Mafia Trial Targets Deadly Italian Syndicate With History in Illegal Gambling, Vice

Posted on: January 12, 2021, 01:31h. 

Last updated on: January 14, 2021, 11:16h.

The biggest Mafia trial in 30 years is set to begin this week in Italy. On trial are 355 suspected members and accomplices of the ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate. This organization’s reported criminal history includes murder, illegal gambling, and more.

Nicola Gratteri
Public prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, center, speaks with reporters in December outside a courtroom in Italy. The anti-Mafia prosecutor requires a constant security detail. (Image: The Local Italy)

The trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday in a large call center converted into a courtroom in Calabria. This region is in the toe of Italy’s boot, near Sicily. Calabria is considered the ‘Ndrangheta’s home territory. 

Security at the trial location is tight. The defendants will be locked in cages. In addition to the suspected crime syndicate members, other defendants include politicians and police officials. The “maxi-trial” is expected to last two years. 

The public prosecutor seeking to keep the defendants behind bars is Nicola Gratteri. The 62-year-old Gratteri has spent the last 30 years under constant police protection.

The anti-Mafia prosecutor has vowed to take down “this asphyxiating ‘Ndrangheta, which truly takes the breath and the heartbeat from the people,” according to the Daily Mail website.

The defendants are accused of murder, drug trafficking, loan sharking, and additional crimes.

Emanuele Mancuso, a crime boss’ son, is assisting the prosecution team. He has received police protection for cooperating with the government, according to media accounts. 

The trial is focusing on the Calabrian province of Vibo Valentia, home of the Mancusos, the Sun newspaper reported.

“A leaf doesn’t move in Vibo Valentia without the say-so of the Mancusos,” Mafia expert Antonio Nisaco said.

Online Gambling Sites

A recent pre-trial hearing lasted almost three hours as the defendants’ names were read. The colorful nicknames included alleged boss Luigi Mancuso’s “The Uncle.” Others were “The Wolf,” “Fatty,” “Sweetie,” “Blondie,” “Little Goat,” and “The Wringer.”

These are some of the reputed ‘Ndrangheta members in an organization with an estimated 6,000 members, according to the FBI. The syndicate’s name originated with the Greek word “andragathia.” The word means courage or loyalty.

The ‘Ndrangheta is considered more powerful than Cosa Nostra in Sicily and the Naples-based Camorra. The ‘Ndrangheta controls 80 percent of the European cocaine supply, according to news reports. The ‘Ndrangheta’s reach extends into North America and other parts of the globe.

The syndicate’s involvement in vice rackets is thought to be extensive. In 2015, authorities conducted a sting targeting 1,500 Ndrangheta betting shops and 82 online gambling sites, the Daily Mail reported.

A previous ‘maxi-trial’ was held in Palermo in 1986-87, targeting Sicily’s Cosa Nostra. It resulted in 338 people being convicted. The Mafia later assassinated prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

‘Tony Meatballs’ Faces Trial 

Italy is not the only site of an upcoming trial involved suspected Mafia members. In Philadelphia, federal prosecutors late last year accused 15 reputed mafioso and associates of illegal gambling and more.

The defendants include Joseph Joey Electric” Servidio, 60, Anthony Tony Meatballs” Gifoli, 73, and Louis Louie Sheep” Barretta, 56, according to news accounts.

We will not rest until the Mob is nothing but a bad memory,” US Attorney William McSwain said.

Prosecutors recently asked the judge to delay the trial beyond a 90-day speedy trial rule, according to Philadelphia Mafia expert Dave Schratwieser. Coronavirus restrictions limit public gatherings and could impact jury availability and selection, prosecutors said.

Criminal trials in this district already had been pushed back to Jan. 15.