Salvatore Inzerillo (Palermo, 1944 – Palermo, May 11, 1981) was an Italian criminal, a member of the Sicilian Mafia, also known as Totuccio (a diminutive for Salvatore). He rose to be a powerful boss of Palermo's Passo di Rigano family. A prolific heroin trafficker, he was killed in May 1981 by the Corleonesi of Totò Riina in the Second Mafia War who opposed the established Palermo Mafia families of which Inzerillo was one of the main proponents.
Inzerillo was born in Palermo. He married Giuseppa Di Maggio, the daughter of his mother’s brother, Rosario Di Maggio – the boss of the Passo di Rigano Mafia family. Through a string of marriages the Inzerillo’s were related to the Di Maggio and Spatola families in Palermo and the Gambino’s in New York. He had two sons, Giuseppe and Giovanni.
Inzerillo was a close ally of Stefano Bontade and Gaetano Badalamenti and a relative of the New York City Mafia boss Carlo Gambino. He became a member of the Sicilian Mafia Commission in 1978 succeeding his uncle Rosario Di Maggio, and formed a strong alliance with Bontade against the growing power of Totò Riina and the Corleonesi who were increasingly challenging the established Mafia families of Palermo.
In the 1970s, like many Sicilian mafiosi, Inzerillo got involved in heroin trafficking. The Inzerillo-clan allied with relatives in Sicily such as the Spatola and Di Maggio families and other Mafia clans like the one ruled by Stefano Bontade. The Inzerillo-Spatola-Di Maggio-Gambino network and other Sicilian suppliers dominated heroin trafficking since the mid-1970s until the mid-1980s when US and Italian law enforcement were able to significantly reduce the heroin supply of the Sicilian Mafia (the so-called Pizza Connection).
According to the Palermo prosecuting office:
These four families, living partly in Sicily and partly in New York, form a single clan unlike anything in Italy or the United States – the most potent family in Cosa Nostra. John Gambino is the converging point in the United States for all of the group’s activities in Italy, and the final destination for its drug shipments. Salvatore Inzerillo has emerged as the Gambino brothers’ principal interlocutor, the central personage in Sicily, with myriad interests and heavy capital investments. … Rosario Spatola is just below them in structure.
Salvatore Inzerillo coordinated most of the heroin trafficking to the US for the Mafia families involved. They supplied the Sicilian faction of Gambino crime family – the so-called Cherry Hill Gambino’s who were related to the Inzerillo’s – in New York through Inzerillo’s cousins John, Giuseppe and Rosario Gambino with heroin that was refined in laboratories on Sicily from Turkish morphine base.
According to Giovanni Falcone, the investigating magistrate who was assigned the investigation into heroin trafficking case, estimated that by the late 1970s the Inzerillo-Gambino-Spatola network was smuggling US$600 million worth of heroin into the US each year. The proceeds were re-invested in real estate. Inzerillo's brother-in-law, Rosario Spatola, who in his youth peddled watered milk in the streets of Palermo, became Palermo’s largest building contractor and biggest taxpayer of Sicily, thanks to his close relationship with Christian Democrat politician Vito Ciancimino. By 1982, their holdings in Palermo alone were estimated to be worth around US$1 billion.
Killed in the Second Mafia War
Salvatore Inzerillo ordered the killing of prosecuting judge Gaetano Costa who signed the 53 arrest warrants against the Spatola-Inzerillo-Gambino clan and their heroin-trafficking network in May 1980. Costa was murdered on August 6, 1980. Inzerillo acted without asking permission from the Mafia Commission to prove he could commit a murder in rival territory (that of Giuseppe Calò) just as the Corleonesi.
On May 11, 1981, Inzerillo was gunned down in Palermo as he strolled towards his recently acquired bullet-proof car after leaving the house of his mistress. He was rendered almost unrecognizable by a hail of bullets from a machine gun. The firearm used was an AK-47, the same gun that killed Bontade the previous month. The deaths of these two powerful mafiosi kick-started the Second Mafia War that lasted almost two-years and saw hundreds of mafiosi killed as Totò Riina and the Corleonesi decimated their rivals in order to take over Cosa Nostra by sheer brute force.
