When the Mafia Serves Coffee in the Courthouse

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It was actually an episode involving Mr. Pennacchio that helped set off the inquiry.

Mr. Pennacchio and a partner had competed for the same courthouse cafe contract, filing an appeal after they lost. He then received, in a corridor of the courthouse, a warning from a clan member to back off, according to court documents.

Investigators who followed up began to suspect that the new bar ownership was a front. The police installed bugs and cameras in the cafe and started wiretapping suspects, getting a clearer picture of the family’s activities. Among other things, they said, the clan controlled a gaming cafe and was behind a jewelry store theft in the city.

Prosecutors said that they let the mobsters think they were outsmarting the authorities.

“If a criminal from another group goes there and sees they are managing the courthouse cafe,” Mr. Curcio said, “they must think, ‘Man these guys are smart.’”

He said that “criminal prestige” was probably the main reason that the family had sought control of the cafe.

Basilio Pitasi, a lawyer for Saverio Riviezzi, who the prosecutors claim is the clan’s boss, said that the family was not a Mafia organization. He added that Mr. Riviezzi had already been cleared of such allegations in the past.

Mr. Pitasi said that the so-called Riviezzi clan — which authorities say ran the cafe — did not control any territory or operate “diffused intimidation,” two elements that he said were fundamental to defining a mafia organization.

Rev. Marcello Cozzi, president of a think tank, the Center for Studies and Research on the South, said that the Mafia families in Basilicata, including the Riviezzis, are “young compared to other Mafias in Italy that go back over 150 years.”

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