Mafia Heir Issues Press Release Vowing to Keep NYC Safe from Islamic State

Giovanni Gambino Reuters

The scion of one of New York City’s famed Five Families has issued a press release warning the Islamic State terrorist group to stay away from New York, where the Mafia will prevent jihadis from doing any harm to the city’s eight million residents.

In a press release published last week but promoting an interview he gave to NBC news in 2012, Giovanni Gambino, “son of a key figure in the Gambino crime syndicate,” notes that the Mafia may be the only thing standing between Italy and a full ISIS takeover. The press release quotes Gambino, who appeared on the network then to promote his book Prince of Omerta, as noting that the Mafia “has a bad reputation, but much of that is undeserved.” He notes that the rise of radical Islamism “gives the Mafia a chance to show its good side.” PR man Joseph Savoy contextualizes this old interview by writing, “in the wake of the heinous attacks in Paris, that protection is more important than ever.”

The release also includes new statements from Gambino, who assures New Yorkers they are safe. “We make sure our friends and families are protected from extremists and terrorists, especially the brutal, psychopathic organization that calls itself the Islamic State,” he says. He cites as proof the lack of terrorist attacks occurring on the Italian island of Sicily, where the Mafia has had a decades-long, deeply established presence. The Mafia have a more “meaningful” connection to neighborhoods than law enforcement, he argues, allowing for a wider reach in fighting crime than for the FBI or Department of Homeland Security.

The press release ends with a note that the younger Gambino “has fostered relationships with major movie producers, and he is on his way to building a highly respected career in Hollywood.”

Gambino is the author of eight works of fiction and claims to be working on a film adaptation of his book Mulberry to Rome. He is active on Twitter, which he uses to express his political and pop culture opinions:

There is little evidence that Gambino, despite his family ties, is an active member of the Gambino crime family, currently believed to be run by Staten Island native Frank Cali. Nonetheless, international media have published his press release as evidence that “the Mafia” writ large have vowed to protect New York from ISIS.

The Gambino family has been established in New York City since the early 1900s, initially identified as one of the Five Families of New York during the 1960s McClellan hearings, along with the Colombo, Bonnano, Lucchese, and Genovese families. The Gambinos rose to national prominence under boss John Gotti, whose public image as a well-dressed and charming criminal had grown to such a stature that the New York Times reported up to 1,000 people protesting in his favor in front of the Brooklyn courthouse where he was sentenced to life in prison in 1990. Gotti appeared in court wearing “a dark double-breasted suit, white shirt and bright yellow tie flecked with burnt orange.”

Giovanni Gambino’s publicity ploy is not the first time claims of the Mafia working as a buffer against Islamic extremism have surfaced. Sicily is of high strategic value for the Islamic State, as it is the bridge that connects Libya to Europe. ISIS jihadis have made clear in their propaganda their intent to infiltrate Europe through Italy from north Africa, potentially attempting to sneak in as migrants through Sicily. Italian officials noted the possibility that the Mafia’s presence in Sicily made this plan more difficult to execute.

At least one terrorist, ISIS-linked Tunisian national Ben Nasr Mehdi, was apprehended in Sicily after traveling by ship out of Libya and attempting to sneak into mainland Italy. The Islamic State has subsequently published propaganda identifying Sicily as a launching pad for attacks on Rome

In an interview with Italian publication Panorama, a former Italian Secret Service agent claimed that “Italy is able to protect itself from terrorist attacks in just two ways: the precise processing of ‘weak signals’ that allows wiretapping and targeted preventive interventions, and with the Mafia.” While the Mafia may not catch the jihadis upon landing in Sicily, the agent claimed they are never allowed to establish a presence there, as they are rapidly identified as suspicious by Mafia members who consider the presence of unsavory jihadist types bad for business, as it attracts law enforcement attention to the region.

Claudio Fava, the head of Italy’s National Anti-Mafia Commission, made similar statements earlier this year. “I am not surprised Sicily may be thought to be not at risk of Islamic State (ISIS) infiltration due to the presence of the Mafia,” he said at a regional anti-Mafia commission hearing. “We’ve already seen that during the years of [domestic] terrorism in Italy.” “It’s no accident there were no kidnappings, and when they did occur they were carried out not to extort money but as Mafia punishments,” he said of criminal activity in Sicily relative to the wave of ransom kidnappings in the rest of the country in the 1970s.

While some have posited that La Cosa Nostra may serve as a line of defense against ISIS, reports have also indicated that a different crime syndicate, the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta, may be working with ISIS. At least one report in Italian media claims law enforcement have reason to suspect the ‘Ndrangheta have sold amphetamine-based drugs to Islamic State members to use in the battlefield as early as February of this year. The groups may also be interested in conducting business regarding the sale of weapons.