Chip Off The Old Block: Don Tano Badalamenti’s Son Taken Into Custody Following 3 Yrs. As Fugitive



September 7, 2020 – The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, they say. And that old adage can sometimes never be truer than in the mob. Legendary Sicilian Godfather Gaetano (Don Tano) Badalamenti’s son Leonardo Badalamenti was finally caught last week after three years on the run from Brazilian authorities trying to arrest him for narcotics trafficking and bank fraud.

The 60-year old progeny was busted in Palermo last Wednesday at his mother’s home in Castellammare de Golfo, an historic region of Sicily in the lineage of the mafia. He’s pleaded not guilty in the case and is awaiting extradition to Brazil. Prosecutors in South America indicted him in 2017.

Badalamenti’s father, Don Tano, was the boss of bosses in the Sicilian mafia in the 1970s. Don Tano famously headed the “Pizza Connection” heroin conspiracy, where Badalamenti’s European criminal empire joined forces with North American mob families in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Montreal to transport giant shipments of “H” across the Atlantic in tomato sauce jars and distribute them through a series of pizza parlors in the United States. With his kingdom under siege by upstart Mafiosi in Sicily at the end of his reign, Don Tano left the motherland for Brazil, where he was able to plant even further roots for himself and his family in the transcontinental narcotics game prior to getting nabbed in the Pizza Connection case.

Before ascending to international mob royalty, Badalamenti spent portions of the 1940s and 1950s in Michigan. Don Tano’s older brother Emmanuel (Rough Manny) Badalamenti was a capo in the Detroit mafia, running rackets in southern Michigan out of Monroe, down by the Ohio border.

In 2019, Michigan State Police searched property in the Monroe area once owned by the Badalamenti brothers looking for slain Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa but came up empty. Hoffa was feuding with his former mob allies in the labor union at the time he went missing in July 1975 on his way to a lunch meeting in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, less than 65 miles away. Informants told the FBI that Teamsters trucks often ferried Badalamenti’s Pizza Connection dope cross country with Hoffa’s knowledge and him getting kick-backs from the profits on mob-family drug sales.

Don Tano was convicted at trial in 1987 and was sentenced to life in prison. The elder and stately Badalamenti died of a heart attack in a Massachusetts prison hospital on April 29, 1994 at the age of 80.

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