Federal law enforcement officials have busted one of the owners of Royal Crown Bakery on 14th Avenue in a bi-continental takedown that the FBI alleges involved organized crime and a scheme to smuggle drugs inside fish between Guyana and Italy.
On Tuesday, February 11, FBI agents arrested Franco Lupoi, who court papers depict as a mastermind of the scheme, and six other individuals in New York City, while another 17 people with alleged ties to the ‘Ndrangheta criminal organization were arrested in Italy.
“Lupoi exploited…underworld connections to link his criminal associates with those in Calabria, forming conspiracies to traffic heroin and cocaine,” charged U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch in papers filed in Eastern District Court.
According to the paperwork, Lupoi and associates sold heroin to undercover agents “for what they believed was eventual distribution in the United States.”
Lupoi – who is alleged to have ties to the Gambino crime family — was indicted on 13 charges including money laundering, marijuana distribution, international heroin distribution conspiracy, conspiracy to distribute heroin, possession of heroin with intent to distribute, conspiracy to commit money laundering to promote cocaine trafficking, money laundering to promote cocaine trafficking and conspiracy to transfer a 9mm firearm and silencer. He and two of his alleged co-conspirators face life in prison if convicted.
Court papers allege that Lupoi told the undercover agent that “They put a hundred grams, two hundred grams in each fish” and “it takes a day to defrost and then it takes a day to take out.”
In addition, one of Lupoi’s alleged associates, Raffaele Valente, allegedly sold a handgun and silencer to an undercover agent at Royal Crown, on January 31, 2014.
The arrests were the fruit of a protracted investigation both here and in Italy that “utilized,” said Lynch, “undercover agents, consensual recordings, court-authorized wiretaps abroad, email search warrants and surveillance,” and “yielded voluminous evidence, including more than two years of consensually recorded telephone calls and meetings involving all seven defendants.”
All seven people arrested by the FBI have pleaded not guilty.