In 2009, when Naples native Fabio Quagliarella signed a five-year deal to play forward for his hometown club, it seemed life couldn't get any better for him, nor for arguably Italy's most passionate football fans. But after only one season, Quagliarella was sent packing from Naples to play for archrival Juventus. The Societa Sportiva Calcio Napoli faithful—once full of unremitting love for their native son—proved they could express their unmitigated hatred with equal passion.
What the fans did not know—what virtually no one, in fact, knew—until earlier this year was the torment Quagliarella was being subjected to during his time with the club.
Quagliarella, now with Unione Calcio Sampdoria and a three-time Serie A Italian champion, sat down with Bleacher Report and spoke in stark detail about how a stalker was able to penetrate his inner circle and victimize him and his family for years. B/R also tracked down Quagliarella's stalker, who spoke for the first time about the verdict and the aftermath of the trial—and who had a revealing reaction to the mention of Fabio Quagliarella's name.
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Fabio Quagliarella walks into a side lounge area of the team hotel in Swansea, Wales, the day before Sampdoria's friendly against Swansea City. The large room has been cordoned off for our interview, though coaches and other team personnel wander in and out. Quagliarella eyes some snacks set on a table against the wall but decides against taking any. He spots the reporter in the room and gingerly approaches, introduced in Italian by the two members of the team's public relations staff who will sit in on our interview.
Quagliarella is reserved and respectful. A football god to the entire region of Naples, he wanted to explain the hell he endured for years as an unsuspecting victim of a Napoli fan. The PR staff guaranteed us a half-hour for the interview; Quagliarella willingly sat with Bleacher Report for over 70 minutes before the reps wrapped us up. It's not that Quagliarella enjoys speaking about the topic; he's an introvert, and the team expressed shock that he even agreed to revisit it. But Quagliarella says he wants to take the recognition he gets simply for being a pro footballer and use that to increase awareness for a crime that he believes gets far too little attention: stalking.
Quagliarella was born in 1983 in Castellammare di Stabia, a coastal town in the Bay of Naples. Like most boys from the area, he dreamed of playing for Napoli when he grew up.
"This is how I always imagined it," Quagliarella says, a smile crossing his face.
"I would enter the pitch as a substitute. I could feel the anticipation of the spectators as I entered the pitch. There wasn't much time left; it was an important match.
"Then I would score a goal—a decisive one," he continues, the pace of his words quickening. "It would be one of those goals that—at the time—only [Diego] Maradona could score. A weird goal, something that would make people go crazy. Surely [it] would be a long-range shot—a powerful kick in the last second of an important match."
His childhood fantasies morphed into real-life talent. By the time Quagliarella was 26, he was a striker for Udinese and had already played for four seasons in Italy’s Serie A.
Even at the height of his fame, you'd be hard-pressed to know of his wealth and prominence on the pitch when you saw him back home. Quagliarella still lived at his parents' house and slept in his childhood bedroom. His holidays were always no-frills, low-key affairs, shared with family and childhood friends.
Giulio De Riso is one of those friends. A tan, lean man, De Riso owns a Vodafone shop on the high street in Castellammare di Stabia, 18 miles from Naples. The store is a gathering spot for locals, where they can buy SIM cards or catch up on the latest happenings regarding De Riso's best friend—the local kid-made-great—Quagliarella.
In 2006, as was his custom, Quagliarella came home during Christmas break, and he and De Riso met up. Quagliarella casually mentioned that someone had recently hacked into the messenger account on his personal computer.
De Riso told him he recently met a guy who could help Quagliarella out. A few months earlier, De Riso says, he received a couple of letters at his office from someone accusing him of working with the Camorra (mafia). A friend who owned the shop across the road introduced De Riso to his brother-in-law, Raffaele Piccolo, who happened to work with the postal police in Naples. Piccolo's department specialized in postal fraud and cybercrime. He escorted De Riso to the Napoli police headquarters and filed a report with him. De Riso was grateful, and the two became friendly, swapping phone numbers and promising to stay in touch.
Piccolo came through again for him more recently, De Riso says, when he began receiving anonymous text messages on his cellphone, accusing him of the same thing. This time, Piccolo met up with De Riso at his shop to write the complaint, and assured him the report would be filed alongside the other one once Piccolo got back to the station, De Riso recalls. Piccolo personally scrubbed and reset De Riso's phone, the way only a cybercrime expert could. The officer now regularly stopped by the shop to chat—sometimes grabbing a bite to eat—to keep tabs on the situation.
"So when Fabio told me about the problem, I said, 'I've got the person that can solve your problem!" De Riso says. "And at that moment, I introduced Raffaele to Fabio, here in the shop."