It is believed Inzerillo was murdered by Pino Greco, one of Riina's most lethal hitmen. At Inzerillo's funeral, his teenage son Giuseppe vowed to avenge his father, and not long afterwards the boy was kidnapped, tortured and killed. A number of informants, including Tommaso Buscetta, said that it was Pino Greco who abducted the youth and shot him through the head, but first hacked his arm off, symbolically removing the arm the youngster had vowed to shoot Riina with.
Santo Inzerillo, the brother of Salvatore, was strangled on May 26, 1981, when he came to a meeting to ask clarifications about the killing of his relatives. One of the other brothers, Pietro Inzerillo subsequently turned up murdered in New Jersey, proving the Corleonesi's reach stretched across the Atlantic.
Exile and return of the Inzerillo clan
The Inzerillo family had been on the verge of total extermination by the Corleonesi. With the intervention of relatives in New York, including associates of the Gambino crime family, a deal was worked out that allowed the surviving Inzerillos to take refuge in the U.S., with the agreement that none of them, or their offspring, could ever return to Sicily. Many went to the New York area and joined forces with the Gambino family. They were dubbed "gli scappati" (the escapees). Rosario Naimo, an important go-between for the Sicilian and American Mafia, had been appointed to guarantee the agreement. However, after the arrest of Totò Riina and other hardline Corleonesi like Leoluca Bagarella, the Inzerillos started to come back to Sicily. Francesco Inzerillo was allowed to return in 1997 after he was expelled from the U.S.
Rosario Inzerillo, a brother of Salvatore, returned to Palermo in December 2004 with the approval of Salvatore Lo Piccolo, one of the leading Mafia bosses. Salvatore Inzerillo’s only surviving son Giovanni Inzerillo (born in New York in 1972), an American citizen – returned as well to re-open the family house in Via Castellana 346 after 25 years. The connection between Lo Piccolo and the Inzerillo family surfaced in a wiretap recording of Antonio Rotolo before his arrest in June 2006. In the recording apparently made to his soldiers he said, "The dead Inzerillo will always haunt you." He went on to say: "Have you understood yet or not that he, Lo Piccolo, is already using the Inzerillo's?"
Rosario Inzerillo's return sparked a dispute in Cosa Nostra’s ranks. Rotolo, fearing the revenge of the Inzerillo clan, was against the return and was overheard in a bugged conversation with Francesco Bonuro that he feared a vendetta. "If they start shooting, I'll be the first to get it and then it’ll be your turn." Rotolo said that Franco Inzerillo had tried to kill him. The pair did not trust Lo Piccolo and sought authorisation from Cosa Nostra boss Bernardo Provenzano to eliminate him.
One theory is that the Palermo families wanted to see the return of the Inzerillos because of their useful, on-the-ground American connections. "The Mafia has already made an agreement with the Italian-Americans in view of shared opportunities," said Piero Grasso, Italy’s national antimafia prosecutor. "In this new strategy, the American connections, the Inzerillos, are indispensable."
Other leading antimafia officials asserted that the Sicilian mafia established new ties with the New York City-based Gambino crime family and that such ties would enable both to profit from increased international drug trafficking and would provide Palermo's mafia factions an opportunity to launder their earnings in real estate within the United States. Their contact was Frank Cali, a reputed acting caporegime of the Gambino family.
The first one to talk about the return of the Inzerillos was the pentito Maurizio Di Gati, in December 2004. According to Di Gati, the Inzerillos were planning to re-open drug trafficking channels to Palermo in cooperation with the Gambinos and the Siderno clan of the 'Ndrangheta, based in Toronto, Canada. Lo Piccolo granted permission. Salvatore's second born and only surviving son Giovanni Inzerillo was indicted on February 7, 2008, in operation Old Bridge against the Gambinos in New York and their connections in Palermo, involved in drug trafficking.
- Arlacchi, Mafia Business, pp. 199-200
- Sterling, Octopus, pp. 199-200.
- Shawcross & Young, Men Of Honour, pp. 77-78
- Stille, Excellent Cadavers, p. 37
- Shawcross & Young, Men Of Honour, p. 126
- Stille, Excellent Cadavers, p. 110
- Shawcross & Young, Men Of Honour, p. 143
- Shawcross & Young, Men Of Honour, p. 144
- Stille, Excellent Cadavers, p. 305
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