The FBI says a sting operation that began in a small suburban Buffalo storefront knocked out a massive American and Sicilian Mafia drug operation that was selling millions of dollars worth of heroin in the United States and cocaine in Italy.
Some of the heroin was shipped as liquefied heroin in wine bottles from Italy, officials said.Although the international food trading company set up by agents three years ago never handled any drug shipments, it allowed the FBI to establish contacts with organized crime operations in the United States and Italy, G. Robert Langford, special agent in charge of the FBI's Buffalo office, said Thursday.
As a result of the investigation, which broadened to include FBI offices nationwide, the FBI and Italian authorities have charged more than 200 people in a multimillion-dollar heroin importation and cocaine distribution operation involving Sicilian Mafia figures and the Gambino crime family in New York.
A total of 68 people were charged in the United States and 133 in Italy as a result of a three-year FBI undercover operation in which agents traveled to Italy and posed as buyers who discussed making major drug purchases, the FBI said.
Substantial amounts of imported heroin were sold to the Gambino Mafia family in New York, which allegedly arranged for nationwide distribution, according to a complaint filed in the case in Philadelphia. Some of the heroin was passed to buyers in U.S. pizza parlors. Other drugs were concealed in shipments of wine.
One of those arrested in the police roundup was Giuseppe Gambino, a nephew of Carlo Gambino, the late reputed head of the Gambino crime family.
A complaint filed in Manhattan against 28 people alleged that the organization "obtained cocaine in the U.S., transported the cocaine over to Italy, exchanged the cocaine for heroin, so the cocaine was sold in Italy, and the heroin was sold in the U.S.," U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani said.
"This is the largest example so far of the Mafia's involvement in cocaine, which is something that was unheard of a few years ago," Giu-liani said.