Largest Mafia bust in Ontario history: 15 arrests, $35 million worth of homes seized

Chris Herhalt, CTV News Toron­to York Regio­nal Poli­ce say they have arre­sted 15 peo­ple and sei­zed $35 mil­lion worth of homes, sports cars and cash in a major trans-Atlan­tic pro­be tar­ge­ting the most pro­mi­nent wing of Ndran­ghe­ta Mafia clan in Cana­da.

Respon­ding to spi­ke in shoo­tings, arsons in Vau­ghan and the sur­roun­ding area in 2017, poli­ce star­ted “Pro­ject Sin­di­ca­to,” tar­ge­ting a group accu­sed of ope­ra­ting ille­gal bac­kroom gam­bling dens in various cafes.

It resul­ted in what is belie­ved to be the lar­ge­st Mafia bust in Ontario’s histo­ry.

Det. Sgt. Carl Mat­ti­nen said the group would lure in gam­blers, push them to exhau­st all of their money, loan them money at exor­bi­tant rates of inte­re­st, and then threa­ten and harm them if they did not pay up.

“Peo­ple in this cycle were gam­bling away their life savings,” he said. “The inti­mi­da­tion inclu­ding shoo­tings and arsons.”

Over the last 18 mon­ths, offi­cers sur­veil­led 11 cafes across the GTA, along with the homes of alle­ged mem­bers of the orga­ni­za­tion and busi­nes­ses asso­cia­ted to them.

They also fol­lo­wed alle­ged mob­sters to various casi­nos across Onta­rio whe­re they would laun­der the pro­ceeds of their efforts.

“Sur­veil­lan­ce offi­cers wit­nes­sed $30,000 to $50,000 gam­bled per night at Onta­rio casi­nos.

They esti­ma­te the group ear­ned as much as $70 mil­lion over the last seve­ral years, with some money fil­te­red throu­gh legi­ti­ma­te real esta­te, con­struc­tion and finan­cial ser­vi­ces busi­nes­ses.

Mat­ti­nen said the inve­sti­ga­tion also lin­ked the ope­ra­tion to mem­bers of the Ndran­ghe­ta in Cala­bria, Ita­ly.

A group of York Regio­nal Poli­ce detec­ti­ves went to Ita­ly to meet with Ita­lian Sta­te Poli­ce in an attempt to coor­di­na­te raids again­st the group.

On July 14 and 15, as many as 500 offi­cers rai­ded 48 homes and busi­nes­ses across the GTA.

A CTV News Toron­to pho­to­gra­pher loca­ted two of the raids occur­ring on Cree­k­wood Court and Andrew Park in Wood­brid­ge on July 14.

Fif­teen peo­ple were arre­sted, but Mat­ti­nen says nine of them can be con­si­de­red major players.

The offi­cers sei­zed 27 homes worth $24 mil­lion, and 23 cars, inclu­ding five Fer­ra­ris. They also sei­zed $2 mil­lion in cash and jewel­le­ry.

car­sO­ne of the vehi­cles sei­zed in the inve­sti­ga­tion is sho­wn. (York Regio­nal Poli­ce)

Mat­ti­nen accu­sed a suspect he iden­ti­fied as Ange­lo Figlio­me­ni of Vau­ghan of lea­ding the Cana­dian ope­ra­tion.

On Wed­ne­sday night, Ita­lian Sta­te Poli­ce Direc­tor Fau­sto Lam­pa­rel­li said a fur­ther 12 peo­ple were arre­sted in Cala­bria, inclu­ding some wan­ted for a homi­ci­de.

“Last night in Ita­ly, the ope­ra­tion arre­sted 12 dan­ge­rous offenders,”Lamparelli said throu­gh the help of a trans­la­tor. “They are clo­se­ly asso­cia­ted to the Cana­dian branch of the ope­ra­tion.”

He added that the accu­sed in Cana­da are alle­ged to be mem­bers of Ndran­ghe­ta, but have the auto­no­my to make their own deci­sions.

Poli­ce iden­ti­fied others char­ged in the pro­be as Vito Sili, Nick Mar­ti­no, Emi­lio Zan­nu­ti, Eri­ca Quin­tal, Gui­sep­pe Ciur­leo, Rafael Lepo­re and Fran­ce­sco Vituc­ci.

Ano­ther man, Gia­co­mo Cas­sa­no, is sought on a war­rant for alle­ga­tions of invol­ve­ment in ille­gal gam­bling dens.

The group faces char­ges for tax eva­sion, par­ti­ci­pa­tion in a cri­mi­nal orga­ni­za­tion, some firearms offen­ces, and loan shar­king.

Full list of char­ges laid by York Regio­nal Poli­ce

Mat­ti­nen said the goods and pro­per­ties sei­zed will be liqui­da­ted to fund gran­ts for spe­cial pro­jec­ts by Onta­rio poli­ce ser­vi­ces.

He said the inve­sti­ga­tion tar­ge­ted the sour­ces of the group’s reve­nue, as oppo­sed to indi­vi­dual cri­mi­nal acts, becau­se of the high volu­me of docu­men­ta­ry evi­den­ce the busi­ness side of the cri­mi­nal orga­ni­za­tion gene­ra­ted.

“Math is not afraid, docu­men­ta­ry evi­den­ce is not afraid, we can enter that into court without any wor­ry of recan­ting in court,” sug­ge­sting gathe­ring wit­ness testi­mo­ny in the­se inve­sti­ga­tions can be dif­fi­cult due to the fear of repri­sals.

He added that the­re other gam­bling hou­ses inve­sti­ga­tors have in their sights that have not yet been rai­ded.

“They know that we know and they know our team will be coming.”

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