Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mafia Exposed -The Boy King

With the latest roundup of some 63 mafiosi this week, police forces in Palermo claim victory over the extortion operation in the city’s northern half.  The roundup is a sequel of sorts to an earlier raid that caught the most-wanted leader of that racket, Salvatore Lo Piccolo, along with his son Sandro, in late 2007.
Gianni Nicchi

A similar victory was trumpeted one year ago in the southern half of the city, when the boss of the rival racket, Gianni Nicchi, was apprehended.  With that action, the police likely averted a full-scale, protracted Mafia war.  From hours of surveillance tapes it was learned that, among other revelations, Lo Piccolo and Nicchi each wanted the other dead.

Nicchi’s crime career was meteoric as he rose from neighborhood barista to Italy’s second-most-wanted mafioso by the age of 27.  Devoted service to his honorary godfather, capomafia Nino Rotolo, included a diplomatic mission to New York.  There Nicchi met with the American Gambino family that hoped to reconnect lines from the glory days of the “Pizza Connection,” a US-Sicilian heroin operation busted up in the 1980s.

Nino Rotolo
But Nicchi spooked his mentor Rotolo when he returned with the news.  The Inzerillo family, once a great force in Palermo but banished to New York by an opposing family, was attempting a homecoming with the blessing of Salvatore Lo Piccolo.  Rotolo had personally strangled the brother of murdered padrone Salvatore Inzerillo.  If Lo Piccolo allowed the family to return, there would surely be a settling of scores.

Rotolo and Lo Piccolo were similar in many ways.  Each ran an established empire and each ranked as a trusted deputy under Bernardo Provenzano, the Mafia’s supreme leader from Corleone until his capture in 2006.  But it was Rotolo who had fought and killed for the Corleonesi in the war that sent the defeated Inzerillos into exile.  To survive, he would have to take out father and son Lo Piccolo.

Rotolo assigned the dispatch to Gianni Nicchi and gave him a “murder lesson” in a tiny office behind his luxury villa, located in Palermo's Uditore quarter.  Though under house arrest, Rotolo still conducted Mafia business in a cheap shed of corrugated metal.  But the shed was bugged and the police heard everything.

Salvatore Lo Piccolo
“Always fire two or three shots,” he counseled Nicchi.  “When he falls to the ground, a shot in the head is enough. You’ll see that the head makes a mess.”  Rotolo recommended waterproof nylon clothing, surgical gloves, and a little bag of garden fertilizer to erase telltale gunpowder burns from his arm.

And, in the mean time, Rotolo would obtain the barrels of acid needed to disappear the Lo Piccolos literally.

When the police caught up with Rotolo and his two principal partners in 2006, Nicchi inherited his kingdom which was centered in the Pagliarelli quarter.  He wanted to expand further by cutting in on some mainland business: the importation of Chinese shipping containers monopolized by the Naples mafia known as the Camorra.

Nicola Ingarao
But the conflict between Nicchi and his crosstown enemies exploded the following summer with the shooting death of Nicola Ingarao, boss of the Porta Nuova quarter.  It was a classic Mafia hit, fired from the back of a scooter in broad daylight.

For Nicchi this was personal.  Ingarao had been his partner at a downtown bar they co-owned with another Porta Nuova mafioso.   And, according to two of the assassins who soon collaborated with the police, Sandro Lo Piccolo was on the scene, possibly even pulling the trigger.

The war ended early with the swift incarceration of the Lo Piccolos five months later, leaving Nicchi the king of Palermo’s underworld.  But the police were quick on his trail, too.  On December 9, 2009, he was traced to an apartment just blocks from the marble courtrooms of the Palace of Justice.  The fugitive was thrown in the massive Pagliarelli prison complex located in the heart of his own home turf.



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