NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — An operation conducted by Italian police, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security has targeted a major drug-trafficking ring based in a pizza parlor in Queens, officials said.

Dubbed “Operation Columbus,” officials said they took out a ring that smuggled cocaine out of Central America, through New York and back to Italy, 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported.

At least 13 suspects were arrested in southern Italy during early-morning raids Thursday, according to Kelly T. Currie, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

The arrests coincided with the unsealing of a six-count indictment in Brooklyn against 59-year-old Gregorio Gigliotti, his wife, 54-year-old Eleonora Gigliotti, and their son, 34-year-old Angelo Gigliottii. They were arrested in March and remain in federal custody.

Click here to read the complete indictment (.pdf)

Cucino Amodo Mio, the family’s restaurant on 108th Street in Corona, Queens, was apparently home base for the entire drug trafficking operation. Investigators found a cache of weapons, including revolvers and pistols, ammunition and more than $100,000 in cash at the restaurant, officials said. An additional $18,000 in cash was found at the family’s home. The FBI said the accused used their local businesses, including the pizza place, as fronts, secretly importing thousands of dollars worth of cocaine in shipments of produce from Costa Rica, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported.

“The food was excellent, the family were friendly. They were nice people,” resident Sam Cosentino said. “This is a total shock to the whole community.”

It appears the Gigliotti family was just one piece of the whole puzzle, Grymes reported.

In the Italian raid, authorities said they arrested 13 others involved, including Gigliotti relative Franco Fazio, known as “The Ambassador” for his role in the ring.

All those arrested are connected to the N’Drangheta, an organized crime syndicate rooted in Calabria in the toe of the Italian peninsula, Schuck reported.

CBS News cameras were there in Italy as FBI and Homeland Security agents worked with Italian police at around 3 a.m. local time.

“This case is a powerful example of the impact of international cooperation in combating criminal organizations whose activities transcend national borders,” Currie said.

“The arrests in New York and Italy dismantle a global network of alleged drug smugglers believed responsible for importing more than 50 kilograms of cocaine into the U.S.,” said New York Special Agent-in-Charge Raymond Parmer of Homeland Security Investigations.

“Using their family’s businesses in New York as a front for a narcotics trafficking operation, the defendants, as alleged, sought to establish a global cocaine ring. We also used a global team to take on this case, working closely with our partners in Italy,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Diego Rodriguez. “As today’s arrests show, we are committed to working together to disrupt and dismantle organized criminal enterprises.”

As CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported, Italian police outside of the pizza shop said they had been working on the case for months.

The crackdown further demonstrates that the N’Drangheta has forged ever stronger ties with U.S.-based mobsters. The N’Drangheta has long eclipsed the Sicilian Mafia as one of the world’s biggest drug traffickers.

There could be more arrests as dozens are still investigated, Schuck reported.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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