National Post (Latest Edition)

He’s just a dangerous, crazy guy. I don’t think those are the only murders he’s been involved in.

MEXICAN HOMICIDE INVESTIGAT­ION IS UNDERWAY INTO THE DEATH OF SUSPECTED Ontario MAN. HIT

- Adrian Humphreys National Post ahumphreys@postmedia.com Twitter. com/ad_ Humphreys

Ahomicide investigat­ion is underway in Mexico into the death of a suspected hit man who was a fugitive for two mob murders in Canada, National Post has learned.

Michael Graham Cudmore, a violent career criminal, was wanted as the triggerman for two high-profile murders in Ontario: the 2017 shooting of Mafia figure Angelo Musitano in Hamilton and a botched hit weeks earlier in Vaughan that inadverten­tly killed Mila Barberi.

Hamilton police announced last week that Cudmore was found dead in a vehicle at the side of a rural road in Mexico. The cause of death was unknown and it was rumoured he had died from a drug overdose rather than gangland retributio­n.

Given his unrelentin­g criminal antics and drug dependency, either prospect was possible, perhaps even probable. But murder is now the declaratio­n.

“He was murdered,” Det. Sgt. Peter Thom, the lead investigat­or with Hamilton police in the Musitano case, said in an interview.

“My informatio­n is there is a homicide investigat­ion underway in Mexico.”

Cudmore packed a hard life of crime into his 39 years. Described as dangerous and violent with entrenched criminal values, he parlayed status as a founding member of an aggressive Hamilton street gang into close ties with the Hells Angels and the Mafia.

He was such a hothead, the last time he was placed in prison he beat up three inmates before his intake assessment was even done. Cudmore began that sentence in maximum security and finished it in maximum security, rather than cascading to lower classifica­tions.

In fact, when he was last released, the parole board explicitly worried he would commit a violent crime or an organized crime offence. It seems they were right.

“He’s just a dangerous, crazy guy,” said a police source familiar with Cudmore. “I don’t think those are the only murders he’s been involved in.”

Growing up in Hamilton, Cudmore’s struggle with authority started early.

“Your dismal criminal record and institutio­nal record demonstrat­es your ingrained criminal values and poor attitude towards the criminal justice system that began as a youth,” says a Parole Board of Canada report on Cudmore from 2015.

He was a founding member of a street gang known as the North End Crew (NEC), or at least was an early member. As the NEC grew, it became a training ground for larger enterprise­s, including the Hamilton chapter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.

When the local Hells Angels chapter expanded, several of its new members were recruited from the NEC.

The ties between the two groups were so strong that evidence at a 2011 Hamilton licensing hearing for a bar in which cocaine had been sold described the NEC as “an extension of the Hells Angels.”

Despite the connection, Cudmore never became a Hells Angel; maybe because he had such a hard time staying out of jail.

Just six months after he was released from prison in 2010, he was charged and convicted again for assault and theft. And while he was on parole for those conviction­s, police came crashing into his house, bringing more trouble.

On Aug. 15, 2012, police raided Cudmore’s Hamilton home as part of a guns and gangs probe called Project Kingfisher, linked to members and associates of the Hells Angels in other cities.

Inside, officers found a modest marijuana grow operation of 17 plants, a .22 calibre gun and shotgun ammunition.

His eventual conviction­s added to his long criminal record.

Cudmore already had six conviction­s for robbery, one for assault and one for escaping lawful custody. He had six for breaking and entering into premises, six for theft, five for possession of property obtained by crime, two for failing to comply with court orders. On top of that he had one each for fleeing while pursued by police, being unlawfully at large, mischief under $ 5,000, public mischief, driving while disqualifi­ed and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.

For his Kingfisher crimes, Cudmore was sentenced to three years and nine months and placed in Millhaven Institutio­n.

There, his behaviour was bad even by prison standards.

He was repeatedly sent into segregatio­n, transferre­d and sent to the Special Handling Unit because of infraction­s, including acts of violence, disobeying orders and using drugs.

He has 37 institutio­nal charges in his prison records.

That’s the kind of behaviour that attracts attention from a certain type of person, such as Daniele Ranieri, a volatile mob enforcer from north of Toronto who was in tight with the Sicilian faction of the Mafia in Canada, under the protection of the powerful Rizzuto clan from Montreal.

It is believed that Cudmore and Ranieri hit it off in prison at some point, with Cudmore enamoured by Ranieri’s wider connection­s, evidenced by a vivid tattoo of “Cosa Nostra” across his chest.

“Prison is like prep school for organized crime members,” said a police source familiar with both men. “They get smarter, more connected and better at what they do.”

Ranieri surrounded himself with hardmen who were not afraid of getting their hands dirty. Men like Cudmore.

When Cudmore was approachin­g his statutory release date in 2015, the parole board didn’t have any confidence he was rehabilita­ted.

“You are a person who demonstrat­es entrenched criminal and violent values” and has a “serious and versatile criminal history,” he was told at a parole hearing.

Psychologi­cal assessment­s said he had anti- social lifestyle traits and was impulsive. He had trouble finding a halfway house willing to take him because he was seen as a “safety risk to staff.”

In an attempt to mitigate risk, the parole board imposed special conditions for his release.

He was ordered not to consume or possess alcohol or drugs, not to enter bars or strip clubs, not to own more than one cellphone, and to disclose his finances to his parole supervisor. He was also ordered to avoid people involved in crime.

In June 2015, his parole was briefly suspended over concerns he was sneaking off to visit prostitute­s and sexting with a teenaged girl. The parole board imposed a new condition, that he had to report any attempts to initiate intimate relationsh­ips with women.

Cudmore wrote a 13-page letter to the board proclaimin­g his innocence and complainin­g of the restrictio­n, saying it would kill his love life.

On March 14, 2017, a gunman hopped from the passenger side of a stolen Jeep Grand Cherokee, ran to a BMW SUV in a parking lot in Vaughan, north of Toronto, and shot two people inside. Mila Barberi, 28, died while her boyfriend was injured. Police said Barberi was not the intended target and believe the bullets were meant for her beau’s family, which has a history of organized crime.

Seven weeks later, on May 2, 2017, a similar looking man climbed out of a Ford Fusion and shot Angelo Musitano, 39, who had just driven his pickup into the driveway of his Hamilton home. Musitano was the brother of a Mafia boss and a mobster in his own right. The Fusion had been stolen a month earlier in Quebec.

It is likely Cudmore and Musitano knew each other. They grew up in the same insular Hamilton neighbourh­ood, were steeped in crime, and were only a few years apart in age.

In 2018, police accused Cudmore of being the shooter in both murders but before he could be arrested he fled Canada for Mexico, where he reunited with Ranieri, his latest mentor. Ranieri was also a fugitive and a suspect in planning the two murders.

Ranieri’s body was found trussed up, executed and dumped in a ditch in Mexico soon after.

Cudmore has again followed in his footsteps.

I DON’T THINK THOSE ARE THE ONLY MURDERS HE’S BEEN INVOLVED IN.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada