It was a Friday morning in March when the FBI knocked on Giovanni Ferriolo’s door in east Orlando.
“My wife had just left the house. I was in my underwear, and suddenly there were 20 officers at my door. Some of them had guns drawn,” said Ferriolo, who owns a restaurant on Semoran Boulevard called Napolitaly Pizza.
Prosecutors in Italy had decided — after 20 years — to extradite Ferriolo in a bizarre drug-trafficking conviction. Ferriolo had been found guilty in Italy of delivering illegal drugs from New York to Italy for a period of years ending in 1994.
Ferriolo, 58, spent five months in the Orange County Jail, unable to meet the high legal bar for release on bond when facing extradition. But U.S. Magistrate Judge Tom Smith dismissed the case last week in a 15-page order in Orlando federal court — a rebuff to the Italian legal establishment. Ferriolo got out of jail Sept. 2.
Interviewed at his eatery, Ferriolo said jail was a difficult experience.
“I have worked all these years for America. I’m an American. And I thought, ‘Will America just hand me over now? Will I get justice?'” Ferriolo said.
Ferriolo said he knew there had been an investigation in Italy. He had authorized an Italian attorney to represent him there, but Ferriolo claims the attorney never told him about the conviction, which dates to 1998.
The Italian criminal case cited decades-old records of phone tapping of mafia figures in New York and Italy who were arrested in a famous drug bust in 1994 — known as the Pizza Connection, according to coverage in The New York Times and to federal-court records. Ferriolo’s criminal case in Italy dates to that time period.
According to Italian authorities, the phone taps recorded Ferriolo’s alleged co-conspirators talking about Ferriolo transporting “nougat,” “sweets” and “five hundred” to an associate in New York — but never actually talking about cash or cocaine or heroin. There was also some surveillance of Ferriolo by Italian police… READ MORE