Pizza Connection Trial stands as the longest criminal jury trial
in the federal courts in U.S. history. The trial began on September
30, 1985 and ended with convictions of all but one of the 22
defendants on March 2, 1987.
1 Scope of the trial
5 Consequences and aftermath
6 The defendants
7 Other defendants sought during trial
10 External links
Scope of the trial
The trial centered on a Mafia-run enterprise that distributed vast
quantities of heroin and cocaine in the United States, and then
laundered the cash before sending it back to the suppliers in Sicily.
The U.S. defendants utilized a number of independently owned pizza
parlors as fronts for narcotics sales and collections – hence the
name “Pizza Connection”. Evidence at the trial proved that the
enterprise shipped no less than $1.6 billion of heroin to the U.S.
between 1975 and April 1984. Arrests of scores of conspirators were
coordinated in the U.S., Italy,
Spain on April 9,
1984, following the capture of
Gaetano Badalamenti and several family
members the previous day in Madrid, Spain. Badalamenti was the former
boss of the Sicilian Mafia, and a key supplier of heroin and cocaine
to the U.S. Mafia distributors.
The arrests were carried out by U.S. authorities, including the
Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration,
U.S. Customs Service
U.S. Customs Service and the
New York City
New York City Police Department, who
worked in extremely close cooperation with the Italian National Police
and prosecutors, as well as the Swiss authorities. The arrests
followed a two-year investigation carried out by U.S. and Italian
authorities who shared highly sensitive information and agreed to
coordinate their efforts to strike the U.S./Italian mafia-narcotics
Thirty-eight mafia members and associates were originally indicted in
the case, and 35 were named in the charges presented to the jury. Of
those 35, 4 were convicted in Italy, 4 in
Switzerland and 4 were
fugitives. Approximately 27 of the defendants were residing in the
U.S. at the time of the arrests. Out of those, only 22 defendants ‒
believed to be just a fraction of the number of Mafiosi involved in
the scheme ‒ eventually stood trial. Prior to the start of the
trial, one defendant was murdered, one died of natural causes and
another was murdered during the trial. All were Sicilian born, and
many could not speak English. Each defendant had his own attorney for
the historic trial, which made the courtroom especially crowded.
Sicilian Mafia cooperator
Tommaso Buscetta testified at the trial
against his former criminal associates; he had not been part of the
Pizza Connection scheme himself, but he helped explain the rules and
control of the Mafia, and established the Sicilians’ dominance over
the U.S. drug trade in the early 1970s. Buscetta had fled from Italy
in the early ‘80s when the faction of the mafia with which he was
associated lost the battle for control of heroin trafficking, and many
of his family members were killed. A close associate of many of the
defendants, Buscetta was captured in Brazil shortly after the April
1984 arrests, and then ordered extradited to Italy. On the trip to
Italy following his extradition, Buscetta attempted to commit suicide
in an effort to protect his family from more killings. The Italian
authorities saved him, and Buscetta decided to cooperate. Italian and
U.S. authorities coordinated Buscetta’s debriefing and protection,
and he was transferred to the U.S., placed in the Witness Protection
Program and granted immunity from prosecution for his testimony at the
Pizza Connection trial.
Buscetta later appeared as a pivotal witness in the
Maxi Trial in
Palermo, Sicily, after the Italian court recognized and applied the
U.S. grant of immunity for his testimony there. Italian prosecutor
Giovanni Falcone and Italian National Police leader Giovanni De
Gennaro presented Buscetta and other witnesses at the trial, which led
to the conviction of more than 300
Sicilian Mafia members. Falcone and
De Gennaro worked closely with Assistant United States Attorney
Richard A. Martin to arrange for Buscetta’s protection and
testimony. Martin was one of the lead prosecutors of the Pizza
Connection trial, and later became the
Special Representative of the
U.S. Attorney General in Rome, Italy.
