ROME — Where is Carmela Soprano when we need her?
A fierce criminal gang run by three Italian Mafia women known as the “Mussi di ficurinia,” or Prickly Pear Lip gang, has been dismantled in Sicily after Giuseppe Laudani, the man they raised as their collective son, turned pentito.
The arrests of more than 100 people associated with the Prickly Pear Lip ladies came after hundreds of police in Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands carried out joint sting operations late Wednesday, according to AFP.
The women, Maria Scuderi, 52, Concetta Scalisi, 60, and Paola Torrisi, 52—dubbed the “three queens of Castagirone”—were tasked with raising Laudani after his father, Santo, was shot dead in front of him at the butcher shop the family owned in Castagirone in the 1990s. It was one of the bloodiest periods of Mafia violence in Sicily, when more than 100 homicides were logged each year and internationally condemned assassinations of judges symbolized Italy’s struggle to contain the Cosa Nostra.
After his father was murdered, Laudani was groomed as a protégé to the powerful clan, tapped to one day lead the group by his grandfather, Sebastiano Laudini, now 90 and on house arrest for ordering the execution of a police officer. But the younger Laudani, whose nickname was “The Prince” and who was apparently deemed “ready” for the job, chose to be a turncoat instead.
Italian media report Laudani exposed some of the darkest secrets of the Sicilian Mafia’s drug and arms trades, including how the women organized everything from the money to the delivery of illegal arms and drugs—and who ordered countless executions under a work ethic that he described as “violence and vendettas.”
After Wednesday’s arrests and the revelation that Laudani was the central informer, his grandfather called him a “cornuto bastardo” or horned bastard, which is one of the worst insults one can lay upon an Italian man in certain parts of Italy, as it relates to the implication that a man’s girlfriend or wife is having sex with other men behind your back.
The angry grandfather also said his grandson was the only true blood of the family, yet he had forever “stained the family’s reputation” by collaborating with the state, according to lead prosecutor Michelangelo Patanè when he announced the arrests to the press, saying the collaboration was a turning point in their fight against the Cosa Nostra.
“This is a heavy blow at the top, both for the historical leaders… and for the current rulers,” he said. “The Laudani clan is one of the most violent criminal organizations operating in our province.”
Those arrested were charged with extortion, drug trafficking, and illegal arms possession. Of the 109 arrests, 23 were people already serving time for other crimes, including Lip lady Torrisi, who was arrested last year on other charges. Six people remain at large.
Laudani allegedly also pointed police to a weapons cache on the flanks of Mount Etna that turned up scores of weapons, including two rocket launchers thought to be procured by the Godmothers for attacks on Sicilian magistrates.
Some of the hidden weapons were also feared to be part of a large order procured by mercenaries and those affiliated with European-based terrorist cells, according to Patanè, who also said a sort of ledger had been discovered of companies that were regularly forced to pay between €3,000 and €15,000 in protection money and which may have been forced to enter into criminal alliances.
The Cosa Nostra has been able to operate for so long unchallenged because business owners often fear repercussions for cooperating with the police. The companies that have been victims of extortion, especially, tend not to cooperate with police out of fear their businesses will be destroyed forever.
Among the other revelations Laudani reportedly exposed are a deadly alliance between the Cosa Nostra and the Calabrian-based ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate to bolster their drug trades. Such collaboration among the usually competitive gangs suggests Italian authorities still face an uphill battle as they work to defeat organized crime.
So while the Prickly Pear Lip ladies may be out of service, there is little doubt that there are plenty of others ready to take their place. “In Sicily, women are more dangerous than shotguns,” goes the famous Godfather line. Especially, it would seem, when you combine them.