ROME, March 17, 2010— -- One of Italy's 100 most-wanted criminals, a vicious mafia boss who had been on the run for months, was betrayed by his passion for social networking and flushed out thanks to Facebook.
Using the name "Scarface" from the gangster movie starring Al Pacino, Pasquale Manfredi, 33, a boss of the the ferocious 'Ndrangheta mafia organization from the Calabria region in southern Italy, had logged on to his Facebook account so often that police were able to trace the signal from his Internet key and find his hideout.
Manfredi was arrested on Tuesday after 50 police officers surrounded the three-story building in the town of Isola Capo Rizzuto where Manfredi iived alone in a tiny basement apartment. When they broke in to get him, Manfredi ran for the roof but was caught on the second floor by the police, who had anticipated the move. Manfredi had a ladder set up on the roof for just such an occasion. The hide-out was a one-room bed and kitchen affair which managed to fit two computers, a treadmill and weight bar for the boss to keep in shape.
Crotone police crime squad chief Angelo Morabito told ABC News that when they caught Manfredi, the hitman congratulated him:" 'You are the boss of the invisibles,' he told me." Morabito said he was referring to the way the police were able to sneak up on Manfredi unseen. It was not the first time that Morabito had arrested Manfredi.
Asked whether using the Internet was perhaps a bad move on the part of Manfredi, police chief Morabito said that Mafia members in hiding "need to keep in touch either by passing notes, using cell phones or, in these days, via computer."
Morabito said Manfredi used Facebook to socialize but also to communicate with his cohorts, sometimes in code. He was not a particularly sophisticated computer user, he added.
Italian Mafia thugs are known to admire their Hollywood counterparts and the Brian de Palma movie "Scarface", in which Al Pacino plays a cocaine trafficker, seems to have struck a particular chord.
A Real-Life Killer
Another clan leader, Walter Schiavone, who belongs to the Camorra, the mafia organization controlling the area in central Italy around Naples, had even modeled his home after the luxury residence with a royal staircase that Pacino/Scarface inhabited in the movie.
Manfredi might have been chummy on the Internet, but in real-life he is a "cold and cruel" killer of the Nicoscia-Manfredi clan from Isola Capo Rizzuto, according to the police who investigated him for years.
Manfredi is accused of no fewer than 20 crimes, including mafia association, illegal trade of military weapons, and is suspected of a number of killings over the past decade, most notably the 2004 massacre of a rival clan leader whose armored car he blew up with a bazooka.
Manfredi had even been trained in the use of military weaponry such as machine guns and explosives, said a police report about his arrest, at "a sort of war school" in northern Italy, which he attended for over a year at the expense and on behalf of his clan.
Manfredi is suspected of "numerous other murders," according to the police who arrested him.
"He is without a shadow of doubt the most dangerous criminal of the province of Crotone," Morabito says.
And for the N'drangheta, that's saying something.