back to article Fugitive mafioso evaded cops for two decades until he was spotted on Google Street View

One of Italy’s most wanted gangsters was finally tracked down after being on the run for 20 years, thanks to a chance sighting on Google Street View. Convicted murderer Gioacchino Gammino, 61, was serving a life sentence at Rebibbia prison in Rome when he escaped in 2002. Police in Sicily have been searching for the crime boss …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Coat

    Well who'd a thunk ?

    Facebook has finally been useful for something.

    The world really is coming to an end.

    1. Potemkine! Silver badge

      Re: Well who'd a thunk ?

      I would rather say it's another proof it isn't a good idea to share your data on FeckBook - especially if you are on the run.

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: Well who'd a thunk ?

        I don't think he shared his data, it was someone else (the restaurant).

        Irrespective of the merits of catching this killer, it shows your privacy can be raped by friends/family or local businesses thanks for FB.

        1. Lotaresco

          Re: Well who'd a thunk ?

          "I don't think he shared his data, it was someone else (the restaurant)."

          This is also a problem for witness protection. It was reported on Radio 4 last year that the US has had to relocate some families several times because the children have appeared in photographs taken by their friends and random strangers photographic street scenes. Image search can easily find these images and give the bad guys[1] a location.

          [1] Often very, very bad guys.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Well who'd a thunk ?

            "Image search can easily find these images"

            How many people pointed out that facial recognition stuff being deployed by the cops on London (and other) streets could just as easily be used by the Bad Guys to identify cops planted amongst them, etc?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Well who'd a thunk ?

              easily be used by the Bad Guys to identify cops planted amongst them,

              Not really sure there is any distinction anymore.

              In other news, I notice that 2 serving coppers accused of a serious crime have managed to avoid being identified in court "for operational reasons".

              Which really means there are 100s of convicted criminals who'd get a free pass if these cops evidence is questioned ....

          2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            Image search can easily find these images

            Image search can easily find these images and give the bad guys[1] a location.

            Can it?

            How would that work exactly?

            I know how image search works , ive used it .

            I cant see it being helpful in the scenario of:

            Badguy (somhow ) has picture of witness's kid in the past , eg at school play

            Badguy uses Image Search to find kid in new picture taken by new neighbours at recent 4th july bbq

            Is that possible?

            caveat : I get that facial recognition software exists, but it is my understnading you'd need a lot of hardware to scrape the net of all the pictures and google hasnt made a "click here" for the average joe to do that

            1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

              Re: Image search can easily find these images

              I'm sure it is possible.

              How practical it is, well that is another question. However you also have to remember this is not just about your local thug, these 'bad guys' are often as well resourced as a small town's police force to go about their bad business.

            2. DS999 Silver badge

              Re: Image search can easily find these images

              It isn't possible. At least not with Google Image Search or other publicly available image search. Those only find identical or near identical versions of the same image at different size/quality settings. If you have a thumbnail of something you want a bigger/better quality version of, image search can help you there.

              If you have a picture of someone and you want to find other pictures of that same person, it is useless. Oh sure you can give it a picture of say Taylor Swift and it can identify it as Taylor Swift and find other pictures of her but it isn't doing it by identifying the picture as her. It is finding other copies of that SAME picture you gave it linked to as being "Taylor Swift", then giving you other pictures also linked to as being her.

              Now if you are looking for one specific person current technology does allow searching a bunch of pictures and finding matches at a given confidence level. There will be plenty of false matches, so you can't send out a hit squad to everyone you find unless you're modeling your mafia on the Terminator. This only works well one to many, and AFAIK this isn't something that's publicly available. You're going to have to pay some company to do this search, and there will be a record of it that law enforcement can track back so if you're planning on killing the target you should probably procure the services with a false identity etc.

  2. Aleph0
    Black Helicopters

    Odd, I thought Google Street View blurred faces... Does this mean that law enforcement gets to see the unredacted images?

    1. Test Man

      Probably not - blurring a face doesn't make someone totally unrecognisable when you can see the rest of his body. They probably looked and thought that his body strongly resembled him, then corroborated it with the pics from the Facebook page of the restaurant he was working for (that was in the same area).

      In fact it pretty much says this in the article.

    2. Filippo Silver badge

      No. This particular story has been reported in a rather confused way, even in Italy.

      What really happened is that police had already figured out that Gammino was connected with the restaurant, or at least in the general area. After that, they looked at the restaurant's Facebook profile, and found a photo of Gammino. That's where they saw the scar.

      After that, they looked at Street View for good measure, and noticed a guy who looked about the same size and build as Gammino. The face couldn't be seen, as it should be, but it didn't really matter; they already had more than enough evidence to prepare an arrest.

      So, no, the criminal was definitely not discovered on Street View; he was discovered mostly by regular means, and also through Facebook by being dumb enough to let a picture of him appear there. Street View was maybe a little cherry on top.

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge
        Devil

        Now the mafia doesn't like FB

        Oh dear, how sad for both of them.

      2. batfink Silver badge

        Thanks for the clarification Filippo. My natural scepticism came to the surface when I heard that the Italian coppers had randomly spotted a villain in a smallish town in another country.

        The only other alternative I could think of is that maybe law enforcement gets access to non-blurred faces and can do image searches.

        1. A. Coatsworth
          Holmes

          Another option is this story being a load of bull, concocted by the Italian police to throw Mafia off the scent of how are they really finding bad guys' whereabouts.

