Eleonora Gigliotti, pictured here with her husband Gregorio who trafficked more than 50 kilos of cocaine stuffed inside boxes of yuca (cassava) from Costa Rica. (CBS/CBS)

Q COSTA RICA NEWS / Eleonora Gigliotti, 56, considered the matriarch of an Italian family dedicated to the trafficking of cocaine in New York, United States, pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and with this admits to having paid large sums of money to suppliers in Costa Rica.

The confession was made Monday afternoon in Federal Court in Brooklyn, New York.

Gigliotti pleaded guilty to the top charge of conspiracy to import cocaine.  She faces a minimum mandatory sentence of five years in prison and also agreed to pay a US$1.625 million dollars in forfeitures. Gigliotti could be face the maximum of 17 1/2 years behind bars. Her sentencing was scheduled for April 12.

The wife of the mob-connected Queens pizzeria restaurant owner was slated to go to trial at the end of March for smuggling more than 50 kilos (110 pounds) of cocaine from Costa Rica in shipments of yuca (cassava) to her family’s restaurant, Cucino a Modo Mio.

The Gigliotti’s Italian restaurant and pizzeria, Cucina a Modo Mia, in Corona, Queens. Photo from New York Daily News.

At trial, Gigliotti could have been convicted to life in prison, authorities said.

According to the US Attorney’s Office, Gigliotti spent three days in Costa Rica in August 2014 to pay US$360,000 for the illicit drug. Also, a nephew of hers, Franco Fazio, also was in the country in September of that same year to pay an additional US$170,000. The latter is being held in Italy and awaiting trial.

However, according to Costa Rica’s immigration service (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería), records indicate Gigliotti made six to Costa Rica, arriving and leaving by way of the Juan Santamaría International (San Jose) Airport.

The first one was in September of 2012, then in February, April, May, June, with the final record in August 2014. All these visits lasted between two and four days, immigration records indicate.

Eleanora’s husband and Gregorio and Angelo Gigliotti, aged 60 and 36, were found guilty of smuggling 55 kilograms of cocaine from Costa Rica.

All told, smuggled was over US$1 million worth of drugs.

Authorities in Costa Rica say they were alerted in October 2014 to a group led by Cuban national of sending the illicit drugs from Costa Rica to the Gigliotti.

The organization in Costa Rica was composed of the Cubans identified as Denis Batista Cuenca (leader) and Pedro Casas Rodríguez and the Costa Ricans, Juan José Campos Mora, Héctor Zúñiga Arias and Carlos Zúñiga Arias.

Costa Rican authorities arrested the group on October 14, 2015 and sentenced by the San Carlos criminal court to from 9 to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty on November 21, 2016.

Two other defendants, surnamed Montero Picado and Guzmán Rojas, preferred to undergo a trial, the date of which is still to be established by the Criminal Court of San Carlos.

The group used yuca and pineapple exports to ship the camouflaged drugs to the United States and Europe. In Rotterdam, the Netherlands, authorities discovered three tons of cocaine hidden inside 137 cases of yuca. The drug was hidden in the edge of the cartons, shipped in containers by sea from the port of Limon.

In the United States, the first seizure was on October 20, 2014, in the port of Wilmington, New York, where port authorities seized 43.6 kilos of cocaine.

The second was on December 29 of the same year in Philadelphia, where authorities found 15 kg of cocaine, also hidden in boxes of yuca. That cargo was shipped from Costa Rica to the Fresh Farm Produce Export Corporation, a company owned by Gregorio Gigliotti.