A high-level member of Italy’s Camorra mafia group was apprehended in northeast Mexico on Saturday, after authorities tracked him down on Facebook.
Giulio Perrone was first charged in 1993 when he and his wife were arrested attempting to bring 35 pounds of cocaine into Italy from Germany.
He disappeared the next year and has been a fugitive since 1998, when his lawyers failed in their final appeal against a nearly 22-year prison sentence for ties to Camorra, which is based in Naples.
His whereabouts were unknown for much of the last 20 years. An Interpol red notice was eventually issued against him for his alleged involvement in international cocaine trafficking and for his presumed status as a “first-level” member of the Naples mafia.
Perrone was one of Italy’s most-wanted fugitives for the last 10 years, until Italian police tracked him down through Facebook. He was living under the name Saverio Garcia Galiero in Tampico, a port city at the southeastern tip of Tamaulipas, a state in Mexico’s northeastern corner.
Galiero is Perrone’s mother’s maiden name, which may have aided authorities in the search for him.
“The excess of confidence was his ruin,” Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope wrote of Perrone’s social-media activity.
At the time of his arrest in Ciudad Madero in Tamaulipas, he was carrying two false identifications, both with “photographs with the physical characteristics of this individual,” Mexican authorities said.
Police did not disclose how exactly they tracked Perrone down through the social-media site. But Italian authorities do have broad powers in organized-crime cases, meaning that they could have been monitoring the online activity of Perrone’s associates in Italy, AFP notes. Image-recognition software may have played a role as well.
“This arrest is part of a larger strategy being coordinated by the anti-crime division of the Italian police to capture mafia fugitives who have been taking refuge abroad for many years,” authorities said in a statement.
Perrone remarried and had Mexican children, and it remains unclear if he was pursuing criminal activities under his new, Mexican identity.
The northeast corner of Mexico has been a hotbed of cartel and drug-related activity during the time Perrone has been on the run. At present, there are thought to be three cells of the Los Zetas cartels and five cells of the Gulf cartel operating in Tamaulipas, according to intelligence documents seen by Univision.
“There are various antecedents for cooperation between Mexican and Italian mafias,” Hope writes.
A number of members of the ‘Ndrangheta, a crime group based in southern Italy with extensive operations in Latin America, were arrested in 2008 for alleged narco-trafficking operations with the Gulf and Zetas cartels.
In 2012, two Italian businessmen in Monterrey, Mexico, were accused by Italian authorities of organizing large drug shipments for the Cosa Nostra, a Sicily-based criminal group. And in May, Julio Cesar Olivas Felix, an alleged Mexican drug trafficking thought be linked to the Sinaloa cartel, was arrested in Milan’s Malpensa airport.
“There were some joint operations between Mexican traffickers and Italian mafia groups some years ago,” Antonio Mazzitelli, regional representative for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, told Reuters. “It’s frequent that in the criminal world, criminal organizations collaborate on trafficking matters.”