The bloody fight to be ‘the next boss’

AF­TER MOB­STER VITO RIZ­ZUTO’S DEATH

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - PETER ED­WARDS

A power vac­uum has trig­gered a spate of vi­o­lent in­ci­dents in On­tario — in­clud­ing two shoot­ings in Hamil­ton — as up­starts chal­lenge es­tab­lished crime fam­i­lies

Mob­sters are jostling to fill the vac­uum left by the death of an or­ga­nized-crime mega-boss, re­sult­ing in about a dozen un­solved vi­o­lent in­ci­dents this year in On­tario — shoot­ings, ex­plo­sions and killings.

Af­ter Vito Riz­zuto, con­sid­ered by po­lice to be Canada’s most pow­er­ful mob­ster, died in Mon­treal in De­cem­ber 2013 of re­port­edly nat­u­ral causes, a va­cancy at the top opened up. And the re­sults have been bloody.

“Ev­ery­body wants to be the next boss now that Riz­zuto is gone,” said Paul Man­ning, a for­mer un­der­cover of­fi­cer in Hamil­ton. “There’s a lot of in­fight­ing over who will be the next boss.”

This evolv­ing pic­ture of or­ga­nized crime in south­ern On­tario is drawn from in­ter­views with a va­ri­ety of sources — both in­ves­ti­ga­tors and those con­nected to or­ga­nized crime — across south­ern On­tario and Que­bec. Most de­clined to speak on the record for pro­fes­sional rea­sons.

The lead­er­ship vac­uum has at­tracted tech-savvy new­com­ers from On­tario and Que­bec who are ea­ger to chal­lenge the old guard. It has also trig­gered vi­cious in­fight­ing in­side what’s left of the old Riz­zuto or­ga­ni­za­tion in On­tario.

That in­fight­ing may ex­plain the mur­der of An­gelo (Ang) Musi­tano, 39, who was shot at close range May 2, 2017, in the drive­way of his sub­ur­ban Hamil­ton house in mid-af­ter­noon with his wife and three young chil­dren in­side.

It was what Hamil­ton po­lice Det.Sgt. Peter Thom called “a very de­lib­er­ate and tar­geted at­tack.”

Be­fore he went to jail, Musi­tano’s 49-year-old brother, Pat, was con­sid­ered to be a long-stand­ing Ni­a­gara Re­gion as­so­ciate of Riz­zuto, with a keen in­ter­est in il­le­gal gam­bling, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the Crim­i­nal In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice On­tario, a mul­ti­juris­dic­tional po­lice or­ga­ni­za­tion.

An­gelo Musi­tano re­port­edly found re­li­gion since he and Pat pleaded guilty to con­spir­acy to com­mit mur­der in the 1997 gang­land hit on Car­men Bar­il­laro at the front door of his Ni­a­gara Falls home. They were both sen­tenced to 10 years in prison and were re­leased on pa­role in Oc­to­ber 2006 af­ter serv­ing two-thirds of their terms.

Il­le­gal gam­bling has been par­tic­u­larly con­tentious over the past few years since Riz­zuto’s death and the 2013 dis­man­tling of Plat­inum Sports Book, an il­le­gal in­ter­net-based gam­bling net­work.

“Ev­ery­one’s fight­ing for con­trol of the sports book,” said a GTA po­lice source who spe­cial­izes in or­ga­nized crime, but was not au­tho­rized to speak on the record.

Early on the morn­ing of June 27, some­one opened fire on the Hamil­ton home of Pat Musi­tano.

The gun­man, or gun­men, ap­par­ently wanted to send a loud mes­sage, as there were about 20 shell cas­ings found in front of the up­scale home on St. Clair Boule­vard.

Man­ning sus­pects it was a mes­sage to Pat Musi­tano that he should shelve any plans of aveng­ing the mur­der of his younger brother.

“It’s a warn­ing to leave it there,” Man­ning said, adding that when Riz­zuto was alive, he would re­solve such dis­agree­ments in­side his or­ga­ni­za­tion like a stern but fair fa­ther.

“Usu­ally, there would be a sit­down, an apol­ogy.”

