The indictment of 12 people in the United States and Colombia offers the first clear indication of cooperation between the Sicilian Mafia and Colombia's Medellin cartel, federal officials said.
John Galatalo, 44, the alleged middleman between the two smuggling groups, was among the dozen indicted in Miami, New York, Detroit and Colombia, according to federal officials."This is the first real hard evidence of this nexus and close relationship between Colombian cocaine trafficking and Sicilian Mafia members," Timothy McNally, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI in Miami, said Thursday.
The 12 are accused of shipping 30-kilogram loads of cocaine by automobile and train from Miami to Philadelphia and New York between 1985 and 1987. In late 1987, Galatalo allegedly arranged for a 600-kilogram shipment to be routed through Aruba to the Mediterranean for distributon by the Sicilian Mafia in Italy.
Miami FBI spokesman Paul Miller said the ring purchased its cocaine from defendant Angel Leon Sanchez, 39, a member of the Barranquilla cartel, which is directly connected to Colombia's Medellin cartel.
"They opened a corridor from Medellin to southern Europe," Miller said. Sanchez is believed to be in Colombia, and the FBI will request his extradition.
Three of the defendants, one in Miami and two in New York, are in custody, and several others are expected to turn themselves in.
-DRUG CHARGES FILED - Rafael Munoz Talavera, a reputed smuggler believed to be the owner of the record 21.4 tons of cocaine seized near Los Angeles, was formally charged Thursday with cocaine possession and trafficking.
Talavera, who was arrested Wednesday afternoon at a Juarez motel, also was charged with possession of firearms. If convicted, he could face up to 60 years in prison, Mexican authorities said.