- Fearless Elena Ferraro was targeted by the now dead Matteo Messina Denaro
- Incredible footage shows the Mafia godfather’s cousin making her an offer
A businesswoman who took on Matteo Messina Denaro has told MailOnline ‘the Devil has returned to Hell’ as she revealed how she bravely stood up to the late Mafia godfather.
Fearless Elena Ferraro, 48, was targeted by the feared mobster while he was on the run – sending his cousin Mario Messina Denaro to ‘make an offer’ she couldn’t refuse.
The fearsome Cosa Nostra wanted to use her successful health clinic business in the Sicilian town of Castelvetrano – the heartland of his empire – to launder and raise funds for families of jailed mobsters.
But brave Elena dug her heels in and refused to bow to their money laundering demands.
Matteo, who died of cancer aged 61 this week, killed at least 50 people during his reign of terror – including a 12-year-old boy.
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, just hours after Matteo’s body was entombed in the family grave in the town’s cemetery, Elena said: ‘He was the Devil and now he’s gone back to Hell where he belongs.’
Fearless Elena Ferraro, 48, bravely stood up to the late Mafia godfather when he approached her to ‘make an offer’
Ruthless mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro Denaro died of cancer aged 61 this week
Elena shared amazing footage of her being approached by Mario Messina Denaro to ‘make an offer’ she couldn’t refuse
Elena – who lived with a police escort for five years after she reported his attempts at extortion to detectives – left investigators speechless with her bravery after standing up to the mob boss who carried out 50 killings.
Her decision to breach the code of ‘omerta’ or silence at the Mafia’s attempt to take over her business resulted in a five-year jail sentence for Mario.
Even though he was released, he is back in jail after being convicted on fresh extortion charges.
Mario first approached her in 2012, walking into her office at the Hermes Health Clinic and closing the door behind him so no one could hear their conversation.
Elena told MailOnline: ‘He came in and said, “Good morning, I’m Mario Messina Denaro, you may have heard the name”.
‘Of course, I knew the name, everyone in Sicily knows the name but it was a moment I had been expecting as my business was doing well.
‘He sat down and started to tell me he knew all about my routine, where I lived, what car I drove, what time I turned up for work and the village where I was from.
‘He knew everything about my life and in the language of the Mafia what he was telling me was clear – he was telling me he was watching me.
‘Then he said he had a very lucrative business proposal for me. It was like something out of a film. He said it was too good to refuse and it would make me very rich and the Queen of Sicilian health clinics.
Denaro was sentenced in absentia to a life term for his role in 1992 in the murders of anti-mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino
In 1993, Messina Denaro helped organise the kidnap of a 12-year-old boy, Giuseppe Di Matteo (pictured), in an attempt to blackmail his father into not giving evidence against the mafia
Denaro, head of the notorious Cosa Nostra gang, was captured when armed police swarmed a private medical facility in Palermo
‘He said that I should sell a share of my firm to him and that he would send me false invoices to create fraudulent funds and the money would go to pay the families of jailed Mafiosi.
‘He said these people had been loyal to Matteo Messina Denaro by staying silent, so they and their families needed paying.
‘This is how Cosa Nostra [Sicilian Mafia] looks after its members, through a system of paying for their silence but with the money of businesspeople like me.’
Elena described how she politely listened to his offer and then asked him to leave, saying she ‘wasn’t interested’ as she was a ‘legitimate and honest woman’.
She added: ‘That seemed to really rile him. He turned to me and said, “Think very carefully about what you have said. you have no idea who you are dealing with”.
‘It was clear he was threatening me, and I knew exactly who he was and who he was representing but I knew I had to stand up them.
‘He said he would be back in a few days and that hopefully I would “see sense” and accept his proposal but I told him he was wasting his time.’
Elena described how she politely listened to his offer and then asked him to leave, saying she ‘wasn’t interested’ as she was a ‘legitimate and honest woman’
Elena left investigators speechless with her bravery at standing up to the mob boss who carried out 50 killings
Elena was given an award by the the President of the Sicilian Region Hon. Rosario Crocetta for her courage in denouncing the mafia
After he had left, Elena immediately alerted police in nearby Trapani and detectives from the anti-Mafia unit raced to her office where they questioned her at length.
They installed video cameras in the building so they could watch the next time he arrived, and Elena agreed to wear a wire so they could listen in.
Sharing amazing footage with MailOnline of his next visit to Elena, Mario can be seen talking to her dressed in a grey shirt and trousers.
He then leaves the office, and she can be seen briefly holding her head in her hands and dropping a pen onto her desk.
Elena said: ‘I had told him again that I wasn’t interested, and I think he was just so shocked that a woman had been so rebellious and was standing up to the Mafia.
‘I knew that I couldn’t accept and that it would be wrong, but I knew it was right to refuse him and I knew the State would protect me. I put my full faith and trust in them.’
Elena added: ‘I knew the State in the end would always win, the Mafia is powerful, but it couldn’t go on for ever.
‘Denaro again tried to scare me and said that if I didn’t accept his proposal, I would not only have him to deal with but also his cousin Matteo Messina Denaro.
‘He said, “Remember I know your routine; be very careful in case something happens to you”.
By now police were keeping a round-the-clock watch on Elena and an armed escort was always with her as officers began to build up a case against Mario codenamed Operation Eden.
Elena said: ‘Mario came back to the office a couple of more times and each time I wore a microphone and said I wasn’t interested and then all of a sudden, he said, “I want to meet you in a cafe”.
‘I think he suspected something and that’s why he wanted a meeting in another venue, he said he wanted to buy me a cup of coffee, which was his way of making me indebted to him.’
Once again police – who she dubbed her ‘Angels’ – arranged for Elena to wear a recording device for the meeting.
She told MailOnline: ‘I will never forget what one of those Angels said to me one day, as they were putting the microphone on me, he said: “Be careful, these people kill”.
As she walked into the cafe, undercover officers mingled with other clients and Elena purposely bought an espresso, drank it and placed the receipt under the cup.
She explained: ‘That way when Mario walked in, he would know that I had bought my own coffee and that I wasn’t going to be in debt to him or accept his offer.
‘He walked in, saw what I had done, and he wasn’t happy, he said I had made a mistake and he started threatening me again and that’s when I got scared again.
Matteo’s niece Lorenza and sister Bice attend his funeral this morning
The hearse carrying late mafia boss Matteo arrives at the cemetery in the Sicilian town of Castelvetrano, Italy
‘He said this was my last chance and that, if I accepted, many doors would open for me and I would be incredibly rich. But I stood my ground and again said no.’
Days later – with enough evidence from the wiretaps and cameras gathered – police launched a series of dawn raids and arrested Mario and Matteo’s sister Patricia as well as 28 others.
But for Elena – who is single – the nightmare continued as when it emerged she had been crucial to the police operation she was shunned and cold shouldered.
She said: ‘I would walk into a shop or a bar, and everyone would look at me and say, “there is the grass”. To be truthful it was mainly the older generation, younger people were very supportive of me.
‘It was a hard time for me, but I knew I had done the right thing, and I don’t regret it for one minute.
‘I knew that as a successful business I would very likely get a visit, but my parents had always taught me to be honest and respect the law and that’s what I did.
‘I knew the possible consequences, but I knew that someone had to stand up to these people, I just wanted to be an example and I hoped that others would follow my example but sadly they haven’t. It seems people are still scared.’
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