Some of this year’s vi­o­lence is blamed on an on­go­ing cul­ture clash be­tween the old and the new. On one side are the ag­gres­sive young com­puter-friendly new­com­ers from B.C. and Que­bec al­lied to a gang called The Wolf­pack Al­liance. On the other side are the old guard — the GTA arm of the tra­di­tional ’Ndrangheta fam­ily of Cosimo (The Quail) Com­misso of Siderno, Italy.

The Wolf­pack Al­liance was formed in Bri­tish Columbia about a decade ago. The al­liance pulls to­gether mem­bers of ex­ist­ing crime groups, some of which are or­ga­nized along racial lines, ac­cord­ing to Kash Heed, for­mer B.C. so­lic­i­tor gen­eral, min­is­ter of pub­lic safety and West Van­cou­ver Po­lice chief.

It’s a rapidly evolv­ing group of or­ga­nized crime dis­rupters. Their mem­bers don’t have blood or eth­nic ties or a code of con­duct or a rigid hi­er­ar­chy. They’re gen­er­ally young and tech savvy. They have gold pen­dants with a wolf ’s head gold medal­lion to show mem­ber­ship.

“It’s a col­lec­tive of very suc­cess­ful wealthy or­ga­nized crime guys work­ing to­gether,” Heed said.

By con­trast, the ’Ndrangheta is steeped in a struc­tured, quasi-re­li­gious crim­i­nal tra­di­tion that reaches back more than a cen­tury to the south­ern Ital­ian re­gion of Cal­abria.

The ’Ndrangheta car­ries it­self like a state within a state, with var­i­ous coun­cils and ti­tles, like “capo-crim­ine” for min­is­ter of war and “con­tabile” for trea­surer.

While its ti­tles may sound ar­chaic, the ’Ndrangheta’s prof­its sur­pass those of many mod­ern multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions. Ital­ian in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Gi­ulio Ru­bino wrote ear­lier this month that the ’Ndrangheta made US$70.41 bil­lion world­wide in 2013.

The vi­o­lence be­tween the new­com­ers aligned with the Wolf­pack and the old guard in the ’Ndrangheta isn’t ex­pected to end any­time soon, as the Wolf­pack has aligned it­self with en­e­mies of the GTA ’Ndrangheta, sources say.

Po­lice have warned two York Re­gion men who are con­sid­ered to be se­nior mem­bers of Com­misso’s fam­ily that there are cred­i­ble threats on their lives. The warn­ings came over the past month and the men de­clined po­lice pro­tec­tion.

Two other men who in­ves­ti­ga­tors con­sider to be se­nior un­der­world fig­ures in York Re­gion have cho­sen to qui­etly leave town over the past month, sources say.

One of those de­part­ing is re­lated to Com­misso. The other is re­lated to Agostino Cun­tr­era, a for­mer lead­ing mem­ber of the Riz­zuto crime fam­ily in Mon­treal who was mur­dered in 2010.

There was enor­mous bad blood be­tween the Riz­zu­tos and lo­cal ’Ndrangheta at the time of Riz­zuto’s death. They were on op­po­site sides of a mob war in the early 2000s that saw Riz­zuto’s fa­ther and el­dest son mur­dered.

At the time of his death, Riz­zuto was be­lieved by po­lice to have drafted a “black list” of men in the Com­misso fam­ily he wanted killed.

“Peo­ple are watch­ing their backs now,” the veteran in­ves­ti­ga­tor of or­ga­nized crime said. “Peo­ple aren’t be­ing as open to meet­ings now. They’re get­ting ner­vous.”

New­comer Anas­ta­sios (Tas­sos) Leven­tis, 39, of Mon­treal may have been ner­vous when he was called to a mid-af­ter­noon meet­ing on Jan. 30, but he went any­way.

Leven­tis was con­nected to the Wolf­pack Al­liance, even if he wasn’t a mem­ber. He had moved to down­town Toronto from Mon­treal more than a year ago to col­lect drug debts owed to Mon­treal­ers, the po­lice source says.

Not long be­fore his death, he had a con­fronta­tion with a York Re­gion ’Ndrangheta Mafia boss con­nected to Com­misso over a drug debt.

On the af­ter­noon of his death, Leven­tis re­al­ized some­thing was hor­ri­bly wrong al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter step­ping out of the condo com­plex on Ge­orge Street near Ade­laide Street East in the St. Lawrence neigh­bour­hood. He bolted in front of stu­dents, passersby, con­struc­tion work­ers and area res­i­dents.

