Gaetano Badalamenti, 'Pizza Connection' Ringleader, Dies At 80

From 1975 to 1984, Gaetano Badalamenti (left) ran a heroin-and-cocaine smuggling ring that took in $1.65 billion. Rudy Giuliani (pictured in 1983, right), then U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, prosecuted Badalamenti.

Last Friday the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Gaetano Badalamenti, ringleader of the infamous "Pizza Connection" drug-smuggling ring, had died. He was 80. Some excerpts from the obituary in the New York Times:

Mr. Badalamenti was sentenced in 1987 to 45 years in federal prison for being one of the ringleaders of the so-called Pizza Connection, a $1.65 billion heroin and cocaine operation that used pizzerias as fronts to distribute the drugs from 1975 to 1984.

The Justice Department spokesman could not confirm when, where or how Mr. Badalamenti died, but he was most recently housed at the Federal Medical Center in Ayer, Mass., according to the federal Bureau of Prisons Web site. The center specializes in treating inmates with serious illnesses.

The ring's members were charged with importing heroin from the Middle East and cocaine from South America and then laundering profits through Swiss bank accounts....

The trial of Mr. Badalamenti and nearly two dozen suspected conspirators in the Pizza Connection case took 17 months. Held in Federal District Court in Manhattan, it included more than 400 witnesses, 15,000 exhibits and 41,000 pages of transcripts....

Louis J. Freeh, who went on to became director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was one of the lead prosecutors in the Pizza Connection case. Rudolph W. Giuliani was the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York at the time of the trial.

2004_05_04_Donnie.jpgAnother interesting fact—one that this obit does not mention—is that Joseph D. Pistone (right), the real-life Donnie Brasco, was one of the star witnesses at the trial.

There is also a 1985 movie called The Pizza Connection, which we're assuming is about the case. And you can buy an A&E documentary on the case from Amazon.

Buy Donnie Brasco from Buy books by Joseph D. Pistone at Amazon. (You'll be helping Slice even as you enjoy your new books and videos!)

And: A Swiss pizzeria named Pizza Connection. We doubt this pizzeria is a beneficiary of the money laundered through Swiss accounts in the '70s, but it's fun to think it might be.