FBI Undercover Operation Nets Organized Crime Figures In Italy And Members Of The Gambino And Bonanno Organized Crime Families In New York
NEW YORK, NY
Using his ties with the GAMBINO organized crime family in New York and the NDRANGHETA crime organization in Calabria, Italy–in court documents filed by Justice Department officials and Italian prosecutors–authorities alleged FRANCO LUPOI and NICOLA ANTONIO SIMONETTA sought to establish a drug trafficking network in New York using several legitimate shipping businesses—transporting heroin and cocaine between the United States and Italy. Meeting with an FBI undercover agent in 2012, SIMONETTA and LUPOI discussed plans to ship the narcotics using the port of Gioia Tauro in Calabria which Italian prosecutors said was the hub for criminal activities for the NDRANGHETA clan. SIMONETTA, an Italian resident and LUPOI’s father-in-law, said he could guarantee safe shipment of the contraband because of his ties with NDRANGHETA—adding port officials had been corrupted.
Working with their Italian counterparts, the FBI identified SIMONETTA as a member of the URSINO crime family lead by FRANCESCO URSINO a known Italian mobster thought to be responsible for the NDRANGHETA crime faction in Calabria. In a resulting joint investigation involving the Italian National Police [INP] in Italy, LUPOI and URSINO sold 1.3 kilograms of heroin to an FBI undercover agent for distribution in the United States, and in New York, LUPOI and associates ALEXANDER CHAN and JOSE ALFREDO GARCIA sold another kilogram of heroin to the undercover agent.
The FBI undercover agent also laundered more than $500,000 in funds with LUPOI as a result of an alleged criminal network he had established using associates DOMINIC ALI, CHARLES “CHARLIE PEPSIE” CENTRO and CHRISTOS FASARKIS—an employee who worked at the ALMA BANK in Brooklyn. The defendants were told the funds were illegal proceeds involving narcotics and weapons trafficking. Agents said CENTARO maintained he had access to bank accounts with millions of dollars through which he could launder illicit proceeds.
Satisfied with the FBI undercover agent’s criminal bonafides, the indictment indicated LUPOI set into motion efforts to transport 500 kilograms of cocaine from Guyana to Calabria using a local fish importation business—concealing the coke as frozen food. In exchange for $200,000 Euros, he said a port official had guaranteed the contraband’s safe passage to the United States. In recorded conversations discussing the shipments, the FBI undercover agent was told NDRANGHETA was associated with several Mexican drug cartels operating in Guyana, South America enabling them to get the drugs. Italian court documents suggested the scheme was interrupted when MAYAYSIAN authorities discovered cocaine valued at more than $7 million concealed in pineapples and coconut milk being shipped by the same Guyanese shipping company connected to NDRANGHETA.
The indictment also alleged another member of the NDRANGHETA clan identified as RAFFAELE VALENTE sold an illegal silencer and sawed off shotgun to the FBI undercover agent. According to Italian wiretaps, VALENTE was also suspected of assembling a group of well-armed men in New York to support their operations.
As a result of the FBI investigation, U.S. Justice Department officials said a Federal Grand Jury [FGJ], in Eastern District of New York [EDNY], in Brooklyn, New York returned a fifteen  count indictment charging LUPIO, CHAN, GARCIA, CENTARO, ALI, FASARAKIS, and VALENTE with narcotics trafficking, money laundering, and firearms violations and Italian authorities said seventeen  members of the NDRANGHETA organized crime family were charged with criminal activities in Calabria because of the joint investigation.