Police agent initiated into mob as part of probe
An undercover police agent was formally inducted into the Mafia in Canada while authorities secretly videotaped the initiation ceremony, an unexpected highlight in a large drugs, guns and money probe snaring alleged mob figures on both sides of the Canada-U. S. borders.
In November 2015, a mobster in the Bonanno crime family — one of the infamous Five Families of the Mafia in New York City — travelled to Canada to conduct the induction ceremony, according to U. S. authorities.
The new member was told to report back to a captain in the Bonanno organization, prosecutors allege.
What the gangsters didn’t know is the recruit was an undercover agent co-operating with police on both sides of the border and video and audio of the ceremony was secretly recorded.
The i nduction, i nvolving at least five men, was allegedly presided over by Damiano Zummo, 44, an acting captain in the Bonanno crime family.
“The reason why we’re here is from this day forward, you’re gonna be an official member of the Bonanno family,” Zummo says, according to a transcript of the ceremony.
“It’s already — from this guy, this guy, this guy — everybody approved it, so from this day forward, you’re a member of the Bonanno family. Congratulations,” said Zummo.
“Thank you,” the recruit said.
The new member was then formally introduced to other members using the traditional Mafia code of calling a made man a “friend of ours,” and then told the internal hierarchy of who he reports to, called a captain or skipper.
“And now I want to introduce you to John. John, friend of ours with the Bonanno. John, ( name of agent deleted), friend of ours with the Bonanno. Now, your captain is (name deleted.)” “Okay,” said the recruit. “He’s our skipper. ( Nickname of Bonanno member deleted), is our acting … You’re gonna be in our regime,” Zummo allegedly said. “OK.” “You only answer to the Bonanno family.”
Unless portions of the ceremony have not yet been revealed, it is a stripped and inelegant version of the traditional Mafia ceremony which typically included a blood oath and burning of a picture of a Catholic saint.
The ceremony highlights the remarkable depth of the police penetration during the collaborative CanadianU. S. probe.
“The recording of a secret induction ceremony is an extraordinary achievement for law enforcement and deals a significant blow to La Cosa Nostra,” said Bridget M. Rohde, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
The RCMP was reticent to discuss the coup, with RCMP Supt. Chris Leather only saying the probe “directly infiltrated the highest levels of traditional organized crime operating in the area.”
The probe, code- named Project OTremens, began when “a unique opportunity presented itself to the RCMP in 2013,” he said.
“We had an opportunity to infiltrate some higher echelon traditional organized crime groups … Because of the cooperation of someone who is respected by traditional organized crime in both countries.”
The guns, drugs and money probe ended with charges against nine people in Canada, including Domenico and Giuseppe Violi, of Hamilton, Ont., the sons of former Montreal Mafia boss Paolo Violi who was killed in 1978 by members of the rival Rizzuto crime family.
Domenico Violi was taken into custody early Thursday while Giuseppe, known as Joe, was wanted on a Canada-wide warrant.
The Violi brothers are “well established, influential; they have an international reach and are significant players in organized crime,” Leather said.
The probe revealed, however, that infiltration can go both ways.
The RCMP admitted investigators discovered firsthand the power of organized crime to corrupt officials — in this case, a civilian member of the Toronto police charged with 20 counts of breach of trust for allegedly making police database queries on behalf of the criminal organization to further a criminal enterprise, police said.
Erin Maranan was charged last year for search- es on several people, two of whom were later killed, but the connection to the larger probe was not revealed at the time.
The four- year investigation also shows the traditional cross- border rectangle of Mafia organizations from 60 years ago remains intact: Hamilton- BuffaloMontreal-New York.
Among those arrested in Canada are members of the Todaro organized crime family, based in Buffalo, according to U. S. authorities. The Todaro crime group was built by the now- deceased Joseph ( Lead Pipe Joe) Todaro, Sr., who took over the Buffalo Mafia once led by the influential boss Stefano ( The Undertaker) Magaddino.
The operation spanned from British Columbia to Quebec and south to the United States; officials in Italy, Mexico, Colombia and the Netherlands were also involved.
Police in Canada seized fentanyl, carfentanil, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD and black market gaming machines. Also seized during the probe were contraband cigarettes linked to the Toronto- area Commisso crime clan, police said.
In the U. S., in a separate but related investigation, four New York residents were arrested, i ncluding Zummo; all have links to two infamous NY Mafia families, the Bonannos and the Gambino family once led by John Gotti, authorities said.
The U. S. men variously face gun, drug and loansharking charges. Police seized an arsenal of three automatic assault rifles, a semi- automatic rifle, five handguns and a suppressor.
In one drug transaction, Zummo allegedly sold more than a kilogram of cocaine inside a Manhattan gelato store.
Giuseppe (Joe) Violi
Domenico Paolo Violi