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18 Convicted in 'Pizza Connection' Case

March 03, 1987|Associated Press

NEW YORK — Eighteen men, including the reputed former boss of the Sicilian Mafia, were convicted Monday in a $1.6-billion international narcotics conspiracy in a case dubbed the "Pizza Connection."

A 19th defendant was acquitted of all charges after a 17-month federal trial that began Sept. 30, 1985.

"It's been a great day," U.S. Atty. Rudolph W. Giuliani said after the verdicts. "I was worried . . . . We'd invested a great deal of time into this case."

One Defendant Slain

One defendant was killed last year, and a second was shot and seriously wounded last month as he walked on a Greenwich Village street. Two of the original 22 defendants pleaded guilty to lesser charges after the trial began.

Prosecutors alleged that the defendants were part of an international drug importing and money laundering conspiracy controlled by the Sicilian Mafia and a faction of its American counterpart, La Cosa Nostra.

The defendants used pizzerias in the Northeast and Midwest as fronts for the distribution of $1.6 billion in heroin imported into the United States for more than a decade, prosecutors said.

Acquitted of all charges was Vito Badalamenti, the 29-year-old son of defendant Gaetano Badalamenti, reputed former head of the Sicilian Mafia. However, the younger Badalamenti faces deportation, Giuliani said.

U.S. District Judge Pierre Leval ordered the other defendants held pending a hearing today on whether they should be jailed until sentencing May 5.

Leval said jurors would not deliberate the forfeiture of property and funds gained by the defendants through the conspiracy, as is usual in such cases, because they already had been empaneled for 17 months.

Leval suggested that federal lawyers could file civil lawsuits to force the forfeitures.

Seventeen defendants were convicted of narcotics conspiracy, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. The 18th defendant was convicted of a lesser conspiracy charge.

Five of the seven defendants charged with running a continuing criminal enterprise were convicted, including the elder Badalamenti, 63, of Cinisi, Sicily, and Salvatore Catalano, 45, of Queens. The conviction carries a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole.

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