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Italy, US Crack Down On International Mafia Drug Smuggling

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Seven people have been arrested by the FBI in the New York City area as part of an international crackdown on mafia drug smuggling, U.S. authorities told CBS News.

The roundups began late Monday at social clubs in Brooklyn, sources told 1010 WINS.

Those arrested include suspected associates of the Gambino and Bonanno organized crime families, officials said.

A total of 24 arrests have been made on both sides of the Atlantic as part of the joint Italian-U.S. anti-mafia operation targeting an international heroin and cocaine trafficking ring involving the ‘Ndrangheta, one of Italy’s most powerful organized crime syndicates, officials said.

Seventeen members and associates of the ‘Ndrangheta were arrested in Calabria, Italy, officials said.

“American and Italian officers executed two dozen arrests, conducted numerous lawful searches and made seizures of hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars,” U.S. prosecutor Marshall Miller said. “The ‘Ndrangheta aimed to move deadly narcotics across international boundaries attempting to build a bridge of criminality and corruption to stretch from South America to Italy and back to New York.”

Undercover agents recently prevented the delivery of hundreds of kilograms of cocaine hidden in shipments of frozen fish or pineapples, officials said.

“They were gonna get as creative as they can, looking for all ways to get the drugs to New York City,” FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos said, “It was heroin and cocaine primarily.”

Officials said the group was also considering moving huge amounts of weapons from Italy to America, but that plan never moved beyond the initial stages, CBS 2’s Alexis Christoforous reported.

“The ‘Ndrangheta is an exceptionally dangerous, sophisticated and insidious criminal organization, with tentacles stretching from Italy to countries around the world,” stated U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.

In Italy authorities had to launch lightning raids to catch suspects before they were tipped off by neighbors, CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported.

They got to one location so fast that the target didn’t know he was busted until the arresting officer knocked on the door.

The seven people arrested in New York City are expected to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn. They are charged with narcotics trafficking, money laundering and firearms offenses.

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