Italian Mobster, 16 Years on the Lam, Is Found Working at a Pizzeria

After the arrest of Matteo Messina Denaro, 60, the police found that, while on the run, Italy’s most wanted mobster had expensive tastes, dressing in designer duds and favoring expensive perfumes. When he was taken into custody at a clinic in Palermo, Sicily, he was wearing a watch estimated to cost about $35,000, prosecutors later said.

Life on the lam was less glamorous for Edgardo Greco, 63, a lesser-known mobster linked to the Calabrian ’Ndrangheta crime syndicate, who was arrested on Thursday. The French police captured him in the early hours in St.-Étienne, a city in east-central France, as he was going to work for his night shift in a pizzeria, where he prepared dough, tomato sauces and pastas.

Mr. Greco had been living in a small apartment in the center of the city. “A modest lifestyle, not glitzy at all,” said Lt. Col. Dario Pini, the commander of the Italian carabinieri unit whose investigation led to his arrest.

Mr. Greco was convicted in Italy of the 1991 murder of two members of a criminal organization during what prosecutors described as a “mafia war” between competing gangs in the city of Cosenza, in the Calabria region of the country. Mr. Greco eluded capture when a warrant for his arrest was issued in 2006, but he was later convicted in absentia. A European arrest warrant was issued in 2014.

Edgardo Greco, in an undated image provided by the Italian Carabinieri. Mr. Greco was convicted in Italy of the 1991 murder of two members of a criminal organization.Credit…Italian Carabinieri, via Associated Press

Tracking down Mr. Greco was not easy, Colonel Pini said. Often fugitives give themselves away when they contact close relatives, but Mr. Greco was not in touch with his wife and two sons, who live in Austria, or with relatives in Calabria, Colonel Pini noted.

Investigators got a break late last year when, plumbing the internet for images of people who looked like Mr. Greco, they came across two articles. One, from 2014, showed a man whom they matched with Mr. Greco “to 95 percent” accuracy. They also came across a July 2021 interview in a St.-Étienne newspaper announcing the opening of an Italian restaurant, Caffè Rossini. Its owner, Paolo Dimitrio, said in the interview that his goal was to “create an elaborate Italian cuisine, only with fresh and homemade products.”

Comparing photographs they had of Mr. Greco, investigators determined that Mr. Dimitrio was in fact the fugitive mobster. (Incidentally, Caffè Rossini went under a few months after opening. “Covid didn’t help,” Colonel Pini said.)

Technology has helped investigators find wanted criminals before. Last year, a Sicilian who was on Italy’s most dangerous fugitives list was tracked down using Google maps.

Armed with the photographs, Italian investigators looped in their French colleagues, and this week, Mr. Greco was arrested as he was beginning a shift. The Interpol project

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