Piccolo was happy to help out the local sports hero. As he did with De Riso the first time, Piccolo fixed Quagliarella's PC and took him to Naples to file his official complaint. "After he helped me sort out my PC problem, we became friends," Quagliarella says. The two exchanged numbers, and Quagliarella gave Piccolo some autographed memorabilia to show his gratitude.
Two-and-a-half years later, in July 2009, Quagliarella signed a five-year, €18 million deal with his home club, SSC Napoli. The entire town—even the notorious cammorristi (Neapolitan mafia)—was united in its feelings.
"We were so happy," a member of a local cammorristi, who requests we not mention his family name, tells B/R. He was taking a break from work and was with a handful of family and friends, who nodded in agreement. "We felt a lot of emotion because he's a son of this city, a son of this earth."
"It was the best," De Riso concurs. "Everybody dreamed about this for two years before he came here. [Fabio] seemed like a kid: 'I'm coming back!' He was so very, very happy."
"I knew of the importance of this for my city," Quagliarella acknowledges. "Napoli fans saw themselves in me. I knew I was not alone when entering the pitch, but I was there with a whole city. It was the dream of many fans, which I was realizing."
Many fans, Quagliarella soon realized…except one.
Quagliarella was seven years old when football legend Diego Maradona vaulted Napoli to its last league title in 1990. Maradona was the only player for whom Napoli fans had written a personal song in tribute…until Quagliarella's arrival.
To translate part of that:
BUM BUM Quagliarella BUM BUM Quagliarella BUM BUM
shoot that ball in that goal
BUM BUM Quagliarella BUM BUM Quagliarella BUM BUM
what a champion's hit
with him they know there's no escape he shot from the midfield and with no problem he scores a goal
he is not able to score a normal goal but we like him this wayyyyy
BUM BUM Quagliarella BUM BUM Quagliarella BUM BUM
he makes the whole city dream.
The media added to the accolades, referring to Quagliarella as "Masaniello," Napoli's leader during the popular revolution in the 17th century.
Quagliarella shared each success with the fans: Every time he scored a goal, he would press his Napoli jersey to his lips and kiss it.
"It's the team of my city," he says. "I made the dream come true, and every goal that I scored was making that dream all the more true. It was like if a fan had descended from the Curva (the corner of Stadio San Paolo, where Napoli's most rabid fans sit) to score a goal for his own team. It was the best feeling."
But off the pitch, Quagliarella began to feel uneasy. In the two years prior to arriving in Napoli, while he played for Sampdoria and Udinese, Quagliarella had occasionally received anonymous text messages on his cellphone accusing him of being a drug addict, or of being affiliated with members of the cammorristi. He ignored them, along with the occasional letter that made its way into his stack of fan mail at the club, making similar accusations. A crazy fan, he thought. But when he signed with Napoli, the frequency of those texts intensified, along with strange new ones. His best friend De Riso was targeted as well.
"We started receiving encrypted messages, just a sequence of letters and numbers: ABC 37 12. ABCD 37 27 12. They looked like codes," De Riso recalls. "[Piccolo] told us they were probably viruses that will infect the phone, and could steal all your data. So he said: 'Give me the phones. I'm going to clean them.'"
The three met at De Riso's shop once again. Piccolo wrote up a new report from the privacy of the back office, De Riso remembers, and promised to personally file it back at headquarters. No need for Quagliarella’s presence to draw unwarranted attention, was the logic used at the time, according to De Riso.
To express his appreciation, Quagliarella provided Piccolo with game tickets and sometimes signed football jerseys—whenever Piccolo would make a request.
"I would sign things for fans anyway, so for me it was not a problem doing it for Raffaele, since he was helping me," Quagliarella says.
Quagliarella changed his cellphone number, and the anonymous text messages stopped. But the stalker found a new, more potent way to target the hometown hero.
Everyone in the community knew where Quagliarella grew up and currently lived. Letters—once, sometimes twice a week—started arriving by post in the family's mailbox, which Quagliarella's mother would retrieve, open and read.
"The letters would contain pictures of underage girls naked, with the allegation that I was a paedophile for sleeping with these girls," Quagliarella recalls. "These were pictures clearly downloaded from online websites.
"That was the worst for me. If I have to be honest, maybe it was worse for my mother. My parents had to deal with this much more than I did."
Soon, Quagliarella's parents decided to absorb the blows from the stalker silently, to protect their son. "Many things they kept hidden from me," he reveals, "so that I would not worry too much, because I had to play football. When I asked them, they would tell me that they did not receive anything. The truth is that they were constantly getting these letters. In total, we have a box with hundreds of letters at home."
