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When the mafia serves coffee at the courthouse


It was actually an episode involving Mr. Pennacchio that helped trigger the investigation.

Mr Pennacchio and a partner had competed for the same courthouse cafe contract, filing an appeal after losing. He then received, in a hallway of the courthouse, a warning from a member of the clan to back down, according to court documents.

Investigators who followed began to suspect that the bar’s new property was a facade. Police installed bugs and cameras in the cafe and began wiretapping suspects, getting a clearer picture of the family’s activities. Among other things, they said, the clan controlled a gambling cafe and was behind a jewelry theft in the city.

Prosecutors said they let the thugs think they were outsmarting the authorities.

“If a criminal from another group goes over there and sees that he’s running the courthouse cafe,” Mr Curcio said, “they must be thinking, ‘These guys are smart.’

He said “criminal prestige” was probably the main reason the family sought to control the cafe.

Basilio Pitasi, an attorney for Saverio Riviezzi, who prosecutors say is the head of the clan, said the family was not a Mafia organization. He added that Mr. Riviezzi had already been cleared of such allegations in the past.

Mr Pitasi said the so-called Riviezzi clan – which authorities say ran the cafe – neither controlled any territory nor carried out “diffuse intimidation,” two elements which he said were fundamental in defining a mafia organization.

Reverend Marcello Cozzi, chairman of a think tank, the Center for Studies and Research on the South, said that Basilicata’s mafia families, including the Riviezzis, are “young compared to other Italian mafias that date back to over 150 years ”.



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