Antonio Pelle also known as "La Mamma" was a highly significatn and some say charismatic boss of the 'Ndrangheta. He was the patriarch of the San Luca locale and the 'Ndrangheta capo crimine, the titular head of the organisation, although with little effective power. He reached the rank of vangelo, at the time the highest rank in the organisation.
Ntoni Pelle was born as the fourth child in a very poor family in San Luca. As an illiterate shepherd he rambled the desolate Aspromonte mountains around San Luca, Platì and Careri. In 1957 he was charged with burglary, but released for insufficient proof. A year later he was shot in the leg and in 1959 he was again acquitted, this time for illegal possession of a firearm. In 1961, he was arrested for murder, attempted murder and criminal conspiracy. Released because of expiration of detention terms in 1970, the Court of Appeal sentenced him to 11 years, 11 months and 11 days a year later. Pelle became a fugitive until he was arrested in November 1977.
Pelle disappeared from the radar screen until 1989 when several indictments were issued against him. The indictments charged Pelle for kidnapping, money laundering and mafia conspiracy together with 49 others such as the high ranking 'Ndrangheta bosses Sebastiano Romeo from San Luca, Giuseppe Morabito from Africo, Pasquale Barbaro and others. Several clans formed a single entity, known as the Anonima sequestri dell’Aspromonte, that had been responsible for a string of kidnappings in the 1980s. In the course of the investigations, police authorities calculated that Pelle had acquired some 1.5 billion lire (some € 750,000).
Moving into drug trafficking
Pelle was charged again in 1992 and 1993 for drug trafficking. The investigations revealed how Pelle and Giuseppe Morabito provided 340 million lire (some € 170,000) to Antonio Papalia to pay for drug consignments. The money from kidnappings was invested in drug trafficking by the 'Ndrangheta, which became the most important source for illegal revenue and replaced the kidnap business which attracted too much media and police attention. The 'Ndrangheta at the time made the decisive step to reform from an archaic organisation to a modern one involved in the drug business.
According to several 'Ndrangheta turncoats (pentiti) Pelle was a member of La Provincia, a provincial commission of the 'Ndrangheta, formed at the end of the Second 'Ndrangheta war in September 1991 to avoid further internal conflicts.