THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ROME — Camorra mobsters intimidated grocers and supermarkets in Naples into buying bread from clan-controlled bakeries at inflated prices, Italian prosecutors and police said Monday following a crackdown that included 24 arrests.
In an operation targeting the Lo Russo crime clan, police also seized three bakeries allegedly controlled by the clan and arrested an owner of one of them, authorities said.
The mobsters forced stores to buy their bakeries' bread, with prices considerably higher than market prices, said Lt. Col. Giuseppe Furciniti, commander of the organized crime unit in Naples of the national financial police corps.
Most merchants bought the Camorra-linked bread, Furciniti said.
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"Only a few dared not to," knowing if they spurned the Camorra, they risked seeing their shops burned or suffer other damage, he said.
With wholesale prices hiked by as much as 30 euro cents a kilogram, the profits went to clan coffers, authorities said. Since most of the neighborhood shops sold the Camorra-linked bread, consumers also saw bread prices rise.
Prosecutor Giovanni Colangelo said a few merchants told police about the extortion. Eavesdropping devices and intercepted phone calls helped the probe, investigators said.
Extortion is one mainstay of the Naples-based syndicate. Besides demanding "protection money," the Camorra often demands that businesses buy wares from certain suppliers.
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"This time it was bread, other times it has been buffalo mozzarella," the prized, creamy cheese, Furciniti said.