Musitano crime family

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Musitano crime family
Founded1940s
Founded byAngelo Musitano
Founding locationHamilton, Ontario, Canada
Years active1940s–present
TerritoryVarious neighborhoods over Hamilton and Toronto; in Delianuova and Platì, Calabria, Buccinasco and Bareggio, Milan
EthnicityPeople of Italian descent as "made men", and other ethnicities as "associates"
Criminal activitiesRacketeering, loan sharking, money laundering, fraud, prostitution, murder, gambling, drug trafficking, smuggling, extortion and corruption
AlliesRizzuto crime family
West End Gang
Hells Angels
Cuntrera-Caruana Mafia clan
Various other crime families and gangs
RivalsPapalia crime family
Various gangs over Canada including their allies

The Musitano crime family (Italian: [muziˈtaːno]) is a 'Ndrangheta organized crime family[1] based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, as well as Platì in Southern Italy and Buccinasco and Bareggio in Northern Italy.[2] The Musitano family was founded by Angelo Musitano in Canada in the 1940s, and was one of three centralized Mafia organizations in Hamilton, with the other two being the Luppino crime family and the Papalia crime family.[3] Unlike the other two Hamilton families, the Musitanos did not form a strong alliance with the Buffalo crime family, staying closer to their 'Ndrangheta cell.[1]

The killings of Johnny Papalia and his lieutenant Carmen Barillaro in 1997, ordered by brothers Angelo and Pat Musitano, had effectively wiped out the family's remaining leaders in Canada.[4] One news report stated that the events of 1997 "decapitated the Papalia family".[5] The brothers were arrested and sentenced in 2000, being released in 2006. A power struggle within the Hamilton mafia had been the result of several attempts made on Pat's life in the 2010s, Angelo being killed in 2017, and finally Pat being killed in 2020.

Early history[edit]

In 1937, Angelo Musitano, who was also known as the "Beast of Delianova", fled illegally from Delianuova, Italy to Canada after killing his sister Rosa and her partner after he believed she had disgraced the family by becoming pregnant out of wedlock; he lived under the name of Jim D'Augustino upon arriving in Canada.[3] In 1940, an Italian court convicted Angelo in absentia to 30 years in prison.[6] In 1965, Angelo was extradited to Italy to serve his sentence.[7] Angelo Musitano had two nephews, Anthony "Tony" and Dominic Musitano.

In 1978, Dominic Musitano, owner of a Hamilton haulage company, Rocco Luppino, and Angelo Natale, president of the Ontario Haulers Association, were charged with conspiracy to commit extortion after police uncovered a protection racket on Ontario's independent trucking industry; after a five-year legal battle, they were acquitted in 1983.[8][9]

In January 1983, Tony was sentenced to 15 years in prison for bombing a number of businesses in Hamilton, including bakeries. While in prison, he orchestrated the murder of Toronto mobster Domenic Racco of the Siderno Group, who violated their cocaine trade agreement by dealing behind Musitano's back, and also owed the Musitano family as much as $500,000.[10] Tony Musitano befriended inmate Billy Rankin at Millhaven Institution in Kingston who was due to be released in December that year.[10] Giuseppe "Joey" Avignone, nephew of Tony and Dominic Musitano, often visited Tony in prison to discuss details of the plot, which were secretly recorded by the police.[10] Rankin was released on December 7, and given "the okay" by Dominic Musitano. On December 10, 1983, Racco got into a car in front of his Mississauga apartment with Rankin, Dominic Musitano and Peter Majeste, thinking it was to discuss potential drug trade, but was taken to a railway track and killed.[10] In March 1984, Dominic and Tony Musitano, Avignone and Rankin were arrested. Dominic Musitano received six years for being an accessory after the fact to murder. Tony Musitano, already in prison on the bombing charges, was sentenced to 12 years concurrently, Avignone got five years and Rankin was sentenced to 12 years, all three pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit murder.[10][11] Tony was granted full parole in 1990.[6]

Dominic Musitano's two sons Pasquale "Pat" or "Fat Pat" and Angelo "Ang" Musitano joined their father in organized crime. By 1992, the Hamilton-Wentworth Police estimated that the family was earning $14 million per year through various aspects of illegal gaming.[9]

Pat Musitano was charged in 1992 after an attempted arson of the Collins Hotel in Dundas, Ontario, the home of eight individuals at the time. He was not convicted.[12]

