would then have been smuggled to the United States.
"The 'Ndrangheta determined to move deadly narcotics across international boundaries, attempting to build a bridge of criminality and corruption to stretch from South America to Italy and back to New York," said assistant U.S. Attorney Marshall Miller.
He said the plan involved 'Ndrangheta members in both Italy and New York who had forged alliances with the Gambino family.