N.Y. ring got coke from here, feds say

Someone in Coast Rica appears to have been shipping out cocaine hidden in boxes of what Costa Ricans call yuca.

Three Queens, New York, family members and an Italian citizen have been charged with conspiring to import and importing more than 50 kilograms of cocaine into the U.S. from Costa Rica.

The charges detailed in a Brooklyn indictment are the product of a lengthy investigation by Homeland Security Investigations and the FBI that involved the use of court-authorized wiretaps and physical surveillance, and revealed that between October and December 2014 alone, the defendants imported over 55 kilograms of cocaine into the United States from Costa Rica, which was recovered by law enforcement, said the U. S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

A six-count indictment was unsealed in Brooklyn federal court charging husband and wife defendants Gregorio and Eleonora Gigliotti, their son Angelo Gigliotti, and a relative who is an Italian citizen, Franco Fazio, with conspiracy to import cocaine, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, importation of cocaine, and attempted possession of cocaine.

The indictment says that the accused managed to travel into Costa Rica with large sums of money without being detected.

The elder Gigliottis owned and operated several businesses in New York City that were used to facilitate their narcotics-trafficking operation, including Cucino Amodo Mio, an Italian restaurant and pizzeria in Corona, Queens, and Fresh Farms Export Corp., an import/export company, said officials.

In October 2014, law enforcement intercepted a shipment of what they called cassava, a starchy root, that was shipped to the United States from Costa Rica and bound for Farm Fresh Export Corp. in New York. The shipment was found to contain approximately 40 kilograms of cocaine secreted inside cardboard boxes of what is known here as yuca. Earlier, Eleonora Gigliotti traveled to Costa Rica with approximately $400,000 in cash that she delivered to the sources of supply, said the indictment. In September 2014, Fazio traveled from Italy to New York and then to Costa Rica to deliver another $170,000 in cash to the sources of supply, said the indictment.

In December 2014, law enforcement intercepted a second shipment bound for Fresh Farms Export Corp. that had also been shipped from Costa Rica and seized approximately 15 kilograms of cocaine secreted within the cardboard boxes of produce, the indictment said. Prior to the arrival of this shipment of cocaine, defendant Fazio made two additional trips to Costa Rica to meet with the sources of supply, said officials.

Federal agents did not give details on the Costa Rican cocaine source, and they did not mention any joint work with Costa Rican law enforcement. However, the U.S. Attorney’s Office credited a number of Italian law enforcement agencies for help in the investigation. Some 16 persons, including Fazio, also have been detained in Italy.

The charges in Italy relate to the defendants’ narcotics trafficking distribution ring in that country because a quantity of the cocaine imported into the United States was destined for exportation to and distribution in Italy, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Based in part upon the U.S. investigation, Italian law enforcement disabled a narcotics distribution ring allegedly operating in Calabria on behalf of the U.S.-based defendants,  said law officers in New York.

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