Another key witness was Salvatore Contorno, a Sicilian mafioso who
became a state witness following the example of Buscetta. He agreed to
testify in return for entry in the United States’ Witness Protection
Program after having been the target of an attempted murder by the
Corleonesi and losing family members in the battle for control of the
Sicilian mafia. He gave evidence that directly linked the defendants
to heroin trafficking. On the witness stand, he told how in the spring
of 1980 he was present at a meeting in a farmhouse in Bagheria,
Sicily, in the territory of the Mafia boss Leonardo Greco. Among those
present were five of the defendants at the trial: Salvatore Greco,
Giuseppe Ganci, Gaetano "Tommy" Mazzara, Salvatore Catalano, and
Francesco Castronovo. Contorno watched as the men "took out two
plastic garbage bags and extracted packages of white powder in clear
plastic envelopes, each bearing different tiny scissor cuts or pen or
pencil marks to identify the individual owner. They poured samples of
the powder into a bottle heating on a hot plate." These same marked
samples were intercepted by the
Drug Enforcement Administration
Drug Enforcement Administration is a
seizure of 40 kilograms of 85 percent pure heroin two weeks later in
Milan, Italy. The heroin was worth "$8 million at Mafia importer’s
prices and at least $80 million worth at street prices." Until the
heroin was removed from storage in 1984 after Contorno cooperated, no
one had noticed the small cuts in the tops of the plastic bags, which
were described by Contorno.
Special Agent Joseph Pistone, better known by his undercover alias
"Donnie Brasco" was the initial source for information regarding the
"Pizza Connection" (leaked to him in casual conversations by Bonanno
Anthony Mirra and Benjamin Ruggiero). Pistone testified
at trial as to the command and control structure of the U.S. Mafia,
establishing that the U.S. bosses were criminally liable for the
actions of their underlings.
The trial also included the presentation of hundreds of wiretap
conversations, combined with surveillance evidence, undercover heroin
purchases and painstakingly detailed records of money laundering and
transfers of multi-millions of dollars to Switzerland. Swiss bank
records and testimony taken in that country established that the
enterprise purchased two metric tons of morphine base from Turkish
suppliers at $6,000/kilo, which was refined into pure heroin in
clandestine labs in
Sicily and sold in the U.S. for between
$165,000-185,000 wholesale, and up to $1,000,000 at street level,
generating more than $1.6 billion for the enterprise.
Another unusual aspect of the trial was the fact that several
defendants elected to testify in their own defense, most prominent
among them being Gaetano Badalamenti. Badalamenti did not deny being a
member of the Sicilian La
Cosa Nostra but did claim that his
wiretapped conversations with other defendants and his business
dealings with them were not related to narcotics. He would not say
what those conversations and transactions were about and refused to
answer questions he said could incriminate him in Italy. His testimony
was widely regarded as enormously harmful to him and the defense.
Although the case established a record as the longest federal jury
trial in a criminal action, the trial judge and the appellate court
found that the jury was not confused or overwhelmed by the evidence,
but instead conscientiously performed a close examination of the
proof. That conclusion was best evidenced when the jury sent a note
during deliberations requesting to have evidence relating to one of
more than a hundred “acts of racketeering” identified for them.
After a review of the evidence, the prosecution and defense
acknowledged that no evidence had been presented on that act. Also,
the jury was permitted to take into the jury room the transcripts of
the wiretapped conversations and charts prepared by the prosecution
(which had been subject to objections and review by the court.)
After trial, all but one of the defendants were convicted, and, except
for one low-level defendant, those verdicts were affirmed on appeal.
During the course of the investigation and trial, the U.S. and Italy
entered into new Treaties on Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance
that enabled law-enforcement authorities from both countries to
actively cooperate and share information. Those treaties and the
“Pizza” case became models that the U.S. has since used to attack
organized crime and narcotics trafficking on a global basis.