Piccolo gave Quagliarella, his parents and De Riso some solemn advice: Don't speak with anyone about what was happening. Piccolo would take on the case himself, but any leaks could hinder his investigation. He would continue to write up the criminal complaints in De Riso's back office, then file them at police headquarters later on. But Piccolo needed more evidence, he said. He had special instructions for Quagliarella's mother, Susanna.
"When we received the letters at my parents’ home, Raffaele would tell us not to touch them with our hands," Quagliarella says. "My mother would go downstairs, put plastic gloves on and pick up the letters with tweezers. Without touching them with our hands, we would bring the letters to Raffaele, who would then put them into a sealed plastic bag. It was like an episode of CSI. … My father would come home and ask my mother: 'Have you touched them?' and my mother would say 'No!' There was conflict in our home; it was like a war."
The accusations grew in scope and sickness. Fabio was fixing games. Fabio was participating in orgies. One time, Quagliarella says, a letter was addressed to his father, Vittorio, containing a photocopy of a coffin with Quagliarella's picture on it. The accompanying text: Vittorio's son will be killed.
The stalker also started texting Vittorio on his personal cellphone, Quagliarella says, cementing his belief that his personal phone contacts had been hacked earlier.
"We would receive a letter or a phone message," Quagliarella recalls. "When we left home, my family and I, we would be anxious. As soon as we would leave home, [if the stalker spotted us in town] they would go to a public phone and send anonymous text messages to my father, telling him that they knew that I was out and that my life was in danger.
"It would usually be a death threat: 'I know your son is out in Naples tonight. We will shoot him in the legs. We will beat him to death.'"
Even if his parents remained at home, when Quagliarella was out with his friends, Vittorio would still get text threats.
"My father would then call my friends to make sure that I was safe," Quagliarella remembers.
Piccolo, meanwhile, was staying on top of the situation. He'd swing by De Riso's shop occasionally for updates and to write up reports. De Riso says while he continued to receive anonymous letters and texts, he didn't feel he could change his number because too many of his business customers had it, and had used it, for years.
Quagliarella was confident in Piccolo's assessment, based on his years of experience, that the stalker was likely a member of the friends' inner circle.
"Sometimes in the letters we received, it mentioned personal facts, something that really happened, so we started to suspect everybody around us—friends in our immediate circle, people who came into the shop," Quagliarella says. "Things were getting harder for sure. I would finish training and be suspicious of everybody around me."
It became more imperative, Piccolo convinced them, that they keep their investigation a secret. No one could be ruled out—not even teammates. Piccolo told the group they must act the same around everybody—"act normal"—so the stalker wouldn't alter his/her habits before Piccolo could nail them with definitive, criminal proof.
Being innocent didn't prove to be quite the elixir Quagliarella had hoped.
"It was painful," Quagliarella says, "because [some letters said] that there were people on the internet who believed the allegations about me. I would be worrying about what people would be saying about me. On the other hand, I knew I was innocent, because I have never done any of the things I was accused of. I was serene because of that and thought, Bring me proof of what you are saying. I want to see them. [But] the letters wanted to make me believe that people knew things about me—for example, that I was abusing drugs. The letters would include printouts from fake webpages…where people would be talking about Fabio.
"Sometimes [I used to] get letters with a page of eMule screen shots, showing images of files titled, 'Video of Fabio Quagliarella with Little Girls,'" Quagliarella continues. "The files supposedly linked to a video [of me engaged in this activity]. So at that point, you started to worry that on eMule, there really could just be a file title like this, even if you were innocent."
"I tried to go online to search for these websites," he says, "but I never found anything."
According to Quagliarella, even Piccolo had trouble keeping up with it all. "He told me he had already took care of deleting [the websites], but that it was too late because the rumors were already spreading online."
Quagliarella was deeply grateful to Piccolo for his continued devotion and discretion. With all the crimes Napoli law enforcement has to deal with, Quagliarella felt lucky to have a direct link to the postal police department. When Piccolo requested match tickets, autographed jerseys or special access to the pitch for training sessions, Quagliarella happily obliged.
Inevitably, though, Quagliarella's performance on the pitch began to suffer.
"My head was somewhere else," he admits. "I wasn't as focused on what I was doing as I should have been. I would always be worrying about being in danger. I was scared. I would rarely go out, and when I did I would be looking over my shoulders to see if somebody was following me. I was training, but I was not doing it with the right serenity. It was not just a matter of a day or two, this went on for months. ...
"It consumes you. It wears you down."
