Article on New York Post May 27, 2009
By KAJA WHITEHOUSE, Post Wire Services
It could have been a face-off between a mob boss and Bank of America honcho Ken Lewis.
It could have happened had Italian police not thwarted a $2.2 billion scam orchestrated by the Sicilian Mafia to be carried out on already burdened financial firms, like BofA, international banking giant HSBC and now-defunct brokerage Lehman Brothers.
Cops busted as many as 20 people across the globe, including in the Italian provinces of Sicily, Puglia and Tuscany, as well as Spain, Venezuela and Brazil.
Among those arrested during yesterday’s international bust was Leonardo Badalamenti, son of famous Cosa Nostra boss Gaetano Badalamenti, who died in federal prison in 2004 while serving time for importing heroin to the US through pizzeria storefronts.
The junior Badalamenti, who hasn’t lived in Italy in at least 30 years, was nabbed in Venezuela. He fled Sicily in the 1980s after his family was defeated during the so-called Mafia wars, Italian publications report.
According to investigators, after persuading corrupt Venezuelan officials to issue the mobsters fake government bonds, Badalamenti and his crew planned to use the rogue securities to obtain credit lines totaling as much as $2.2 billion from BofA, Lehman, HSBC and other reputable financial firms.
Back in 2003 and 2004, the Mafia tried to use the bonds to obtain $500 million credit lines from various banks. At the time, UK authorities thwarted the scam before the banks were duped.
The gang planned to invest the money in a construction business that would fund high-end residences in Tuscany, Puglia and other Italian hot spots.
During the raid, police also seized goods worth nearly $7 million, including several buildings and a Tuscan farmhouse.
The senior Badalamenti, known commonly as Don Tano Badalamenti, was the mob boss of his hometown of Cinisi, Sicily, and head of the Sicilian Mafia Commission.
He was sentenced to 45 years in 1987 as a leader of the so-called Pizza Connection, a $1.65 billion drug-trafficking ring that used pizzeria storefronts to distribute heroin.