A total of seven suspects were arrested in New York City overnight in a joint U.S.-Italian anti-Mafia blitz which targeted a trans-Atlantic cocaine trafficking route. According to officials, all the suspects had links to the Gambino crime family.
The operation called the “New Bridge”, targeted the new drug-running route from South America to the southern Italian port of Gioia Tauro. The Italian and U.S. authorities confirmed that the route united the U.S. branch of the Sicilian Mafia with the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate.
The undercover operation involved an agent who befriended one of the suspects who was arrested. The agent, who was at the center of the operation, later gained trust of both the Gambino family and ‘Ndrangheta.
One of the defendants, who is a Brooklyn resident, used his connections in both the Gambino organized crime family in the U.S. and the ‘Ndrangheta in Italy to form heroin and cocaine trafficking conspiracies on an international scale. ‘Ndrangheta is considered as one of the most powerful and dangerous crime syndicates in the world. It’s members operate mostly in the Calabria region of Italy and are estimated to be in the thousands. The members are from more than a hundred loosely affiliated groups, where each group controls a different town in southern Italy. According to experts, nearly every adult male from these Italian towns is suspected to be a member. ‘Ndrangheta members allegedly control a large percentage of cocaine trafficking in Europe.
The documents presented in a federal court in New York say that an undercover FBI agent recorded conversations between the Brooklyn resident and other defendants. In these recorded conversations, they discussed a plan to transport 500 kilograms of cocaine in shipping containers from Guyana to Calabria, after concealing them in frozen fish and pineapples.
The recorded conversations also show the defendants discussing their connections to Mexican drug cartels operating in Guyana and South America.
According to William Nardini, who is a U.S. magistrate, it was a joint operation, with very strong cooperation from Italy. 17 more suspects were also taken into custody in the bust. The authorities said that the operation was “unprecedented in scale.”