And there was something else: There's something shame-inducing about being repeatedly accused of a crime like paedophilia, even if it isn’t true. Did someone really think that about him? If so, who? And now—because the accusations had been posted online—did a bunch of people believe it? Who were they? And who are they telling?
"I cried a lot," Quagliarella admits. "I am not embarrassed. I cried because I was suffering and because I could not understand who was doing it to me. I was scared for my family, my two brothers and my sisters and my eight young nephews. I would be worried that they would be in danger, maybe while going to school. I would be thinking, Because of me, they have to go through this. I felt guilty, even if I hadn't done anything wrong."
Since the day he signed with Napoli, Quagliarella says he spoke daily to team president Aurelio De Laurentiis, and they became close. But as much as he wanted to, Quagliarella could not break his promise to Piccolo and tell De Laurentiis about his stalking problem.
Quagliarella says he found it odd, then, when one day De Laurentiis called and asked him to move and live closer to the stadium, because "it would stay more quiet for you," Quagliarella recalls, and "you could remain focused on football."
Why that strange suggestion?, Quagliarella thought. Napoli goalkeeper Gennaro Iezzo and defender Luigi Vitale lived nearby, and they weren't asked to move closer to the stadium. Could it be that De Laurentiis had heard the paedophilia rumors? Or the cammorristi ones? The game-fixing allegations? Quagliarella couldn't bring any of it up; it could compromise the investigation. But that didn't keep him from obsessing over the possibility.
Piccolo assured Quagliarella that he was getting closer to solving the mystery. Just. Hang. On.
Quagliarella's mind was at war with itself. On one side, there remained the fantasy of Quagliarella, the hometown hero, hoisting the Italian Cup as Napoli's captain, fireworks exploding around him and his teammates in the background, the fans roaring their love and appreciation. On the other, his reality: Someone close to him—someone he loves?—is actively tormenting him and his family in the most insidious fashion. For what possible reason? What did he do to them? When will this end?
"From an outsider's point of view, I am still a professional football player," he says. "I have to try to give it my best because people expect great things from me. I had to try, as best as I could, to not let them down. I didn't want people to worry about me, thinking, What is wrong with Fabio? For a period, I had to fight against everything and everybody. I had to do my job. The club was paying my wages; there was no other way. I could have given up, but it was not an option for me."
But would his club give up on him? Quagliarella's production had fallen off some, to be sure. And lo and behold, his best friend shares a bizarre new twist: the threats De Riso received in his mail at the shop took on a new slant. The envelopes were addressed to De Riso, but the letters inside were addressed to De Laurentiis. Was this a mistake? Or did the stalker want De Riso to think that letter was sent to the club, and De Riso was receiving a "courtesy copy" of that correspondence? De Riso had no way of knowing. He gave Bleacher Report a copy of one such letter. In it, the stalker claimed De Riso was "organizing meetings between Quagliarella and the Camorra's family members," and the Camorra was "keeping [Quagliarella] as their symbol…because they protect him."
Bleacher Report contacted a Napoli team spokesperson, asking whether De Laurentiis or anyone at the club had received any correspondence of this nature regarding Quagliarella, or otherwise learned of the rumors about him, during this time period. A Napoli team spokesperson responded via email: "We won't give any information regarding your request, or any interviews."
Quagliarella says after he moved closer to the stadium, he never heard from De Laurentiis again.
"This is a strange place," De Riso muses. "If someone tells you a person is a bad person, but he is a good guy—even if different people tell you bad things—maybe you start thinking, He's a bad person."
In August of 2010, Quagliarella was loaned to Juventus, Napoli's hated archrival, and in June of the following year, Juventus opted to sign him for €10.5 million.
Six years later, reliving the circumstances of his unexpected and unwanted move from Napoli causes Quagliarella noticeable discomfort. He shifts in his chair, and his speech slows.
"For Napoli's fans, I went from an idol to a traitor; people did not love me anymore," he says flatly.
With his stalker still unidentified, Quagliarella couldn't let the fans know about the horrors he and his family were enduring, or their effects on him; fans, meanwhile, believed he chose to go to Juventus to make more money. As he was playing for the "enemy" almost 550 miles away, fans redirected their anger toward a closer target: his family in Castellammare.
"You're a whore!" Quagliarella's mother, Susanna, would hear.
His parents read the comments members of their own community posted on social media about their son: "WHEN YOU COME BACK IN NAPOLI WE WILL F--K YOU UP IN THE ASS, BASTARD!" read one Facebook post. … "Judah of our times" … " "PIECE OF S--T QUAGLIARELLA!!! WORM!!!!!!!" … "you are a s--tty mercenary, i hope you will have a good championship with juve with a serious accident to [your] tibia, fibula and a broken ass."
