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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 May, 2004, 08:22 GMT 09:22 UK
'Pizza Mafioso' dies in US prison
Gaetano Badalamenti (undated photo)
Badalamenti reportedly died of a heart attack
Gaetano Badalamenti, once known as the "boss of bosses" of the Sicilian Mafia, has died at the age of 80 in the US where he was serving a prison sentence.

Badalamenti became notorious in the US for masterminding a crime ring which distributed heroin and cocaine through pizza parlours between 1975 and 1984.

He was sentenced in 1987 to 47 years in federal prison.

Italy also convicted Badalamenti in absentia of the 1978 murder of a radio DJ who poked fun at the Mafia.

The remains of Giuseppe "Peppino" Impastato were found torn apart by a bomb on a Sicilian railway line.

Badalamenti was finally convicted of the crime in 2002 and sentenced to life in prison.

Reuters news agency quoted an unnamed prison official as saying he died of a heart attack at a US federal medical centre in Devens, Massachusetts, on Thursday evening.

Rival bosses

Born in the village of Cinisi near Palermo in 1923, Gaetano Badalamenti became a key figure in the Sicilian Cosa Nostra in the 1970s.

Known as "Don Tano", he was part of the so-called 'triumvirate' that ran the Sicilian Mafia.

US prosecutors once labelled him the "boss of bosses" for his leading role.

However, the rise of a rival, Salvatore "Toto" Riina, forced him to flee Italy, and he spent some time in Brazil.

In the US, he led a racket to import heroin from the Middle East and cocaine from South America, laundering profits through Swiss bank accounts.

The "pizza" ring was worth an estimated $1.65bn.

Last October in Italy, he and former prime minister Giulio Andreotti were acquitted of involvement in the murder of journalist Mino Pecorelli in 1979.

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