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Sicilian Mafia boss Toto Riina dead at 87

By David Amoruso

He was the boss of bosses of Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian Mafia. As leader of the infamous Corleonesi, Salvatore "Toto" Riina ordered the death of hundreds, including the high-profile assassinations of anti-mafia magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. Now he is dead himself, at age 87, of natural causes.

Riina had turned 87 on Thursday, but had been in a coma for several days after two surgeries. He passed away at 3:37 a.m. at a prison hospital in Parma, Italy. He was serving multiple life sentences for a long list of heinous Mafia crimes and murders, most of which he committed while a wanted man by authorities. He was finally apprehended in 1993, after 24 years on the run.

As a result of his vicious war against the Italian state, Riina caused a crackdown on Cosa Nostra, with more police scrutiny and tougher prison sentences for Mafiosi. This included the 41-bis regime, which puts those with a high-ranking position in organized crime under a maximum-security environment designed to cut them off from associates on the outside to prevent them from exercising their power and influence.

It did nothing to temper Riina’s murderous attitude. In conversations recorded by prison officials in November of 2013, he was overheard threatening the lives of prosecutors involved in the upcoming Mafia-State trial, which charged him with murders and Mafia crimes. “[He] shall die and all the prosecutors of the negotiation [trial] with him,” Riina said. “They're driving me crazy. They have to die, even if it's the last thing I do.”

Instead, more charges were added to his indictment. And his stay in prison was made a bit stricter than it already was.

Riina’s rise in the Sicilian Mafia came under the tutelage of Luciano Leggio, his mentor and boss of the Corleonesi. After Leggio was imprisoned in 1974, Riina, together with his longtime right-hand Bernardo Provenzano, tore apart the established order in the underworld of the island to place his clan at the pinnacle of power and establish himself as the boss of bosses of Cosa Nostra.  

Of these three blood-thirsty men, Riina is the last to pass. Leggio died in 1993 at age 68. Provenzano died in July of 2016 at age 83. Seeing the death and destruction he set in motion not many will shed a tear for his passing. “The Beast” is gone.

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