Quagliarella's stalker didn't disappear from their lives, either; they continued to send vile missives to the family’s home. The threatening letters followed Quagliarella to his new club in Turin as well, lumped in with the rest of his mail.
"In the letters [to me], they would claim that people were talking about me, burning my football shirts," Quagliarella remembers. "Mentally, I was in a bad place. I was scared. This is the reason I didn't use social media, because I was scared of everything. Many times I would be training, doing exercises, but my head would be thinking about my family in Napoli, what could happen to them. I had left, but people did not know why. It was a massacre in Napoli after I left."
Over a year had passed since Piccolo started working on the case. He appeared to be diligent, regularly keeping in contact with Quagliarella's father and De Riso. Not all of Quagliarella's friends had been eliminated from suspicion, so Piccolo convinced Quagliarella and De Riso to dupe their companions into providing their fingerprints on objects when they were all together, so they could pass those objects along to Piccolo for testing and see if those particular friends could be eliminated from suspicion.
"A couple of times, he made us take a music CD with us so that our friends could leave their fingerprints on the bottom part of the CD," Quagliarella recalls. "He claimed that it was the only way for him to find out who the culprit was. I would then put a CD on the table, and ask my friend to pick it up for me, so that they would leave their fingerprints on it. I would then pick it up—careful not to touch it too much—and bring it to Raffaele, who would then compare the fingerprints from the letters with those from the CDs."
Quagliarella's discomfort grew, but Piccolo "kept telling me the end was near, and the culprit would be caught soon," Quagliarella says. "The hope of finding out who was behind it was stronger than the desire to give up."
Piccolo's requests for tickets and signed memorabilia became "heavier," Quagliarella noted. "But I rationalized that since he was lending me a hand with my problem, I had to put up with it. We were friends, but we didn't hang out together. He would send me emails, but mostly he was in touch my father."
Vittorio Quagliarella, Fabio's father, met with Piccolo one afternoon to get an update on the status of the investigation. Piccolo shared some unsettling news: Quagliarella's stalker had somehow found out that Piccolo was involved in trying to unmask his/her identity. Piccolo said he'd begun receiving strange, anonymous text messages on his own cellphone. There had been a leak, or perhaps Piccolo was just that close to nailing the culprit?
Piccolo promised to stay in touch. As they began to say their goodbyes, Vittorio made a quick request:
"May I see the texts they sent you?"
Piccolo hesitated and then told Quagliarella's father, "I deleted them."
Piccolo had to head back to work. As Vittorio walked away, his mind reeled: Why would Piccolo delete texts he received himself—evidence!—during an active investigation? Confusion turned into fury, and he immediately pulled out his cellphone.
"My dad called and said, 'I think it's that s--t [Piccolo],'" Quagliarella recounted to Mediaset (via The Daily Mail). The son counseled the father to simmer down. "I said that we were all stressed by this hellish situation and mustn't doubt him, of all people."
Giovanni Barile is an attorney in Castellammare di Stabia, and a former member of "Ultras"—the ultra-fanatical support group of Napoli. These fans populate the sacred Curva B of Stadio San Paolo, where Napoli plays its home games.
"A Neapolitan loves to the death, or hates to the death," Barile says with a measure of pride from his law office. "[But] with Fabio, he had both happen to him. Neapolitan fans don't forgive."
Barile had met Quagliarella through his friendship with De Riso, and over the years the three had become close. In July 2010, they decided to get away from it all and head to Barile's summer house in Scario for a break. As it turns out, a lucky break during that vacation ultimately helped reveal the stalker's identity.
Scario is a village on the water in the Campania region of Italy. Quagliarella drove his new toy, a Primatist power boat, over to meet up with the group, which included his then-girlfriend and his parents; De Riso, his wife and children; and Barile and his family.
One picture-perfect day, Quagliarella, De Riso and Barile went out on the boat. For hours, Quagliarella forgot about all his troubles. The three laughed and cranked the music, dancing to a remake of an old Neapolitan song, "You Wanna Be Americano?" De Riso says he rode Quagliarella hard about his lack of dancing moves.
Back at the house, their families prepared dinner. The three friends were due back on shore by 6 p.m.
"Fabio's father is very gruff—but in a good sense—and precise with time," Barile says. "So at 6:30 p.m., we were supposed to have dinner, according to his father's decision. But we lost track of time. The music was loud, the boat was big and we started to dance and we didn't have any idea that we were running late. At 7:30 p.m., we realized we were late."