Pat Musitano was president of P&L Tire Recycling Inc. in 1992; he was found guilty of failing to make his Mount Hope tire dump conform to the Ontario fire code. According to documents obtained by the Toronto Star, "he and his father created a fire hazard with an illegal tire dump in Mount Hope and then tried [without success] to get $3 million to $5 million of tax dollars to clean it up".[12] They were later handed a $1.8 million fine from the Ministry of the Environment for its cleanup of the site, a fine Pat dodged with a 1993 bankruptcy claim.[13] The crime family was led by Dominic until his death on August 13, 1995 from a heart attack at the age of 57.[3] Pat Musitano took over as boss of the family.[14]

In 1997, Pat Musitano was in charge of a sports betting ring which brought in as much as $100,000 in bets per week; his cousin Joey Avignone also led a network for distributing illegal gambling machines in bars.[6]

According to John Ross who was a Hamilton police sergeant, Pat Musitano was "a decidedly blue-collar mobster who loved cars, hung out in restaurants, wore dark sunglasses and dressed up in suits ... He was Tony Soprano before Tony Soprano was on television".[15]

Papalia hit and arrests[edit]

Pat Musitano (left) and Angelo Musitano pictured in 1998. The two brothers had ordered the murder of rival mob boss Johnny Papalia.

Also later in 1997, the family ordered the hits of Johnny Papalia, to whom the Musitanos owed $250,000 to cover bookmaking debts. The theory was that it was less expensive to have Papalia removed; the family paid $3,000 plus some cocaine for the hit.[16] The family subsequently ordered the hit on Papalia's right-hand man, Carmen Barillaro.[17] The hitman for both murders, and for the 1985 murder of Salvatore Alaimo who owed gambling money to the Musitano crime family, was Kenneth Murdock.[18][19][20]

In November 1998, Murdock pleaded guilty to three counts of second degree murder, was sentenced to life imprisonment, and named Pat and Angelo as the men who had ordered the murders; he also said that Angelo had been waiting in the vehicle outside during the Barillaro murder.[18] The motive for the "hit" was self-protection. Pat was convinced that Barillaro would target him in retribution for the Papalia killing, so he and Murdock acted first.[21]

According to Murdock, the Musitano brothers had also been fed up with being a satellite (crew) of the Buffalo family and having to pay tribute money to the family.[7] Murdock also claimed that he was waiting for Pat Musitano to approve the murders of four Luppino crime family members Natale Luppino and Vincenzo Luppino (the two sons of Giacomo Luppino) and Domenic Violi and Giuseppe Violi (the two sons of Paolo Violi).[7] In a later interview with journalist Peter Edwards, Murdock claimed that Pat Musitano had "ordered" him to enter a coffee house with a machine gun to shoot all of the leaders of the Luppino-Violi group; that would probably have included Dominico and Giuseppe (Joey) Violi. Musitano's goal was to become the "godfather" in the Hamilton area, according to Murdock, who said that he did not refuse but never did proceed with the plan.[22]

Also revealed by Murdock was that Pat Musitano had discussed with Montreal mob boss Vito Rizzuto and Gaetano Panepinto about Rizzuto investing in Ontario.[7] Eventually, the Canadian intelligence agencies were convinced that the Musitano brothers did not act alone in the murders of Johnny Papalia and Carmen Barillaro.[7]

In February 2000, the Musitano brothers were sentenced to 10 years for conspiracy in the murder of Barillaro in a plea bargain arrangement instead of their initial first-degree murder charges.[23] No action was taken against either in relation to the Papalia or the Alaimo murder.[17][18] In 2004, both brothers were denied parole.[3] In October 2006, the Musitano brothers were both released from prison.[3] Angelo was re-arrested in March 2007 for a parole violation. He was held in the minimum security Frontenac Institution until June 2007 when the parole board decided not to return him to prison.[24]

Murdock was also later released on parole in 2011 after serving 13 years in prison.[25][20][19] In an interview with journalist Peter Edwards, Murdock explained the rationale for his involvement with Angelo and Pat Musitano. He had worked for their father, Domenic Musitano and said that "I promised to take care of his kids" ... that was the dumbest mistake I ever made". Domenic died in 1995.[26]

Angelo Musitano hit and investigation[edit]

Since the brothers' release, the police had little involvement with the family for some years.[14] Then, in September 2015, Pat Musitano's 2013 Ford Edge was set on fire in a suspected arson; his home also sustained minor damage.[27][28][29]

