Toronto court hears testimony on inner workings of Ndrangheta organized crime group

Peter Edwards Thestar.com THERE ARE plenty of rules in Carmine Guido’s old world. One of the key ones is that men like him must be killed. In rare insider testimony, the former York Region resident gave a Toronto jury a ground-level view of life working with the ndrangheta organized crime group. For the past week, Guido has testified in detail that he was deeply involved in fraud, drug trafficking and enforcement in a local ndrangheta cell under Giuseppe (Pino) Ursino, 64, of Bradford. He also testified in the Superior Court of Justice that there are definite rules for people like himself who secretly work with police. Court has heard that he was paid more than $2-million as a police agent. “If they found out (his location) they’d kill me, right,” Guido testified in a flat, raspy voice. Guido’s name has been changed and there’s a court ordered ban against publication of his image. Guido told the jury there are also dire consequences for the families of those who turn police agent. “If they can’t find him, they’ll go after his family – brother, one of his parents,” Guido said.  “And do what?” asked Crown Attorney Jeremy Streeter.  “Hurt him,” Guido said. Ursino and Romanian-born Cosmin (Chris) Dracea, of Toronto each face two counts of cocaine trafficking for the benefit of criminal organization and a charge of conspiracy to commit an indictable offense.

That makes the structure of the ndrangheta key to the prosecutions, which stem from a two-year RCMP-led investigation called Project OPhoenix, which ended with 19 arrests in June 2015. Police then seized 8.5 kilos of cocaine at a time when the drug had an estimated street value of $55-$60,000 in Toronto, according to the RCMP. That’s not a huge haul of cocaine by organized crime standards. Streeter quickly tried to establish that the ndrangheta doesn’t just exist to make money, although they’re definitely interested in that. In his opening address, Streeter told the jury the ndrangheta is a highly structured organization, which uses extortion, loan sharking, theft, electoral crimes, crimes of violence and drug trafficking, among other things, to sustain itself and make members feel respected. Respect. It’s something everybody wants,” Streeter said in his opening remarks. Guido later expanded on that theme under questioning by Streeter. “Does somebody get power when they kill somebody?” Streeter asked. “Yes,” Guido replied. Court heard that the ndrangheta has offshoots around the world, including Germany, Australia and the Greater Toronto Area, in a report from Leondro Piccoli, a lieutenant-colonel in the Italian national police force, the Carabinieri.

“People in Italy have to be responsible for their representatives here but the final word comes from Italy,” Guido said. Streeter’s team has produced more than 40 audio and video recordings of Guido while he worked as a police agent. Some of the conversations are in Italian but most are in English. Guido said that he worked as part of Ursino’s group and that Ursino introduced him to Dracea to get involved in smuggling cocaine. He said he paid Ursino $1,000 for the introduction because Ursino was a ndrangheta boss. Guido said he also agreed to split a shipment of 100 kg of cocaine with him once it reached the GTA from the Caribbean. Asked by Streeter what he gained from his association with the ndrangheta, Guido replied: “Just the respect other people give us.” In one intercepted conversation, Ursino told Guido: “Money’s not everything.” The jury heard from Guido and Piccoli’s report that there are two basic grades of membership: major and minor. Piccoli said different ranks of the ndrangheta range from “picciotto” at the low end of “The Societa Minore,” or lower level group, to “Mammasantissima” and “Cavalairi di Cristo” in the “Societa Maggiore,” or higher level group. Cells are called “locali” or “locale” and must have at least 50 members, Piccoli said. “The Locali outside of Calabria replicate the structure from Calabria, and are connected to their mother-Locali in Calabria,” the agreed statement of facts says. “The authority to start Locali outside Calabria comes from the governing bodies of the organization in Calabria. The Locali outside of Calabria are part of the same ndrangheta organization as in Calabria, and maintain close relationships with the Locali where its members come from.”

Watching out over GTA ndrangheta activities is a board of control called the “Camera Di Controllo,” Guido said. “It’s the board that makes all of the final decisions,” Guido said. While blood ties help, each member must ultimately be selected for membership, Guido said, adding that there are special ceremonies when members are “made.” Staff Sergeant Brad Trainor told court the project originally targeted four GTA men: Ursino, Cosimo Commisso, Diego Serrano and Carmine Verduci. Commisso was not charged. Verduci was murdered in April 2014 outside the Regina Café at 140 Regina Rd., in an industrial and retail plaza near Highway 7 and Martin Grove Rd. The murder remains unsolved. “Was he (Verduci) a member of ndrangheta?,” Streeter asked. “Yes,” Guido replied, adding that Verduci had been on the local board of control. Guido testified that the cocaine at the core of his case was to be transported in chunky jerk sauce from Jamaica through an import-export company he ran. Ursino did his best to stay in the background, Guido said. At one point in the intercepted conversations, Ursino said: “Honestly, I don’t ever want to touch it.” Guido testified it was common practice for a boss not to want to get his hands dirty. “It’s just the custom that the boss makes the introduction and they step back,” Guido replied. “Did the drugs ever come?” Streeter asked. “The drugs never came,” Guido replied.

Most of Guido’s recorded meetings were in a York Region coffee shop. Another was at a bakery and a few were in the parking lot of a bookstore. In one conversation, a baby can be heard screaming from near their table. Court has heard characters in Guido’s old world had nicknames like “The Chosen One” for senior boss and “Frank Crutches,” for a lesser boss whose legs were crushed in a car accident as a teenager. Guido said he knew another member just as “the guy with the coffee truck.” Streeter asked why he would kick up profits to his boss, Ursino. “Because he was the boss of the family,” Guido replied. “(If there were) ever any problems it would be him that saves us.”

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