The case was meant to strike a definitive blow to the drug trade in
the U.S. and for this reason the costs and the sheer scale of the
trial were allowed to escalate. The case ended up costing $50 million.
The prosecution case alone took a year to present.
Consequences and aftermath
The prosecution in the United States was led by
Louis J. Freeh
Louis J. Freeh and
Richard A. Martin. Mr. Freeh, who later became a federal district
court judge and Director of the FBI, was named the lead investigator
during the two-year investigation that led to the arrests. At trial,
Mr. Martin, who later became
Special Representative of the U.S.
Attorney General based in Rome, Italy, was designated lead counsel. He
and Mr. Freeh shared responsibilities for the prosecution and were
assisted by Robert C. Stewart of the Department of Justice, Robert B.
Bucknam and Andrew C. McCarthy, both Assistant United States Attorneys
in the Southern District of New York. For their efforts, each member
of the prosecution team received the Attorney General’s Award for
Rudy Giuliani, who later became
Mayor of New York City, was the United
States Attorney for the
Southern District of New York
Southern District of New York during the
investigation and trial of the case, and provided critical support and
assistance to the prosecution.
Giovanni Falcone was a Sicilian-born Italian prosecutor who uncovered
the Italian side of the Pizza Connection. Falcone’s tireless efforts
to pursue the Sicilian mafia included the use of Sicilian mafia
cooperators T. Buscetta and S. Contorno and others which culminated in
the conviction of more than 350 mafia members in the historic
“Maxi-Trial”. After those convictions were affirmed by Italy’s
highest court, Falcone was murdered on May 23, 1992 when a
sophisticated mafia plan succeeded in blowing up a section of highway
where Falcone and his wife were driving. Falcone’s efforts are
recounted in the book
Excellent Cadavers by Alexander Stille.
Paolo Borsellino, also Sicilian-born and a colleague of Giovanni
Falcone, pursued the Maxi-Trial with him. After Falcone’s murder in
May 1992, Borsellino immediately began to investigate the killing, but
was also murdered by mafia members on July 19, 1992, when a bomb was
detonated as he approached his mother’s apartment in Palermo.
Giovanni De Gennaro, a leading investigator for the Italian National
Police, De Gennaro worked closely with Falcone and Borsellino to
secure evidence of heroin trafficking by the Sicilian mafia, and
coordinated the cooperation of T. Buscetta, S. Contorno and many
Sicilian mafia members who testified in the Maxi-Processo. It was De
Gennaro who brought Buscetta back from Brazil, saved him from his
suicide attempt and persuaded him to testify against his former mafia
partners. De Gennaro later became Chief of the Italian National Police
and is currently Undersecretary of State for National Security.
Carla Del Ponte and Paolo Bernasconi were prosecutors in the Ticino
region of Switzerland, where members of the Pizza Connection used bank
accounts to launder narcotics proceeds. Relying on the U.S./Swiss
Treaty for Mutual Legal Assistance, Del Ponte and her colleague Paolo
Bernasconi authorized the delivery of those bank records to the U.S.
authorities, and later supervised the prosecution of the 4 defendants
arrested in Switzerland. Paolo Bernasconi was promoted to the position
of Attorney General of Switzerland, and Ms. Del Ponte succeeded him in
that position when he returned to the private practice of law. In 1999
Ms. Del Ponte joined the International Criminal Tribunal for the
former Yugoslavia (“ICTY”) where she served as the chief
prosecutor in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, and the International
Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (“ICTR”). She has been Switzerland's
Ambassador to Argentina since January 2008.
The United States of America vs Badalamenti et al.
Pietro "Pete" Alfano ("Peter" or "The Nephew"), Oregon, Illinois, was
Gaetano Badalamenti's nephew and principal lieutenant in the U.S.
Arrested in Madrid,
Spain in 1984, while meeting with his uncle and
cousin. Shot and crippled, while shopping in Greenwich Village, New
York City on February 11, 1987 a month prior to the trial verdicts
being announced. Eventually he was sentenced to 15 years. He served
Baldassare Amato ("Baldo"), Brooklyn, New York City. Sicilian mafioso
Bonanno crime family
Bonanno crime family caporegime. Not sentenced until May 3, 1988 -
a 14-month delay made possible by his counsel's efforts - Amato
received a sentence of five years, and was given three-month
conditional bail to put his affairs in order. He was eventually freed,
but he has since been convicted of murder and is serving a life
Gaetano Badalamenti, a former Mafia boss from Palermo, Sicily, was
also convicted. He was given a 45-year sentence. He would eventually
die of heart failure at the age of 80 at the Devens Federal Medical
center located in
Ayer, Massachusetts on April 29, 2004.
Vito Badalamenti, Gaetano Badalamenti's son, was the only defendant
acquitted. Before his arrest with his father in Spain, he had not been
directly implicated in the conspiracy.
Cesare Bonventre, a partner with Baldassare Amato, a long-time
associate of S. Catalano, and a member of the Bonanno crime family.
Bonventre was murdered prior to indictment.
Giovanni Cangialosi ("Johnny"), Baldwin, Long Island, was a Sicilian
mafioso, and was sentenced to 12 years.
Filippo Casamento - aka "Tizio", Brooklyn, New York City. Casamento
was a Sicilian mafioso and
Bonanno crime family
Bonanno crime family associate. He was
sentenced to 30 years for his second heroin distribution conviction.
Casamento was eventually released, but in early 2008 he was once again
indicted for criminal activities in Operation Old Bridge, that
targeted mobsters in
Sicily and America.
Frank Castronovo ("Ciccio l'Americano"), Parlin, New Jersey, Sicilian
mafioso and brother-in-law of Tommy Mazzara. He was sentenced to 25
Onofrio Catalano ("Oliviero"), Sicilian mafioso and cousin of
Salvatore. He remains a fugitive.
Salvatore Catalano ("Toto" or "The Baker"), Sicilian mafioso and
Bonanno crime family
Bonanno crime family caporegime. Sentenced to 45 years, released from
prison on November 16, 2009. Catalano was the "boss" of the U.S.
part of the Pizza Connection.
Samuel Evola ("Salvatore" or "Sam"), Temperance, Michigan. Another
Gaetano Badalamenti and a key U.S. associate. Evola was a
known member of the Detroit Partnership. After being found guilty, but
before sentencing, Evola decided to plead guilty and received 15
years, cutting 5–10 years off his possible sentence.
Giuseppe Ganci ("Pino" or "Bufalone"), was a Sicilian mafioso, and a
close associate of S. Catalano. Ganci was severed from the trial due
to illness and died of cancer on February 11, 1986.
Salvatore Greco, Oakhurst, New Jersey. Greco was a Sicilian mafioso
and brother of
Bagheria capo-mafia (boss) Leonardo Greco. He was
sentenced to 20 years.
Giuseppe Lamberti ("The Brother-in-Law"), Sicilian mafioso,
brother-in-law of Mazzurco and cousin of Salvatore. He was sentenced
to 30 years.
Salvatore Lamberti ("Toto"), Sicilian mafioso and cousin of Giuseppe
Lamberti. He was sentenced to 20 years for narcotics conspiracy.
Giovanni Ligammari ("Johnny"), Saddle River, New Jersey. Sicilian
mafioso, sentenced to 15 years. Upon his release in 1995 after serving
8 years he returned to his
Bergen County home in suburban N.J. where
he lived until he and his son Pietro were found hanging in the
basement of the home on May 21, 1999. The case was ruled a double
Gaetano "Tommy" Mazzara, ("Tommy"), Sayreville, New Jersey. Mazzara
was a Sicilian mafioso, and a key heroin distributor, whose palm print
was found on wrapping of a kilo of heroin purchased by an undercover
agent. He was murdered on December 1, 1985 during the trial.
