by Bluto Ray
With the arrests of some sixty-three 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.
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 Mafia war. From hours of surveillance tapes it was learned, among other revelations, that 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 twenty-seven. 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 had hoped to reconnect lines from the glory days of the “Pizza Connection,” a US-Sicilian heroin operation busted up in the 1980s.