Posted Wednesday, February 12th 2014 @ 9am by Michael Daly
To smuggle 500 kilograms of Mexican cocaine in frozen fish from Guyana to Italy would require as many as 5,000 fish.
“They put a hundred grams, two hundred grams in each fish,” an alleged conspirator named Franco Lupoi was recorded saying.
And then there’s the question of recovering it all.
“It takes a day to defrost and then it takes a day to take out,” Lupoi says on the recording.
The alleged conspirators were still ready to go ahead and even bought a fish wholesaler in Italy before deciding it might be easier just to hide the stuff in pineapples and charcoal.
Their plans were then delayed when a cocaine shipment from the same shipping facility in Guyana they intended to use was intercepted en route to Malaysia by law enforcement.
In the meantime, court documents say, Lupoi and other alleged conspirators engaged in some kilo-weight heroin dealing and money laundering.
Lupoi, and a fellow he describes on the recordings as “the Mexican with the cartels,” and another gentleman called “the Chinese guy,” met in a Dunkin’ Donuts in Manhattan with a man who agreed to purchase 1.5 kilograms of heroin. Lupoi is said to have sold 1.3 kilos of heroin to the same man when they were in Italy. Lupoi is further alleged to have arranged for the man to purchase a sawed off shotgun and a semi-automatic pistol equipped with a silencer.
As it happens, the customer who bought both firearms as well as the heroin was an undercover FBI agent who was no less brave than the legendary Donnie Brasco. The FBI was working in conjunction with its counterparts in Italy, and on Tuesday, 17 people were arrested.
Another seven were picked up in New York. They included Lupoi and Raffaele Valente, the alleged firearms supplier. Valente allegedly moved from Italy to New York so he could set up an outpost for the ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate.
“Valente has been recorded on Italian court-authorized wiretaps bragging about the armed and violent group he has assembled in New York,” court papers say.
The papers offer some insight into the group’s long held traditions, adding, “Valente also explained his allegiance to Saint Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of the ‘Ndrangheta, whose followers are required to wear a ring as a symbol of their allegiance. He explained, “We have bought the Saint Michaels, all the statues of Saint Michael at Christmas, we all gave them as presents to each other, they are lovely, do you know how lovely the statues of Saint Michael are? With the devil under his feet … so nice.”
In court, Valente showed he knows how to dress for a perp walk, sporting a striped shirt and a purple scarf. Lupoi, on the other hand, wore a dumpy black coat and generally looked like a Brooklyn schlub. Another defendant, alleged Bonanno crime family associate Charles Centaro—who is known as “Charlie Pepsi”—actually wore a blue nylon jacket bearing the Pepsi logo and as well as the name “Charlie.”