On May 2, 2017, Angelo Musitano was shot dead in his truck in the driveway of his home in Waterdown, Ontario in broad daylight at the age of 39.[11] Surveillance video showed a Ford Fusion in front of the home and a heavy-set man shooting Angelo. The vehicle was later found abandoned; it had been stolen previously.[14] Almost two months later, on June 26, 2017, Pat Musitano's home was shot at multiple times during the night; no one was injured.[30] Hamilton Police did not receive cooperation from the family; Pat refused police protection.[31][32] Before his death, Angelo wrote a faith-based book called I Found Him, claiming that starting a family and finding religion "changed him."[33]

On January 11, 2018, investigations into Angelo Musitano's death revealed four vehicles were involved, and that he was stalked in the days leading up to his murder.[34] On January 23, news reports from a press conference indicated that police believed that Angelo's murder and a Woodbridge, Ontario killing of veterinary technician Mila Barberi while she sat in her car with her boyfriend, two months earlier in March 2017, not previously considered to be related, appeared to have been carried out by the same individual based on footage of the shooter and the car used from surveillance cameras at the two locations. Detective-Sergeant Peter Thom of Hamilton Police stated "there is similar evidence, the same MO and the black Honda coupe."[35][36] According to York Regional Police, Barberi was not likely the intended target.[35] Barberi's boyfriend, Saverio Serrano, who was shot in the arm, was discovered to have connections to the 'Ndrangheta through his father, Diego Serrano of Vaughan, who was sentenced to four years and six months in prison on two counts of drugs conspiracy and one possession of proceeds of crime on January 15, 2018. The elder Serrano was an associate of crime figure, Antonio Sergi of Toronto, who was killed two weeks after Barberi's murder.[37][38] Police did not find a link between Angelo's and Barberi's murders and the shooting of Pat Musitano's house in June 2017.[39]

On 13 September 2018, real estate agent Albert Iavarone was shot outside his home in Ancaster, Ontario, a similar fashion as in the Musitano murder.[40] Sources involved in the investigation said it was possible that the shooting was in retaliation for the previous actions against the Musitano family (specifically the hit on Angelo, according to some sources).[41] In any event, it was part of a Mafia struggle in Hamilton according to several news outlets.[42] A Toronto Star summary added that the latest hit came in "the midst of a dispute between two Niagara Region groups of mobsters who are both tied to the New York State (Buffalo) mob.[43] Iavarone had no criminal record but was known to police as an associate of known mobsters in Hamilton.[44] However, as of 15 September 2018, police had "not explained his alleged connection to the criminal underworld and have not determined if it was a factor in his death", according to CBC News.[45]

On 20 September 2018, the police task force (Hamilton, York and RCMP under Project "Scopa") arrested Jabril Abdalla Hassan in Hamilton, and issued Canada-wide arrest warrants, and later international warrants for Michael Cudmore and Daniel Tomassetti who had fled to Mexico; a $50,000 reward for information leading to their arrests was also offered by police. Neither of the two had been arrested as of mid-April 2019.[46][42][47] Jabril Abdalla Hassan had already been charged with two counts of first-degree murder and three counts of conspiracy to commit murder in both the Musitano and Barberi murders, and attempted murder on Serrano.[48][49] Cudmore was captured on surveillance camera at both murders with the same black Honda.[50] Daniele Ranieri of Bolton, Ontario is believed to be connected to orchestrating the murders; he was found dead in Mexico in March 2018.[50]

Weakened position and hits on Pat Musitano[edit]

On April 17, 2019, Tony Musitano died in Caledonia, Ontario of natural causes at the age of 72.[51] Pat Musitano took over as the head of "what was once one of Hamilton's most notable crime families alongside the Papalias and the Luppinos".[52]

On April 25, 2019, Pat Musitano was shot four times outside his lawyer's office in Mississauga, sustaining life-threatening injuries; he was taken to Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto.[53] By May 1, 2019, he was no longer in critical condition,[54] and was released from hospital on May 8.[55]

A National Post report made no comment as to the probable culprits for the attempted hit on Pat Musitano, but said that the "family's enemies are known to include criminal groups in Hamilton, Buffalo, Montreal and elsewhere, including the Luppino and Papalia crime gangs".[56] Criminology professor Stephen Metelsky of Mohawk College provided this opinion to the Spectator:[57]

"Given all the extenuating circumstances leading up to this, not just his brother's death, but his house being targeted twice, his uncle passing away ... I think that just opened up a ripe opportunity to speed up whatever plans were underway to make a power play into Hamilton."

