Mob hitman Maurizio Avola, 54, told the Guardian that Sicilian mobsters with assault rifles and explosives planned to take out Cuomo — but called off the ambush after being spooked by the governor’s large security detail.
Avola, who is serving life for his role in 43 murders and 40 armed robberies, told the paper that Cosa Nostra bigs sought to turn the heat on the Italian state and its allies, an offensive that included the assassination of two anti-Mafia judges.
“The aim was to target politicians or members of institutions in order to send out a clear message,” he said.
Avola’s godfather, Aldo Ercolano, told him that Cuomo would be an “excellent target.”
“Cuomo was a symbol of America, which during those years hosted collaborators who wanted out of Cosa Nostra and then got their bosses arrested. His death would have sent a strong signal to New York. It would have made them understand what happens to those who stand in the Mafia’s way,” he said.
A reporter for the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera asked Cuomo after his arrival on Nov. 19, 1992, if an Italian last name was a liability for an American politician.
“Of course, any Italian-American politician risks being associated with the Mafia, not least because the media continuously plays on this image,” Cuomo replied.
Meanwhile, about a dozen Kalashnikov-toting gunmen were plotting to kill the governor in the Sicilian city of Messina — but Ercolano called off the daylight strike a few days before Cuomo arrived.
“The American politician arrived with extremely tight surveillance, lots of bodyguards and a bulletproof car. It made the execution impossible,” Avola said. “Reluctantly, Aldo Ercolano ordered the men of honor to withdraw.”
Known as “Occhi di Ghiaccio” or Ice Eyes, Avola is believed to have killed about 80 people before becoming an informer. Authorities acting on a tip collared him in 1993, a day after he killed a former friend and fellow Mafioso, the paper reported.
A senior source at Palermo magistrate’s court told the Guardian that Avola’s allegation of a plot against Cuomo was being investigated but said the details were confidential.
Cuomo died of heart failure on Jan. 1, 2015.
The Guardian said that a spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the late governor’s son, did not respond to a request for comment.