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Mafia Suspects Arrested at Sicily 'Summit'

December 30, 1987|United Press International

MESSINA, Sicily — More than 300 police swooped down on a house near the Messina Strait today and arrested 13 Mafia suspects taking part in an organized crime "summit conference."

Police said they "do not rule out" the possibility that some of the arrested gangsters were involved in the Dec. 14 murder of Francesco Gitto, 58, cousin of Matilda Cuomo, the wife of New York Gov. Mario Cuomo.

Gitto and his friend, Natale Lavorini, 75, were shot and killed at Barcellona Pozzo Di Gotto, about 20 miles west of Messina. Police believed the gunmen were Mafia hit men who killed the wealthy Gitto because he refused to pay protection money.

Today's police sweep took place in the small beach town of Pellaro, six miles south of Reggio Calabria. But most of the arrested suspects were from the Messina area.

Police said all the arrested men had criminal records and were suspected members of Mafia gangs which have been engaged in a war between "new" and "old" Mafia factions that has claimed 12 lives in the Messina area this year.

More than 300 police took part in the raid and police tailed some of the arrested men on the ferryboat that took them across the straits to the meeting place in Pellaro. The 11 a.m. police raid caught the gangsters by surprise.

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