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`Badfellas' sting ends mafia jailhouse party decky

Life behind bars need not be so bad, it seems, if you are a bigtime Mafia captain jailed in New York and the guards are open to a little financial persuasion. Manicotti and meatballs for dinner, sir? No problem.

These and other more egregious goings-on at a prison in Brooklyn came to the attention of police 10 months ago. In a nod to the Mafia movie, GoodFellas, a complex sting was put in motion dubbed "Operation BadFellas".

On one occasion, a guard allowed an inmate to peruse records in a prison computer to find out the identities of police informers. Police said the prisoner had told the guard "he was looking for the name and location of the `rat' in his case".

Now New York prosecutors have charged 20 people, including 11 jailhouse guards, with attempting to turn the prison into a virtual Mafia social club. It is the biggest single round-up of prison staff in US history.

Among those who enjoyed the cosseting were senior members of New York's most infamous clans - the Luchese, Gambino and Colombo families, including Nicholas Corrozzo, believed to be the heir- apparent to the convicted Gambina Godfather, John Gotti.

Some guards were paid $500 (pounds 310) a week by inmates to keep the supplies flowing. One shipment, according to police, contained "20 pounds of pasta, a gallon of olive oil and a box of garlic". Other items smuggled included vodka decanted into Evian bottles and marijuana.

More seriously, guards also helped arrange meetings between Mafia inmates and associates on the outside so family business - including the plotting of fresh crimes - could be carried out as normal.

"They conducted business [at the jail] as they do at many of the social clubs in Brooklyn," said FBI Special Agent in Charge, Lewis Schiliro.