When they got back to the house, Barile says, Quagliarella's father couldn't contain his frustration. "Fabio's father was really angry," Barile recalls. "I went to take a shower. Fabio's father asked, 'Why are you so late?' Fabio answered, 'We were just hanging out on the boat, and we were dancing.'
"Fabio's father is a serious person; he really cares about the public perception of Fabio. Because Fabio told his father he danced on the boat with his friends, and—in Fabio's father opinion, the boat is a public place, and Fabio is a football player—he didn't need to be seen showing off. Because of that, Fabio's father said, 'Don't complain that you received anonymous letters! Maybe someone was standing up on a building, and they could be looking down on the boat and see you dancing, and they could make a picture of you, dancing.'"
Most people may have ignored the remark or brushed it off, thinking Vittorio was making reference to his son's fan mail. But Barile was intrigued.
He stepped out of the shower, toweled off, threw on some clothes and approached Quagliarella.
"What kind of letters are you receiving?" Barile asked.
So much for getting away from it all. Screw it, Quagliarella thought, and decided to tell Barile about the anonymous letters he had received, accusing him of being involved with the cammorristi. Before Quagliarella could continue, Barile interrupts:
"What about being accused of paedophilia?" Barile says he asked his friend. "Drugs?"
De Riso now jumps into the conversation: "Please, stop talking! I'm receiving a lot of anonymous letters, too."
The floodgates opened. Five years earlier, Barile began receiving these accusations himself, he says he told them, and they had stopped just three months ago. "We started to talk about the similarities of the letters we had all received," Barile says. Then, the mother of all bombshells:
"I have an idea of who I think it could be."
Last month, Barile hosted Bleacher Report in his law office. Three cups of espresso arrive, covered in aluminum foil, to keep warm. Retro orange spectacles command his face, hovering over a salt-and-pepper beard. Now in his 50s, Barile says he's known Piccolo since he was 14 years old, and remembers him as a loner.
"He was a very shy person. He didn't have friends," Barile recalls. "He was coy and discreet. Unlike the other kids in class, he didn't have a great social life."
Barile says he lost track of Piccolo after high school.
In 2005, Barile was working at a law firm with an attorney named Simona de Simone, who happened to be married to Piccolo. By this point, Piccolo had become a father of two and was an esteemed member of the Naples postal police force.
Barile says sometime in 2005, the firm's employees began receiving strange, anonymous letters. Some female employees were described as "little fillies that were acting in the office with airiness." Lawyers were accused of having extramarital affairs with each other. Barile says he received letters at work and at home. De Simone was targeted in a different way: In the firm's lobby, there was a missive scrawled in black spray paint: "SIMONA DE SIMONE IS A WHORE."
During this time, Piccolo and his wife suffered a "conjugal crisis," according to Barile. Piccolo was suspicious of his wife's work relationships, and for a time she moved in with her mother.
"[Simona] never suspected her husband," Barile recalls. "[She] said: 'Look, we should ask for my husband's help. This is what he does for a living—he does investigations for the postal police.'
"Because I've known him since high school, I said, 'Ask Raffaele to come here so we can talk with him.' We trusted in him. We used to say everything to him."
One day, Barile remembers, Piccolo called and warned him. "He said: 'Look, I'm investigating. Pay attention because at the postal police office, stuff is arriving that says that you are a habitual drug user, that you're having an extramarital affair with another woman,'" Barile says.
Letters accusing Barile of being a pimp and drug abuser began to arrive at his wife's workplace as well. His spouse was a teacher at a primary school. The frequency of the letters, and the outrageous allegations made in them, began to persuade her that the accusations might be true, Barile says. Who would make this stuff up, and what motivation would they have to do so?
One day, he says, "When I arrived at home, I found my wife looking crazy. She had put a new, anonymous letter received under a dish on the table. The letter contained a picture of my son and one of his friends. There was not anything explicit about paedo-pornography, but in the letter it was written, 'Prudish and respectable lawyer that is having fun with young kids.' It was an eMule screenshot and a picture of my son."
The Bariles separated.
One day, Barile recalls, "I was in the courthouse and [Piccolo] called me on my cellphone. He said, 'Listen, Giovanni, I have to speak with you right away.' So I go to meet him and he said, 'Look, there are some letters arriving to the police station that say that you are in a paedo-pornophelia ring.'"
Barile says he was rattled, but he pushed it out of his mind and let Piccolo continue his diligence. Then, in April 2010, Barile says he finally put it together.
