PALERMO, Sicily (AP) _ Twenty-three people were convicted in connection with a drug trafficking ring that used housewives to smuggle heroin into New York in exchange for cash and a stay at posh Manhattan hotels.

In the verdict rendered by a Palermo court Friday evening, all defendants were convicted of drug trafficking and the alleged masterminds were also found guilty of Mafia association.

One of the alleged ringleaders, Francesco Rosciglione, received the heaviest punishment, an 18-year prison sentence. Another, Ignazio Mattiolo, was sentenced to 14 years and Salvatore Allegra, a defendant who became a witness for the state, received a term of 12 years.

The other defendants, mostly women, were sentenced to terms ranging from two years to eight years in prison.

The ring was broken in 1986 when a middle-aged woman carrying 6.6 pounds of heroin was arrested at Palermo's Punta Raisi airport as she was about to board a flight for New York. The probe was led by one of Italy's top anti-Mafia investigators, Judge Giovanni Falcone.

Prosecutors said the housewives would hide the heroin under their clothes, dousing themselves heavily with perfume to conceal the scent from drug- sniffing dogs.

The women were paid $16,130 for each trip, plus the cost of the round-trip ticket and all their expenses, including a stay at exclusive hotels in New York, the prosecutors said.