‘Pizza Connection’ leader dies

Gaetano Badalamenti, former head of the Sicilian Mafia and leader of the”Pizza Connection” heroin/cocaine and money laundering conspiracy, died April 30.

Mitch Huffman, spokesman for the Devens Federal Medical Center in Ayer, Mass., said Badalamenti died of natural causes, after spending about three months in the facility, which specializes in treating seriously ill inmates.

The Rock River Times attempted to interview Badalamenti for the article “‘Pizza Connection’ legacy examined,” which was published April 21. Huffman said April 8, “staff was unable to secure Mr. Badalamenti’s consent for an interview,” and could give no further information about Badalamenti’s condition.

The article detailed the $1.65 billion conspiracy and its local connections to former Oregon, Ill., pizzamaker Pietro “Pete” Alfano and Emanuele Palazzolo. Palazzolo was Alfano’s brother-in-law and Badalamenti’s nephew, who operated a pizza parlor in Milton, Wis.

The Pizza Connection conspiracy involved heroin that was grown in the poppy fields of Southeast Asia, primarily Afghanistan. The morphine base manufactured in Afghanistan was then transferred to Turkey and processed into heroin in Sicily. From there, the heroin was smuggled to mobster outlets in New York and other cities, including the pizza restaurants throughout the East and Midwest. The drugs were then distributed from the pizza parlors to unknown destinations, most likely street gangs. The proceeds from the sale of the drugs went back to New York and then to the Swiss bank accounts of Sicilian mobsters.

The conspiracy also involved smuggling cocaine from South America. In both drug smuggling situations concerning the Pizza Connection, the Central Intelligence Agency protected drug/war lords because stopping the drug trade was not part of the objectives to win the Cold War.

Badalamenti was born in 1923 in Cinisi, Sicily, a town about eight miles west of Palermo near the Mediterranean. Alfano was also from Cinisi.

Badalamenti was sentenced to 30 years and was scheduled for release in 2011. Alfano was released from prison Nov. 20, 1992, and reportedly moved back to Italy. Palazzolo was sentenced in 1987 to 12 years in prison for narcotics conspiracy. The exact date of Palazzolo’s release is not certain.”

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