Former Hamilton police officer Paul Manning, who specialized in organized crime, also believed that the recent death of Tony Musitano was relevant to the attempted hit on Pat Musitano. "I think his protection just died". Manning said that the Buffalo mob may have been involved but Metelsky said that it could have been part of a local turf war.[58] CBC News said that the 2013 death of Montreal mob boss Vito Rizzuto had "left the Musitanos to fend for themselves".[59]

Court records from a 2018 matter against Domenico and Giuseppe "Joe" Violi of the Luppino crime family discuss a claim that the Musitanos were supporting the Cuntrera-Caruana Mafia clan who have roots in Montreal and Toronto.[60][61] The records also refer to a September 2017 recording made by police indicating that Pat Musitano was already a marked man at that time, but provide no indication as to who had authorized the "hit":[60]

"The [police agent] stated that [he] would have thought that ‘they’ would have gotten rid of [Pat Musitano] before his brother, [Angelo Musitano, murdered in May 2017]. D Violi stated that 'they' wanted to show [Pat Musitano]; that it was a message, D Violi thought. They had told D Violi that ... [Pat Musitano] would be gone; that that would be one headache out of the way".

A 2019 CBC News report later quoted a Mafia expert as stating that "Rizzuto's death paved the way for upheaval in the underworld. There's a power struggle left from the vacuum from Rizzuto".[52] A report by The Hamilton Spectator discussed a "resurgence of Mafia violence in Hamilton and surrounding areas that has most recently included the shooting of Hamilton mob boss Pat Musitano" but made no connection to the Luppino family.[62] Sources contacted by CBC News led the site to state that "some sort of underworld power struggle is tearing through the region, as old scores are settled and players jockey for power in a time of unrest".[52]

Although Pat Musitano survived the 2019 attempt on his life, "He was a dead man walking," according to Queen's University professor Antonio Nicaso. "In the world of the Mafia, revenge does not lapse. ... Mobsters can hold grudges for years, quietly hunting targets and harbouring festering feelings of revenge".[63]

On March 2, 2020, Giorgio Barresi, a former associate of Pat Musitano who had pleaded guilty to bookmaking in 1999, was shot to death in his Stoney Creek driveway.[64]

On July 10, 2020, Pat Musitano was shot to death beside his armour-plated SUV in broad daylight in the parking lot of a Burlington shopping plaza on Plains Road East, at the age of 52. Two other individuals sustained injuries.[15] One sustained gunshot wounds, Musitano's bodyguard John Clary; the other individual was Musitano's cousin, Giuseppe (Pino) Avignone.[65][66][67] A retired RCMP officer later told the Toronto Star that in his opinion, Musitano was betrayed; "otherwise, how would the killer know where to find him?"[68]

Since the deaths of his protectors (Vito Rizzuto in 2013 and Tony Musitano in 2019), Pat had been "living on borrowed time", former Hamilton police detective Paul Manning told the Toronto Star.[66] Manning also said that at the time of Pat's murder, he had made enemies due to a scam that involved attracting investors to a gravel business.[69] Pat's life had been at risk for some years according to the Toronto Sun: "Pat Musitano signed his death warrant on May 31, 1997, just minutes after longtime underworld chieftain Johnny Papalia hit the sidewalk dead ...".[70] On July 17, two cars were burned and the word "rat" was painted on the garage of Avignone's home in Hamilton.[71] In an interview with CBC News, criminologist Anna Sergi provided this "conjecture" about the incident at Avignone's home: it may have been a "sign that mobsters think Avignone either betrayed Musitano for another gang or broke the rule of omertà — the Mafia's code of silence — and is speaking with law enforcement". Other sources led the CBC journalist to state that there would probably be "continued mob violence in Hamilton ... Musitano's killers may try to take over [as the Hamilton mob] — but no one can prove who is responsible yet".[72]

On July 22, London police identified human remains found on July 19 as Grant Edward Norton, an Ingersoll man who had been reported missing on July 12 by his family, and later ruled the death as a homicide. According to the Hamilton Spectator, Norton was a partner in a construction company and Pat Musitano was a minority shareholder.[73] The firm, Havana Group Supplies, was charged with six counts of illegal dumping and had been under investigation for fraud; Norton was facing seven fraud-related charges related to the dumping.[74] There were no charges against Pat Musitano but according to the Spectator "It had been alleged in a court document that Musitano was receiving under-the-table payments for loads of soil that were being dumped ... in rural Flamborough".[73] The company's principal pled guilty to fraud in March 2020 but Norton failed to attend court and a warrant was out for his arrest at the time that his body was found.[75] In 2016, Norton had been convicted of several charges after he was found in possession of illegal drugs and packaging materials.[76]

References[edit]

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