Alleged Mafia Boss Hangs Himself in Prison After Arrest

One of the Mafia bosses and clan members arrested in a major police crackdown hung himself in his prison cell in Palermo, Italy, just hours after his arrest Tuesday.

Gaetano Lo Presti, 52, who had taken over control of Mafia clans in the Porta Nuova area of Palermo and had previous convictions, was found dead in Pagliarelli prison, police said Wednesday.

Authorities had ordered the sweeping raids to prevent what they said were mob efforts to rebuild Cosa Nostra. Some 90 suspects were arrested in the blitz.

His suicide appeared to be related to clan feuds. Lo Presti took over the Porta Nuova district only a year ago, after the murder of a rival boss, Niccolo Ingarao.

In addition, investigators said Lo Presti may have feared a revenge attack after his intercepted telephone calls were used as evidence by anti-Mafia police to track down Giuseppe Salvatore Riina, son of the imprisoned Cosa Nostra Godfather, Toto Riina. Giuseppe Riina is serving a 14-year sentence for Mafia association, extortion and money laundering.

Tuesday's operation, codenamed "Perseus", saw some 90 arrests and was aimed at preventing Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian Mafia, from forming a new command structure after the arrest of Bernardo Provenzano, Riina's succssor as Godfather, in April 2006.

On his arrest, Provenzano is said to have passed the leadership of Cosa Nostra to Salvatore Lo Piccolo, a Palermo Mafia boss. However Lo Piccolo was himself arrested in November 2007.

Investigators believe this left the way clear for his rival, Matteo Messina Denaro, the ambitious and ruthless Mafia boss in Trapani, to launch a bid for supreme power by reforming the Mafia "board of directors," known as the Commission or the "Cupola" (Dome), which issues instructions to Mafia clans and acts as arbiter in often bloody turf wars.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.