A pizzeria restaurant in New York City served as headquarters to international drug trafficking operations involving Latin American cartels, the Italian mafia and their US counterparts, Italian authorities have alleged.
The family-run Cucino a modo mio (I cook my way) in the borough of Queens was described by Italian prosecutors as the New York "operations centre" of the Calabrian Mafia, the 'Ndrangheta, that allegedly used the premises as a base to smuggle cocaine into the US.
The restaurant owner, Calabria native Gregorio Gigliotti, 58, his wife Lucia Eleonora, 54, and their son Angelo, 34, were arrested in March.
Although all are without any previous criminal record, they are now facing charges of conspiring to import 55kg of cocaine into the US hidden in two shipments of yucca from Costa Rica, the NY Daily News reported.
Drugs, several guns, a rifle and $100,000 (£65,000) were seized in a police raid at the restaurant, according to Italian news agency Ansa.
Details of the case emerged as Italian police arrested another 13 suspected 'Ndrangheta mobsters involved in the same drug trafficking scheme, which allegedly saw the Gigliottis operating as a bridge between Italian and US mafia clans, Italian media reported.
The arrests came at the end of a joint investigation, dubbed Operation Columbus, by Reggio Calabria prosecutors and the FBI that, over the course of several months, unveiled the growing ties between infamous US mafia clans, such as the Gambino and the Genovese families, and the 'Ndrangheta.
The probe was the last in a series that have showed how 'Ndrangheta, Europe's biggest drug cartel, has replaced Sicilian Cosa Nostra as favourite business partner for American crime syndicates.