Rome -- More than 200 Italian police officers and FBI agents launched coordinated raids overnight targeting a mafia crime family with ties to the U.S., Italian police said Wednesday. The crackdown resulted in the detention or arrest of 15 suspected members of the Inzerillo crime family, based in the Sicilian capital of Palermo.
Thomas Gambino, considered by the FBI to be a significant member of the New York-based crime family, was among those taken into custody in Palermo.
In the United States, FBI and Italian investigators raided the homes of three men suspected of belonging to the powerful Gambino clan, in New Jersey, Staten Island and Philadelphia.
According to Italian police, the Inzerillos have been trying to re-take their stronghold in the Sicilian capital. They fell from power decades ago after losing a bloody battle for control of the Sicilian mob to the "boss of bosses" Salvatore "Toto" Riina, who died in prison in 2017. Riina decimated the Inzerillo crime family, murdering the head of the clan, Salvatore Inzerillo, in 1981.
Survivors, including cousins Tommaso and Francesco Inzerillo, fled to the United States in self-imposed exile. But they always sought to regain their territory, and the two cousins returned to Sicily in the early 2000s -- allegedly with the help of New York's powerful Gambinos.
"The investigation, dubbed 'New Connection', has registered the strong bond established between Cosa Nostra (Sicilian mafia) of Palermo and U.S. organized crime, with particular reference to the powerful Gambino crime family of New York," a police statement said.
The police said the relations were sustained on the Gambino side by Francesco "Franky boy" Cali, who was fatally shot in front of his Staten Island home in March, and by Thomas Gambino.
According to Italian police, the suspects arrested in that country face charges including mafia membership, aggravated extortion and fraud.