Mob families in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia needed new blood after being decimated by turncoats and arrests, said Roberto Centaro, the head of the Italian parliament’s anti-Mafia commission.
Dozens of Sicilians aged between 20 and 30 are believed to have been sent from towns in the Palermo area to the US to help shore up the ranks of clans such as the DeCavalcante family in New Jersey and the Bonanno family in New York.
Mafiosi in Sicily and the US are not only linked by blood but also co-operate in drug-trafficking and occasionally supply each other with personnel when an unknown face is needed for a job.
In recent years American crime families have sent “soldiers” to Sicily to learn the Mafia code of honour.
Experts see the decline of the code as one of the main reasons why American police have been able to make inroads into their activities in recent years.