Salvatore Mazzurco ("The Little One" or "The Cousin"). A Sicilian
mafioso, Mazzurco was sentenced to 20 years for narcotics conspiracy
and 15 years on his RICO conviction with the sentences to run
concurrently. Mazzurco's palm print, like Mazzara's, was found on the
wrapping of a kilogram package of heroin purchased by an undercover
Emmanuele Palazzolo ("Manny" or "The Brother-in-Law"), Milton,
Wisconsin. Another relative of
Gaetano Badalamenti and brother-in-law
to Peter Alfano, Palazzolo was an important part of Badalamenti's U.S.
operations. He was sentenced to 12 years on narcotics conspiracy.
Francesco Polizzi ("Frank" or "Ciccio"), Belleville, New Jersey. A
DeCavalcante crime family caporegime and Sicilian mafia associate,
Polizzi was sentenced to 20 years. He is deceased.
Vincenzo Randazzo ("Enzo"), Milan, Italy. Gaetano Badalamenti's
nephew, Randazzo was extradited from Zürich,
Switzerland to New York
City for the trial. He was one of two defendants who pleaded to a
lesser charge during the trial.
Salvatore Salamone ("Sal"), Freeland, Pennsylvania. A Sicilian
mafioso, Salamone was one of two defendants to be acquitted on the
drug-related charges. However, he was convicted on currency violations
that carried up to five years in prison. Salamone was later tried,
convicted and sentenced to 18 years on weapons charges.
Giuseppe Trupiano ("Joe"), Olney, Illinois. Another nephew of Gaetano
Badalamenti, Trupiano was sentenced to one year for narcotics
conspiracy. His conviction was reversed on appeal.
Giuseppe Vitale ("Joe"), Paris, Illinois. Another relative of Gaetano
Badalamenti who couriered narcotics for the group, Vitale was
sentenced to five years.
The trial began on September 30, 1985. The jury reached their verdicts
on March 2, 1987. Sentences were handed down on by judge Pierre Leval
on June 22, 1987.
Other defendants sought during trial
Switzerland and South Africa)
Franco Della Torre - convicted in Switzerland.
Leonardo Greco - capo of the
Bagheria cosca (crime family), brother of
Salvatore, convicted in Italy.
Faro Lupo - Sicilian mafioso, nephew of Randazzo who lived with Alfano
until 1984 when he returned to Europe, was arrested in Switzerland.
Salvatore Miniati - convicted in Italy.
Vito Roberto Palazzolo - convicted in Italy.
Filippo Salamone - Sicilian mafioso, related to Salvatore, convicted
Giuseppe Soresi - A Sicilian mafioso from Borghetto, Palermo, Soresi
was convicted in Italy.
Oliviero Tognoli - Sicilian mafia money launderer based in Italy. A
financial adviser and investor for Leonardo Greco and other Cosa
Nostra leaders for whom he held numerous Swiss bank accounts, Tognoli
remains a fugitive.
Benny Zito -
Philadelphia pizzeria owner and associate of Joe Ganci
who led authorities directly into the heart of the Pizza Connection
heroin network and to Sicilian mafia members who oversaw the drug and
money laundering operations. A fugitive, Zito was suspected of fleeing
prior to the indictments being handed down.
^ Blumenthal, Ralph (July 28, 1998). "Acquitted in 'Pizza Connection'
Trial, Man Remains in Prison". New York Times. Retrieved
^ "Inmate Locator". Retrieved 17 September 2014.
Alexander, Shana (September 1, 1988). The Pizza Connection: Lawyers,
Drugs and The Mafia. Diane Pub Co. ISBN 0788168363.
Blumenthal, Ralph (1988). Last Days of the Sicilians. Crown
Publishing. ISBN 0-8129-1594-1.
Stille, Alexander (1995). Excellent Cadavers. Vintage.
Decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit,
U.S. v. Casamento, 887 F. 2d 1141 (2d Cir. 1989)
Gaetano Badalamenti And The Pizza Connection, article at
Italian American Mafia
List of Mafia crime families
Five Families of
New York City
Motion Lounge crew
Gallo crew (defunct)
Ozone Park Boys
116th Street Crew
Greenwich Village Crew
New Jersey faction
The Jersey Crew
The Vario Crew
DeCavalcante (Northern New Jersey)
Patriarca (New England)
Bufalino (Northeastern Pennsylvania)
Morello (Italian Harlem)
Chain of command
Members (made men)
List of Italian-American mobsters
List of Italian-American mobsters by organization
Black Hand in Chicago
Capo dei capi
Capo dei capi (boss of bosses)
One way ride
Atlantic City Conference (1929)
Havana Conference (1946)
Apalachin Meeting (1957)
Palermo Mafia summit (1957)
Kefauver Committee (1950–1951)
Valachi hearings (1963)
Mafia–Camorra War (1914–1917)
Castellammarese War (1929–1931)
Pizza Connection Trial (1985–1987)
Mafia Commission Trial
Mafia Commission Trial (1985–1986)
Cotroni crime family
The Corporation or Cuban Mafia
Cuntrera-Caruana Mafia clan
Inzerillo Mafia clan
Luppino crime family
Musitano crime family
Papalia crime family
Philadelphia Greek Mob
Rizzuto crime family
Sacra Corona Unita
Velentzas crime family
Winter Hill Gang
Broadway Mob (Originally Jewish and Italian; absorbed by Genovese
The Bugs and Meyer Mob (Jewish, absorbed by Murder Inc.)
Bumpy Johnson gang
New York Camorra
Cohen crime family
Cohen crime family (Both an
American Mafia and
Jewish Mafia family)
Dutch Schultz Mob
East Harlem Purple Gang (Semi-independent, most closely affiliated
with Genovese family)
Five Points Gang
Italian-American National Union
Marat Balagula gang (Russian Mafia, affiliated with Lucchese)
Murder, Inc. (Italian and Jewish, closely affiliated with or part of
the American Mafia)
National Crime Syndicate (Mostly Italian and Jewish)
Rudaj Organization (Albanian mafia)
Tanglewood Boys (Semi-independent Italian-American gang,
affiliated with Lucchese family)
Westies (largely defunct)
Collaborations between the United States government and Italian Mafia
Operation Family Secrets
Operation Old Bridge
Hired Truck Program
Saint Valentine's Day Massacre
Buster from Chicago
Chain of command
Codes and terms
Sicilian Mafia members
Sicilian Mafia members by city
Grand Hotel des Palmes Mafia meeting 1957
First Mafia War
First Mafia War (1961–1963)
Second Mafia War
Second Mafia War (1981–1983)
Massacres and bombings
Portella della Ginestra massacre
Portella della Ginestra massacre (1947)
Ciaculli bombing (1963)
Viale Lazio massacre
Viale Lazio massacre (1969)
Circonvallazione massacre (1982)
Via Carini massacre
Via Carini massacre (1982)
Via Federico Pipitone massacre (1983)
Train 904 bombing (1984)
Pizzolungo bombing (1985)
Capaci bombing (1992)
Via D'Amelio bombing
Via D'Amelio bombing (1992)
Via dei Georgofili bombing
Via dei Georgofili bombing (1993)
Via Palestro massacre
Via Palestro massacre (1993)
Antimafia Commission (members)
Direzione Investigativa Antimafia
List of victims of the Sicilian Mafia
Sicilian Mafia trials
Maxi Trial (1986-1992)
Pizza Connection Trial (1985–1986)
American Cosa Nostra
Banda della Comasina
Banda della Magliana
Italian brigandage (19th century)
Sicilian brigandage and rebels (20th century)
Mala del Brenta
Sacra Corona Unita
American Cosa Nostra
Organized crime in Italy