"I used to be in politics in Castellammare," he says. "Piccolo called me saying that the mayor received on his personal email address a letter, where it was written that I was affiliated with the Camorra linked to the D'Alessandro family, and I used to launder money for them. The mayor reported this accusation to Piccolo, in his role with the postal police office. Piccolo called me and told me about the mayor's report, and I called the mayor and asked him about the email and the mayor said, 'Look, I received an email, and I reported the email to the postal police, but you are not mentioned in the email. Who told you about this?'"
"It was at this time I started to think [Raffaele] was lying to me," he says. But Barile needed proof. He went to the mayor's office, and he called up the email he sent Piccolo from his 'Sent Items' folder. No mention of Barile.
Barile summoned Piccolo to his law office. "I threatened him," Barile recalls angrily. "I wanted to fight him. I said to him in a very aggressive way: 'From tomorrow morning, forget about my name. Even if I receive a letter that was not written by you, I'll blame you.'"
Piccolo looked "very nervous," Barile recalls. "He said, 'No, you're wrong.' His voice began to tremble. He started to look at the ground, up at the ceiling, but he didn't look directly in my eyes."
Barile's anger brings him back in time. "I wanted to run him over with my car," he fumes.
"But from that moment, the letters stopped coming because he knew me well. He understood that he couldn't do this to me anymore."
Barile says he wanted to file a denouncement (legal case) against Piccolo, but the two lawyers he consulted about doing so warned he didn't have enough proof. Also, Piccolo had a great reputation in the area. "He was the only one in the city who did that kind of work," Barile says.
Barile ultimately heeded his lawyers' advice and moved forward. The allegations were so hideous, best to push them out of his mind and not tell anyone, or talk about them again.
Until he heard Quagliarella's father's angry rant, three months later.
Needless to say, dinner got cold. Barile's story stunned everyone.
Quagliarella remained quiet, Barile recalls, and "tried to stay as calm as he could be." Vittorio was furious—his hunch was confirmed.
And De Riso? "I didn't want to believe it," he says. "It can't be him."
Just days after they got back from vacation, De Riso got a visit at his store from officers from the Direzione Distrettuale Antimafia, or DDA. The agency investigates crimes related to the Italian mafia, and De Riso needed to head to the police station in Castellammare right away.
When De Riso walked into the room, he says, he recognized the face sitting at the head of the table immediately: Alberto Berrino, Castellammare's Chief of Police.
"I smiled at him," De Riso says. "I couldn't figure out what was happening. He told me that the DDA had a file on me."
De Riso elaborates: The DDA had been investigating him for three months because local law enforcement had received numerous letters in the mail accusing him of working with the Camorra. Other letters they received implied he ran a prostitution ring from the back of his store. But the DDA didn't find any evidence of either of these crimes, so they wanted him to know that he was no longer a suspect.
De Riso lights a cigarette, recalling his absolute shock at this information. He says he recovered enough to ask about the anonymous letters he'd been receiving over the years at his shop. Surely they knew about those; he'd made at least 10 reports about them. Were they close to figuring out who was doing it?
"They went to look for the reports," De Riso recalls. "They [came back and] said, 'There aren't any reports.'"
With whom did you make the reports, they asked?
"Raffaele Piccolo," De Riso answered.
"They were surprised about this," De Riso recollects. "I said, 'Look, I'm not the only person involved; Fabio Quagliarella is involved, too.'"
Berrino checked again. No reports. Allegedly filled out, and filed, by Piccolo. A cop with a great reputation. Quiet. Professional. If he was now to become a suspect, there had to be a motive.
Smiling, De Riso recalls Berrino's next question: "Did you f--k his wife? Because there must be a reason why."
"I have only have seen the wife twice," De Riso responds. "I don't know her enough to f--k her."
Alberto Berrino was heading up the new criminal investigation: against his colleague, Piccolo. Berrino surmised Piccolo downloaded De Riso's and Quagliarella's personal contacts when he "cleaned" their computers and mobile phones. This enabled Piccolo to harass Quagliarella's and De Riso's families so efficiently and intimately. De Riso recalls receiving anonymous text messages containing his young daughter's cellphone number. Only De Riso and his wife had that number.
Berrino studied the anonymous letters De Riso brought from his shop. While examining Piccolo's Facebook profile, Berrino noticed a peculiarity.
"[Berrino] told me, 'Look at the way [Raffaele] writes—he doesn't leave a space after his commas,'" De Riso recalls. He looked at the computer screen to which Berrino was pointing. Indeed, in each of Piccolo's posts, he never followed a comma punctuation mark with a space before starting the next word,like this. De Riso's letters from the store contained the same punctuation errors. De Riso recalls the conclusion posited by Berrino:
"In my opinion, this is the same person."
