Seven men believed to be involved in the smuggling of several tons of cocaine to the United States and Europe have been arrested by police in Costa Rica, where the cocaine is produced.
A number of local businesses also participated by transporting cocaine in cardboard boxes of pineapple and cassava fruit.
The group’s activities are part of a crime ring controlled by the Italian mafia, whose operations are conducted out of a pizzeria in New York City, according to Reuters. Gregorio Gigliotti, owner of the now-shuttered Queens pizza shop Cucino a Modo Mio, is believed to be the smuggling network’s leader.
The mafia group, known as ‘Ndrangheta, or the Calabrian mafia, is reportedly known by Italian authorities as the biggest cocaine importer in Europe, and is responsible for the smuggling of 3.7 tons of cocaine seized since last year in the U.S., Netherlands, and Belgium.
Gigliotti, whom police arrested in March, plead not guilty to charges related to the cocaine operations. Gigliotti’s wife and son, also believed to be involved, maintained their innocence as well.
If convicted, each member of the family faces a minimum of 15 years. The trial is scheduled for April.