Pizza Connection: the biggest case against the mafia
Welcome Wiretappers, Cam and I welcome you to the first of a 4-part series on the famous Pizza Connection investigation. Because this case was so intertwined with the Sicilian Mafia and the American Mafia, we start with a little history of the Mafia in Sicily. We know this is by no means comprehensive but it is an overview of that legacy. The Pizza Connection case will be a major blow against the Mafia in Sicily.
The Sicilian Mafia before WW II
The Sicilian mafia goes back to the 1800s and was formed to protect Sicilians from the central government in Rome and other foreign intruders. The formation of the modern Mafia did not begin until after a period of repression starting in the 1920s under the dictator Mussolini. A story about how and why he started his anti-mafia campaign was in 1924. The story goes that Mussolini visited Sicily in 1924 and passed through the town of Piana dei Greci where he was received by mayor/Mafia boss Francesco Cuccia. In those days, often the top politician would also be a mafia member or even a boss. At some point, Mayor Cuccia, noticing the big military escort, whispered into Mussolini’s ear: “You are with me, you are under my protection. What do you need all these cops for?” Mussolini rejected this offer of protection. Mayor Cuccia felt slighted and humiliated and instructed his constituents to stay home when El Duce made a speech. In turn, Mussolini felt humiliated and swore revenge. Over the next year, Mussolini sent his police and soldiers to repress the citizens and jailed over a thousand members of the Mafia. Many fled to New York City during this time bringing the legacy of the Sicilian mafia with them.
The Sicilian Mafia after WW II
During WWII all of Europe and the Mediterranean region dissolved into armed conflict and all the smuggling routes stopped. After the war disruption ended, a newly revitalized Sicilian mafia quickly redeveloped old contacts and went right back to their smuggling business after the War. Most, if not all, the jailed and exiled mafioso were released from jail or returned to Sicily and easily worked their way into the good graces of the occupying American troops. All the previous fascist government leaders were on the run or jailed by the Americans. The Mafia was poised to move into government positions with the help of the American army. Over the next decade, the Mafioso will develop and adapt to the new way of life and modern money-making rackets. The post-war government rationed cigarettes and the American Army had an endless supply of cigarettes. The mafioso developed black market contacts with corrupt army quartermasters and started a thriving cigarette smuggling business. These cigarette smuggling groups and routes will soon end and heroin will take the place of American smokes.
From the French Connection to the Pizza Connection
In this podcast, the listener learns about the birth of the Sicilian heroin business that starts with the French Connection and ends with the Pizza Connection.
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