On Wednesday, Costa Rican police authorities arrested seven men over the course of 10 raids suspected of shipping cocaine to the United States and Europe in the lining of cardboard boxes. The bust has been linked back to Gregorio Gigliotti—a New York Pizzeria owner and Italian kingpin—who was arrested last year for his role in drug smuggling and association with the Ndrangheta cartel.

It turns out there was a lot more than pie-making going down at Gigliotti’s pizzeria in Queens. Back in 2014, the pizza-shop owner and his wife allegedly hid shipments of cocaine in the lining of boxes marked “fresh cassava” inside their pizzeria. The drugs were supposedly distributed to members of the Ndrangheta cartel.

The New York Times reports nearly sixty kilograms of the drugs were discovered inside the lining of the restaurant’s cardboard boxes. By February 2014, twenty-four people—including Gregorio Gigliotti, his wife, and son—were arrested.

Police believe the Wednesday arrests are linked to the work of Gigliotti and the Ndrangheta mafia. Costa Rica’s Attorney General Jorge Chavarria explains that three local businesses sent cocaine embedded in the lining of cardboard boxes containing pineapple and cassava—similar to the work done by the kingpin. Since last year, nearly 3.7 tons of cocaine shipped from Costa Rica has been seized in the United States, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

This is not the first time a pizzeria has been used as a pawn in a drug cartel. Back in 1975, a multitude of independently owned pizzerias were accused of having ties to a mafia-run cartel that served as facades for the drug distribution that was going on behind the scenes. The fronts became known as The Pizza Connection.


[via Newsweek, The New York Times]