Fact Check: Italian Mafia Boss Captured After 20 Years Thanks to Google Street View. Here Are the Facts

Reddit u/9oRo
Reddit u/9oRo


Italian mafia boss Gioacchino Gammino was captured after 20 years thanks to Google Street View.


Rating: Mostly True
Rating: Mostly True


Although investigators confirmed that Google Street View helped them locate Gammino, they emphasized that they were already on a strong investigative path, with Google Maps serving to verify their findings.


In early April 2024, a post went viral on Reddit, claiming that Italian mafia boss Gioacchino Gammino, after hiding for 20 years in Spain, was found by police thanks to Google Street View.

The post read:

Italian mafia boss Gioacchino Gammino escaped prison in 2002, fled to Spain, changed his name to Manuel and opened a restaurant and a grocery shop. After 20 years in hiding, he was found thanks to Google Street View

Similar claims were shared on other social media platforms, such as Instagram, TikTok, and X (formerly Twitter). "Bizarrely enough, Police discovered Gammino's location was through a Google Street View image," one X post claimed. "Police must have known roughly where he was to search Google. It was not a random thing," one comment under the post observed.

Multiple reliable news outlets, such as The Guardian and the BBC, covered the arrest of Gioacchino Gammino. And in short, although investigators confirmed they used Google Street View to locate Gammino, they emphasized they were already on a strong investigative path, with Google Maps serving to verify their findings. Because of that, we have rated this claim as "Mostly True."

On Jan. 5, 2022, The Guardian published an article with the title "Italian mafia fugitive arrested in Spain after Google Street View sighting" that included an interview with the Palermo prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi, who led the investigation. "It's not as if we spend our days wading through Google Maps to find fugitives," he told the Guardian, "There were many previous and long investigations, which led us to Spain. We were on a good path, with Google Maps helping to confirm our investigations":

The shop and the restaurant are now closed, but the police found a photo of Gammino, dressed in his chef's garb, on a still-existing Facebook page for La Cocina de Manu. He was recognisable by the scar on the left side of his chin. The restaurant's menu included a dish called Cena Siciliana or Sicilian dinner.

On Jan. 5, 2022, the BBC also published an article entitled "Italian mafia boss caught after Google Maps sighting in Spain," underscoring that investigators claimed "a Google Street View shot showing a man resembling Gammino standing in front of a grocery shop was key to tracking the fugitive."

On Jan. 7, 2022, New York Times published an article with the title "Fugitive Italian Killer Finally Meets His Match: Google Maps," that informed:

The man in the image had the same size and build as Mr. Gammino, General Altiero said, and investigators noticed that the store shared the same telephone number as a nearby restaurant — "La Cocina de Manu" — that had closed some years ago.

But its social media pages remained online, including one with a photograph of the restaurant's chef standing next to a wood-burning pizza oven.

Investigators applied age-progression technology to an old photo of Mr. Gammino to get a sense of what the fugitive would have looked like after 20 years, and identified the chef as the wanted man, General Altiero said.

Moreover, in the interview for The New York Times General Nicola Altiero, deputy director of Italy's Antimafia Investigation Department, underscored that while there had been other breaks in the investigation, Google Maps was a key tool that helped Gammino's rapid arrest:

Italian investigators contacted the Spanish police unit that hunts fugitives, and on Dec. 17, Mr. Gammino was arrested while he was walking on the street. General Altiero said there had been other breaks in the two-decade investigation, but that the discovery using the Google tools had been key to the rapid arrest of Mr. Gammino.

"Seeing the image on Google Maps was a bit of luck, but in any case we had other evidence that would have eventually led us to him," General Altiero said. "Google Maps got us there faster."

You can see the exact Google Maps' location used to track Gammino below:

We have fact-checked other Google Maps-related stories in the past. For instance, in April 2013 we debunked a false Google Maps image captured a furtive corpse disposal. In August 2023 we investigated whether a cat in Szczecin, Poland, was among the city's top-rated tourist attractions on Google Maps. What's more, in June 2023, we fact-checked a rumor claiming that Google Maps was adding a feature that would allow drivers to challenge each other to a race.


Giuffrida, Angela. "Italian Mafia Fugitive Arrested in Spain after Google Street View Sighting." The Guardian, 5 Jan. 2022. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jan/05/italian-mafia-fugitive-arrested-in-spain-after-google-maps-sighting.

Italian Mafia Boss Caught after Google Maps Sighting in Spain. 5 Jan. 2022. www.bbc.com, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-59884803.

Kasprak, Alex. "Is Google Maps Adding Feature That Lets Drivers Challenge Each Other To a Race?" Snopes, 21 June 2023, https://www.snopes.com//fact-check/google-maps-request-to-race-drivers/.

Mikkelson, David. "Is a Dead Body Visible at Google Maps 52.376552,5.198303?" Snopes, 17 Apr. 2013, https://www.snopes.com//fact-check/google-maps-body-disposal/.

Povoledo, Elisabetta. "Fugitive Italian Killer Finally Meets His Match: Google Maps." The New York Times, 7 Jan. 2022. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/07/world/europe/italian-mafia-fugitive-google-maps.html.

Wrona, Aleksandra. "This Tuxedo Cat Is Polish City's Top-Rated Tourist Attraction on Google Maps?" Snopes, 30 Aug. 2023, https://www.snopes.com//fact-check/polish-cat-top-attraction/.