          Much like WWII pilots eating carrots to improve eyesight, and all that stuff.

          1. Jim Birch

            Non-falsifiable, must be true.

      3. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Good, old fashioned, Police Work

        So basically it was that the Italian Police worked out that Gammino was likely to be in that area that set up the breakthrough. As he claimed he hadn't phoned his family for 10 years, we can only assume there were other contacts that linked to him.

  3. cantankerous swineherd

    parallel construction?

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      more than likely

    2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Oo, thanks for that, I never knew there was a standard term for it.

  4. Citizen of Nowhere

    Fugitive mafiosi evaded cops for two decades

    It's mafioso, until there's more than one of 'em. Pedantic? You bet. I'll make you an offer [of Italian grammatical correct] you can't refuse.

    1. Little Mouse Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Fugitive mafiosi evaded cops for two decades

      Damn - I came here to say the same thing but you beat me to it. Instead you can have this related Pub-Quiz factoid to impress your friends:

      The singular of scampi is scampo.

      1. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: Fugitive mafiosi evaded cops for two decades

        Ditto for panini and panino. :-)

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Re: Fugitive mafiosi evaded cops for two decades

          So, large orchestras/bands might have 2 or more piani?

          1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge
            Holmes

            Re: Fugitive mafiosi evaded cops for two decades

            So, log.ic.al.ly, if you have a building or large room with more than 1 window, then, correctly, they are windi.

            So Microsoft Windows is a grammatical error! Should be MS Windi.

          2. anothercynic Silver badge

            Re: Fugitive mafiosi evaded cops for two decades

            Well... Piano on its own is Italian for softly or flat. If you're looking for the Italian word for piano, the instrument, it's a pianoforte. Thus:

            Un pianoforte

            Due pianoforti

            e becomes i.

            You're welcome.

    2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Fugitive mafiosi evaded cops for two decades

      Thanks - it's fixed. Don't forget to email corrections@ if you spot an issue please so we can fix it right away

      C.

  5. Dabooka

    So he's lived on the run for 20 years

    and now he's going back to clink where he'll probably be coming out in a box.

    Can;t help but thinking he would have been better off staying out, he'd be out now and able to enjoy his retirement. Swing and a miss there bud

    1. Mast1

      Re: So he's lived on the run for 20 years

      Possibly would take the sweetie in the "deferred gratification" test ?

    2. david 12 Silver badge

      Re: So he's lived on the run for 20 years

      So he's been invisible to the police for 10 years, working, and is now in his 60's, so they are going to spend $100,000 per year for supervised bed and board, so that he can be closer to his family.

      Can't help but think Italy would have been better off just settling for 'exile' or 'transportation'.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: So he's lived on the run for 20 years

        Just must be seen to be done. It might even be a deterrent to other potential murderers. The cost of imprisoning most convicted criminals is often more than the "cost" of their crimes, so using that logic, we might as well just settle for anarchy and hope we survive :-)

      2. Rustbucket

        Re: So he's lived on the run for 20 years

        These high figures quoted for incarceration are probably the total admin costs of the penal system, divided by the number of prisoners

        I'll bet the incremental costs of adding or releasing a prisoner are more in line with an old age pension payment or less.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So he's lived on the run for 20 years

        He probably tipped them off himself , when he wanted to retire.

  6. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    working … under the name of Manuel

    Did he claim to come from Barcelona?

    1. Martin Summers

      Re: working … under the name of Manuel

      Well I'm pretty sure he would have used the line "I know nothing" at least once during his career.

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: working … under the name of Manuel

        Bit of a come down. From white-collar Mafioso to lowly manuel labour.

    2. Sven Coenye
      Coat

      Re: working … under the name of Manuel

      Near Madrid?! That's where the Generalissimo is! No way he said that...

  7. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Escaping from prison

    In the UK there is an offence of escaping from lawful custody (probably not the correct legal term, lawyer-types, please advise). Basically if you have been sentenced to a prison term and "break" out of prison that is an offence. BUT, if the doors are unlocked or open, and you just sort of walk out, that is not an offence (or maybe now is a lesser offence).

    I remember seeing one TV drama-documentary where the main character merely followed other prisoners who had escaped, and therefore was not guilty of the offence of breaking out of prison. (Kind of like the difference between 'breaking and entering' a property and trespass. In the first you have to do some damage to effect entry, in the second, if the gate was open and you just walked through, all the landowner can do is ask you to leave.)

    Just walking out of prison while a film was being made does seem a little bit lax by the authorities.

    1. Contrex

      Re: Escaping from prison

      CPS guidelines - A person who, being in lawful custody either in prison or elsewhere on a criminal charge, escapes without the use of force commits the common law offence of Escape. Where any force is used, the common law offence of Breaking Prison should be considered. In this context, force can include damage to property such as locks or fences. For sentencing guidelines see: R v Coughtrey [1997] 2 Cr. App. R.(S) 269, CA.

      R v Montgomery (2007) established that a prisoner who was on temporary release from prison pursuant to r 9 of the Prison Rules 1999 and failed to return to prison at the expiry of his release period could not be said to have escaped from custody and could not therefore be guilty of the common law offence of escape from custody.

    2. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

      Re: Escaping from prison

      > Just walking out of prison while a film was being made does seem a little bit lax by the authorities.

      Depends how many people have been paid to look at the film crew instead of the door marked EXIT.

  8. Winkypop Silver badge

    Great story

    Make a decent film.

    He could be Executive Director on the prison set……

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