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Costa Rican drug traffickers connected to Italian mob plead guilty to shipping cocaine to the U.S.

Five men plead guilty to international drug trafficking last Friday in a San Carlos courtroom, according to the Costa Rican Prosecutor’s Office.

Costa Rican investigators said the men built up a trafficking organization by sending shipments of cocaine in containers of pineapple, yuca, and other produce exports shipped on boats to numerous countries, including the United States.

The criminal enterprise that was discovered in October of 2015 was found to have ties with the infamous ‘Ndràngheta crime syndicate, which Costa Rican prosecutors called “the most powerful Italian crime organization that operates all over the European continent.”

In the United States, the guilty parties were sending packets of cocaine to Queens, New York, where pizzeria owner Gregorio Gigliotti was the local contact. Gigliotti was arrested in May 2015 after authorities there found he had received nearly 55 kilograms of cocaine coming from Limón in the span of two months at the end of 2014. Another man, Franco Fazio, was arrested around the same time after authorities said he was the middleman between Gigliotti and the Costa Rican-based traffickers.

More than 3,000 kilograms found in Holland and 84 kilograms uncovered in Belgium were also traced back to the drug trafficking organization here.

Prosecutors said the convicted men were Cubans Denis Batista Cuenca and Pedro Casas Rodríguez, as well as Costa Rican nationals Juan José Campos Mora, Héctor Zúñiga Arias, and Carlos Zúñiga Arias. They will all receive between nine to 12 years of prison time, the report from the prosecutor’s office said.

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