And now De Riso—once so skeptical that Piccolo could be the mastermind behind something so diabolical—was totally on board.
"The reason why I totally had trust in him, it was [four] years!" De Riso exclaims. "From our side, we had some weakness to trust in him because he was really good at convincing you that he was helping you. We wanted only to escape what was happening. Everything was a nightmare for us. We saw Raffaele as our support. You think that he's the only chance to solve the problem."
"As a policeman, he was a representative of the state," Quagliarella asserts, "the kind of person you go to when you have a problem like that. That was his greatest strength, the trust that people place on the state. In time, I came to understand that that was the reason why he could screw you over; it's what his game was all about."
"Raffaele would make you suspect anybody around you," Quagliarella marvels. "We would refer back to him for everything. He told us what to do. But he was the one controlling the game…and I had no clue."
Fortunately for Quagliarella, Berrino specialized in this kind of game, but he needed to make Quagliarella, his father and De Riso "teammates" in order to bring down Piccolo. A conference call was held to discuss strategy. Berrino's first instruction to the group sounded quite familiar: act normal around Piccolo. Let him think you still trust him and believe he his helping you, so he doesn't change his habits. We need to gather enough evidence to convict him in an Italian court.
Shortly thereafter, Vittorio Quagliarella was invited to Piccolo's home to hear about the latest development. This had happened many times before, but this time Quagliarella decided he would secretly record their conversation.
Fabio describes his father as a shy, simple man. Acting like a spy would prove to be a tricky proposition. First up: where to hide the compact digital recorder on the visit to Piccolo's house?
Vittorio Quagliarella declined to speak with B/R about his experience, but De Riso says he remembers Quagliarella describing his thought process after-the-fact: At first, he thought, maybe put it in the jacket…but what if he's asked to take it off when he arrives, or if he moves the wrong way and the jacket opens up a little, enough to expose the recorder? An experienced cop like Piccolo could see it. There was only one place where it wouldn't be detected.
"Where?" my translator asks De Riso.
"Do you really want to know?" De Riso responds, before shooting a quick look over to the female journalist sitting across from him.
The journalist nods. De Riso smiles and returns his gaze to the male translator's face before casting his eyes downward, toward his belt.
"In the…" De Riso begins, laughing.
"In his underwear," my translator interrupts, helpfully.
The recording worked, De Riso says. Piccolo told Quagliarella that his son should stop talking with De Riso, because the DDA was investigating him for his alleged ties to the cammorristi. De Riso's phone was likely being tapped, and if Quagliarella spoke with him, the DDA might think Quagliarella was involved with the cammorristi as well.
De Riso says Berrino deduced Piccolo was trying to get De Riso out of the picture so Quagliarella would rely exclusively on Piccolo.
"Piccolo said: 'Be careful. Giulio is not a good guy. Make sure Fabio knows about Giulio,'" De Riso recalls. "Raffaele tried to create a bad reputation with my clients and police, but in particular he tried to do this with Fabio."
More evidence was needed, so Berrino and his partner set up a more elaborate scheme. This sting operation involved Quagliarella's father and De Riso.
"The police gave us exact instructions," De Riso recalls. "When I would receive an anonymous message on my cellphone, it would be coming from a public phone. So they instructed me when I got [an anonymous] text message, I would let them know right away, and they would tell me to call Raffaele's cellphone. When I called his cell, they tracked Raffaele's cellphone and they could see where he was; they could see that he was close to the public phone where the [anonymous] text message was being sent from."
The investigation lasted three months. In November 2010, Berrino and his partner arrived at Piccolo's house with a search warrant. They seized his computers.
What they found was startling. Piccolo had stalked multiple people from all walks of life: a doctor, a lawyer, a local restaurant owner, an owner of an electronics shop. Piccolo had seemingly been doing this to a lot of people, for a long time. But none of his victims were as famous as Fabio Quagliarella.
"I was the most 'important' in a way, but only the tip of the iceberg," Quagliarella states. "With me, because I am a footballer, he would ask for tickets to matches, jerseys. Raffaele liked to show off with his friends. He would tell them that it was not big deal for him to get them Fabio to sign them something. He liked to show that he could go to the stadium and take pictures with football players.
"With others," he muses, "for example, with a gentleman who has a business in Capri, Raffaele would make himself available to travel to Capri so that he would be invited to go there for holidays for free. With my friend Giulio, he would ask for free mobile phones or recharges."
De Riso says from the very moment detectives raided Piccolo's house, the text messages, anonymous letters and all communication with Piccolo stopped. "We never saw him again," De Riso says.