The case, which would later be referred to as ‘The Pizza Connection’, lead to 18 people from multiple gangs being convicted. Their drug smuggling operation would have brought an estimated $1.6billion – the equivalent of $3.9billion (£3.1billion)were also able to seize large amounts of cash, stashes of weapons and vitally important documents. The information they discovered would help authorities to finally break the Mafia’s infamous ‘code of silence’ and gain a valuable insight into their highly secretive world.
In an FBI document released last year, they detailed how monitoring “real-life Mafia godfather” Gaetano Badalamenti was a major key to their success.
He was the former top boss of the Sicilian Mafia but had been banished after the take over of a rival faction in 1978.
Despite being usurped by other mobsters, Badalamenti was still leading “one of the world’s most prolific drug cartels” from the US.
Badalamenti would eventually be arrested in Madrid, Spain by Spanish authorities – on that same day the FBI rounded up 30 Mafia members and associates of the criminal.
During their massive bust, the owner of a bakery in Queens, New York, was also rustled up – Salvatore ‘Toto’ Catalano, who served as the Badalamenti’s connection to the American Mafia.
The FBI were able to bring down some of the top Mafia members of the time thanks to pizza (Image: GETTY / FBI)
FBI agent Joe Pistone who worked undercover to infiltrate Mafia families and their pizza businesses (Image: GETTY)
In the court case against them that ensued, it was revealed that the men were involved in a “vast, long-running drug conspiracy that touched four continents”.
As part of their scheme they would purchase morphine base from Turkey and then process it in Sicily, Italy – before smuggling it into the US.
It was discovered that the criminal organisations were selling the drugs “through pizza shops and other Mafia-run businesses”.
Their deadly drug trade stretched nearly 1,000-miles from New York to Illinois and Wisconsin.
FBI officials also realised they were importing cocaine from South America, too.
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