Police take down mafia bigwigs in Toronto during massive organized crime bust
A major organized crime syndicate thought to be operating for more than three decades in the Greater Toronto Area just came crashing down at the hands of local, provincial and federal authorities.
York Regional Police announced on Thursday morning that, after an 18-month-long investigation involving the Canada Revenue Agency, Ontario Provincial Police, Canada Border Services and at least eight local police departments, nine people had been charged and more than $35 million worth of assets seized as the result of something called "Project Sindacato."
Billed as an "illegal gaming investigation," Project Sindicato focused on local members of the Figliomeni Crime Family, which is said to have close ties to the notorious 'Ndrangheta mob in Calabria, Italy.
"These arrests signify the fall of power for the most significant 'Ndrangheta crime family operating in York Region," said YRP Chief Eric Jolliffe to reporters on Thursday.
"Over the past 18 months, we have invested heavily, using our finest and most highly-trained investigators to bring an end to this family’s international illegal gaming and money-laundering activities."
Jolliffe said that investigators "know that violence has occurred as a result of [the group's] activities," which are alleged to have included criminal organization, money laundering, loan sharking and illegal gaming, primarily in Vaughan.
Chief Jolliffe, @YRP investigators, @CanRevAgency and other policing partners announcing the largest traditional organized crime takedown in provincial history after a 1.5 year investigation. #Sindacato #mafia pic.twitter.com/2odknf6guz— York Regional Police (@YRP) July 18, 2019
Investigators told reporters during a press conference earlier today that the group made much of its money in illicit gambling dens disguised as cafes, where patrons were given cash loans at "astronomical" interest rates.
"People caught in this cycle were gambling away their life savings while members of this group used intimidation and violence, including shootings, arsons and other threats of harm to collect their outstanding debts," said Det.-Sgt. Carl Mattinen to reporters.
Mattinen said that the crime family is thought to have laundered as much as $70 million worth of cash over the past several years through Ontario casinos.
To date, police have seized 27 mafia-owned homes, 23 high-end luxury vehicles and at least $1 million in cash for a total of roughly $35 million dollars in "offence-related property and proceeds of crime" as a result of Project Sindacato.
“These arrests signify the fall of power for the most significant ‘Ndrangheta crime family operating in York Region." - Chief Eric Jolliffe. #Sindacato #Mafia #YorkRegionalPolice pic.twitter.com/KQEc1Pfv8F— York Regional Police (@YRP) July 18, 2019
The successful bust began last Friday when roughly 500 police officers from across Ontario executed 48 search warrants at residences, businesses and cafes across the GTA.
Fifteen people were said to have been arrested, including alleged crime boss Angelo Figliomeni, who is one of the nine suspects charged as the result of the investigation.
Italian authorities also made multiple related arrests in Calabria today, according to a press release from York Regional Police.
A tenth person is wanted Canada-wide for his alleged involvement with the Figliomeni crime family and their activities in Canada.
York Regional Police say that this is their largest-ever organized crime bust in the history of the force.
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