• Squaremouth travel insurance button 468x106
  • Costa Rica Real Estate
  • Tico Travel Surfing
  • Costa Rica Coffee Guide

New York pizzeria owners trafficked cocaine hidden in Costa Rican cassava

October 16, 2015

In a tale that sounds like the plot of a Mario Puzo novel, a family-owned pizzeria in Queens, New York was the center of a trans-Atlantic drug trafficking operation that smuggled cocaine in refrigerated containers of cassava from Costa Rica.

The cocaine was distributed in New York and Italy to members of the ’ndrangheta organized crime ring, Italy’s principal importer and wholesaler of cocaine.

A total of 17 people have been arrested in Italy and the U.S., including the alleged ringleader and pizzeria owner, Gregorio Gigliotti. Gigliotti is a native of Calabria, ‘ndrangheta’s heartland in southern Italy. He had moved to the Queens district of New York where he ran a pizza restaurant called Cucino a Modo Mio with his wife and son.

Gregorio and Eleonora Gigliotti, their son, Angelo, and another relative have been arrested and charged in Federal District Court in Brooklyn. Italian police arrested another 13 people suspected of being involved in the trafficking ring on Thursday, The New York Times reported.

The Gigliottis traveled to Costa Rica — sometimes separately, sometimes together — nine times starting in 2012, according to Costa Rican immigration records. During one of Eleonora Gigliotti’s five flights into Juan Santamaría International Airport in 2014, she delivered $400,000 to the family’s Costa Rican suppliers, according to court documents.

When an expected shipment did not arrive during the summer of 2014, Gregorio Gigliotti called one of the Costa Rican sources saying:

Listen to me. If I don’t have the container by this next week, I’ll go over there. I know where you live, where they live. Don’t make me blow my mind. Do your job, send me the container.

All but one of the couple’s stays in Costa Rica lasted less than five days.

In October 2014 police uncovered 44 kilograms of cocaine in a shipment marked “fresh cassava” on its way to the family’s wholesale produce warehouse and another 15 kilograms in December inside the cardboard boxes carrying the food.

The street value of the cocaine was estimated at $2 million, The New York Times reported.

Drugs often move through Costa Rica’s ports in containers of food or flowers. Dutch authorities in Rotterdam uncovered 3.5 metric tons of cocaine hidden in a shipment of cassava from Costa Rica in December 2014.

Spanish authorities found 2.5 metric tons of cocaine in boxes of pineapples from Costa Rica in May 2014.

Costa Rica seized more drugs than any other country in Central America last year.

AFP contributed to this story.

You may be interested

Costa Rica registers third death due to coronavirus
Costa Rica
1350 views
Costa Rica
1350 views

Costa Rica registers third death due to coronavirus

Alejandro Zúñiga - April 8, 2020

A 45-year-old man became the third person with COVID-19 to die in Costa Rica, the Health Ministry said Wednesday evening.…

Happy Passover from The Tico Times
Holidays
547 views
Holidays
547 views

Happy Passover from The Tico Times

Tico Times - April 8, 2020

Why is Wednesday night different from all other nights? It's the start of the Jewish holiday of Passover, when people…

Costa Rica surpasses 500 known coronavirus cases
Costa Rica
10439 views
Costa Rica
10439 views

Costa Rica surpasses 500 known coronavirus cases

Alejandro Zúñiga - April 8, 2020

Costa Rica has confirmed 502 total cases of the novel coronavirus, the Health Ministry announced Wednesday afternoon. The figure marks…

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!