Mo­ments later, a gun­man stood over him, pump­ing bul­lets into his body.

“The vic­tim knew his killers,” the po­lice of­fi­cer fa­mil­iar with the case said.

“The killers were wait­ing for him out­side his condo. He was chased down the street.

“He cer­tainly got set up,” the po­lice source said.

Toronto po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors de­clined sev­eral re­quests to com­ment on the case.

Leven­tis was an en­thu­si­as­tic gam­bler who trained as a com­puter pro­gram­mer. Com­puter skills are vi­tal as or­ga­nized crime groups reach out across bor­ders, jour­nal­ist/aca­demic Luis Ho­ra­cio Na­jera said in an in­ter­view.

Mex­i­can drug car­tels con­nect with the new small ag­gres­sive groups like the Wolf­pack Al­liance with en­crypted mes­sag­ing sys­tems as they push into Canada.

“In to­day’s world, there’s a lot of re­sources as per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, con­tacts, in­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tions — even hir­ing a hit man, or buy­ing guns — that you can ac­cess through the web,” said Na­jera, who worked as a jour­nal­ist cov­er­ing drug car­tels in Ci­u­dad Juarez in Mex­ico be­fore he was forced to leave the coun­try as a refugee.

Domenic Tri­um­bari, 58, of Wood­bridge, was re­lated to the Siderno ’Ndrangheta boss Com­misso, which meant he wasn’t a man to be tri­fled with.

Cer­tainly, Tri­um­bari didn’t ap­pear to worry when he went out to play cards on the evening of March 31 in an in­dus­trial plaza that fea­tured a so­cial club and a ban­quet hall on Regina Road in Vaughan, less than five min­utes drive from the High­way 7 and Martin Grove Road in­ter­sec­tion.

“He loved to play cards,” said a po­lice of­fi­cer who knew him. “He was in­volved in a whole se­ries of games.”

De­spite all of the con­flict around him, Tri­um­bari seemed like a lucky man in the days be­fore his mur­der.

The long­time York Re­gion res­i­dent was bask­ing in the af­ter­glow of a $150,000 win at Casino Ni­a­gara when a gun­man rushed out from a parked car in the plaza and shot him dead.

“He’s not a guy that you would just ca­su­ally de­cide to take out,” a re­tired or­ga­nized crime in­ves­ti­ga­tor said.

Vi­o­lence hasn’t abated since the mur­der of Leven­tis six months ago.

Much of it has been in York Re­gion, and in­cludes the mas­sive ex­plo­sion early in the morn­ing of June 29 that knocked a wall out of the Caffé Cor­retto on Winges Road near High­ways 400 and 7.

That blast show­ered brick and gam­ing ma­chine bits down onto a nearby black BMW. The café had been tar­geted in a po­lice sweep of il­le­gal gam­ing ma­chines in Jan­uary 2016.

This vi­o­lence ap­pears to be di­rected against the Com­misso net­work, but no clear vic­tor has emerged in the con­flict, which isn’t ex­pected to end any time soon.

Both sides are strong and mo­ti­vated and there’s no one with the power of Riz­zuto to or­der a cease­fire.

“Ev­ery­body’s tak­ing a hit,” the veteran po­lice of­fice said. “It was never like this.”

Mem­bers don’t have blood or eth­nic ties or a code of con­duct or a rigid hi­er­ar­chy. They’re gen­er­ally young and tech savvy.

Above right: Pall­bear­ers at his Mon­treal fu­neral.

Above: A va­cancy at the top opened up when Vito Riz­zuto died in Mon­treal in De­cem­ber 2013 of nat­u­ral causes.

Above left: An­gelo Musi­tano, right, is pic­tured with his brother Pat Musi­tano in Septem­ber 1998. An­gelo was fa­tally shot in the drive­way of his sub­ur­ban Hamil­ton home.

HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR FILE PHO­TOS

Top: A po­lice of­fi­cer col­lects bul­lets from the brick on the front of Pat Mus­tano’s home on St. Clair Boule­vard.

Above: The home of An­gelo Musi­tano on Ch­e­sa­peake Drive.

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